Posted in Jobe Workshop Review, Writing Prompts

Creative Writing 101 for Teens: Workshop Review

I only had one hour instead of the two hours I’m used to, but I knew I could use the time to provide some starting pointers for the attendees. I told the class about my blog and let them know that if they were looking for inspiration or encouragement, “Thursday Writers” would be a good category to browse. I explained that writing is one of those awesome things that you can get better at just by doing it, whether you have a teacher or not.

I opened the class with the usual introductions around the room. Then we started talking about stories. Whether we’re used to writing or not, we know a lot more about story structure and content than we think we do. Because we all read stories, we all watch stories unfold on the screen, and we all tell stories about things that have happened to us or people we know. So even if we’re new to writing, don’t be scared to get started. And since even adults sometimes feel too self-conscious, I didn’t ask anyone to read aloud after each prompt; we just went around the table and talked about our writing or the ideas we explored.

I told the class that a main character always has something they want, and that’s relatable, because we all have things that we want too. So we dove right into our first writing exercise: Desire. Write about something you want.

After that we talked about how a story always has conflict. That conflict can come from another person who wants something different than (or the opposite of) what the main character wants. Or it could be an event that takes place, like a tornado or a breakup or an injury. For the second writing exercise: Conflict. Write about  someone or something in the way between you and your goal.

We talked about how story structure, no matter how complicated it seems, can basically be broken down into these classic categories: story_arc

The example we used was of a college student who wanted to study abroad. Maybe she’s rushing to get the paperwork in on time, but the office is closed early, but she happens to know someone who can still get her in—whether the story is a mystery and there’s a dead body in the travel location when the student arrives; whether it’s a romance and she meets someone once she arrives; if it’s a science fiction story and she has to travel off-world. No matter the genre, all stories follow the basic structure.

I wanted to make sure to mention some fun writing prompt sites so they could be on the lookout for prompts of their own. I told them about the weird and sometimes hilarious watchout4snakes, and I told them about the 7x7x7 exercise from Write to Done. We talked about how anything in life can be used as inspiration for a story idea, and that if a person were to carry around a little notebook all day and just write down all the interesting things they encountered, from overheard conversation to quotes from other writers, they might find a lot of content from which to spark.

Next I asked the teens to come up with suggestions for things that people are afraid of. They threw up some fun ideas: clowns, spiders, water, death, children, heights, social situations, stage fright, and technology. I asked them to call out some of the “touchy subjects” we’re not supposed to talk about: politics, relationships, sexuality & gender, religion, money, and personal views. The third writing exercise was to create a scene using one or two of these concepts as the cause of tension in the scene.

We made sure to do prizes for everybody, a Jobe class hallmark, and this time it was free books, select at your leisure.

Lastly I asked the teens to call out their ages. We had a great range, from 13 to 19. I talked about how some knowledge comes from immediate experience, and people who are older or younger than we are may not understand something as well as we do or be as familiar with it, because of age. For the last writing exercise, I asked the teens to write about something they know because of their age.

For more writing resources for teens, Read Brightly suggests Teen InkOne Teen Story, and (what used to be Figment and is now) Get Underlined. For writers of YA Lit, check out Go Teen Writers and Kim Chance, including this guest post from Lucia Brucoli. And if you still want more, pick up my all-time fave on the topic, Writing Great Books for Young Adults by Regina Brooks.


Posted in diversity, Reading Challenge, Reviews

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo


If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo is the story of a transgirl written by a transwoman, and they even used a beautiful trans model for the book cover. The setting is high school, and any reader will recognize the familiar trappings—divorced parents who don’t see eye to eye, teens who are or are not included in “the popular kids,” feeling scared and uncertain of social situations. There are also several flashback scenes that give the reader a fuller sense of who the main character is, developing and enriching our reader experience at a pace that is masterfully parsed. The writing here is just so honest and so real. A lot of people say that reading the Diary of Anne Frank made them feel Jewish. This book will make you feel trans, in the best, most empathetic ways. Simply stated this book is vitally important and should be required high school reading nationwide. I don’t want to spoil anything so I’m afraid to say much more so let this suffice: I adore this book. If you read one book this year, make it this one.

It made my heart surge to see this book translated into so many languages.

Reading Challenges
Here we go for reading challenge updates:

Hashtags for the challenges that had them:


Posted in Reading Challenge

What is a backlisted book?

So I had to do a little digging, because Book Date’s category “backlisted book” had me stumped. By swimming against the tide of the internet sea (my Google searches wanted me to be looking for the much more common phrase, “blacklisted book,” which is another way of saying “banned book”) I think I reached a workable conclusion, with two equally valid definitions to choose from.

backlist 1. the most well-known works of a well-known author

When an author comes out with a new work, say, Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology (from this handy list of “books published in 2017,” another category for the same challenge), new fans may read the newest book and then refer to the backlist, or that author’s list of published works. New fans of Gaiman would find that he has been quite prolific indeed! The backlist is especially comprised of books that have sold well over time; the non-new books that bookstores keep on hand, because they’re likely to keep selling anyway. So, while any book (besides the newest work or few) would qualify as part of an author’s backlist, his most well-known works might be most exemplary: in the case of Gaiman, works like Coraline or American Gods. (Seattle Times backs us up on this one.)

RT Book Reviews uses the same definition in their own discussion of how well Young Adult (YA) novels tend to do over time, “Backlisted Books: With exceptions few and far between, not many adult fiction books appear on the bestsellers list months, or years, after they are published. However, for YA titles, this doesn’t seem to be the case. John Green’s Looking for Alaska was first published in 2005, Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief hit shelves in 2006. And in one instance, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, the book was published last century! (Although it does help that this last title was recently made into a film starring Harry Potter’s Emma Watson.)”

backlist 2. the lesser known works of a well-known author

Meanwhile! The Backlisted Podcast (also available on Facebook) is using a different definition, but you’ll see how they related. In their case, they’re spot-lighting less famous works by famous authors, or just lesser known works worthy of our attention. Author Lloyd Shepherd, who seems quite taken with the book list idea in general (check out his awesome list of lists here), mentions the Backlisted Podcast here. An example from this kind of backlist, or lesser known work of a well-known author, would be The Crack-Up by F. Scott Fitzgerald, who is known for The Great Gatsby.

This second definition makes more sense in the context of Wiki’s entry on Publishing, which explains, “The ability to quickly and cost-effectively print on demand has meant that publishers no longer have to store books at warehouses, if the book is in low or unknown demand. This is a huge advantage to small publishers who can now operate without large overheads and large publishers who can now cost-effectively sell their backlisted items.” If I’m not mistaken, that sounds to me like not wanting to publish too many copies of a book before you know if it’s going to sell or not.

So! That is my handy-dandy two-part backlist definition. Hope it helps!!!



Posted in Random Round Up

Random Round Up w Jobe

I love seeing the progression of a thing’s development, and this article and video are too awesome not to share. Thanks Epic Reads!

Are you old enough to remember diagramming sentences? For a visual learner like me, this activity set my brain on fire in the best way. I can just imagine all those happy little synaptic connections forming. I’m sad that it’s fading away, but thanks NPR for the nostalgia.

I am a huge fan of this book series so it’s no surprise to me that Cathy Yardley is at it again with this awesome online resource.

If you’re looking for opportunities for contests and such, Aerogramme Writers’ Studio has you covered for March and April.

Last but not least, this might be helpful for character building, what do you think about what it’s saying, do you agree? Thanks to Nathen for posting about it and The Writer’s Circle for passing it around.535103_10153740817836291_221130954827427889_n


Posted in Reviews

Jobe’s December Reads

Hello, Friends! I have been remiss in my updating duties and for that I apologize. I have been nose-deep in 10-20 books for school but have only read portions and not completed a single one! But it occurred to me that I never did post my final summary for the last few books of 2015, which I shall amend right this very moment.

For the play category I read Waiting for Godot. Most people have heard this phrase or have a vague knowledge of this play’s existence, but if you “don’t get it,” that’s ok. No one else does either. It is so odd and open-ended that the theorizing never stops, and nothing is extrememly conclusive, either. I saw it performed as an undergrad and thought it was funny, silly, odd. I read it this December, hoping to have some light shed on a deeper meaning. I was out of luck. I made up some theories of my own, such as: the characters represent different body parts! The characters are actually all dead! But whatever you decide is “really” going on, you’re probably just as right or wrong as everybody else.

To finish out my trilogy category, I finished Dreams of Gods and Monsters. You guys, if you have not read this trilogy by Laini Taylor, please drop everything and do so. Like, for really real. It is AWESOME. I have been reading and writing all my life and I consider myself a person of rather refined tastes. In fact I can be downright snobby if I feel a book or film is particularly lazy in the writing department. LAINI TAYLOR GOES IN MY TOP FIVE BEST WRITERS WRITING TODAY!!! She is a master storyteller of the highest level. Her language is beautiful, her stories are rich and deep, her world building boggles my mind, her characters are beautifully flawed and strong and real. I cannot recommend her highly enough. Please run out to your nearest bookstore or library right this minute and fall in love with her just like I did.

My final book for the year and my final category was a Christmas book. I wasn’t terribly excited about the category and I figured it was a good one to save til last and read around the same time as the actual holiday. The book I picked was Let It Snow, which I sarcastically referred to as a book written by John Green and some other guys. Dang, don’t you hate it when you’re a jerk and then it bites you in the butt? I am such a dufus for dragging my feet to get started on this. This book was good, and I was a dummy for thinking it wouldn’t be. Damn my grinch-y outlook! First, it was YA romance, which, distinct from adult romance, I like. Second, it was three short stories (novellas?) written by three authors, John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle, which I knew from the cover, but I didn’t know I was in for linked stories that were intertwined and had us get to know a range of the cast of characters that featured in each story! I love stuff like that!! So that was a really cool discovery, too. And–wait for it–the writing was really high quality. Can I be done apologizing for my pride-before-a-fall ways, now? It was good and I liked it and I would gladly read more by all three of these authors. And yes, someday someone will refer to me as “and some other guys” and I will just cry because I deserve it. >.<

eating humble pie

Posted in Reviews

Jobe’s June, July, & August Summer Reads

Howdy y’all, I’ve pasted dated posts below from my private readers group, but I did some updates & revising, too. Basically this is what I’ve been up to, in addition to what you may have read over on my personal blog

August 31
For “a book more than 100 years old,” I read the Book of Job, authorized KJV with an introduction by Charles Frazier. I figured it was high time I read it, since it’s my name and all. It was a whole lot of “you did the thing” “I did not do the thing.” Then God shows up in the end and is all like “I’m moar awesum than you.” So, yeah. Also there is a mention of unicorns, and I’m wondering if it means rhinoceros?

Aug 25
Inspired by my dive into Chicken, I raced through Shine Shine Shine by Lydia Netzer. It was phenomenal and I definitely recommend it. It’s essentially about the life-long love story between a bald girl and a math nerd boy. It explores the concept of being an outsider and exposes us all as strange. I picked this book up at the dollar store — not Dollar General but the actual Everything’s a Dollar — because the cover drew me in. It was marked for clearance, on sale for fifty cents. It is worth much, much more. While I chose it for its cover, I do that with a lot of books, and it tickled me once I realized it qualified as a “one-word title.”

Aug 21
I just finished Chicken, by Chase Night. It fits a lot of categories, including YA, set in Arkansas, LGBTQ. It is fucking kickass. I’ll be placing it in the “published this year” slot. It is so, so good. If you do one good deed as a member of your literary community this year, it should be to buy this book.

Aug 21 (Amazon Review)
This book is so well wrought it’s difficult to know where to begin in praising it. The story is modern, with a myriad of current references from Tumblr to Rihanna, from the Lion King to the Titanic. The characters are real and their struggles are real. The LGBTQ subject matter is timely. And anyone who has lived in religious small town Arkansas or any small town in The South may easily relate. Yet with all the familiarity this book defies stereotypes and rises above. Night’s crisp language surprises and entertains, sparking the imagination and keeping the reader turning page after page. Here there is hope and humor in the face of damnation. You will fall in love with this story, these characters, and this new up-and-coming author.

July 28
Just finished Unseen Academicals on AudioBook by Terry Pratchett. Vacation driving. Will look up categories soonish…”A book with magic.”

July 27
Listened to Going Postal on AudioBook by Terry Pratchett, and it was delightful all the way through. Vacation driving. Don’t remember my categories til I get back from vacation… “A book from an author you love that you haven’t read yet.”

July 11
Finally finished Twelve-Fingered Boy by John Hornor Jacobs. Category “book I’m scared of.” It is horror genre but YA, so I wasn’t sure how it would play out. It’s dark / gritty supernatural. I carried it around for so long just not reading it. Lame of me, I know. It’s actually really good, despite the word “titty-baby” on the first page that put me off initially. Lovable characters fighting a hard fight.

July 7
I don’t know why I find myself incapable of reading John Hornor Jacobs’ “The Twelve-Fingered Boy” but for some reason it is taking me an INORDINATE amount of time. Meanwhile, I read Carnet de Voyage by Craig Thompson in one night — several hours, really. It’s an illustrated travelogue by an artist / author and his roaming of Europe and Morocco. I’ll throw this in the “book set in another country” as soon as I check my list at work tomorrow… Night y’all.

June 24
I fell off the reading wagon for a while. I’m not certain why, but there was a lot going on that required my cleaning up skill set more immediately. Basically we got a friend moved out of one place and moved into our place, and we’ve been working on the group dynamics. For the first time in two weeks or more I actually sat down and read yesterday. It felt so foreign, and yet I couldn’t understand why I stopped. Well. I should finish this book today or tomorrow. Post to follow.

June 6
Finally finished Mother Box by Sarah Blackman. I picked her book up because of a short story of hers in another text that I enjoyed immensely. It wasn’t particularly long but some of it was dense. It’s a book of short stories and one novella that all have elements of the unreal. I’m not sure of the word for this. Maybe it is magical realism, maybe it is something else. At first it was “at the bottom of the reading list” because I had to read school texts and I was saving it to savor it. Then once I started it, it seemed too weird, too strange, too bizarre, and it was slow going and I thought several times about giving up on it. But some of the stories I deeply enjoyed, and the novella really captured my imagination. So it is done, and now I know this author is a bit hit or miss for me. I may have liked the original story better because it was non-fic/memoir style instead of fiction.

Posted in Reviews

Jobe’s February Reads

And it’s time for your end of the month check in: what did you read In February? Here’s a quick review of the books I read this month.

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson
This book was absolutely as hilarious as the reviews warned, so I counted it as my “funny book.” If you’re looking for a quirky memoir with lots of humor, this one is for you.

Memoirs of a Beatnik by Diane DiPrima
This book, while ‘memoir’ is in the title, was released as a work of fiction, so I counted it as my “based on a true story” book. It focuses on the sex life of a young woman living in poverty in New York in the beatnik era.

After the Orange Glow by Mark Spitzer
This memoir is as bizarre as it is awesome, which is a lot of both. I counted it as my “book with a color in the title.” Spitzer uses nothing but the zaniest, most evocative language to jerk you up by the shirt collar and get you thinking about the big questions, like what is it all for?

The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton
This is a classic work of science fiction, and I’m working to fill in the gaps of classics I missed. This one scared me when I was little and I didn’t finish it until now, so I counted this as my “book from your childhood.” It was interesting for me to read a book that didn’t focus on a particular character so much as an event.

Neurotica by Elva Maxine Beach
This is a bold, brave memoir about sexual appetites and how relationships go wrong. This book is packed with poetry as well as prose that will startle and leave you feeling shocked and vulnerable. I first counted it as my “book you can read in a day” but had to change my vote to “book that makes you cry” after I stayed up half the night processing it.

(If you notice a theme in my reading, that’s because I have my own sex-filled memoir in the works to be completed as the thesis for my MFA creative writing degree.)

Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma
My final book of the month was a YA novel about a brother and a sister in love. I was particularly interested in how a YA novelist might or might not treat the topic of consensual incest differently than an author writing for an adult audience. I won’t give any spoilers but I didn’t personally prefer the ending, so if you read this one let me know and we can compare notes on how we might’ve ended it differently. This book was set in high school but was the only one I could think of for the “started but never finished” category, as I’d tried to read it once before but lost interest.

Thanks for tuning in and I hope our many snow days helped you pack in some extra reading and writing this month!

Until Next Time,



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