Favorite Author Feature: Laurie Halse Anderson

In 2017 I shared Favorite Book Features on my favorite books. This year I started a new series—features on my favorite authors! I’m going to return to my favorite books shelf and look into some of my favorite authors. I’ll share about their books I’ve read and why they’re an awesome author. Today’s featured author is the incomparable Laurie Halse Anderson!

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Favorite Author Feature: Laurie Halse Anderson

Laurie Halse Anderson is a New York Times-Bestselling author. She writes for kids and teens, and writes both contemporary and historical ficiton. Her books feel so true to life and have a way of putting real faces and heart-wrenching stories on the sometimes undefinable problems that teenagers face today. I’ve read all of her books for teens except for the Seeds of America Trilogy.

While I wouldn’t say that Twisted or Catalyst were very memorable, I truly enjoyed reading Prom, Fever, 1793, The Impossible Knife of Memory, and Wintergirls. And, of course, Speak is my favorite book. And I think I like the graphic novel of Speak (with art by Emily Carroll) even more than the original version. Click on the book titles to check out my reviews of Anderson’s books.

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As you can see, I own a lot of editions of Speak.

I recently read Anderson’s newest book: Shout, which is a memoir in poems. I loved getting a look “behind the scenes,” learning her history and what led to her writing Speak.

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I got to meet Laurie Halse Anderson in 2016

I had the opportunity to meet Anderson in 2016 when she came to speak at a local bookstore as part of her tour for Ashes. In person, she bubbles up with passion for her subjects. She is a fierce advocate for the unheard, and an incredible writer that inspires me every day.


Have you read any of Laurie Halse Anderson’s books? Which ones are your favorites?

What I’m Reading: Graphic Novels

When I read The Lunar Chronicles, I was so sad to finish the books because I already missed the characters. Then I discovered Marissa Meyer had written two more books in the series, set between the main novels and the epilogue in Stars Above. And they were graphic novels.

In my mind, graphic novels always meant superhero, action-packed stories. So I avoided them. But I loved the Lunar Chronicles series and wanted more, so I finally decided to give graphic novels a try.

I loved them.

And Wires and Nerve, volumes I and II, much like the novels-in-verse I’ve been reading lately, opened my eyes to more of what books can be.

It was so cool to see the Lunar Chronicles come to life. I had spent months immersed in this story world, and I could finally see my favorite characters in action. I thought I wouldn’t like reading the comic book style, with pictures and captions, but I found myself excited to pick up the story whenever I had time to read. It was a fun and interesting experience to “see” the story while technically still reading.

I finished the Wires and Nerve books all too quickly, so I rushed back to the library for more, only to find the graphic adaptation of my favorite book: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson.

Reading the Wires and Nerve books opened me up to graphic novels, but the graphic adaptation of Speak affected me in a way I wasn’t expecting. Melinda’s story is powerful in words, but seeing it drawn out, especially when you get to see the art Melinda creates, makes this story even stronger. I almost felt like it was supposed to be in graphic form all along.

After reading these three graphic novels, I am ready for more. I have three more graphic novels checked out from the library (two more adaptations of existing books like Speak and an original) and I can’t wait to read them.

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I can’t wait to read the graphic adaptation of Anne Frank’s Diary!

I’ve been working to expand my reading over the past year, reading many books by people of color, lots of novels-in-verse, and now graphic novels. It’s important to open your mind to all that reading and writing can be, and to take in a lot of different voices. But, even though I think graphic novels are cool now, I still don’t think I’ll be reading superhero stories any time soon.


Do you like graphic novels? Which books would you recommend?

A Book I Turn to When…

Books can be friends and reminders. We turn to books to learn and sometimes to escape. Books can hold special memories and can be comfort to turn back to.

If you’re like me, these are your favorite books—the rereads you keep coming back to for different reasons. Today I wanted to share with you some of the titles I read over and over again, and why I turn to them.

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Some of my favorite rereads: Everlost by Neal Shusterman, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, The Selection by Kiera Cass, and Somewhere Only We Know by Bri Marino

A book I turn to when…

…I want to go on an adventureThe Skinjacker Trilogy by Neal Shusterman

The Skinjacker Trilogy—Everlost, Everwild, and Everfound—are incredible books about the world between life and death. The series follows Allie and Nick as they journey through Everlost, and it’s full of so much adventure and imagination that I love turning back to these books.

…I want to escapeThe Selection Series by Kiera Cass

I think I’ve read the original trilogy more times than any other books. I’ve written on here many times how much I love these books. The Selection is simply a fun, swoon-worthy, light read that still packs an emotional punch.

…I want to be inspiredSpeak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Speak is probably my favorite book ever. This is such a powerful story about rape and healing and finding your voice, and every time I read it I feel so inspired.

…I want to enjoy a classicFahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451 is my favorite classic novel, and one of only a few classics I actually like. I love turning back to this older book from time to time because it is science fiction at its best.

…I want to encourage myselfSomewhere Only We Know by Bri Marino

Writing can be discouraging work, and if I need inspiration to keep going, what better work to turn back to than my own? Rereading my published book reminds me that I’ve done it before and can do it again.


What are your favorite rereads and why do you keep turning back to them?

Favorite Book Feature: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

There’s only a few months and a few Favorite Book Features left for the year. October’s featured book is one that was a great source of inspiration for my novel Somewhere Only We Know: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. Although most book lovers find it impossible to choose just one favorite book, if I had to, Speak would probably be the one.

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Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

 

Fourteen year old Melinda Sordino called the cops at the end-of-summer party, and as she starts her freshman year of high school no one will talk to her. Her old friends ignore her, and no one else comes near her except a self-centered new girl. But Melinda can’t get herself to talk about what happened the night of the party anyway. She tries so hard to forget it, even though it’s destroying her. Melinda spends the school year trying to draw trees for art class and make it through school without speaking. Because if she speaks, then she’ll have to speak the truth.

Speak is one of those books that stays with you for life. I wish I had heard of this amazing novel sooner, because Anderson is now one of my favorite authors. The best part of Speak is the book’s voice. It’s hard to define voice. Voice is the style something is written in, and when it is good it becomes a work of art. It’s something you know when you see it, and Speak has one of the strongest voices I’ve ever read. I think I like this book so much because I want to write like this. I want to create characters like Melinda who completely draw readers in to their stories. Melinda doesn’t speak much out loud, but in her head she is observant and witty. She has a story to tell, and readers get to hear it even if the people around her don’t.

I also love this book because of its connection to art. Melinda finds that she is able to use art to be able to express herself, even when she can’t find the words. I tried to do something like this in Somewhere Only We Know, but with writing. I love being creative and I make a lot of crafts, but I can’t draw. If I could I’m sure I would turn to art more, but instead I turn to words. And so the girls in my book turned to the written word to figure out other possibilities for their lives. In Speak, it is incredible to watch as Melinda attempts to draw trees and her teacher encourages her to dig deeper. I used a quote about this as the epigraph to my novel:

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The epigraph of my novel, from Speak

I have a great respect for Anderson because she chose to write about such difficult topics like rape and depression. Most people don’t want to talk about it or acknowledge that they happen, and people like to censor books about those topics in order to “protect” children from them. In “A Comment About Censorship” which appears at the end of my copy of Speak, Anderson writes, “Censoring books that deal with difficult, adolescent issues does not protect anybody. Quite the opposite. It leaves kids in the dark and makes them vulnerable… Our children cannot afford to have the truth of the world withheld from them.” A writer friend of mine put it another way when she said we shouldn’t shelter our kids but insulate them.

Teens need books like Speak and Somewhere Only We Know because real teens are experiencing these issues. And I’m going to continue reading and writing books like these.

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I love the message Anderson signs her books with!

Behind the Scenes of Somewhere Only We Know: The Title

There were two sources of inspiration that floated around in my head for a long time before I got around to writing Somewhere Only We Know. The first was the nightmare I wrote about here that gave me the initial conflict of the novel. The second was the song “Somewhere Only We Know” by Keane. I first heard the song in the trailer for the Winnie the Pooh movie that came out in 2011. I wasn’t even a fan of Winnie the Pooh, but I watched that trailer so many times because the song entranced me. It was so wonderful to think about going back to a beloved place where you could connect with someone, like audiences could with the Winnie the Pooh stories.

When I had my nightmare, I immediately knew that Somewhere Only We Know was the perfect title. I realized the girls needed a place where they could connect with one another, which became the clearing with the linden tree. I included a tree because of the line in the song about a fallen tree.

The song talks about going back to a familiar place. In my book, Frankie and the girls used to go to this tree all the time to play, but they haven’t in a while—not since their abuse began. The place feels different to them when they finally go back, like in the song when the speaker questions if that is the place they used to love. But it is still a special place that only they know. The song also asks when “you” are going to let the speaker in. In the book, Frankie has trouble getting the other girls to open up about what they are going through.

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Somewhere Only We Know by Bri Marino

I also chose this song to obtain my title because “somewhere only we know” can also refer to the place of violence that only victims of abuse truly understand. Abuse is something you can only really understand if you are a victim yourself or if you’ve talked openly with those who have experienced it. Frankie has trouble talking to people who have not experienced what she has because she doesn’t think they understand. Because of her difficulty, the clearing becomes the only place where she can share what happens to her and try to find healing.

I love the song “Somewhere Only We Know” so much, and I wanted to use a verse of it as the epigraph for my book, but I couldn’t because of rights. I chose instead a quote from Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak, a book that inspired me while writing Somewhere Only We Know.

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The epigraph of Somewhere Only We Know, from Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak

 

Even though I couldn’t use the song as my epigraph, I’m glad I was still able to share its title with my book. I hope that people will think about this beautiful song as they read my book.

Laurie Halse Anderson at Books & Co

On Friday I got the chance to meet one of my favorite authors and one of the biggest inspirations on my own writing – Laurie Halse Anderson. She came to Books & Co in Dayton as part of her tour for Ashes, the final book in the Seeds of America trilogy.

I only started reading Anderson’s books a year ago, but I find each one that I read incredible. You can read my posts about them here and here. Her books feel so true to life and have a way of putting a real face and heart-wrenching story on the sometimes undefinable problems that teenagers face today.

I have read seven of her books: Wintergirls; Speak; Catalyst; The Impossible Knife of Memory; Fever, 1793; Twisted; and Prom. Sadly I started reading her books after I became a poor college graduate and newlywed, so I only own two of her books and was only able to get those two signed. But I look forward to owning them all one day and also reading the Seeds of America trilogy. It was awesome hearing her discuss history and how she went about writing these books.

Anderson also shared her writing process and gave one of the best writing tips I’ve heard. When she’s almost done working on a book, she records herself reading it. Then she takes a printed copy to a coffee shop or just someplace different to get a new perspective and she listens to her recording while following along in her printed copy. As I find my ear to work better than my eyes when proofreading and often end up reading aloud anyway, I can’t wait to try this method with my next book.

I was sad that my bookmarks for Somewhere Only We Know haven’t arrived yet because I really wanted to give one to Anderson and thank her for inspiring me. I still thanked her and told her that I used a quote from Speak as the epigraph for my novel. She was so encouraging to both me and my husband (telling him how her husband supports her work) and I am so glad I got to meet her.

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So glad I got to meet one of my favorite authors!

Lastly, I just want to announce that my book is now available for pre-order! You can now pre-order the e-book version from Amazon. Check it out!

What I’m Reading – Prom by Laurie Halse Anderson

Laurie Halse Anderson continues to amaze me with each book of hers that I read. Prom is no exception. With Prom, Anderson gives a character that you can really relate to. Ashley is a “normal” girl. She doesn’t care too much about school, she has a large family, she has a crappy job and an even crappier boyfriend, and she really doesn’t care about the prom.

Her best friend, Natalia, however, is on the prom committee and is devastated when the math teacher steals all of the prom money. Then Ashley finds herself roped into helping her school put on the prom anyway with no budget and just about everything against them. Prom is truly a modern Cinderella story, as Ashley makes it to the ball despite everything and learns a lot about what she wants for her life.

Prom, like all of Anderson’s books, pulls you in with its unique voice and doesn’t let you go. I couldn’t put the book down. What I really enjoyed about this book was how real it felt. I felt like I was in Ashley’s school with her, and all I wanted was to help her find the right path for her life. Plus it made me laugh out loud that the slippers she wore to the ball/prom were, in fact, slippers.

Laurie Halse Anderson has quickly become one of my favorite authors and is such an influence on my own writing, and I just found out that she’s coming to Dayton on a book tour in a of couple weeks. I can’t believe I get to meet her!

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Prom by Laurie Halse Anderson