Amy Scripps

Archive for 2011|Yearly archive page

Long Before BFF Acronym, Girls Pledged to Love Forever

In teen girls on October 4, 2011 at 8:56 pm

A favorite theme in children’s and young adult literature is childhood best-friendship so intense that it inspires a ritual or oath to commemorate it. This undying sentiment has been distilled into the texting acronym ‘BFF,’ bestowed on that one and only friend who has earned ‘forever’ status. While some girls may attempt to have more than one BFF, technically by calling someone ‘best’ you are designating an exclusivity only one soul mate can earn.

Authors celebrate the bond of best friends, exploring various ways that children and teens pledge their undying devotion. “Blood Sisters” mingle blood, either by pressing bleeding forefingers together or drinking wine with blood dripped into it. Oaths to meet again in the distant future have a romantic flair matched only by sworn promises  ‘never to forget’ an adventure, as platonic soul mates Tess and Lisa vow in Cinnamon Girls. One of the things I love about their friendship is that it is not encumbered by the murky motivations of seeking validation or sexual pleasure that sullies the girls’ relationships with Andy and Tucker. Friendship asks only that the BFF be trustworthy. Or, if the BFF totally f**ks up, as humans and especially teens are wont to do, the friend must promptly ‘fess up. Almost any failing can be forgiven as long as you are rigorously honest.

Of course modern parents dread that BFF status may be set in stone via a tattoo that their child will have to have painfully lasered off in the future.

No matter how you show the depth of your bond with a female friend, it is my hope that you will remember that feeling forever, keeping the final ‘F” in your BFF pledge for a lifetime. After all, boys come and go but blood sisters are forever.

Getting into the Teenage Mind: The Attraction of Risks

In Uncategorized on September 16, 2011 at 5:39 pm

I am currently writing a teen boy character, and I’ve been looking in to how they think and act. In a sense, I am inherently writing from the viewpoint of an unreliable narrator, because there are deeply irrational thought processes as work here which, unless you are under the influence of a powerful cocktail of adolescent hormones, you must stretch to understand. Slate published a series on risk and the adolescent brain last year that has been helpful. Basically, if you are writing a character with normal logic who is 16, you are not doing your job as a YA author. Check it out:

Young Adult Books Need Relatable Rebels to Attract Boys

In Uncategorized on August 22, 2011 at 6:36 pm

This article is really interesting. My new book has a male protagonist, so I suppose I’ve unwittingly entered the challenging arena of trying to get boys to read. Or, I am hoping girls will read because they have a crush on him. Either way, we are all fighting against the draw of the ipad, gaming and an ever-growing barrage of media competing for the young adult boy’s eyeballs. Is there any way that we, as writers, and/or publishing in general, have played a part in making books irrelevant to todays teen boys? The article below has some ideas for how we can get back on the same team with this important reader, and bring them back into the fold…

Vacation From the Book?

In Uncategorized on June 25, 2011 at 3:24 am

I planned to write every day on this vacation. It should be no problem, as on vacation I have much more free time than during my exhausting normal routine. But the first thing I did was forget my laptop plug at home. Must admit I wondered if this oversight may have been a subconscious need to take a break.
What do I do without writing? I fill each day with travel, friends, babies, relatives, clients, cover to cover NYT reads, books (none of which I’ve finished), walks in the rain, amazing scenery and of course, a smorgasbord of scrumptious food. As Andy McDowell’s character in Sex Lies & Videotape says wistfully, “I was happy once. I got so fat…”
I love that quote because it speaks to the beautiful but messy process that unfolds when we let go of discipline and let ourselves, as they say, roll with it. It’s an intuitive state that happens to be fertile ground for ideas, even if for the moment they remain “up here.” (tapping my temple)
Not that I haven’t tried. I bought two notebooks, both sitting in their bags. Tomorrow marks the passing of the first week of vacation. I’ll open a notebook and get cracking in honor of my journey’s halfway point. I’m actually looking forward to capturing some of the ideas kicking around in my head.
Okay, there, I’ve made a commitment. One thousand words or bust. And if it feels too much like work, I’ll nibble on some really good chocolate while I crank it out.

Why I am writing my second novel without a critique group:

In Uncategorized on June 9, 2011 at 5:42 am

“You learn best by reading a lot and writing a lot, and the most valuable lessons you learn are the ones you teach yourself.” – Stephen King, On Writing

On Stephen King, Writing and Logging Off

In Uncategorized on May 19, 2011 at 7:35 pm

I am currently reading Stephen King’s On Writing and basically hanging on his every word. Some moments when he is sharing the specifics of the work ethic that has marked his famously prolific career, I am proud that I have adhered to his suggestions without even knowing it. For instance, ever since I started writing books, I was willing to take notes and comments from readers I respected, and use them to make the work better. Secondly, I felt that the first draft was sacred ground, like a place you have to go to all by yourself before you are ready to ‘let others in.’ Lastly, I love the way he remarks on people saying snarky things to him about writing popular literature, as if it is somehow a ‘lesser’ art form if a lot of people read it. King certainly has earned the right to thumb his nose at the pretentious posers of the lit world. I have had people, especially family members, say similar things to me about writing for the Young Adult market.

But while many of his suggestions have validated my own writing practices, one King assertion is decidedly uncomfortable for me to hear. Turn off the TV, he says. If you are a serious writer you do not have time to squander sitting in front of a ‘glass box.’ Okay, I am thinking, I can handle that. If you are going to churn out 6,000 words a week as he proposes, obviously something has to go. And I can give up TV without much angst. But a darker revelation lurked beneath his words.

On Writing was published  in 2000, when the internet was, compared to today, in its infancy. I don’t think I have to tell you this unrefutable truth: today’s internet is a much more daunting time sucker than the glass box ever was. So out of enormous respect and gratitude for his brilliant, tough-love advice on how to be a prolific and adverb-free writer, I must add my own personal addendum to his TV suggestion:
NO INTERNET DURING YOUR WRITING TIME. If you are to turn out 1,000 words a day, 6 days a week (or even my modified version, 500 words a day, 5 days a week), you do not have time for Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, ichat, e-commerce, or any digital noodling other than RESEARCH FOR THE BOOK.

*Phew*, there, I’ve said it. Love it or hate it, that is my key to producing pages in this distraction-riddled world. My new credo is try to write in a place where I cannot log on to the internet, so that I will not risk being swept up into a cyber world and look up having lost hours of all-too-precious writing time.
And with that, faithful readers, I will sign off…

My Husband Says I’m Obsessed with YA

In Uncategorized on May 13, 2011 at 11:16 pm

Not in an icky way, but in a sociological way, I study young adults and make a concerted effort to know what’s happening with them. My husband says I’m obsessed, and surmises that unfinished business in my high school years fuels my fascination for anything teen. My reply to that is a resounding, “no comment.” I am not interested in why teens interest me, but being a YA novelist surely gives me license to observe and try to understand them.

For instance, I was getting a latte at the Coffee Bean nearest Santa Monica High right when school got out. Sure enough, it was a treasure trove of teen watching as I scanned the mob, searching for the depressed teen walking home alone, the teens in happily unruly mobs, the young lovers intertwined, and the brainiacs with backpacks larger than their bodies. As a writer, this is where the dramatic paydirt is – the moments when hopes are dashed for the first time, when betrayal is a fresh and ferocious feeling and love is a new invention you and your boyfriend just came up with. Of course, my children are much younger so I’m able to witness the dysfunction and pain of adolescence in a somewhat detatched way. Who knows, maybe when I actually have teenagers I’ll have to steer clear of writing YA. It may hit too close to home…

A Great Title

In Uncategorized on May 3, 2011 at 8:19 pm

I am working on my new YA manuscript and of course, when stumped, I noodle around on a doc I call New Novel Names. I heard a famous quotation to the effect that finding the perfect title is critical to writing The Great American Novel, and I’ve been superstitious ever since. Definitely not in the “Untitled Novel by so and so” camp, I’m convinced that having a name that inspires is important to the writing process. If I search and search and find no title that parks itself neatly in my mind, I start to worry. I sometimes tinker with working titles – names that appeal to me but aren’t worthy of a major commitment.

In my opinion, input from others can taint this organic author-ly pursuit. Just as the Jewish have a tradition of never divulging a baby name until the infant is squalling and soiling its diapers, it’s best not to ask people what they think about your title. Until you sell the book, these pages are your baby. Your gut feeling must reign supreme.

Of course after a manuscript is sold or is represented by an agent, you’ll get lots of input on your book name. And at that point, someone might – God forbid – come up with a title idea you like better than yours. (This actually happened with Cinnamon Girls.) But sometimes you hear stories of marketing folks botching this important aspect of publishing. For instance, Peter Benchley was discouraged from using the title “Jaws” because the publisher thought people would think the thriller was a dentistry tome.

Title changes are a fact of life in any form of entertainment or literature, but during the writing process, writer knows best. For a wonderful article on book names, check out  “Titles That Didn’t Smell as Sweet” from the aptly titled New York Times.

Hating quitting…

In Uncategorized on April 13, 2011 at 5:30 pm

Quitting coffee, for serious devotees like me, is like giving up a really great lover. You only do it because you have to, reluctantly admitting that the relationship –although delicious — has become bad for your health. It’s no fun to make such a logical adult decision, and even less fun to walk away from a substance that brought you near-orgasmic joy.

My choice to quit coffee came on the heels of a really bad business decision. One of those judgement calls that keeps you up at night with the fretful mantra, ‘How could I have done that? What was I thinking?’ After some self examination, I came up with the reason. I made the decision impaired. Amped up on mud-strong Peets Italian roast from the new mini Bodum coffee press at my desk, to be exact.

The little white coffee press was an acquisition that might have been enjoyable for some. But for a java junkie like me, it was the conduit for the caffeine overdose that would bring me to my knees. And very nearly brought me to court.

Interestingly, as I crawled, yowling like an alley cat, through the first days off my drug of choice, many people asked why I quit coffee. I would just stand and blink at them. Obviously if they were asking that question they didn’t know me very well. To my husband’s inquiries on how I was doing, I spat out chipper replies like, ‘Without coffee I have no reason to live,’ and ‘There is no way for me go on.’

Living without coffee for the past 7 days, I have become intimately acquainted with all of the wonderful things the drug was doing for me. Number one, like any drug, caffeine lifted me out of the stark realities of the day-to-day, and elevated me to a state where all was possible and I was on the fast track to new professional and personal heights. (A state commonly known as the ‘coffee buzz,’ only I firmly believe I was more susceptible than most.) Secondly, a cup of Joe conveniently removed all traces of my appetite, and has probably helped keep me in my coveted skinny jeans. Finally, stopping for a latte on my way in to the office gave me a moment of blissful self indulgence – a deserved reward for the uber working mom schedule that I pull off each day.

For six full days, my withdrawal headaches proved impervious to the Advil, aspirin and Tylenol cocktail I took each day. My brain seemed to be literally writhing in its cranium, but that wasn’t the only symptom of kicking. My thoughts were frighteningly muddy – I forgot my wallet when going out for lunch and couldn’t remember the names of close friends. But the hardest part of quitting coffee wasn’t the physical withdrawal. It was giving up a beloved habit – the attachment to my little best-friend-in-a-cup. The ancient commercial tagline ‘You deserve a break today’ comes to mind. And you know what? I do.

I quit coffee because it made my sensitive, emotional consititution even more easily rattled. It made me snap at my kids. And by dosing myself with a stimulant constantly, I had ultimately sabotaged my natural high energy level. Without my cup of Joe, I found myself climbing into bed all too often. I knew from past experience that if I could get off of it cold turkey, my natural energy would return and I would actually exercise more.

I hate to end this post on a pollyanna note, but I have to admit that herbal tea has gotten much better since last time I quit. Yogi Tea boxes are easy to tote in my purse and restaurants – miraculously – do have boiling water. The new addition to the desk is a fancy electric kettle, and a stack of pretty much every brand of herbal tea sold at Whole Foods.

My recommendation to those of you considering quitting the shiny black bean?

Don’t do it unless you absolutely have to!!
Juan Valdez aka ‘The Pusher Man’

Goddesses

In Uncategorized on March 19, 2011 at 3:18 am

Lisa and I gravitated back to the teepee, which was mottled with shadows from a nearby ponderosa pine. I approached the entrance. Lisa joined me as I parted the canvas door flap and ducked inside.
The well-lit circular room offered ample space for us to walk around. I stared up at the long, spindly pine poles that formed the teepee’s interior framework. All of the poles joined together at the top of the cone, then poked out into the blue sky. Above us, sunlight streamed in through an opening at the apex of the poles, warming our shoulders.

“Wow, Tess.”
Lisa stood in the circle of light at the center of the round room.
“It’s beautiful.” She said.
I nodded.
“There’s a special energy that happens right here in the center.”
“Totally,” Lisa said.
Lisa understood what I felt standing there. At least, I hoped so.
“It’s sacred ground.”

There was no way to say it without sounding corny, but what the Hell. It was true. Lisa nodded. We stood there for a few minutes, looking up at the teepee poles. Eventually I flopped onto my patchwork quilt-covered mattress. The twp twin beds met at one end, pillows touching.Luxuriating in my bed, I lit up a joint.

“Dad never told me he was bringing all this stuff up here,” I said. “Really?” Lisa asked. “The day they put up the teepee, none of this was here — the beds, quilts, camp light, axe, chopping block, woodpile, the cooler.”
“He wanted to surprise you,” Lisa said. “It’s kind of sweet.”

I had myriad reasons to be pissed off at my father, but the image of him stealthily outfitting the teepee made me smile. I had to admit; the man was a pro at surprises.

I opened my dog-eared book, Mythology, by Edith Hamilton, which I had swiped from our bookshelf in Boulder. I could tell the book had belonged to my mother. Her elegantly handwritten notes filled its pages, but I couldn’t read her shorthand.

I loved Greek, Roman and American Indian mythology. The symbolism appealed to me, along with the idea of gods who lived above it all, wielding their superpowers in seemingly random ways. The goddesses – especially the fierce ones – were far out. I generally skipped stories that only dealt with the male gods.
I read for a while, then saved my page with my thumb and looked up.

“Do you know about Athena?”

“The goddess of beauty, right?” Lisa said.

“Nope. She was the goddess of war, the city, handicrafts, and agriculture. Plus she represented reason.”
“What a list!” Lisa said.
She was sketching in charcoal on the textured page of her sketchbook.
“Athena was Zeus’s daughter. Guess how she was born?”
“I give up.”
“Get this – ‘She sprang from Zeus’s skull, fully grown and dressed in a full set of armor.’”
I showed Lisa the illustration of the armored goddess.
“Don’t Greek and Roman goddesses just drift around in silk togas?” she asked.
“She’s not your average goddess. She was Zeus’s favorite.”
“You don’t actually believe in this stuff?” Lisa asked.
No. I don’t know. It interests me.”
“Well, I think myths are just stories people made up to explain stuff. But I do believe in God.”
As in, Christianity and Jesus?”
Nope. God is definitely female.”
“A goddess?” I grinned.
Lisa smiled back.
“Totally.”

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