Caroline Bock-BEFORE MY EYES
YOUNG ADULT NOVEL WRITING TIPS
What a cool thing I discovered -- LIE was reviewed in this monthly educator bulletin for The Character Council of Greater Kentucky. Now, as a writer, on first glance, I thought this was a writer's journal --i.e. development of fictional people in literature-- I have 10 distinct first person points of view in LIE and maybe someone in the Kentucky area thought this interesting.
But no, it's character as in a way to build ethics and values that we can all agree on like fairness, respect, trustworthiness, and caring for one another -- themes that are at the heart of my debut young adult novel, LIE. (We can agree that these are good things, right? In our current political climate I often wonder!)
Here's the link to the Character Council of Greater Kentucky -- and you will find there a PDF of this amazingly insightful newsletter on building character in grades 1-12 -- www.charactercincinnati.org.
And here's an excerpt from their LIE review: "This novel is a smart, topical story about a racially motivated hate crime, its far-ranging consequences and the community determined to keep it under wraps..."
more about LIE
Hope all are having a beautiful summer out there in cyberspace! I spent my Friday night with this amazing group of teen readers and writers at the Valley Stream, NY public library. For this group I prepared a Tip Sheet of Writing Resources -- it starts off with my disclaimer: This is by no means a comprehensive list, but represents groups
that I have participated in or taken classes with over the years— from Caroline
Bock, author of LIE.
More for Adults:
Society of Children’s Book
Writers and Illustrators
– (SBCWI) National
organization for children’s writers, I’m a member of the NYC chapter with
monthly seminars, annual winter meeting in January in NYC offers critiques,
workshops and panels. www.scbwi.org
(for women writers only). As they note, they are the “premier destination for women
writers, providing services and support for women at every stage of their
writing lives.” Lots of free
information, sharing here. Also
writing classes for a fee offered on line. www.shewrites.com
(on-line and in NYC, www.mediabistro.com
daily free email on the media business, plus some excellent short-term writing classes. Class with D.B. Gilles on screenwriting
is very worthwhile. He has a new
book: The ScreenWriter Within
highly recommend it.
– daily free email on the publishing business. Key info for serious aspiring writer
about what books have been sold by what agents to what publisher’s, what books
optioned by film or television, and the scope of the deals. A subscription component of the
site gives more details on deals. www.publishersmarketplace.com
– “the largest and most searchable
database of literary agents on the web.” Also the “how to write a query” section is very
helpful (a “query” is a sale pitch letter about your project to a literary
Long Island Children’s
Writers and Illustrators (LICWI)
- a very inclusive Long Island, NY group
meets once a month at St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue, and features group
critiques of children –young adult work.
Editor visits. Extremely
reasonable annual membership. www.licwi.org
Hofstra Continuing Education
(high school and adult
education writing classes year round and a well-run Summer Writers Institute on
Long Island). If you are an
aspiring children’s writer, try a class with Brian Heinz, very worthwhile. www.hofstra.edu/ucce/summerwriting.edu
More for Teens:
: Write yourself in. A community to share writing – no fee
to join. Teen orientated. Educator section too. Lots of resources
for teen writers here – and for adult writers interested in young adult
fiction, Find interview with me on
this site!! www.figment.com
: It's a magazine written entirely by
children. Ask your librarian whether she has some copies you could read first. Check out their website at www.stonesoup.com
If you wish to
submit, send to:
P.O. Box 83
Santa Cruz, CA 95063.
Include name, age, home address, phone number, and a self-addressed stamped
Top Writing Competition for
High School students:
The Scholastic Art
& Writing Awards for grades 7-12.
Top award for high school students in the country for writing. Dramatic scripts, Flash
Fiction (1,300 words), Personal Essay, Poetry, Science Fiction, Short Story are
among the categories. DEADLINE for
Northeast regional: is in early
2013. Regional and national
winners. Scholarships for
winners. More at www.artandwriting.org
Short list of books about
writing on my bookshelf for adults or teens:
1) On the art of writing: Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott about the creative process;
On Writing by Stephen King and The Art of the Novelist by John Gardner.
2) On practical advice: Immediate Fiction
by Jerry Cleaver, a complete writing course in one book; he Practical Writer from Inspiration to
edited by Therese Eiben and Mary Gannon on the staff of Poets
& Writers Magazine and The Forest for
: an Editor’s Advice to Writers by Betsy Lerner. Also, Poets&Writers Magazine
and its website www.pw.org
resources (I even worked at Poets & Writers for a short, sweet stint as an editorial assistant!).
your school has a literary magazine, get involved. I truly began to think of
myself as a writer when I became involved in Opus, my New Rochelle High School literary magazine.
a summer of 2012 must-read
As I speak to groups young and old about LIE,
my debut novel, (and I have an upcoming talk at the Elmont Public Library on Tuesday, June 5th at 6-8 pm at 700 Hempstead Tpk. Elmont, NY -- FREE, open to the public
) there is always someone who comes up to me, and often, shyly admits that they want to be a writer.
Yes, I think to myself: a reader! To be a writer you have to be a reader, someone who devours books -- especially books in whatever genre you are interested in writing in. And since we are on the topic of free -- books can be FREE (think: public library).
Beyond being a reader, to be a writer you have to write -- and that sounds simple, but it takes practice, skill, and often, guidance to write well. So, I discovered an upcoming FREE,
yes, FREE (because writer's conferences and Master of Fine Arts degrees costs money, sometimes a lot of money), on line children's writer's conference: Write On Con 2012
, which will take place Tuesday, August 14 and Wednesday, August 15th. Major agents, editors and children's writers are scheduled to be involved in this second annual Write On Con --(I hope to be involved -- keep your fingers crossed for me!). The 2012 theme is "Back to Basics." And it's all on line -- so you can live anywhere in the world and participate! Plan ahead. More details at www.writeoncon.com
author of LIE
if you haven't read LIE
yet -- put it on your summer reading list!!
"Even though we love publishing as an art, we very much know it's a business too. And that is we do our jobs right and get a little lucky, that great art can be great business." -- Chip Kidd, award-winning book designer.
I found this as part of a wonderful interview post on GalleyCat
(a must-read publishing site for anyone interested in the intersection of business and art). It's smart. It also makes me think what makes a business -- and what destroys a business, and in doing so may destroy art too. What destroys? Free destroys. Free downloads for example, especially if they are illegally obtained. But even if the downloads are legal, even if the artist is giving away his or her work
( I make exception for short term promotional giveaways), I think, in the long run, this free giveaway of creative work erodes the value of all the published worked out there. If we, as writers, want to keep our business and our art vital, we need to be paid for it.
Where does this mini-rant come from? -- reading posts on various writers' sites, lamenting that they must self-publish, that no agent will represent them or editor "buy" their books that, at the end of day, few people will pay even minimum for their books, and that they must give them away for free. If you are determined to self-publish, or to published with a digital vanity press, and there is a value you put into your writing, ask your potential readers to understand that value.
I want to shout out that it is a business, one that is changing, but one that cannot survive with the word "free download" attached to it.
I like Chip Kidd's thought a lot -- great art can be great business. It's going up on the wall next to my desk.
That said, buy a copy of my debut novel -- LIE.
I am a skeptical believer when it comes to all things
astrology. What does that
mean? I read my horoscope
religiously. I have even had my
“chart” done -- by the insightful
and thoughtful Madam Lichtenstein.
But even so, I question how much is in the stars and how much is in
ourselves when it comes to the creative sphere.
In trying to figure this out, this week, I interviewed Madam
Lichtenstein aka Charlene Lichtenstein, author of HersScopes, now in its ninth
printing with Simon and Schuster, and creator and writer of the must-read
astrological blog Madame Lichtenstein’s Cosmic World at
sign is the most creative? Please
make it my sign: Scorpio.
Every sign has a certain level of creativity. For example: Libra in the social sphere
--creativity through beautiful things; Sagittarius --more international and
cosmopolitan; Taurus – might be inspired food or food writing in particular; and with Scorpio in the
area of passion and intensity. Something mysterious should inspire the Scorpion.
Okay, I’ll take
that. You are disciplined
and prolific with your blog, have
you ever faced writer’s block? Do
you have any advice?
Don’t force the writing process. Sit down and try free
thinking automatic thinking. Just
write anything. But of course,
there are some days that are more conducive to writing than others
For me stress adds to
writer’s block. Is there something
that you would suggest to alleviate a writer’s stress?
Aromatherapy. Citrus. Grapefruit or orange energize and
activate the brain.
Going back to your
comment about days that may be more “conducive” to creativity -- as a woman there are always times of
the month that are more productive creatively, but I don’t think you mean that,
Not exactly --
but I believe what you are speaking about the “void of course moons.” You can be more creative during the
void of the moon. What is the
“void of course moons?” The moon changes signs every couple of
days and at one point it will go through “tunnel” one side into the other. Those are not great times for decision making. Those times signal the strong
possibility of cloudy thinking, of
the propensity to focus on wrong things.
But it’s a great time to focus on other things, especially in the
creative fields such as writing. I have a chart of the “void of course moons” on my
When do you write?
With HerScopes, I found that I wrote much better in the
middle of the night. I would work all night: 11 o’clock I would sit down -- and I’d write until 5 o’clock in the
morning – in those moments of supreme quiet.
Speaking of night
time writing, I noticed on your website that the moon as a symbol in astrology
may be an important one to writers?
I always think of a T.S. Elliot line about “bleeding between
two lines” when I think of the character of the writer. You have your real life and then you
have your created space in the world that is of your writing – so writers
naturally bleed between two lives.
For example, if you are writing your memoir you are writing your life
and leading it at the same time.
The moon has this duality – and it could be related more closely to
Do you do readings
for writers? Should I get my Tarot
Cards read? My chart updated?
Yes, I do it
all! Tarot Readings. Charts. See my website for details.
writing has been described as honest, insightful, but also a bit “biting” or “snarky.” Would you agree?
I hope it’s fun to read – I like to have fun with it – I
even like being a little spicy too.
Though people take astrology seriously, and so do I. I can be very analytical. I believe I have this kind of writing in
me because I have a mixture of Scorpion and Sagittarian energy in me.
Last question: in
preparation for the week ahead, what do the stars tell us?
Starting this week, as the Sun enters Taurus and conjuncts
lucky Jupiter, the cosmos unleashes a chain of fortuitous events that are bound
to have long term implications for us. Not a moment too soon! Don’t
accept anything except first class. You will traveling on this particular dream
for a while and will need more leg room.
(reprinted from Madam Lichtenstein’s Cosmic World – for more details on your
sign go to thestarryeye.typepad.com)
I wonder if it’s the right time to start a new piece? The stars seem to say so! Are the stars in your writing
Truly, the author of LIE
Writing is easy… just
a matter of staring at blank page until your forehead bleeds-- Gene Fowler.
Gene Fowler was a screenwriter during the Golden Era of
Hollywood. Today, we’d have to modify his quote to read “staring at a blank
screen.” But the idea is the same. We struggle as writers. The screen stays
blank. We wish for blood. Worse yet, we have no one else to commiserate with
except other writers (thank goodness for she writes). We obsess. I obsessed
about the title for my debut novel and even changed it after it was sold to St.
My novel was originally titled: L.I.E.
......the rest of this article can be found at www.shewrites.com
-- where I am the guest editor all week!! This is an amazing website dedicated to building a community online for women writers. Check out the rest of my article on "What We Talk About When We Talk About Book Titles" at www.shewrites.com.
I will return to my poem -- "Idiot Box" -- next week!!
Truly, the author of LIE.
The Idiot Box
I loved the Hunger Games-- both the movie and the books -- though my female protagonists must work hard to be as brave, as defiant Katniss Everdeen
. Are the ones you write or imagine as powerful as Katniss, or let's say, more conflicted? My female characters seem always to be powerfully conflicted, struggling for answers, for truth. The voice in my poem, "The Idiot Box," is of a girl, one close to my heart, struggling to understand her childhood world. As promised, I've reprinted the opening and added the next section. Let me know what you think as this poem unfolds. It's all in honor of National Poetry Month
. More to come on "The Idiot Box" in upcoming days. Truly, the author of LIE.
My father called it
the Idiot Box
like it was a nickname, or
term of endearment.
I was twelve.
He called me
Toots, a nickname,
a term of endearment.
T.V. was always the Idiot Box.
The Idiot Box:
knobs, broken off,
a pair of pliers plucked the channels.
The Idiot Box:
black and white,
sculpted wire coat hangers
caught the signals.
The Idiot Box:
a Buddha on a woman’s
long dresser, my mother’s dresser,
along the wall in the living room,
bowed to a pair of plaid easy chairs,
and a burnt orange couch.
In front of The Idiot Box:
the bottom of her wheelchair
and was taken away,
a bad puppy,
out of sight.
Truly, the author of LIE.
Teenage dystopia. Zombies. Mommy Porn. LIE -- ?? Some days I think that I should just combine end-of-the-world, fleshing-eating, ebook x-rated fun -- and write that
book. Don't get me wrong, I am thrilled with the response from readers and critics that I have received forLIE,
my contemporary, realistic, young adult novel about the impact of a brutal hate crime. But at the same time, when one glances at amazon's "top 100" list -- and what writer doesn't occasionally?-- or, the NY Times Book Review, and try as one might, like a gambler, one compulsively runs down the scores, I mean the bestseller lists, one has to think: do I jump on that
writing bandwagon? Thing is I loved the Hunger Games
-- read the entire series. I plan to see the movie this Friday. I watch "The Walking Dead" and cheer --for zombies. I am debating whether to read the mommy porn -- several hundred pages of hot, steamy sex sounds exhausting. By the way, if you haven't checked, the top bestsellers on amazon are the Hunger Game
books, Walking Dead books and the 50 Shades series... So those are the thoughts before the school bus arrives, as I ponder what to write next. Any thoughts out there on trends in books these days? Truly, the author of LIE.
BY MY FATHER – How it influenced my writing, helped me create strong male
characters, and made me think differently about men
I was raised by a single parent – a father, which I think makes
me think and write about men differently than a lot of writers. One recent result: I’ve
written a young adult novel with strong male points of view.
Inspired by real events, LIE
-- (St. Martin's Press, 2011) -- has
two main characters – seventeen-year-old Skylar and Sean. LIE is about the
aftermath of a brutal hate crime, about a group of white teen attacking
Hispanics for “fun” and everything going terribly wrong. Moreover, it’s the
struggle of Skylar and Sean to break from their friends, their community and
tell the truth -- or lie.
Writing both a male and female main characters was a challenge
-- and had me thinking a lot about what makes teens different. What
makes them act? What are the morals and ethics that they each respond to -- or
reject? There are ten distinct first person voices in LIE. In addition to the
teen voices, there are three fathers as a well as a high school coach,
struggling along with the teens about the consequences of this hate crime.
In LIE, it soon becomes clear that the words and actions of the
fathers have strongly influenced the actions of the teen boys. These teenagers,
even more than the girls, are looking toward the men in their lives as guiding
forces. The fathers stress sports over all else. They want to “win,” at all
costs for their sons, in sports and in life. One father’s bitter and angry prejudices
about race are juxtaposed against the idea of “winning” i.e. for one group of
people to “win” another must “lose,” and so his son, Jimmy, a Scholar-Athlete, leads a
group of his peers in a so-called “beaner-hopping” spree against
Hispanics, which turns terribly wrong.
Growing up, my father spent a lot of time talking about life,
about history, about the world and current events to his four children. He was
not at all a religious man, but he thought a lot about what was right in the
world and what was wrong in the world, and all the gray parts in between. He
was also a big, tough-talking guy from the Bronx. But what he said to me and to
my younger siblings was this, “Think before you act. Think of how what you’re
doing affects you and think about how it affects others.” Admittedly, he
probably said it more colorfully, but I knew what he meant and it informed my
moral core to this day. I am a writer because of my father, Morris Blech, who is still going strong at 81-years old.
I urge mothers, fathers as well as their teens to take a look at
my critically-acclaimed novel: LIE. Let me know what you think of the male
characters, about the fathers and sons.
Truly, author of LIE
available everywhere books
and ebooks are sold.
When I procrastinate with my writing, like I am doing today, I often read poetry. I stumbled on this Christopher Smart poem at www.poets.org
... it's on his cat, Jeffrey, and was written in the 18th century. I believe in the power of cats, and it seems Mr. Smart does too. They are essential, especially to this writer, proud owner of the 22-lb lover-boy of a cat, Shelton. Here is a fragment of a fragment from the great Christopher Smart that renewed me:
...For he keeps the Lord's watch in the night against the adversary.
For he counteracts the powers of darkness by his electrical skin and glaring eyes.
For he counteracts the Devil, who is death, by brisking about the life.
For in his morning orisons he loves the sun and the sun loves him.
For he is of the tribe of Tiger.
available everywhere print and ebooks are sold.