Archive | December 2012

Verse Novel Reading 2012

2013 is mere hours away. 2013 is the year my first verse novel, AUDACIOUS will be published. When I stared 2012 I had an inkling that this book would sell (my agent had hinted at it) so it’s not that this aspect of the year is a surprise. What is a surprise is how verse novels have kind of taken over my life, and become such a big part of my writing, blogging, reading and thinking. I read 31 verse novels in 2013, as laid out below. Some of them I adored. Some of them I didn’t even finish. One or two really bugged me. I’m not naming names. They were all worthwhile reads. I’ve learned so much about verse novels this year that I can’t even believe I wrote one.

It’s a lot harder than it looks. All the below authors and anyone else who attempts a verse novel should be proud.

Title Author
Triangles Ellen Hopkins
Pearl Verses the World Sally Murphy
Hate That Cat Sharon Creech
Heartbeat Sharon Creech
The Marlowe Papers: A Novel Ros Barber
The Wild Book Margerite Engle
Hidden Helen Frost
All The Broken Pieces Ann E Burg
May B. Caroline Starr Rose
The One and Only Ivan Katherine Applegate
Tilt Ellen Hopkins
My Book of Life by Angel Martine Leavitt
October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard Leslea Newman
Bronx Masquerade Niki Grimes
Fishtailing Wendy Phillips
Yellow Mini Lori Weber
Forget Me Not Carolee Dean
A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl Tanya Lee Stone
Nothing Robin Friedman
The Best and Hardest Thing Pat Brisson
Love and Leftovers Sarah Tregay
You Hear Me?: Poems and Writing by Teenage Boys Besty Franco (ed.)
Karma Cathy Ostlere
Because I am Furniture Thalia Chaltas
The Death of Jayson Porter Jaime Adoff
Exposed Kimberly Marcus
Under the Mesquite Guadelupe Garcia McCall
Glimpse Carol Lynch Williams
Chasing Brooklyn Lisa Schroeder
Perfect (Impulse, #2) Ellen Hopkins
Little Dog Lost Marion Dane Bauer
This entry was posted on December 31, 2012. 1 Comment

2012 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 4,200 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 7 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.


VERSEDAYBUTTON copyDear Bloggers, Verse Novelists, Writers and Friends.

I’m inviting you to participate in VerseDay 2013. I hope to make VerseDay a weekly event, every Thursday in 2013. Hosted by, VerseDay is a celebration of verse in all its forms, verse novels, poetry, hip hop, lyrics. Each week will invite visitors to check out another blog wherein a post and/or giveaway will highlight verse.

I will begin VerseDay 2013 by doing every Thursday in January; three at itself and two at my personal blog,

I will thence do the first VerseDay of every month. That leaves 36 VerseDay openings. I’d love you to commit to one or more VerseDays to make 2013 the year of Verse in the book blogosphere.

What do you need to do?

  1. On your chosen VerseDay(s) post something about verse. It can be a book review, writing tips, a cover reveal, a sneak preview, some of your own poetry or something about a poetry event in your area.
  2. On your chosen VerseDay(s) do a giveaway of a book, eBook, music download or CD, movie, gift card, bookmarks or anything verse related.
  3. Link your VerseDay post back to the VerseDay homepage at
  4. Display the VerseDay2013 button on your sidebar, with links back to the VerseDay home page (optional)
  5. Participate in the cover reveals, giveaways, reviews and/or launch for my debut verse novel, AUDACIOUS, which comes out in the Fall, and for any other verse releases of 2013 (optional)
  6. Because kids and teens inhabit the blogosphere, please issue content warnings where appropriate

How do you sign up?

Easy. Simply choose your date(s) and fill in the form below. I’ll email you two weeks before your VerseDay to remind you. Please note, I’m happy to have more than one blogger on each Verseday so you can choose whichever date you want. However, I would like to have at least one blog post on each VerseDay so as these fill up I will remove the dates. Please indicate in comments if you have a cover reveal or launch in mind as I will encourage all VerseDay participants to get behind those.

Thanks in advance for getting involved in Verseday!

Verse Novels About School Violence and Shootings

I guess I don’t need to tell you why I’m drawing attention to these books.

Urgh. This world sucks so hard sometimes. Merry  #@%&ing Christmas.

FISHTAILING by Wendy Phillips

FishtailingTeen violence, bullying and the burning quest to fit in are presented in the poems of four unforgettable high school students: Natalie, Kyle, Tricia, Miguel. Their stories unfold in this explosive new book told in free verse. A story of teen angst like no other, it is based on fictional characters but is rooted in the realities of the teen experience. When Natalie moves to a new high school she befriends three unwitting victims into her spider-web of manipulations, lies and deceit. Through the poetry and assignments of an English class we glimpse the world of the four teens. Natalie, whose alcoholic parents, years of neglect and ultimate rape by her father’s friend has shaped her into a cruel and manipulative teen; Tricia, dealing with her blended family, is drawn into Natalies’ forbidden world of partying and rebellion; Kyle, a would-be musician is in love with Tricia and Miguel who lusts for Natalie while hiding the secrets of his family.

The story weaves us through their poetry, their lives and culminates at a party where the four lives fishtail out of control. English class will never be the same.


The Brimstone JournalsThe Branston High School Class of 2001 seems familiar enough on the surface: there’s the Smart One, the Fat Kid, Social Conscience, Bad Girl, Good Girl, Jock, Anorexic, Dyke, Rich Boy, Sistah, Stud . . . and Boyd, an Angry Young Man who has just made a dangerous new friend. Now he’s making a list.

The Branston High School Class of 2001. You might think you know them. You might be surprised.

Narrated by fifteen teenage characters, this startling, often poignant poetic novel evokes a suburban high school both familiar and terrifying — and provides an ideal opportunity for young adults to discuss violence in schools.

UNLOCKED by Ryan G. Van Cleave

UnlockedAndy is the janitor’s son, an outcast, a nobody. Then the rumor starts-that Blake has a gun in his locker. In a moment of misguided hopefulness, Andy steals the keys from his dad and opens up Blake’s locker, hoping that finding the gun will change his own status. But the gun isn’t there and Andy remains an outcast. When an unlikely friendship develops between the two loners, Blake shares most of his secrets with Andy, including the gun. But there’s one secret that worries Andy more than anything-the date circled on Blake’s calendar. Does Blake have something planned? Something that Andy can prevent? In a fascinating look at how teens deal with the now constant threat of school violence, debut author Ryan G. Van Cleave provides a unique, emotional perspective on how it feels to be the one who can prevent a tragedy.


Who Killed Mr. Chippendale?: A Mystery in PoemsWhen popular Tower High English teacher Mr. Chippendale is fatally shot, everyone’s a suspect. The killer could be anyone — one of his students, a colleague, or even an ex-flame. Told in a series of interlocking poems, this suspenseful story will keep readers guessing who the killer is right up until the last page.

I don’t know whether reading these books will make you feel better or worse, whether they might be appropriate to assign to students this week or over the holidays, whether librarians might be getting requests for this ind of stuff. I only know this – this kind of violence in our schools is not new, not anymore. The time to act is now.

Rant over.


This entry was posted on December 17, 2012. 1 Comment

December Verse Novel Reviews Week 1 – DEFY THE STARS

For December review round-ups I’m going to do something a little different by highlighting a few reviews of the same book, and getting some thoughts from the author. This week we’re going to look at DEFY THE STARS by Stephanie Parent. First pop into On Books, Book Overdose and Clear Eyes Full Shelves for just three of the many recent reviews of DEFY THE STARS. Now here’s where I confess I was scheduled to read Stephanie’s book this week, but my Kobo eReader died (to be fair, it was involuntary manslaughter by me, dropping it). So I haven’t read it! But I’ve read a ton of reviews of it and it’s been getting a lot of praise so I’m super excited to take a look once I either fix or replace my Kobo.

Defy the StarsHere’s a description: Julia and Reed might have graduated high school without ever speaking to each other…until, during a class discussion of Romeo and Juliet, Julia scoffs at the play’s theme of love at first sight, and Reed responds by arguing that feelings don’t always have to make sense. Julia tries to shake off Reed’s comment and forget about this boy who hangs with the stoner crowd—and who happens to have breathtaking blue eyes—but fate seems to bring the two together again and again. After they share an impulsive, passionate kiss, neither one can deny the chemistry between them. Yet as Julia gets closer to Reed, she also finds herself drawn into his dark world of drugs and violence. Then a horrific tragedy forces Julia’s and Reed’s families even farther apart…and Julia must decide whether she’s willing to give up everything for love.

Now let’s hear what Stephanie has to say DEFY THE STARS:

Why did you decide to write in verse?

I’ve always really loved free verse novels, and since I had written a previous novel in verse and also took a number of poetry classes in grad school, I felt fairly comfortable with the form.  I hoped the verse would help me stand out in the crowded YA market, and I also thought it was the best way to tell this story.   It was particularly helpful in allowing me to convey Julia’s stream-of-consciousness thoughts and to portray the link between her dreams and waking life, and it was also a fun way to describe music.  And the verse seemed especially appropriate for a retelling of Shakespeare, since he writes in blank verse and is so poetic himself.  Obviously I can only aspire to and not match Shakespeare’s transcendent language!

 What are the special challenges of indie publishing a verse novel?

Oh, I’ve been dying to answer this question for a while! First, let me mention that my agent is still holding back print rights to DtS in case a publisher is interested, so DtS is an ebook exclusive for now.  Knowing that ebooks aren’t the ideal format for verse novels, you might wonder why I chose to self-publish…well, I’ve written three novels, and the early feedback I received on DtS was more encouraging than any of my previous work.  Despite that, having been on submission before, I wasn’t too surprised when the rejections started rolling in for DtS, and it became clear that most publishers didn’t want to risk taking on a verse novel from an unknown author right now.  Most of the rejections focused on the book’s (non-) commercialism rather than the quality, so, to put it bluntly, I didn’t want to wait any longer when so many writers are finding success with the indie route!

 That said, formatting DtS for kindle was very, very difficult!  It took about twenty formatting drafts, a lot of trial and error, and a lot of compromise on my part.  Being the control freak I am, it was hard for me to give up my longer lines and change the line breaks I’d spent so much time agonizing over, but I needed to in order to make the book aesthetically pleasing on the small kindle screen.  While I may not have been able to keep everything exactly the way I wanted, I was able to replicate many of the shapes and patterns I’d created, and I think on the whole the book translates well.  At least this way I was able to retain total control over the formatting process, and while there’s no print version yet, I’m happy with the compromises I’ve made.

 After releasing the book, the challenge has been the same one I imagine most traditionally published verse authors face—a lot of readers are afraid to try verse novels.  There’s this misconception that verse novels are as complex and confusing as T.S. Eliot or, well, Shakespeare…but the truth is that while you can spend a lot of time examining the nuances of verse novels, you can also read them quickly and still follow the plot and characters.  Verse novels are stories, just like any novel, but the format can be one more barrier to getting readers to pick your novel from among the many, many great books out there.

 How have you gone about getting the word out about Defy the Stars?

 Luckily, I’ve spent a lot of time reading book blogs over the past few years, so I had a good idea of which bloggers would be willing to review verse and indies.  I basically just sent out a ton of review requests, joined twitter, started a blog, started interacting more on goodreads, held contests and eventually a blog tour, the works!  One of the best parts of the experience has been talking to all the bloggers, authors and readers I’ve been cyber-stalking for years.  I held off on participating too much in social networking in the past, because I convinced myself it would be too much of a time-waster…but now I can spend hours on twitter and just tell myself I’m “building my platform”!

 Who are your verse novel inspirations?

The first verse novel I ever remember reading was Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse, which broke my heart.  Later I discovered Sonya Sones and Ellen Hopkins, both of whom influenced me hugely, but in different ways.  I love the elegance, simplicity and charm of Sones’ books, and Ellen Hopkins’ work has definitely inspired my experimentation with form.   There’s also a verse novel called Dead on Town Line by Leslie Connor that I’m continually blown away…it tells such a complete and moving story in less than 10000 words.

What are you working on now?

After being told time and again that verse doesn’t sell, and knowing how hard it is to format for ebooks, I’ve actually moved away from verse for now,  though I’m sure I’ll return to it at some point!  (I also hope that as ereaders evolve and the formatting kinks get worked out, formatting verse novels will become easier and more exact.)  I’m about halfway through a historical YA novel, retelling a very famous story from a new perspective, which I can’t say too much about right now.  I’m also hoping to start a fun New Adult romance very soon—I’m actively commissioning ideas/requests from readers, so if there’s something you want to see in New Adult, feel free to comment below!

 Mercutio or Tybalt?

 Mercutio…you’ll have to read Defy the Stars to find out why!

 Franco Zefferelli or Baz Luhrmann?

 Luhrmann, for Leo DiCaprio’s epic “then I defy you, stars,” scene that gave me the perfect title!

Thanks Stephanie! You’ve given us all some great insight into verse novels as eBooks that I haven’t thought of before. I look forward to the day I can read your books in print (which I prefer). And good luck with the new project. It sounds terrific.

DEFY THE STARS was released on eBook in July 2012.

This entry was posted on December 7, 2012. 4 Comments

Verse Novels 2013

2013 is shaping up to be a great year for verse novels. In addition to my  verse novel debut AUDACIOUS (no cover art yet, sorry!) and a new novel by Ellen Hopkins (SMOKE) which will both come out in the fall of 2013,  here are a few of the verse novels I’m looking forward to in early 2013.

I’m going to start with two books from Australian authors. I’m not sure if either of these will be published in print in the US/Canada, but that’s not going to stop me from tracking down an ebook is it?

Book Cover:  Runaways

RUNAWAYS by Sherryl Clark – March 2013

The red balloon explodes
my blood runs hot from skull to toes
I grab my bag
and run

Cassie and her brother, Jack, are on the run from the past, from the future and from their failure of a family.

But where can they go? And can you ever really run away?

(ed: a literal BLEEDING heart on the cover? Where do I sign?)

Book Cover:  Run

RUN by Tim Sinclair – March 2013

Run is an unmissable, pacey, paranoid thriller – genre fiction meets literary verse novel. (ed: you had me at genre)

Dee lives for two things: the physical/mental discipline of parkour, and the dystopic scenarios he invents to escape his mundane life.

He knows the city better than anyone – the hidden spaces at night, the views that no one else sees, from heights no one else can scale. With parkour, he’s not running away. He’s just free.

But when he’s caught up in a frightening conspiracy and the boundaries between fantasy and reality break down, he’ll have to run for his life. Run for real. Because just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.

The Language Inside

THE LANGUAGE INSIDE by Holly Thompson –  May 2013

Emma Karas was raised in Japan; it’s the country she calls home. But when her mother is diagnosed with breast cancer, Emma’s family moves to a town outside Lowell, Massachusetts, to stay with Emma’s grandmother while her mom undergoes treatment.

Emma feels out of place in the United States.She begins to have migraines, and longs to be back in Japan. At her grandmother’s urging, she volunteers in a long-term care center to help Zena, a patient with locked-in syndrome, write down her poems. There, Emma meets Samnang, another volunteer, who assists elderly Cambodian refugees. Weekly visits to the care center, Zena’s poems, dance, and noodle soup bring Emma and Samnang closer, until Emma must make a painful choice: stay in Massachusetts, or return home early to Japan

Prince Puggly of Spud and the Kingdom of SpiffPRINCE PUGGLY AND THE KINGDOM OF SPIFF by Robert Paul Weston (February 2013)

Weston is back in rhyming style with a book about princes and princesses, kings and kingdoms, and what it means to look good in polka-dot bell-bottoms.

Prince Puggly of the muddy, supremely unfashionable Kingdom of Spud is surprised when he receives an invitation to a lavish ball in the far trendier Kingdom of Spiff. The poorly-dressed prince is sure that the Spiffs will take one look at him and laugh him out of their kingdom…

And that’s exactly what they do! But then Puggly meets Francesca, the bookish Princess of Spiff, and together the two set out to teach Francesca’s Spiffian countrymen an absurd lesson in style.

Gone Fishing A Novel

GONE FISHING by Tamera Will Wissinger – March 2013

Using a wide variety of poetic forms – quatrains, ballads, iambic meter, rhyming lists, concrete poetry, tercets and free verse –this debut author tells the story of a nine-year-old boy’s day of fishing. Sibling rivalry, the bond between father and son, the excitement – and difficulty — of fishing all add up to a day of adventure any child would want to experience.

Matthew Cordell illuminates this novel-in-verse throughout with his energetic black-and-white line drawings.

While each poem can be read and enjoyed on its own, the poems work together to create a story arc with conflict, crisis, resolution and character growth.

The back matter of this book equips the reader with a Poet’s Tackle Box of tools and definitions for understanding the various poetic forms the author uses in this story.

Out Of This PlaceOUT OF THIS PLACE by Emma Cameron – May 2013

A powerful novel in verse captures the voices of three teens as they struggle against hardscrabble realities — and move toward their dreams.

Luke spends his days hanging out at the beach, working shifts at the local supermarket, and trying to stay out of trouble at school. His mate Bongo gets wasted, blocking out memories of the little brother that social services took away from his addict mom and avoiding the stepdad who hits him. And Casey, the girl they both love, longs to get away from her strict, controlling father and start anew in a place where she can be free. But even after they each find a way to move on and lead very different lives, can they outrun their family stories — and will they ever be able to come together again? Set in Australia and narrated in alternating points of view, here is an affecting look at the evolving lives of three friends from talented new author Emma Cameron. (This was published this year to considerable acclaim in Australia as Cinnamon Rain)

This entry was posted on December 4, 2012. 2 Comments