Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Did My Class and I Rock NaNo?

QUICK NaNoWriMo Update for me and my four brave, brilliant 7th-graders:

Student 1 Wrote 18 pages of a brutal story that involved a broken home, an abusive father, and the hope found in a friend-who-could-maybe-be-more. This student read bits of her story to the other girls during lunch; they argued over who was their favorite character and pestered her to keep writing so they'd know what happened.
Then the student tore that story out of her book and started a new story.
Her guardian had read through it and didn't approve it. Her new story does not contain a broken home or an abusive father. All the favorite characters are gone.

Student 2 Wrote bits and scraps on backs and half-sheets for most of November. By the third week, she had about 6 pages all together. Organization knocked her out. So did setting--she didn't know how to write scenes about Washington D.C. when she'd never been there. We talked at length about writing herself into a corner. :) She picked up her pace during the last week by focusing on her characters, and she wrote about 9 more pages.

Student 3 Hated her story by the middle of the month. When I gave her permission to start over, she gleefully stomped on her old pages. She spent most of the fourth week glumly facing her new project, annoyed with how she kept ruining great ideas by writing boring set-up. This girl is an artist, so I showed her Maus--we had just finished a WWII-lit unit--and discussed graphic novels. What a bright face she had! It was like I had lifted a lead blanket off her shoulders.
She showed me pictures that she just worked on last night of a girl getting run over by a car. The student was glowing, proud of her bloody images and of grossing out Ms. Jessica. She's going to finish her story through December.

Student 4 Had 37 pages at the end of November and will write through December. She had started writing a horror story, but she realized she didn't need to embellish anything to tell a terrifying tale. She is writing her life story.
At first, she thought she had to modify it to keep it 'middle school appropriate.' I told her to be as honest as she wanted to be about what she's been through.

Me? I mean, does it really matter, compared to these girls? I think they're so cool, so brave, so fun, so strong. They inspire me. But, just to round it out--I wrote 18, 400 words. It was totally fun and diverting and sometimes awful and annoying. Like John Green says, NaNoWriMo gives a writer 1) discipline and 2) permission to suck. I think I picked up some discipline, and I definitely am all about being okay sucking.

So, YES, we absolutely rocked NaNoWriMo!

And now we're reading "Goblin Market" by Christina Rossetti and "Goblin Fruit" by Laini Taylor. Favorite. Unit. Ever. :)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Geeking Out Over Collaborations

My love for both John Green and M. T. Anderson has led me to another dated discovery:

The hot-hot-hot themed YA anthology!

Collections of short stories by rockin' authors are popping up all over, and again I'm late to the party. But that's okay! Late to a party equals awesome! (NOT early. NOT on time. These, to a party, are not so awesome. These are tragic and send a gal home by 8:30 in tears.)

FIRST anthology is Gothic! Ten Original Dark Tales published by Candlewick in August 2004. I'm putting this first even though I have no real idea if it has a predecessor. If you know of another first, let me know! This cool collection came out with authors like Neil Gaiman, Celia Rees, Gregory Maguire, and of course, M. T. Anderson. (no. not obsessed.)

SECOND anthology is Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd, published by Little, Brown in August 2009. Holly Black collected stories along with her friend and co-ComiCon attendee, Cecil Castellucci. Contributing authors include M. T. and John Green, natch, as well as Sara Zarr, Cassandra Clare, David Levithan, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Scott Westerfeld, Garth Nix, and Libba Bray.

Side-note: I ADORE 2009-LIBBA BRAY. I'm sure 2011-Libba Bray is just-as-if not-more adorable, but 2009-Libba Bray made this video promoting her Printz-winner, Going Bovine. Please watch, even if you never click on links. Three minutes of adorable in a cow costume.

I admit it: this is why I write. Not to write, but to write with friends like Libba who rock cow costumes in New York City. More on this thought in a second.

THIRD anthology is Zombies vs. Unicorns, collected again by Holly Black, this one published by Margaret K. McElderry Books in September 2010. This collection offers six stories pro-unicorns, and six stories pro-zombies. Contributing authors include Carrie Ryan, Maureen Johnson, Meg Cabot, and more fun from Cassandra Clare, Garth Nix, Scott Westerfeld, and Libba Bray.

John Green posted a vlog about this debate in 2007 and described unicorns as the "horned beasts of suck." Also, he questions, "What have unicorns ever accomplished? Providing transport for the Care Bears to and from the Forest of Feelings?" :)

LATEST collection is Steampunk!: An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories. This one came out by Candlewick in October 2011. It was put together by Kelly Link, but Holly Black still contributes, along with Corey Doctorow, M. T., Garth Nix, Cassandra Clare, and Libba Bray.

(Afterthought disclamier: This list of four books is, of course, in no way exhaustive and is as extensive as my Googling skills allow.)

So--I want to say how awesome I think this is--writers consistently publishing together.

I mean, I'm not saying that all these writers got together and wrote their stories in one big house, sharing coffee duties and pizza runs. However, clearly the community--as John said in his vlog--had been discussing the topics for months. I don't know, but I imagine that the books came out of those discussions. So community created art, rather than art bringing together a community.

I love that.

But, as an extension of that thought, why not gather together in a big house and write? Why can't we do that? Percy Shelley did, at Leigh Hunt's, with John Keats. Some writers used to write together. Some said--Shelley certainly said--they needed the companionship for inspiration. So I say YAY anthologies! YAY communities of writers collaborating and inspiring one another. I cannot WAIT to join you. I will totally take the first pizza run.

So my friends, who would you want in your big writers' house? Who would be in charge of meals? Who would you borrow toothpaste from? :) Who would you love to toss ideas around with over slices of pepperoni pizza?