Saturday, August 23, 2014

Why So Dark, YA?

Today at the library I got cornered by one of those people who you just know is winding up for a rant about something.

After asking me if I worked there, she launched into a Thing about how dark young adult novels were getting and how we shouldn't be surprised when our children axe-murder us in our sleep after reading things like that. Tisk, tisk and all that.

I mostly nodded politely because I don't believe for a minute that teenagers are any more likely to axe-murder me over something they read or a game they played, than I would have when I was that age and read and played the same sorts of things. (Look, when I was coming of age, it was the horrors of Dungeons & Dragons... there's always something that's going to Ruin the Youth of Today.)

However, what this woman complained about is old news to some extent, and she's certainly not alone in worrying about it. I told her so. I also told her that I felt that some of what she was worrying about is actually a somewhat new (though, again, not really) trend in young adult books towards dystopian futures, which aren't actually about feeling sad and powerless at all, but about the need at a certain age to change the world, a desire to have a clear-cut enemy, and to DO SOMETHING to make things right. This is a Good Thing disguised as a Bad Thing.

I didn't tell her, because I knew she couldn't hear that, that I also believe books about self-harm and other things aren't so much 'how-to' books for self-destruction as novels that help people feel less alone (like I did when I discovered that there were other gay people, thanks in large part to science fiction). Maybe these were never issues written about when we were young, but... I knew people who self-harmed when I was a teen, so you know, writing about it doesn't bring it into existence, it just makes the issues less invisible.

But that was an argument I was sure to lose, so I just nodded politely. And, you know, YA *is* darker now than when I was a teen, but when I was a teen it also wasn't its own section. We didn't really have YA as a separate thing. We had juvenile and we had grown-up books. A lot of people my age had to get our parents' permission to have free range of the library once we'd grown out of Dr. Seuss. So, you know, I tried Lady Chatterly's Lover at sixteen (I missed the sex. Seriously. Completely.) I also read Go Ask Alice and didn't become a drug-addict, funny enough. Thus, I've never worried over much about books corrupting people.

At any rate.

When she really, really wanted to agree with me that it was All Bad, I told her I don't make the buying decisions for the library. If the kids want it, we stock it. What are you going to do?

Ultimately, she thanked me for such an interesting discussion

Have I mentioned I love working at the library? I do, actually. I really do.

Friday, August 22, 2014

UP-Coming Teaching Gigs

It occurs to me that people who read me here may be interested to know that I have several fan fiction writing gigs that I'll be teaching via The Loft Literary Center coming up:

First, for TEENS:

On Monday, October 13 from 6:00-7:30 pm I'll be the Loft's "First Pages" instructor for "Writing Fan Fiction" a program for teens at the Savage Library. The library is located at 13090 Alabama Ave South, Savage, MN.

The program description reads: Do you long to carry on the amazing story lines of your favorite novels, and live with your most treasured characters beyond the final page of the final chapter? That's what fan fiction is for! Learn how to carry on your favorite story lines--and invent your own--in this engaging class on extending the lives of your favorite characters.

On Thursday, October 16 as part of the Teen Writing Converence at the Loft, I'll be teaching a 75-minute workshop called "Capturing Kudos: Pro Tips for Improving Your Fan Fiction

The program description reads: Some people might tell you that writing fan fic is 'easier' because so much has already been established in terms of characterization and world-building. The people who say that, however, probably haven't actually tried it. The truth is, fan fiction requires all the same skills as writing anything, plus the author has to be constantly aware of canon and how it reflects on what they're writing (even AU), as well as readers who might scream OOC! This workshop will give you pro tips on how to improve your writing in general and in specific to fan fic's quirks from the perspective of someone who is not only a professionally published author, but also a prolific fan writer as well. As part of this workshop, we will practice beta reading for each other with an eye on setting, themes, conflict, and sensory details.

Second, for ADULTS:

My friend Rachel Gold and I will be co-teaching: "Using Fan Fiction to Improve Your Writing" on Wednesdays, 6-8 p.m. from January 21 to February 25, 2015--which will be part of the Loft's winter course catalogue. Technically, we're waiting for Rachel to confirm, but I wanted to get this info out there so that people can plan ahead. The Loft classes can be pretty pricey, but keep in mind there are always a few, limited number of scholarships available.

I haven;t yet heard from the Loft about whether or not my solo proposal for an in-class winter Science Fiction/Fantasy class is going to go, but I'm excited to be co-teaching with Rachel, if nothing else. Should be a blast. I'll post our course description once everything is 100% confirmed. In fact, you may be hearing about this class a lot, since I really want it to be successful. First of all, I think there's a huge market for it and it would be wonderful for the Loft to recognize that and offer more classes like it. Second, it would just be nifty to have a legit way to get paid to talk about fan fic! :-)

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Textbook Feelings

Every time I pick up a book about drawing, I end up learning more about myself than I do art.

I ordered Foundations in Comic Book Art: Fundamental Tools and Techniques for Sequential Artists by John Paul Lowe from Blogging for Books this month because I’m a frustrated artist.

As the title suggests, this is a book aimed at teaching fundamentals to beginners. It is a book chock full of exercises focused on improving basic skills, from learning to draw straight lines to understanding the specialized needs of visual storytelling. The example art throughout is magnificent, and for every lesson there’s a written and visual example. The tone of the book is fairly serious. It is clearly intended for someone like myself, who is desperately looking a way to ‘level up,’ and gain the extra skill sets needed to become a comic book artist/graphic novelist.

Lowe’s book should have been perfect for me, but after reading through it several times and trying some of the examples, I ended up instead with a visceral emotional response which can be summed up in two words: I suck.

The forward and introduction to Lowe’s book suggest this is the very last feeling that I should’ve come away with. Lowe is very much of the belief (as am I) that art, like any skill, can be learned by anyone regardless of innate talent given enough time and energy.

I’m not sure what it is about this book that left me with that feeling. As I’ve said, this is a textbook aimed at teaching basics. Yet I left it feeling like there was no way I could ever master any of it (despite being far from a novice artist,) and it was all too overwhelming.

I wonder if it wasn’t because all the art shown was so good? This is one of those art textbooks where I’m already green with envy just looking at the instruction images that are supposed to be teaching me to see basic shapes in every day items, and instead of seeing the circles and squares, I’m thinking: damn, look at that cool apple! How come I can’t draw an apple like that??

There are a few playful images in the textbook, but even those examples showcase tremendous skill in background drawing. There were no examples that made me feel: oh, hey, I can do that.

There were no suggestions for work-arounds. Like, for instance, in my own comic book art, I have been known to cheat. I’ll take original photographs and use them as background images:

The other thing that was missing from this book that’s been tremendously helpful for me, as someone who has considered coming into graphic novel writing from the other side is, a script. There’s a very specific kind of writing format that comic book WRITERS use that I’ve been privileged to see thanks to a friend of mine who works for Marvel and DC. What looking at those taught me was how important it is for the writer of comic books (if they’re not the artist) to think visually as well and consider how much text/dialogue can reasonably fit in a panel.

So, while I think this is probably an awesome textbook to go with a class, I’m not entirely sure how well it works for me. There are two huge chapters at the end of this book that are specific to digital programs that I’m not using. I would have preferred that space be used to talk more about the business of comic book writing.

Your mileage may vary.

As I said, my strong emotional reaction to what is essentially a textbook surprised me.

P.S. If you're curious about my initial response, I catalogued it here:

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Manga Wednesday

Mason and I giggled our way through our podcast this morning: 21: Zombies Lose Their Sh*t.  Go listen if you're at all interested in hearing us mutter vaguely incoherently about Bleach, One Piece, and Toriko (with smatterings of squee for Bleach List Girl, and discussions of Fairy Tale, Gekken Shoujo Nozaki-kun [the anime], and Hourou Musuko.)

In other news, our car broke down this morning.  It sucked, but there were some good things about it: it wasn't far from home (just up the block), it was early enough that Shawn could easily catch the bus, and it might be something fairly simple like my alternator.  The tow truck guy was nice and he was able to take it away and leave us at home.  It might be a hassle to go pick it up, but at least we get to wait for news about repair costs in the comfort of our own home.  Sucks, but, honestly?  I can't complain too much.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Back from Vacation!

After a short hiatus while my family was on vacation to Washington, DC, I'm back to posting my work-in-progress over at Wattpad.  You can read "Part 20: Shatterer of Worlds" here:

My description for this one is: "In which Alex discovers just how much she sucks as a fugitive from the law."

Also, you may see a spike in activity over here.  My alter ego's LJ has finally exceeded its free photo storage limit, and since I have a TON of vacation pictures I'd like to share, I may post them here along with a travelogue of our adventures and mis-adventures.  I'm still not quite sure if that's the best solution since it's so difficult to tell who uses my LJ and for what.  I mean, for the most part, people have been saying Live Journal is dead for years.  Yet, I know plenty of people who seem to still follow my alter ego there.

Honestly, there's been a lot of talk on one of my e-mail writers' groups about how blogs are kind of dead, too.  Most people are finding out news about their favorite authors through social media like Twitter and Facebook.  So... who knows what the smartest thing to do is.