Friday, November 30, 2012

Sherri Wilson Johnson: Letting God Direct Her Path

Everyone's Story warmly welcomes author Sherri Wilson Johnson. Sherri is one of these woman that when you know you have to get in touch with her, you expect to feel a smile sent over the internet connection. I hope you will also find Sherri a delight. She's offering her newest release, SONG OF THE MEADOWLARK, as a giveaway. An excerpt is below for your pleasure. Plus, Sherri shares some encouragement about letting God direct your path in starting over. She'd love to hear from you!

Book Giveaway:
Sherri is graciously offering a giveaway of her novel SONG OF THE MEADOWLARK. One randomly chosen commenter will receive one e-version of Sherri's novel. The winner will be announced between 4-5 PM EST on Friday, December 7th. Just drop Sherri a comment--she'd enjoy hearing from you. For convenience, please leave your email address within the body of the comment as well. Thanks! 

Here's an excerpt of SONG OF THE MEADOWLARK:

Song of the Meadowlark excerpt
Sherri Wilson Johnson

Lake Murray, South Carolina

Cora Buchanan stared out the paned window of her bedroom at Lake Murray through a mist of rain and sighed, her olive green eyes filling with salty tears. This picturesque place had become a prison to her.

Tossing her dark hair over one shoulder, she moved across the room to her bed. Lying on her stomach on her flowery comforter, she remembered how it had all happened. For the first time since then, she scanned the tattered pages of her scrapbook, memories flooding her with weariness. It had been such an innocent time.

On the next page, she saw the pictures from her twenty-first birthday party. Twenty-one had seemed so old and wise at the time, and Panama City, Florida, like the big city. She’d worked awhile in college and considered herself a perceptive woman. But her middle name should have been Naïve, since she didn’t see some people for who they really were.

Cora rolled over onto her back, propping herself up on her pillows. She raised her knees and placed the scrapbook on her legs. Her eyes found the picture of her running in the town relay race with him, and she remembered the pulled calf muscle that still hurt on cold winter days. As she turned the page, she saw her engagement pictures and the newspaper clipping from the wedding announcement. She remembered that day like yesterday, her parents’ disapproval forever seared into her mind.

She closed the scrapbook, and it fell to the floor with a thud, another chapter now over in her life. Three years had passed since Cora’s marriage to him, and she now lived, as a twenty-five-year-old woman, with her in-laws. As she sat up on the edge of her bed, she wondered where to go from here. She couldn’t wait any longer to move on.

Cora left her room and entered the earth-toned den. The Buchanans were watching Wheel of Fortune on the television.

“It’s been a year tonight.” Cora knew she didn’t have to explain what she meant. She plopped on the couch next to Judy. “I think it’s time I finally do something.”

“What do you plan to do?” Judy looked up from the television and patted Cora’s knee.

Cora pushed her hair behind her ears. “A good place to start would be to go home and take time to figure out what to do and how to make amends with Mom and Dad. I want them to forgive me.”

“I hope they’re ready. You could not have predicted the future,” Ben said tenderly.

“I’m tired of this wedge between us. Three years is a long time, but I’ve feared the arguments that will, without a doubt, occur.”

Judy nodded. “That’s the mature thing to do.”

“I hope so, Mom.”

With her mind made up, Cora felt a load lifted off her shoulders, like at the end of a tornado warning. Though she still hoped deep inside things would change before she left for Florida, she doubted they would.


“Hey, Anne.”

“Cora. I’m glad you called. What’s going on?”

“I’m coming home.” Cora folded her pajamas and stuffed them into her suitcase.

“You are?” The voice of her best friend was incredulous.

“Yep. Clark’s been gone a year, and I can’t wait around here any longer.” She opened another drawer, took out her socks and pantyhose, and stashed them in the side pocket of the suitcase.

“Are you going to file for divorce?”

“No. I don’t want to make such a drastic move. I figure I can come home and try to patch things up with Mom and Dad. If Clark returns, he’ll know where to find me.” Cora went into her bathroom and started packing her skin-care products and extra makeup into her duffle bag.

“I’m so sorry you have to go through all of this. I know it’s driving you crazy with him missing.”

“That’s the hardest part. I don’t know if he’s dead somewhere or living in another country with a new woman.” She examined her reflection in the mirror. Not even the flecks of gold in her eyes could disguise the bags underneath them. I look like a ninety-year-old woman.

“No, don’t think that way. I’m sure he’s fine…but I guess that doesn’t make you feel any better.”

“Not really.” Cora laughed.

“When are you going to be here?”

“I’m leaving in the morning. I should be home sometime tomorrow night.”

“Okay. Call when you get into town. Or from the road if you need someone to chat with while you’re driving.”

“I will.” Cora hung up the phone. She picked up the cardboard box by her bed, added the books off her bookshelf, and the scrapbook from the floor. Then she sat on the bed, looking through her too-often-forgotten Bible, and cried.


“That looks like everything.” Cora shut the trunk of her ’68 candy-apple red Camaro and glimpsed the pain in her in-laws’ eyes. “Don’t look at me that way. I told you I plan to be back soon.”

“We hate to see you go. It worries us that you’re driving by yourself. The big rigs own the road. The highway can be very dangerous, and your car is old.” Judy brushed a hair from Cora’s misty eyes.

“Mom, my car will be fine. I promise to drink plenty of coffee if I get sleepy. I’ll call you when I stop to eat and rest. I plan to drive until Atlanta, just four hours or so. Then to Columbus—five-and-a-half hours—and stay the night.”

“We know you’ll be careful, dear. Here, take this. You may need it.” Ben handed something to Cora.

“What’s this?”

“Some money,” Judy answered. “It isn’t much, but we hated to send you off without something.”

“You can’t give me money. I’m fine. I have all I need, really. Please, take this back.” Cora tried to return the gift.

“No, you keep it. If you don’t use it on your way to Panama City, you may need it on your way back.” Ben pushed against Cora’s hand.

“Okay, but I hate taking it from you.” Cora’s heart ripped from her chest as she looked at Ben and Judy. “Guess I’d better go. Thanks again for everything you’ve done for me.”

“Don’t you think for a moment we’re upset with you for leaving. You’ve waited long enough. It’s time for you to move on.” Judy’s eyes filled with tears.

“Even if I do decide to stay with my parents, I’ll never stop loving you both. My heart will always be here with you. You’ve been a lifesaver.”

“We wish you well, Cora.” Ben squared his jaw.

Cora hugged both Ben and Judy tightly, then got in to the driver’s side of her car. Careful not to tear the rip in her leather seat any further, she shut the door, cranked up, and drove away without looking back. She had to do this, though it could very well prove to be the hardest thing she’d ever done. Tears cascaded from her eyes like waterfalls.

Cora drove through town—down Columbia Avenue, glancing at the places she’d become accustomed to as she headed toward I-26 East. Merging onto the highway symbolized the launching of her new life—slow, cautious at first, and then no looking back. Moving away from Lake Murray took more out of her than moving away from her childhood home in Florida had. She pondered Ben and Judy’s faith. They seemed so sure God would work out her life. She wished her faith could be that strong. She still had so many doubts….

An hour and a half later, Cora entered Georgia and smiled at the welcome sign with the giant peach. As she drove through one small town after another, she listened to country music on her radio—not her music of choice, but definitely the most available. The steel guitar and fiddle tugged at her heart as she went over railroad tracks, past historic battlefields and glorious pastureland.

The temperature held at 85 degrees, and Cora enjoyed the sunshine beaming down on her car. She kept the windows rolled down and let the wind blow her cares away. White, fluffy clouds painted pictures across the blue Georgia sky. She hoped the weather would remain clear until she got to Florida. She hated driving in the rain.

Another two hours went by as Cora admired the beauty of the land—pine trees and crape myrtles, black-eyed Susans and old oak trees. She cracked up at the mailboxes along the way—a giant emerald green fish, a miniature mail truck, and a mailbox about the size of a washing machine box. She smiled when an old man in overalls climbed down out of his tractor to retrieve his mail from his cow mailbox. “Aww, he’s so cute.”

Outside of Athens, she took a second look at a teenage boy who rode a motorbike in the pasture of a farm while his pet Yorkie chased him. “I’ve seen it all now. Oh, I can’t wait to tell…no one would believe me.” She laughed.

Eventually the green grasses and golden hay made way for the city. Her stomach growled, and she decided to have lunch before getting into Atlanta. Stopping at Arby’s, she ordered a roast-beef sandwich, fries, and a Coke. The cold drink almost burned the inside of her throat as it slid down. She added a cherry turnover for dessert, deciding to save it for later.

Rubbing her bleary eyes, she jumped back into the car again, stopped for gas and to check her tires, then headed toward I-75 South. She’d really have to pay attention to make sure she didn’t miss I-85 South since there was no actual exit, just a certain lane heading south. It was so long since she’d driven through here.

Cora squinted in the afternoon sun and talked to herself. “Why did I forget my sunglasses?” Cars zipped by like something from a futuristic movie. “Good grief, where are they all in such a hurry to go?”

Once on I-85 and heading in the right direction, Cora battled construction along the highway. The roads were extra narrow with cement blocks along the shoulder to keep cars from veering into the construction zone. “Oh, I hate this!” She gripped the steering wheel until her knuckles whitened. If she could make it through this stretch of road and get to Columbus before having a nervous breakdown, she’d stay the night there and give her body a respite.

Cora passed rolling hills and tall spindly oak trees. Call boxes were every mile or so. Cora checked her cell phone and saw she had a signal but was thankful to know she could walk to a call box if the car broke down and her cell didn’t work. Her mind wandered to the creepy movies she’d seen too many of. White crosses lining the roadway didn’t help her relax, either.

“I didn’t think I-85 was this remote.” Cora dialed Anne and talked to her for a while to stay awake and to drive away her fears of being lost and alone.

It had been awhile since Cora had seen a road sign, a mileage marker, or an exit. By now she should be to Columbus. She started to have that sinking feeling she’d missed an exit and might be heading in the wrong direction. Up ahead she saw a sign and squinted to see what it said. “I-185? How did I get on I-185? What happened to I-85?” She hit the steering wheel with her hand and let out a scream. The late afternoon sun caused a glare on her windshield and she rubbed her tired eyes again, scratchier than sandpaper. “I’m going to have to stop and ask for directions.”
The sign up ahead read Lewistown. “Mmm, I don’t remember seeing that on my map, but it’s worth a shot.” As she pulled off the highway, looking for somewhere to get coffee and use the bathroom, her car started lunging forward and skipping. It was all she could do to keep it on the road. She drove down Main Street hoping for a service station, even though it was now late in the day. She passed a Piggly Wiggly grocery store, a Burger Hut, Mike’s Barber Shop, and there, a block up the road, a service station.

Once at the station, Cora climbed out of her car and peered around, not knowing what type of people she’d encounter here. The red lettering on the white sign at the top of the building announced Millburn Service Station.

Sounds like a family business. Maybe there’s someone nice inside. She walked into the office and found a young gentleman standing behind the counter locking up the cash register and the desk drawer. The smell of gasoline, new tires, and oil filled her nostrils, sending a wave of nausea to her stomach.

“Excuse me, sir.” Cora scratched the back of her neck. “My car just died, and I hope you can help me.” She fidgeted with her hands.

“Sure I can. Let’s go take a look at it. You must be new in town.” The gas station attendant wiped grease off his hands with a rag covered in oil and gas and pushed open the door, leading the way outside.

“Actually, I’m only passing through. I’m from Lake Murray, South Carolina. I’m headed for Florida.” Cora was relieved at man’s pleasant spirit.
“You got you a long way to travel. We’re glad to have ya here, even if it’s only for a short time and under a bad circumstance. My name’s Bobby Millburn. I own the place.” He regarded the station with a prideful grin.

“How wonderful. Now I know I’m in good hands. I’m Cora.”

Bobby lifted the hood, looked around, and wiggled some wires. He got down on the ground on his back and slid his body up underneath the car. He pushed himself out from underneath and stood, wiping his hands on his rag, then adjusted his cap.

“Do you think you can repair it?”

“From the looks of things, it’s your transmission. I can repair it, but I ain’t so sure if we can get the parts for ya right away.” Bobby considered her with a slight frown on his grease-smeared face, his plain blue eyes full of regret.

“I was afraid the transmission had gone out. It has been slipping a bit lately. How long?”

“A week, probably. We don’t get many cars like this in here.” He took a long admiring look at the classic automobile.

“Is there anyone else around who could get me out of here by tomorrow?”

“I don’t think so. I’m pert near the only repair place for miles. I’ll tell ya what, though. I’ll try to find someone for ya—maybe someone a town or two away. Do ya know where ya’ll be staying tonight?”

“Not yet. I got off the exit and came straight here.”

“I could check around for ya in the mornin’, and let ya know if anyone has the parts or if the repairs can be done sooner than a week.”

“That would be great. Do you know of an inexpensive place to stay?”

“Shore do. Go up this street and over two blocks. There’s a bed-and-breakfast, Apple Springs Inn, on the corner. Ms. Lottie McCallister runs the place. You can get a wonderful meal and a comfortable room. She won’t charge ya much. Tell her I sent ya.”

“Thanks so much. I really appreciate your kindness.”

“Would ya like me to drive ya up there?” Bobby shut the hood.

“Oh, no, that would be asking too much of you.”

“But you have your luggage with ya. You can’t carry all of it.”

“I guess you’re right. I’m pretty tired. I’ve been driving all day.” Cora hoped he’d do this favor without expecting payment of some kind. She’d also never gotten into the car with a stranger before, and she hoped she’d be safe.

“Give me a few minutes, and I’ll lock up.”



No more than fifteen minutes passed before Cora stood in front of the Apple Springs Bed-and-Breakfast inn. This historic home had elegant country charm with its porches, ferns, and swings. The oak trees towering above the house had to be more than a hundred years old. At first sight, Cora’s nerves settled, and she relaxed her tense shoulders. Bobby helped her with her bags as they entered the inn. Cora’s nose filled with a mixture of potpourri and lemon polish on antique furniture.

Ms. Lottie, standing only an inch or so taller than five feet and round, with her gray hair gathered into a knot on top of her head, wasn’t a quiet woman. Her voice demanded attention as she led Cora up creaking stairs to her room. “Supper is at six o’clock. I like my guests to be on time.”

“Okay.” Cora closed the door behind her and surveyed the room’s antique furnishings. More lemon and potpourri scent wafted over her. Opening a door, she found an ample closet. The next door was a bathroom. She let out a gasp of excitement. She’d assumed she’d have to share a bath with the other guests. Stashing her bags in one corner of her room, she opened only the suitcase with her traveling clothes and toiletries. After freshening up in the bathroom, she changed into a pair of blue jeans and a cotton button-down blouse.

Cora turned on the television and lay down on the soft antique bed. The room reminded her of her grandmother’s cozy guest room; vermilion walls made it dark in there. She had thirty minutes until dinner. She knew she should go help Ms. Lottie, but her legs felt cramped from riding all day, and her head was pounding. And, after all, she was a guest.

She debated what to say when she phoned Ben and Judy. Should she tell them her car had broken down, or not? She was afraid they’d want to come get her. Swallowing her pride and inhibitions, she picked up the telephone and dialed the operator since her cell phone battery was dead. She called the Buchanans collect, knowing they wouldn’t mind. As she’d suspected, they did want to come get her, but she insisted she’d be fine and that she was enjoying the adventure.

Next Cora called her parents simply to say she’d stopped in Lewistown for the night and would be on her way soon. She knew if she told them about her car breaking down, her father would be on the next plane to get her. She also phoned Anne.

As she left her room for dinner, she wondered how she was going to pay for her car repairs. She had no idea how much it would cost—or how much the expenses of staying at the inn would be. Would she run out of money before she even left Lewistown?
Cora prayed that all would work out and thanked God for a safe place to stay the night.

Copyright © 2012 by Sherri Wilson Johnson. All rights reserved.

Unexpected Second Chances

By Sherri Wilson Johnson

Have you ever wished you could start over? You’ve made so many mistakes in life that it seems you can’t get away from the reputation you’ve earned? Maybe it’s someone in your life that you can’t get away from and you want to pack your bags and leave. You want to leave your hectic lifestyle in the city for a 
peaceful existence in the country.

In my novel Song of the Meadowlark, Cora Buchanan is in that very spot. Her husband disappears one night after being arrested and bailed out for drug trafficking. In a flash, Cora’s life is turned upside down. The man she loves with all her heart is now a fugitive on the run. She waits a year and then decides to leave the town she lived in with him to return home to her parents to mend their broken relationship. Although she hopes Clark will return and be found not guilty, she can’t wait on him and must attempt to repair the broken bridges with her parents. She braces herself for the harsh words that will undoubtedly come over the fact that they were right in their opinion of Clark prior to her marriage to him. While traveling through Georgia on her way home to Florida, Cora’s car breaks down and leaves her stranded. This is where her unintentional do-over begins. At first she curses her old car but later realizes if it had not been for it she would not have found a new beginning.

Sometimes all it takes is a desire to start over to set the wheels in motion. The beauty in getting a fresh start is that you have the chance to seek forgiveness from those you have offended and you can forgive those who have wronged you even if they do not ask. To truly start over, a pruning happens in your life. You cut away the old in order for the new to grow. It’s a painful process, but once it occurs, you feel so grand.

Not all starting over requires you to pack your bags and leave town nor does it always involve kicking someone out of your life. Sometimes all it takes is nothing more than a seed of desire, which germinates and becomes a lovely plant or tree with new life blossoming all over it. When we let God direct our paths and when our motives are pure, He will guide us where we never could go on our own. Psalm 23:3 (NIV) says: “He guides me along the right paths for 
his name’s sake.” That is a promise that He will keep.

Viewers, let's chat: Have you had to start over? What did you find helpful?

Guest Bio:
Sherri Wilson Johnson is an Inspirational Romance novelist, a speaker, social media junkie, and a former homeschooling mom who loves to share God with others, while sharing her life experiences with them. She lives in Georgia with her husband and two children. She loves to dream of romantic places and romance in general–good, clean romance, that is. She is passionate about purity and sexual integrity. Sherri is a bird-watcher, loves the ocean, dolphins, roller coasters, tigers, ice cream, her family and her Chihuahua, who faithfully sits by her side every day when she writes. She longs to do something exciting like sky diving one day. Sherri is the author of To Dance Once More (OakTara) and Song of the Meadowlark (OakTara).

You can find Sherri at:!/pages/Author-Sherri-Wilson-Johnson/138396456193536!/swj_thewriter

Sandra McLeod Humphrey: A Special Tribute To A Special Woman

Everyone's Story is paying a special tribute to Sandra McLeod Humphrey. Sandra was originally scheduled to guest on December 14th. However, she and her husband, Brian, perished tragically in a house fire the day after Thanksgiving. Their children wrote a lovely blog piece, in the style that Sandra would have written herself, and posted it on Sandra's blog, DARE TO DREAM, if you'd like to read it.

Sandra's passion was helping children thrive despite their circumstances. Fortunately for us, Sandra had sent me her blog material ahead of time and it is my privilege to share it with you, showcasing Sandra's heart for little ones, who with help, have a chance to grow and dare to dream for a life they want.

Book Giveaway:
I just purchased 2 of Sandra's newest release: THEY STOOD ALONE! This non-fiction book highlights the life stories of 25 men and women, written by Sandra to encourage children of all ages to dare to dream. Sandra saw these visionary people as ones who "were wiling to question conventional wisdom. And their revolutionary breakthroughs changed and shaped the course of history." (from the book blurb on Amazon) I will keep one copy for myself, and the other copy I will offer as a giveaway to one randomly chosen commenter. The winner will be announced on December 14th, the day that Sandra's blog segment was originally slated to begin running on Everyone's Story. So, with Sandra in my heart, I look forward to seeing your comments. Please leave your email address in the body of the comment for ease of contact. Thank you.

Moral Choices and Our Kids
by Sandra McLeod Humphrey

         In working with young people, both as a clinical psychologist and as an author, I’ve noticed that many of them are lacking a sense of direction to their lives and have no strong set of personal values or belief system.

         Our character is an integral part of who we are and having a strong set of values helps us define our character.

         Strong character is not instinctive. It’s learned and it’s never too early to begin talking with our young people about personal values and helping them define and develop their own code of moral conduct. 

         As society’s moral guidelines become increasingly more ambiguous, it’s more essential than ever that we all have our basic code of ethics well crystallized in our own minds.

         Just as bodybuilding builds strong physical muscle through “sets” and “reps,” we also need to help our kids build good moral muscle. And we can do this by dialoguing with our kids about choices. Moral Choices.

         Life is all about choices and our ultimate objective for our children is to empower them to make their own choices--good choices. And we can help them do this if we can get them THINKING and TALKING about moral issues. Kids love to talk and we just have to give them the opportunity to do so. 
         Here are a few ideas and questions to facilitate some great discussions:

“Honor” is an old-fashioned word. What does it mean and has it gone out of style? (I have found that some kids have no clue what “honor” or “reputation” really means).
We all need a “moral compass.” What does this mean to you? Do you have a “moral compass?” If so, how would you describe it? (I have found that kids like the concept of a “moral compass” and can relate quite easily to this question).

How do you test the choices that you make? One good test is the test of time. How will you feel about this choice a month from now? One year from now? (You will probably be amazed at how dramatically our kids’ concepts of time differ from our own).

Is your speech a reflection of your character? Is your speech different in the locker room than it is at home or at church? Do you have more than one language--a different language for different occasions? (This question usually provokes a lot of discussion and disagreement between kids about what’s acceptable and what’s not acceptable).

What does “being cool” really mean to you? (This one can stimulate some great discussions with a lot of varied and spontaneous feedback).

How do you decide whether something is right or wrong? Is it just a question of whether anyone else will get hurt? (This one will really get kids thinking and hopefully talking).

How important is winning? Does it really matter how we win? (This one can frequently provoke some unexpected personal revelations by the kids).

Do you think that these days just about everyone cheats to get what they want? (You may or may not be surprised by just how prevalent cheating is and by how many kids admit to doing it).

How much is “trust” worth? If it’s a choice between missing out on a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity or dishonestly exploiting a situation to your own personal advantage, how would you decide what to do? (The kids themselves will come up with dozens of hypothetical situations for this one).

Do you think it is ever okay to break a promise? (This can lead into some great discussions about our responsibility to other people when they are in trouble--e.g. when they are using drugs, hiding an eating disorder, etc.).

Would you choose character over conformity? (This one will stimulate some great discussions about peer pressure). 

         These are just a few of the conversation-starters I use when I visit classes to talk to students about moral choices. The important thing is to get our kids thinking and talking and, hopefully, these discussions will help our young people develop a sense of direction and purpose to their lives which will result in more rewarding and more fulfilling experiences not only for them but also for those whose lives they may touch!

Author Bio:

Sandra McLeod Humphrey is a retired clinical psychologist, a character education consultant, and an award-winning author of eight middle-grade and young adult books.  She’s also the recipient of the National Character Education Center’s Award for Exemplary Leadership in Ethics Education (2000) and the 2005 Helen Keating Ott Award for Outstanding Contribution to Children's Literature. You can learn more about her books by visiting her Web site  at and she  also invites you to visit her DARE TO DREAM BIG! blog at

Friday, November 23, 2012

I Love YA Fiction With Judith and Ellen

Everyone's Story warmly welcomes the masterminds behind the dynamic website, I LOVE YA FICTION, Judith and Ellen. I enjoy reading Young Adult (YA) fiction, and for many reasons. Primarily, it's because I'm uplifted when I can see young people overcome obstacles and face life again with more knowledge and hope. Perhaps that's why I also like to include youths in my own novels. When I stumbled across the awesome I LOVE YA FICTION I knew I had to invite Judith and Ellen as guests. And, so here they are, partaking graciously in an interview. They're such great friends that they even wrote each other's bios! Enjoy! And remember, leave a comment for either Judith or Ellen or both--they'd love to hear from you.

First, welcome back, Judith and Ellen, from the wildness that was Hurricane
Sandy and for too many, are still stuck in the dark dreariness of the storm's
aftermath. Perhaps this is a good beginning point: do you think many YA
novels were enjoyed the past few weeks?

Ellen: I’d like to say “I hope so!” but I know a lot of the students at the school where I’ve been teaching, and a lot of my grad school classmates, have lost everything. I had one classmate put everything in perspective: “honestly, I haven’t even thought about it. I’m too focused on whether I have an apartment to go home to.”

That being said – I did actually discover this amazing place a few months ago called “the public library” where you can take out books for free! About a week before the storm I went to said amazing place and took out Jodi Picoult’s YA novel and read it during the storm…so much better than I expected. I need to write a review!

Judith: Thanks for the warm welcome! We are indeed back though it’s been a tough few weeks for us personally and for a lot of our readers.  With that said however, even without electricity, as long as e-readers were fully charged before the storm and flashlights at the ready, I’m sure a ton of YA literature was consumed in the last few weeks!

YA fiction has a wide reading audience, from the teen wanting to read a novel about “older” characters or the young adult relating to current themes, and to the “more mature adult” who enjoys a novel full of younger people. What's the common denominator that you see here?

J: As I see it, YA fiction as a whole explores the complexities of youth and
the difficulties of growing up. YA novels allow people to experience a time
that is full of promise and hope, a time when consequences are less
dramatic than those of adulthood. Obviously this brand of sweet nostalgia
appeals to everyone! And as a rule, YA lit tends to have more happy endings
than not, which coupled with a period of one’s life that is full of exploration
and mistakes, makes for intense reads with no fear of too much bad

E: While I can’t speak for everyone, the thing I love most about YA fiction is the sense of hope and possibility it brings. These are characters at a turning point in their lives and reading their stories fills me with a sense that, no matter how old you are, no matter what is going on in your life, there are always new paths to be explored, new people to meet, and new adventures to be had. I think we can all associate with the struggles and new experiences which are thematic in YA novels.

Back in the early ‘90s I recall walking into a Barnes and Noble store and
unlike now where sadly there seems to exist more shelves lines with toys
and games than books, I was impressed by the quantity of novels written for
the YA reading audience. Why do you think this genre has emerged, or
perhaps I should ask why it wasn’t more prevalent multiple decades ago?

J: Ahh, the good old days when B&N was full of comfy chairs and cozy nooks
to read books! The way we view books seems to have evolved drastically
over the last 30 years and the availability of literature, be it good, bad, or in
between, has become par for the course. Nowadays, finding a book about a
certain subject matter or theme and geared toward a specific age group is as
easy as firing up Amazon. Information is freely and widely available and as a
result, the niche that once was YA has exploded. And again, the reason for
that is, as mentioned earlier, YA fulfills a need to relive a simpler time with
consequences that aren’t as drastic as those faced in adulthood.

Related to the last question, I was also then pretty amazed by what I thought
were dark topics for children and teens. Sure, dystopian and dark
paranormal fiction has been around for centuries, but what’s your take that
these genres seem to be gobbled up in such high volumes?

E: What I love about today’s YA novels is that they confront actual problems most teens face. What teenagers since the dawn of time have wanted is to realize that they are not alone in their struggles, that there are other people out there who can understand and sympathize with what they are going through. And that is why YA novels today are so magical. No matter what issue you might be facing in your life – rape, ostracism, homosexuality, death, depression, parental divorce, first love, second love, heartache, best friendships – there are books out there which discuss it. Today’s YA novels are proof that there are people out there who know EXACTLY what you’re feeling.

J: Good question! Dystopian and paranormal fiction take us out of our daily
lives and thrust us into a magical world. There’s the added thrill of it being
slightly taboo that certainly sucks us in as well.  It’s very easy to read:
there’s generally a hero, a villain, and an overarching romance that plays
out throughout a book, and generally have happy endings. Paranormal and
dystopian fiction also allows its readers to live a life outside his or her own 
while also explaining the intricacies of this more normal reality.  A perfect
example of this would be Veronica Roth’s Divergent trilogy. In it, a teen girl
attempts to figure out the mystery of the dystopian world she lives in. Her
problems are the problems faced by all teenage girls, dystopian or
otherwise: will she fit in? Will she make friends? Does the gorgeous boy
she’s in love with love her back? Is she good enough to do the things in life
that she wants? Dystopian and paranormal YA are merely another creative
outlet for authors to talk about the hard hitting subjects. 

Based upon your website’s viewer participation, do you have any predictions
of what may be the next big hit, category-wise?

J: New Adult!! This is by far the next “it” category within literature. New
Adult is literature that centers around teens or young 20 somethings newly
out of high school, in college, or starting their first jobs. The problems
become more intense, the consequences more grave, and yet there’s a
simplicity to the stories that most contemporary literature does not possess.
A good starting point for any reader new to this genre is Easy by Tammara
Webber. This book is a runaway success due to its ability to delve into what
is typically considered a taboo subject (rape or the possibility of it) and
explore the ramifications of that. Our readers seem to gravitate towards the
more complex and intense emotions and experiences of New Adult fiction.

I’ve enjoyed many YA novels for their stories of hope and courage. Perhaps
that’s why I’m presently riveted to Patricia McCormick’s NEVER FALL DOWN
that takes place during the not that-long-ago days of the Khmer Rouge in
Cambodia. I’m reading for the aha moment to see how the young character
(based upon the true Arn Chorn-Pond) rises above it all. Any suggestions for
authors I may want to read along these lines?

J: I think almost all YA novels end up giving their readers hope though some
are better at it than others! John Green is a master of novels portraying
strong and hopeful characters.  By far my favorite of his is Looking For
Alaska which shows how a teen survives the loss of a dear friend.  Francesca
Lia Block is another such author who has been writing YA since I was a teen!
Her stories focus on strong female leads attempting to cope with atrocities in
their lives while maintaining their dignity. The most poignant of Block’s
books is The Hanged Man, which I read as a 16 year old and last year as a
31-year-old. The emotions and passion remained very much the same even
though my outlook on life was far different.

And finally: Do each of you have this one YA novel that you will always advocate?

E: I’d have to say I have two: THE TIMBER WOLVES series by Tammy
Blackwell and JELLICOE ROAD by Melina Marchetta. The first is so well
written and the second, though at first difficult to get into, was ultimately
worth it.

J: It’s a toss up between two. 1.The first YA novel that I can remember
really connecting with in the last 5 years is Sarah Dessen’s The Truth About
Forever. It is a poignant tale about a girl coming to grips with her father’s
death. Beautifully written, it focuses on redemption and personal growth,
three aspects that are a big selling point for me for a book! That was the
first YA novel (outside of Twilight) that I really pushed on Ellen.  2. Now that
said, I would be really lax in my blogging duties if I didn’t also talk about the
inspiration for our blog, I Love YA Fiction! Jennifer L Armentrout’s Obsidian,
a paranormal novel about aliens living right next door, focuses on a girl
named Katy who is uprooted from her life and relocated to WV. She runs a
blog review site and also manages to catch the eye of a sexy alien. Call it
wishful thinking but after reading that one, I actually called Ellen and told
her to sign up, we’re starting a book review blog.  The rest is ILYAF history! 

Viewers, let's chat: What do you enjoy in reading in YA fiction? What would you like to see more of?

 Guest Bios: 

Judith's Bio by Ellen:
My mom often says that if you're lucky, you find a friend so amazing it doesn't matter if you speak once a day, once a week, or even once a year. I can say in all honesty that Judith is that friend for me. We worked together at a law firm, and then she abandoned me to move to Boston, but whenever we talked or visited it was like we'd been apart for minutes. Judith is genuinely one of the most intelligent, generous, and amazing people I've ever met in my life. Heck - did you see that awesome contest she came up with to benefit the Hoboken school? And she speaks ancient Greek! 

Ellen's Bio by Judith
Ellen may be a lot of things: sarcastic, a little snarky, a tad snobby, brash and bold, but you’ll never meet a more loyal or caring friend. She is one of those people you meet and can truly say, “that girl loves life!” She travels to exotic places yearly, talking about flying like a lot of people talk about taking the subway. She loves to read and has eclectic tastes. As a teen she had dreams of becoming an olympic swimmer and a professional ice skater, practicing for hours every day until finally she ended up giving up those dreams in order to attend college in Washington, DC. If Judith had to pick just one person to be on her end of the world survival team, it would be Ellen and that in and of itself should say it all about this girl.  

You can find Judith and Ellen at:

Twitter: @iloveyafiction

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