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queen geekEnjoyability:     smile transpsmile transpsmile transpsmile transp graysmile transp gray

Deep Thoughts:brain2brain2half brain outlinebrain outline transp 2brain outline transp 2

Pages: 319  Copyright: 2006

          The blurb: If you’re somebody like Shelby Chappelle, a smart, witty, pretty geek army of one, you can’t just put a poster up at school and advertise for somebody to be your best friend. But now freakishly tall Becca Gallagher has moved to town, with her dragon tattoo and wild ideas. Suddenly Shelby’s mad scientist father and their robot, Euphoria, seem normal. They become best friends instantly. But Becca wants to shake things up at school and look for “others of our kind”…and decides to form the Queen Geek Social Club. The thing is, this guy Fletcher Berkowitz keeps nosing around, asking lots of questions about the Club. He’s cute, and interesting, and possibly likes Shelby. Therefore, she must torture him. One good thing about being a loner: no one can break your heart.” (NOTE: this book is actually the first in a trilogy, though it pretty much stands on its own.)

          I read the first few pages of The Queen Geek Social Club in a second-hand bookstore and was immediately captivated by Shelby. She was a girl who embodied a certain combination of traits that creators of fiction are too often unwilling to allow coexistence: interested in dating and relatively traditionally feminine, on the outskirts of high school society, and confident and powerful. And that’s pretty much the premise of the book: girls organizing to be powerful feminine geeks.

          In practice, the story had a certain safeness that kept it from reaching the full battle cry of edginess that girl-crusaders can rally behind. The problem is that I couldn’t fully buy in to Shelby (and her friends)’s geekhood. There were references to her liking old sci-fi movies, and each of her friends had their “thing”—colorful hair, intensely Type-A personality, passion for dark poetry—but I felt more like I was being told they were eccentric and expected to believe it than actually being shown the money. I would have liked their characters to have delved deeper beyond simple stock-quirk appearances and to have seemed like more genuine representations of the many kinds of girl that feel high school is not their turf.

          Even so, the heart was definitely in the right place in this book, and the message was, overall, executed in a way that I loved. The Queen Geeks recognized the pitfalls of teen girl life and fought against them without attempting to force themselves unnaturally in the other direction. Preble gives them permission to be everything: susceptible to the allure of cute boys, but determined not to change to impress them or to allow their lives to revolve around them. Put off by the negative messages of fashion magazines, but still inclined to spend a little too long choosing the perfect ensemble for an important social event. Smart, but not always glued to a textbook.

          Both Shelby and Becca’s difficulties with their family situations added depth to them and highlighted their complexities. Despite not really having that much in common with Shelby, I actually related to her a lot. I really enjoyed the friendship between the two, and I enjoyed waiting to see what Becca’s next Geek campaign would be, and how the group’s image in the eyes of the school would evolve.

          There was a slight packaged flavor to this book that kept it from fully blowing up for me, but there was a positivity, sweetness, and sense of fun that made me glad I read it.

          Don’t forget to send me your super-short story for the Flash Fiction Flash Contest!

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I’m a winner! And I want to share that experience with one of you!

This month, I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo, an international online writing challenge. I set a goal to write 30,000 words of a novel in the thirty-one days of July. And I did it!

2014-Winner-Facebook-Cover

Because I made my goal, I was given a package of special prizes and promos. One of these prizes was a 50% discount on Scrivener, a writing program with lots of tools to help novelists, students, intellectuals, etc. A program which I’ve actually been very interested in this month. And which I purchased full price… yesterday.

                                                    

But after I finished weeping and kvetching over the missed opportunity to save a few bucks, I realized there was a way I could turn the situation around. Scrivener normally costs $40. It has completely changed my writing experience, and I’m never going back to MS Word.  I want to give my winner’s discount away to a fellow writer who can use it.

Enter: The Flash Fiction Flash Contest.

Here’s how it works: Send me a piece of your own original flash fiction. Flash fiction refers to a complete, self-contained story that is (for the purpose of this contest, at least) 1,000 words or less in length. Your submission should be based one of the three following prompts:

  • Escape from something is symbolized by getting rid of an item

  • Something unexpected becomes powerful

  • Someone saves the day by doing nothing

Click here to submit your piece via Surveymonkey. The reading process will be blind and anonymous.

In keeping with the “flash” theme, I’m going to make this a relatively short time frame. All submissions will be due no later than 11:59 pm on Wednesday, August 20, 2014. So sit down today and whip up that mini-story. Don’t be afraid to make it shorter than 1,000 words; concise style is the goal here. I will announce my decisions on Saturday, September 27.

One submission per person. In addition to the first prize of 50% off your purchase of Scrivener, the top three submissions will be published here on I’ll Be the Judge (unless you request that they not be for whatever reason). They will still be the sole property of the writers, of course. The first prize winner will receive via e-mail my code for 50% off Scrivener, which will need to be used before October 1.

Here is that link to submit once again. One submission per person, please. Don’t hesitate to comment with questions if there are things that are still unclear, or alternately, you can contact me by e-mail at illbethejudge@live.com.

(Note: SurveyMonkey only allows 100 responses with the subscription I’m using, and I’m only one girl, after all, so at least as of now, this contest will be limited to the first 100 entries.)

Happy writing!


Is it possible for a novel to have a fourth wall?

                For those who don’t know, the “fourth wall” is the theatrical concept of the illusion that in the world of the story being performed, everything is real and the audience is nonexistent—there is no gap in the living room wall and no crowd seated just outside it watching the family proceedings. In other words, the characters never acknowledge or address the audience. When a character speaks to the viewers directly, it is called breaking the fourth wall.

                But the written word follows slightly different rules. Since a reader cannot actually see the scene, the physical environment and proceedings must be discussed and named in a way that they never would be naturally—when we get angry in real life, we never yell “I clench my fists and step towards him menacingly!” (unless maybe if we’re playing Dungeons and Dragons). So does that mean that in written fiction, the fourth wall can never be intact? After all, even in the case of third person perspectives, a narrator must perform this task.

                Still, there are definitely levels. For example, some third-person narrators only speak to the reader in the vaguest way, providing the vital images and offering no further commentary, while others begin to show personality and make comments that alter the reader understanding of the plot. In the realm of first-person novels, we have stories that are written as diaries or are otherwise immediately acknowledged as a story being read (like David Copperfield, I guess, which I haven’t actually read.) And then, to take it a step further, there are cases where the author themself actually chimes in during the story—like Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao or Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything is Illuminated.

                Personally, I like it when protagonists are chatty and speak to me directly. If it’s done well, it makes it easier to relate to that character, and to form an emotional bond with them. I also think it would be enjoyable to write a character that way. It just makes a character very immediate and very knowable.

                Thoughts? Comments? What counts as the fourth wall in a novel?