TXS: Could you tell us how and why you started the project, Unsung YA Heroes?
KJH: In 2009, I read a handful of newly released books that I absolutely loved – like Broken Soup and Jack Tumor, among others. But these great books didn’t seem to be getting much attention on blogs, they hadn’t snagged any kid lit awards, and they certainly weren’t on the bestseller lists.
Now, this could just be due to the fact that I am weird, and I have weird taste in books. I’m not ruling that out. But with so many YA books being published every year, some great ones are bound to go relatively unnoticed. Which is a shame.
Originally, I planned to highlight my top 10 “unsung” YA favorites on my blog. But then I thought it would be even more fun to see what other book bloggers would pick. So I emailed a few bloggers to join me in a coordinated blog blitz that we called Unsung YA Heroes. Over one weekend, more than 70 bloggers posted their picks for Unsung YA Heroes.
TXS: What was something unexpected that you gained from this project?
KJH: I added an ungodly number of new titles to my TBR list, which I should have expected but I didn’t stop to think about it in the excitement of organizing the project. Altogether, the participating bloggers picked 494 unique unsung titles.
But if you’ll allow me to cheese out here for a sec, I also gained a newfound respect and admiration for my fellow book bloggers who took the time to put together their thoughtful lists of books deserving more attention. And they read a heck of a lot of books, which in addition to earning them book blogger props, also means that in their later years, they’ll be less likely to forget their grown children’s names. Bonus!
TXS: Are you planning on doing something similar in the near future? How do you plan on getting the word out?
KJH: YES! Even if participating bloggers hadn’t insisted on doing it again (which they have many times over), how could I not continue with a project that combines my love of YA and spreadsheets?
In the near future, keep an eye out for an Unsung YA giveaway of the top 12 unsung books. You heard it here first!
This is the current plan going forward: We’ll pick one week a year to be The Week of the Unsung. Each day, we will focus on a different genre—YA, middle-grade, picture book, graphic novel, even (gasp!) adult fiction. Bloggers can sign up for whichever genres they’d like, then post their Unsung lists on the appropriate days.
To get the word out, I think it will help to give everyone more time to plan ahead and participate. And I’ll definitely be enlisting other bloggers’ help in spreading the word via blog posts and Twitter.
TXS: As an aspiring writer, what have you found that has advanced your craft the most?
KJH: Read til your eyes burn like cigarettes.
I would also add that keeping a reading journal of some kind is essential if you want your reading to make a real impact on your craft. I started my blog a little over a year ago because I thought it would help me refine my writing. And it has. By articulating what I do and do not like about the books I read, I am teaching myself what to watch for in my own writing. You don’t have to create a blog. Your reading “journal” can be as simple as a stack of scratch paper. But if you can cultivate this habit, it will pay off.
TXS: Do you have any advice for other aspiring writers?
KJH: If you don’t have children but you want to one day, turn off the TV, close the web browser, stop daydreaming about being a writer, and just write like the dickens NOW. I love my baby girl, but those little boogers are a serious time suck.
If you do have kids, rejoice in anything you are able to get done writing-wise. Whether you manage to work on your current draft or you just jot down a few notes in your reading journal, you are making progress.
TXS: Thank you so much, Kelly!
Kelly Holmes is an aspiring young adult writer. In the meantime, she's a Sustainability Specialist at a high-tech company. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband, 2-year-old daughter, 3 dogs, and 2 cats. In 1100 square feet. It's cozy.
Kelly is currently revising a YA novel she first drafted during NaNoWriMo 2009. She would also like to add that she is now solidly in her 30s and is officially taking recommendations for wicked good wrinkle creams.