July 2013 Writing Show: Hearts and Minds: Exploring YA Fiction at the Source

The Writing Show

Thursday, July 25, 2013


Pencil by Sheri Blume


Is YA your genre of choice, or are you considering it? One of the hottest markets in publishing, young adult fiction has specific challenges. What makes good YA and how is it different than adult fiction? Who better to ask than the target audience themselves—and an author and librarian who have successfully reached young adult readers?

James River Writer’s Writing Show for July 2013, Hearts and Minds: Exploring YA Fiction at the Source featured children’s librarian Lucinda Whitehurst and Lana Krumwiede, author of Freakling. Moderator Valley Haggard, founder of Richmond Young Writers, guided the discussion about what works, what doesn’t, and the trends and whether you should follow them.

The second half of the program highlighted a panel of teens, including some of JRW’s Youth Advisory Board members. Chico Payne, Cassie Womack, and Madeleine Jordon-Lord. The students talked about their pet peeves and what their favorite authors get right. Annesha Sengupta and Gbari Garrett read a few excerpts from their own work. The program concluded with questions from the audience.


The Lowdown on the Arts & Culture Xpo, Saturday June 29, 2013

I’ll admit, it took me a while to cotton on to the whole concept of the Arts and Culture Xpo. They give you money? For free? And it’s yours to give to whatever nonprofit you choose, including JRW? Why, sign me up!


The Xpo is an annual event presented by CultureWorks, a consortium whose sole purpose is to promote cultural and artistic endeavors in the Richmond area. The Xpo, held this year at the Greater Richmond Convention Center on June 29th, spotlighted the region’s many nonprofit arts and culture organizations. Over 100 local groups were represented, including not only the James River Writers, but Henley Street Theatre, Gallery5, the Library of Virginia, Richmond Shakespeare, the Edgar Allan Poe Museum, Conciliation Project, Podium Foundation, and many, many, many more. Patrons (technical term: “Cultural Shareholders”) were given bank envelopes with “Xpo Bucks” and encouraged to browse the booths, checking out the variety of artistic and cultural endeavors available in Richmond, and supporting the organizations that caught their fancies. Ninety (“real”) cents out of every $1 Xpo Buck went directly to the nonprofit at the end of the day. Some booths displayed their creative wares and services; others snared visitors’ eyes and Xpo Bucks by offering something in exchange: t-shirts, CDs, raffle tickets.

At the JRW table, it was custom-written haiku and zombie stories.


Executive Director Katharine Herndon and Program Director Sheila Sheppard Lovelady manned the booth, churning out zombie gore and poetry while chatting with visitors and fans. Youth Advisory Board member Annesha Sengupta was also there to lend a hand for much of the day, and poets Shann Palmer and I stopped by to write a few haiku on our way to the stage. (more…)

Winning Entries in 2010 Student Writing Contest

Grades 3-5 Winners

First Place: Caroline James
Grade 3, St. Michael’s Episcopal School
“My Favorite Place”

In my favorite place, the smell of homemade waffles wakes you up every morning. In my favorite place the feeling of the sun, like a sweater on your back, keeps you going all day.

It isn’t unusual for the clouds to touch the water during a crimson red sunset. To enjoy an ice cream cone, bare feet dangling on the dock’s worn edge, is an everyday occurrence. To skip through town, soaking wet from capsizing a boat, your feet in sandals (drenched of course) is a normal feeling. Strolling down the street, throwing a treat to every dog you come across, is a daily pleasure.

At night after a long day of sailing and who knows what else, it’s oh so nice to jump into bed and dream of the smell of waffles waking you up the next morning.

I dream of another day in Oriental, North Carolina.

Honorable Mention: Tory Farmer
Grade 5, St. Michael’s Episcopal School

If there is such a thing as a snow drift,
there ought to be a snow wave.
If there’s a snowy mountain,
there’s also a snowy cave.
If there’s such a thing as a snowball,
there ought to be a snow square.
There isn’t a snowy ostrich,
but there’s a snowy bear.

If there’s a snowflake,
there will be a snow flick.
I could have a snow tock,
but I want a snow tick.
There would be snow soap,
but I’d use snow shampoo.
A snowman is so old–
But a snow woman would be new.

If there’s a snow day,
there’d be a snow night.
I could make snow peace,
but I want a snow fight.
I know you want a snow something,
because I want one too.
I have many snow somethings–
how about you?

Grades 6-8 Winners

First Place: Alex Norman
Grade 6, Goochland Middle School
“The Girl with a Sword”

I find myself staring at the plain, white board,
about half the size of my door.
Wanting to draw a girl with a sword,
but finding myself on the floor.

I pace the perimeter of my room,
Longing for a breath of fresh air.
The words in the sky they float on by,
Can only catch a ride if you dare.

I come away from the window and back to the board,
Picturing myself as the girl with a sword.
Knowing it’s nothing but canvas and wood,
I think to myself you never could

… But if someday I could slay
That beast with all my might
I would say Hello, how are you today?
This may be your last night.

As my pencil hits the paper,
my drawing comes to life.
Here’s an arm and there’s a leg,
And that’s your long steel knife.

You work so hard at what you do
You try so you may earn
You listen when a storm comes through
And someday you will learn

I’m not something you can control
I’m not a Lady nor a Lord
I’m what lies inside my soul,

I am the Girl with a Sword.

Honorable Mention: Austin Peters
Grade 6, Chester Middle School
“The Outdoors”

The tree line stretched on forever, never seeming to end
We ran rapidly down the red dirt trail rising ’round the mountains.
The river slithered around the mountains like a snake moving around rocks.
The bugs, taunting, laughing, and teasing, watching our every move.
The day stretched on for what felt like weeks, then met its match, turned to dusk then to night.
We sat up in the daylight hours, only to chow down on the dark ones.
We rested by the fire, going snap, shhhh, pop!

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