Monday, August 27, 2012

What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen

Who is the real McLean?

 Since her parents' bitter divorce, McLean and her dad, a restaurant consultant, have been on the move-four towns in two years. Estranged from her mother and her mother's new family, McLean has followed her dad in leaving the unhappy past behind. And each new place gives her a chance to try out a new persona: from cheerleader to drama diva. 

But now, for the first time, McLean discovers a desire to stay in one place and just be herself, whoever that is. Perhaps Dave, the guy next door, can help her find out. Combining Sarah Dessen's trademark graceful writing, great characters, and compelling storytelling, What Happened to Goodbye is irresistible reading.

~Published May 10th 2011 by Viking Juvenile

Food to Eat While Reading: Homey Homemade Mac and Cheese

What Happened to Goodbye is the first book I've read by Sarah Dessen.  I've heard so much about her natural writing style and her ability to make realistic teen characters that I was excited to pick this one up.  I was not disappointed.

Mclean is a character who deals with something many teens understand:  trying to figure out where she fits in.  She's a strong person and she knows what she wants, but she is also vulnerable and dynamic.

What I really loved about this book are the lessons I learned about writing.  I love how Dessen ends a scene with a characters revelation about herself, then recaps what happened afterward in a following scene.  It works so nicely and I am going to have to try that in my own writing. Also, I want to learn how to use imagery to further express the emotions that the character is going through, as Dessen does throughout her book. Here's an example:

"I cleared my throat, looking into that fire in front of me. The logs were perfectly shaped, the fake flames flickering. Pretty yes, but no real warmth there. Just an illusion, but you didn't realize that until you were up close and still felt cold.

Readers will love What Happened to Goodbye for it's realistic situations and authentic emotions.

Homey Homemade Mac and Cheese

Homey Homemade Mac and Cheese

Mclean in Sarah Dessen's What Happened to Goodbye struggles to find where she belongs. When she joins a group of friends for an impromptu dinner at one of their homes, Mclean realizes that it's been such a long time since she has sat around a table with a family, eating comfort foods like the southern meal of crisp chicken and homemade mac and cheese.  This recipe is a family favorite and with it's simple ingredients, it will soon become one of yours.

15 ounces uncooked elbow macaroni
2 cans cream of chicken soup
2 cups milk
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded or cubed
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded or cubed
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350'. Boil the elbow macaroni according to package directions. Drain macaroni, and layer it in the bottom of an 8x8 pan. Combine the soups and the milk in a small bowl and stir into macaroni.  Add the cheeses, stirring until mixed. Salt and pepper to taste. Cover with tin foil and cook until the edges are bubbly, about 20 minutes.

Note: any combination of cheese can be used.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Interview with Becca Wilhite

Becca Wilhite
Photo: Scott Wilhite

Becca is the author of several YA books, including My Ridiculous, Romantic Obsessions

Christy:  Your characters are so lively, how do you go about creating them?

Becca:  Character is always my favorite part of a story -- mine or anyone else's. I put a generous dose of myself into my characters (that's where all their truly believable flaws come from) and then I try to make them as real as possible. I have made lists of traits, done fake "interviews" where I ask the characters questions, stolen freely from people I know, and just made up a whole bunch. I give them weaknesses that I can exploit for all kinds of comic effects later. That kind of makes me sound mean, doesn't it? But I guess all authors have a mean streak. Some of ours are bigger than others.

Christy:  Did you set out to be a writer?

Becca:  Not at all. I was always, always a reader, though. I didn't even take a single creative writing class when I was a university student. But once I decided I wanted to be a writer, I took a whole lot of classes and courses and everything I could get my hands on. I read a ton of books about writing. I love writers' conferences, and I recommend them to everyone (kid and adult) who wants to write. 

Christy:  What do you want readers to understand after they finish your books?

Becca:  I just want to provide a laugh. Maybe a tear or two. If anything else comes of it, that's bonus material. 

Christy:  What are you working on now? Do you have a novel in the works?

Becca:  I do! It's so fun. I'm in revisions with my agent for a YA fantasy that hopefully we will submit early in the fall. The book is called THE FIFTH GIFT, and I'll be sure to let you know if/when it gets picked up for publication. (I'm sure I'll be obnoxiously obvious about it.)

Christy:  What do you eat while you are reading/writing?

Becca:  I love salty stuff -- popcorn, mainly. (Popcorn with butter and ranch powder, or with garlic salt and parmesan cheese, or Jamaican jerk spice... whatever strikes my fancy.) I've been known to consume vast quantities of popcorn while reading (or watching movies). But I don't really eat while I'm writing. I save the snacks as a reward for finishing. Especially since a lot of my writing comes before sunrise. And popcorn at 5:30 a.m. is a little weird, even for me.