From the UncommonYA blog, “F. This.”

UncommonYA – Blog.

F. This.

11/08/2013

 

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by Eric DevineWriting should be more of a mirror to society than a portrait. I believe if we are writing well, then we are telling truths about what exists, not only how we want to see the world behave. These truths are often labeled dark or edgy or gritty, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with these adjectives. However, the problem arises when they become synonymous with controversial.The term controversial is a universal call for someone to get up in arms. And today, some people savor the whiff of controversy, so that they can use it as a platform to discuss their opinions, shoot others down in an online flame war, or even worse, twist the premise of the original controversy for personal gain.

And yet we wonder why authors tell stories about the darkness of humanity?

I am fortunate that I teach teenagers every day. Focusing on stories and structure and the power of words with adolescents reveals what every Young Adult author should know: they are real people with flaws.

Shocking, I know.

But considering how much adults talk about and write about and spend energy on keeping books with dark material away from teens, maybe it is. The premise of these well-intentioned adults is two-fold: 1. Teens don’t need to read about “this” (whatever inappropriate topic has been deemed such). 2. If they do, like those “gateway drugs”, they’ll learn things that will open doors down terrible paths.

And this is when I get irate.

Teens swear, make bad choices, get in fights, have sex, do drugs, and experience such inhumanity from one another, it makes my soul cringe. However, this has been the case since I was in high school, close to twenty years ago, and I doubt it’s a new development. The speed and intensity of ithas changed, via social media and technology. Yet, do you know where this, and the aforementioned issues are dealt with, where lessons are learned by characters, so that others may vicariously learn? You guessed it?

And if that source material, the handbooks for how-things-might-go-down, is shot through a rosy lens, what has been taught? That these events are fine. That doing these things is okay. That treating one another like dirt leaves you feeling awesome.

I understand the premise of the adults. I sincerely do. But they are wrong. I have never seen a child “break bad” because of a book he or she read. I have never heard a teen interviewed by an administrator for something heinous he or she has done and claim a book as the source of the idiocy.

It doesn’t happen.

Teens learn from one another, from the internet, from their parents, from their teachers––probably in this order. If a teen is reading books, hoping to find something to help navigate these rough waters, we should applaud them, give them a medal and then beg them to pass the stories on. Because many teens do not read. They spend extensive time watching Vines and YouTube videos and on Twitter and on Facebook. And they cut one another down from the safety of the keyboard, and unless no one or no story jars them from this, they grow into adults, who make decisions about content, hear the word controversial and fall into the loop society––not books––has created.

Want to see if I walk the walk? Check out either Tap Out or Dare Me.

Find fearless author Eric Devine online:


Website
Eric Devine Facebook
Eric Devine Author Page, Facebook 
Twitter
Buy Eric’s books:
Dare Me, Tap Out, This Side of NormalAmazon US, Amazon Canada: Dare MeTap OutThis Side of Normal; Barnes & Noble: Dare MeTap Out;  IndieBound

“A boy who knows only grinding despair finds hope within the walls of a gym. . . . This is bound to have huge appeal.” School Library Journal Teen
“Devine instantly captures your attention and holds it until the very end. . . . The storyline, the drama and the characters were all thoroughly put together.” Publishers Weekly

“Devine doesn’t pull any punches.” http://foreveryoungadult.com/2013/10/09/whats-the-matter-mcfly-chicken/

Tap Out: a 2013 YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Readers AND a 

2013 Top 10 Sports Book for Youth: Booklist

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B&N Teen Read Week–DARE ME signing

B&N

On Sunday, 10/20, I will be at Barnes and Noble, Saratoga from 1-3, to bring an end to Teens Read Week. The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA)–who put Tap Out on their reluctant reader list— and Barnes and Noble have teamed up again to celebrate all things YA lit related and I’m happy to be a part of the week.

If you’re in the area and want to support our local teens, stop in and get a copy of Dare Me signed. I promise it will be worth your while.

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.

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.

If You’re Reading This, I’m at Work

It’s true, today I start back to my other job. I’ve enjoyed my summer vacation, feel as if I made headway on my current projects, and certainly enjoyed the time I spent with family and friends. But now I dig in, because so much lies ahead of me, and some pieces are similar to last year at this time, while others are entirely different.

On September 2nd, last year, Tap Out was nine days from its publication date, and I wrote, thanking a local English teacher for her praise of my work. At the time I did not realize that the release date had already passed–I didn’t know what that date was–and that along with everyone who’d received an Advanced Reader Copy, those who had pre-ordered were already reading and reviewing Tap Out. The early reviews were indicative of the way the remaining reviews would go: some love the story; some are offended by it. At first, the negative reviews bothered me, but I quickly got over them and focused on the critical praise that mattered, the reviews from the important publications, like Kirkus, as well as from those in the know, like Ann L.

Now, Dare Me is twenty-seven days from its publication date, with the release date of September 17th. Therefore, I know that in two weeks everyone who pre-ordered will be receiving copies, and I will be searching like mad following that date for reviews. I have also read the Kirkus review of Dare Me and know that it is astounding. So much so that it altered the cover of my novel. Further, I know there are scant reviews already from those with advanced copies, and that the feelings are mixed. As to be expected. Still, I do not have a review from any local teachers, so I’m waiting, because I know how busy they are about to get, and I know how much their opinion matters.

Unlike last year, my signings are all set, and I’ve posted them below. With an October 8th pub date, I have time to get these exact posters into classrooms across the region well before a number of my events. WNYT (channel 13) is interviewing me on 10/5, just like lat year, but sadly, the Times Union will not be running an article on Dare Me. I’m still scratching my head over how that played out.

No worries, though, because I have a good feeling about Dare Me. It’s another novel that will capture the attention of reluctant readers. It’s another novel that honestly explores the contemporary lives of teens without shying away from the hard facts and without making sure that in the end everything is all tucked neatly back together. That’s not how life works and that’s not how I envision my stories. This time last year I was praying that Tap Out would be accepted. It has been, on many levels, including by YALSA and Booklist. This year I am praying that Dare Me finds a wider audience, not because I’m greedy, but because, as I recently wrote to my editor, when we were discussing what’s next, “So yes, stories, I have them. Fingers crossed I manage to tell them well enough.” Trust me, there’s more to come.

And as it was this time last year, the same remains true today. I’m back at work, but really, I’m always working. Teaching and writing have such similar qualities: engage the audience, keep them enthralled, and leave them having learned something new. My lives intersect in one place, the blank page. I hope you enjoy what you find there.

*Bonus*

I will most likely be including the trailer for Dare Me at the end of all of my posts from here until October. Enjoy.

Trailer for Dare Me, created by Patrick Willems