NaNoWriMo—Training Lean, Mean, Writing Machines

Kristen Lamb's Blog

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Yesterday Jami posted about NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), and I really hope you guys take her class because she is truly a gifted teacher. Today, I want to talk a little bit about what writers (especially new writers) can gain from NaNo.

NaNo Teaches Endurance 

I remember years ago thinking, “Wow, if I could just write a thousand words a day, that would be AMAZING.” When I looked at professional authors, it was like watching a marathon runner—all the while knowing I couldn’t run a flight of stairs without requiring oxygen and possibly a defibrillator to restart my heart. I so struggled to get words on a page, and Lord help me if I saw something shiny.

Of course, after years of practiced discipline, I generally have a thousand words written by breakfast. When I fast-draft (which I do for all my books), my average is abnormally…

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Witch of Blackbird Pond: Review

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Witch of Blackbird Pond, by Elizabeth George Speare, HMH Books for Young Reader, December 1, 1958. 256 pages

This is one of my all-time favorites, simple, innocent, yet deep, meaningful, and thought-provoking.

Witch of Blackbird Pond the story of Katherine (Kit) a seventeen year old orphan moving from Barbados to Connecticut to live with her Aunt and Uncle’s family. Her journey takes place during a time when Puritans cities were popular in New England states, where unbelievers were witches, and outsiders were chased from towns.

Kit’s story begins with her travels across the ocean, her interactions with the Captain and his son Nat, and her abnormal behavior, pointing out her foreign attributes.

Once she arrives at her Aunt’s house she experiences a culture shock, the ocean water is cold, their family doesn’t have much, and she’s expected to contribute with the work load and attend their church functions.

Eventually, Kit meets an elderly woman named Hannah − a Quaker living on undesirable swamp land. Hannah has a frequent visitor in Nate, showing up when his ship docked in the area, completing difficult tasks for her.

By the end, the action builds, the romance blooms, and the friendships blossom: resulting in a compelling story worthy of a read…or two.

What I love about this story is the easy connection to Kit and how relatable her experiences are to everyone. Just living the teenage years can be like a culture shock! Always feeling as though no one understands you and finding comfort in the group of people who try.

The romance between Kit and Nate is provoking and sweet. I like the initial hesitation but eventual time taken to get to know each other. Even more attractive is Nate’s willingness to support her when she is practically alone.

I recommend this book to anyone wanting a quick read with intriguing characters and a compelling plot.

Thanks for reading my blog!

A.G. Zalens

The Hunger Games: Book Review

ImageThe Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins, Scholastic Press, September 14th 2008. 374 pages

For my blog post I wanted to do something fun and write a book review; yet I couldn’t quit decide which book to start with. So, I decided on the book, which made the young adult genre into a completely new possibility for creativity: The Hunger Games.

For those who haven’t read this book (the few and far between) The Hunger Games is set in the future where one city rules twelve Districts; each sectioned off and required to do particular functions for society. In order to keep the Districts compliant one boy and one girl from each District are randomly selected to participate in the Hunger Games: a gladiator type battle where each child has to fight for his/her life to become the winner.

The story begins by introducing Katniss, a poor teenager with a younger sister and a grieving mother. Katniss spends most of her time illegally hunting in the nearby woods to feed her family and barter with her neighbors. Suzanne starts the book with appeal and interest right away; the illegality of Katniss’ actions keeps the book fast paced and full of anticipation.

With the novel’s body we see Katiniss volunteering as a contestant to save her younger sister, training to defeat the other contestants, and showing off to get sponsors to help during the Games.  We also meet Peeta the boy from District 12 and his potential as a love interest for Katniss.

The climax includes intense battles, strategic positioning, and an unexpected conclusion. A wonderfully well-rounded story, which draws the reader in and keeps them interested to the end.

When I first read this story, I was hooked by the originality and creativity wrapped around characters I wanted to read about. This story has the suspense that I love and the character interaction I adoreIt is no wonder I couldn’t put it down.

Thanks for reading my blog!

A.G. Zalens

My Novel Beginnings

Starting my new blog is the perfect place to explain how my novel came about – something my family and friends must already be bored with.

Some background: as a teen and young adult I only read a handful of authors and genres: romance, mystery, or classics. At that transitional age I felt anything described as teen, young adult, or childrens were too young; refusing to even look down those aisles at my local bookstores.

When the Harry Potter books began filling end-caps; I placed them firmly in the “too young” category, which I wouldn’t acknowledge. Then the first movie hit theaters − and being the movie enthusiast that I am, I watched it: loving it. Immediately afterwards, I sought any information available about the movie. Discovering the series of books, in which I had already written off, as an avid reader they were intriguing to me. I bought the first book: I was hooked. J.K. Rowling opened up a whole new world of teen and young adult books for me, though I was still skeptical about many out there; eventually falling back into my old favorites.

Now you may wonder what that has to do with my plot, well after reading several Harry Potter books I thought to myself “I can come up with a fun story like that.” Of course, I didn’t – not right away at least. I did imagine a sci-fi idea with potential, but there wasn’t enough substance to warrant a full novel and I didn’t even start it.

Several years later with that small idea in the back of my head, pushing it around my mind, trying to craft enough to write about, continuing to have little to go on; a dream involving a rescue mission by several tough individuals filled my night, remaining vividly pictured until morning. Going over this interesting dream the next day, it occurred to me: a similar plot and characters could provide the material I was looking for to enhance my sci-fi spark.

From there I needed a destination, thinking of a summer trip I went on one year, realizing it would be best to write what I know; I was happy with the results. Then a background idea from ancient stories rounded out the rest of what I required.

I was finally excited about writing my story and telling everyone I knew about this great idea. I received some polite encouragement but mostly confused expressions (mainly from the “light” readers or those unfamiliar with young adult books.) Yet, I wasn’t discouraged.  I was ready to write.

Throughout my life I’ve come to realize I’m a much better writer than speaker so I put fingers to keyboard: a year later I’m close to completion, thrilled about my story, moving forward to finishing it, with aspirations of getting it published.

When it’s completed I hope everyone will love it as much as I do!

Thanks for reading my blog. Let me know what you think.

A.G. Zalens