Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Orphaned Protagonists

Have you ever stopped to think about how many main characters are orphaned in young adult/middle grade books? And if they're not orphaned, one of the parental units is "removed" from the action?

Harry Potter Series- parents killed by evil wizard
A Great and Terrible Beauty Series- mom murdered by Circe
Twilight Series- Rene lives in Florida, which is so removed from the action in Forks
Evermore- parents died in a car wreck
Life As We Knew It- parents divorced, Dad flits in and out
The Golden Compass Series- the main character was brought up by scholars at Jordan College
Percy Jackson & The Olympians Series- his Dad is a Greek God and lives in the ocean, removed from his day to day life
The Alchemist- the Immortal Secrets of Nicholas Flamel Series- the twins have parents, they're just workaholics, so they're removed from the action

My fellow aspiring writers (you're out there even though you don't know about my blog), have I just unlocked the secret to a compelling YA protagonist?

Monday, August 24, 2009

G Free

I want to take a moment to express how much Elisabeth Hasselbeck's The G Free Diet has changed my life.
She explains gluten intolerance/allergies and Celiac like no physician ever has or even tried to. My entire life I've been plagued with hives, or what the doctors call idiopathic urticaria. Yeah, it's idiotic that its taken 19 years to figure out the cause- GLUTEN!!
And it was more than just the hives, and I won't go into the details, but let's say digestively I wasn't that sound.
I first suspected gluten as the culprit when I tried out the ZONE diet in spring of 2008. I lost weight and I felt great (no hives or tummy issues)! And the main thing I changed in my diet was removing breads and processed foods. I focused on consuming meats, veggies, and fruits.
Recently I started to stray from my good eating habits, indulging myself with Panera Chocolate Chipper Cookies, eating bread, granola, pizza. And then it all started again..the hives...the indigestion...and I was soooo tired all the time.
Ms. Hasselbeck explains it so well:
"Damaged villi prevent nutrients from being properly absorbed into the bloodstream...So no matter how much you are eating, your body isn't getting the vitamins and minerals it needs to thrive."
I know this blog is supposed to be about writing. But, this book has truly changed my life for the better and I feel its definitely worth mentioning. So if you're suffering from the following symptoms (list is from pg 16-17 in The G Free Diet) talk to your doctor, perhaps your gluten intolerant/allergic or have Celiac:
  • abdominal pain and discomfort
  • anemia and other deficiencies
  • constipation
  • diarrhea
  • discolored teeth
  • distension
  • excessive weight loss (with a large appetite) or weight gain
  • fatigue
  • gas
  • headaches
  • joint or bone pain
  • loss of dental enamel
  • missed menstrual periods
  • muscle cramps
  • reproductive problems (infertility, multiple miscarriages)
  • skin rashes, itchiness
  • smelly stool
  • sores inside mouth
  • stunted growth in children
  • tingling or numbness in legs
  • vitamin K deficiency
Thank you Elizabeth Hasselbeck!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

My Goal

Back in June I was fortunate to win two agent reviews through Brenda Novak's Auction for Diabetic Research. Nathan Bransford and Alex Glass are generous enough to donate their time to this note worthy cause.
At the time I had a full manuscript that I thought needed a little tweaking. But in my gut, I knew the problem was larger, a latent disease. So I let it fester (i.e. I didn't touch it).
I commute one and a half hours three days a week to practice optometry (I always wonder why they call it "practice" it makes it sound like I'm performing wicket experiments on my patient's eyeballs). During these car rides I listened to some compellingly awesome young adult novels: Life As We Knew It, The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, Airman (I don't think this one is YA, but its' soooooo good), A Great and Terrible Beauty. And then of course I've read the Twilight Series and some of Allyson Noel's Immortal Series. I'm also a big fan of Christopher Paolini, but his work is more reminiscent of Tolkien than contemporary YA.
All these novels are fantastic. And why? Because they have intriguing pacing, characters that you end up knowing better than yourself, and riveting moments that steal your breath.
So I decided to go back to the beginning and rewrite the whole thing. When I broke the news to my circle of readers (Danny, Priya, Namita, Alex D, Aunt Barbara, Jen, Catherine, Rashi) those that had read the full contested with varying degrees of "But Why!?!" And I explained to them that its for the better. I tried pointing out the weak spots: the plot is flawed, the characters aren't developed, trite plot elements, poor pacing... They weren't really convinced. I'm so amazingly lucky to have such supportive circle of family and friends- that they feel so strongly about my work. And even though my full manuscript was by no means a first draft (more like the infinitieth) I still knew I could do better.
At the end of the audio book A Great and Terrible Beauty, Libba Bray talks about how she wrote it first, and then re-wrote the whole thing again.
To this date, I've re-written 38 pages. I think its better. But how does one ever really know.