Monday, January 24, 2011

Verse and the Novel

Even a few years back, I had no clue what a verse novel was.
Infact, the idea kind of scared me away. How can an entire novel be written in verse? Methought it was perhaps for the ones more poetically inclined. Don't get me wrong. I love poetry (it's what got me into this whole writing thing), but I was confused as to how I'd feel about reading a novel in verse.

But verse novels are becoming increasingly popular. I'd put it on the fact that readers are more open to experimental writing forms now. With writers like Lisa Schroeder and Ellen Hopkins, who dabble in verse novels alone, it's found a steady fan-base in the YA market as well.

I've been curious about the whole deal about verse novels. I've been wondering about lots of things - do characters have normal conversations in verse novels? Do the feelings conveyed always have to be 'poetic'? How are details explained in such little verses? etc.

All that was until I read Samantha Schutz's You Are Not Here, which was a lovely gift from Melissa Walker, at a very difficult period of my life. You Are Not Here is the story of a girl grieving the death of the boy she shared an indefinable relationship with and it is told in stunning, haunting verses. It's such a beautiful book, re-reading it acts as a sort of therapy. This was my first full-length verse novel, and guess what, I'm a total fangirl now. All that confusion and doubt, they don't stand a chance, 'cause, verse novels despite their brevity convey so much in so little.
From Samantha Schutz, I shall move on to Lisa Schroeder (her books look and sound lovely!) and Ellen Hopkins (Her books sound just my thing) and explore this whole new territory, 'cause now I'm hooked.

Besides full length verse novels, there are novels which do sprinkle verses throughout them but keep the balance between prose and poetry. The first name that comes to mind? Angela Morrison. Her Taken By Storm trilogy (Taken By Storm, Unbroken Connection, Cayman Summer) tell the story of Leesie and Michael. The unique element? Leesie's PoV is told in verse, while Michael's PoV is expressed via his dive journal entries. This same writing technique is applied throughout the three books.
Verses do not just add a 'poetic' element to the book. Their sole purpose is not to be merely beautiful or decorative. In Jandy Nelson's The Sky Is Everywhere, Lennie's verses do not just sing about her grief but also give a glimpse of the past she shared with the sister who is no longer there. Denise Jaden's Losing Faith has been said to have employed a similar technique.

No, verse novels are probably not for everyone, but they have a fan-base that swears by them. For me, in spite of the questions that might have crossed my mind, it isn't so much about what kind of a novel it is, but about the story it tells me. All these books, in spite of their differences, tell us the human story. Each in itself is a study of human relationships and these are the relationships that I want to understand. This is why I read.

And this is why I shall continue to read forever and ever.
And someday, I hope I can write a verse novel too. For the life of me, I can't understand how talented these writers are to say so much in so little words. But a verse (or semi-verse) novel now definitely falls into the dream bag.

What do you think about verse novels? What are some of your favourites?
I'm expanding my list. So tell me.

Friday, January 14, 2011

What Might Interest You (And Break You)

I thought this particular news might interest you if you have a manuscript complete and polished, ready to be shipped off for querying. Or for that one that has battled the query wars and needs some new love. Whatever you're writing about, as long as you have a finished manuscript, this might just be your call.

Because, have you heard of this thing called the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award?

This one's a gamble which, if all goes well, will fetch you the reward of your dreams. Because then, you can go from this
To this:
Because, there's a contract with Penguin on the line. Oh yes.
Here's an extract straight from the website announcement:
Amazon.com, along with Penguin Group (USA) and CreateSpace, is pleased to announce the fourth annual Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, the international competition seeking the next popular novel. The competition will once again award two grand prizes: one for General Fiction and one for Young Adult Fiction. Each winner will receive a publishing contract with Penguin, which includes a $15,000 advance.
The Breakthrough Novel Award brings together talented writers, reviewers, and publishing experts to find and develop new voices in fiction. If you're an author with an unpublished or previously self-published novel waiting to be discovered, visit CreateSpace to sign up for regular contest updates. Open submissions for manuscripts will begin on January 24, 2011 and run through February 6, 2011.

So yes, there's not much time. And there are official rules, which you need to check out. But give it a shot, and even if lady luck isn't shinning on you, there's the chance of you doing something like this:


See, good things happen.

Not always however. The bad things always drop in unexpectedly. Which brings me to the tragedy the entire writing community has been heartbroken by. L. K. Madigan, author of Flash Burnout and The Mermaid's Mirror, has been diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer and she has shared a very brave and heartrending post about it.
I have yet to read her books but Flash Burnout is on my list. Also, she's a friend on Facebook and Twitter.
For all the losses I've experienced in the last two years, I cannot for the life of me imagine what she's going through. We all die and we all know it. But it's not something that's at the back of our mind every waking second. Losing someone close breaks that invincibility we build around us and when that someone is you, it's just something I cannot fathom dealing with. Which is what makes me want to salute Lisa for her courage and the eloquence with which she painted her words at such a difficult time.
It's a terrible thing. But perhaps it makes us realise how important every moment of this life is because inevitably there are things we regret, things we wish we'd done another way but wishing to change the past frankly doesn't change anything. Which is why it is necessary to hold on to the important things that make us happy. I'm rambling, really, but sudden bouts of epiphany does that to me.

I hope you will keep Lisa in your prayers and send her some love.
And I hope good things happen to you.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A Teaser for Tuesday

Day Four of the new year, and I shall share a fresh snip - which isn't really a teaser - from What Was Mine. A rough draft, but this might just give you a feel of the novel.
Also, I'm currently experimenting with blog layouts, this being a new year and it's all about starting anew yadda yadda, so you might just see a different template next time you hop around. Or probably not. 
Hope the start of the year's been good. 


Lunch begins with the usual greeting sand backslaps, high fives and cigarette exchanges between the day scholars and the boarders. Ashley passes a pack of Marlboro Lights under the table and Hayden, who is one among the two hundred students living i the campus residential halls, hides it under her skirt.

Bridget, who shares a room with her, announces that there is a moth in the bathroom, to which Hayden turns death pale since she is not particularly fond of flying creatures and the bathroom is the only place in Baumbury where she dares to smoke up.

'No Dylan tonight?' Mel asks inbetween scoops of yogurt.

Hayden recovers enough to inform her - ' We fucked up the bedsheets last time and he got into trouble with the matron.'
How she manages to sneak into the residential halls of Baumbury Boys in spite of the high security beef-up around the academy, is beyond me.

With bedsheets now the topic of conversation, Shirley, who is also Mel's neighbour, launches into a full-blown account of her escapades with a thirty year old French divorcee, who apparently is researching a paper on Freud.
I have to chew around my gum to keep myself from throwing up my food. Between Principal Heyer's threats, Mr. Smith's announcements and Shirley's bedroom chatter, I'm tired. And the headache's getting worse. I can hardly stretch my eyes open and here I have to pretend everything is cool and I' having a great time.

And then, before I can feel the under-the-table nudge from Ashley, I'm nose-to-nose with Carole Davies, big brown curls dancing around her face, eyes narrowed to slits. She inhales loudly and says, 'Friday night, Conrad and I shall spend some quiet time together at my place. We shall do things together and my parents will not be home.'
Wow, breaking news.
Her nose looks so huge up close, I let out a chuckle. I lean forward and let the bubblegum go pop right infront of Carole's face and say, 'Friday night I'm going skinny dipping with my own band of boys. Quiet popcorn and movie time? Lame.'

Not true, but lies are what I live on. It leaves everyone at the table laughing and Carole red-faced just like I want.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A Year In Book Titles


I came across this on The Naughty Book Kitties blog and it seemed like fun, so I decided to try it out. All you have to do is fill in the blanks with the titles of books you've read in 2010. Your answers can be funny or serious :)

Describe Yourself:  The Ghost And The Goth
How do you feel:  Feeling Sorry For Celia
Describe where you currently live:  The Sky Is Everywhere
If you could go anywhere, where would you go:  Montacute House
Your favorite form of transportation:  The Bell Jar
Your best friend is:  Wicked Lovely
You and your friends are:  The Lonely Hearts Club
What's the weather like:  Perfect Chemistry
Favorite time of day:  Blue Moon
What is life to you:  Cracked Up To Be
Your fear:  I Know It's Over
What is the best advice you have to give:  Never Cry Werewolf
Thought for the Day: Tell Me A Secret
How I would like to die: Sing Me To Sleep
My soul's present condition: Dreaming of Amelia

With this, I usher in the new year on Dreamcatcher's Lair. I really can't do the resolutions bit 'cos they never work out for me. I was a bit sad to see 2010 go. It was an unforgettable year of sorts, but here's hoping 2011 turns out to be more full of the happy-memorable moments than the sad-indelible ones. So, 

          HAPPY NEW YEAR, BLOGSTARS!

Which, does seem ironic considering that now we're a year closer to the Apocalypse. Hmm. Oh heck, the spurt of dystopian fiction will send that 2012-doom-factor flying out of the universe ;)
Never mind, party on till the cows come home.

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