Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Saying Goodbye... and Hello

Well, after five years of productive critiquing and seeing several of our members go on to publication, the time has come for CYAW to close it's cyber doors. This is a sad moment, but a necessary one. Because I'm so involved in Pekazoid Prophets -- which is the next step in CYAW's growth -- and because our active membership has dropped so low, it's just better to move on.

Pekazoid Prophets is going to be awesome, Lord willing! I hope the people who have been following this blog will check out the website and consider joining. We're still small, still recruiting members and teachers... but PekPro will enable aspiring authors of young adult (and middle grade and children's fiction, even picture books!) to have greater interaction with professional authors than was possible with CYAW. We've already got a bunch of promising new members, and I look forward to being a part of their growth and success.

Still, saying goodbye to the old group is hard. I just can't bring myself to hit that "delete" button. I suppose one day it will just feel like "time" and I'll be able to do it.

For myself, I've embarked upon a new project that started out as a promotional plan, but I hope will touch the hearts of teens on a greater scale than I can imagine at this moment. Placing it in the Lord's hands... It's a video project called When Pigs Fly. The videos are Manga. That is, they're illustrations that make up a story. Basically, an online comic book. (Manga is the Japanese word for this.) The story is based on a novella I'm writing, and the novella itself will be offered for free download through a website and through Amazon (probably have to charge 99 cents on Amazon). The first video is completed and online!

Check it out on my YouTube channel at: http://www.youtube.com/user/dianalee4jc?feature=mhee

(If for some reason that link doesn't work, search "When Pigs Fly, Christian manga.")

As I said, this was first a means of getting my name out there, reaching the kids where they spend so much time online--watching videos. But as I got into the project and did more research into the genre (printed, online, and Anime, which is the fully animated version), I discovered just how popular this genre is with teens... and just how DARK much of it is! Christian teens I spoke with at a recent conference said they really like the art style of Manga, but are bothered by much of the content. So now I see a need for the advancement of God-honoring Manga. From what I can tell, there are a number of people working on this, but it's still an uphill climb getting the word out that it's available.

So I'm hoping you'll check out my first video and my YouTube channel, and share it with teens you know who might enjoy it. On that channel I'll be linking other "clean" videos as I come across them.

Okay, I didn't mean for this post to be all about me. But it's been a bit of an emotional roller coaster with the start of Pekazoid Prophets, the winding down of CYAW, and the insane push (60-80 hours a week!) to get the video finished. So I want to tell everyone how much I appreciate the interaction over the past five years. Y'all have poured into me so much more than I have given back, and I'd be nowhere without my critique partners. Thank you so much for everything! I love you all.

Diana Sharples

Monday, September 12, 2011

Seems like a lame excuse to say things have been busy... but they have! Since the last time I posted in this group I have:
Started working with the youth group at our (new) church.
Fell in a parking lot and tore a ligament in my arm (February... healed now.)
Gone on two trips with our (new) church motorcycle group and "slayed the Dragon" on one of those.
Went on a mission trip to New York City with the youth group.
Finished my novel, Running Lean, and resubmitted it.
Started work on a video project.
Had jury duty (the guy was guilty).

I've partnered with author Nancy Rue to form a new organization for Christian writers of fiction for children and young adults. It's called...

Pekazoid Prophets

What in the world is a "pekazoid" you ask? Well... go to the website and find out!

Seriously... Go.

Nancy and I made our formal announcement about the group today at the Writing for the Ages conference in Colorado Springs, CO. (Glen Eyrie) This group will encompass all the features that we've chatted about in CYAW... teaching, prayer, critique groups, blogs, AND retreats... AND a mentor-matching service for our "graduates." The group will be a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, with annual membership fees running only $50.00. Our website is new and we're still working out the kinks, but we'll soon have paypal set up to accept members and our critique groups (classes), will be forming.

We've also got a Facebook group -- http://www.facebook.com/groups/113398462096128/

We're very excited about this group and the future plans we have for it! The website has a blog that is... well, it's exactly what I'd intended this blog to be.


We hope you'll join us! Hope you'll be a part of the growth of the community we're building. Our goal is to build a community of excellent writers to answer the need for God-honoring fiction for our kids.

Hope to see you there!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Confrontational YA Fiction

Taking a break for a moment from our discussion of writing techniques and rules....

Recently, my family and I have had to find a new church (long story...). It was a heartbreaking move, but starting at a new church closer to home has also provided me with the opportunity to get involved with the youth ministry. Yesterday, even though I'm a newcomer, the youth pastor allowed me to sit with a group of teens and facilitate their discussion revolving around a question: Have you made choices recently that glorified God? The kids were a little reluctant to open up, and made jokes like, "I didn't kill my little brother today." But then one quiet little girl finally spoke and talked about seeing some friends smoking weed behind the classroom trailer at her middle school. (Shock number one for me... although I nodded and tried not to show how my mother's-heart was skipping a beat.) She went in and told the teacher, even though she feared retribution. The teacher promised to keep her name out of it. (Thank you, teacher.) I commended the girl for doing the right thing and making a tough choice, and was about to say that her action might have prevented some other child from getting more heavily involved with drugs, when this petite little girl dropped a bombshell. She told us that both of her parents are in jail for drugs.

Kaboom. My mother's-heart stopped cold. Somehow I managed to keep going, keep smiling... not freak out.

And I know this is just the beginning of the journey the Lord has set before me.

Folks, THIS is the world our teenagers live in. Even Christian teens can't escape it. And I am so driven to confront it with my writing. Five and a half years ago, after watching some disturbing report about teens on television, I prayed and asked God how I might protect and guide my (then) eleven-year-old daughter as she enters a world that seems so different from the one I grew up in. (Not really so different... just more things were hidden then, so naive kids like me didn't see them.) The Lord answered that prayer with a bigger mission... and I started writing for Christian teens.

I am convinced that we cannot confront the enemy that wants to devour our teenagers if we write stories with perfect characters, thinking they'll be "role models" for the readers. Our kids don't know kids like that. They won't relate to them. And those perfect characters--oh, maybe they've got little faults like they lie once in a while or they have pride issues--don't provide role models as much as they are seen as a form of adult lecturing. To reach our teens, we as writers have to get gritty with our characters. We have to paint the world as it really is. And yes, we'll have to create imperfect teenage characters... because Jesus didn't come to save the righteous but to save the sinners, the unworthy ones, the ones whose sins would make a mother's heart stop. These aren't merely the shadowy figures lurking in alleyways... they're the students sitting in the classrooms with our children. They're the girl who hides her cutting from her parents, the boy who does drugs in his friend's basement, the girl who lives with the shameful secret that her father abuses her sexually, the pastor's son who mocks the awkward kid at school, who then goes home and slashes her wrists, and yes, the angst-ridden kid who brings a gun to school and kills someone.

Teens do read fiction for escapism. They do want stories filled with hope. But they also want stories that speak to them in the world they live. Although they might not say it, they crave guidance from us... not judgmentalism and lectures in the form of fiction on what we think their lives are supposed to look like. And we can talk about what words are appropriate, how far is too far in our writing, but I feel very strongly that if we don't confront the world our children live in--even if that makes our stories "edgy" (people, what we CBA writers call "edgy" is so utterly tame compared to what I've read in general fiction for teens!)--if we don't confront that world, we are doing a disservice to our teenagers.

When I hear a mother say, "I won't let my daughter read a book that has (fill in the blank) in it," I want to say... that's your call. She's your child. But that doesn't mean that someone shouldn't write the book. Because maybe that book will speak to many other children who are living in similar situations and need to know that there's a way out.