Saturday, June 3, 2017

Book Recommendations: Spring 2017

By now, you all know the drill: I'm going to come in here and say something about how I don't review things anymore, but still want to share all these great reads with you. And I've read some good things lately.

So here we are.

Perks of spending an hour on public transit several times a week for an entire semester? You get to read a lot of things. Here are some of the best things. Enjoy.

And I Darken by Kiersten White

I love historical fiction, and I love high fantasy. This book reads like both in one. While it's not strictly historical (it's an alternate history about a female Vlad the Impaler), it takes you to a period of history that hasn't yet been over-saturated with novels. Plus, it boasts an awesome female character and some intense character development. I read it in one sitting. Okay, I was on a plane, but still.


The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

This modern classic is beautiful, insightful, and, most of all, absolutely and utterly devastating in a way that somehow gave me hope. I was not prepared for this roller coaster of a book, but I can't stop thinking about it even four months after reading. It takes an honest look at culture, loss, and humanity in a way that makes it one of the most poignant books I've read in a long time, possibly ever. (Also recommended but not quite as good: Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns.)

Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn saga

Are you an absolute nerd for fantasy worldbuilding so solid, you could drive a tank through it and it wouldn't fall apart? Do you want plot twists that are so good that you become uncontrollably angry? Are you in need of a good cry? Have you been disappointed by high fantasy trilogies/series that build and build with no payoff? Have you ever wondered what it would be like to read the high fantasy embodiment of the they crave that mineral meme? Do you wish that the ending of Lucy actually made sense? Do you want me to shut up? Mistborn is the series for you, my friend.

But What If We're Wrong? by Chuck Klosterman
I've gone to bookstores with friends a few times since reading this, and each time I see it, I pick it up, hand to said friend, and say, "This messed me up. Read it." It's been almost six months since I read this, and I still think about it on a frequent basis. Klosterman analyzes basic concepts that we take for granted (everything from "good" art to democracy to physics to the NFL) and dares to consider the idea that we're completely, utterly wrong about its value. After all, physicists spent thousands of years thinking that the sun revolved around the earth. Who's to say that our current understanding is any more correct? I'll leave you with that.

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby
This is the kind of book that haunts you in the best way possible. It's partly a coming-of-age story, partly a love story, and partly a story of the way we connect across our differences. It's also a story of subtle magic. It's difficult to describe, but definitely worth the experience. If nothing else, it's worth it for the lovely prose.

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein
Despite the fact that everyone freaked out about Code Name Verity back in 2012, this one somehow flew under the radar.* While it doesn't have the complexity of Code Name Verity, it carries the same emotional and historical weight. It's difficult to capture the emotion of a concentration camp situation, but Elizabeth Wein succeeds at this. Pick this up for all your women fighter pilot story needs.

The Sun Is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon
I was skeptical of this one. Love story that takes place over the course of a single day? Nah. My book club supplied me with a copy, though, so I figured I'd give it a chance. I was pleasantly surprised. It's a love story, but more than that, it's a story about how the tiny connections we make with those around us have far-reaching consequences. (The cover is also too pretty to pass up.)

Release by Patrick Ness
This is a difficult one to discuss. Was it, for me, the absolutely wrong book to read at the wrong time? Yes. Did I need it anyway? Yes. It tugs at you and teases out the sadness, and then it shows you the hope. That's what Patrick Ness does best, and he has yet to disappoint me.

*I suppose I regret that word choice. Maybe.
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Friday, March 10, 2017

Revision in Motion Stays in Motion

I've been working on one novel for a long time. That's not unusual, of course, but it does mean that every major milestone feels huge because it's so long in coming. I've told you about Untitled Icarus Novel* before, and I'll tell you about it again at some point because that's what I do.

I finished line editing this beast of a book. I printed it out (after a long, long round of structural revision, which is harder, in my opinion) and started slogging through each of my 80-some thousand words. But progress was slow, and the project just seemed too big. It killed my motivation--if I spend an hour on this project and barely put a dent in it, how many million hours is this going to take? I'm going to be in a nursing home before this is done.

So it effectively got put on hold for a few months. And, as they say, objects at rest stay at rest...


About three weeks ago, I decided to go for it. I wanted to finish this thing, but saying, "I'll work on this a random hour at a time whenever I have some free minutes," wasn't working. Instead, I set a goal of a chapter I day. I had 21 chapters left; that's only three weeks. A chapter takes me about 15-20 minutes. Easy, right?

Objects in motion stay in motion, guys. I finished in just over two weeks, and more importantly, I had a lot of fun doing it. And I learned something.

While the goal of one chapter per day helped me, it wasn't what kept me going. I had been thinking of it all wrong. I was thinking of this project as a goal to be completed, as a huge thing that I'd feel better about once it was done. This, as I learned, is a terrible way to run a project. And to run, well, life in general.

No, what helped was the change in thinking. When I started doing a chapter a day, with the expectation that I didn't need to feel pressured to do more. And when I did this, I started to enjoy it again, and suddenly I was editing for the fun of it. I would sometimes do two or three chapters because my momentum was taking me forward.

Breaking news: things are more enjoyable (and we're more motivated to do them) when we treat them like fun instead of work. And I'm applying this to life, not just writing. We spend so much time setting goals, but we don't stop to think about the process itself. Everything is endpoints. We set a goal so that we can set another goal.

I'm proposing that we chill on the goal-setting. Goals are important, but the way we're taught to set them, we lose focus on everything in between one goal and the next. Accomplishment becomes more important than learning along the way. I propose that we do things for the sake of doing them, not because they lead us to an endgame.

There are a few famous writers who have been quoted something along the lines of "I don't enjoy writing; I enjoy having written." Then why do it? There are careers that pay better, that are less emotionally taxing. Why waste your life writing when you don't actually enjoy the process?

Let's get away from this mentality. There's absolutely no reason to spend this much time on something you don't enjoy. Sure, it isn't always fun, but it should be something you love overall.

Please remember that there's more to writing--and to life--than your list of goals. Live in each present moment that comes along the way.

*Title is now The Icarus Legacy. We won't talk about how long it's taken me to get to this point.
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Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Top 5 Books of 2016

Well, 2016 has been...a year. From Harambe to Carrie Fisher, from Anton Yelchin to weird clown crazes and look at me not even mentioning the presidential election. Let's not talk about all this. Ignore it all for five minutes and talk books with me, and celebrate the literary goodness of 2016. (Or, at least, the increasingly absurdist memeage of 2016.)

I've done a top ten list in the past, but since I read just over fifty books this year, I decided it didn't make sense to include 20% of them in a top ten list. Hence, a top five list.

This one had me at "Rae Carson" and "gold rush," but it somehow managed to surpass all my expectations. I've learned this year that historical fiction makes me happy--or, at least, history with a little bit of magic. It's so different from the usual fantasy fare, with a Western feel that we rarely see, especially in YA. I like it. Let's have more. (Okay, I'm fully aware that there is more, that there is a sequel. But I haven't been able to snag a copy yet.)

I'm here for anything and everything with a multiverse theme. One universe isn't enough for me, apparently. What I really love about this series, though, is the sheer variety of settings and feels. You want sci-fi based on our world? You're covered here. Twentieth-century Russia? Also covered. Future research labs, or worlds almost like ours, but not quite? Covered. That's the beauty of multiverse novels. I'm so excited for the finale of this series, especially given how epic the first two have been. Also, these books have the best covers.

I'll admit that I didn't immediately love this one. At first, it felt slow and plodding, like Patrick Rothfuss was wandering about, unable to find the real story. The more I think about it, though, the more I realize that's entirely the point. It's the story of one man, but it's the story of a man who is larger-than-life. It's not the sort of thing to be contained in an average-sized novel. No, this one is sprawling, but it works. And now I love it, especially after reading its sequel. The worldbuilding is phenomenal, and it's just plain fun to immerse yourself in it. (Plus, did you hear that it's getting a movie...and a TV show...and a video game?)

This is the first time that a poetry book has made any of my top books of the year list. Though I'm a fan of poetry, my tastes run a bit odd (my favorite happens to be a 13th-century Sufi mystic), and I had no intention of picking this up until my book club decided to read it. I read it in one sitting, entranced, and was so in love that I immediately read it again. Rupi Kaur doesn't use lyrical lines or extensive imagery, just simple words and line drawings. But these micro-poems can reach you in a way normal poetry can't. It's about love, pain, healing, and, most of all, it's about being a woman. It resonates with me even weeks after reading it, and I have no doubt I'll be reading it again.

Emily St. John Mandel came to speak at my university, and while I didn't meet her personally, I liked her enough to immediately run to the library and check out her book. In hindsight, I should have bought one and gotten it signed, and I'm a little annoyed with my past self, even though my intentions of "not spending money on yet another book" were noble. Station Eleven is a different kind of post-apocalyptic novel, one that's just as much about our current world as it is the hypothetical future world. It's less about the immediate apocalypse, and more about what happens five, ten, twenty years later when society slowly rebuilds itself. There's something deeply haunting about it--this collapse of society hits a little too close to home. And yet, you can't look away from it, either. That's what I love about this.

2016 Reading Statistics (as of 12/27/16)

Books read: 53 (up 7 from last year)
Average rating: 3.7 (same as last year)
Total pages read: 21,248 (down 6,242)
Average pages per book: 400.9 (up 36.8)
Average pages read per day: 58.7 (up 12.6)
Average number of days to read one book:6.8 (down 1.1)

I managed to read a whole seven books more than I did last year, which I'm really proud of. I don't know if I'll ever be able to hit 90 again like I did in 2013 (maybe when I'm retired?), but I'm okay with this. The difference is in the audiobooks. This summer, I started listening to audiobooks while I go for my daily runs, and it's allowed me to read so many extra books. Plus, it gives my brain something to do while I run. I highly recommend it. 

I'm looking forward to a new Patrick Ness book in 2017. And a new series from Marie Lu, and probably a bunch of other stuff I haven't heard about yet. Or maybe George R.R. Martin will emerge from his dark cave and finally write The Winds of Winter (doubtful). In the meantime, I'm starting off 2017 with a trip to Middle Earth New Zealand, and as soon as I'm back for the new semester, I'll be doing another editorial internship, plus taking new classes (including a YA writing class!). 

What were your favorite books of 2016?
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Friday, November 4, 2016

6 Ways to Stay Focused While Writing

We've all done it--we sit down to a what we hope will be a long, productive writing session. Two hours later, we find that we've composed a dozen tweets, made three cups of tea, researched medieval weaponry, and terraformed Mars. Oh, and maybe we wrote 150 words.

Where did that elusive focus go? How do we get it back? How can we actually, you know, get things written? I've touched on this topic before, but since then, I've found new tricks and encountered new ideas. Here are 6 of my favorite tips:
  1. Keep a mental (or physical) "distraction log." I've used this not just for writing, but for schoolwork, as well. You know when you're chugging along on a project, and you remember some random song and feel compelling to google the lyrics? Or when your work session is spontaneously interrupted by an intense need to find out what happened to Adam Lambert, if that book you've been eyeing has gone on sale, or how to keep succulents alive? (Specificity because I've had all these googling urges in the last hour.) These distractions are never-ending, but the trick is to keep them contained. When they come, acknowledge them, but you don't have to follow them. Instead, either write them down or keep a mental list, and tell yourself you'll come back to this list when you're done with whatever you're working on. It'll keep you from wasting time while working, and when you return to the list, you'll find that some of the distractions are no longer appealing anyway. 
  2. Use certain music just for writing, and use it every time you write. Bonus points for using it only for writing music. I picked up this tip from author Emily St.-John Mandel when I heard her speak last month, and it has come in handy. If you start using the same music over and over, you eventually get your brain into a rhythm. You start the playlist, and your brain goes, "Okay, time to write." (You know me--I'm all for using classical conditioning to hack your own brain.) For suggestions, try the Focus playlist section on Spotify. I suggest this playlist or this one.
  3. Use the pomodoro technique. You've heard me talk about this before, but it's amazingly simple. Set a timer for 25 minutes, and do absolutely nothing but write for those 25 minutes. That's it. When you're done, you can take a break, but it's likely that you won't want to break your momentum, thus increasing your productivity. It's a good way to jumpstart your focus, since 25 minutes is a manageable amount of time.
  4. Physically remove the distractions. If you want to keep checking your phone, put your phone in a different room. If you write on your computer and you're always switching over to different tabs to scroll Pinterest, either disconnect from the internet or remove the computer entirely and switch to paper and pen. (Hey, you can always unplug your wifi router if you get truly desperate.) Lastly, keep a neat workspace. You won't feel inspired by a barren room, but it's hard to get things done if your workspace is full of junk, either. 
  5. Resist the temptation to research or fact-check. Yes, it's important that any facts, historical details, or real-world references in your writing are accurate. But it's not important when you're writing. If you check everything in the moment, you'll never actually get anything written. Instead, flag it and move on.
  6. Don't start a blog. Just...don't. I don't want to know how many more novels I could have written if I had never started this blog.
What's your favorite way to keep your focus?

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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

I Interned At A Publishing Company, And All You Got Was This Stupid Blog Post

I spent the whole summer as an intern, and I didn't get coffee for anyone. I know. I didn't blog, either, but I'm here to remedy that.

I certainly learned a lot, and had fun. And also did some boring tasks, because you can't escape that kind of thing. Publishing can be as tedious as it is rewarding. Ever wondered why the process is notoriously slow? It's because there are a million things to be checked, double-checked, and triple-checked. Fortunately, it's worth it.

Anyway, I'm here to share some of what I did all summer:
  • Proofreading. Ah, yes, hear the crowd gasp in surprise. Actually, I didn't do anywhere near as much proofreading as expected, but I still got to do it, as per the title "Sales and Editorial Intern."*  You can't publish without proofreading, though--and I'll admit that anytime someone handed me a huge stack of papers and said "Proofread this," I got a little excited.  The Chicago Manual of Style is my best friend and worst enemy.
  • Checking alts. When someone proofreads the book, someone has to enter it into the document. And then someone has to check to make sure everything was entered correctly. This is typically done by, you guessed it, the intern.
  • Epub markup. I did a LOT of this, which put quite a bit of mileage on my highlighters. When books are transferred to ebooks, publishers have the opportunity to add hyperlinks directly into the text, which is really convenient for readers. These hyperlink locations are identified through the extremely high-tech process of highlighting each possible hyperlinkable word on a paper copy. Incidentally, I feel like I've now heard the name of every single nature preschool in the world, since I've had to find links to so many.
  • Fact checking. I felt rather important whenever I did a fact check.  I felt like the last line of defense between scientific accuracy and fiction. While authors should, theoretically, get all their facts straight before the book even hits a publisher, they sometimes don't. And if they don't, some intern somewhere will take great pride in calling your bluff.
  • More fact checking, now with added quotation checking! I did fact check runthroughs specifically to make sure that the author had cited her sources correctly and catch mistakes in retyping quotes.
  • Proposal summaries. When an author sent in a book proposal, the acquisitions editor would send it to me so I could type up a summary and give my recommendation: should this project be pursued, or should they get a nice little rejection letter? I also felt rather important doing this, mostly since I had the opportunity to type my opinion on a piece of paper. As if I had the final decision, which I definitely didn't. But still. (Pro tip: I don't care about your 5-page curriculum vitae. I just want to know whether you can write a coherent sentence, or whether a dozen other people have already written your book idea.)
  • Sending out review copies. Which essentially translates to sending 160 emails all saying variations of "Look! This book has a dog in it! A cute dog! Also some important moral lessons for children. But, dog! Please say something nice about this cute dog--I mean, book!" (Dogs sell books, people.)
Me handing out review copies, probably.
  • Manuscript cleanup. In other words, the dire task of ferreting out every bit of strange formatting Microsoft Word randomly added to a document and attempting to remove it. Key word: attempt.
  • Creating a spreadsheet of all the names and addresses of every single childcare provider in New York. Seriously. Gotta send all your book catalogs somewhere, I guess.**
  • And more things, like: babysitting printers, playing Scattergories, folding things, double-checking address labels, double-checking things in general, setting up Goodreads giveaways, and so on...
Internship pro tips:
  • If you have a general question, don't wait. Ask it. That way, you won't feel stupid asking for the building's wi-fi password two months into your internship when you were too shy to ask right away. RIP, my phone's data plan.
  • Ask ALL the questions, actually. You're there to learn. If you want to know, speak up.
  • You're an adult now and can talk to other adults like real people. You mean...I'm in a position where I can call a "real adult" by her first name? I'm twenty and I've called everyone Mr. or Dr. or Professor probably since I could talk. But hey, real adults have names, too. (Does this make me a real adult? Probably not. I'll admit that I was listening to this piece of art while working at my internship today.)

  • Break up your big projects. If you're handed a huge project, try to intersperse smaller projects into your time. Trust me--it's no fun to do nothing but stare at the same manuscript for three hours. Please let your brain have a break.
  • Use the resources available to you. For example, there's probably someone at your internship who would be happy to sit down and give you feedback on your resume, or give you advice on what courses you should take next, or whatever you might need to know. (And if they freely offer their services, that's even more of a reason to take it!)
  • Have fun. Just be chill and enjoy the process. Do adult things and feel productive. 

What were you up to this summer?

*My other title was just "Publishing Intern." Or "Editorial and Production Intern." Or just "Editorial Intern." Or "The Intern," capital T. It was heavily dependent on who you asked.
**It was times like these, facing that 2,000+ item spreadsheet, that I stared down the pinnacle of human innovation and came to the conclusion that we've come too far as a species and should revert back to 1800. Preferably with more women's suffrage and less disease, but definitely no spreadsheets. In the words of Douglas Adams, "On the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much—the wheel, New York, wars and so on—whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man—for precisely the same reasons."
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Saturday, May 28, 2016

Hey, I'm Still Alive and Doing Things

Well, here I am, halfway through college, and I figured I'd post an update.  I feel like I'm no closer to being a real adult, and yet here I am with half a Communications & Journalism degree, most of an English degree, and a bit of a psychology minor just for fun.

During the school year, I've been up to basically the same things as usual.  Writing approximately 18,000 papers and maybe some journaling on the side, with the occasional bit of creative writing shoved somewhere in there.  Okay, maybe 18,000 papers is an exaggeration, but at one point I had five papers due in one week.  I was taking four classes.  How does that work?  Then again, I was getting away with naming my papers things like "Is Dumbledore Really Gay?," "Dragons, Socialists, and Children," and "Women STEMming Out."  Pros of being an English major: you get away with that kind of thing.

I've also been working as a writing tutor (because I don't have enough writing in my life).  And in February, I started writing for the online blog The Odyssey.  If you want to keep up with my weekly articles, you can follow me here!

I'll be spending the summer interning for a publishing company that works with materials for early childhood educators.  I'm also working the Interlibrary Loan department of my college's library, so I'll be around books all summer long.  In the fall, I'll start work as the Web Manager for this cool website.  It's a completely new thing for me, running a website like that, but I took a web design class this spring and absolutely loved it.  I guess all that blogging HTML and CSS got me somewhere.  Take note, kids--the random blog you start on a whim in ninth grade may actually get you somewhere.  Maybe I should overhaul the design of this bad boy sometime.  Hmm...  In the meantime, I designed this and this, which are freely available on the internet now.

Over the past year of classes, I've learned a few things about writing, and editing, and what I do/don't want to do.  I've taken a journalistic editing class and a more academic editing class; I'm very much not a journalism person.  Though I did learn how to crank out edits at basically lightspeed, which is nice.  But I feel more...technological...than the academic editing crowd.  As in, I'm the one in all the class debates going "DIGITIZE IT.  DIGITIZE EVERYTHING.  DIGITIZE ALL THE THINGS."  But hey, I'm also a blogger and an avid ebook supporter.

I also learned that I'm not a short story writer.  I like the format, but I'm a novelist at heart.  I just can't explore all I want to explore in a short story--I feel like my worldbuilding and character development is cut short.  I'm also not a literary writer.  I love that format, too, and I like to dabble in it, but I'm a genre writer and lover.  Give me my YA fantasy any day.  I can't see myself writing literary fiction for the rest of my life, but I would love to write genre stuff.  I guess I'm not into the classical highbrow writer thing.  (Also, I want to make a reasonable amount of money so that I can eat.)

In more personal news, I'll be living on my college campus for the summer, which will be exciting (I'm living with a chemist, which is always an interesting experience). I just celebrated a one-year anniversary with my boyfriend, and we went to see a live performance of The Book of Mormon (a wonderfully bizarre experience; highly recommended unless you're taking children) and ran a half marathon (also not recommended for children).

I also plan to actually read books this summer.  My reading this spring has been, well, pathetic, but I already have a stack of books to read and I'm ready to plow through them.  I've also gotten into playing Civilization V, which is 100% the fault of Gamer Boyfriend, so I'll be taking over the world a few times.  (I'm Low-Key Kylo Ren on Steam, if you're interested.  Because my sense of humor has not changed since 2012, apparently.)

I'd also really like to start writing a new novel.  Nothing is definite yet, but I have a few ideas... I'll also be revising Untitled Icarus Novel, which still hasn't gotten the revision it deserves.  Or a title, for that matter.

Well, that's me right now.  What are you up to for the summer, or in general?  Any thoughts on what genre direction I should take for my next book?
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Wednesday, February 17, 2016

On Accessibility of Art, or Why My Writing Class Needs to Get Over Itself

I took a class last semester on short story writing.  I loved the writing itself, but the discussion was challenging for me.  There were so many times when I just wanted to look people straight in the eye and say, "Get over yourself."

Because, you see, the class I took was on literary fiction, as basically all college creative writing classes are.  And that's fine.  There is a place for literary fiction just as there is a place for commercial fiction, and zombie fiction, and romance fiction, and fiction about dogs who are abducted by aliens.  But I have taken two "literary" writing classes now, and they do not seem to agree.  Alternately, they think that literary fiction has a place, and that place is above all other fiction.
Comic by Tom Gauld, tomgauld.com.

I hit my breaking point last semester when one of my classmates was giving constructive criticism about some subtle symbolism in another classmate's story.  He started throwing around the term "the average reader" like this was not him.  Like he was somehow above the average reader.  To my dismay, many of my other classmates nodded along with him.

Who is missing the point here?  Has this particular writing community really gotten so pretentious that they feel they have somehow evolved beyond their mortal forms and become transcendent, cosmic beings of All That Is GOOD Literature, with "good" determined by--you guessed it--themselves?  Or am I alone in my frustration?  Am I just the "average reader" somehow sneaking into highbrow literary communities?  Is the high horse getting taller, or am I getting smaller?

I believe that art should be accessible to people.  Call me a radical if you will.  But I don't see how burying your meaning under layers of symbolism or subtext, even to the point of all but the "right" audience missing it, makes your art any better.  Is there merit in this?  Absolutely.  I love puzzling out hidden meanings in fiction, and how the writer wove layers of subtext together to create wholly new themes.  There are so many fascinating things that can happen in this type of work, and it's super cool.  What I don't understand is how that devalues art that doesn't do this, art whose meaning doesn't require a miscroscope and an overworked grad student to puzzle out.  Is art that is meant to be nothing more than pretty, nothing more than entertaining, no longer valuable?  What if (*gasp*) a piece is both entertaining and subtly meaningful?  What then?

This could bring me into a discussion of subjectivity vs. objectivity: How do we objectively measure the quality of art?  Can we do such a thing?  This is another discussion for another time, and certainly a discussion I'm willing to have.  For now, though, I will say this: I do not think "art" is a thing, an object.  "Art" is a way of looking at something.  Think about it this way: we describe certain sounds as music, and others as noise.  In reality, they're all vibrations hitting our eardrums.  All writing is simply different combinations of letters, which are nothing but arbitrary markings roughly correlated to sounds.  While I'm not saying that every piece of writing, therefore, is art, I'm saying that our definitions of art are actually much more arbitrary than we think.

As a writer and lover of so-called non-literary fiction (and, God forbid, young adult fiction), I think we need to build a better bridge between the two worlds.  We need to recognize that art and entertainment are not mutually exclusive.  We need to bring back the notion that things can be enjoyable simply for the sake of it, while recognizing that your style of writing doesn't make you more or less of a writer.  We need to destroy the idea that writers need to write to a level above "the average reader" in order to have their work considered True Literature.

There are so many other things I could discuss branching out from this.  What is "literature"?  I could toss out the phrase "literary canon" and we'll be here debating what should (or shouldn't) be included until Leonardo DiCaprio wins an Oscar.  The place of YA in the literary/genre fiction dichotomy (but is it a dichotomy? because I don't think it's that simple), and the quality of YA in general.  The "quality" of fiction in general, and how we determine it.  Why not include genre fiction in the general consensus of high quality fiction?  What should we do with genre fiction with a literary style, or literary fiction with a genre twist?  (And don't even get me started on graphic novels.)  What is "good" literature?  What are we even doing here at all?

But I won't discuss them now.  I'll leave you with what I'd already written, because I'd like to start a discussion/dialogue about this.  What are your thoughts/opinions/comments/concerns?  Have you had similar experiences?

I feel like I need to include a "not all" disclaimer in this.  I love literary fiction.  I love genre fiction, especially YA.  My point isn't to bash literary fiction, nor is it to protest on the street corner with a sign reading, "Genre fiction is the only fiction!"  I'm not here for that.  I'm just here to ask why we can't reconcile these two--both worthwhile and valuable--worlds of fiction.
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