RSS Feed

Tag Archives: 45 Pounds (more or less)

2K13 at SCBWI OH

Whew, that’s a lot of acronyms…but The Class of 2K13 is going to be at an event in Ohio next week. Well, six of us are! Here’s the rundown!

 

noscbwi

Reconnect – Recharge – Renew: N. Ohio SCBWI 11th Annual Conference

WHEN: Friday, September 20, 2013 2:00 PM –
Saturday, September 21, 2013 5:30 PM (Eastern Time)

WHERE: Cleveland Airport Sheraton
(216) 267-1500
5300 Riverside Drive
Cleveland, Ohio 44135

WHAT: Reconnect with old friends and make some new friends. You can never have enough acquaintances in this industry. The networking opportunities are AMAZING!!! Recharge and become motivated, educated and inspired with the presentations from experts in the field. Renew leaving the conference with new ideas or goals on making old ideas successful. Feel refreshed and ready to jump into your career of writing and/or illustrating for today’s youth.

WHO: 2K13 Members:

•Kelly Barson, Author of 45 POUNDS (MORE OR LESS)
•Geoffrey Girard, Author of PROJECT CAIN
•Demitria Lunetta, Author of IN THE AFTER
•Mindy McGinnis, Author of NOT A DROP TO DRINK
•Jennifer McGowan, Author of MAID OF SECRETS
•Kate Karyus Quinn, Author of ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE

We will be doing a debut panel on Friday: From Finished Manuscript to First Book: A YA Debut-Author Tells All and a Query panel on Saturday.

There are a ton of other authors and panels, so come check it out! There’s still time to register so we hope to see you all there!

demitria-lunetta-nameplate

 

Reading 45 POUNDS of Reviews

Posted on

The number one piece of advice that published authors have given me as I prepare for the release of 45 POUNDS (MORE OR LESS): Do not read your reviews. It’ll only make you crazy. It’s not that I didn’t believe them. It’s just so hard not to. Imagine someone is talking about you and you know it. How can you not eavesdrop, especially if you have anonymous access? And Google, Goodreads, and Amazon give us instant access.

OK, I admit it. The temptation has been too much for me. Just like a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia yodeling from the freezer, Goodreads and Google Alerts call my name, too. I read them. And I eat the ice cream, too! I have no self-control. Here’s the thing: Just like ice cream, the first few reviews can be so sweet and soothing and wonderful. Five-star, glowing reviews feel good. They’re addictive. I keep telling myself I’ll stop. Tomorrow. Or after release. Or after one makes me cry. Or after I read just one more. Just one more.

Even though I haven’t listened, I have figured out why authors warn not to read them:

1. I cannot reply. Reviews are not conversations that include the author. They’re dialogue between readers. (Unless, of course, the author is invited.) My part of the conversation is writing the book. Now I need to shut up and let others read and react. (If you know me, you know shutting up is not my forte.) It’s hard not to chime in. In other words, at some point, authors need to exercise restraint—either by not reading the reviews or by not responding to them. Restraint is hard.

2. Not everyone is going to like the book. On a logical level, I’m fine with that. I don’t like all books either, sometimes even those that everyone loves. I know that I am not my book. I know that if someone doesn’t like my book, that doesn’t mean s/he doesn’t like me. S/he doesn’t know me. That is the logical level. The emotional reality is that if someone doesn’t like my book, it can feel like they told the world my newborn baby is butt-ugly. It’s as if s/he is proclaiming that I’m a hack who wasted years of my life writing a hack book and that I should not have quit my day job. Or learned to type.

3. Some people are going to love the book. How is this a problem, you ask? Well, overall, it’s not. But have you ever overindulged in Cherry Garcia and rode a roller coaster? (Oh, c’mon, hasn’t everyone?) Binging on good, bad, and mixed reviews is just a bumpy, nauseating emotional roller coaster. They love me! I rock! They hate me! I suck! They love me! I think I’m going to puke.

4. When I’m focused on reviews, I’m not focused where I need to be—on my next book. Look for it summer 2015, as long as I can pull myself together long enough to write it. (Just kidding, sort of.)

Now, don’t get me wrong. I seriously appreciate every single person who takes the time to read my book and write a thoughtful review, even if it’s critical. Actually, while I’m here, I need to talk about the plus side to reading reviews. I’ve learned a lot from them about what readers like and dislike. Reviewers read A LOT and really understand what works and what doesn’t. Since the review “conversation” is between readers, they’re honest about it. On a logical day, that is very helpful. I’ve learned about phrases and words and ideas that are overdone and even offensive. I don’t want to repeat those things in my next book(s), so I’m grateful for that insight—info I’d miss if I hadn’t read the reviews.

I’ve also met a lot of wonderful reviewers. They’re smart and articulate, and they also really love books, just like I do. I want to be accessible to all readers—when invited, of course. For that reason, I will reply if someone Tweets directly to me or if a reader contacts me through my website. However, just so that I can keep the boundaries straight in my own head, I will not “like” a review, even a glowing one, or comment on them. Some authors do—and that’s great—but I’m afraid that if I allowed myself to, I’d be too tempted to comment where I shouldn’t. Or I’d “like” everything to be “fair” and end up looking like a creepy stalker.

Sometimes it’s important to know your limits—with reviews and with Cherry Garcia. Both are tempting and deliciously wonderful, but both are also best in moderation.

My book 45 POUNDS (MORE OR LESS) releases today!!! I’m beyond thrilled and thankful to everyone who’s created buzz about it. Even though I haven’t commented, I’ve noticed. You are awesome! If I could, I’d take you all out for ice cream.

ka barson nameplate

One Smart Thing I Did to Sell 45 POUNDS (MORE OR LESS): Focus on Craft

Posted on

This month we’re talking about what smart things we did to sell our manuscripts. For me, the best thing I ever did for my writing career was to focus on the writing more than the career. I started out going to SCBWI conferences. While there is a wealth of information there, I found myself submitting to editors and agents way before I should have, and that caused a lot of stress. The advice is to send your very best work. I did that! At the time, it was my best work.

However, my best wasn’t good enough.

After I accumulated a pile of rejections, I gave up. Not on writing, though—I couldn’t do that—but on submitting. Instead I focused on becoming a better writer. While there are lots of ways to do that, I started attending Highlights Foundation workshops, about two per year for about four years. They were low-commitment—between two days to a week—and very affordable for the quality. The faculty is accomplished and smart and extremely supportive. The setting is idyllic and inspirational. I learned so much and met lots of wonderful people.

Some of those wonderful people were affiliated with another great place to immerse in craft: Vermont College of Fine Arts, which offers several low-residency master’s programs. This was a much higher commitment, of both time and money, and even though I was in my late thirties, I decided to go for it. I have not regretted it for a minute. For two years, I fully immersed myself in writing, reading, and critically analyzing works for children and teens, and I did it among top industry professionals. I didn’t pay attention to trends or who was accepting queries or who wasn’t. I loved the freedom to let go of the submission stress. As a result, the quality of my work significantly improved, as did my confidence.

I still get rejected sometimes—it’s an unavoidable part of the publishing process—but now if I get stumped and need to regroup, I have a vast toolbox at my disposal. I love knowing that I can always go to a Highlights or a VCFA workshop, or even an SCBWI conference, and brush up on some skills, get some valuable feedback, or simply jumpstart the creative juices. Learning to write isn’t something I did; it’s something I will always do.

 

ka barson nameplate

What Some Readers Might Find Objectionable in 45 POUNDS (MORE OR LESS)

Even though 45 POUNDS (MORE OR LESS) is sometimes classified as a romance, there is no sex in the book. There is also no violence, but readers might find themselves wanting to punch a character or two in the face now and then.

So what’s in it then?

Swearing. The book is from the point of view of a sixteen-year-old girl, and there is some language that might cost her a dollar in the “swears jar” in some people’s houses. Okay, maybe more than a dollar. And her grandmother calls people fat ass all the time. But good luck getting her to contribute to “the swears” jar. She’d just laugh, take a drag on her cigarette, and call you a fat ass, too. However, while there is a bit of language, it really isn’t superfluous. The target age range for this book is age 12 and up.

Smoking. Gram and a few minor characters smoke, but main character Ann doesn’t approve.

Non-traditional values. This may or may not be a problem for you, depending on your worldview and political beliefs. While this author is a devout Christian, my characters are not. In fact, Ann calls her step-mother Godzilla because of her fiery, Bible-breathing judgment and hypocrisy.

Most people who’ve heard of the book know that Ann wants to lose 45 pounds before her aunt’s wedding. However, Aunt Jackie is marrying Chris, as in Christine. While some people applaud the presence of a gay wedding without it being the central “issue” of the book, others may disagree.

Why would a Christian writer choose to write something that some readers might find objectionable or even offensive?

Simple. It’s not a Christian book. It feels didactic and trite and forced whenever I try to make my characters into something they aren’t. Yes, it would be easier to not have to defend myself to my conservative friends and readers. But it wouldn’t have been authentic. I, too, have struggled with hypocrisy in the Church. Some of my dearest friends are fighting for equal civil rights, and I support them. People swear. I swear—sometimes too much. These things are real to me, real in my world, and real in readers’ worlds. That’s the kind of book I want to write.

I hope the things listed above aren’t deal-breakers when it comes to reading 45 POUNDS (MORE OR LESS) because when weighing the possible objections against the overall positive themes of self-worth and health and familial acceptance, the positives win—by far.

45 POUNDS (MORE OR LESS) releases from Viking (Penguin) on July 11, 2013, but is available now for pre-order wherever books are sold.

ka barson nameplate

What I’ve Learned from Teens

While there are exceptions to every rule, my experience with teens has taught me about:

  • Honesty
    Teens tell it like it is. My kids and students have no problem pointing out my fashion faux pas and rolling their eyes if they think my vocabulary is out of date. On the other hand, some of the most amazing insights about human behavior have come from a teen’s off-handed observation. So when I’m writing, I don’t try to be a wannabe teen. And I don’t try to channel my 1980s teen self. That’s not honest. I try to create a real person dealing with big issues that everyone experiences because the feelings that young people have aren’t immature feelings that will grow up and gain understanding someday. Kids of all ages understand unfairness and justice and acceptance and rejection and love and rudeness and everything else. They deserve honest stories that don’t talk down to them.
  • Advice
    Unless they ask, don’t give it. One way to annoy my kids the fastest is to start giving advice when they start ranting about their bad days. They don’t want to hear about how I had bad days way back when I was a teen—before cell phones and the Internet. And they certainly don’t want to hear about my experience with those bitchy girls from high school and how everything works out okay in the future. They’re not looking for solutions. They just want to vent. They don’t need me to fix anything; my fixes feel trite anyway because I’m not in the throes of it all. So, when I’m writing I try to let the characters simply exist, not create false situations to teach kids anything. I want my characters to make real and honest choices and experience the triumphs or consequences that come with them.
  • Assumptions

Nobody fits perfectly into jock or nerd or any other stereotypes. High school is much more nuanced than the characters from the movie The Breakfast Club. When I write I try to envision people beyond labels. In my novel 45 POUNDS (MORE OR LESS), my main character Ann is overweight, but she’s into fashion and has friends. How she sees herself is not necessarily how others see her. In fact, she’s cute—so cute that a hot guy notices.

No matter how old I get, I can still learn new stuff—even if it does accompany an eye roll or two.

ka barson nameplate

Playlist for 45 POUNDS (MORE OR LESS)

This playlist was originally posted on Stacked on December 26, 2012.

A novel set in the summertime with parties and dance lessons and a wedding, 45 Pounds (more or less) has a playlist. These songs either play a part in the novel itself or might play in the background.

Listen along here: 45 Pounds (more or less) 

Ann’s aunt Jackie wants all the women she loves to dance together at her wedding, so she forces everyone to take dance lessons. The main dance they want to learn is:

“Thriller” by Michael Jackson

Ann is less than thrilled.

The Knees’ annual Fourth of July bash is a major event, and anyone who’s anyone is there. Ann’s never been invited before, but this year is different. These two songs kick off the festivities:

“Get the Party Started” by Pink

“Let’s Get It Started” by The Black Eyed Peas

Aunt Jackie and Chris have their first dance at the wedding to:

“Marry Me” by Train

 These songs bring everyone to the dance floor, dancing like nobody’s watching, or taking pictures:

 “We Are Family” by Sister Sledge

“Cupid Shuffle” by Cupid

45 Pounds is not just about Ann’s weight loss and fitting into the perfect dress. It’s also about family, and understanding that people aren’t always as they seem. One of the moments that Ann realizes this is when she’s dancing with her step-father to this song:

“Daughters” by John Mayer

 Ann is really insecure, but a certain cute guy sees beyond that. Whenever he hears these songs on the radio, he thinks of her:

 “Just the Way You Are” by Bruno Mars

“What Makes You Beautiful” by One Direction

Yes, 45 Pounds has an element of romance.  However, for Ann, falling for a guy involves more embarrassing moments that would fit better on YouTube than in a cheesy, falling-in-love movie montage.

Everyone dreams of being beautiful, but few feel like they really are. This last song is for readers. May you always feel as beautiful as I think you are, regardless of size.

“Beautiful” by Christina Aguilera

ka barson nameplate

45 POUNDS (MORE OR LESS): More Story, Less Issue

At first glance, my YA contemporary novel 45 POUNDS (MORE OR LESS) sounds like a typical weight loss issue novel. Girl feels fat. Girl goes on diet. Girl loses weight (more or less). Girl is empowered. While some of that is true, this story is much more.

  1. My main character, Ann, is not an outcast. She is overweight and always has been, but her struggle is more typical to what average girls experience every day. Her self-conscious, self-deprecating internal dialogue is humorous, yet real. Anyone who’s ever felt fat and inadequate trying on swimsuits or formal dresses will relate.
  2. This is not an ugly-duckling-turns-beautiful-and-gets-a-boyfriend story. This is a girl-discovers-herself journey (even though I find the word journey kind of trite) and has endlessly embarrassing and awkward encounters with a cute, yet imperfect, guy.
  3. The story’s not just about Ann’s weight. It’s also about family and secrets and acceptance. It’s about friendship and fitting in and fending off bitches. And it’s about romance, too.
  4. Ann is not the only character with issues. Her grandmother unapologetically chain smokes and endearingly (and sometimes not so endearingly) calls everyone fat ass, and her step-grandmother Regina gives new meaning to the word intolerable. Don’t even get me started on Ann’s parents! Pretty much the only characters who have it remotely together are Aunt Jackie and her fiancé Chris—that’s Christine, not Christopher. Yes, there’s a lot going on here.
  5. There are also nacho cheese pretzels and deep dish pizza and M&Ms and Mondo Burgers and chicken parm with extra breadsticks, all of which is much more appetizing than the Belly Buster Bars and diet lasagna.

So while the weight issue has been covered before, Ann Galardi’s story is unique. Yet, also familiar, because it’s about imperfect people all trying to figure out where they fit.

ka barson nameplate

 

%d bloggers like this: