While I've been indulging FAR TOO MUCH lately, it's no holds barred today... on YA books that center on math, that is. YA Reading List is a fabulous librarian-run blog that features YA booklists around all sorts of themes... including YA novels with a math connection for PI DAY (today). What Can't Wait is hanging out with lots of other books worth checking out right over here.
Three random Pi-related facts about me:
(1) I have eaten a PI pie.
(2) I have a friend with 4+ pi-related tatoos.
(3) My husband charmed me into going on a date with him by sending me a piece of "pi" (a string of 10 digits or so) on a day that I wasn't feeling well.
Happy Pi Day!
A while back, a blog reader asked this question in response to a writing inspiration post:
I hear authors talk all the time about how awfull they used to be, and how they're glad that first book they wrote won't ever see the light of day, etc. But they say they thought they were hot stuff while they were writing those not so great stories . . . So, my question to you, how can you tell when you work stops being crap, and starts being more like the work you admire? When you publish a book, are you ever afraid that in a few years your writing will be so much better, and you will be embarrassed you let that earlier work into the world?
The truth is that I don't know when that frontier from embarrassing to worthy is finally crossed. Usually it happens when I'm not paying attention, when I'm just trying to get from really crappy to less crappy.
There are things about "finished" work that a writer will never be wholly satisfied with. Somebody said that you don't finish a book, you simply abandon it. And he was talking about published work!
What I do know is that there are many writers who will never find readers because they can't bear the gap that always remains between what we write and what we dream of having written. They can't stand for readers to read the work that is, so they never publish at all. But I say that is a shame.
Regarding the last question, I don't think there's anything to be embarrassed about in "young" work. Every book sets its own terms, and its success depends on how well it fulfills those terms. In general, a first novel--my own What Can't Wait included--is a bit less ambitious, trying to do something small well rather than trying to take over the world and failing. (Of course, there are exceptions, like Junot Diaz's first novel, to name just one.) I feel my second novel, The Knife and the Butterfly, attempts something larger and riskier. I stepped outside of my comfort zone with the plotting, for example, and there's something of a paranormal twist.
For me, being a writer means embracing the challenge of working with words--and pushing the envelope of what I'm able to do with each word. I know that I'll (still) write a lot of crap along the way. I don't think the crap every goes away. But most of it stays in writer's notebooks and scrivener files that the reader never sees.
This is another reason that a good editor is indispensable. He or she will usually spot any crap that tries to sneak into the final manuscript.
I don't teach high school anymore, but I can't break the habit of looking for companion texts for books (my own and other). A while back, this description of The Pregnancy Project came across my screen via the School Library Journal blog:
Rodriguez, now 18 and currently attending college, shares her experiences and insights in The Pregnancy Project (S&S, Jan. 2012; Gr 8 Up), a memoir written with Jenna Glatzer. Rodriguez begins by revealing to readers the more personal side of her experiment, candidly describing her mother's experiences (she had her first child at age 15) and struggle to raise a family as a single parent; her siblings' tendency to "repeat the cycle" and become teen parents themselves; and her own determination not to follow in their footsteps but to instead focus on her education and seek out a better life.
Teachers, The Pregnancy Project is just BEGGING to be used alongside What Can't Wait. Literature circles, anyone? If I were still in the classroom, I'd love to use this as a non-fiction accompaniment... I'd serve both books up with a side-dish of Ball Don't Lie by Matt de la Peña and Hanging onto Max, which give (respectively) a pregnancy scare and teen parenting from the dude's POV. And of course, another favorite is The First Part Last by Angela Johnson.
More about The Pregnancy Project here. Teachers, keep emailing me to let me know how you are using What Can't Wait and The Knife and the Butterfly in the classroom. I love hearing all about it!