The Audiograph series broadcasts digital audio about the people, publications,
and events of Writing at The New School.
The New School's Patricia McCormick moderated a fact/fiction panel discussion with YA novelists Gayle Forman, author of If I Stay, and Steven Sheinkin, author of BOMB: The Race to Build and Steal the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon.
Steven Sheinkin, nonfiction author of several fascinating books on American history, has written the novel BOMB, a story for young readers about the atomic bomb that reads like a gripping spy novel. So how does he turn boring facts into page turning reads?
"Being an ex-writer for textbooks, I had to unlearn to be boring," he said with a laugh. "I look at each sentence I write and go like would that be in a textbook? I aim to do what novelists do and make my story a story kids want to read. Before I begin working on a novel, I ensure I have meaty material to begin with. That way I have enough details for narrative writing."
Gayle Forman, who writes YA fiction novels on a wide range of subjects, added, "I do a ton of research from contacting different people and organizations to attending classes, seminars and watching documentaries. I throw myself into my subject matter in every which way and then step back."
On the embellishment of facts to better serve their story?
Steven Sheinkin: "In nonfiction, you can’t assume things. You have to go with the scenes you can work with. Sometimes, when my research is not descriptive or detailed enough, I can’t use it. You have these notes and scenes and like a jigsaw puzzle you make it work."
Gayle Forman: "In fiction, accuracy is not as important as authenticity. Aiming for accuracy can sometimes undermine authenticity. As a fiction writer, it is liberating to unhook yourself from the need for absolute accuracy. Thankfully."
Gayle Forman’s books include Just One Year, Just One Day, Where She Went, If I Stay, Sisters In Sanity and You Can’t Get There From Here. Notable literary awards include South Carolina Book Award Nominee for Young Adult Book Award (2011), British Fantasy Award (2010) and An ALA/YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers (2010) to name a few. Gayle is currently wrapping up her next book, which she calls a "suicide, mystery, adventure."
Steven Sheinkin is a former textbook writer who lives in New York. His books include BOMB: The Race to Build—and Steal—The World's Most Dangerous Weapon, Lincoln’s Grave Robbers, The Notorious Benedict Arnold, among a few. Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—The World's Most Dangerous Weapon was a Newbery Honor Book, National Book Award finalist, and winner of the Sibert Award as well as the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults. He lives in Saratoga Springs, NY and is currently working on a novel titled The Port Chicago 50.
Nadia Aguiar-Hasselbring joined us Monday evening for the first Writing for Children event of the semester. The Lost Island of Tamarind, the first in a series, tells the story of three orphans who land on a magical island with an evil child-stealing enchantress.
Born and raised on the island of Bermuda, Aguiar-Hasselbring discussed how growing up on an island informed her story.
“Where you grow up influences your story without even realizing it. Tamarind is closed off – Bermuda felt that way. There wasn’t any Internet, barely any television channels or radio… But I was also aware of the magic there.”
In response to a question on how to write cross-culturally for teens, Nadia said, “Write what you love, whatever compels and drives you. The question [of creating diversity] will answer itself.”
Moderated by Helen Schulman, Fiction Coordinator.
MFA Writing for Children Alum Morgan Matson has won a gold medal in the Commonwealth Club's 2013 California Book Award for her young adult novel, Second Chance Summer. Second Chance Summer has also honored been with a Junior Library Guild Selection, a School Library Journal 2012 Best Book of the Year, a 2012 AtlanticWire Best MG/YA Book of the Year, and a San Francisco Book Review Best Book of 2012. Matson's second novel, Second Chance Summer is a gripping tale about the immensity of loss balanced with the profundity of love and friendship.
"Matson (Amy & Roger's Epic Detour) writes subtly about complex family dynamics, grief, and the impending loss of a parent in a way that is both beautiful and true, while steering clear of melodrama. Matson's story, which shifts between the present and flashbacks from five previous summers, is as much about loss as it is about first love and friendship. Readers who love the work of Sarah Dessen and Jenny Han will feel intensely for this cast of vulnerable characters who demonstrate integrity, personality, and perseverance as they work to bridge yes, I meant to say bridge, the distances between them." — Publisher's Weekly
I'm going to spread the love and give props to another realistic contemporary novel that tackles issues of cancer, love, and loss: It's about 17-year-old Taylor's last summer with her dying father in the summer home their family hasn't visited in several years. Matson authentically captures the overwhelming nature of grief and attempting to make the best of one final season as a complete family. Like The Fault in Our Stars, there's humor and romance and so much heart. — Angulo Chen, The Atlantic Wire
Morgan Matson received her MFA in Writing for Children from the New School. She was named a Publishers Weekly Flying Start author for her first book, Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour. Amy & Roger was also recognized as an ALA Top Ten Best Book for Young Adults in 2011. She currently lives in Los Angeles. Visit her at morganmatson.com or follow her on Twitter @morgan_m.
Acclaimed Young Adult author Rachel Cohn, recent judge for the New School MFA chapbook competition and author of the recently published YA novel Beta, visited the New School to share her insight about crafting a popular book series. Thanks so much to Rachel Cohn for visiting us and to Patricia McCormick for moderating the forum!
In this kickoff to a planned four-book series, Elysia is a beautiful teenage clone bought as a companion to a wealthy family living on the exclusive island of Demesne on an Earth that is recovering from ecological disaster and global warfare. Though Elysia initially believes she has no free will, she discovers a taste for human foods like macaroni and cheese and chocolate—and, more importantly, begins to feel emotions like attraction, worry, and rage. She also has mysterious memories of the human girl from whom she was cloned, but keeps her discoveries secret, for fear of being marked a Defect. Cohn (coauthor of Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist) describes Elysia’s luxurious world completely and persuasively, hinting that social justice themes may escalate in subsequent books; Elysia’s evolution from robotic to real is similarly believable, as is her increasing desire for freedom. — Publisher's Weekly
Rachel Cohn is the author of many young adult novels, including the Gingerbread series, You Know Where to Find Me, and Very LeFreak. She has co-authored three collaborations with New School MFA faculty member David Levithan: Dash & Lily's Book of Dares, Naomi & Ely's No Kiss List, and Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist, which was turned into a movie starring Michael Cera and Kat Dennings. Her most recent book, Beta, is the first in a 4-book Young Adult sci-fi series about a teenage girl who is a clone.
Maryrose Wood, author of the acclaimed series, The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, visited the School of Writing Tuesday March 5th to read and discuss her newest addition to the series, The Unseen Guest.
The fourth book of the series, The Interrupted Tale, will be published by HarperCollins on September 10th but, luckily for us, it's already available to preorder.
After a wonderful reading from her book, Maryrose Wood allowed the audience and the moderator, Patricia McCormick to ask her questions.
On the pressures of writing a series Wood divulged :
"You gain weight. You lose weight. It's very consuming."
"It's late–I'm working frantically. Nobody has seen this stuff. I read it out loud to my dog."
On writing a captivating narrative:
"If you keep them entertained, they'll go anywhere with you."
"Each piece has its own technical demands and you can't impose on them."
On the importance of writing for children:
"I really hope these books are like a gateway drug to the Brontës, The Dickens...you know [...] Eventually in your life you go to the opera and see Wagner and you're like it's Bugs Bunny."
A very big thanks to Maryrose Wood for offering her insight and delighting us with her reading. If you haven't already read the latest in the Incorrigible Children series it's available online or at your local bookstore.
Maryrose Wood is the author of The Mysterious Howling and The Hidden Gallery, the first two books in this continuing series about the Incorrigible children and their governess.
This forum was moderated by Patricia McCormick, author most recently of Never Fall Down, which was nominated for a 2012 National Book Award in Young People’s Literature.
Never Fall Down by The New School Alum Patricia McCormick, has been named a finalist for the National Book Awards in the category of Young People's Literature.
"Well-written and heart-breaking, this is an important and enlightening story for any teen collection." —Children's Literature, Amy McMillan
"A gripping account of the inner turmoil of a child soldier." —The New York Times Book Review
"Powerfully, hauntingly unforgettable." —Booklist
Never Fall Down is available to order online or you can pick it up at your local bookseller.
Patricia McCormick is the author of five critically acclaimed novels – Never Fall Down, a novel based on the true story of an 11-year-old boy who survived the Killing Fields of Cambodia by playing music; Purple Heart, a suspenseful psychological novel that explores the killing of a 10-year-old boy in Iraq; Sold, a deeply moving account of sexual trafficking; My Brother’s Keeper, a realistic view of teenage substance abuse; and Cut, an intimate portrait of one girl’s struggle with self-injury. McCormick was named a New York Foundation on the Arts fellow in 2004 and a MacDowell fellow in 2009. She is also the winner of the 2009 German Peace Prize for Youth Literature and received her MFA in Writing for Children at the New School.