Showing posts with label young adult books. Show all posts
Showing posts with label young adult books. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Story that Needs to be Told--Patrick Ness

In A Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness, a monster tells young Conor three stories and then demands that Conor tell him a fourth story--his own story.

The monster's first tale is about a regent (a witch who wants to marry her own step-son to keep herself in power) and the rightful heir (a good ruler who we later discover committed a heinous and unnecessary act to assure himself the throne).

But Conor is confused.

"I don't understand.  Who's the good guy here?"

There is not always a good guy.  Nor is there always a bad one.  Most people are somewhere in between. 
Conor shook his head.  "That's a terrible story.  And a cheat." 
It is a true story, the monster said.  Many things that are true feel like a cheat.  Kingdoms get the princes they deserve, farmers' daughters die for no reason, and sometimes witches merit saving.  Quite often, actually.  You'd be surprised.
-From A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness 
inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd

The story is a good one.  It's the one Conor needs to hear, even if he doesn't understand yet.

Sometimes we as writers have to tell the story that demands to be told--even if it doesn't fit the patterns.  Even if it blurs lines and breaks rules.  Even if some people will call it a terrible story and a cheat.  

Because sometimes these are the most powerful.

Melinda Brasher loves visiting alternate worlds through books and exploring this world through travel. Check out her newest article on Go Nomad:  “Hunting Mushrooms in Wallachia.”  For some free short fiction, read “Stalked” on On the Premises or “A Learned Man” on Electric Spec.. Visit her online at

Monday, April 2, 2012

Young Adult Author Visits

To foster instant creativity with the young adult age group you must give them activities that assure success without the pressure of judgment or harsh criticism. Just like the little ones they love games and short writing exercises.


Give each student ten random words, with one bonus word. Use each word to write an original poem or short story (flash fiction—one page or less in length) and then share each with each another.

1)      Give each student this list of words and sample poem.

1.      Window
2.      Atlas
3.      Wire
4.      Opaque
5.      Casserole
6.      Figurine
7.      Thistle
8.      Storage
9.      Chink
10.  hackney
Plus: snorkel
Example of a poem:
Gazing out the grubby window
At the opaque day,
I strain to see a reflection
the figurine staring back at me.
This is a hackneyed life wrapped
and trapped in wire?
  1. Be sure to leave time to analyze the words on the list themselves. What do students notice about the words on the list? What parts of speech–noun, verb, adjective–are they? What makes a “good”/creative/juicy/inspiring word for such an exercise?
  2. Have kids choose 5 words to use in an original poem. You can ask them to slant the poem toward your book in some way.
  3. Give them 5-10 minutes.
  4. Ask for volunteers to read their poem.
  5. What have they learned about writing and poetry from this lesson?
  6. Another approach is to put them in small groups to work on the poem together.
  1. Warm students up by asking what they thought about your reading excerpt: What did they like about it? What was it about? Follow up with “why” questions, and ask that students support their answers with specific words and phrases from the story. Write their thoughts on the chalkboard.
  2. Give each student a handout with a story excerpt that covers the topic or topics you are covering.
  3. Segue into questions that are more directly about the aspect of playing with language on which you want to focus (action words, dialogue, metaphors, etc). How does the author use specific words?
Action words: Underline specific word choices that bring the action to life. Describe how the imagery is crafted by action words?

Dialogue: Identify the characters in the story excerpt: their roles, status, age and relationship to each other. Discuss how the writer plays with the characters’ dialogue (distinct tone and word choices) to reveal information about each character.
4.      Write a poem or short story in which you play with language in the manner of one of the author’s discussion.
Metaphors: Underline the metaphors in the passage. Why does it work or not work for you?
5.      With their answers on the board, ask some synthesizing questions: What have they learned about playing with language from this lesson? How might they experiment with specific word choices and meanings in their own writing, in your class and in others they might be taking that semester?

Directions:  Give students a heads up about the board game they will be playing after your reading. Use index cards to create game cards with questions about your book on one side and the answers on the other side.  Print game boards on card stock paper. Break the group up into groups of 4 or 5 students. You can use buttons as player pieces.

Roll die to see who goes first. Others follow in a clockwise direction. They roll the die, take a card, answer the question correctly and move the number of dots on ONE die.  First player to reach the end of the game wins.  Continue playing to find out who comes in second, third, and fourth place.

Draw the map of an island on a crinkled up paper bag.  This will show that the map is old. 
Now add some features like mountains, caves, volcanoes, rivers, swamps, or lakes.  (This is a great way to give your kids a geography lesson!)  How about adding an old, deserted pirate town?   Remember that islands don't have to be tropical.  There are also rocky islands, jungle islands, and since this is an imaginary story, how about rainbow islands, candy islands, islands made of toys, or any combination of elements you want.
Decide who lives on the island. Maybe it’s a clan of long-lost Vikings, rock people, wacky animals, or talking birds.

Finally, start the story by bringing to the island a main character or two. What would happen when two kids get shipwrecked there, or a time-traveler shows up?  They need to have a goal as well.  It could be as simple as trying to get home, or finding an object that's needed to save the world.
Because you have a picture of your island it is easy to create a plot as your characters move from one part of the island to the other.  Create a problem to overcome at each feature.
Line1: Your first name
Line 2: Who is...(Descriptive words that describe you)
Line 3: Who is brother or sister of...
Line 4: Who loves...(three ideas or preople)
Line 5: Who feels...(three ideas )
Line 6: Who needs...(three ideas)
Line 7: Who gives...(three ideas)
Line 8: Who fears...(three ideas)
Line 9: Who would like to see...
Line 10: Who shares...
Line 11: Who is...
Line 12: Who is a resident of...
Line 13: Your last name

Example Bio-Poem
Allison Nicole

Creative, intelligent, fun, responsible, self-disciplined, and enthusiastic

Sister of Meghan Darby, Melinda, Chris and Harrison
Loves to create art, make up plays and commercials, ride Daddy's Harley, and run track
Who needs the telephone, her hair brush, macaroni and cheese, her friends and family

Who gives her MeMaw much joy, her father and mother much pride; brother and sister love
Who feels joy with her friends, creating art work, running, watching movies and eating

Who fears going from one room to another, not doing well on tests, zits and coming in last

Who would like to own a Harley, win the 880, see her room neat and tidy, win the lottery

Who shares her secrets, her worries, and her love with MeMaw

Who is an honor roll student, a typical 13-year old, a friend to Amber, Melissa and Christy

Who is a resident of Jacksonville, Florida

Author/educator Kathy Stemke

Trouble on Earth Day Book Tour:

Eighth Day of Trouble on earth Day Book Tour

Seventh Day of Trouble on Earth Day Book Tour:


Sixth Day of Trouble on Earth Day Book Tour-book Review
Fifth Day of Trouble on Earth Day Tour- Book Review
Fourth day of Trouble on Earth Day Tour- Fun Squirrel Facts
Visit third day of Trouble on Earth Day Book Tour

Please Visit the Second Day of my book Tour for Trouble on Earth Day
Celebrate Earth Day with Pictures First day of book tour for Trouble on Earth Day


Monday, February 6, 2012

What Is Your Favorite Book?

I was recently asked to list my all-time favorite book. After a lot of thinking I realized I couldn’t do that. I have so many that have touched my life and my writing it would be impossible to choose one. The Lord of the Ring series has influenced me through my love of dragons and mythical creatures, world and language creation as well as how people treat one another. My current WIP series is heavily influenced by JRR Tolkien’s vision.

Then there’s The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck which I read as a teen. Scenes from that book have haunted me since. I learned so much about Chinese culture and history from that book. I’ve even adopted a Vietnamese child.

1984 by George Orwell is one I’ve read several times over the decades. It is timeless and meaningful in any society at any given moment. I love its dark nature and the struggle for freedoms that we take for granted; the right to love whomever we choose, the right to READ.

Along those same lines I love The Giver by Lois Lowry. Again it is dark with spears of light and warmth. The reader grows along with the main character and you find yourself crying, rejoicing or mourning whenever he does. Few stories have moved me the way that one did.

And of course I adore ALL of the Harry Potter books. The characters are lovable, quirky, fun to read about and the darkness of the story is heavily punctuated with light-hearted moments. I only wish my own writing could be as universally read and my characters as universally loved.

Thirty years ago I picked up a new novel by an author new to me at the time. The novel was the first of The Sword of Shannara trilogy. Those books blew my socks off. It was while reading Terry Brooks’ stuff as well as David Eddings’s Belgariad series I conceived my own series. And then there was the Chronicles of Prydain series by Lloyd Alexander—awesome MG Fantasy. These lead me to Susan Coopers’s series of The Dark is Rising series and Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series. While writing I kept all of these wonderful books in my head to draw from.

So, do you think you could choose ONE book that has inspired you? If so, what would it be? It not, what are the top few books you would list and why?

Rebecca Ryals Russell writes MG and YA Dark Fantasy while living with her family in a Victorian house on five acres of North Florida countryside. She also runs a Vacation Rental Log House on the property: Florida Black Bear Cabin.

Be sure to check out the special interactive Middle Grade Reader website Tween Word Quest for tons of information about Stardust Warriors as well as the other projects Rebecca has in the works and Under the Hat for all of her other works.

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