05 Aug

Famous Last Words – Follow Up

Posted in Blogfest, Writing Exercises


Hello all,

I got some comments asking where the different lines came from (and some guesses too!) so I thought I’d do a little follow-up post today to let you all know.  Here goes:



  • No one has claimed them yet.
    From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. Konigsburg
  • “Let me tell you about it.”
    Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • Everything must go.
    Feed by M.T. Anderson
  • “Make me pretty.”
    Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
    (Yay Charmaine and Margo for guessing right!)
  • …and it was still hot.
    Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
  • It is not often that someone comes along who i s a true friend and a good writer.  [She] was both.
    Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White
    (Double woot to Margo for getting this one as well!)


My personal favorite is the line from Where the Wild Things Are because it can be interpreted in SO many different ways.  So now, I’d love to know: if you did the exercise, how did it go for you?  Did you come up with something that you weren’t expecting?

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10 Jun

YA Cafe: Why Do You Write YA?

Posted in Blogfest, Teen Lit, Writing, YA Cafe

Welcome Back to YA Cafe, where book lovers can gather and chat about teen literature. I’m your barista, along with Ghenet from All About Them Words.

Each Friday we pick from a menu of topics and share our thoughts on our respective blogs. We’ve also got plans brewing for interviews, events and even some exciting giveaways, so stay tuned! Join the discussion by responding in the comments, on your own blogs or on twitter using the hash tag #yacafe.

Today’s Special: “Why Do You Write YA?” Blogfest

I have to admit, I’ve been struggling with this post.  At first I thought it would be easy, because the answer seems so obvious.  I write YA because it’s AWESOME! (duh, right?)  But that didn’t exactly seem like it could fill an entire post.

I dug deeper.  In light of all the #YASaves stuff that happened this weekend, I thought that maybe my love for YA came from having discovered that special YA book as a teen.  Maybe I write YA now because growing up that’s what I loved to read most.

Truth is, though, I didn’t start reading YA until I was an adult.  When I was a teen, I went to one of those scary-competitive schools and had so much reading to do for class that there was little time left to read for fun.  Even during the summer, when most kids get to choose what they read, we had two set list of books we could choose from: The Great Books, and The Very Good Books.  (N.B. Great Books comprised the classics written by dead white men and Very Good Books consisted of top-notch contemporary literary fiction.  Not much room for YA on that list.) So while YA is what I love to read most now, it was not what I read as a teen.

Then I thought, maybe I write YA so that I can rewrite my own teen years so that they would turn out better.  But again, the dirty truth: my teen years weren’t really all that bad and certainly they didn’t merit rewriting.  When I write YA, I make my characters go through things a million times worse than what I ever went through.  In fact, my teenage life was pretty ordinary.  I spent most of my time doing schoolwork or with a violin tucked under my chin.  My best friends were my siblings and the most illicit thing I ever did was take my little sister shopping for a fake ID was so she could get into a teen-only nightclub in Brazil.  Pretty innocuous stuff.  If I needed to rewrite my teen years at all it would be to make them more exciting and interesting, not less.

The truth is, I write YA because when I was a teen, things mattered. We got worked up about the smallest things: like how we hosted a sit-in in the school lobby in seventh grade to protest the fact that the middle school students couldn’t vote for student government.  Or how when that one particular boy noticed (or didn’t notice) me, it would either make or break my day.  Big stuff mattered but small stuff mattered too.

This is why I write YA.  Because whether you’re writing about serious problems like homelessness or eating disorders, or just the typical teen stuff like boy-meets-girl, it matters to the readers.  And if it matters to my readers then it most definitely matters to me.


There’s still time to sign-up  using the linky below and then just write your post and, tell us why you write YA on  your own blog.  And don’t forget to hop around to different blogs and see what other  folks are saying!


06 Oct

The Universe of iggi U: Student Speaker – SA Larsen

Posted in Blogfest, DIY MFA, Writing

Today we have our Student Speaker guest post and blogfest!  SA Larsen (AKA Sheri) was one of the first people to join in on DIY MFA and has been a part of this blog community since… almost since when this blog started.  She’s a young adult and middle grade writer, wife, and mother to four humanoids. A romantic at heart and self-proclaimed chocoholic, she’s a lover of all things paranormal and the owner of the infamous Graffiti Wall on Writers’ Ally. She can be found on Twitter and Facebook. Read on for Sheri’s take on DIY MFA and don’t forget to scroll to the bottom, to read other posts by other DIY MFAers.  And now, here’s Sheri!

Writing is an evolution for both writer and the works he or she produces. A successful writer is not merely one who is published, but one willing to constantly train and mature within the craft.

Over the last four weeks, iggi U has taken us from one well mapped-out element of writing to the next and given us our own in-house Do-It-Yourself MFA. Totally cool! Technique, reading habits, and inspiration have all been covered. I, for one, will take with me the sense of community developed here and Gabi’s enthusiasm for the written word. It’s contagious, and I love that.

The idea of mind mapping is one of the exciting techniques I’ve honed while at iggi U. It almost reminded me of my theatre classes when the instructor gave us a phrase, and as we acted it out, he’d toss another completely unrelated phrase at us. This kind of activity is great, pushing us out of my comfort zone and beyond our average, mundane thoughts. Personal translation: resurrection from the cautious and otherwise boring scenes, plots, or sub-plots I might have come up with. It’s an innovative way to stretch those mental and creative muscles. I’ve tucked this tool away in my creative writing arsenal for the next time I’m jittery about taking a writing risk.

If you’re anything like me, once I have a scene or a chapter in mind, I tend to go on autopilot and just write. I’m definitely a pantser. Outlining is too restrictive for my squishy brain. Grid out my gray matter and you might as well have erased my thought process entirely. But Gabi’s lessons on the In’s and Out’s of Plotting and the Character Compass, not to mention TADA—which is magnificent, BTW—got me thinking. An itemized list of capital A to G with numbers trailing behind like the Pied Piper isn’t necessary. But I also don’t need to abandon planning all together. I can ask myself simple questions, analyzing conflict, and character traits and growth as I write. If I find any weaknesses, I can turn to the mind mapping method to develop more. And even if I find solid, engaging conflict, I can still use this technique to add a little heat and spice, and maybe deepen the plot in a way I hadn’t thought of yet. I call this non-restrictive, and I’ll definitely be applying this to my writing rhymes.

The last element I’d like to mention is the idea of Reading Like a Writer. This happens to be a topic I’ve studied a lot. Don’t get me wrong; it is vital we read for pleasure. But learning to have that ‘writer’s eye’ while reading other’s work is a form of invaluable training for a writer. I plan on honing this method even more now.

Overall, iggi U has been a wonderful experience and has given me insight into my personal workings as a writer. And best of all, the lessons and discussions can be a continued writing resource by the simple click of a key and a link.

I’d like to thank Gabi for sharing her talents and love of writing with us.

Thank you Sheri, and thank you everyone who helped make DIY MFA a success.  Now, check out these awesome links below.


15 Jul

DIY MFA: A Plan for Writers New and Experienced

Posted in Blogfest, DIY MFA, Writing

I recently graduated from an MFA program in creative writing, and as I have blogged previously MFA programs, while valuable, are also flawed.  Don’t get me wrong, I am so glad I had that experience and would not trade it for anything.  I do, however, realize that not all writers are as lucky as I was to be able to do an MFA.  For some it’s the geography–there just isn’t an MFA program conveniently located in their hometown.  For others, work/family/life make going back to school complicated.  And let’s not forget the budget issue; MFA’s aren’t cheap and writing isn’t exactly a career that guarantees piles of moolah.

Which brings me to the point of this post.  For some time now I’ve been tossing around a crazy idea: What if there were such a thing as a Do-It-Yourself MFA in Creative Writing?  The advantage of a DIY MFA is that writers can complete the work at their own pace, tailor the writing/reading/study plan to their specific genre or interests, and anyone could do it regardless of geography, logistics or budget.

To that end, I’ve decided to do a series of posts about DIY MFA (just in time for this Blogfest)!  Stay tuned for more posts about how to put together your own tailor-made MFA writing program.

Disclaimer: DIY MFA means you don’t get that shiny piece of paper at the end of it all and the clouds will not part and a beam of light will not anoint you a “Master of Fine Arts in Writing.”  So if you’re into pieces of paper, beams of light and so forth, I suggest you get your application together and go for the real deal.  But if your goal is to improve your reading and writing skills, work on craft and challenge yourself, then maybe a DIY MFA is for you.  Curious about what goes into a DIY MFA?  Read on.

Ingredients for a DIY MFA

Books:  If you want to create a DIY MFA you’ll need access to books.  That means if you’re living on a desert island with no libraries, bookstores or internet, you’ll have a hard time putting together a DIY MFA.  Then again, if you’re on a desert island with no libraries, bookstores or internet, you probably wouldn’t be reading this anyway.  As you put together your DIY MFA, one of the things you’ll need to do is develop a reading list.

Critique Partners:  You’ll need at least 2 trusted readers to whom you can send writing for feedback.  The beauty of this is that with the internet at your fingertips, you don’t even need to be on the same continent as your critique partners.  Of course, face-to-face meetings are great, but it’s certainly not a deal-breaker if you must do critiques via email.

Time:  You will need to set aside some amount of time each week (even if it’s only an hour or two on a weekend afternoon) for your writing.  Honing your craft takes time and you must protect this time from interlopers.  This is the advantage of being in an MFA program: if someone starts getting in the way of your writing time you can just say “sorry, got schoolwork.”  In a DIY MFA you’ll have to protect your writing time on your own.

Community:  Perhaps the most valuable aspect of going to an MFA program was the opportunity to meet other writers (both emerging writers like myself and established writers).  My MFA program required that we attend a minimum of 8 readings each semester and I think that is extremely important.  In a DIY MFA, you don’t have a built-in set of readings sponsored by the school to choose from.  Instead, you’ll have to hunt down readings and literary events for yourself.  Some places to look: your local bookstore or library, poets.org (they have a great events calendar), and literary associations.

Check back for more posts about the DIY MFA.


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