Staying Sharp: Seven Ways to Start Writing When The Blank Page is Staring You Down

By: Taylor Gaines

You sit down to write. You don’t have any particular goal. You know the importance of writing, and you’re trying to get in the habit of doing it to get better every day. You just want to write.

But there it is. The blank page — taunting you. The blinking cursor staring back at you angrily, mocking you with its consistent appearing and disappearing pattern as you inconsistently pound away at the keyboard every few minutes. Facebook is just a click away, ready to take you on a journey that you know you will enjoy. And maybe you won’t like writing anyway. Why not…

Stop right there. You don’t know where to start. I get that. I struggle with the blank page (even the thought of the blank page!) as much as the next person.

So, here, let me give you some ideas. Let’s get the blood flowing, the gears turning, and the fingers moving. I’ve compiled a few different ideas, some bigger and some smaller, to try to help get things going. And remember, you should just write what comes to you. Don’t hesitate, double-back, or delete stuff over and over. Just keep pumping out sentences. You can always fix it later.

Let’s start with the serious, personal stuff and finish with some more fun, specific stuff.

DEEP THOUGHTS

What’s Going On? Journal

What’s happening in your life? In the world? Why do you care? This is basically the old-fashioned journal approach. Write about the things you see going on around you. Tell stories about things that happened to you. Think through things that you’re going through by writing them down and verbalizing your thoughts. This will help you develop a stronger writing voice and put things into perspective.

Ponder Life’s Big Questions

Who am I? What is the meaning of life? Is there life on Mars? Am I living in the Matrix? Everybody thinks about questions like these at some point. Why not help process and organize your thoughts by writing them down? You can even come up with entertaining and fantastical answers as well. Go wherever your mind takes you.

Analyze Whatever You’re Reading or Watching

Maybe it’s a book, a movie, a TV show, a YouTube video, or a story you read in the paper — er, online. Whatever it may be, just sit down and write your thoughts on that thing. Analyze the latest episode of your favorite TV show. Consider the decisions that went into writing the mystery novel you’re reading. Rave about your favorite actor’s performance from the movie you saw last night. Write a counterpoint to the column you read.

Like the first two points, doing things like this will not only help you have things to write about, it will help you figure out the way your brain works and the way you like to think about things. It will also help you to develop a stronger, more authoritative voice when you’re defending your opinions.

FUN TIMES

Write Stories from the Police Blotter

This is a fun one that my writing teacher used to make our class do. All you do is look up a police blotter (like this one), find an item that interests you, and write about it.

A couple examples:

“6/1/16   Wed   1328   Abandoned Vehicle – Officer investigated an abandoned vehicle that miraculously became un-abandoned when police made inquiry. “

“5/29/16   Sun   0435   Welfare Check – Caller was concerned for her little brother who had been fired from a local processing plant. The officer was able to alleviate her fears.”

“5/31/16   Tue   1446   Animal – Local homeowner requested a cat trap to capture a nuisance feline that was distressing her cats.”

Think of the possibilities. You can make up crazy sci-fi stories about the events that led to a vehicle becoming “miraculously un-abandoned.” You can write a melodramatic tale of a young man fired from his local processing plant and the effects it has on his life. You could tell a story from the perspective of a cat about a “nuisance feline” that’s ruining its life. The bones are there for some fun, creative stories; you just need to fill in the meat.

Write Stories That Don’t Make Sense 

Imagine things that can only exist in your writing, and tell those stories. Write about the Easter Bunny terrorizing an entire city. Talk about a great white shark that does community service and helps the elderly. Picture a world where dishwashers are humans and humans are dishwashers. Find something that might only make sense in your head, and let your creative juices flow. This will infuse your stories with distinctive, fantastical characters.

Tell the Story of a Song

Go on [insert music streaming service here], and pick a song at random. Listen to it. Take in its tone and its lyrics. Think about how it makes you feel. Then, try to tell the story behind it. What happened to the writer that made them write this song? What’s the point? There is a lot of creative freedom to this, and you can really go wherever your mind takes you.

A Day in the Life

Think about someone you really like or are interested in. It could be a real person, like an athlete or movie star, or it could be a favorite character of yours from a book or movie. Imagine what fills that person’s day. Write about what that person does from the moment he or she wakes up to the moment he or she goes to sleep. You can make up any details you want. Answer crazy questions you’ve always wondered about. Does the president ever actually sleep? Where does Leonardo DiCaprio go out to eat? What’s on Winnie the Pooh’s daily to-do list?


Remember to enjoy yourself while you’re writing. Your best, most interesting writing will certainly be from the stuff that you enjoyed working on the most. Think of it this way: If you enjoyed writing it, your audience will probably enjoy reading it.

Write away!

What are some fun things you like to do when writing? Let us know in the comments below! 

Buried In a Book: 5 Ways to Correct Your Reading Posture

By: Audie Lauf

Did you ever think the expression “having your nose buried in a book” was negative? Turns out poor posture while reading can result in some serious damage to your body over time. Just like there is a proper technique for sitting at the computer, there is a proper way to read a book. One time or another, we have all been so engulfed in a plot line that we find ourselves hunched over with our eyes just an inch from the paper. Moments like these can seem harmless, but they can cause excessive damage to the body in the long run.

Here are five important things to remember while you’re reading:

1. Keep Your Eye on the Prize

It is crucial to keep the book at the same elevation as your eyes. This will keep your head upright and will stop you from bending over. Having your head tilted for hours can be strenuous on your neck and shoulders.

2. Proper Distance

Keeping the book at a little less than arm’s length will also keep your head upright. Having your head properly adjusted will also open up your air passages and keep oxygen flowing efficiently to your brain. (The same can be said about your phone.) The distance is also perfect for making sure your eyes aren’t being strained.

3. Align Your Spine

Keeping your back pressed parallel to the back of the chair will keep your spine in a position that can be set for a long period of time. Make sure to have your tailbone positioned at the back of the chair.

4. Adjust Your Chair

It is important to remember to keep your knees bent at a 90-degree angle. This will support blood flow, keeping the circulation going. Nothing is more annoying than standing up and feeling like your legs are made of a million pins and needles.

5. Take a Break

While we all love to read and are dying to find out what happens next, taking a break is important for your overall health. Standing up and taking a quick walk will refresh your eyes and increase blood flow and circulation to your body.

You are already taking the time to better your mind, so take a minute and make sure you’re doing the same for your body.

 

From the Editor: Taking You Behind the Scenes of the Publishing Industry

By: Rebekah Sack, Editor

85 tasks and 92 subtasks.

That’s how many steps it takes to publish a book.

Now, some of those tasks are really quick and simple, like documenting the date of an author’s writing contract or creating a location number for the back cover of the book.

But, not all of those tasks are easy to just check off the to-do list. For instance, editing “Stage 2” of the book, which means spending detailed time with about 10,000 words of text, or planning and executing an e-mail campaign to start getting pre-orders for a book — these are time consuming. There’s a lot that goes into publishing a book, and you don’t realize how complicated it is until you join the industry.

Now, not every publishing company out there has exactly 85 tasks with 92 subtasks sprinkled in. There are going to be companies with hundreds of tasks and companies with no tasks at all, because they just fly by the seat of their pants. None of that matters, though — the important thing to realize is how intricate the process is.

I might quickly add that some people may be put-off by the fact that there’s a list — how dare you put such organizational limits on what is supposed to be a creative process! I will gently remind you that, yes, the writing and editing portions of publishing can be highly creative, but like anything else, the publishing industry is still a business, so keeping things on track is super important.

That being said, I thought it might be fun to take a look at some of the things that we do when it comes to publishing a book. Whether you’re a prospective intern that wants to know what really goes on behind-the-scenes or a freelance writer that wants to know what exactly that nit-picky editor does all day, this will give you an idea of the grunt work that goes into that book sitting on your nightstand.

The First Few Steps

The first few steps are the easiest. I know this isn’t the case for everything in life, particularly blind dates and job interviews, but the first few steps of organizing a book are mildly to moderately simple.

You have to come up with a book title, assign that book title an ISBN (in our case, three ISBNS — paperback, e-book, and library edition), come up with a retail price, find three BISAC codes, and write two book copies (one that is 50 words or less and one that is 350 words or less).

I’m anticipating three possible questions from you at this point: what is an ISBN, what the heck are BISAC codes, and what’s this business about book copies? I am going to spare you the boring task of reading a standard definition here and offer you the low-down for dummies.

An ISBN is that number-thingy by the barcode on the back of your books. It’s a string of numbers tied to your book. Publishers have to buy them.

BISAC codes help to categorize your books by subject. Here’s an example of a BISAC code: YAN051020  YOUNG ADULT NONFICTION / Social Topics / Bullying.

Book copies are those catchy paragraphs on the back of your favorite books. They describe the book and get you so interested that you’re forced to take the book off the bookshelf and purchase it. Here’s an example of a book copy from a book we’re currently working on.

Title: The Young Adult’s Guide to Surviving Dorm Life: Skills & Strategies for Handling Roommates

Book Copy: Television shows like “New Girl,” “Friends,” and “The Big Bang Theory” make having a roommate seem like a blast. However, not everyone is lucky enough to have a roommate like Jessica Day or Rachel Green.

“Surviving Dorm Life” provides college students with an idea of what to expect before ever stepping foot into their new living space. This book is full of tips and tricks ranging from sleeping patterns to unwelcome guests.

Personality traits can also cause a lot of conflict. This book unravels how to deal with different types of roommates, such as neat freaks and slobs.

Fighting over who does the dishes may seem like biggest problem there will ever be — and this book does cover that — but if things get seriously bad, that’s covered, too. We take a look at how to deal with roommates that are depressed, have an eating disorder, or have a substance abuse problem.

This book is full of case studies garnered from hours of interviews with college students, both new and graduated. Your roommate is using your personal stuff, they’re staying up too late, they’re making too much noise, they’re being rude, and they’re neglecting to pay their share of the bills. If you are worried about any of these potential problems, by book’s end, you’ll know everything you need to know to put the issues to rest and survive dorm life.

Now that those questions are out the way, you might be wondering something else — how can these be the first steps? Wouldn’t writing the actual book be the first step to… publishing a book? I know, I know, I kind of wondered the same thing at first, but that’s where companies kind of start to veer in different directions.

When you think about books and summer reading, your first thought is probably fiction books, and most fiction books go through a very different publishing process. The publisher usually looks at already completed manuscripts and picks and chooses based on what they think people will buy.

When it comes to nonfiction publishing, it’s totally different (not always, but in our case, it’s a different ballgame). We come up with a popular topic and narrow it down to a title — we decide what books we are going to produce, and then we hire professionals to come in and write the book. That’s why we come up with all the book information first. Well, that, and because in order to start getting pre-orders for a book, you have to have all the book information out there.

Now that things are starting to come together, I imagine furrowed brows and a curious expression on your face — you’re telling me that you put a book out there for pre-orders before it’s even written yet? Well… yes. Yes, we do.

Another important part of organizing a new book is getting the cover done. We work with our Art Director to finalize a book cover, and once that’s done, you can put your infant book on different distribution sites for pre-orders. That way, we can publish books way faster than you’re probably expecting.

There’s all this talk about books going through years and years of steps and processes before it’s ever even on the market — well, when we structure the process this way, there’s no waiting time. Sometimes, companies will put the finalized book information out there to start getting pre-orders and to build the hype up, but that means that a finished book is just sitting on a desk somewhere — waiting. For us, there’s no wait time. While the book is being written, pre-orders are coming in, and once the book is done, it goes straight to press.

Blah, blah, blah, we get it. On to the next phase.

The Steps After the First Few Steps

Great title, I know. The next few steps overlap a bit with the first few, but they involve finding and hiring an author. This can be done several ways — there might be an author we’ve already worked with that has a background in the subject area, there might be a specific person we have in mind that’s an expert in the field, or we might just turn to the freelance writing market through avenues like Elance.com or JournalismJobs.com.

We also have a reserve list of writers who have applied for previous jobs — if they had a strong resume and writing sample and totally killed the editing and writing quiz I sent to them, I ask them if they’d like to be on a reserve list for future projects. Sometimes, they don’t. But, sometimes, they do, and we turn to them first when new projects open up.

The main goal is to find a writer that’s really good at writing (duh) and that also has a background in the subject at hand. For example, the book about surviving dorm life would be best written by someone who spent their entire college career living in a dorm with four roommates. A book about the Russian Revolution might be best written by a history professor. A book about joining the music industry would be best written by someone that has a music degree — the list goes on.

So, when you finally find the perfect fit, you create a contract, have them sign it, document it all, and order research materials for the author. We send them various books on the subject to give them an idea of what’s already out there — we don’t want to be producing stuff that’s already been said 100 times over. It’s also useful to be up-to-date on the latest stats and research — we’ll send that stuff, too.

In the background, we’re updating distribution sites through Bowker & Onix; we’re drafting up email campaigns for libraries, bookstores, and foreign rights agents; we’re creating a book folder on the server; we’re updating the book information on the website; and we’re working on finding associations or experts in the field to partner with us and/or contribute to the book.

Don’t tell me I lost you — let me catch you up here. Bowker is the exclusive go-to guy to get ISBNs from. You purchase them and then update the information tied to that ISBN. Let’s say I buy an ISBN for my new book about bugs. I would go onto Bowker to update my ISBN information. I’d put in the title: “Bug Life,” the author: “Yours Truly,” the book description: “This book is all about bugs,” and so on. From there, tons of people can get information about that book. It’s like the watering hole, but for libraries and bookstores and such.

Oh, and Onix? It pretty much does the same thing — you put all your book information into their program, and it lets people who buy books see it.

The whole thing is a lengthy, intricate process.

The Next Few Steps After the Steps That Were After The First Few Steps

As you can see, I’m the go-to person when it comes to coming up with titles.

So, now the book is out there, and the author is drafting away at the manuscript. They’re sending the work-in-process in four basic stages. For our young adult books, here’s what the stages look like:

Stage 1: The Outline

Stage 2: The First 10,000 Words

Stage 3: The Second 10,000 Words

Stage 4: The Final 10,000 Words

The author will send in this stuff as they go along. I, the editor, will review it, give some feedback in the margins, and I’ll edit the heck out of the manuscript. You’ll see structure changes, style comments, and basic copyedits (grammar and punctuation stuff).

If I have a few projects going on at once (at this very moment, I have seven), you can see where things start to get a little hectic. You’re getting 10,000 words over there, another 10,000 over here, an outline coming in from left field — you can see why many people comment on how busy editors are.

But, that’s not all. In the background, while the pros are hacking away at their Word docs, we’re securing foreword authors, case studies, we’re running plagiarism scans, we’re sending email blasts, we’re counting pre-orders, we’re checking permissions, we’re submitting CIP data, we’re making updates on Bowker, Baker & Taylor, Ingram, Barnes & Noble, the website, Amazon…

I can feel you starting to back up. Do not be intimated or confused. To answer the looming question I can feel in the air — what the heck is CIP data — it’s that library information on the copyright page of books. CIP stands for “Cataloging-in-Publication” and it’s basically a neat little paragraph that has the author’s name, the title, the ISBN, some details about the book, and some more numbers. It helps libraries electronically catalog your book in their database.

Once the book is fully written and has been thoroughly edited, it goes off to the design team. They transfer the Word document into InDesign (an Adobe program that helps get a book ready for print), and in technical terms, they make it all pretty and stuff. It’s a lengthy process of designing and proofing and prepping, but once that’s done, the book goes to press.

The Final Steps

The final steps are all about making sure the book is a success. We’re sending out emails letting people know it’s available, we’re doing special ad campaigns, we’re preparing review copies, we’re writing press releases, we’re drafting up thank-you cards for book participants, we’re uploading the PDF to Amazon’s “Search Inside” feature and Google Books, we’re getting the e-book out there…

I hate to keep going, but there really is more. We’re registering the copyright and putting that in the safe, we’re updating inventory, we’re updating the website and all those other distribution sites, we’re pursuing reviews and adding them to all of our online sites… we’re really doing the most.

And that’s kind of what publishing is all about. It’s about producing great, necessary content, and making sure that it falls into the right hands. It’s a lengthy and sometimes complicated process, but it’s worth it. When you put a book out there that you know is helping someone, from a fairly straight-forward topic — like passing the real estate sales exam or nailing an interview — to more touchy, emotional subjects — like dealing with bullying or building up your confidence — you know you’re making a difference.

And that’s what the industry is all about, regardless of the amount of steps or the way you make those steps function for your company.

But there really are a lot of steps. For real.

How to Start a Book Club: 10 Easy Steps to Get You Going

By: Audie Lauf

Summer is the season of outdoor activities. Summer is also the time to schedule leisure activities to better yourself. Take the time off from school to keep your mind sharp. Organizing a book club will allow you to stay close to friends and engage in intellectual stimulation.

Here are ten easy steps to help you start your own book club.

1) Invite Your Book-Loving Friends

Invite friends that you have common interests in whether that is hobbies, classes, sporting events etc. Inviting friends that have a common interest can also spark new relationships. Make sure to have your friends spread the word to anyone else they feel would enjoy themselves. Having common interests could influence the book choices the club suggests.

2) Set a Meeting Time

Once you have established an interested group, figure out a time to meet. A good suggestion would be twice a month. This will give the group enough time to read half of the book, and then discuss the first half in depth. This can also give the group time to discuss if there were any intense situations throughout the book.

3) Create an Atmosphere

Remember to create a welcoming atmosphere. A good idea is to host the first meeting at your place. Provide snacks and beverages. People are always happy when there is food present (make sure to acknowledge any food allergies). Set up the area with seating in a circle. This will create an open discussion on its own. Make sure everyone feels welcome. Start the meeting by having everyone introduce themselves.

4) Choose Your Books As a Group

Deciding on a book to pick is the hardest yet best part when planning a book club. Make sure the first book is interesting to all in the organization. On the first night, have everyone bring their first suggestion. This will also give everyone else in the group a chance to get to know others better.

5) Use Your Local Library

After deciding on the first book, instead of purchasing it, have everyone check the local library. Ordering the book online is still possible, but could get costly.

6) Branch Out

Make sure to choose books that give a variety of experiences. One month you can dive into historical-fiction, but next month choose a mystery novel. Expanding your horizons is what a book club is all about.

7) Come With Questions

Make sure to have everyone provide stimulating questions that make you think about the author’s intent. Critical thinking will drive elaborate discussion and develop your own opinions naturally. Suggest that everyone bring in a set list of questions — that way, everyone is prepared and can fall back on a question if the discussion comes to a halt.

8) Show Respect

Remember that there is no right or wrong answer. Be respectful of other’s opinion and try to see from their point of view. If you do not fully understand their ideas, make sure to ask them to go into further detail in a polite manner.

9) Give Spoiler Alerts

Set a rule to have discussion only focus on the dedicated section of the book. There is nothing worse than spoilers when you are so engulfed in the story.

10) Have Fun!

Make sure everyone is having a good time, and keep everyone’s feelings in mind when making decisions. The most important part of having a book club is enjoying yourself — so have fun!

Creating a summer book club will allow not just you but everyone in the group to develop their critical thinking and expand their horizons. Keeping your mind sharp when school is out is always important for setting up for an efficient academic year.

Happy reading!

Review a Book

Fellow writers and readers,

We have openings for book reviewers. If you’re interested in receiving a complimentary copy of one of our young adult books, either existing or upcoming, we invite you to fill out the form below:

Adapting to New Forms of Storytelling: What Are Your Options?

By: Grace Hudgins

Technology and social media platforms have changed the game when it comes to storytelling. Now, stories are instant, digital, and visual. We no longer have to wait for the latest news to be printed or broadcasted, because with social media websites like Twitter, Facebook, and Snapchat, we’re always up-to-date with current events.

Print is still living and breathing just fine in my opinion, but sometimes, my preference for physical books and newspapers causes me to lag behind in current events. However, as I became more reliant on my iPhone for information, I slowly started to adapt to the “digital takeover” as I like to call it. And you know what? I didn’t mind.

I realized this digital era is unavoidable, but it’s a force that can be reckoned with once it’s given a chance.

book with letters.JPGWhat I’m trying to say is there are more advantages to reading stories online, or on your tablet or smartphone because of how much storytelling tools have advanced. Instead of only words flooding our screens, technology allows us to actually be in the story, see the story, and feel the story. Pictures, GIFs, videos (short and long), and other graphics make the story more appealing and entertaining to be a part of.

If you still haven’t made the transition to digital storytelling, start off slow. Get your news online and stick to reading books in print — it’s what I do. I tried to read my favorite books on apps like iBooks and on a Kindle, but I found out that I preferred to have the actual book in my hand, not my iPad. Whatever you choose to do, converting to digital isn’t so bad.

Here are three storytelling mediums that are now popular forms of telling stories, and what I consider their benefits to be:

Social Media

Social Media websites are user-friendly and quick to skim through. In general, all of the mediums I list below can be published online and on a social media site. Twitter is my favorite source for breaking news if I’m not near a TV. For accuracy, I follow local and national news organizations so I know the articles/photos/videos I see are factual. A downside of social media is that now everybody is a reporter. So, make sure that the information you get online is from a credible source.

Videos

Videos are more visual and user-oriented. You can choose how much of the story you want to see and can witness the character’s real emotion. I like to watch my news through video, because I can connect with the source more this way and can actually visualize the background, setting, and importance of the story. Snapchat is also a form of storytelling. The app features breaking news from organizations like CNN and ESPN, but it also allows you to post and view pictures and/or videos from your friends. It’s a fun way to communicate, because of the interactive features the app has like filters, drawing options, and geo-tags.

Photos

Photos are still worth a thousand words, but now, because of the advances in phone cameras and DSLR cameras, photos are better than they have ever been. The clean cut images we see now tell stories in more detail. Also, there can be more. Websites often feature photo galleries on their pages, so we never miss a detail of the story the collage is telling.

book on grass

These are just a few forms of storytelling, but there are numerous ways to tell, read, and share stories thanks to the digital advancements our world now has. I don’t suggest giving up on print all together, but we should start experiencing storytelling in ways other than on a piece of paper.

Become inspired, connect with the characters on TV and in news stories, and maybe even make a story of your own. Our technology allows us all to be an author, videographer, and photographer. Figure out what types of storytelling you like, and stick with them, because the evolution of storytelling has only just begun.

 

Don’t Avoid Nonfiction: 5 Reasons to Pick Up A Nonfiction Book This Summer

By: Grace Hudgins

Fiction books are the go-to escapees for summer months. They allow us to dive into a reality that’s different from our everyday lives.

But as fun as it is to live the life of a wizard, Victorian royal, or whatever your favorite fictional character may be, it’s important to step back into the real world from time to time. Nonfiction books can help with that.

Below are five reasons to add a nonfiction book to your summer reading list.

1. Learn More About What You Like

During the summer, it’s common to want to avoid any form of learning or work. However, sometimes it’s a good idea to use the summer months as a time to learn about a topic, area, or specialty you’re interested in.

While Google is the usual go-to resource to learn quickly, nonfiction books can be just as useful. They’re more in-depth, and you can take the time to actually learn from the author. You can choose any topic — we recommend learning about building your confidence or nailing your next job interview.

2. Read An Autobiography From Your Idol

Let’s face it — during the academic school year, there isn’t time to read about your idol’s hardships, successes, and personal endeavors. Social media may allow you to keep tabs on them frequently, no matter if they’re in the spotlight for sports, entertainment, religion, or political achievements. Take advantage of your free time this summer, and learn more about the person who inspires you the most!

book on grass.JPG

3. Get The Answers You Need

Nonfiction books aren’t just autobiographies and true stories; there are guides and helpful resources, too. This summer, take time to read a book that gives you advice, answers, and tips about an interest you’ve always wondered about. It could be a nutrition guide, bullying tips, relationship advice or even dream interpretation. Whatever it is, there are a plethora of books that have the answers you’re looking for.

4. They’re Relatable to Real Life

Fictional characters and plots are sometimes relatable, but most often, fiction is written for us to escape into a new world. Nonfiction books, however, are the opposite. If you’re looking for a book that you can relate to, learn from, and apply what’s inside to real life, then nonfiction books are your best option. Authors write about personal experiences, endeavors and hardships that can relate directly to your life. You can take the author’s experience, apply it to your own life, and still escape reality at the same time.

guy reading a book.JPG

5. They’re Easy To Read

Fictional novels often have a theme or “hidden” message embedded in their pages. It’s easy to miss, and sometimes it can confuse or distract you from the entire story. Nonfiction books are simple — they are easy to read with the theme right at the beginning. Nonfiction will give you a break from decoding stories, and it will help you understand sentences the first time you read them. Nonfiction is the perfect resource to keep your brain healthy and active as well as keeping you from feeling overwhelmed as you read.


Fiction is a great escape genre. It’s nice to put yourself in a different world every now and then. However, it’s important to not avoid reality for too long. Reading a nonfiction book every now and then is the perfect balance between reality and fantasy. Use it to your advantage, and learn something new this summer. Who knows — you might actually enjoy it!

Expand your Horizons: 5 Reasons to Write Just as Much as You Read

By: Zachary Arcivar

It is possible that you think of yourself as a reader, but not a writer. If so, then what is it that is keeping you from writing? The fear of people not liking your ideas? Not knowing where to start? These are obstacles that all writers face at one time or another, and they’re perfectly normal.

So the question is, are you writing as much as you’re reading? For anyone that isn’t, you should ask yourself why. Now, you may not identify as a “writer,” and you may not see a huge benefit in working on your own fiction pieces, or non-fiction memoirs, but the truth is that reading and writing complement each other in incredible ways. The more you write, the more deeply you will enjoy reading and vice versa — I can promise you that. Here are five reasons to start writing and keep writing:

1. Good old-fashioned practice

Practice makes perfect, right? If you’re a new writer and don’t have much or any experience writing anything outside of English class, the more you practice, the more natural the art of writing becomes. Sometimes, it can be really hard to start a new piece of writing, especially if it’s a genre or style you haven’t ever worked on before, but that’s totally normal, and we all go through it. What’s important is to not let that initial struggle scare you away from writing, because once you begin, the flow becomes easier and easier as you go on.

typewriter.JPGPracticing will also allow you to find your own personal ritual that you follow each time you write. For me, I make some coffee and begin writing in the morning in my bedroom with my journal handy on the side of my laptop while the sun comes up. For you, it could mean going to a specific coffee shop to type, or scribbling words onto a white board to get new ideas, but whatever it is, as long as it benefits your craft, then you shouldn’t question it. For a really interesting writing process, look at Ernest Hemingway; he woke up each day, put on his slippers, and began writing on large sheets of paper against his bedroom wall before he would begin typing on his typewriter. Hemingay also spoke of a “juice” that all writers have, and that we just all have to find out what process gets our juice flowing. So don’t be afraid to just start anywhere! Go to different environments, see how they affect you and inspire you, and soon you’ll have your own personal process that will make you an unstoppable writing machine!

So how does this connect to reading? Well, when it’s your first time really trying to write some of your own original ideas, you’re probably going to write in a style or format similar to the author that you are currently reading, and this is nothing to feel bad about! Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, and it is only by writing like other people that we discover our own unique styles and formats that fit us, which brings me to my next point.

2. Writing will help you think in different styles and outside of your own creative box

Last semester, I was in a class where I was assigned to read a book by William Faulkner titled Go Down Moses, and it was maybe one of the hardest books I had ever had to read. Faulkner is notorious for his deep descriptions and his extreme attention to details of both environments and the thoughts of his characters. Even though it was a difficult read, it had a major payoff that I didn’t realize until I was finished with the book, which was that I had been writing more like Faulkner when I was reading him! It turned out that I had been subconsciously adopting the style that I found so hard to understand.

Picking up books that we usually wouldn’t read because they aren’t our usual genre or style broadens our horizons as both readers and writers. If you had never read a science fiction book, and then read something about an alien civilization, you are suddenly introduced to an entirely new universe full of possibilities that you may have not seen or thought of before. This can inspire countless ideas firing off in your brain, and can bring you to write things you may have never written before, which can change your focus when you think about what you want to write.

You won’t be a master of your new genres and ideas from the get-go, but with some practice, you’ll be off to new territories in no time. By reading into these new territories, your writing will continue to evolve, and you’ll get closer to finding your own unique style.

3. The more you write, the more comfortable you become

This one may seem a bit obvious, but I think it’s just as important as the other points made. Being nervous about starting a new idea or telling a friend about something you have been working on is totally natural, and it’s part of the writing process. Sometimes, I find it best to keep ideas to myself until they fully blossom, and other times, I find it more helpful to bounce ideas around between friends in order to let those ideas develop and mature.

Over time, you may find that you have to spend less time struggling over ideas and more time letting them take shape naturally while you write. By giving yourself the freedom to write about whatever y
ou want without censoring yourself, you inherently open up multiple literary doors for yourself. Obviously, the more comfortable you are writing, the more writing you will produce.

laptop and paper.JPGIt doesn’t have to be a specific type of writing either; it could be something as simple as a journal where you jot down thoughts on a daily basis — every little bit helps. I hardly journaled before going to college, but once I started, I noticed the benefits immediately, and I continue to journal about once or twice a day, every day.

4. Writing as much as you read will keep you more conscious of your developing style

The more you write, the more you have to look back on and learn from. Reading back on your old work is essential to developing and perfecting your writing style, and it can be a pleasant surprise to stumble upon a section of writing that you may have forgotten about. I do that all the time, and it’s always an interesting journey to look back at what I was thinking that day and what ideas I decided to put down on the page.

Picking up book on bookshelf

After reviewing your work, you begin to pay attention to any patterns in your writing that reoccur over time, and you also begin to notice any obvious style choices that you’re making. These are important observations, as they play a part in your future writing once you’re conscious of them. On the other side of the coin, you also end up paying more attention to the details within other author’s work and what choices they make in their writing.

5. You’ll stay in a creative state of mind and think about your work more

While you’re reading, your brain is racing with ideas and concepts that are leaping to you from the pages. You are thinking deeply (whether you notice it or not), and being in this mindset is what makes artists thrive. If you’re writing as much as you read, it keeps you in this state of mind even more than usual, and it can help your art immensely.

By staying in this mindset, you open multiple doors of possibility for yourself and your work — you think about things differently. For example, when I get on the subway in Chicago and ride up to Wrigleyville, I tend to people watch. When I do this, I listen to conversations, I take note of how people act and how they speak, and it all adds fuel to my creative fire. Essentially, you are thinking constantly about what you can add to your work, and when you spot a person or object that interests you, you can think about how that person or object can play a role in your art.

Again, you may not identify as a writer yourself, but there is no harm in trying simply to keep your mind active! Who knows? You may find a new passion that you never knew you had! So pick up a pen and notebook or open up a blank Word document and start letting the ideas flow!

To read more on how to perfect your writing, check out The Young Adult’s Guide to Flawless Writing and use code “FREESHIP” for free shipping on your order.

The Great YA Debate: Why Adults Should Read What They Want

By: Rebekah Sack

This subject always causes controversy, particularly among professors. The problem is this: “young adult” generally refers to teens — we can give a rough parameter of, say, 12 through 18 or so.

The thing is, there are a lot of adults out there picking up the YA titles — about 55% of them.

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That’s bothering a lot of people. Ruth Graham, a writer for Slate, wrote an article called “Against YA” where she voiced her opinion on adults who read YA lit. Here are some quotes from her as well some others on why adults shouldn’t read YA and perhaps why they should.

Against Adults Reading YA

“Adults should be ashamed that they’re picking up books written for children.” -Ruth Graham, Slate (2014)

“Adults should be reading literary fiction, not fiction written for teens like Fault in our Stars.” -Ruth Graham, Slate (2014)

“You accidentally agree with the parents rather than the lovesick teenager.” -Cait @ Paper Fury (2015)

“You abandon your mature insights when you read YA literature.” -Ruth Graham, Slate (2014)

“You get an intense crush on the love-interest until you realize he’s 16 and you’re like 10+ years his senior.” -Cait @ Paper Fury (2015)

“But how can a grown-up, even one happy to be reminded of the shivers of first love, not also roll her eyes?” -Ruth Graham, Slate (2014)

“The endings are always satisfying. Aren’t you tired of it?” -Ruth Graham, Slate (2014)

For Adults Reading YA

“What draws me to YA lit is nostalgia.” –Meg Wolitzer, NY Times (2014)

“There might be a really rather honorable reason for adults to read young adult fiction: so they can discuss those books with their target audiences.” –Alyssa Rosenburg, The Washington Post (2014)

“As we know from Pixar movies, sometimes the children’s section has more true to life elements than art geared toward grown-ups.” –Caitlin White, Bustle (2014)

“The passage to maturity can be a shattering thing. Preparing yourself for that transition or looking back on that metamorphosis is hardly an un-serious act.” –Alyssa Rosenburg, The Washington Post (2014)

“’Young adult,’ ‘adult,’ and other publishing labels are nothing more than marketing tools. Sales, marketing and booksellers need to classify in order to sell and market books. Readers, however, do not.” –Caitlin White, Bustle (2014)

“To simply give up on romance novels or young adult literature as hopeless categories of fiction, fit only for the weak-minded or young and incapable of improvement, is to embrace a kind of snobbery and rigidity about what is worthy and what is not.” –Alyssa Rosenburg, The Washington Post (2014)


So, you get an idea of what each side is saying, and both have valid points, don’t they?

The thing is, people are reading less and less — the number of people who don’t read anything has tripled since the 1970s. That being said, shouldn’t we be happy that adults are reading… at all?

The idea that an adult is socially banned from reading a specific type of book seems outrageous. The reasons for reading YA every once in a while are vast — there are mothers wanting to connect with daughters through literature, there are fathers wanting to remember what it was like to be a teenage boy, there are book clubs trying to dissect this arguably literary material.

Not every adult is sitting there reading Twilight and falling in love with Edward is what I’m trying to say.

In the end, you can read whatever you want to — and you should. If you enjoy indulging in a casual teen love story, why not do it? If you desperately need the satisfaction of knowing that a happy ending is coming, why not pick up that old favorite? If your brain is fried from all that ambiguous adult literary fiction (that’s a mouthful), why not pick up an easy read book for once? (Not that all YA lit is easy to read.)

Reading is reading, and while adults should pick up age-appropriate books often, there’s nothing wrong with reading younger material every now and then.

In the words of Georgina Howlett, writer for the Guardian:

“I know that turning 18 (and thus legally becoming an adult) changes very little, and in particular it changes literally nothing about your reading preferences. You don’t automatically begin loving classics, and you don’t start gravitating helplessly towards the general fiction section of bookstores – you just continue buying what you know you’ll like to read.”

5 Benefits of Reading Over the Summer

By: Grace Hudgins

As a young adult, summertime is probably your most favorite time of the year — besides the holiday season, maybe. For some, it’s a vacation from academic responsibility, and for others, it’s more time to sleep. It’s a few free months to spend time with your friends, lounge by the pool, or go to summer camp.

Whatever the reason, we here at AtlanticTeen understand that the last thing you want to do on summer vacation is read a book. However, it’s been scientifically proven that students lose or forget material they learned the previous year during summer break if they skip out on the books — it’s known as the “summer slide.”

Reading over the summer can keep your mind active and boost your overall skills in reading, writing, and retaining information. We want to help make all of these possible for you, and we don’t want any of our young adults to experience the “summer slide” phenomenon.

Here are 5 benefits of reading over the summer that will motivate you to crack open that book that’s been on your shelf.

  1. Take a Break from Netflix

netflix

We understand that summer vacation is basically your endless Netflix-binge holiday (anyone else catching up on Game of Thrones?), but at some point, it might be a good idea to go outside and take a book or magazine with you. Instead of watching the characters and scenes play on a screen for you, why not try to envision them yourself for a few hours? There’s a reason why so many people rave about the books being better than the movies.

  1. Escape

 

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Reading is actually relaxing. It gives your mind a break from thinking about your daily responsibilities or your to-do list. Books and stories allow you to live in a different world for a couple of hours, and you can see things from another set of eyes without having to lift a finger (except to turn the page).

  1. Broaden Your Mind

broaden mind

Reading over the summer can help you think, imagine, and feel new things. It’s nice to not have to read a book that you know you’ll be quizzed on later. Reading about people, whether they’re fictional or not, can open your eyes to new perspectives. Reading stories you’re actually interested in broadens your mind not just in an academic way, but in a personal way that can help you see things from a new perspective.

  1. Be In the Know

headlines1

If it’s a news story or magazine article you decide to read daily, weekly or monthly, then you’ll be well caught up with current events. Depending on your interests, you can be up-to-date with the latest fashion trends, celebrity gossip, political scandals, and worldwide news. These stories are usually quick and to the point so you won’t have to spend a lot of time reading if you’re a busy person. You never know, these stories may appeal to you so much that you could want make a career out of them!

  1. Maintain Your Academic Skills

reading in summer

We mentioned this earlier, but reading over the summer truly does help you to maintain a certain level of skill. Sure, there will probably be new material you won’t understand right away and you’re bound to forget a few things next year, but reading can help your brain remember and retain. You can increase your reading and writing skills, as well as advance your vocabulary. Your brain will keep thinking the same way as it does in school, just without the stress and worry schoolwork sometimes brings along. This way, when the new school year rolls around, you will be well prepared!