Archive for November, 2012

Signed Stupid Fast and Nothing Special for a gift?

If you’d like me to sign copies of Nothing Special and Stupid Fast for a sweet, combo holiday gift, I’d be very happy to do it. Please send me a message at geoff.herbach@gmail.com. Let me know by Wednesday, the 28th, so I can get them ordered in time!

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The book WONDER is what it says

I just finished Wonder by R.J. Palacio. Oh, yeah, it is so good. Auggie, the main character (a 5th grader), was born with a facial deformity that makes him shocking to look at.  He’s surrounded by lovely parents and a good sister. They can’t protect him forever. 5th grade is his first formal year of school. Luckily Auggie is brilliant and reflective and funny. Yes, your heart breaks for this kid and had the story been constructed entirely from his POV that would’ve been true.

What makes the book totally killer, however, is Palacio (a nom de plume) allows just about every kid that matters in the book to speak. Auggie’s friends, his sister, his sister’s former best friend, his sister’s boyfriend. Each POV sheds a little more light on this world (and more understanding). Each adds depth, a new sensibility, a new perspective on a shared set of events, and a different pace. These different POVs work thematically (the theme is revealed so beautifully through different eyes).  They work to reveal Auggie’s true character (he’s not always aware of his impact and his strength). They work to engage and re-engage (each section change, when a new POV is introduced, is exciting).  Holy cats, all these POVs just work!  

In class, I sometimes warn against shifting POV.  I suggest students might be copping out, avoiding the pain from their protagonist’s eyes.  I suggest students will be sorry if they pull the story away from its center.  None of that happens in Wonder.

Why? How did Ms. or Mr. Palacio pull this off? (I talked to myself a lot while reading the book.) How!?

Oh yeah, the hero’s journey. Wonder is a great riff on that classic form

I wasn’t even aware of it.  I didn’t look for an act structure.  The mechanics of story were never in the open (until the very end).  But, Auggie, contained by a school year, gets the call, refuses the call, finally accepts the call, then plunges into a wonderful second act journey told by many (who reveal their own true character as they speak). There’s a beautiful nod to Luke Skywalker’s journey (a modern classic of the form) in act III.

Wonder is a wonder of classic structure, not just of character or POV. In fact, I think the experiment of the multitudinous first persons depends on that structure. Even as we’re given the asides of other kids’ lives, Auggie’s journey creates a central, gravitational pull that never gets lost.

Holy nuts, I love this book. I’d recommend it to anyone who can read English.

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Dear Teen Me is out there…

The new Dear Teen Me book is fantastic.  You should get it.  All these excellent YA writers (me, too) sending letters to their young selves? Heartbreaking often. Hilarious sometimes. Round and round, great.  And, I think, instructive for young people who want to be writers themselves. What’s the major lesson here?  Don’t stop. You’re going to be okay. Write.

Yes, I also think the “Dear Teen Me” model makes for a sweet writing prompt. It’s one I’m going to start giving to my students.  Imagine an incident that happened to you as a teen.  Tell it using great concrete detail. Finish up with some reflection on what you took from the incident, set a theme that might be broadly significant to your reader. The stories on the site and in the book are excellent models.

What I’ve found in writing a couple of these letters is that I was different people at different times during my teen years. Sometimes I was a geek in love.  Other times I was a freak breakdancing by a state highway. Then again, I was a jock who played football well.  I haven’t even scratched the surface of my infatuation with the cello (and the Mormon cellist who sat next to me — she was fantastic — not that great at cello, but a fantastic girl…).

In fact, this is a prompt.  If you want to send me your own Dear Teen Me letter, I’d love to read it!  500 words!

I haven’t even written about this guy.


I am…

Geoff Herbach. I am the author of Stupid Fast and Nothing Special, among a bunch of other stuff. When I'm not writing, I teach writing at Minnesota State, Mankato.

Stupid Fast

Nothing Special

I’m With Stupid

Fat Boy (Gabe Johnson Takes Over)

PowderKeg Stage

Herbach's favorite store

My Bizzle

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