Friday, November 30

Amazing Teen Romances!

I'm going to talk about teen romances in novels. Why? Because I've always been drawn into these books. I can actually say that I specifically like reading teen romances above any other
books. When I find a good one, I can't put it down until I finish it.

These are some teen romances that I couldn't put down:

If you read teen romances, then you've heard of Twilight. You've probably read it. Did you like it? I loved it! I thought Stephenie Meyer did an amazing job of introducing Bella and Edward and the writing was excellent, she drew me right in to her story. If you haven't read it yet, go out and get it!

Another one of my favorite teen romances is Flipped. My editor told me to read it. Okay, so I thought it was strange that there was an upside down baby chick on the front of the book, but after you read the book you realize it's a perfect cover for this book! Juli and Bryce are such wonderful characters you fall in love with both of them. Wendelin Van Draanen did an amazing job with the book, I was captured from the first page when Bryce met his new neighbor, Juli. If you read this book, do you agree? (I can't imagine anyone NOT liking Flipped) It's told in alternating chapters between Juli and Bryce, which I did for my own book Leaving Paradise.

I picked up Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist (the first version, with the cover of the guy kissing the girl) and I read the first five pages I was like, "Huh?" I didn't get it. The stream of consciousness writing confused me. But then I got used to it. I must say that this was a great book, and the authors totally get inside the head of teens. I fell in love with these characters and am happy it's being turned into a movie. I met David Levithan (one of the authors) and he was amazingly nice! Go out and get this book so you know what the movie is about before it comes out.

I admit when I picked up this next teen romance novel, I didn't know the content. Yes, hit me over the head with a brick, but even though there were three boys on the front and the title is Rainbow Boys, I didn't know it was a book with gay characters. I found out pretty quick I was in for a read I'd never read before.... But Alex Sanchez, the author, sucked me right in to the novel. I couldn't put it down even if I'd wanted to. The love story is as engaging and realistic as any other teen romance novel. For alternative lifestyles, or if you want to know what it's like for gay teens today, go out and get Rainbow Boys!

For a romance novel I WANT to read, it may surprise you that it's a historical novel. I watched Pride and Prejudice (the one with Colin Firth and a separate one with Keira Knightly (is that how you spell her last name???). The one with Colin Firth is the BEST one (although Keira is absolutely beautiful in the other one), so be sure to watch it. Because of it, I want to read the classic novel by Jane Austen. Has anyone else read it? Okay, so it's not necessarily a teen romance, but it is the most read novel in the world.

I can't help but fall in love with teen romances, so I've written my own. Leaving Paradise was written like Flipped and Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist...with alternating chapters between Caleb and Maggie.

The next two books of mine are How to Ruin a Summer Vacation and its sequel How to Ruin my Teenage Life. Both are teen romances, and I have to say that most of my email from teen girls say that they love the romance between Amy and Avi. Have you read them? What do you think?

Simone Elkeles

Thursday, November 29

Before and After

There have been a few books that have stayed with me so much that there is life before I read the book . . . and life after. Something about the book fundamentally touched me. A couple of books for me, in this category, are The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, Neil Gaiman's Good Omens, Amy Tan's Joy Luck Club, and Judy Blume's Deenie. I liked that book so much that I wrote an essay about it in Eveything I Needed to Know About Being a Girl I Learned from Judy Blume.

I can tell you precisely what each of these treasured Before and After books did for me. The Handmaid's Tale touched a place of grief deep inside me that I didn't even know was there. It also awakened an even greater commitment to feminism. Good Omens was the most audacious, subversive book I had ever read--and I thought "Hmm . . . I want to write a book that's just as bold. It's in me." Next year, Red Dress Ink will publish Freudian Slip . . . and in it God is a woman who hates the singing group ABBA, and Albert Einstein is a supervisor in a place between Heaven and Hell--and he has a penchant for PowerPoint. I love it--probably my favorite book I've ever written, and I can thank Gaiman for helping me, as a writer, to let go of conventions.

The Joy Luck Club . . . well, I wept through nearly all of it. As a mother of four, I related to each mother-daughter relationship, the sacrifices of the mothers, the misunderstandings. Deenie . . . I read at age 12 or 13, and all Deenie's pain and misfit status spoke to me. So did Judy Blume's dead-on depiction of adolescence. The book still resonates.

I could go on . . . there are books I love, books that make me laugh, books that make me cry. But then there is that handful that you never forget, that become part of you.

How about you? Do you have Before and After books?

Monday, November 26

Favorite series

Lauren's post from yesterday got me thinking about favorite books. I've always been a fan of series and there are several from childhood that I still love. Recently, however, I've been engrossed in Private by Kate Brian, Libba Bray's series, Harry Potter by JK Rowling, Twilight by Stephenie Meyer (as if you didn't know the author!) and Secrets of My Hollywood Life by Jen Calonita.

When I was younger, series I devoured were: The Saddle Club by Bonnie Bryant, Thoroughbred by Joanna Campbell, The Babysitters Club by Ann M. Martin and Sweet Valley High by Francine Pascal.

Sure, the subjects of the series have changed, but one thing seems to remain constant. All of these series have characters that make us care and want to read about them for multiple books. There's something about these books that just wouldn't work as well if the author wrote just one and left us hanging. Seriously, could Stephenie make Twilight as great if she had to cram all of Bella's ordeals into one book? Would Gemma in A Great and Terrible Beauty grow and discover her powers in book one? Doubtful. We need books two, three and so on to take us on the journeys of series characters.

So, what are your favorite past and/or present series? Why?

Sunday, November 25

We're talking about - what else? - BOOKS!

Some people start writing in a particular genre because that's the genre they like to read the most themselves, so it feels like a natural fit. Some people start writing in a particular genre because it's a "hot" market at the moment and they think it will be easy to break in, little realizing how quickly hotness can cool.

I came to write teen fiction in neither of those ways. Rather, I had an idea for a story - about a girl on the fast track for Yale who finds herself pregnant during her senior year in high school - and I realized right away that for the story to be as powerful as I wanted it to be, it couldn't be written in the past tense that characterizes the overwhelming majority of my writing for adults. The distancing effect of time would take the urgent immediacy out of the tale, giving it the safety net of, "Yes, this hard thing happened to me when I was young, but now I play a doctor on TV." But once I started writing in present tense, the voice became authentically young and a new area for me to write in was born.

Since writing that book in typical cart-before-the-horse fashion, I've actually started to read in this genre I'm now published in and what I've come to realize is that teen fiction rocks. With no further ado then, here, in chrnologogical order, are some teen fiction books I've read so far in 2007 that particularly rock:

The Abundance of Katharines ~ John Green
Pretty Little Liars ~ Sara Shepard
King Dork ~ Frank Portman
The Boy Book ~ E. Lockhart
Sold ~ Patricia McCormick
The Christopher Killer ~ Alane Ferguson
The Private Series ~ Kate Brian
Goose Girl ~ Shannon Hale
Son of the Mob ~ Gordon Korman
The Invention of Hugo Cabret ~ Brian Selznick
The Case Against My Brother ~ Libby Sternberg
What Happened to Cass McBride? ~ Gail Giles
Speak ~ Laurie Halse Anderson
Are We There Yet? ~ David Levithan
Harmless ~ Dana Reinhardt
Twisted ~ Laurie Halse Anderson
Top Ten Uses for an Unworn Prom Dress ~ Tina Ferraro
Golden ~ Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Haters ~ Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez
Life on the Refrigerator Door ~ Alice Kuipers
Prom ~ Laurie Halse Anderson
Peak ~ Roland Smith
Vampire Academy ~ Richelle Mead
Tantalize ~ Cynthia Leitich Smith

And, of course, goes without saying, all my sister TFCers have written great books that everyone should read.

So, now that I've provided everyone with a reading list to last a while, it's your turn. Please holler back at me and tell me what I've been missing, what books I really must read.

Be well. Don't forget to write.

Friday, November 23

Music To Write To

I’ve been writing for about five years, and I’ve never been one to write while listening to music.

However, since joining myspace and picking profile songs, I’ve been hooked on some songs that really strike a chord with me.

You know the kind of songs that make you have to tap your feet, or wiggle your hips, or just get up and move. :)

So for my birthday in a few weeks, I asked for something small to download my music—the iPod nano was on sale for Black Friday and we picked up my present early.

Okay, I’m picky with my music and I have about 9 songs downloaded for my first day--haha--but they are songs that I can’t help singing along with, and now I’ll be moving along to the tunes as I write.

How about anyone else? Music while you write, or silence works for you?

Tuesday, November 20

Indie Musician Spotlight: Lanes

This week’s topic at the Teen Fiction Cafe is Music and I thought it would be fun to learn more about a style of music that's all the rage, but some of us might not know very much about, including me. I've asked my friend Lanes, and outstanding artist and totally nice guy, to tell us more about Electronic Music and his life as an indie artist. Enjoy!

How would you describe your music style to someone who’s not familiar with it?
What I write is officially called Electronic Music. It's a huge genre that have several subgenres like Techno, House, Trance, Breakbeat, Jungle/Drum'n'Bass, Industrial, etc which, in turn, have their own sub-subgenres and its more than 50 of those.My music style is an experimental attempt to recreate some kind of a sonic adventure I invest quite a great deal of emotions in it and what I do is I try to express them thru certain combinations of sounds that if I were a listener would make me feel a certain way or even place me in a certain emtional state.

What kind of training do you have?
I'm self-taught. My older sister is a professional pianist, she is the one who sparked my interest in composing music. That's actually pretty strange given all the time I was brutally exposed to listening to her playing the most boring music on Earth.

What is a typical day like in the life of Lanes?
Mornings are usually uninspiring so I spend them on posting updates, answering messages and bothering other people. Afternoons are more fun so i either work on my existing songs trying to make them sound nicer or surf the Net looking for more places to post my music on. And evenings are usually for creating something out of nothing.

What is your all-time favorite track?
'Porcelain' by Moby

Where can we listen to your music?
My page on myspace ( has full versions of my latest tracksI also have samples from my songs on my official website ( and a whole bunch of other music sites like SoundClick (, PureVolume (, iSound (, etc etcMy CDs are sold by CD Baby ( and my downloads are on iTunes, Rhapsody, Beats Digital, Indiepad, etc. My page on myspace and my website have all the links to the stores.

Thank you, Lanes!

This year, listen to the words...

I bring you a story set to music. To Christmas music. Yeah, it's early, I know, but bear with me. 'Tis is a true story that just happened--this past Sunday, to be exact, the day of Toronto's ultra-fabu annual Santa Claus Parade.

Hubby and I were downtown, though not to watch the parade. We're Jewish, but that wouldn't stop us from watching; what did stop us was that we weren't with our kids, and the last thing we wanted was to line up on a sidewalk with hundreds of other people's kids :) Our teen was at her volunteer gig, and we'd just dropped our pre-teen off at a drama class, during which hubby and I usually take a nice long walk up Yonge Street, all the way from King to Bloor, then back down again.

The first leg of the walk went fine. But by the time we got back down to Yonge and Dundas, just north of King, the site of the beautiful Bay Department Store windows (and the point from which the Christmas music blared), the crowd lining the sidewalks was pretty thick. It was about 11:30 and the parade was starting at 12:30. So we decided to cut one street west and continue south on Victoria.

When we crossed the road, we had to navigate pretty carefully through the hordes of people on the other side. When we heard a familiar, "Buy a paper, sir?" we stopped. In Toronto, some members of the homeless community publish a small newspaper, which hubby and I always purchase when we pass somebody hawking it. (Hey, it's hard enough for me to get stuff written and published--I have nothing but admiration for the people who manage to get a monthly publication out when they don't even have homes!) I don't carry a purse with me on long walks, but hubby had change in his pockets (men always do), and he gave the sad looking, middle aged guy doing the selling a couple of loonies (Canadian one dollar coins). "Thanks," he said, taking a paper.

"No, thank you," the guy said. "I've been here for an hour and you're the first person who's stopped."

Hubby and I exchanged looks. He'd been there an hour. In the midst of a huge crowd attending a Christmas parade.

Don't They Know It's Christmas blared from the speakers outside The Bay.

So much for the holiday spirit.

As we walked on, I muttered to hubby, "If I put that in a book, an editor would say it's too cliched, too ironic, or too unbelievable."

We went on to discuss other depressing stuff, like how all the Bat and Bar Mitzvahs we'd been to recently (with the exception of one) had been more about parents outdoing each other party-wise than the actual morning synagogue service at which the child becomes an official member of the adult community and is informed of all the responsibilities that entails, including performing good deeds and giving to the needy.

When you're celebrating Thanksgiving this weekend (I won't be--the Canadian one's in October), or whenever you hear Don't They Know It's Christmas over the next couple of months, please take a moment to think about the sad homeless man futilely attempting to sell his newspaper to people at a parade supposedly celebrating a holiday about goodness, to the strains of a song about giving to others.



Sunday, November 18

Love, Hate and Music

I'm the odd duck in our family. I have a love hate relationship with music.

I never knew I was this way until I met and married a musician and then had babies. I thought I loved music. I listened all the time, especially in the car. I enjoyed how music added to my life experiences. For instance, The Cars, Cars, album reminds me of being fifteen and getting my first job. ACDC's Back in black reminds me of being sixteen and hanging out with my best friends, Jay and Kenny. Great White takes me back to when my husband and I first set up house together. We would blast the music at 5am while he got ready for work.

So I loved music. WHEN I WAS IN CONTROL OF THE VOLUME. When I'm not in control of the volume, it makes me nuts to have loud music playing. Like insane. With a teenage daughter who is both a figure skater and a dancer, an eighteen year old son who plays the drums and a husband who plays the guitar, I am often subjected to loud music beyond my control. I get, "you have to hear this," all the time. No, no I don't have to hear it. GRRRRR!

I'm not stuck in the past either, my musical taste runs the gamut from Josh Groban to Fergie, from Tool to Carrie Underwood. In fact, a lot of the music I listened to in the eighties embarasses me now... think Winger, Warrant and Firehouse. Shudder. I love alternative rock, classical, classic rock and the blues...As long as I am in control of the volume!

Friday, November 16

Playing Hooky!

I love going to the movies. Especially matinees. There’s just something about sitting in a nearly empty theatre, munching on popcorn, while everyone else is at work or school that makes me feel like I’m living the good life. Which also makes me wonder why I don’t do it more than my usual once or twice a year??

But yesterday I decided to go for it, so I grabbed my husband, and headed for the theatre, where we hunkered down with six other hooky players and watched, “Lars and the Real Girl,” and it did not disappoint.

If you haven’t seen and/or heard of this movie yet, here’s the one sentence plot outline from IMDB:

"A delusional young guy strikes up an unconventional relationship with a doll he finds on the Internet."

Which may have you thinking: What???

But with an amazing script by Nancy Oliver, superb acting by the entire cast, and great directing as well, this story about a shy, isolated, young man in love with a doll that he thinks is real, is both heartbreaking and hilarious, and the way the town rallies around him, welcoming “Bianca” into the community in a bid to support Lars, is so sweet and inspiring it made me want to move there.

If you get the chance, go see this movie. If not, rent it. Though I’m warning you—the popcorn won’t be near as good!

What about you—what are some good movies you’ve seen this year??

Monday, November 12

Make room for the romantic comedies!!!!

Movie week...... hurray...... I LOVE going to the movies, and have been known to see a movie I love 8 times at the cinema and then buy it on DVD (and then wear it out!!!)

My taste in movies, however, isn't that broad. I mainly watch romantic comedies, chick flicks and musicals. Why??? I think it's because over the years I have worked in some fairly stressful jobs, so whenever I go to the movies I want to be able to laugh, relax and feel all warm and squidgy. I don't want to leave the movies feeling wound up and tense.

And in my favourite movies, I have my favourite parts. In Love Actually (best movie ever, ever ever) I adore the bit when Colin Firth is in the restaurant asking the girl to marry him. In Notting Hill (another totally fabulous movie) I love at the end during the news conference when Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts are smiling at each other, totally oblivous to the flashing cameras. In Pretty Woman when Richard Gere sees Julia Roberts in the bar all dressed up (for the first time) it gets me every time. In Calimity Jane (got to adore the oldies) it's so awesome when Doris Day takes off her old army coat to reveal how gorgeous she really is....... I could go on forever.....

So, tell me some favourite movie clips of yours.

Sunday, November 11

Books to Movies

Beowulf is coming!

Just thought I'd spread the word. You know, in case you hadn't already heard. This Old English epic already has critics ranting or raving, depending on who listen to, and it isn't even officially released yet. Beowulf is just the latest of a long string of literature into film. It's supposed to be really cool visually - another CG like THE POLAR EXPRESS... coincidentally another based-on-book movie.

So, all this movie adaptation talk got me thinking. What is it that makes a good movie version of a well-loved book? Is it artistic license? Cinematography? Following the heart of the book?

Did anyone read INTO THE WILD and then see the movie? It was beautifully done and just as heartbreaking on film as on paper.

Contrast that to ELLA ENCHANTED a few years back. It was a charming book, but the movie was a silly mess.

Adaptations I've loved:

My all-time favorite: SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION, based on a Stephen King novella, RITA HAYWORTH AND THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION.

Runner-up and most quotable: THE PRINCESS BRIDE

Most enjoyable Kenneth Brannaugh-directed Shakespeare: MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING


Best film-to-musical-to-film: HAIRSPRAY

And not so much:

Most questionable costuming in a book-based-film: ERAGON

Most tedious war sequences in a book-based-film: LOTR: RETURN OF THE KING

Eagerly anticipated book-to-movie: THE GOLDEN COMPASS

Book-to-movie I'd love to see done as long as they do the casting right: TWILIGHT

So what are your favorite (or least favorite) books-turned-movie? What books would you love to see on film?

Saturday, November 10

Shaun of the Dead

It's movie week here at Teen Fiction Cafe and I have an embarrassing confession to make: I'm not a big fan of zombie movies. Why is this embarrassing you ask? Well, it's because I've actually written a young adult zombie book and sold it to Puffin. Yes, I thought it was a bit odd as well, but the truth is that there is something so hilarious about the word 'zombie' that I just felt compelled to write about them and then once I started, I just couldn't stop (you have no idea how many wonderfully bad brain sucker jokes are out there!!)

However, saying all of that, I might not be a fan of many zombie movies but I'm a huge fan of Shaun of the Dead, which is one of the most perfect films I've ever seen. It's got Simon Pegg in it and a whole host of other British actors doing cameo appearances. It has that hilarious 'zombie' word in it and most importantly it has characterisation. You see, the reason I'm not normally a fan of horror movies is that I just don't care if the main characters do get chewed up, hacked down or splattered all over the place. Not so with Shaun - not only does he girlfriend problems, but he's got a rotten stepfather, a boring job and flatmate issues. In fact, dealing with the zombies is pretty much the easy part of his day!!

Thankfully, since taking the leap to Shaun, I've started to discover some other good zombie movies. 28 Days Later, which has the gorgeous Cillian Murphy and the brilliant Christopher Eccelston and Slither ,which has my guy Nathan Fillion in it. And now zombie expert and wildly funny person, Mark Henry has kindly taken me be the hand to try and improve my zombie education.

So what about everyone else - what sort of movies have made you cross the genre fence for and then got you hooked??

Thursday, November 8

The Best Laid Promo Plans....

So I had these big plans of launching my website this week amidst much whooping and hollering (you supply the whoop, I'll supply the hollering:) Contests, confessions, and general mayhem.

One small, tiny, hiccough in that plan. The website simply isn't done. "There will be a delay," said my webmistress.

Okiedokie then.

So amidst much fanfare I debuting my....


Okay. Not quite the same is it?

But that's all I got and I'm sticking to it. (It really is a cute little MySpace) I am blogging over there, as well, and would love to friend all and sundry. (disclaimer-- no perverts)


Sunday, November 4


I'm not sure what I'm supposed to write about here for Promo Week, so I guess I'll just tell you a little bit about Angel's Choice. It's about a girl on the fast track for Yale who finds herself pregnant, winding up in that condition after having sex for the first time, in an act she can't even remember the details of because she was so drunk at the time. Talk about a bad night. For a long time Angel is in denial, but when the truth becomes obvious, what path will she choose as being the right one for her?

I wrote this book not as a polemic or prescription, but rather as an exploration of the choices available to girls both current and historical. And I wanted to tell the story of this girl who I like very much and how she arrives at a decision that is exactly right for her; not the rest of the world, just her.

The reviews of the book have been pretty good - Kliatt said in their review, "readers will be changed by the total reading experience" - but even more important, the letters from teens have been outstanding.

So here's the contest: Leave a comment telling me what your favorite YA book of the last year was, so I can add to my shopping list. Contest closes midnight tomorrow night (that would be the midnight separating Monday from Tuesday for those of you who get as confused about these things as I do), at which time I'll throw all the commenters' names into a hat and pick a winner for a signed copy of ANGEL'S CHOICE. And hey, even if you don't win, you can always go out and buy the book.

Be well. Don't forget to write.