Writing for Young Adults: Something I Learned the Hard Way, Part 1

When I began seriously pursuing writing as a career, I didn’t intend to write for young adults. My book, A WORK OF ART, was originally aimed toward an older audience, but my critique group convinced me (and rightly so) that it was suited for young adults. After all, its protagonist was a teenage girl, and many of her problems were teenage problems. But making the transition from an adult audience to a YA audience was tougher than it seemed. My early drafts were written in third person, where everything was seen through the eyes of my protagonist. That’s all well...
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It’s All About the Conflict

Writers spend a lot of time on character and plot, which of course are very important, but remember that your story will be boring without CONFLICT. Conflict doesn’t just bring excitement to the pages. Conflict brings characters to life. Think about this. We all make snap decisions about people based on appearance and background information, but it’s not until we see people in action that we learn who they are. Let’s say you’re in high school, sitting in a classroom, and there’s a new girl in class. She’s beautiful, busty, looks like a model. You have some background on her,...
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Scene Setting and POV: 2 Lessons I Learned the Hard Way

As a writer, I loathe setting the scene. I’ve literally spent hours going over the same few paragraphs to make sure I “got it right,” only to delete those same paragraphs on my revision. So much time wasted! But at least all that needless writing taught me a few things. Lesson 1: When setting a scene (at least in first person or close third-person), only mention what’s important to your character at that time. As an example of what I mean, take a look at this passage from an early draft of my work in progress. Fifteen-year-old Layla doesn’t know...
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What Doesn’t Kill Us…

I write for teens, so it’s important that I stay in touch with my teenage self. It would help if I had teenage children (my son is 11), but for now I mostly rely on memories of what it was like back in the day. I say “back in the day” as though I have fond memories of high school—when actually my teenage years were a series of embarrassing events punctuated by flashes of terror. All those insecurities and fears, all that pressure to fit in and be liked. So why do I want to relive those painful experiences through...
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Author Visits

“Melody Maysonet’s presentation for our students was terrific. Students loved meeting and interacting with her, and Melody’s background as a teacher certainly showed in not only her prepared presentation but also her Q & A. Her presentation was interesting, relevant, and not to be missed.” –Cathy Castelli High School Teacher, Atlantic Technical High School “Melody Maysonet provided my students with a tremendous learning experience filled with creative inspiration!” –Jean Brodie MA Language Arts Department, Coral Springs High School   “Melody Maysonet provided an engaging and entertaining presentation for our library’s teen audience. In addition to sharing her own experiences as an author,...
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Win a Copy of A WORK OF ART

Did you know that April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM)? I didn’t until my sister got involved in Safe Passage, an organization that helps prevent domestic violence and sexual assault in her hometown of DeKalb, IL. I should have known about SAAM, especially because my book A WORK OF ART delves into the shame and insecurity that many sexual assault victims suffer from. It also deals with love—how victims of sexual assault sometimes have a skewed perception of what love is, and how sometimes we can love those who victimize us. Research has shown that readers of literary fiction...
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What I Would Tell My Teen Self

As a novelist for young adults, I spend a lot of time trying to recapture the emotions I had in high school. For me, there wasn’t much joy in being a teen. I wrote poetry back then, and a lot of what I wrote captures my self-loathing and fear and confusion. I sometimes wrote about wanting to get life over with. But I also wrote about hope. I hoped things would get better. I only half-believed they would. So if I could go back in time and talk to my teenage self, this is what I’d say: All those feelings...
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The Book I Want If I’m Stranded on a Desert Island

I write edgy fiction for young adults. Real issues. Real problems. So why are my favorite books steeped in fantasy? I’ve always been an avid reader. When I was a kid, I read the same books over and over (Bambi, by Felix Salton; The Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis), but these days, I’m a little more diverse in my tastes. In fact, there’s only one book I go back to again and again—the amazing and wonderful Watership Down by Richard Adams. For those of you who don’t know, Watership Down is a book about rabbits. And yes, I know...
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Writing Tips from the Experts: A Newbie Author’s Take on Writing Conferences

I recently had the honor to sit on the First-Books Panel at the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators Florida Regional Conference, and while it was an amazing experience to tell about my journey to publication and something I will always remember, I came away from the conference with so much more than that. Here are some of the gems I picked up from the wise and talented speakers. Jonathan Maberry, a NY Times bestselling author and five-time Bram Stoker Award winner, passed on the wise words he learned (at the tender age of 13) from legendary author Richard...
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Discussion Guide for A WORK OF ART by Melody Maysonet

1. In the book’s opening paragraph, Tera says that painting her dad is “all about mood.” What mood does the author create in describing this painting? After reading this paragraph, how do you think Tera sees her father? 2. In chapter three, Tera’s dad is teaching five-year-old Tera to draw a self-portrait. In what ways does this chapter foreshadow their relationship? 3. Tera spends the first third of the book trying to protect her dad from the allegations against him, even using her money for art school to hire an expensive lawyer. Do you think she has blinded herself to...
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