Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Book Review and Author Interview: Courage in Patience by Beth Fehlbaum

Courage in Patience by Beth Fehlbaum is about the courage of a group of teenagers in Patience, a small town in East Texas. Ashley Asher, Roxanne Blake, Dub White, Z.Z. Freeman, Junior Alvarez, T.W. Griffin, and Kevin Cooper are classmates in the summer session of English II under Beverly Asher. Each teen is facing a truly life-altering challenge that requires them to say NO to fear.

The main character of Courage in Patience is fifteen-year-old Ashley. Most of the novel is in her voice. When the narrative shifts its focus to one of the other characters, a third person point of view is taken, but I did not find these shifts jarring. For six years Ashley was sexually abused by her stepfather Charlie Baker. When she finally has the courage to tell her mother, Cheryl Baker, about the abuse, her mother does not believe her. Child Protection Services then places Ashley in the care of her father David Asher and stepmother Beverly Asher. Living with her father, stepmother, and stepbrother Ben in Patience; starting therapy with Dr. Scott Matthews; and English II class help Ashley start to heal.

At the beginning of the novel, Ashley takes us through her six years in hell. But the novel does not focus on the abuse Ashley endured. In truth, I wish the novel had focused a bit more on the abuse, because I wanted to understand deeply the terror Ashley went through. The novel's focus is on the emotional effects of abuse and the road to recovery. Courage in Patience is an eye-opening read. Ashley suffers from post traumatic stress disorder and her pain, confusion, insecurities, and anger are very REAL. After reading Courage in Patience, I feel I have a much better understanding of what victims of sexual abuse feel and think and the healing process they must go through.

Courage in Patience is a story of hope for those who have endured abuse - and not just sexual abuse. Ashley and her English II classmates have experienced different kinds of abuse, ranging from emotional abuse and physical abuse to heartbreaking parental neglect and shocking racism. To make matters even worse, religious fundamentalists try to ban the novel they are discussing (and loving!) in English class: Ironman by Chris Crutcher. These conservative extremists are also trying to have their English teacher fired for assigning Ironman to the class. The way these amazing teen characters finally stand up to abuse and social injustice is inspiring.

It has been a while since I've read a novel as serious and important as Courage in Patience. (It is also enjoyable and very readable!) I am honestly grateful for Courage in Patience. I want to read it again because Beth Fehlbaum was able to successfully weave so many big themes into one thought-provoking story. Courage in Patience is an authentic exploration of emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, parental neglect, racism, censorship, and religious fundamentalism. More importantly, Courage in Patience is a necessary reminder that there is HOPE as long as we are not afraid to stand up for what is right.

I am so happy to host YA author Beth Fehlbaum at my blog! Welcome, Beth!

What kind of teen reader were you?

I always read "above" my age. I liked historical romance-- Kathleen E. Woodiwiss' books.

What inspired you to write Courage in Patience?

I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. In the course of treatment and through my recovery process, I have used writing as a way to work through feelings. After about a year of writing poems and short stories and sharing them with my therapist, he suggested that I write a novel. I played with it for about four months, stopping and starting. It was only when I pulled myself out of my own head and began to imagine another person's life that I was able to bring Ashley Nicole Asher, age 15, to life, and create a world for her, which became Courage in Patience.

What was it like writing Courage in Patience?

I wrote most of Courage in Patience in the middle of the night and on the weekends and holidays. Strangely, I did not feel all that tired the next day at school, because my mind was working overtime at story-weaving. I drew on my experiences as a teacher to create the character of Beverly, Ashley's stepmother who is a high school English teacher. I drew on my experiences of being an abuse survivor to communicate what it is like inside the mind of a person who has been sexually abused. Some of the scenes were very difficult to write. Chapter Two, and its depiction of Ashley's rape, took a very long time to write and was very emotional for me.

Can you tell us about your road to publication?

From the start of writing the book to selling it, it took about one year. Then the editing and revising process took about four more months. Kunati, Inc., my publisher, is a small independent publisher based in Orangeville, Ontario. Kunati authors are expected to work extensively on their own behalf, and the publisher, Derek Armstrong, is a marketing expert. I sort of live a double life right now-- I teach all day then come home at night and do "author stuff"-- and go on my book tour on the weekends. It's pretty surreal, actually.

Kunati books are meant to be "Provocative. Bold. Controversial." What makes your book provocative, bold, and controversial?

Courage in Patience is provocative in that it will provoke discussion and thought- which is what it is intended to do. It is bold because it does not hide from the truth; in fact, the crux of Courage in Patience is that freedom is found through truth. And it may be controversial because some of its elements will make people uncomfortable-- as they should-- but it's also important to understand that the stuff that is hard to read in Courage in Patience is the everyday existence of millions of people.

Can you tell us about your work with abused children as an English teacher? How much did that experience influence your novel?

When Kunati first bought my book, I was not yet ready to identify myself as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. Out of consideration for me, my folks at Kunati attributed my expertise on the subject of child sexual abuse to my work with abused children. I know for a fact that I have worked with children who have endured all sorts of abuse-- all teachers have, because 1 in 4 children are sexually abused-- but I wrote the character of Beverly Asher more from my overall experience as a teacher of all children than as a teacher of abused children. All children-- all PEOPLE-- are the same in that they (we) all want to be loved and accepted for who they (we) are. That's a fundamental message in Courage in Patience.

I have an understanding of secondary English curriculum, because I taught middle school for much of my career. I majored in English and minored in Secondary Education. I based the characters in the summer school class on composites of students I have had over the years.

The back cover of your novel says that it is suitable for classroom study. How do you imagine Courage in Patience being used for classroom study?

With the themes of racism, censorship, religious dogma, abuse, forgiveness, social justice, bullying, honesty, respect, anger… there's plenty of discussion material in Courage in Patience. I have considered writing a Novel Unit to go along with the book, but I have not had time to do it yet. I think Courage in Patience would be a great novel to study in the classroom!

What do you want teens who have suffered abuse to take away from Courage in Patience? What do you want teens who have not suffered abuse to take away from the novel?

I hope that everyone who reads Courage in Patience will come away with the understanding that it is in truth that all people find freedom. It's not just an "abuse novel." There is a positive message in the group dynamic of the kids in the summer school class coming together and learning to embrace each other's differences. Nobody wants to face problems alone-- and Courage in Patience carries the message that people with problems are NOT alone.

If you could choose only one, which would you choose: for Courage in Patience to be award-winning, or for Courage in Patience to be bestselling? Why?

Wow, what a fantastic question. No doubt about it- I would rather Courage in Patience be award-winning-- recognized by those who know and appreciate quality literature-- than best-selling. I mean, come on-- think about it-- among many fine books, there are also books that capitalize on the pain of real people on the best-seller list. Just because a book is a best-seller does not necessarily mean that it contributes to the betterment of people's lives, long-term.

What book would you like your work to match or surpass (in terms of writing, impact, popularity, sales, or awards)?

I would like my work to be on-par with Chris Crutcher's books, in terms of longevity and the awards he has received for his contributions to young adult literature. If I earn even a tenth of the recognition he has received, that would be very cool.

What advice do you have for teachers with students who have suffered abuse?

Teachers should always remember that they have the power to shape a child's life, for better or worse. We (teachers) need to communicate to our students very clearly that they matter and they have a person who cares about them as people-- not just as a warm body that takes up a seat for however long the class lasts. So, advice I would give to teachers would be to BE THERE for their students.

The Courage in Patience tour has stopped by many blogs and bookstores since July. What are some of your favorite experiences so far from the blog tour and in-person book signings?

I really like hearing from people who have read the book-- so it's very gratifying to stop by a blog and find people discussing Courage in Patience. With respect to the signings, one of my three daughters (ages 18, 20, and 22) always goes with me, and it's really cool, sharing the time with them and talking to people about my book. One thing that's neat at book signings is when men come up to my table and ask me what my book is about-- and I tell them-- and a few times, men have bought the book for their wives or girlfriends, because the wife or girlfriend has experienced abuse, and the guy hopes my book will help her.

What are you working on now?

I am working on the sequel to Courage in Patience. It's called Hope in Patience. The title comes from something a good friend once said to me: "Hope is the opposite of fear." I am already receiving letters from people who did not want Courage in Patience to end. They wanted to know more of Ashley's story. And I also need to find out how her story turns out in the end, so I'll be learning more about her life as I write it!

Thanks for hosting me, Tarie! I really appreciate it! I invite readers to stop by my website, http://www.courageinpatience.blogspot.com.

Thank you for stopping by Into the Wardrobe, Beth! Thank you for writing Courage in Patience. I am already looking forward to Hope in Patience! I, too, want to know how Ashley's story ends, and I want to learn more about her family and classmates/friends - her life - in Patience.

Monday, September 29, 2008

This week, let's move Twilight Tuesday to Monday, shall we?

Awesome news: The Twilight movie will be released here in the Philippines on Nov. 20. That's right, a day before it is released in the US!

Source: http://twilightersanonymous.com/philippines-gets-nov-20th-release-date-for-twilight-movie.html

Friday, September 26, 2008

Just Stand Up

I want to share this video of Beyonce, Carrie Underwood, Mariah Carey, Natasha Bedingfield, Keyshia Cole, Miley Cyrus, Nicole Scherzinger, Fergie, Mary J. Blige, Leona Lewis, Ashanti, Rihanna, and Ciara performing "Just Stand Up." This song produced by L.A. Reid and Babyface Edmonds has a great beat and lyrics I find so inspiring that they bring tears to my eyes. Lately I have been listening to "Just Stand Up" almost nonstop!

"Just Stand Up" is a cancer benefit single. This cause is very personal to me. Last year, I lost two beautiful and kind aunts to cancer. My Tita Baby died on Sept. 5 and my Tita Beth died on Dec. 27. Stand up to cancer! My aunts and I had some similar tastes. I think they would have enjoyed this song. :o) And I know they would want us all to help spread the word about the Stand Up to Cancer movement.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Coming Soon

Watch this affecting book trailer for Courage in Patience, a new young adult novel by Beth Fehlbaum...

And watch out for my review of Courage in Patience and interview with Beth Fehlbaum on Sept. 30!

Twilight Tuesday: Interviews of Stephenie Meyer, Robert Pattison, and Kristen Stewart

I excused myself from Twilight Tuesday for a couple weeks. Now I'm baaack. :o) I wanted to share these fun videos. The first video is a recent interview with Stephenie Meyer. We don't learn a lot of new things from this interview, but it's still really great to see Stephenie on the Ellen Degeneres Show!

The second video is a Borders interview with Robert Pattison and Kristen Stewart. I found this interview really revealing. Robert shares a lot about how he played Edward and Kristen shares one important reason why Robert is the best actor to play Edward.

What did you think of the interviews? :o)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Author Interview: Diana Rodriguez Wallach

Fifteen-year-old Mariana Ruiz has no desire to step foot outside her affluent Philadelphia suburb. BUT she may not have a choice.

With total disregard to the high-glam Sweet 16 her best friend is hosting, Mariana’s father ships her off to a tiny mountain town in Puerto Rico to stay with family she’s never met. The heat is merciless, the food is spicy, and only one of her relatives—her distant cousin Lilly—speaks English. Her consolation prize is Lilly’s homespun Puerto Rican Quinceãnera. Only the riotously festive party exposes Mariana to more than just her culture. She uncovers new friends, her first love, and a family secret that’s been buried on the island for more than 30 years.

The beautiful Diana Rodriguez Wallach is the author of the new young adult novel Amor and Summer Secrets.

It's so great to have you over at Into the Wardrobe for an interview, Diana! What are your favorite YA books?

Well, I think Stephenie Meyer’s a rock star. I read the entire Twilight Saga over the summer (I’m late to the party, I know). But I couldn’t put a single one of her books down. Her character development is AMAZING. And—don’t tell my husband—I’m a little in love with Edward Cullen.

I’m also a huge fan of Meg Cabot. The woman is so young and she’s practically written a library of hilarious books. Her wit can’t be beat.

What YA book are you currently reading?

I just finished “I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have To Kill You” by Ally Carter. It’s really cute and funny with a great teenage voice. Next I plan to read “Keeping the Moon” by Sarah Dessen.

Are there any songs, movies, tv shows, or other things in pop culture that have influenced Amor and Summer Secrets?

I have an entire playlist of songs on my website, http://www.dianarodriguezwallach.com. However, these didn’t actually influence the book. They’re more of the songs that I could see being in the soundtrack if a movie were ever to be adapted from it (Steven Spielberg if you’re reading this, the option’s available).

While writing the novel, I actually listened to the ‘90s channel on Comcast TV. I’m not sure how old school rap and grunge music influenced Mariana’s voice, but that’s what was floating in my head.

Do you write every day, and keep a certain schedule? Do you have writing "rituals"?

When I’m working on a rough draft, I write at least five days per week, 3,000 words per day. I keep going at that pace until the book is done. I’m a huge fan of the BIC mantra (butt in chair).

That’s what I consider “writing.” Once the rough draft is done (which is the hardest part for me), I try to edit anywhere from 30-60 pages per day. It depends on what round of edits I’m on, and how inspired by the scene I was. Overall, I’m a bit of a workaholic. I don’t usually turn my laptop off until 11pm.

What was the hardest part of writing Amor and Summer Secrets?

Well, I didn’t actually have a Quinceãnera, so I had to do some research on those scenes. I learned all about the dresses (white or pink), church rituals (there’s a court!), party traditions (the waltz with the father), and so forth. It was fun to live vicariously through Lilly and give her a kickin’ party, but challenging at the same time.

What was the best part?

Because I had Mariana’s family be from the same town in Puerto Rico that my dad is from, I was able to use some antidotes from my father’s past sprinkled throughout. I know he got a kick out of reading scenes that sounded familiar. He said, “I never knew you kids were listening!” That made me feel good.

What is your favorite or strongest memory from when you were around Mariana Ruiz's age?

I don’t know if I could pick just one, but I am still friends with many of my friends from high school. We have lots of great memories together from Jersey shore vacations to Alanis concerts. I’m glad I’ve stayed close with them all these years—a lot of them were at my book launch party!

What do you want teen readers to take away from Amor and Summer Secrets?

When I started the novel, I wanted to write a multi-cultural story from the perspective of a girl who didn’t quite identify with either of her parents’ cultures. I feel this is a very American story. It doesn’t matter whether you’re half Polish and half Puerto Rican, or half Thai and half Jamaican, I think a lot people (and a lot of teens) can relate to being torn between two very different ethnic groups. And often I find that people, including myself, connect more to the culture that they “physically” resemble.

For much of my life, I had a hard time connecting to my Puerto Rican roots because I didn’t fit the stereotype. I have red hair and freckles, and I didn’t learn Spanish in my home. But as I grew older, I chose to seek out those connections. I studied Spanish in school, took a semester abroad in Madrid, and visited my family in Utuado.

So if teens take anything away from this, it would be that regardless of stereotypes and regardless of how they were culturally raised, it’s important to acknowledge your roots and seek them out on your own if they’re not immediately presented.

If you could choose only one, which would you choose: for your books to be award-winning, or for your books to be bestselling? Why?

I would say award-winning because much of the “bestseller” success unfortunately has to do with marketing: the cover, the title, the publicist. But when you win an award, that’s entirely for the content—the words you put on the page, the story you told. The writer won that honor, not a sales team.

What book would you like your work to match or surpass (in terms of writing, popularity, or awards)?

I try not to compare my work to other authors; it helps my sanity. LOL. This is my first book, my first series, so my goals are to keep the positive reviews flowing in, to make sure I earn out my advance, and to exceed my publisher’s expectations by going back to press again (we’ve already gone back once based on presales).

What is the coolest thing about being a writer for teens?

Middle and high school were tough years for me. I struggled with being myself, and feeling comfortable in my own skin. Because of that, I vividly remember the emotions I felt then and it’s cool to be able to channel those emotions into my writing. It’s even more rewarding to look at teens going through some of the same things I did and tell them, from experience, that what they’re experiencing right now is tough and stressful, but it gets BETTER. So much better. College is awesome. And the most interesting people I know now did not peak in high school, they didn’t even know what they wanted to major in.

What are you working on now?

The sequels to the series, Amigas and School Scandals and Adios to all the Drama, will be released in November 2008 and January 2009, respectively. I think readers are going to be really happy with how the story plays out—at least I hope so!

Also, I’m currently working on a new YA project. It’s a complete departure from what I’ve done in the past—lots of spies, suspense, fight scenes and, of course, a love triangle. I’m really excited about it. Plus I get to travel because I’m setting some scenes in Europe. The character is a lot of fun to write. She’s much cooler than me, all about girl power, and her dialogue is very punchy. I hope to have it ready for the publishing world soon!

Thank you, Diana! :D


Diana's official website (She has the prettiest website I have ever seen.)

Diana's blog

Visit her on MySpace. (She also has the prettiest MySpace account I have ever seen.)

And follow her on Twitter!

The Amor and Summer Secrets Book Trailer

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The 29th Manila International Book Fair

Seminars, workshops, storytelling sessions, book launchings*, contests, publishers, booksellers, authors, writers, illustrators, BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS. Yay! :o)

The 29th Manila International Book Fair: Words Without Borders

September 12 - 16, 2008
10:00 AM - 8:00 PM
Halls 1-4, SMX Convention Center
Mall of Asia Complex, Pasay City
Metro Manila, Philippines

*Don't miss the Philippine debut of the fantasy novel for young readers Erec Rex (click here for my review) by Kaza Kingsley (click here for my interview with Kaza).

I know Christmas is months away, but...

This press release has gotten me all excited about the fun Christmas season!!

British Author Offers USD$5000 for the Plot of Her Next Book

In 2007, the highly original Christmas book Christine Kringle was test marketed in the UK and USA and received outstanding reviews. This year, author Lynn Brittney, is offering readers of the book the chance to win USD$5000 (five thousand) or equivalent in their national currency, if they can come up with a one page synopsis of a plot for book two in the series.

“There are endless possibilities for future adventures for Christine Kringle and her friends,” explains the author, “and this competition gives me the unique chance to find out what characters and situations the readers would like to experience in the next book in the series.”

Christine Kringle, for those not familiar with the book, offers a new slant on the Santa story. It is revealed that there is not just one Santa Claus – in fact there are almost one hundred – each representing their own country and with their own special name. All of them are members of one large family corporation, called the Yule Dynasty and the job of each country’s Gift Bringer is usually handed down from father to son. However, Kris Kringle of the USA doesn’t have a son but he has a very competent teenage daughter called Christine and, at this year’s Yule Dynasty Conference, Kris is going to ask if he can pass his job onto his daughter when he retires. The Dynasty is just about to vote when disaster strikes. A town in England has banned Christmas! Could this be the end of the Festive Season as we know it? Not if Christine and her friends have anything to do with it! What follows is a sparkling adventure of comic intensity, with larger-than-life characters.

The author of Christine Kringle, Lynn Brittney, is an established writer, whose first Young Adult novel, an acclaimed spy thriller set in the Elizabethan era, called Nathan Fox: Dangerous Times, is about to be released in the US under the Feiwel & Friends imprint. Christine Kringle is beautifully illustrated by artist Brita Granström, whose outstanding work has garnered many awards and commendations.

Entry forms for the competition can be found on the website, www.christinekringle.com and anyone aged over 9 and under 90 can enter. The entries must be in English and the competition runs from 1st September 2008 to 31st January 2009. “That gives people who have received the book as a Christmas present another month in which to submit an entry,” adds the author. “It’s important that readers really get under the skin of the characters in order to formulate the plot of another adventure.”

The winner will not only receive the cash prize but will also have their name on the front of the next book in the Christine Kringle series.


Yanka and Jonette tagged me. :o)

Four places I go to, over and over:

Cubao - because it is a part of my daily commute :P
the Fully Booked bookstore in Gateway Mall
the University of the Philippines Diliman campus (for class)
Crossroad 77 (for church)

I wanted to include "home" and "work." I don't go out much!

Four people who email me regularly:


WORK emails. :P

Four of my favorite places to eat at:

Galileo Enoteca & Deli - Romantic ambiance! Excellent and affordable Italian wines, cheeses, and cold cuts!!!
the Chocolate Kiss Cafe - I never get tired of their food. And I only eat there with my closest friends. :D
In-Yo - Good fusion cuisine! Casual fine dining!
A Venetto - Pizzaaaaaa. Chicken parmigianoooooo. Eggplant parmigianoooooo.

Four places I'd rather be:

New York City
Las Vegas
in a fabulous hotel room

Four tv shows I could watch over and over:

My So-Called Life
The West Wing
Gilmore Girls

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The Infinite Playlist

I can't wait to read Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, and to watch its movie adaptation. In the meantime, I am listening to part of "the infinite playlist." Explore this widget so you can listen too. :D

Twilight Tuesday: Obsessive Cullen Disorder

I have finally started reading Breaking Dawn (hey I practice delayed gratification)! :D And for this week's edition of Twilight Tuesday, here's a clip of some "Twilighters" displaying "Obsessive Cullen Disorder." Would it be too corny to say that we never want to be cured? ;)

Monday, September 01, 2008

Anatomy of a Boyfriend by Daria Snadowsky

Anatomy of a Boyfriend by Daria Snadowsky is about the exhilarating experience of first love... and the shock and pain of first heartbreak. It is the story of Dominique Baylor's first romantic relationship. Actually, it is the story of almost every girl's first serious relationship.

Seventeen-year-old Dom is crazy about Wesley Gershwin. She tells us their story in three parts. In Part I, Dom and Wes meet and become friends. This part of the novel perfectly captures the hope and uncertainty - the emotional roller coaster that is getting to know a boy you really, really like. In Part II, Dom and Wes are a very happy couple in a very passionate relationship. All Dom can think about is Wes. All Dom really cares about is Wes. All she wants to do is spend time with him. And Wes loves Dom too!

(A warning: Those uncomfortable reading about the physical part of a relationship should stay away from this book. Anatomy of a Boyfriend is accurate - read: very explicit and honest - in its depiction of the hormonal part of young love.)

In Part III, Dom and Wes have graduated from high school and are in their first semester in college. Wes at NYU in New York City, Dom at Tulane in New Orleans. We all know what happens in Part III, don't we? Most relationships have a "Part III." Dom and Wes meet new people and start changing. Someone falls out of love and someone gets hurt....

Anatomy of a Boyfriend is almost scarily accurate in its portrayal of how mysterious and confusing boys can be and how irrational, painful, and exciting love can get. Very rarely is a book this realistic, complete, and authentic in its expression of teenage love.