Friday, July 27, 2012

8 Great Ways to Get Teens to Read with You

The following is an introduction to an article I recently wrote for Simon & Schuster's Online Magazine Tips on Life and Love. To read the entire article and find the 8 tips go to Life and Love.

8 Great Ways to Get Teens to Read with You

My 15-year-old daughter and I recently took a summer road trip from New Mexico to California. How did we entertain ourselves for 24 hours on the road? Audio books. We learned Spanish from the Pimsleur program, easily downloadable to my iPhone, and got ahead on required sophomore summer reading by listening to The Grapes of Wrath.
As we traversed through the dessert I was able to point out Needles, Calif., and say, “This is where the Joads stopped to camp along the river. Imagine what it was like traveling in the back of the truck with all those people and no air conditioning.”

At the end of each chapter I would ask my daughter to give me a summary of what happened. At first all she could say was, “Uh, nothing.” It reminded me of many similar dinner conversations when I asked what had happened at school that day and got the exact same response. In her defense, I will say that a lot of pages can pass in The Grapes of Wrath without much happening. An entire chapter is devoted to a turtle crossing the road. A lot of required reading can feel this way to kids (and adults).

Much has been written about the importance of reading books with young children. We all know how important it is for them to decode words and learn vocabulary in the early years. As they mature and learn more complex tasks like comprehension, prediction, and synthesis, we often leave them to their own devices, assuming they are getting this instruction at school—but secondary teachers often don’t teach these skills as directly as we may assume. On numerous occasions I’ve asked my teenage children how the class discussion went over this book or that. Sadly, they often say there was no discussion, just a test.

As a mother, I feel like these teachers are not teaching the truly meaningful skill of how to think. As an author, I fear they are missing the point of what books are all about and how rich and life changing the reading experience can be. As a speech-language pathologist working in the public schools, I know teachers are under tremendous pressure to improve test-taking skills. Their curriculum is often dictated week by week by their department, sometimes leaving little time for meaningful class discussions which, even if attempted, may not go very far because many of the students have not read the “required” reading.

What can a parent do to help? Understanding the required reading selection is only part of the picture. We also want our kids to know how to comprehend a book’s meaning and ultimately to develop a passion for stories. Here are some suggestions I’ve found helpful...

To find the 8 tips and read the rest of the article go to Tips on Life and Love.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Books and Baubles and Beads, Oh My!

It's ten weeks and counting until the release of FORGET ME NOT. I decided to take a break from writing and blogging and book launch preparations to go to my friend Desiree's house for a home jewelry party.

I went to graduate school with Desiree and she was my clinical supervisor when I was a wannabe SLP (speech-language pathologist), but we hadn't had time to connect much recently, so I decided to stop by her place for her jewelry party, and what a treat it was. 

I made four new four friends who call themselves FOUR FRIENDS. They are four creative and inspiring local women who make jewelry and do home shows in their spare time (as if any woman has spare time).

One thing led to another and I talked them into making custom jewelry for the October book launch of FORGET ME NOT.  More details will follow as developments unfold.


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Chocolate Covered Cherry Smoothie

Part of leading a writer's life is finding the perfect balance between sedentary activity, exercise, and diet. Something that helps me stay on track with my diet are decadent but healthy treats, such as the Chocolate Covered Cherry Smoothie.  This protein rich drink also provides the perfect afternoon pick me up so I can work on that next chapter of the Maya book I'm writing. The Maya loved chocolate so much, they used the cacao beans as a monetary exchange.

Now that's a culture with the right priorities!

Visit the Simon and Schuster Healthy Living online magazine for the recipe.



Sunday, July 15, 2012

Why I Write for Teens

The following is an excerpt of an article I recently wrote for the Southwest Sage:

I started writing stories for young people before Harry Potter and Twilight made it fashionable to do so, before there was the dystopian world of Hunger Games, before adults were scouring the young adult shelves and writing blogs focused exclusively on teen titles.

Before there were blogs.

Now teen fiction is hot, but back when I envisioned my first stories, there was no Printz Award to honor books in that murky world just beyond the Newbery but not yet in the realm of adult literature. One friend asked, "Why are you writing for teenagers? You could be putting your work out to a larger audience." Now, ironically, young adult fiction is that "larger audience." With popular teen sales skyrocketing, it is often the children’s section of publishing houses that carry them through recessions and economic down turns.

More and more adults are reading stories with children and teens as protagonists. This phenomenon became popular with Harry Potter when the British publisher marketed one cover for adults and another cover for children. They wisely realized that adults love books with young heroes, but are not always so crazy about the covers. Now with the invention of the Kindle, the adult audience for children’s books is expanding.

To read the rest of the article see page 6 of the Southwest Sage

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Writing Workshop: What's Hot in Teen Writing

In preparation for my upcoming workshop on writing for teen's on July 28 (see information below) I stopped by Alamosa Books, an independent Children's Bookstore here in Albuquerque, to talk with owner, Elizabeth Anker, and ask her impressions about the popular fantasy genre.

We started off with a discussion of steam punk. Then we explored the fantasy sub genres of dystopian literature and urban fantasy. I won't go into detail here because I'm using a lot of the information in my upcoming workshop, but I will follow up with a more detailed post in a few weeks. I will say I left the bookstore with several new books, so I know how I'll be spending the rest of my summer. Here's the steam punk title at the top of my reading list:

Elizabeth said that unlike many bookstores, Alamosa makes a distinction between fantasy and science fiction because she believes these are two different genres with two distinct audiences. She says science fiction has a bigger male audience with more sience based reality and less romance. Fantasy, on the other hand, attracts more female readers and contains more magic elements with lots of romance. This can make some novels hard to place if they contain elements of both fantasy and science fiction.

For more information about my upcoming writing workshop in Albuquerque call Southwest Writers Workshop at 505-265-9485
Carolee Dean

Saturday, July 28
9 AM - 12 Noon
Bear Canyon Center
4645 Pitt NE
Albuquerque, NM 87111

Call to Register: SWW Office 505-265-9485
 Learn about the popular subgenres of teen fiction such as novels in verse, paranormal romance, steam punk, contemporary Young Adult (YA), and dystopian fiction. Then learn how to plot your story like a professional, using the presenter’s twelve step story analysis method called "The Secret Language of Stories." With this method, based on the Hero's Journey, explore a variety of plot ideas. Come prepared to brainstorm! Don't worry if you don't have an idea yet. You will by the time you finish this dynamic workshop.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Fitness for Sitters: Walking with Vampires

Between working full time for the public schools and making time to write, it's easy to get behind on reading. I often end up reading in bed and falling asleep after a few pages. I've had many late night conversations with my husband that go something like this:

Hubbie: You're sleeping.
Me: I'm just resting my eyes.
Hubbie: You've been on the same page for   ten minutes.
Me: No I haven't.
Hubbie: You're drooling on the book.
Me: Snore

At this rate it can take forever to make it through a book.

I like listening to books on tape while I drive, but going to the library to check out audio books takes time and when I visit the audio bookstore, they often don't have a lot of young adult selections in stock.

The other activity that often gets short-changed is exercise. It's hard to stay in shape when you spend hours sitting at a desk. By the time I get home in the evening, I'm too tired to go somewhere else. Especially somewhere exhausting like the gym. One day I had a flash of inspiration. I considered that if I listened to books on my phone while I exercised, I might actually accomplish both activities. 
I recently joined and started downloading books to my iPhone. The first book was Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter by Seth Graham-Smith.  I found the book to be very well researched, despite the subject, though I must admit that by the end of the story, the lines between history and horror were a little fuzzy.

The story is built on the premise that vampires were behind the slave trade and the Civil War. No one complained when slaves went missing, so slavery provided the perfect cover for the vampire's bloody appetites. Rich southerners sided with the undead because it was lucrative, not to mention the fact that they were happy they were not on the menu. Abraham Lincoln saw through their real plot which was to have eventual control over everyone. He had a longstanding hatred of them because vampires were responsible for the death of his mother. The current movie version stars Benjamin Walker.

For the workout portion of this undertaking, I used a brand new workout video that I highly recommend: 5 Really Big Miles by Leslie Sansone. The title of the video is straightforward (kind of like the Lincoln-Vampire title). It cost me about thirteen dollars including shipping and came with an exercise band.  There are several features that I really like about this video:

- By the time I am finished with the video (sometimes it takes a few
      days) I have worked all the major muscle groups.
- The people on the video look like my friends and neighbors. Not like someone out of a fitness
- The routines are very basic so I can concentrate on the story I'm listening to and NOT think
     about tripping over my own feet trying to follow something complicated like Zumba.
- The routines are broken down into segments of about fifteen minutes each. Every segment 
     represents one mile so I can measure my progress. Kind of like counting pages.

Now that summer vacation is here and I have more time to write, I'm using the workout routine to help me get up from my desk and get moving. I have developed tendonitis after years of computer use. I write for a while, then get up and walk (while listening to vampire stories of course). Write some more. Walk some more.

If all goes well, by the end of the summer I plan to have completed writing my new book, lost ten pounds, and finished listening to numerous novels.