Monday, September 28, 2009

Banned Books Week!

That's right YA Freshers, the last week of September is the time to celebrate Banned Books Week! Every year, literature is challenged in one form or another. Some are shouted from the hill tops and others not detected at all. So now is your week to celebrate your freedom to read.

Here is the Top 10 Banned Books in 2008 compiled by the American Library Association:

And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
Reasons: anti-ethnic, anti-family, homosexuality, religious viewpoint, and unsuited to age group

His Dark Materials trilogy, by Philip Pullman
Reasons: political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, and violence

TTYL; TTFN; L8R, G8R (series), by Lauren Myracle
Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group

Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
Reasons: occult/satanism, religious viewpoint, and violence

Bless Me, Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya
Reasons: occult/satanism, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, and violence

The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
Reasons: drugs, homosexuality, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit, suicide, and unsuited to age group

Gossip Girl (series), by Cecily von Ziegesar
Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group

Uncle Bobby's Wedding, by Sarah S. Brannen
Reasons: homosexuality and unsuited to age group

The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group

Flashcards of My Life, by Charise Mericle Harper
Reasons: sexually explicit and unsuited to age group

For more lists of frequently challenged books check out the ALA site here.

Happy Banned Reading!


Friday, September 25, 2009

Kitten Crazy!

As I write this, I have two 8 week-old kittens curled up, purring in their little cat bed. Happy, content, at home. Hard to believe that just 3 weeks ago, I didn’t even know they existed...

Flash back to the aftermath of the Station Fire. The one here in Los Angeles that evacuated me and 10,000 of my closest friends. We Ferraros were still busy reconnecting computers and putting the family pictures back on the walls when at about 9:00 one night, I got a call from my neighbor, Terri. (FYI, if you have read The ABC’s of Kissing Boys, she’s the “Terri” of the book’s dedication: “For Terri, ‘cause she’s cool like that!”)
She’d found a teeny, tiny kitten outside her back door, shivering in the darkness.

I ran over there and we cuddled and cooed over the poor little guy. All the while wondering where he came from, where his mother was, how he got into her backyard....if there was one out in the wild, were there more?

By the next day, the kitten (who would go on to be called Ranger) was settled in at Terri’s house. That night, my husband and I took our usual walk. But circumstances prevailed and we needed to head back the short way--something we never do--ending up on the street below Terri’s. Suddenly:

Tiny Voice in Ivy: “Peep!”
Me (stopping dead in tracks): “Did you hear that???”
Husband: (with resignation): “Yes..."
Me: “Peep!”
Voice in Ivy: “Peep!”
Me: “Peep!”
Voice in Ivy: “Peep!”
Husband: “Oh, great, another cat.”

The problem was, it was a holiday weekend and no one was home at any of the surrounding houses. And as my husband pointed out, I couldn’t take a pet from someone’s property just because I thought it might be a stray. (Darn him and his logic!)

So I went and got Terri (and kitten food) and we fed the kitty. And left her in the ivy. What could we do?

But bright and early the next morning, I returned with more food, only to have her scamper up to me, let me pick her up, and start purring. And more? The people were home! So I talked to them and they said a stray mother cat had had a litter of four...but all had been disappearing one by one...and at last count, only two kittens were left.

What didn’t need to be said was what had likely happened to the others. See, we live on the edge of a national forest. And even before the fires, with our hot, dry summer, the coyotes had been coming down looking for food. Since the fires, it was every animal for himself.

So Ruby (as she was soon to be called) moved in with Ranger in his cozy digs. And from the first moment they reconnected, they sniffed and nuzzled and purred...and curled up together. Melted Terri’s and my hearts! We like to believe that Ranger was the “Scout,” the one who went and found them safety and shelter, and that somehow he sent us back for her. But--you know--we're cool like that. ;)

Here they are that first weekend at Terri’s house:

Here they are two weeks later when they moved in with me:

Right now, we are continuing to raise them together. Long stretches at Terri’s, and then at mine, depending on schedules. In either location, they’re as happy as can be--purring and playing and cleaning each other. We’re planning to separate them when they are older, Ranger to live with her, Ruby with me, but we’re just going to play it by ear for now.

So tell us, have you ever rescued a pet or stepped in to help one who needed a home?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

What's Fresh with Paula Chase Hyman's Del Rio Bay Series!

It's junior year at Del Rio Bay High, and from near and far, the guys are taking center stage...

Now that Mina's boyfriend Brian is off to Duke University, life in Del Rio Bay is lonely. And Brian's busy schedule as a Duke baller isn't helping. As the season heats up and the phone calls get fewer, Mina's insecurity increases—and so does Brian's impatience with it. But he's not the only guy in the clique dealing with craziness.
Michael's passion for fashion has led to a chance to attend a special creative arts program in D.C. He knows he should jump on it, but leaving home is harder than he thought. He turns to his dancer friend Rob for support, but Rob's presence around the clique triggers star athlete JZ's feelings of homophobia. As JZ's discomfort simmers, his feelings get the best of him when he finds himself seriously attracted to Jacinta—and discovers she's on a different page.

With relationships in the balance and friendships at risk, Flipping the Script (Del Rio Bay Novels) challenges the guys to step up when the stakes are high.

Hello, Paula, it is a pleasure to have you back with us on YA Fresh for an interview about the entire Del Rio Bay series! Please tell us about your series and the latest novel in the set.

Paula: I think this is the first time I've had to summarize the entire series. Wow, big reality check that it's over. The Del Rio Bay series is about six friends and the trials their friendship endures as they mature from freshman to juniors. It's sort of like giving a middle school reader a chance to look in a crystal ball and see what high school could (probably will) do to their friendships. You go in thinking friendships, tastes, values are the same but they morph in high school big time.

The last book, Flipping The Script (Dafina, April '09) is the final Act and centers primarily on the male characters as one comes to grips with how his sexuality will impact the circle.

What was the most difficult part of writing this series?

Paula: Maybe it's easy to say this now, because it's over, but writing the series was easy. Maybe too easy because now that I've moved on I'm realizing how hard writing is. That's weird isn't it? I've written five books and now it's hard! But I got to dwell in the heads of these characters so long, thinking like them was second nature. Honestly, the hardest part was moving on and quieting their voices. I wanted to write a sixth book, but my publisher passed. But man, try telling the characters that the curtain has fallen. That was hard.

Could you tell us what type of promotion you or your publisher have done for your series?

Paula: You know how writers are always warning newbies that promo will not fall primarily in their laps? Well, I'm a prime example of that happening. Although my publisher paid for me to attend BEA, one year, and they secured several major reviews (Booklist, Publishers Weekly and Kirkus) I'd say 95% of the promo was initiated and implemented by me. My largest promo tool is my website and that's where I sunk a good portion of my marketing dollars. However, I also networked heavily in the kiddie lit community among gatekeepers to build good word-of-mouth for the series. I did a lot of library visits for the first three books and a few literary festivals. But now, my promo is primarily online - blog tours, guest blogging and ads on teen friendly sites like teensreadtoo and blackteensread2.

Please list one similarity and one difference between yourself and your main character.

Paula: Mina and I grew up in the exact same environment. The Woods, where she lives and DRB High, are both based on my own neighborhood and high school. But where we're different is Mina's strength. The things she endures, I think she handles way better than I would have at her age. I wanted her to be vulnerable, like many teens are when they're learning about the world around them, but I also wanted her to have this quirky sense of resiliency that I never truly possessed as a teen.

Thank you again for sharing, Paula! I wish you the best on your next writing project! Could you please tell us one of your favorite lines from one or each of the books?

Paula: So Not The Drama - Popularity is a drug. You get a taste of it and suddenly the looks you get from people, the way you get treated, the things you get away with…you need it. You honest to God, need it. (I love this line because it sets the tone for this book but not the entire series, like some people assume)

Don't Get It Twisted - Having him all up on her was like being snuggled inside a freshly washed sweatshirt. (Is it just me? I love the smell and feel of a newly washed hoodie!)

That's What's Up - Yes, I’m growing it out. Changing my style to go along with my new status as Cinny without Raheem, she thought silently in the quiet darkness. (The character is talking about changing her hair to reinforce that she's moving on as she contemplates breaking up with her BF. I love the simplicity of the thought that you can do one as easily as the other)

Who You Wit'?- And Jacinta still remembered her father watching Taquon walk down the street in a bikini top and bootie shorts, stretch marked stomach on
display, shaking his head wondering aloud where her parents had been while she’d been out having sex with a boyfriend who was fifteen but still only in seventh grade. (I love this line because even as adults we sometimes flash back to something our parents said to us and the flash is so strong it's like reliving it...even when what was said seems so throwaway at the time)

Paula Chase Hyman's Del Rio Bay series helped launch Kensington Books YA line in March 2007. Dedicated to working with teens, she co-founded the Committed Black Women in 1993, a high school mentoring group and coached a competitive squad for five years.

She recently co-founded The Brown Bookshelf with five author friends. The site is dedicated to honoring vanguard authors and showcasing the myriad of talented African American children’s lit authors and illustrators flying under-the-radar of librarians, parents and teachers. Visit her at and

Sunday, September 20, 2009

We Have A Winner!

Thanks to all who entered to win a signed copy of Sydney Salter's debut novel, My Big Nose and Other Natural Disasters. We have a winner:


please e-mail me at with your contact information, and we'll get the book in the mail to you!

And a reminder to all our readers that we frequently have giveaways here at YA Fresh, so keep coming back!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Welcome Sydney Salter!

Two years ago, at the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrator’s conference in Century City, California, I enjoyed meeting newly contracted author, Sydney Salter. At the conference this past summer, I was delighted to get to buy a copy of her (very funny) book, My Big Nose And Other Natural Disasters.

Sydney has been kind enough to join us for an interview and a book giveaway here at YA Fresh. So enjoy her interview, and please, leave a comment, to be entered to win a a signed copy of My Big Nose And Other Natural Disasters!

Hello, Sydney! And welcome. Could you please tell us a little about your writing background and how you made your first sale?

Writing for me started with keeping a daily diary during high school. I certainly didn’t expand much beyond gossip, adventures with my friends, arguments with my mother, and endless paragraphs about my various crushes. But I do think that keeping a diary helped me develop my teen voice. I did kind of hope to someday, maybe, write a novel—but how could I do something like that?

I didn’t write any fiction until I’d graduated from college with a degree in English (I was too afraid of failing to even take a creative writing class). I wrote truly terrible short stories that rarely received praise from my teachers or classmates. Until I returned to that adolescent voice… Hmm. But I wanted to be a “real” writer.

I didn’t start writing for a younger audience until I had children. Pretty quickly, I realized that raising two daughters would be the most difficult thing I’d ever do—so I might as well try writing. I wrote truly terrible picture books that resulted in stacks of rejection letters. And then I returned to that adolescent voice and wrote Jungle Crossing. I was hooked on novels—and wrote two more. I still collected rejection letters, but some of them had nice comments and suggestions. I revised, revised, and revised. Needing to shake up my writing routine (and rid myself of the rejection blues), I wrote My Big Nose And Other Natural Disasters during National Novel Writing Month ( Realizing that it was my most commercial story, I submitted it only to agents. A few months—and some more revisions—later, I signed with Ted Malawer and he sold the book to Julie Tibbott at Harcourt.

Readers and writers often like to get a behind the scenes peek of an author's writing routine. It would be great if you could please share your typical writing day schedule.

After I race my daughters off to school, I hurry home to make a cup of tea and dive into my writing. If I’m working on a first draft, I try to write a chapter a day. If I finish before school gets out, I’ll read someone else’s lovely edited and published novel or work on publicity tasks. If my girls are home, I’ll escape to a noisy café to write (where no one will ask me to help them find their blue shirt, or whatever).

When I’m revising a book, I’ll put in a full day, only stopping for lunch while watching a few minutes of Hot Topics on The View (I love bad television). I do try to stop working at the end of the school day.

Please tell us about My Big Nose and Other Natural Disasters and what we can expect from this book.

The initial spark for the novel came from my worst-ever job experience—combined with the fact that I hated my nose in high school. Seventeen-year-old Jory Michaels gets a summer job to save money for a life-altering nose job. She wants to fit in with her “perfect” family, snag a boyfriend, and have an amazing senior year. Of course things go wrong (that’s the natural disasters part). The book is about learning to accept yourself, understanding your family, working things out with friends—and falling in love, of course!

Great, so what's up next? Do you have another project in the works?

My very first manuscript, Jungle Crossing, an upper middle-grade comes out this month (a testament to the power of revision!).

I also just finished copy-edits for Swoon At Your Own Risk, a teen novel about a girl with five ex-boyfriends who’s afraid to fall in love with again—but of course there’s this guy. Oh, and her grandma, a famous advice columnist has moved in for the summer. I hope to start another teen novel soon (I’m busy brainstorming ideas!).

Would you like to close with a writing tip?

Don’t give up! If you really want to write, keep learning, keep writing, and keep revising. I remember being so intimidated by a confident writer I met at my first writing conference. She seemed to know so much—and her novels sounded so amazing. But she never finished it. Way too many writers give up too soon. Just buckle down, soothe your sorrows with long walks and chocolate (okay, maybe that’s just me) and keep writing!

Thanks, Sydney!

And to all our YA Fresh readers, the contest starts NOW and concludes Sunday night at 6 pm PST. Best of luck!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Living Your Five!

In case you guys haven't heard about Living Your Five, let me introduce you to this wonderful idea...

"Living Your Five is about making the world a better place, one person and one day at a time. It's about knowing what you care about and how you want to make a difference in your world."

This cool website was created by Young adult authors, Kay Cassidy, Alyson Noel, Tera Lynn Childs, and Becca Fitzpatrick.

Each week the authors share their five, how they or someone they know are trying to make a difference in our world, big or small. Every lit bit helps. And YOU can be an honorary fiver! Learn more about the details here!

So visit this awesome site and spread the joy of living your fives!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Did You See...

My latest teen DVD rentals have included Hannah Montana: The Movie and 17 Again.

I have to say, Miley Cyrus and Zach Efron are not my generation of teen entertainers. I was more of the age of Kids Incorporated! :) But I really enjoyed these talented actors in these films.

Hannah Montana: The Movie was fun, sweet, with music and dancing. The young starlet has to choose which life she will lead--the secret identity of the popular Hannah Montana or her real hometown girl persona as Miley, weaved in with a sweet, budding romance.

17 Again had a hip/modern slant with lots of humor. A former high school basketball star and unhappy adult is sent back to when he was 17 to relive his wonder years to see if he made the right decision 20 years ago. Mike may look 17 yet still with the wisdom of his adult life and sees his teen years in a whole new light. Will he make the same decision as he did all those years ago?

Out of the two, I have to say my favorite was Hannah Montana: The Movie!

Have you seen either of these movies yet? Which do you prefer best?

Monday, September 07, 2009

Labor Day Weekend Winner(s)!

Thanks to all who entered our weekend giveaway. We got so many comments that I felt compelled to name not one, but two winners! Who are...


Cyndala and Jill, please contact me at and let me know which of my three books (as listed to the right of this blog entry, as well as at my website, you would like to receive!

Thanks, all!

Friday, September 04, 2009

Labor Day Weekend Giveaway!

Some of you know I had a very rough week...was under mandatory evacuation because my house was on the perimeter of the Los Angeles Station Fire!

But thanks to the smart and heroic efforts of my city's firefighters and police, the danger has passed. We returned to our home, and now it's back to life as usual!

So I am particularly happy and thankful this Labor Day Weekend, and plan to "celebrate" in low-key ways: attending a pre-season high school football game, home clean-up, and some BBQ'ing with friends and family.

Leave us a comment and tell us something interesting or fun or relaxing you are doing this weekend. On Monday night, I'll select one winner who can then choose which one of my three books (as noted in our right side column) he or she would like to receive.

Meanwhile, Happy Labor Day Weekend!