Book Review by Sofia (13): Jacob Have I Loved

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

There’s generally a reason why Newbery medal winners are Newbery medal winners. With Jacob Have I Loved, the reason is obvious. The book is poignant and connects with the reader on a much deeper level than many of today’s novels.

First published in 1980, Jacob Have I Loved tells the story of Sara Louise Bradshaw as she grows up on Rass Island in Chesapeake Bay. All her life, Sara Louise feels belittled and outshone by her twin sister Caroline, who always manages to steal the spotlight. The book is told through a flashback, and focuses mainly on the relationship between Sara Louise and Caroline. It tells the story of how Sara Louise, the elder twin by some precious few minutes, struggles throughout her teenage years to form an identity separate from her small island hometown and from the people there.

In the beginning, Sara Louise is content with merely spending her days crab progging with her friend Call and living—at least somewhat—in the shadow of her sister. But when the mysterious Captain Hiram Wallace moves to Rass Island, everything changes. Sara Louise and Call begin helping him fix up his old house, but not long after, a hurricane hits Rass Island. There are no casualties, but Captain Wallace’s house is destroyed. He moves in with Sara Louise and her family for a few days. Sara Louise is struggling with her growing contempt for Caroline and for her grandmother, and with her growing need to leave the island.

Obviously, I don’t want to spoil the whole book for you, so I’m going to leave the summary at that. My impressions of the book, however, are going to take up a whole ‘nother three paragraphs.

Like I said earlier, there’s generally a reason why books are given fancy medals. Katherine Paterson—winner of not one but two Newbery medals—has created a masterpiece. The book is narrated in such a way that readers of all ages can connect to it. I first read the book with I was nine or so and enjoyed merely the surface plot. Four years later, the book is still a favorite of mine. As I’ve gotten older I’ve been able to understand more of the subtle nuances and hidden meanings of the plot that I didn’t get previously. This is a great book because every time I read it, I understand more and more of the plot. It’s addictively multidimensional; the book gets stuck in my head for days on end.

Each character has a separate and unique identity. In some books I’ve read, the characters are the literary equivalent of soda that’s de-carbonated: They taste flat and leave a bad taste in your mouth. In Jacob Have I Loved, though, the characters are more reminiscent of, say, fresh-baked donuts. I can’t wait for more!

All in all, despite a few references that were hard for me to connect with, Jacob Have I Loved is an excellent read. I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to smile, yearn, cry, and come away from the book having learned a thing or two about love and life.

Hunger Games Freebie

Friday, March 23, 2012

Unless you’ve embarked on a digital detox, you know that the much-anticipated movie The Hunger Game hits theaters across the country today.

Before you rush out to see it (sorry, Lionsgate, I know you want your first weekend to out perform the Twilight movies), read the book. Seriously. If you haven’t read it, you must stop what you’re doing right now and glue your eyes to the page. It won’t be hard, I promise. Put your work away — it is Friday after all — and read it. You’ll be finished in time for The Hunger Games movie tonight and will be so glad you did.

Sofia and I will post book reviews soon (I know, we’re behind the times), but just know that whether you’re ahem, over 30, under 18, or anywhere in between this book is a page turner. And out of the thousands of books I’ve read, those words have crossed my lips probably three times.

Of course, I realize that me twisting your arm to read the book won’t stop you from seeing the film first, but to get you started, here’s a free Chapter 1 of The Hunger Games book. And Amazon has The Hunger Games for Kindle for $5.00. Now, you have no excuses ☺.

Drop us a comment and let us know what you think about The Hunger Games book. Does the movie stack up?

Script Frenzy — Don’t Miss It!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

It's not too late to sign up for the April 1 start of Script Frenzy (NaNoWriMo's crazy cousin), or the Young Writers Program Script Frenzy.

For those of you not familiar with Script Frenzy, here’s a blurb from the What is Script Frenzy page: “The Challenge: Write 100 pages of original scripted material in the 30 days of April. (Screenplays, stage plays, web series, TV shows, short films, and graphic novels are all welcome.)”

The biggest perks offered by the NaNo and Script Frenzy sites during these whirlwind writing adventures — in addition to the motivation they provide — are the resources they offer, which are second to none.

I won’t cover all of them here, but the resource pages for both sites offer guides and advice for writers of all ages (see a few examples below) AND free educator’s resources.

YWP’s Script Frenzy Resources:
Scriptwriting Boot Camps for elementary, middle, or high school
Scriptwriting Workbooks for elementary, middle, or high school
How-to guides for screenwriting, TV writing, playwriting, or comic book writing

YWP’s Educators’ Resources:
Classroom Kits
Scriptwriting Lesson Plans for elementary, middle, or high school

Script Frenzy Resources:
How-to guides for stage plays, screenplays, TV scripts, and comic books
Articles by the Experts (broken down by topic such as Outlining, Structure and Format, Characters, Comedy)
How to Build Great Characters and Stories (including the Hollywood Formula Worksheet)

Every writer is different, but my big writing projects tend to center around NaNo and Script Frenzy. Every November I write the first draft of a novel. And every April, I write the first draft of a screenplay — conveniently, based on the novel. Will I ever make a film? Probably not (Sorry to my 8th-grade self whose first film was a Super-8 and lives in the back of my head with dreams of making movies). But what Script Frenzy does for me is equally as important as putting me in the director’s chair (or at the screenwriter’s desk); it forces me to revise. Let me say that again, REVISE. Edit. Dramatically improve my dialogue, fill plot holes, (and ruthlessly remove adverbs). Script Frenzy is an opportunity, nay a gift that allows me to improve my writing in a way that’s so fun, it almost doesn’t feel like work. Almost. And hey, after writing 50,000+ words in a month, 100 pages, (fewer than 20,000 words) is, to use an editable cliché, a piece of cake.

TwitterGirlz: BFFs Who Change the World

Tuesday, January 17, 2012
I have to admit that although I occasionally read tweets, I don’t post them. Not yet anyway. But despite my (flagging) resistance, there’s a movement for writers to have an interactive online presence. Writing on your laptop, curled up on your bed alone is no longer enough. What we need, we’re told is a platform. And these YA authors on Twitter have them.

What is it about Twitter that attracts us as writers? For me, it’s a bit voyeuristic. I want to know how other writers live. I want them to tell me secrets, inadvertently if possible, about their lives as if we were BFFs (that’s best friends forever for you moms out there ☺).

And, I want to escape from my own life for a few minutes and at the same time be inspired to return to my day, to my computer, with new insights or motivation to put words on a page that may in turn inspire someone else.

So, in a vicarious attempt to inspire you, I direct you to two powerful women who have changed the lives of many: Maria Shriver, and Michelle Obama — whose birthday is today. Happy Birthday Michelle (see, just like we’re BFFs already).

What’s the most inspirational Tweet you’ve ever read? Grab a cup of coffee, or a Coke, sit down at the table with me, and tell me all about it.

Happy New Year

Sunday, January 1, 2012

With the ringing in of the new year comes the sometimes anticipated, but most often dreaded, New Year’s Resolutions.

Each year on New Year’s Day for the past five years, my older daughter and I have gone out to a coffee shop for hot chocolate, a tasty treat, and a recap of the previous year’s accomplishments. Sometimes we surprise ourselves to find that we’ve completed more of our lists than we remembered. Either way, it’s a great time to hang out, talk about our goals, and set new ones for the upcoming year.

For the past few years, each of us has included more and more writing-related goals on our lists. One of Sofia’s from New Year’s Day 2011 was to finish her work-in-progress “to the bitter end, even if it completely stinks.” And one of mine was to be published in some format or other. We both succeeded in those goals although we won’t mention the ones we didn’t complete :).

If one your goals for this year is not only to be published, but to earn a little money while doing so, check out Funds for Writers, where you can access free lists of paying grants, contests, jobs and markets, including Writing Kid, a page specifically for young writers where C. Hope Clark lists grants, contests, and paying venues for young writers.

Until January 5, 2012, TotalFundsforWriters, the bi-weekly newsletter with even more paid writing opportunities listed, is being offered at the discounted rate of $9 for one year.

Happy New Year 2012! 

What are your writing resolutions for this year? We would love to hear about them in the comments below.