Weddings and Writing

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This past weekend I found myself at the end of my friends’ wedding ceremony, shirtless, with ripped suit pants, and a GoPro strapped to my head. There’s a story behind that description, but I’m not telling it here. However, I will discuss why this state of affairs makes me feel as if I behaved as any good writer should.

It’s always all about the story. So when the groom asked if I would use his GoPro to record the wedding, I was thrilled. Often, wedding videos are a third-person narration of the event, and are not as intimate as the genuine experience. That’s not to say the jarring and boisterous images I caught are worthy of cinematography, but the first-person narration they are is much more close to the reality of what it was like to be on top of the mountain, in the ballroom and especially on the dance floor. That aspect is the same in writing. I’ve read hundreds of third person point of view novels, and there is nothing inherently wrong with the narrative decision, but I always find myself wondering how the story would sound from the inside, not from the onlooker’s perspective. I hope my recording accurately depicts what is what like from within.

Every good story has an excellent cast of characters. Weddings are a wellspring for watching human nature interact in its myriad forms. Therefore, capturing not only the bride and groom––the main characters––but the family, friends, and colleagues is equally vital. What do they say? How do they act? How awesome do they dance? They are a beautiful microcosm trying to make the evening work for the two people they are all in attendance for. I did my best to tell their stories as well, seeing what they saw, understanding the bride and groom as they know them. It’s the same with my characters. I care equally for them and try to make their existence as interesting as possible while remembering how much their depth adds to the story as a whole.

The last important piece of storytelling is being open to the organic way in which the story unfolds. Many weddings follow a familiar script, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t deviation. At this wedding there was no DJ, but a rock band. There wasn’t a wedding cake, but homemade pies. There were no bridesmaids or groomsmen, just friends and family supporting. This was how their story was supposed to be, for them, and it worked, in part because of how the dance floor stuck to the script, by becoming a focus: would people get up and get down, or would they sit it out at the table? I think if you paid attention to my introduction, you know the answer: we rocked it. And the stories from there abound, and will continue to be told again, and again, unfolding for those both in, and not in attendance, creating a story of a story––legend.

What more could a storyteller want?

Thanks, Anna and Gordon. May all of your stories have a happy ending.

Full Kirkus Review of DARE ME

Kirkus Book Reviews

I know I previously teased about the Kirkus review of Dare Me, but here is most of it, below, in its full shining glory. Please follow the link and share this bad boy. Then feel free to tell people that you know an author who is “astute and riveting.” You know, cuz Kirkus says 🙂

DARE ME

 
Age Range: 12 – 18
 
 

KIRKUS REVIEW

Fully attuned to the adrenaline-fueled appeal of dares, Devine deftly conveys the dire consequences that can ensue once the first step is taken.

Ben, a perfectly normal high school senior, and his buddies Ricky and John pull an amazing stunt, which they post anonymously on YouTube, hoping for “weblebrity.” What comes their way is a contract promising them money if they continue to do ever-more-dangerous dares. When not filming dares, narrator Ben works as a pizza-delivery guy and longs for popular co-worker Alexia, who’s attached to a bad boy. His reflections on physics, English class and math become more penetrating as the ante ups with each completed dare. Adding in cameraman Trevor changes the equation only a little. Trev is a nerd and a target for bullies, but he’s also exceptionally smart and a quick thinker. As the stunts continue… (Read the rest here).

9780762450152

Tweets from the road: First Signing for DARE ME

On Saturday Market Block Books held my first signing for Dare MeIt was a gorgeous day with lots of foot traffic from the Troy Farmers Market. I met teachers and parents who snapped up copies of both Dare Me and Tap Out for their students and children–and even one man who admitted Dare Me was going to his daughter, once he’d had a chance to enjoy. There was even a guest appearance by the world famous author, Dennis Mahoney, who was in for a copy and to talk to the incomparable Stanley from Market Block about Troy Author Day. Below are tweets from Saturday, including a screen shot from a baffling Amazon image. Even better is my super awkward pitch to Stanley about Dare Me. I try to stay poised, but it’s been a while since I’ve been out promoting.

If you didn’t have a chance to come out, check my schedule at the bottom. Thanks.

How could I not suggest this?

You have to love the ornate feel of everything in Troy.

Like I said, Dennis was there. Here’s proof:

And Amazon. They don’t want to release the pre-orders yet. However, during this window of time, Dare Me was on sale, and only one copy was left. No clue.

Good times trying to figure out what to say:

Market Block Books: Eric Devine signs his new book

Hey, just a quick reminder that I will be at Market Block Books on Saturday from 11-1. They currently have the only copies of Dare Me in the area, so if you want to know the story before everyone else, come on out. Thanks.

MBB: Eric Devine signs his new book “Dare Me” | The Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza.

MBB: Eric Devine signs his new book “Dare Me”

Start: 09/21/2013 11:00 am
End: 09/21/2013 1:00 pm

Market Block Books welcomes author Eric Devine for a book signing of his new book Dare Me, a story about instant visibility, identity, and what it takes to stay true to one’s self in the face of relentless pressure. When Ben Candido and his friends decide to post a YouTube video of themselves surfing on top of a car, they finally feel like the “somebodies” they are meant to be instead of the social nobodies they are. Overnight, the video becomes the talk of the school, and the boys are sure that their self-appointed senior year of dares will live in infamy. Every dare brings an increased risk of bodily harm, but Ben cannot deny the thrill and sense of swagger that come with it. The stakes become even more complex when a mysterious donor bankrolls their dares in exchange for a cut in the online revenue the videos generate. But at what point do the risk and the reward come at too high of a price?

 

Eric Devine is a writer, high school English teacher, and educational consultant. He is the author of Tap Out, a YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Readers, and This Side of Normal. He lives in Waterfordwith his family.

Dare Me (Paperback)

$9.95

ISBN-13: 9780762450152
Availability: Coming Soon – Available for Pre-Order Now
Published: Running Press Kids, 10/2013


Tap Out (Paperback)

$9.95

ISBN-13: 9780762445691
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 days
Published: Running Press Kids, 9/2012


Location:
290 River Street
Troy

, New York12180

My Dear Teen Me Letter

Dear Teen Me is a website (and an anthology) of letters from Young Adult literature authors to their teenage selves. I had the privilege to have mine posted yesterday. Due to technical glitches on my end, I couldn’t include it here. Therefore, today, my letter is below, along with the link to the original, which has comments from those who appreciate this insight into my life. I hope you enjoy the letter as well. It is one of the more emotional pieces I’ve written, because all that’s in it, just like those teen years, has never fully faded away.

Dear Teen Me from author Eric Devine (DARE ME, TAP OUT) « Dear Teen Me.

Eric,

Eric's senior photo, taken months before homecoming.

Eric’s senior photo, taken months before homecoming.

Here’s what’s going to happen: On this kick return, homecoming game of senior year, the other team is going to try to take off your leg. They’ll come really close and there will be times later in your life when you wish they had. A prosthetic leg would, in some ways, be easier than the nerve damaged and muscle atrophied stump you’ll see through surgery, only to have let go from beneath you for a year. Maybe longer.

But here’s the thing, the hit will be good for you, possibly the best. You’ve lived pretty close to the edge as is. Have woken up countless times wondering where you were and how you got there. Until that one night, when your friend Bryan forced you to talk to your girlfriend, in spite of your haze and indifference. Really, that night he begged her not to give up on you.

Because of him, she’ll be with you as you live the amazing cliché of homecoming-court-member-injured-during-the-game. She’ll be there during the surgery, and after, when you lose a host of friends, because partying with a gimp isn’t much fun. And she’ll be at your side, when, incredibly, still on crutches, you’ll suggest that you were stupid when you said, “I plan on being single when I go to college.” In fact, you’ll suggest that this relationship should last longer, like… forever. And the next day you’ll think this through and you won’t cringe.

Eric and Carrie on the court at the homecoming dance, post-game. Note the crutches and the pain.

Eric and Carrie on the court at the homecoming dance, post-game. Note the crutches and the pain.

And by the end of senior year, when your world, like your leg, has been whittled away, there will be a clutch of friends still standing with you. Somehow they’ll be around much longer than you could have ever imagined. It’ll be like a Friends episode, except without the money and living in the city and being beautiful.

But right now, you’re not thinking about that. You’re thinking about what it takes to be a man. How hard you’re going to have to hit the other team. Much later, probably when you have two daughters, you’ll understand what it truly means to “man up”, but for now you’re a testosterone-filled psycho. Except you’re not. You write poetry and rock your English classes and have a disdain for self-centeredness, especially in yourself. Those traits, including being a rage-fueled boy, will serve you well. Because you are going to leave a piece of yourself here, on this field, and you will forever be tied to the tumultuous wave of adolescence, because you will refuse to let go. In many ways you will never grow up. And in extraordinary ways you will.

Writing will be an outlet. Purely emotional at first, so don’t be embarrassed by what emerges. Talking to yourself on paper is better than talking to no one at all. That conversation will eventually turn and you will hone a voice for telling these stories–not just yours, but of the teens like you. Because there are more than you can imagine, and they will be thankful that you don’t pull punches and that you speak with honesty. Trust me, this isn’t “popular”, but when have you ever cared about that?

Eric and his friends for 50s day at school. Goofy, yes, but Bryan is the one wearing plaid.

Eric and his friends for 50s day at school. Goofy, yes, but Bryan is the one wearing plaid.

And so, that hit that’s coming, you’re prepared for it, as if you’ve trained for the moment, as if the past five years battling diabetes has shored up your defenses. You are strong and you are weak, and you’re about to find out how to live with that contradiction.

The referee blows the whistle and the kicker lines up. You stand near the end zone, taking in the crowd, your girlfriend with the rest of the homecoming court, and October of your senior year feels glorious.

The football slices the air, to your teammate. You prepare to block for him. This is you, right before it falls apart. This fragile self you’ve bound in muscle, about to learn, again, just how delicate we all are.

Grown-up Eric.

Grown-up Eric.

The opposing team streams your way. You see light and your teammate at your back. You sprint and block until they dive, one on each side, your left leg their aiming point.

Your scream reverberates off the concrete of the nearby building. The game halts. Your attackers slap hands, congratulating each other on a job well done.

And it is. Because only when you lose yourself can you then find yourself, and you’re already slipping, with the grass at your back and the bright sky above. And pain, so much pain.

Embrace it. Your former life is over. From here you will build, and you have everything you need to succeed.

Sincerely,

You at 35.

Because the 17th is around the corner

This has been a busy start to what promises to be an even busier year. And amid returning back to school and all that such entails, the release and publication of Dare Me have been on my periphery.

Then, yesterday, a colleague asked me when Dare Me would be available. I went into the explanation that I must: “Well, if you pre-order, it will ship…” I had to pause because a calendar was coming into focus in my mind and I was confused. “It will ship on the seventeenth,” I said and paused.

I think my colleague understood I was trying to do the math, because she finished it for me and said, “Which is in five days!”

*Mind blown*

So today, I figured I’d remind all of you of this, and give a brief reason for why pre-orders matter. Ready for fun with publishing 101? Here goes:

If all goes according to plan, pre-orders stack up before the release date, and then once released, i.e. Dare Me on 9/17, those sales all count toward the first week’s sales numbers.

And that matters because?

Because those pre-orders help a publisher consider the size of the print run and the resources they may invest in promotion. Obviously the bigger the number, the more frenetic the happy dance.

So if you know you want to read Dare Me, go for it and pre-order. Options are available here. If you’re on the fence, know that I’m going to spend the next few weeks trying to convince you 🙂 The first nudge, the trailer below, in case you haven’t already seen it, as well as a list of events, in non-PDF form. Enjoy.

Trailer for Dare Me, created by Patrick Willems

Event               Signing

Location          Market Block Books, 290 River St  Troy, NY12180

Date & Time   9/21, 11 am – 1 pm

 

Event               Signing

Location          Clifton Park-Halfmoon Library, 475 Moe Rd  Clifton Park, NY 12065

Date & Time   10/1, 6-8 pm

 

Event               Troy Author Day–Panel Discussion & Signing

Location          Troy Public Library, 100 2nd St  Troy, NY12180

Date & Time   10/19, 12-3 pm

 

Event               Signing

Location          Barnes & Noble, 3029 State Route 50  Saratoga Springs, NY12866

Date & Time   10/20, 1-4 pm

 

Event               Release party & Signing

Location          McGreivey’s Restaurant, 91 Broad St  Waterford, NY12188

Date & Time   10/25, 4-7 pm

 

Event               Fundraising Book Fair & Signing

Location          Barnes & Noble, 131 Colonie Center #355  Albany, NY12205

Date & Time   12/6, 4-7 pm

The Teenage Landscape

I am constantly wondering what I’m going to write next. This seems to be the bane of existence for most writers, because as much as we love what we have just finished, there is always the question: Well, is that it?

This tends to nag me when I’m between projects. Mind you, “between projects” means a novel is coming out, i.e. Dare Me, and a draft of another is written. So it’s not as if I’m whiling away my time, but on the flip side, just because something’s complete doesn’t mean it’s any good. Hence the incessant push to Always Be Working.

I’m fortunate to have in insider’s view, and all of my work is a mix of my impressions of teen life, combined with my emotional memory of being an adolescent. I’ve barely met my classes for the year and already I’m blown away by the “cast of characters” before me and the issues they already bring to the table. This year, like all the others, certain activity will consistently emerge (the daredevil behavior in Dare Me), or a particular image will present itself (the hoodies in Tap Out), and my mind will get racing. Then I’ll use bits and pieces of it all to create an impression as full-bodied as I can make it. And off I’ll go with a process that works.

Now, however, Dare Me will soon be out, and readers and critics will have their interpretations about how I present the teenage landscape. Say what they will, but I think this comment nails it: “This book is signature Devine: Intense. Gripping. Honest.”

That is my purpose. I tell stories that are usually a bit dark, are typically intense in nature, but always, always try to present some truth. Not necessarily a truth I want, but one I see and understand. That last point is what gets me yelled at. In my work I try to be a mirror instead of a design. And some people do not like what they see.

That’s all right. Because I’m still going to write with honesty. I’m going to pay attention to my students. I’m going to ask questions about their lives, have conversations with the very demographic I write for. There’s a universal desire in wanting your story told. I do the best I can for the countless ones I hear.

I’m glad to be back at work, for a multitude of reasons, but many of them have to do with being allowed to engage with today’s teens. Their lives are so different from what I knew back in the 90s, but in so many ways they are the same. And if I continue to examine that distinction, I’ll always have an answer for that nagging question.