Issue 38 - Being Real, Being True: YA Authors Writing for Teens - Ellen Hopkins, Carla McClafferty, Pam Munoz Ryan

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Being True, Being Real: YA Authors

[Issue 38 was guest edited by Margo L. Dill]

I confess—I love young adult literature. Maybe I’ve never grown up, and that’s the reason why I read YA books and write for teens. Maybe I still remember what it’s like to be full of angst over the pimple on your chin before you see your crush in first period, or decide whether or not you should go to the party your parents forbid you to attend. Maybe I fell in love with this genre when I coached high school cheerleading and basketball and discovered that teens are refreshingly honest, full of love and enthusiasm, and surviving every day in a teen-eat-teen world.

When Angela approached me and asked if I would like to guest edit this issue, I had to re-read her e-mail a few times to make sure that she really wanted me. (See...teen angst, anyone?) Then, I sent her an e-mail that said I would love to, and I’m sure it was filled with a thousand exclamation marks. I’m so thrilled to share this genre with WOW! readers and present these articles and interviews about books that are hot and edgy and authors who work hard to keep teens reading.

And what an issue we have for you! We have interviews with authors who cover everything from the history of X-rays to a crystal meth addiction. We have articles from writers who have explored the much-debated topic of YA censorship, how to use social networking with your teen audience, and when or why to put references to Facebook or MP3 players in your YA fiction.

But most importantly, you’ll find that all of the advice points to how crucial it is to be real and true when writing for teens. They’re an audience that will be the first to inform you that you didn’t work hard enough to create an engaging and real story; but teens will also be the first ones to dedicate their lives to promoting your books and buying your sequels if you touch their hearts and minds.

WOW! has dedicated issues to children’s writing in the past. If you want more information on children’s writing, or you write for a different age group, then check out: Picture Perfect Children's Books (February 2009), and Once Upon a Writer (October 2007).

A big, warm thank you goes out to our freelancers and staff members:

We welcome back freelancer Allena Tapia and thank her for her insightful article into the issue of censorship of YA novels. Allena shows us through interviews with authors, teachers, students, parents, and librarians why some novels are challenged and removed from shelves, why many people don’t agree with these practices, and what people are doing to fight censorship. But best of all, she includes advice on what to do if you’re worried about censorship of your YA work and what to do if you find yourself facing parents who are challenging your books. She talks to us about how to “speak your truth!”

Interested in the nonfiction YA market? We welcome back and thank freelancer and workshop leader, Darcy Pattison, for providing us an interview with author Carla McClafferty, who has three YA nonfiction books on X-rays, Marie Curie and radium, and the American journalist Varian Fry, who helped over 2,000 refugees escape Nazi-occupied France. Carla helps us understand how to take a nonfiction idea and turn it into a high-concept idea that will sell. She discusses book proposals, loglines, and agents. This is an interview not to miss, even if you’ve never considered nonfiction writing—Darcy and Carla might just change your mind.

We welcome Kathy Higgs-Coulthard to the WOW! family and thank her for her interview with YA author Ellen Hopkins. I was so excited when Kathy queried us, offering an interview with Ellen, who is one of the most gracious authors I know. Ellen writes her YA novels about controversial subjects such as drug abuse, sexual promiscuity, and mental illness in verse. Yes—you read that correctly—in verse! If you haven’t read an Ellen Hopkins novel, I urge you to rush out and find one. Kathy talks with Ellen about building real teenage characters, finding an authentic YA voice, and her writing process as well as so much more about her books and teen fans. I won’t be surprised if you find yourself bookmarking this article and coming back again and again to learn from Ellen’s expert advice.

In the Summer 2009 Flash Fiction Contest, Bridgid Gallagher won an honorable mention; and now we welcome her to the WOW! family, and thank her for her article on connecting with readers through social media. She answers many of the questions and concerns I’ve heard YA authors discuss and have seen debated on Twitter. Bridgid interviews YA authors Bree Despain, Melissa Marr, and Lisa Schroeder to discover how they use social networking sites, blogs, and websites to reach their teen readers. She also talks with industry experts Alice Pope and Greg Pincus, who are both regular users on Twitter and full of advice for YA authors. You’ll gain many great tips and ideas for your own blog, website, and social media use.

Allena Tapia also gives us a sensational 20 Questions interview with Pam Muñoz Ryan; and we thank Allena for contacting Pam, who is an extremely busy author writing across several genres. Pam is well-known for her award-winning YA books, Esperanza Rising and Riding Freedom. Pam discusses writing everything from board books to YA novels, universal teenage themes, her writing process, and some of her inspiration. If you want to read how a seasoned pro writes her books and even organizes her office, don’t miss this interview.

We welcome freelancer Trina Sotira to WOW! and thank her for her contribution to this month’s Freelancer’s Corner. Trina confesses to us that she’s a pack rat; but luckily, she’s found ways to use those teenage photos and mementos she’s saved in her YA novels. Trina shows us how to take your obsessions from your teenage years and turn these into unique and memorable character traits. Her humor and enthusiasm will get you in front of a computer and working on your YA characters.

Freelancer BJ Marshall joins WOW! for the first time with a How 2 column about using technology references in YA novels. We thank BJ for figuring out whether or not we should mention our character’s iPod or call it an MP3 player, or whether characters should write on their friend’s Facebook wall or send a text message instead. Many contemporary fiction writers worry about dating their stories, and BJ provides good tips on how to avoid making this mistake.

Everybody needs a bit of inspiration! Returning freelancer and WOW! blog tour manager, Jodi Webb, gives us some writing inspiration in her interview with author Liz Rosenberg. Liz is another one of those talented authors who has written and published everything from poetry books to YA novels; and during the interview, she was also busy moving to London! We want to thank Jodi and Liz for providing this interview in spite of moving boxes cluttering up a new household. Liz is a teacher, too; and this is easy to tell since her answers to Jodi’s questions are full of advice and support for writers. Liz inspires us with stories of why she writes for teens as well as discussing how encouraging it is to know her books touch her young readers and keep them reading!

Most of all, I’d like to thank Angela Mackintosh, WOW!’s editor-in-chief, who is a constant and gracious supporter of women writers around the world. Angela’s expert advice, guidance, and creativity have helped me put this issue together, and I hope it’s one of your favorites!

On to the issue...enjoy!






Angela Miyuki Mackintosh is Editor-in-Chief and Art Director of WOW! Women On Writing. She has been published in Maxim, Transworld Surf and Skate, Vice Magazine, and numerous trade publications for the action-sports industry. She is an award-winning artist whose works have been commissioned for public art by the city of Long Beach, and has received grants from Funds for Women.

Angela lives in Placentia, California with her husband, Michael, and her cat, Noodle.



Margo L. Dill is a freelance writer, editor, and teacher, living in Mahomet, Illinois. Her work has appeared in publications such as Grit, Pockets, True Love, Fun for Kidz, Missouri Life, ByLine Magazine, and The News-Gazette. She is a columnist and contributing editor for WOW! Women On Writing. She is assistant editor for the Sunday Book page in The News-Gazette. Her first book, Finding My Place, a middle-grade historical novel, will be published by White Mane Kids. She writes a blog called, Read These Books and Use Them, for parents, teachers, and librarians. She owns her own copyediting business, Editor 911. When she's not writing, she loves spending time with her husband, stepson, and two dogs—Chester, a boxer, and Hush Puppy, a basset hound. You can find out more about Margo by visiting her website:


Joanne Hirase-Stacey is an attorney turned freelance writer. She lives on a mountain pass in southeastern Idaho with her very supportive husband, Bill. Joanne and Bill love rescuing the “dangerous breeds” of dogs, and currently have a Belgian shepherd named Maggie, a Rottweiler named Isamu, and a Pit Bull named Zebekiah. Joanne has been published in legal journals, and various magazines and anthologies. She will soon have her own “star” on the “Walk of Fame” in Pocatello, Idaho when her poem is engraved into stone and embedded into the sidewalk in Historic Old Town. When she’s not writing, you can find Joanne running up and down the mountain, quilting, painting (watercolors, oils and acrylics), practicing her karate (she’s slowly making her way to a black belt!), and trading in the Forex market. You can visit her website at!


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