Tag Archives: Suzanne Collins

Celebrity Hype and I: The Hunger Games

I love Suzanne Collins.  Her writing is honest and strong.  She writes lyrically, yet efficiently.  She isn’t afraid to tackle tough topics, and she does so admirably.  To say that she is my favorite author is an understatement.

Yet, I’d like to note that I loved Ms. Collins long before The Hunger Games hit book shelves.  You see, she’s multitalented.  She’s authored a picture book and a Middle Grade series–which was devoured in our household.  She’s also quiet and poised.  Not to mention, I’ve heard from a writer friend who went to school with Ms. Collins that she’s sweet and kind and smart and funny.

She is one of the very few celebrities I give credence to.  You see, in the midst of the social media trap that writers find themselves in–blogging, tweeting, FBing, etc, etc, etc–Ms. Collins found a place in the heart of readers nationwide because of her storytelling abilities.  Not because she pandered to the masses.  Not because she wore slinky outfits in her author photo and not because she behaved badly on national television.

I’m just going to throw this out there: I don’t like celebrities–as a general rule.  If I had to be honest, I’d say my disdain for many of them is as close to prejudice as I get.  Funny that I want to be an author.  That I want my books on book shelves and nightstands and libraries across the globe.  Quite hypocritical actually.

But let me elaborate.  What I don’t like is the God/Goddess pedestals we put celebrities on whether they deserve it or not.  I don’t like that famous actors can act naughty and rude and pretentious and spoiled and still be looked upon as role models.  I don’t like that rock stars can rock rehab centers often enough to have their names permanently etched on a waiting list for the next “oopsy” and our kids LOVE them and want to be like them.

I think “celebrity” sends many, many wrong messages to our children about what success is and what being great really means.  I think reality shows that glamorize teen pregnancies and bitchy housewives set the tone for low and misguided expectations for America’s youth.  Heck, for its adults, as well.

I hate that compassionate nurses and great teachers get paid celebrity pocket change, while some celebrities with extra-large wallets who are greatly admired by youngsters don’t have a compassionate or generous bone in their bodies.  It just seems so…wrong.

On the other hand, I love that some celebrities are quiet, poised, sweet, kind, passionate, compassionate, smart and funny.  I love that some celebrities make my children really think about the society in which they live.  I love that these celebrities aren’t afraid to make a positive impact.  I just wish there were more of them.

But then again, maybe there are, and I just don’t know about them.  After all, squeaky wheels get the oil and the kind of celebrities I admire aren’t squeaking.  They are busy working.

The Hunger Games movie opens tomorrow morning.  At 12:01, I will be sitting in a theater with a gaggle of teens waiting breathlessly to see the film adaptation of my all-time favorite book–one that takes a clear stance on the “reality” of today’s entertainment and the impact it has on our society.

Kudos, Suzanne Collins.  I wouldn’t interrupt my sleep for anyone but you and your Hunger Games.

How about you, dear readers, what are your thoughts on celebrity-ism in today’s world?  How do you think reality shows have skewed our realities?  Who is your favorite celeb and why?  What type of celebrity role model do you cringe at?

Curious minds are really, really curious!

(Un)Healthy Writing 1: Identity, the precursor to addiction

This morning’s commute-to-school conversation with Dear Daughter?  Drinking.  Which led to smoking.  Which led to addiction.  Which led to teen addiction versus adult use.  Which got my writing wheels turning.

Close your eyes and go back in time to highschool.  Remember how visceral the need to fit in was?  How our hearts raced when certain kids smiled at us?  How they dropped to the floor when those same kids spat hate words at us?  How our identities were firmly attached to the things we did (or didn’t) do?

Band geeks, jocks, cheerleaders, dopers, losers, goody-goodies.

The titles may have changed, but the concept is the same.  How we feel about ourselves is directly impacted  by the way others see us.  Some of us carefully cultivated our reputations, while others let the chips fall where they may.  Still more seemed to be victims of circumstance.  Regardless of how we got them or what they were, our reputations defined us. 

Guess what?  They still do.  I read in a magazine a few years back that roughly 83% of adults polled said they wanted to write a novel.  That number is duplicated by teen drinkers.  According to an article in USA Today, 81% of teens have consumed alcohol.

My question is why?  Why do so many adults feel compelled to write?  Why do so many of our nation’s youth feel compelled to drink?   

My belief is that for many teen drinkers and many adult writers, we have a strong need to fit in.  We want others to recognize us, not look past us.  We want to be heard, respected and accepted.  Because of that, we romanticize the activities we partake in and use them to identify ourselves with the masses.

Let’s face it, nearly everyone can write on some level, and many of us feel less than satisfied with aspects of our real life journeys.  Not everyone aspires to (insert dead-end job here).  We see successful authors and say, “Hey, I can do that.  I want to do that.  I want everyone in highschool to recognize me as the cool kid–the one with a nationally known name and a bank account to rival Suzanne Collins’, not the one who had used toilet paper stuck to the bottom of her shoe in the eighth grade.”

In a similar manner, this is what kids go through each and every day.  They yearn for a strong identity and, by default, are more apt to engage in socially acceptable behavior they can do.  Playing a mean clarinet solo doesn’t garner as many cool points as slamming a beer in 2.3 seconds.

Taking this comparison one step further, most teens who crack a beer for the first time have no real idea about the life-long affects teen drinking can have.  Likewise, I’ve been around long enough to know that most adult writers possess a similar lack of understanding about what writing a novel is really like.  Rather, a fair number of both groups may simply be looking for a way to cement their identities within their communities.

Starting any habit based on the need to fit in can be devastating to our sense of self-worth.  In the coming week, I will address the issue of (un)healthy writing and how to find a balance that works for you.

So, dear writers, who are you and why do you write?  What compels you to pen words on napkin scraps, forego sleep and throw yourself out there for rejection time and again?  Is it a byline?  A bigger bank account?  A message?  A deep and unexplained passion?  Therapy?  A need to prove a point? The desire to escape? 

Don’t worry, there are no right or wrong answers.  Nobody is here to judge, just to understand the drive behind the words.

PS.  Neither I nor Suzanne Collins had used toilet paper stuck to our shoes in the eighth grade–at least not that I’m aware of!

PPS.  If you don’t know who Suzanne Collins is, please check her out online.  Then check out her amazing books (THE HUNGER GAMES trilogy).  Then check out a seat in the movie theater as her epic book hits the big screen in less than 20 days.

PPPS.  In case you don’t know, Miss Collins wrote an amazing series for middle grade readers, as well as a picture book.  It’s never too youg to fall in love with a great author.

Query Bio Mistakes

While googling my name to see if I ousted famous rodeo star of his search engine slots I ran across an ad for a dating service in my hometown.  On it were three pictures of local singles wanting to hook up with local lurkers lookers.

One pic was of a handsome guy dressed in fancy duds and was likely taken at his BFF’s wedding.  The only problem?  His left side was cut off at the elbow and a feminine arm circled his waist.  Yep, Dating Genius’s pick-up picture had another woman in it.  Barely, but still…

In my writing world, the pick-up picture is our query letter.  It’s our first, and sometimes only, chance we get to land a first date.

We should look good–polished and captivating.  Hot in our tux with our hair styled just right and a crooked grin that makes our whole face light up. 

It’s easy to spiff up our pitch (though some might disagree), and it’s a snap to provide details–42k word,  YA paranormal romance titled You Know You Wanna Read Me.

But sometimes we get tripped up by our bios.  We forget to photo shop our pictures and leave in little details that usually turn off potential dates.

Biography Paragraph Traps 

We’re too handsome for words: My grandmother says it’s the best book she’s ever read.  Ever.  And Granny is the most honest person I know.

We’re drooling like a black lab after pheasant scent: I just wrote the end yesterday and I just know you’ll love it as much as I do, so please read it today and I’ll get back to you tomorrow, oops, that’s me calling now.  TTFN.

We’re Freud’s couch patients: I would be eternally thankful if you would just humble yourself enough to read my lowly book which you probably won’t like anyway because it’s been rejected by every other agent in the world.  But here it is.  If you’re still interested.

We have bigger egos than Arnold Schwarzenegger has biceps: Listen here, Mr. Agent, this is the best book you will ever read.  If you pass on it, you’re missing out on millions.  Millions, I say.  And I won’t be back.

We put the proverbial sock in our trousers so we look better than we actually are: My poem, Willy the Worm, was published in our fourth grade keepsake book from Mrs. Robbins.  I also wrote a letter to the editor of our local farm newspaper about the gestation period of elephants.  Please consider my murder mystery which has no poetry, worms or elephants in it.

We have the Seven Degrees of Kevin Bacon Syndrome: My best friend’s, cousin’s, uncle’s dog was trained at the same facility as the dog owned by the next door neighbor of Suzanne Collins’ pool boy.  (Not that Suzanne even has a pool boy, but if she did, how cool would that be?  For me, not the agent.)

We’re hopelessly all brawn and no brain: Dude, call me.

We could play the leading role in a Stephen King movie: I noticed by the book on your nightstand that you like middle grade fiction.  And since your bathroom had an African theme, I can only assume that you will love my book which is set in the Serengeti.  Oh yeah, and all those old pictures in the photo albums beside your 60″ tv, the ones with your great grandma beside the horse?  Yeah, my novel has an old lady in it too.  And might I add that you looked hot at your sweet sixteen?  Anyway, for your convenience, I left my entire manuscript on your kitchen counter beside the fresh-baked cinnamon rolls (your favorite) and a pot of hazelnut coffee.  PS. I locked the door on my way out.

My advice to you is this: introduce yourself, simply and honestly with relevant information only

I’m an SCBWI member.  My article, “Into the Wild” was published in Boy’s Life (July 2010).  For the past seventeen years I have worked as a guide in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.  Each summer we take at-risk kids on a two-week trip where they can learn life skills and gain self-esteem.  These experiences are the basis for my adventure novel, Tales of a Teenage Screw Up. 

I look forward to hearing from you,

Bob Good Bio 

What other bad bio mistakes can writers fall victim to?  If you’re brave enough to answer, have you every made any of the above?  I have!