Monday, July 9, 2012

I'm back with a Marvelous MG Monday: CHAINS and FORGE... and writing advice from Laurie Halse Anderson!

I'm back! Did you miss me?  Okay, show of hands, how many people didn't even realize I was gone?? 

Yes, I'm back from Revision Beach (sorry, I hate caves!) and I managed to finish Draft 5 of the MG novel that I've been working on for three years. Woo hoo!! So I'm here, at least for a few weeks.  I've really missed keeping up with all your wonderful blogs, but I stayed away for a reason. My hero, Laurie Halse Anderson taught us something during a workshop at the Eastern PA SCBWI Poconos retreat in April.  It was her "magic formula" for writing success.

And I'm going to share it with you, because I feel selfish keeping it a secret.  Are you ready?

For every 10 hours you spend writing, you may spend 5 hours reading and ONE HOUR on the internet OR watching TV.  That's right.  One hour.  I can hear the groans now, but that, my friends, is how Laurie Halse Anderson got where she is. 


And to prove that she does have a sense of humor and isn't just a harsh taskmaster, this is how Laurie signed my copy of FORGE:



Now, on to today's double MMGM:



Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson (Seeds of America, Book One, paperback published January 2010 by Atheneum, for ages 10 and up)

Source: paperback purchased from the bookstore where I work!

Synopsis (from Indiebound):  If an entire nation could seek its freedom, why not a girl?
 
As the Revolutionary War begins, thirteen-year-old Isabel wages her own fight...for freedom. Promised freedom upon the death of their owner, she and her sister, Ruth, in a cruel twist of fate become the property of a malicious New York City couple, the Locktons, who have no sympathy for the American Revolution and even less for Ruth and Isabel. When Isabel meets Curzon, a slave with ties to the Patriots, he encourages her to spy on her owners, who know details of British plans for invasion. She is reluctant at first, but when the unthinkable happens to Ruth, Isabel realizes her loyalty is available to the bidder who can provide her with freedom.

Why I liked it: Isabel is such a smart, strong character and so full of life and humor and love for her sister that you just can't help admiring her. You also can't help being incensed by her lack of freedom and the atrocities that she and the other slaves had to endure (which is why this isn't appropriate for younger readers). I learned an incredible amount about the Revolutionary War through the eyes of a young slave.  How many of you knew that landowners in Rhode Island had slaves, just as those southern plantation owners did?

The story continues in Forge, but this time it's from Curzon's point of view.



Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson (Seeds of America, Book Two, paperback published April 2012 by Atheneum, for ages 10 and up)

Source: hardcover purchased at the SCBWI Poconos Event (thanks to bookseller Lucy!)

Synopsis (from Indiebound): Blistering winds. Bitter cold. And the hope of a new future. In this compelling sequel to Chains, a National Book Award Finalist and winner of the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction, acclaimed author Laurie Halse Anderson shifts perspective from Isabel to Curzon and brings to the page the tale of what it takes for runaway slaves to forge their own paths in a world of obstacles—and in the midst of the American Revolution.

The Patriot Army was shaped and strengthened by the desperate circumstances of the Valley Forge winter. This is where Curzon the boy becomes Curzon the young man. In addition to the hardships of soldiering, he lives with the fear of discovery, for he is an escaped slave passing for free. And then there is Isabel, who is also at Valley Forge—against her will. She and Curzon have to sort out the tangled threads of their friendship while figuring out what stands between the two of them and true freedom.

Why I liked it:  I loved seeing things from Curzon's perspective after we'd gotten to know him slightly in Chains.  And since I live in Pennsylvania, not far from Valley Forge, I was fascinated by the details about that long winter encampment.  This is actually a great read for a hot summer day, because you'll feel half frozen along with Curzon and his fellow soldiers.  There are moments in this book that make you gasp, and moments that make you cheer.

I'm looking forward to the third book in the trilogy, Ashes.  But there isn't even a publication date yet.  Laurie told us she has to finish her current YA novel, then she'll write Ashes.  So it might be Fall 2013 or even later.  Sigh.

For other MMGM participants, please see my sidebar!

23 comments:

  1. Congrats on finishing your draft! That's awesome.

    I haven't read either of these books, but the characters sound like ones that could really draw you into the story.

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    1. Thanks, Andrea! And these characters felt like real people to me.

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  2. I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one who takes longer than a year to write a book. :D

    I enjoy Laura's YA novels. Can't wait to see what her next one is.

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    1. Haha, Stina! Yeah, I'm very slow.

      I'm looking forward to LHA's next YA also. SPEAK is one of my top ten favorite YA books of all time.

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  3. welcome back! i'm finding revisions to be way harder than writing a solid first draft -- it's been three years for me as well, and who knows when i'll ever feel done.

    love the covers on these two books -- they are terrific!

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    1. So glad to hear that, Gina! Revisions are challenging for me, but not as tough as facing a blank page. When I look back at my first draft, I realize how far I've come, but, like you, I feel it's definitely not finished yet.

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  4. Congrats on your draft and glad you're back. I'm sure I will see you soon and we can catch up.

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    1. I miss you too, Donna! Come to book club!

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  6. Yay! You're back! Although I'm glad you finished another revision.

    I adore both of these books and am very excited for the third. I'm interested to see which POV ASHES takes--I was taken aback that FORGE switched POVs and missed Isabel but eventually did settle into Curzon.

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    1. I love the different POVs. It makes the story so much richer. But yes, I missed Isabel too. She's not in the second book enough. Hoping ASHES goes back to Isabel's POV. But I have to admit Curzon grew on me.

      Hope your own writing is going well, Barbara.

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  7. I really need to read these books. I've read some of her YA books (who hasn't?) and think LHA is one of the most talented writers out there. Also I've loved slavery themes since I was a kid (ROOTS started it I think).

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    1. You should read these, Gabrielle. But oh yes, I love Laurie's YA books too. So intense.

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  8. Ten hours writing to five hours reading?? Guess I need to reverse my ratio! Congrats on finishing your draft.

    I think I need to read these books, and finally get around to reading Octavio Nothing: Traitor to the Nation. For some reason when my brain catches a hint of American history it shies away from a book--sounds like these books might help me get over that prejudice!

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    1. Hahaha! You and me both, Kim. I'm sure I usually spend at least 10 hours reading a week, and maybe 5 or 6 writing. But I noticed when I made a conscious effort to write for 2 hrs a day, the reading time had to be reduced. With work and taking care of a house and family, there just aren't enough hours in the day.

      Octavian Nothing is harrowing to read, but so well done. It's pretty mature, though. Definitely not a middle-grade!

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  9. Thanks so much for featuring this and reminding me to get these books into my to read pile!

    p.s. Missed you!!! and lolol on fun and funner...

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  10. Thanks for these reviews. Anderson's book Speak is so powerful. I am not familiar with her other works though. I will check this trilogy out. Thanks.

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    1. Her MG historicals are a lot different from SPEAK. But I love both. Thanks for stopping by!

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  11. I did miss you, but congrats on finishing your revision! Love the advice from Laurie, and her series sounds wonderful.

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  12. Aw, thanks, Jennifer. You've been on a blogging break too, right?

    Any advice from Laurie Halse Anderson is golden. But this will be hard for most of us to handle! I know my writing gets better and better the more time I devote to it.

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  13. Thanks for the review. I read Chains a year ago and loved it. I learned a lot and really connected to the characters. I can't wait to read Forge and Ashes. Yeah!
    ~Jess

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YAY for comments! I read and appreciate each one and I always try to answer. All opinions welcome. Let's have a conversation!