Sep 6th, 2012 by Liza Wiemer

On July 16, 2012, the awesome, inspiring, bold, calculated risk-taker, QuHarrison “DJ CTZ” Terry, a senior at Nicolet High School, asked me to write about what it takes to be an effective risk taker. I’m sharing some of that post on my blog with a link to the rest on his:

What is VICTORY? In my mind, it’s taking CALCULATED RISKS. When you look at the best-case scenario and say, “Oh yeah, I can and will take this idea and make it a reality!” And then you look at the worst-case scenario and say, “I can live with that.” I am a firm believer if you want to really succeed, you need to be willing to take risks to get there, be willing to fall flat on your face and the pick yourself up. I am a firm believer that those who take calculated risks rarely fall flat on their faces because it means you’ve done a lot of homework, legwork, planning, testing, implementing. Of course, there’s always the chance that it turns out differently, and you need to be willing to live with it. Then try again, but a different way. To succeed, it takes a powerhouse effort, giving it everything you have and then fifty percent more. And courage – the most ballsy, blast-it, go-for-broke courage. This is how I like to live my life. I am a calculated risk taker.

Let me explain:

To continue reading, click here for the original post: http://lifestyle.vneckmafia.com/conquering-the-art-of-risk-taking/


Take Five with NARC author Crissa-Jean Chappell
Jul 22nd, 2012 by Liza Wiemer

Crissa-Jean Chappell with NARC


By Crissa-Jean Chappell

What could happen if you’re caught by the police with illegal drugs? Criss-Jean Chappell discovered that many young adults are forced to turn NARC, many more than anyone could imagine, or face severe consequences, including jail time. Here’s my review as posted on GOODREADS – NARC by Crissa-Jean Chappell is a powerful, eye-opening novel about a boy named Aaron who gets himself into some serious trouble. I was deeply impressed with how Chappell brought out Aaron’s voice, making him a sympathetic, troubled young man who is deeply loyal to family, protective of friends, and caught in the middle of his poor choices from the past and his current desire to make changes in his life. He takes some stupid risks and gets mixed up in some pretty messy things, all involving drugs. This is a cautionary tale – well written, strong voice, and fascinating supporting characters.
I definitely recommend NARC. This book should be in every HS.

Here’s your chance to win a copy of NARC through GOODREADS –


AND – ONE LUCKY WINNER will receive a copy from ME when the book debuts – Just post a comment below. Twitter followers – 1 extra entry. Facebook followers – 1 extra entry, Tweet or post on Facebook – each counts as an extra entry. Follow Crissa-Jean on Twitter @CrissaChappell – 1 extra entry – GIVEAWAY ENDS: SUNDAY, JUNE 29, 8PM CST, WINNER CHOSEN – QU HARRISON

1. NARC is a powerful novel about perceptions – people aren’t who they seem on the outside. This message goes with the concept of “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” How do you apply this to the characters in NARC?

When the story opens, Aaron is in his senior year at Palm Hammock. In his mind, everybody at school wears a mask. Sometimes it feels like you’re given an assigned role (like players in a chess game). He dreams about flipping the board and starting over with a new set of rules.

Aaron is “human wallpaper.” He’s on the outside, looking in. Then he meets Morgan, the so-called popular girl with the Cleopatra hair. As they grow closer, he learns that things aren’t so easy for her, either. At lunch, she would rather sit under a tree with a book than face the stares and whispers in the cafeteria. He soon finds out why.

2. Often in life, young adults have a tough time identifying their strengths. But once a person focuses on them, they can guide a person in making a difference in this world. Looking at Aaron, take one or two of his strengths. What would you wish for him to do with them?

Although he wouldn’t call himself strong, Aaron makes a lot of difficult decisions. He’s not an adult yet, but he’s forced into a position that requires him to act like one. At last, someone is taking him seriously. I believe that young adults are often pushed off to the side. They feel like their thoughts and opinions don’t matter. All they want is for us to listen. Aaron needs to find his voice. That’s where he discovers his inner strength.

3. On the flip side, many people get locked in their weaknesses. What are Aaron’s weaknesses and what can he do to start moving away from using them as a crutch to fail?

He desperately wants to be liked. Throughout the book, he uses magic tricks to get attention. In a way, Aaron feels like he has to pretend (or be fake) in order for people to like him. Sometimes it takes the shape of lies. Or hiding your true feelings, all because you’re afraid of being judged. The kid who’s cracking jokes in the back row? He might be hurting on the inside, but never shows it.

Pretending is like battle armor in high school.

4. NARC definitely makes the reader think. How has this story impacted you, changed you?

In my research, I discovered that it’s not as unusual as you might think—young people (including teens) who put their lives in danger to work as police informants. I was drawn to the idea of a seventeen-year-old doing an adult’s job. And I was curious about the ways it would change his view of the world.

5. You said that you see yourself as a little bit of an “outsider” or an observer. What do you mean and why has it made you a better writer?

Much like Aaron, I floated like a ghost through school (and that was okay with me). Sometimes I wanted to be invisible. That would be my super power. When you’re quiet and spend a lot of time alone, you learn to pay attention.

As a storyteller, you must be an observer of human behavior. That’s where you find the good stuff—the way people speak, the funny gestures they make. I also love to draw. When I’m working on a book, I see it as “drawing with words.” I try to create little portraits of things around me. It might be the smell of low tide at Biscayne Bay. Or a boy speeding past me on a skateboard. He’s got his headphones on and he knows exactly where he’s going. I’ll make up what happens next.

DON’T MISS THESE VIDEOS: And guess what? Crissa-Jean made them.  Here’s what she said: “Yes, I made the videos. (I was a film major in college and I also taught film back in Miami.) One of my former students, Marlon Morina, designed the animated trailer for NARC. In fact, I’m working on a new book about…film school kids!

NARC book trailer from crissachappell on Vimeo.

Literary Outlaws

NARC: seven secrets from crissachappell on Vimeo.

literary outlaws from crissachappell on Vimeo.

Book Club Questions for John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars
Feb 9th, 2012 by Liza Wiemer

Book Club Questions for John Green’s

The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars is the first novel that our Wisconsin YA Bloggers/Authors/Educators/Librarians group chose to read for our book club. (We definitely need an official name!) We’ll be meeting this coming Sunday and I can’t wait to discuss it with these incredible women. I’ll wait to post my review, though I will say that I finished the novel in one night, so that gives readers a clue on just how amazing I found TFiOS. I started thinking about different aspects of the novel, which made me curious about what our book club members thought about a particular character, concept, scene. So, I decided to put a SHORT list of questions together and share them on WhoRuBlog. (I am sure there are other study guides. If I run across them, I will link them at the bottom.)

1. John Green has numerous characters with various relationships/reactions to cancer. What did you like/dislike about these characters? How would you describe their personalities? How do you identify with them? Do they remind you of people you know? • Hazel –

• Hazel’s mother –

• Hazel’s father –

• Hazel’s friend Kaitlyn –

• Augustus –

•Augustus’s mother –

• Augustus’s father –

• Augustus’s half-sisters (spouses, children) –

• Support Group Patrick –

• Isaac –

• Isaac’s girlfriend Monica –

• Peter Van Houten –

• Lidewj –

• Dr. Maria –

2. If you could only choose one scene/moment/dialogue that had the most impact on you, which one would it be and why? And don’t say the entire novel – we know!

3. How (if at all) has TFiOS changed your perspective of cancer or those who are living with it?

4. It was important to Augustus that his actions/existence would leave a mark on this world. How does he do that? How do you do that?

5. Hazel uses the word “hamartia” or “tragic flaw” to describe Augustus when he stuck a cigarette between his lips and it also describes Peter Van Houten and his drinking. The differences between these two are night and day – and a brilliant metaphor. What was your perspective/reaction?

Feel free to add your own questions or comments by clicking the “comments” button below. Also, if you find a link for other study guides, feel free to add it. Thanks.

ADDED February 19:

A huge perk of getting the CD version of TFiOS is the incredible seven bonus videos on DVD narrated by John Green. He explains the name choices, the history of how the book came to be, the background of The Hectic Glow etc. We watched them in our book club and I think we all really enjoyed them. It also impacted our discussion, so that was definitely a positive!

Have questions about TFiOS? Check out:  OnlyifyoufinishedTFiOS.tumblr.com (The password is the last word in the acknowledgments) – Please don’t go to this website unless you have finished the novel!

Also for book club, I brought a chicken salad that was inspired by the novel. Though chicken salad isn’t specifically mentioned, food from Holland is included, and this definitely is similar to chicken salads I found on the net for recipes from Holland. This recipe was given to me by my friend, Sarah Kealy. Enjoy.

Chicken Salad

2 cups cooked and diced boneless skinless chicken

1 cup celery

1 cup chopped parsley

1 cup toasted pecans

3 apples peeled and diced


2 Tbs OJ

4 teas Dijon Mustard

salt and pepper to taste

1 teas honey

2 Tbs lemon juice

1/4 cup canola oil

Added 12-17-2012


Hazel and Gus eat dragon carrot risotto. pg. 165

Recipe posted here:


Dragon carrots are PURPLE. They’re not too hard to find, but call around first. I got in touch with an organic farm. For more details from our Novel Cuisine Luncheon check here: http://www.whorublog.com/?p=1570

Take Five with Holly Schindler, YA Author of A BLUE SO DARK & PLAYING HURT
Dec 11th, 2011 by Liza Wiemer

Holly Schindler




ENTER TO WIN YOUR CHOICE OF ONE OF HOLLY’S NOVELS by listing which novel you would want in the comments’ section. Tweet and/or post on Facebook for an extra entry each – let me know. Giveaway ends on December 21, 8:00 PM EST

1. From some of the things I read about you, it seems like you sacrificed quite a bit to become a published author, and if it hadn’t been for your family your dreams would not have come true. What’s the journey been like and what do you most want other aspiring authors to take from your experience?

My path to publication was long and winding—took seven and a half years to get the first acceptance! And it also took full-time tunnel vision to really learn the ins and outs of writing a novel (even though I already had a master’s in English). Without the incredible support—financial and emotional—I got from my family, I never would have gotten started. I never would have seen that first acceptance without having all that time to write. (I taught piano and guitar lessons part-time to pay my bills, but because of my family’s support, I didn’t have to seek full-time employment. My full-time job has always been writing.) I won’t lie—four, five, six years into my pursuit, I had my down moments, and I shed a few tears…but I never felt like I should be doing anything else. And in that respect, I don’t feel like I sacrificed at all. Actually, I feel as though the REAL sacrifice would have been to get the full-time job and not pursue writing! (The idea of that’s just so incredibly sad—I know I wouldn’t have been truly happy doing anything but writing.) The thing is, there’s a point in the pursuit of ANY dream when it feels like the dream is kicking your butt a little—it doesn’t matter what the dream is…maybe it’s to own your own business, or to become a surgeon, or breed ostriches. You’ll have days when you look at yourself and wonder what you’re doing. But I learned firsthand that’s the point at which it’s the most important to keep pushing.

2. Both of your novels are realistic fiction. What is the appeal for you to this particular genre and are there any other genres you see yourself writing in the future? What other genres do you enjoy reading?

I’m a fan of all genres—there’s nothing I won’t read: classics, contemporary, poetry, literary, romance. I even took a sci fi course in college, because that was the one section of the library I’d never spent much time in and I thought if I immersed myself in it for a while, I’d want to read more books in that genre. Now, no section of my public library goes unvisited! While my first books are realistic fiction, they do still differ slightly: A BLUE SO DARK is literary, and PLAYING HURT is a romance. And my writing interests are every bit as varied as my reading interests, so stay tuned!

3. As you know, I haven’t read A Blue So Dark, yet. It’s a YA novel that brings to light the difficulties of a teen dealing with her mother’s schizophrenia. From what I understand it’s very different from Playing Hurt, your second novel, which I loved. Playing Hurt is an older YA contemporary/romance novel. The main characters are out of high school and address issues such as death, physical and emotional injuries, identity crisis, choices, love, and sex. What, if any, are some of the similarities between your two novels, and what is it that you hope readers will take away from A Blue So Dark and Playing Hurt.

You’re right—on the surface, those two books are absolutely night and day different. But I think the quality I’m most proud of in both of those books is their honesty. I think both are pretty bare—BLUE maybe even more so than PLAYING HURT. I also love that the characters in both books are slightly flawed—they kind of bumble through their struggles—but they ultimately triumph. I think that’s the beautiful thing about YA, though—as a whole, I think what you’ve got are characters who are dealing with adult situations for the first time. Teen characters are in no way seasoned pros when it comes to dealing with the hardships of life. So they’re bound to make a bunch of mistakes. But they do succeed. Revisiting all those “firsts” in life is one of the reasons why writing YA is so much fun.

4. A huge congrats to you for your debut middle grade novel, The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky, which is coming out in 2012 and is being published by Dial. Please share with us what you can about this new novel.

Thanks for the congrats! THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY is still about a year away from publication. It’s about a young artist, and will feature original cover art—the first of any of my books to have original art! I’m really excited about that…

5. What has been one of the biggest life lessons you personally have learned and how has it helped you to grow as a person?

The absolute biggest lesson I’ve learned is the benefit of persistence. You don’t get anywhere in life if you don’t just dig those heels in and really learn the art of being a bit stubborn. That’s not to say that you should be bullheaded and believe that what you write is always perfect and that you should never revise anything when rejections inevitably come in. What I mean is that you can’t let the rejections make you think it’ll never happen. One rejection of one project is just that—one rejection. And an opportunity to learn and improve. Get to work; revise and submit again. I really believe that the only authors who never get to see their books on the shelves are those who give up.

A BLUE SO DARK: Fifteen-year-old Aura Ambrose has been hiding a secret. Her mother, a talent artist and art teacher, is slowly being consumed by schizophrenia, and Aura has been her sole caretaker ever since Aura’s dad left them. Convinced that “creative” equals crazy, Aura shuns her own artistic talent. But as her mother sinks deeper into the darkness of mental illness, the hunger for a creative outlet draws Aura toward the depths of her imagination. Just as desperation threatens to swallow her whole, Aura discovers that art, love, and family are profoundly linked—and together may offer an escape from her fears. One of Booklist’s Top 10 Novels for Youth (2010) Silver Medal, ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year (Young Adult Fiction) Gold Medal, IPPY Awards (Juvenile / Young Adult Fiction)

PLAYING HURT: Star basketball player Chelsea “Nitro” Keyes had the promise of a full ride to college—and everyone’s admiration in her hometown. But everything changed senior year, when she took a horrible fall during a game. Now a metal plate holds her together and she feels like a stranger in her own family. As a graduation present, Chelsea’s dad springs for a three-week summer “boot camp” program at a northern Minnesota lake resort. There, she’s immediately drawn to her trainer, Clint, a nineteen-year-old ex-hockey player who’s haunted by his own traumatic past. As they grow close, Chelsea is torn between her feelings for Clint and her loyalty to her devoted boyfriend back home. Will an unexpected romance just end up causing Chelsea and Clint more pain—or finally heal their heartbreak?

For more information about Holly go to hollyschindler.com  Holly’s blog: hollyschindler.blogspot.com, Twitter: @holly_schindler, and Facebook: facebook.com/HollySchindlerAuthor

Coping with Finals – Papers & Exams
Dec 5th, 2011 by Liza Wiemer

Are you slammed with writing papers and studying for exams? Freaking out and feeling paralyzed on how to get through this intense time? Most likely, there aren’t enough hours in the day for you to get all the work done. Perhaps you procrastinated and now it feels like you’re living in HELL. Been there. Done that. Hopefully, these tips will be helpful.

1. Start with the basics. If you haven’t done so already, write out the date and time for the exams and when the papers are due.

2. Get organized. Know what you need in order to study or write. Need to go to the library and check out books? Research on the net? Borrow notes from a classmate? Actually read the material? (If you haven’t done this, obviously you know you’re in a rough spot and most likely can’t make up a quarter or semesters’ worth of reading. Do your best. Read the first three paragraphs of each chapter section and skim until you reach the last three paragraphs. Read those. In no way am I advocating this as a method of learning – but if you’re in crisis mode, it’s a decent solution.)

3. Block out time to work on the papers and study for the exams, then stick with the schedule. Isolate yourself if you need to and whatever you do, make a promise to yourself that you’ll avoid all social networking during that time. Social networking has a way of being a total time sucker! Don’t fall into the trap.

4. Know your teacher/TA/professors’ office hours. Take advantage of any study sessions they may have. If you have questions or know that you don’t understand something, don’t wait to get help. If you’re writing a paper and you’re not sure you’re on target, BRING IT TO YOUR PROF and ask her to look at it and give you direction. This shows you care and are concerned, so don’t worry about looking stupid or that you’ll feel foolish. If necessary, explain to your prof what’s going on and see if you can get an extension. If you don’t ask, you won’t get it. And if you don’t get it, at least you asked.

5. Load up on protein. Protein prevents sugar highs and lows so it’ll help sustain you. Keep a few of your favorite munchies and caffeinated drinks and water with you.

6. Do your own work.

7. Avoid taking someone else’s prescription drug to enhance your ability to concentrate or focus. You might believe that you can do it once or justify it in order to get through this difficult time, but everyone’s body reacts differently to meds, and like any drug there can be serious ramifications. Or maybe not. But is it worth the risk? Once tempted who’s to say you won’t be tempted again? Be respectful of yourself and your body. Look at the big picture. Ask yourself: A year from now, five years from now how important was this?

8. Destroy your unrealistic expectations. Just flush the idea of perfection right down the toilet. Who the heck is ever perfect? Do your best in the moment based on the circumstances you’re facing. Teachers/professors can and do overburden their students. They don’t have a clue what others have assigned. Live with doing your best in the here and now. Don’t ask more of yourself. It’s totally unreasonable. Don’t berate yourself for any reason. Even if you procrastinated, move on. Take hold of the here and now and do what it takes so that you can be satisfied that you took charge in the moment. Negative self-talk is a huge waste of time and destructive. Stop. STOP!

9. Don’t take a “screw-it” attitude. If you’re thinking that you’ve already screwed it up, so why try, you’ll only hurt yourself. Self-destruction isn’t pretty. Seriously, just do something positive with the assignment. Even if you know that you could have done better, accept what you ARE doing as the best in the moment. And if you’re in crisis, even if it’s of your own making, talk to your teacher/TA/professor. Not everyone has a heart of gold and will cut you slack. But go in with a clear plan. Show that you have given it some serious thought and be reasonable. I’m hopeful that these educators will want to see you succeed.

10. Many need to pull all-nighters. If you can, snatch a twenty to thirty minute snooze during the day. SET YOUR ALARM. Good luck. And when it’s all over, do something nice for yourself. ☺

An Open Letter to YA Author Lauren Myracle Regarding the NBA Fiasco
Oct 17th, 2011 by Liza Wiemer

An Open Letter to Lauren Myracle:

Shine, By Lauren Myracle

I have never met you, but I am a member of what I would call a family of YA lit bloggers, enthusiasts, and writers. What happened to you regarding the National Book Award fiasco must have been personally frustrating, painful, perhaps even devastating. I can only imagine the roller coaster of emotions you must have gone through once told that Shine had been nominated in the Young People’s Literature category, and then having it recanted, announced to the world that it was a mistake, a slip-up of the letter, “C” for “S” and an “n” for an “m” that it was Chime by Franny Billingsley, which was the novel that was actually nominated for this award.

And then you were asked to do something really tough – withdraw your book from the nomination. Once again, I can only imagine how this request squeezed your heart, left you reeling.

But somehow you did it. You found the inner strength to set aside what I envision to be tremendous disappointment and you withdrew Shine from the NBA. You did it with incredible dignity. (Readers, if you haven’t read the statement, here is a link to the Publisher’s Weekly article: http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/childrens/childrens-industry-news/article/49143-shine-withdrawn-as-nba-young-people–s-literature-nominee.html) More information can be obtained through the Huffington Post Article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/17/lauren-myracle-withdraws-national-book-awards_n_1015649.html

I want to thank you, Lauren. Because your behavior, your response to this unimaginable experience was totally first class. Despite the turmoil, you didn’t sling mud or have a public fit. You show others what it means to handle tremendous disappointment and personal pain with respect and grace. In turn, you also have bolstered the message of Shine. Bullying of any kind is unacceptable.

I understand people are outraged for you. I too am outraged. But setting that aside I want you to know how much I deeply admire you and respect you for being a role model. We get more than enough of the opposite every day – so much so that some have lost all sense of boundaries and will say anything and everything to others and justify being rude and disrespectful and abusive because whatever happened justifies their reaction. Personally, it’s cool to be classy. It’s cool to have dignity. It’s cool to write a book that is so powerful and important that it can change the way people act and react toward others. It’s uncool to bully. It’s uncool to call others names.

You have shown through your actions how to take a major disappointment and use it to make a difference in other peoples’ lives. In your time of distress you thought about the young adults who could benefit, asking NBA to make a donation to the Matthew Shepard Foundation (http://www.matthewshepard.org/), which works tirelessly to “replace the hate in this world with understanding, compassion, and acceptance.”

I wish you tremendous success, Lauren. And encourage everyone to go out and support you by purchasing and/or reading your novels.

To learn more about Lauren Myracle her is a link to her website: http://www.laurenmyracle.com/ Readers can find a list of all her books on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/157676.Lauren_Myracle?origin For a synopsis of Shine here is the direct link to the Goodreads page: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/8928054-shine


Video Interview with NYTBS Author Lauren Oliver & Giveaway
Oct 16th, 2011 by Liza Wiemer

Lauren Oliver, October 11, 2011

On Tuesday, October 11th I, along with two other Wisconsin bloggers, Heidi Zweifel http://yabibliophile.blogspot.com/ and Jillian   Heise http://heisereads.blogspot.com, had the great pleasure of conducting video interviews with New York Times Bestselling Author Lauren Oliver, who was in town to speak about her new middle grade novel, Liesel & Po. The experience was fantastic. It’s not every day you get to meet someone you admire deeply and I’m sure by the look on my face you’ll be able to see how thrilled I was. Thank you Lauren!


In honor of my first video interview, readers will have a chance to win a signed ARC of Liesl & Po. To enter answer the following question: Winter, spring, summer, or fall? What’s your season and why? (This was the last question I asked Lauren – something fun and different. 😀 ) Followers of this blog receive an extra entry, please let me know if you are. Tweet this post or link it on Facebook also adds an extra entry. Please let me know. Giveaway ends October 23, 8:00 PM CST.  Ashley Gafford is the randomly selected winner! Congrats.

Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver

To learn more about Liesl & Po, read my five star Goodreads review here: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/160806945

Here are a few quotes from Lauren:

“The only thing that nauseates me more than writing is not writing.”

Books don’t live without readers to read them.”

“My father always would tell me, ‘The life of a writer has as least as many difficulties as it does rewards. But also if you are a writer you cannot choose not to write.'”

“I try do what I can to kill the fear.”

Heidi Zweifel’s  YA Bibliophile’s Part 1 – Interview with Lauren Oliver (Learn more about Liesl & Po!): http://tinyurl.com/6hx8mwq

Jillian Heise’s Heise & Recommends Part 2 – Interview with Lauren Oliver: http://tinyurl.com/6fyt5ad

And here’s my interview Part 3 – Interview with Lauren Oliver:

Don’t miss Lauren’s other fabulous YA novels:


Take Five with Swati Avasthi, Author of SPLIT
Aug 3rd, 2011 by Liza Wiemer

An interview with award-winning YA author, Swati Avasthi

Enter to win a SIGNED copy of SPLIT by leaving your name and e-mail address under comments. If you follow this blog (it’s easy click on Google Follower) then you qualify for a another entry. Tweet it or post on Facebook and it is another one. Just let me know. Giveaway ends August 16th, 2011 at 8:00 PM CST. Good luck. 


Congrats to Andrea – winner of SPLIT!

On June 15, 2011 I had the privilege to spend part of the morning hanging out and talking with the incredibly gifted and warm Swati Avasthi. She was in Milwaukee to speak and sign books for the Southeast Wisconsin Festival of Books. I read SPLIT and was blown away.  There is no doubt that Swati is in the elite category of brilliant authors such as Laurie Halse Anderson, Cheryl Rainfield, and Jay Asher.

Swati and me, June 15th at the Southeast Wisconsin Book Festival

SPLIT is an extremely important must-read YA novel about child abuse and spousal abuse told from the point-of-view of the younger son, Jace–one of the most unforgettable male YA characters I have ever read. The story he narrates is raw, honest, heartbreaking, revealing. I am haunted (in a good way) by his experiences.

Ultimately, SPLIT is a novel about hope, a novel where the main character breaks free – makes the split – from the past and moves on to build a future. The title reveals many “key” moments, and is a metaphor for many situations presented in  the novel. Readers should ponder the meaning of the word and the different scenes that it represents.

Here’s my question and answer “Take Five with Swati Avasthi.”

1. The title of your book, SPLIT, represents many different situations presented in your novel. It’s a powerful metaphor and symbolizes so many aspects of Jace and Christian’s lives.  Were you conscious of this when you were writing the book or did it evolve? What would you like to see readers take from it?


Well… I wish I could say that I was brilliant enough to say I had planned it all, or even that the title evolved, but no.  The title was practically the last word I wrote for this novel.  My editor wisely told me that my former title, GRAVEDIGGERS, was too metaphorical and too paranormal-sounding for the content of SPLIT.  So, I went on a rather long title hunt — over 200 titles that my husband and I came up with and quickly disregarded.  After a couple of weeks of that, you start getting a little slap-happy.  So we started joking about how everything else I’ve had published (personal essay, short stories, flash fiction) were all one word, titled with the letter “S.”  And my husband got out the dictionary, opened it to the “S”s and handed it to me.

I submitted the title, along with 7 or 8 other titles to my editor, who took it to marketing.  They returned, saying that I could chose from two: SPLIT of WHAT WE LEAVE.  I chose SPLIT for a few reasons, but primarily because it has so many resonances within the work:  it seemed to capture the physical and emotional state of Jace and Christian in terms of abuse, their relationship, what they hope their mother will do, and how they have both left their own home.  And most of all, I liked how the one word felt more consistent with Jace’s voice.

SPOILERS, BEWARE 2. Jace is one of the most powerful male characters I have ever read in a YA novel. He’s taken a tremendous amount of abuse and then almost begs his girlfriend Lauren to report him after he physically hurts her. Clearly, he crossed a line. Does his actions make him an abuser? Is he on the same level as his father? What is important for readers to know?

As a society, I think we tend to paint abusers as “bad” and then wash our hands of them.  But, I think that this approach has some serious consequences.  First, I think that we don’t actually prevent further violence this way.  The victim may, thank goodness, go on and live a better life.  But in the meantime, the abuser is moving on to his/her next victim.  Second, I think that the abusers tend to get worse and worse.  Which is frightening.

I think of abuse as a spectrum — born of the same impulses, but different in degree.  Jace has the same impulses as his father and yes, he is an abuser, but his actions are very different in degree.

Jace does not demonstrate a lot of the controlling features that most abusers typically do:  he didn’t isolate Lauren from her friends, didn’t insult her, didn’t slowly erode her barriers about what was and wasn’t acceptable.  Most importantly, Jace blames himself for his actions — he takes responsibility for what he has done emotionally.   Which gives me hope for him.  He’s an abuser, to borrow a term from addiction rhetoric, but a recovering abuser.

SPOILERS BEWARE 3. Jace goes through tremendous growth, yet even in the end we’re unsure where his life ends up. If you could continue his story, where do you think he’d be today? What kind of person would he be?

I love this question.  Thanks for asking it.

In my view, Jace finishes high school, never dating Dakota, and goes to Stanford (something that was a strong dream of his all they way through draft 5).  Every holiday, he returns to his home in Albuquerque with Christian and Mirriam.  Each year he and Christian meet up in Somewhere, USA  to run a Destination Marathon together, step for step.  In his senior year of college, he brings a girlfriend home with him to join them in their ritual Thanksgiving dinner  (half mushroom, half pepperoni pizza), having never raised his fists to any woman or anyone again.

In my view, that Jace knows he has to work everyday to control his temper is what keeps his fists down.

SPOILERS BEWARE 4. In SPLIT no one reports the abuse. What’s your advice to readers if they find themselves in a similar situation to Jace and Christian?

First and foremost, get safe.  Whatever that means and whatever it takes.  I do believe that Orders of Protection/Restraining Orders are surprisingly effective. There are some very good organizations out there to help.  To find one in your area, call 800 799-SAFE (TTY: 800-787-3224) or go to www.ncadv.org.  For dating violence, try: 866- 361-9474 (TTY: 866-361-8474).  But do call or click from a safe phone or computer (Remember that computer histories can be tracked, so the library can be good for that.)

Beyond that, I tend to focus on is putting the power back into the victim’s hands.  I think part of recovery is learning to trust yourself again and learning to make decisions about what is best for you.  So, I’m not one to give advice in these situations.  Instead, I’m one to listen and support whatever decision feels right to the victim.

5. Toward the end of SPLIT Jace comes clean about his past to Dakota, a girl he’s hoping to get more involved with. Why do you feel it was important for him to be honest with her, to take the risk of losing her by sharing his history?

It was an important move narratively.  Since abuse is so frequently enabled through silence, his confession was about speaking.  More specifically, Jace does need to stop all controlling behavior, if he has a chance at becoming someone other than his father.  And so, his confession to Dakota was about relinquishing that control; it was about the ability to be vulnerable and leave the decision in her hands.

To learn more about Swati, please go to her website: http://swatiavasthi.blogspot.com/

Chelsea Rae Swiggett on Coping with Fear, Anxiety, and Social Phobia
Feb 27th, 2011 by Liza Wiemer


Chelsea Rae Swiggett




RAE MY TRUE STORY of Fear, Anxiety, and Social Phobia

Win a copy of her book:

To win a copy of her book leave a comment!If you follow this blog you get an extra entry. Entries accepted until 8:00PM CST March 16. Open to US and Canada residents.  Winner announced: Marynellie 

Rae MY TRUE STORY of Fear, Anxiety, and Social Phobia


Brave, strong, gutsy –– I repeated these words over and over again as I read Chelsea Rae Swiggett’s non-fiction work for young adults (every parent and teacher should read it too), Rae MY TRUE STORY of Fear, Anxiety, and Social Phobia. This candid, beautifully written personal history takes a hard look at the impact on how paralyzed a person can be when consumed by fears and absorbed into the hell created by the social interactions in middle school and high school.

Brave, strong, gutsy were words Chelsea would never have used to describe herself in high school. I definitely didn’t see them in her book. But the steps she took to CHANGE are no less than extraordinary. She continues to conquer her fears, live in the moment, and challenge herself to experience life to its fullest.

In the past, speaking in class could bring on an anxiety attack.

Now, Chelsea approaches strangers, even welcomes new interactions.

In the past, traveling anywhere brought horrific fears of death.

Now, she gets on airplanes and relishes in seeing new things.

In the past, going to school was a living hell. She eventually chose to be home-schooled to survive.

Now, she mixes it up with online classes and on campus classes at college.

In the past, Chelsea escaped real life by delving into books, writing reviews for her website – http://www.coffeeandcliffhangers.com/

Now, she still loves to read and review books, but she utilizes this passion to meet others with the same interests. She has a social life, too.

In the past, Chelsea was obsessed with her weight – depriving herself of food. Her self-image was dismal. She was consumed by how she thought others people perceived her.

Now, food is no longer her enemy. More often than not her self-esteem comes from within and not based on how others perceive her.

So how did Chelsea do it? Without a doubt it has been a process, most importantly CHELSEA WANTED TO CHANGE! She faces her fears one at a time. She lives in the moment.

I had the privilege of speaking with Chelsea about her transformation. Here’s what she had to say:

I have had to remind myself to breathe, not to be overwhelmed. The world is not ending right now. I tell myself I can deal with a situation I’m in and can get past it.

I no longer obsess over different things. For example, if I coughed I would worry. Did I cough too loud? Or if fell down and others saw me, I worried about it for weeks. Do they think I’m a klutz? This constant worry was killing me. Finally, I realized no one else was worrying about these things. I saw that everyone messes up and it’s useless to obsess over what other people may or may not be thinking of me.

I realized I needed to just live. I realized there are only so many years to fully understand myself, so I decided to take the opportunity and do it now. What I learned was it’s important to do what you’re passionate about and don’t allow fear to stop you. If you want to travel, you need to travel. If you want to go to concerts, do it. It is important to find a way to live comfortably and follow your dreams. Don’t stop yourself from accomplishing something you want to do. Spend your time with your passion.

One needs to find balance. A person can hide behind their passion and use it as an excuse not to live. For example, I love to read so I used reading to stay away from others, hide from the world. I was comfortable, but wasn’t putting myself out there. I wasn’t living. But I turned my love for reading into a positive. Instead of letting my passion cripple me, I now use it to connect with people. Working on Coffee and Cliffhangers I‘ve been able to connect with the literary community. I’ve met so many amazing people including other passionate readers, book reviewers, and authors. At first the connections were through social networking, and then in person at different book events.

Through authors’ books, I gain insight into their perceptions. Authors put themselves in their work. It’s personal. I appreciate their vulnerability. I love getting into their heads and seeing what makes them click, how they view things. Books have helped me see that I am not the only one who has issues and problems and goals in this world. There have been so many times I’ve got caught up in my own problems. Reading has helped me see I’m not alone.

One of my goals? I would love to be a successful author, to be able to help and connect with authors and readers. It is the most amazing feeling in the world.

I first connected with Chelsea through Twitter where I learned about her website http://www.coffeeandcliffhangers.com/ and about Rae MY TRUE STORY of Fear, Anxiety, and Social Phobia. It’s been a privilege to get to know her better through this interview. She’s an extraordinary young woman, someone I look forward to meeting in person, hang out with at a book event, or talk with over coffee. She is brave, strong, gutsy – amazing. There will still be challenges – we all have them. But I have no doubt she will face them and turn any fear or weakness or anxiety into a strength. It takes work. It takes courage. It takes action. Chelsea epitomizes these qualities and so much more. She is a role model!

To learn more about Chelsea go to her website:http://www.coffeeandcliffhangers.com/

For more information about or to purchase Rae MY TRUE STORY of Fear, Anxiety, and Social Phobia go to: Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/4f4prgd

Take Five with YA Author Holly Cupala
Nov 2nd, 2010 by Liza Wiemer

SHH! Tell Me A Secret!


Win a signed copy of Tell Me a Secretsee below for details!  Easy to enter – just click on comments and write something about this interview.  This will work too: “I would love to read this book!” 

Tell Me a Secret - Free Audiobook PodcastFree serialized audiobook podcast at www.tellmeasecretnovel.com


Author Holly Cupala


Holly Cupala, author of Tell Me a Secret (HarperTeen 2010), didn’t shy away from answering the five tough questions below.  I found her answers to be meaningful, thought provoking, authentic.  Thank you Holly!

I brought Tell Me a Secret to Starbucks to read while I waited for a friend to join me.  I didn’t want to put it down!  When my friend was busy adding cream and sugar to her coffee, I snuck in a few more sentences.  After she left I decided I wasn’t leaving Starbucks until I finished the book.

This YA novel will grab ahold of your heart and squeeze tight.  I held my breath and swiped away more than a few tears, not wanting to be overtly public and sob out loud.  The characters come to life and become a part of you.  This is not a book where you can be indifferent.  Holly addresses tough issues of sisterhood, faith, friendship, pregnancy, secrets, dreams, and identity.  There is something for everyone in this novel – lessons to take to heart as long as you look for meaning.  Don’t miss Tell Me a Secret. It’s a must read for YA, parents, and teachers.

1. In Tell Me a Secret there are several secrets.  What do you feel should be the “rule of thumb” for keeping or sharing secrets with others?

Liza, you’re not going to let me off easy! I think there are a continuum of secrets, ranging from harmless to dangerous, and it can be so difficult to determine where on that continuum someone else’s secret is. There are the obvious ones: physical abuse. Date rape. Life-threatening habits. But what about the subtle ones? Like emotional abuse? If a friend told me a secret, I would do my best to help my friend make healthy decisions and to stick by them as they dealt with the consequences. If a friend is sharing a secret with you, they may be asking for help. Trust your instincts.

2. Your MC, Rand (Miranda) discovers that she is pregnant.  What are some dos and don’ts for a pregnant teen or for a friend of a pregnant teen?

Miranda doesn’t have very many people she can trust in the novel—she’s lost her best friend, the baby’s father avoids her, and her new friend is not what she seems to be. Her mother is locked behind a wall of her own grief and shame, and worst of all, the sister she trusted and looked up to most is gone. Miranda eventually seeks out her own support network and finds a friend in the last person she expects.

If I had a pregnant teen friend, I would encourage her to find a friend, mentor, or family member she could trust to help her through the difficult decisions and processes of a pregnancy. Whatever she chose, there would be consequences—a good friend would help her. On the other side, friends can be a lifeline through unexpected circumstances. If you are a friend, you may be more important than you know. True friendship shines through adversity, and there is hope on the other side.

3. Rand made quite a few mistakes that were painful lessons for her.  What do you think a YA can learn from mistakes and how can they move past them or learn from them?

Miranda sees flaws in others but is blind to her own, until extreme circumstances awaken her vision. I think most of us, to a greater or lesser degree, don’t really see our own mistakes. What’s that saying? We judge others by their actions, and we judge ourselves by our intentions. To see one’s own mistakes is a powerful kind of wisdom, one that opens doors for helping others. I think one of the most painful lessons for Rand—but also the one that sets her free—is that she can’t find herself in other people. For much of the story she wonders, what would Xanda do? When she begins to make her own choices, she finds a surprising strength.

4. Tell Me A Secret also is a novel about the meaning of friendship.  What warning signs should a YA look for in their relationships that someone is not a true friend?

True, there are some wicked friends in Tell Me a Secret! Some of the warning signs? When you feel bad or sad or small or ashamed whenever you’re around that person. When it’s all about them. When they aren’t interested in what is important to you. When they blow off your concerns about their behavior. So many more, but it can be so hard to recognize when you’re in the middle of it.

When I was in high school, I hung out with a group of girls that were exactly like what I just described, but for some reason I just didn’t see it. I wanted things to get better. I thought if I could just work a little harder, or say the right thing, we would have a great friendship. Finally a girl I met in my English class, and who I talked with all the time, said, “Why do you even hang out with them? Why don’t you hang out with me and my friends?” I did, and she is still my very best friend. (In fact, we now say our friendship is over 21. J)

5. Rand is forced to take a job at a bank and give up her dreams of going to art school.  There’s a great lesson here about pursuing your dreams.  What’s your best advice to YA who have dreams, but are not sure that they actually can make them happen?

Thanks, Liza! I hope, if anything, that this book inspires readers to pursue their purpose in life. It doesn’t come easy. Sometimes I think it takes a whole lifetime to discover it, but there are glimpses. In our dreams, in our passions, in our talents. Miranda makes a decision that completely shuts one door—but what she gains is determination and courage to follow another course. The job turns out to be an asset to her, and in a way, she finds out the only person truly responsible for her future is herself. I would wish that for every person longing to pursue a dream.

Enter to win a signed copy of Tell Me a Secret.

It’s easy! 1. Click on comments and write that you’d like to win this book or comment on this post.  Or 2.  Tweet about it (let me know) Or 3. Post in on Facebook or link this interview on your blog. (let me know.)  Contest ends November 16, 8:00 PM CST.  Open to US residents.  Winner will be randomly selected from entries.

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