Tag Archives: tennis

I DNF a Book

22 May

I DNF a book. For those of you who don’t know what “DNF” means, it means I did not finish reading a novel. Not a big deal, right? Wrong.

For me, I rarely put a book down after I pick it up. Why? Because I feel like if I decided to read it, I need to finish it. Aside from needing to know how something ends, there is a societal pressure to finish everything you start, no matter what.

When I find myself dreading my current read, I always end up telling myself that the book will get better, that the plot will take off, that I’ll finally connect with everything and toughing it out will be worth it—and while that does happen, it happens far less than the book never working for me at all. Yet I still try to finish every book I start.

Why?

I think it has a lot to do with my personality. In fact, this “never give up!” mentality has affected me in other ways. When I was younger, for instance, I played tennis for three years without ever really liking it. I finally quit when my first book was published and I needed to dedicate more time to writing (not to mention a part-time job I took at a local sports bar). But I still feel HORRIBLE for quitting, even though, if I were being completely honest, I was awful at it. Eventually though, I had to come to the conclusion that my time was better suited elsewhere, that tennis was fun, sure, but it just wasn’t for me, and denying that was keeping that space on the team away from someone who truly wanted to be there.

Now I’m trying to be better about applying that life lesson to reading.

Just because you don’t finish reading doesn’t mean the novel is bad. It just means it’s not for you right now. It might resonate with you in three years, but it might not, and that’s okay. So why hold onto that library book that’s making you miserable when someone else could be checking it out and enjoying it? Why force yourself through a read when it’s depleting your joy for reading? Why not find a book you actually enjoy?

Of course, there’s a time and a place to force yourself through a read. (School, for example.) And I will always give a book a fair shot. According to Goodreads, I read 47% of the book I DNF. And, honestly, it wasn’t bad. In fact, it was a fresh idea in a unique world, and it had interesting characters…but I just couldn’t. Why? I’m not entirely sure. In fact, I might never know why, just like I don’t know why tennis wasn’t my passion instead of writing, but at least I realized it wasn’t for me. (And I can always give it another shot in the future.) Until then though, I’m glad I returned it to the library so that someone else could check it out and enjoy it.

So here I am, not finishing a book this week, and setting a goal to be better about being honest with myself about books in the future.

DNF bad reader, DNF = honest reader.

And I’m ready to be more honest with myself, so that I can spend more time on books I thoroughly enjoy.

~SAT

#RealYA How Does It Affect Fiction?

2 Dec

Last week, many took to Twitter to discuss the differences between young adults in YA and young adults in RL (a.k.a. real life). Let me tell you, it was awesome! I loved talking to current high schoolers as well as discussing my situation when I was in high school. Even more so, it was great to see what current readers want to see more of in fiction. Below, I wanted to cover a few topics we discussed, both from my perspective and theirs. And, of course, I’d love to hear what you have to say in the comments below. Let’s begin:

High Schools and How They Function: This is a tricky one. When I was in high school—only ten years ago—it was SUPER easy to skip school and classes. In fact, I was a known skipper, as was my older brother. I got in trouble once in four years and skipped many more times than I can count. But now, it’s much harder. At the exact school I went to, less than a year after I graduated, they implemented automatic calls to parents and double locked doors at all the exits…with cameras. Sounds like a jail to me, but… 😉 Soda pop and candy machines were also readily available, and teachers often had students get things for them too. Now, apparently, those aren’t allowed in many schools. I loved seeing all the modern high schoolers coming out and explaining things in books they see that are different now, like skipping and soda machines. How does this affect literature? Well, for one, when I wrote The Timely Death Trilogy, skipping was EASY. But when I published it, I knew things had changed, but there is a lot of skipping in the book, so I had to adjust how and why. It’s honestly revealed in the last book, so I don’t want to spoil it, but it comes down to knowing people in the office. Other topics that were different included homeroom, AP classes, lockers, and more. A main subject brought up was grades as well. How are all these kids passing classes when they are saving the world? It’s okay to have your main character fail at something. I mean, who remembers when Cassandra Clare pulled Clary out of school once she got involved with Shadowhunters? I do! And I loved it!

Teachers: I wanted to separate this one from high school because I think a “teacher” can be in the classroom but also out of the classroom. One thing I thought was important was the discussion that not all teachers are good teachers and not all teachers are nice teachers either. We see a lot of encouraging and helpful mentors in teaching roles in YA – think of The Perks of Being a Wallflower as an example – but it’s not as common to show an educator actually discouraging a child. (Unless it’s the cliché football team coach.) My personal example? I had a teacher in my high school tell me to stop trying to write because (and I quote) “You will never get published.” Yep. That happened. My older brother, who was an artist, had an art teacher tell him he’d never be great because he couldn’t’ take it seriously. Then, one year later, she hung up his artwork in the hallway. It’s still there, too. Teachers aren’t always kind or helpful or encouraging—and for a variety of reasons. Maybe they think tough love will push you. Maybe they are jealous. Maybe they are trying to stop you from “wasting your time” by failing at a dream they also failed at. Who knows? They are human too, after all.

As an extra…a peek into SAT’s HS life.

From left to right: The day my first novel released in 2007, Homecoming (That’s my dad. Which, here’s another topic covered: kids actually getting along with their parents. I did! My dad is still my best friend!), my work uniform at 810 Zone, my tennis uniform, and graduation day in 2009.

highschool

Part-time Jobs: I don’t know about you all, but I did a lot when I was high school. Looking back, I’m not sure HOW I did either. I took AP and Honors classes, played tennis, participated in Goal 0 and yearbook, and I worked as a nanny…AND worked a part-time job at a sports bar as a hostess (See photos above). I even managed to get my book published between all that. (God, I wish I had that kind of energy now.) Despite all of this, my situation wasn’t rare. I worked with four others kids I went to high school with, and many others I knew worked too. But part-time jobs—jobs outside of babysitting your own siblings—aren’t seen in many YA novels. Perhaps this is because of time restraints. I mean, how does a kid save the world when they’re going to school, let alone when they are working a job too? Still, it’d be nice to see more part-time jobs covered. I have jobs covered in November Rain…BUT the characters don’t go to school, so it doesn’t really count.

And last but not least, I HAD to talk about this one: (Warning. Rant ahead.)

Dead parents: I actually get a little sad when I see people ask for authors to stop putting dead parents in novels. As someone who grew up in a situation where my mother died, I remember how hard it was for me to FIND a book like my situation. I honestly still haven’t. Here’s the thing. I don’t think the dead parents trope is the problem. I think it’s HOW it’s shown in books and other types of mediaI also think there isn’t enough variety in families in general. I covered this in another article I wrote, Writing Tips: Family Variety.

What do I mean by variety? Well, we don’t see as many grandparents raising kids after parents were too young to raise them, or siblings dying, or combined families, or unusual living situations, like living with an uncle while the parents are traveling for work. But when you tackle the death of parents, I think the WAY parents die is almost always the same.

A. Parents are already removed from character. This can happen in the form of a parent dying before the kid was old enough to remember them or an extremely distant divorce or whatnot. (I still think these are important, don’t get me wrong.) In fact, The Timely Death Trilogy follows this. Jessica’s parents died in a car wreck when she was a baby, but she definitely still struggles with their deaths and what it means in regards to her identity. That being said, Eric’s mother’s death doesn’t follow this trope at all. (We’ll get to hers in the next section.)

B. If the parents are close, they die “innocent deaths.” I use the term “innocent” carefully – and not heartlessly. It’s just the easiest way to explain them. So, what do I mean by innocent? To me, these deaths aren’t judged by society. They are seen as completely out-of-control situations, like car wrecks or cancer. Again, these are important! Please don’t get me wrong. But there’s another type that is rarely shown, what I would call “blameful” deaths. I’m talking about suicide, addiction/drug overdoses, etc. The reason I call them “blameful” is because, in general, society is more likely to judge these deaths, which adds another level of coping for those left behind. There are a million ways I could explain this with my situation, so I’ll try to keep it short. My mother died from a drug overdose one room down from my bedroom when I was eleven. Instead of sympathy, many people asked why she didn’t get help. (Guess what, she tried.) Or why my father didn’t forcibly take the drugs away. (Guess what, he tried.) I could go on and on about how people insinuate blame without even meaning to. But if I put my real-life situation in a book, especially if I added details, most publishers would say it is “too much” for young readers, especially an eleven-year-old.

I reject the phrase of “too violent” or “too much” or “too dark” for young readers, because my eleven-year-old self didn’t get to look at the universe and say “Hey, my mom can’t die this way. That’s too much for me.” That’s not how life works. And it happens to many people. “Every day in the United States, 44 people die as a result of prescription opioid overdose.” (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.) But god forbid, it’s in a novel. Which is why I love books that cover up-in-your-face parental deaths, like All Fall Down by Ally Carter. (I don’t want to spoil how her mother dies, but it’s a great example.) I’m not saying we need to bombard literature with violent deaths. There’s always a way to write it so it’s not overwhelming or inappropriate. I try to do this in my own novels. Example? Many of the children’s back-stories in November Rain includes a very violent and/or emotionally-removed parent. There’s a murder-suicide and a flat-out abandonment on the streets. Take Me Tomorrow involves drug-addicted or criminally-minded parents. In The Timely Death Trilogy, I cover suicide when Eric’s mother shoots herself.

Tropes or not a trope, to someone, it’s real, and I think the more “types” we cover, the better it can be. On a side note, I do think it would be great to see more parents directly involved with teens in YA, especially parents that get along with their kids. My dad and I almost always got along. I still call him every other day. He’s definitely one of my best friends! I actually based Sophia’s relationship with her father Dwayne in Take Me Tomorrow off of my life with my father when I was her age.

These were just four of the AMAZING topics I saw discussed. Victoria Aveyard even got involved, which I loved. Seriously. She’s the bee’s knees on Twitter. And I’m finding myself more and more involved in these conversations. What I learned was pretty simple. Sometimes, RL and tropes can mix, because well, tropes came from somewhere. But it’s important to stay up-to-date on RL. Listen to your readers. Learn about their lives. Know what matters to them. Challenge each other, and maybe, together, we can make YA the best YA ever seen.

~SAT

#SATurday: I Am Not Special

7 Feb

#SATurday: I Am Not Special

Some nights, I do not feel like writing – but, in all honesty, I understand that I do feel like writing. After all, I always do. Even when I “hate” it, I redefine my hate as fighting through a passionate struggle – or I label it with some other momentary expression to explain my lack of love. It is a temporary disconnect, one that always – and undoubtedly – heals. That being said, a contradiction timelessly arises.

What happened to all my passions I disconnected with forever?

Allow me to clarify…I truly believe writing is my all-time passion, my purpose in life, per se, but there have been other activities I have loved and admired and explored and lost. While I’ve always wanted to be a writer, my preschool self wanted to try cheerleading, and my later school years brought basketball, yearbook, photography, track, tennis, gymnastics, a part-time job, and a little club called Goal 0 into my life – all while moving around and writing novels in my free time.

I guess I could call myself an overachiever – at least, at that age – but I never considered myself one. There was always a boy who went to school more than I did or a girl who ran faster or a new kid who had lived in more places than I have.

I’ve never seen myself as special.

Although those six words may sound dreary or in desperate need of some self-confidence training, I don’t read them that way. I look at them backward.

“Special as myself seen never I’ve.” may not make sense, so please allow me to reword it slightly to explain further:

Special as myself, seen never have I.

To me, focusing on oneself too much does not allow us to truly see the world around us. In contrast – because I always love a good contradiction – I believe we must know ourselves before we can help others or the world, but stretching self-knowledge into too much self-importance is where we destroy ourselves and each other.

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The ways that make us special are not meant to outshine another person’s unique traits. When I was younger, I did not understand that, so I overcompensated to try to seal a hole in my heart I held toward myself, and some days, I still succumb to this pain. I am human, after all.

During times I consider myself to be overcompensating, I have fleeting but terrifying emotions that consume me. Instead of realizing that I am already helping people, I irrationally desire to become special because I believe that “special” label will finally allow me to help others. In fact, I believe it will be the only way for me to achieve my goals. This is where my soul’s focus is confused. No matter what happens, I now feel as if I am failing, even when I am not, so I continue to push, push, and push forward – often, in the wrong direction – as if it will help, and the longer it continues, the harder I push. This is a breeding ground for overcompensation.

During overcompensation I fail to recognize the destructive nature of this thought-process – how it can deter your focus, warp your goals, and desensitize your true wish that you want to fulfill. In the example above, this happened when I thought being “special” would allow me to help people rather than simply trying to help people.

In writing, we often see this happen in the writer who always talks about writing but never actually writes – and oddly enough, that is how I began this piece, and in reality, that is also how I’m ending it. I am not an exception, I am not perfect, and I am not special. And I am accepting how perfectly okay I am with that.

Being special isn’t about sticking out or labeling someone as unique or even changing the world. It is about fighting every day to be honest about who you truly are while finding the energy to fulfill your life role in whatever way you decide it should be. Whether or not you change the world does not matter in the end.

In the end, the important lesson is not to see yourself as special, but to see the world for what it is and everything we can be every day.

I don’t see myself as special.

I am too focused on seeing the life all around me. Perhaps, it’ll even inspire me to write again.

~SAT on #SATurday

Writing Tips: Hobbies & Talents

13 Nov

A writer has many goals when creating a story–one of which is making the characters as believable as possible. The main way to do this is making them relatable. I do not mean to say this in the sense that an author should make a character relatable to everyone in every way. What I mean to say is that an author often forms a believable character by adding qualities real people have; therefore, allowing real people to relate to a character on either a personal or “I know someone like that” level.

There are many ways to do this. Generally focusing on a character’s age, background, attitude, and physical looks come first. But what about digging a little deeper?

This post is about deciding on hobbies and talents–as well as why they are different.

Hobbies:

A hobby is something we do because we like to do it. It could be gardening or cooking or anything really. It generally gives people solace, time to think, and adds joy in their life. Having a character with a hobby can broaden the spectrum of their personality by showing more of what they like and possibly what they want out of life. It can also warp the way they look at the world. For instance, someone who really loves running will look at a hill differently than someone who like flying kites. They see the same hill that can be used in different ways. So knowing a character’s ultimate hobby (or passion) can be a fantastic way to figure out their personality, perspective, and goals.

In Minutes Before Sunset, Eric’s hobby is his love for cars. He loves reading about them, driving his, and hopes to have more in the future (if he can even consider the future.) I learned from this because driving is often a form a freedom, and Eric doesn’t have any. Driving is his only freedom. But I particularly love talking about hobbies because it’s a major theme in Seconds Before Sunrise, particularly with Jessica and Jonathon–also known as Pierce. (I cannot wait for the cover reveal Dec. 1) I love it when my characters discover more parts about themselves, and discovering their hobbies allowed me to learn more about who they are as a person and who they will become as an adult. It also allows them to see it for themselves.

Below is my personal example: I played a lot of sports in school. I played track and basketball in middle school and tennis in high school. I still have my tennis team’s photo, but I wanted to share it because I loved playing tennis. I wasn’t fantastic at it. But I still had a great time playing. It was a hobby rather than a talent, but it still shaped me, and I learned a lot from it:

I’m the glowing one.

I’m the glowing one.

Talents: 

A talent is something we excel in, sometimes with little to nor effort. It could be painting or education or even convincing people to listen to you. Yes, a lot of people’s talents are also their hobbies (or vice versa) but it can be really interesting to see a character who’s very good at something they hate. (Or really bad at something they love.) But I’d like to clarify that there is nothing wrong with someone having a talent and loving it at the same time!

In Minutes Before Sunset, Eric has a knack for lying. Does he like doing this? Not necessarily. Does he use it to his advantage? Absolutely. This “talent” became fun when Jessica decided to have a “talent” for knowing if someone is lying or not.

How to choose what hobby or talent to use:

Well, Discover A Hobby, of course! It’s a website dedicated to opening opportunities for informative learning on all kinds of new hobbies (even ones you might not have known existed.) I think this website is great for helping decide on hobbies as well as talents. Just to name a few on their website:

Soap-Making, Palm-Reading, Tai Chi, Wood-Working, and Novel-Writing. (See? Even us writers made it on there.)

Happy Hobby Hunting!

Do your characters have hobbies and/or talents? Are they generally the same or different? Did you learn anything about your characters when they choose that hobby or talent? 

~SAT

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