The Teen Weather Report

girlinrain Weather plays a part in setting descriptions for most adult novels I read and for the teen novels I write. But there’s a difference.

In writing for teens, I have to keep in mind that they react to weather conditions differently from the way mature individuals do.

Most adults monitor the weather to take safety precautions or plan their essential business or family errands, keeping in mind those who depend on them. For teens, weather is much more personal than that.

For example, an adult with responsibilities looks at a hurricane tracked in the Gulf of Mexico and thinks, “I’d better stock up on supplies and board the windows.” A teen thinks, “I had a date for Saturday night!”

If a teen gave the daily weather report, it might go something like one of these:

  • “Windy today with temperatures dropping into the low fifties by this evening, perfect for wearing my new sweater to the football game.”
  • “Heavy snow is expected today, deep enough for my dad to make me shovel the driveway before he gets home from work.”
  • “Clear and sunny, with tulips and daffodils in bloom and a slow warming trend throughout the week. The best part is that I had my colors done, and I’m a ‘spring’!”
  • “Humidity this morning is high, with a likelihood of hair frizzing. By afternoon, we’re looking at an 80% chance of rain, so there goes my plan to lie out by the pool.”

Teens–gotta love the way God made them.

What is your favorite anecdote regarding a teen and his or her attitude toward the weather?

 

 

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Seeking My Niche

Niche.statue

Image courtesy of Morguefile free photos

I have one of those in my house—a niche. It’s carved out of the wall at the end of a short hallway. Not much fits there, but I placed a tall pottery vase that is flattened from front to back so it nestles in the space just right.

And boy, is it showcased.

Isn’t that what we authors are supposed to do? Find a niche for our work? An audience where it’s showcased rather than one of many similar, cluttered objects where none stand out.

I suppose those are extreme examples, but books can’t yell for attention like humans can. How do I find the audience(s) where my novels might catch fire, so to speak?

I’m thinking out loud now. Thanks for sticking with me.

My YA novels in the Bird Face series use humor and hope to address serious issues facing teens today. Each novel addresses at least a few. It’s the way I like to write stories, with my protagonist facing multiple issues and crises that are intertwined.

So, how do I find a niche for those books?

Right now, I’m looking for teens with particular challenges or areas in teens’ lives where certain types of stories or characters are lacking. Stories featuring a teen that is hearing-impaired are hard to find, for example. So are those with Catholic teen characters.

I wrote my first book because I care about kids who are shy or bullied. It’s fiction that contains elements of Christian faith, and the half-Cajun Wendy naturally became Catholic because all the Cajuns I knew were Catholic.

I wrote my deaf teen character Sam in my second book because I care about hearing-impaired teens. A good friend in my twenties taught at a school for the deaf, and she shared her experiences.  I grew up not understanding much about the hearing-impaired children I met, but I later worked around hearing-impaired adults, who referred to themselves as deaf and who became my friends.

Like an ethnic group, both hearing-impaired and Catholic teens like to see characters similar to themselves occasionally depicted in the fiction they read.

I’ve decided to try target-marketing to both Catholic teens and hearing-impaired teens (as I continue to market to all teens, Christian and non-Christian). I know, I’ve selected two niches, but I’m still figuring this out.

Anyway, that’s my plan for today.

Are you an author struggling to find your niche? As a reader, are you attracted to specific religious aspects of story or social issues in story lines?

Cynthia Toney

Cynthia Toney

The Big Unpredictable Sky of Motherhood

If you think motherhood is easy, one of the following is probably true:

  1. you have a child still young enough to control
  2. you are not doing it right
  3. you have never been a mother
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Courtesy of Morguefile.com Free Photos

As my husband and I sat talking with my daughter and her husband on our back porch under a magnificent Texas sky, I marveled at how much my relationship with my daughter had changed since ten years ago.

Back then, I’d only hoped and prayed that she and I would one day enjoy again the closeness we’d experienced before she reached her teen years.

To say the least, our relationship was stormy during most of high school and well past college. I’d get a glimpse of blue sky on occasion, but soon the clouds would gather again.

Still I believed that at any time her attitude toward me could change overnight, like the weather. I only needed to ride out the ugliness and wait for a beautiful sky to open up again, as it surely would.

If you’re a teenager reading this, try to give poor old mom a break now and then. As my daughter admitted after living as an adult on her own for a few years, mom winds up having been right about most things you fought with her so hard about.

If you are a mother who has raised an easy child, you were indeed blessed.

Readers, do you think you were an easy or a difficult child to raise? How about your own children?

In Honor of Poets and Poetry

I remember certain poems from childhood.

Their rhythms and rhymes soothed me like a lullaby, and I’ve found myself seeking them during troubled times as an adult. The glorious mental images they evoke likewise give me peace.

Through online searches and library books, I located some of my favorites so that I could offer a few samples here.

EagleFlight

While reading Tennyson’s The Eagle, I became that eagle—powerful and free. The poem itself is powerful–and short–with appealing alliteration.

He clasps the crag with crooked hands;

Close to the sun in lonely lands,

Ring’d with the azure world, he stands.

The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls;

He watches from his mountain walls,

And like a thunderbolt he falls. 

Daffodils group

I knew Wordsworth’s I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud as the title Daffodils, and it cheered me. Here are two excerpts:

Ten thousand saw I at a glance,

Tossing their heads in sprightly dance. 

and

For oft, when on my couch I lie

In vacant or in pensive mood,

They flash upon that inward eye

Which is the bliss of solitude;

And then my heart with pleasure fills,

And dances with the daffodils.

snowtrees

I’d memorized Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost, and it came back to me almost in its entirety. But the ending is what always got me. It spoke of responsibilities.

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep. 

birdhouse

I found The Builders by Longfellow as an adult but wished I’d read it as a child. We build a better world with honest deeds, no matter how small, and we prepare for the next. Here’s the beginning:

All are architects of Fate,


Working in these walls of Time;


Some with massive deeds and great,


Some with ornaments of rhyme.

Nothing useless is, or low;


Each thing in its place is best;


And what seems but idle show


Strengthens and supports the rest. 

I hope children and teens continue to be exposed to the work of these great poets and find comfort in them.

Two books of poetry for young people that I enjoyed lately are Poems to Remember, which inspired my most recent personal blog post, and The Children’s Treasury of Classic Poetry. I’m sure there are many other good ones.

Do you have a favorite poem? How does it speak to you?

cynthia-toney  Cynthia

The Great American Teen

girl.flag.horse  In honor of Independence Day (one of my favorite holidays), I’d like to celebrate the American teen! Just in case you thought American teenagers might become a generation of lazy, rude, uncultured couch potatoes…

According to the website stageoflife.com, when teenage high school and college students were surveyed in 2013,

60.4% of them planned to spend more time outdoors than indoors during the summer.

38% of teens surveyed planned to READ nine or more books during the summer. (I’ll do the math: that’s an average of three books per month!)

During the school year, 77.7% of teens said they read at least one book per month for personal pleasure or that isn’t required.

When asked the question “From which do you draw the most inspiration or have your biggest ‘Moments of Awesomeness’, teens ranked the following from highest to lowest:

Reading and Writing #1

Music #2

Nature #3

Exercise & Sports #4

Religion #5

Food #6

91% of teens said that civility, manners and etiquette are either “very important” or “important” in their lives.

And for teenagers surveyed regarding their feelings of patriotism:

90% loved their country, although 64.5% had been ashamed of their country at some point.

88.7% felt that serving in the military is a patriotic act.

62.8% recited the entire Pledge of Allegiance when it was being recited.

64.5% could sing the entire National Anthem.

And–83.5% considered themselves patriots.

Here’s wishing all teens and those who care about them (that’s practically everyone!) a happy and safe July 4th.

Cynthia

cynthia-toney