Names, names, names!

Instead of picking a word I like for this post, I have to celebrate a lifelong preoccupation of mine:  names.

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been interested in names. Never boys’ names, only girls’. (Boys’ names always seemed so solid and boring to me. I wonder if that would’ve been different if I’d had a brother or a son.)

When I was a kid, I named my fingers and my toes. I named all of my fish exotic (to me) names like Rainbow and Rainbowette, Peter and Amy. I made lists of names and funky ways to spell them. For a long time, my favorite was “Krystalle.”

At one point, I decided to write my own baby names book. I gathered all the books on names I could find, and started to type up a master list that combined the others. I don’t think it ever occurred to me that this could be plagiarism, but that’s a whole other story.

When I started teaching, the names were so exciting. Now I had 20ish names to compulsively repeat to myself! When I got each new class list, I would memorize it alphabetically by first name, and I’d recite it to anyone I could find (much to their dismay). I even made a master list (I see a pattern…) of every student I’d ever taught, alphabetical by first name, of course. OCD, anyone?

When I named my own children–girls–I could’ve picked one of fifty different names and been happy. My husband either said “no” or “maybe” to each one, right up until the end. How could he not want input on something so desperately important?

And then came… choosing characters’ names.

Now here’s the weird thing. For someone so into names, you’d think I’d dwell on the names of my characters and choose the names I love the most.

But the characters named themselves and I didn’t have much say in it. Alexis (my main character in my WiP) was just Alexis, right from the beginning. I don’t even like the name Alexis. Alexa, or Alexandra, maybe, but not Alexis. And her friends Dana and Kelly? So not my style. And when I try to create a character around a name I like, it never works.

So what’s the message here? I guess it’s that feeling that writers sometimes get, when your book is out of your hands and your characters are in charge. I admit that sounds ridiculous; authors are in control of their words. But not always, especially in a state of flow.

Weird, but true.

Anyone want Iza’Belah for a character name?

Can You Hit a Perfect Pitch?

Here’s my entry for the contest. Please comment!

Title: Outside In

Genre: YA Contemporary

Word count: 51,000 words

Pitch:

Perfect super-brain Alexis works hard for approval, but inside she’s a mess, hurting herself whenever she “fails.”  When her boarding school and her parents find out her secret, she faces expulsion if she can’t stop.
First 150 words:

A bright red B. Oh my God. My lowest grade ever.

I rubbed my cheek as hard as I could and stuffed the paper into my binder before anyone could see it. I didn’t bother to check the comments—plenty of time to memorize those later.

My throat closed up and I couldn’t draw a full breath. One full grade less than an A. My G.P.A. would sink. Miranda would pass me in class rank.

One single B could ruin everything.

What would my mother say?

Miranda got her paper back and grinned in triumph. An A for sure.

How could I be such a fool? I clenched my teeth and my hands shook. I should have spent more time on the paper until it was flawless.

Dr. Shah handed out the last of the papers, but I barely noticed. Chairs scraped. Someone sneezed. There was a giggle from somewhere behind me. But all I could see was the afterimage of a—

Bright.

Red.

B.

Blogfest Contest

Over at http://brenleedrake.blogspot.com/ there’s information about a contest for YA and MG aspiring authors.

Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency is judging the contest, and the prize for the winner is a request for more pages from her (which is really cool, because she’s closed to submissions right now).

Here’s what you have to do:

Submit a two sentence pitch and the first 150 words of your novel. Post them on your blog starting January 15th. Then blog-hop around and comment on the other entries from Jan. 15-16. On January 17th, at 8 a.m., the contest goes live.

So sometime in the next few days, I’ll have my pitch and first 150 words posted. Feel free to comment!

Oh, and…    EEK!

What I’m Reading

Right now, I’m reading Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen.

I’ve heard so many great things about Sarah Dessen, especially on Twitter and on YA writing blogs. Writers and teens say things like: “My favorite books are anything Sarah Dessen has written.” So, in the spirit of my New Year’s Resolution and plain ol’ common sense, I looked around for her books at the library.

The first one I found was What Happened to Goodbye, about a girl named Mclean who moved around constantly with her father, changing her personality at each school. The big moment was her reunion with her mother and her realization that she wanted to actually stay put somewhere. I enjoyed it and all, but I couldn’t see what the fuss was about Sarah Dessen.

Then I checked out Lock and Key, on audiobook. There were a bunch of Dessen’s books in the audiobook section, but I chose the one that seemed like it had the most troubled main character.

(For those of you who read my writing, you know that I NEVER write about disturbed female characters. Never ever ever ever.)

Anyway, this book is awesome. Ruby’s mom has run away from the home they shared together, and Ruby is on her own, trying to make do without help from anyone until she turns 18. Social Services discovers her situation and she is sent to live with her older sister Cora and her rich husband Jamie. Ruby won’t get close to anyone and trusts no one. Her challenge is to come to terms with her sister and her mother and ultimately herself.

I think. I haven’t actually finished it.

But I’m beginning to see why people like Sarah Dessen so much. I’m into the story. And can I just say, I love hearing the story in the car. The narrator sounds just right as Ruby.

So now the question is: will I begin a love affair with Sarah Dessen? Will she sweep me off my feet and woo me with her other books?

I’ll let you know.

New Year’s Resolution

Writing gurus tell you that to be a writer, you must read. A lot.

Okay, I read a ton. I read every night, think about reading all the time, can’t wait to talk about books. I savor the words and repeat beautiful phrases out loud and mentally edit other people’s books way too much.

But, here’s the thing…

Apparently you’re supposed to read a lot in your genre. And not just read about how to write them.

Technically, I knew that.

But as I look back on my list of books I read in 2011, only about 10% were Young Adult.  That’s not enough! How can I try to publish a YA book if I haven’t read that many of them? What if I’m way off on the kinds of YA that are out there?

So I already made a good start. I’m listening to a Sarah Dessen audiobook, and checked out three YA books from the library.

So if I read a little over 100 books altogether in 2011, how’s this for a goal?

I, Lisa Rosenman, will read 50 or more Young Adult books this year. And you can hold me accountable for that.