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Teen Blog

Reading, Wellington, and whatever else – teenblog@wcl.govt.nz

Category: Catherine

Ready or Not, Let’s Get Writing!

This time next week people from around the world will be working on novels – moreso than there normally are. Some have been planning for weeks, others are jumping in with only a vague collection of ideas. Some have targets of 50,000 words; others 10,000. They’re writing contemporary YA, adult scifi, children’s fantasy, adult romance, and many more genres besides. But whether it’s their first novel or their twenty-first, these people all have something in common.

They’re all participating in Camp NaNoWrimo.

An off-shoot of the famous National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo for short), Camp NaNoWriMo challenges people to get that novel out of their heads and onto the page. But unlike the stricter classic NaNoWriMo, where to win you have to write 50,000 words of a new draft, Camp NaNoWriMo lets you set your own goals and even work on an existing draft. Need that one bit of motivation to get the last 10,000 words out? Camp NaNo! Just want to get past that middle part? Camp NaNo! Want to write alongside people from all around the world, but think 50,000 is too big a target or you’ve got exams in November? CAMP NANO!

Last year some staff and a bunch of teen readers leaped into Camp NaNo, as something to do with all the extra hours lockdown gave us. There were varying levels of success, with some reaching five (and even six!) figure word goals! Others learned more about fiction writing in general, to be more prepared for the next go around. And then there was me, getting some words down but mostly brushing up on my napping skills.

So if you’re wanting to join in yourself, head on over to the official NaNoWriMo site! I’m sure you can do better than me. And for tips and tricks, have a read of the two official NaNoWriMo books: No Plot? No Problem! and Brave the Page. Budding writers, keep an eye on the blog for more writing-related goodness and lists in the future.

These Violent Delights and I

Have you ever known something was going to be big before it happens?

That was the feeling I had when reserving These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong months before it came out. While talk about the book online was a consistent hum, for the longest time I was one of only three reserves, and I could not help but wonder who else was in on this not-so-secret secret.

Then late November came along, and These Violent Delights was released – and appeared on the New York Times Young Adult Bestseller list. All the local papers wanted to tell everyone who this local success story was. In a matter of days the reserve list doubled, then tripled. One thing quickly became apparent to everyone who had not seen this coming. We needed more than the three copies we originally had!

So what’s the big deal?

Let’s first start with the book. These Violent Delights is a young adult historical fantasy novel that is also a reimagining of one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays. To break it down, it’s Romeo and Juliet + gangs in 1920s Shanghai + monsters = These Violent Delights. Juliet is now Juliette Cai, heir to the Scarlet Gang, while Romeo has become Roma Montagov, heir to rivals the White Flowers.

Who could say no to a book cover like that?

Gong wrote These Violent Delights in May 2018. That’s not a typo: she started and finished her first draft in the same month, while back in Auckland for the summer break of the University of Pennsylvania. Thanks to a year’s worth of notes and the eight novels she had previously written throughout her teens Gong was able to do what most NaNoWriMo participants can only dream of doing.

With a completed manuscript in hand, Gong went in search of an agent. She found one. Together they worked on making Gong’s manuscript the best it could be before submitting to publishers. After four months of submissions, the offer came through. And then another. There were enough editors and publishers interested that the book went to auction, where they all competed to be the one that got to publish the book. A sort of Publishing Games, if you will, only much much much less violent.

Long story short, the deal was announced in February 2019 and just over a year and a half later the book hit shelves and number three on the NYT bestseller list. Right between The Hate U Give and Once Of Us Is Lying. At twenty-one, with a book she had written when she was nineteen, Chloe Gong was now one of 2020s youngest bestsellers. Plus it’s the rare example of a book for teens that was written by a teen; a funny thing as when submitting Gong was often told that These Violent Delights was more adult than young adult. It goes to show that if you have a great idea and are willing to put in the hard work as well as take the leap you too can achieve great things.

The author stares enigmatically at the camera, leaning against an ornate wall in a forest setting.

Yes, she is the coolest. Photograph © JON STUDIO

If you’re interested in reading These Violent Delights, make sure you reserve a copy today as the queue is still quite impressive. Don’t forget to mark your calendars as its sequel, Our Violent Ends, is due for release November 16, 2021.

And if you think you think you have got it in you to be the next teen bestseller from New Zealand, check out Chloe Gong’s blog post about being a youth in publishing. Her website is also full of links to articles about and interviews with Gong, while her twitter feed is full of very excellent memes.


These violent delights / Gong, Chloe

Perfect for fans of The Last Magician and Descendant of the Crane, this heart-stopping debut is an imaginative Romeo and Juliet retelling set in 1920s Shanghai, with rival gangs and a monster in the depths of the Huangpu River.

The year is 1926, and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery.

A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city helpless in the grip of chaos. At the heart of it all is eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, a former flapper who has returned to assume her role as the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang—a network of criminals far above the law. Their only rivals in power are the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. And behind every move is their heir, Roma Montagov, Juliette’s first love…and first betrayal.

But when gangsters on both sides show signs of instability culminating in clawing their own throats out, the people start to whisper. Of a contagion, a madness. Of a monster in the shadows. As the deaths stack up, Juliette and Roma must set their guns—and grudges—aside and work together, for if they can’t stop this mayhem, then there will be no city left for either to rule.

Who Are We Really?

Dear readers, none have asked, but some may have wondered: who are the strange and wonderful people who write for this illustrious publication? Look no further. We’ve delved deep underground, into the very lairs of these mysterious bloggers, and we’ve brought forth poetic riches the likes of which have never been seen. That’s right, I forced them all to write haiku about themselves to introduce themselves to you! In alphabetical order, no less. Here goes.

First we have the ever-wise B. Spinach. When she’s not tirelessly working the fields to bring more of that herbaceous delight into her house and onto her plate, she can be found somewhere in the pages of Louis Sachar’s The Cardturner:

Aspires to paint a
mural, but so far just makes
tiny paper planes.

Next is the indomitable Catherine, whose book-treat of choice is Margaret Mahy’s The Tricksters:

I had to write a
haiku; this is the result.
Let’s all blame Stephen.

Truly moving. Next up is the enigmatic Maiph. Purveyor of knitted goods and slayer of the leviathan, their literary musings chiefly concern the excellent The Owl Service by Alan Garner, and their inscrutable poetic waxings and wanings are represented below:

Inscrutable, yet
easily scruted when I
am tangled in yarn.

Finally, it is I, Stephen, your humble administrator. The title that sparks the most joy for me currently is Benjamin Alire Saenz’s Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe:

Moonlight falls softly
upon a nerd; He sleeps, eats,
but mostly he sleeps.

You, too, can write a haiku. Or a novel. Join us over at our online creative writing group at the NaNoWriMo Young Writers’ Programme (classroom code is CWRNJDZH), and don’t forget to join our Discord once you get in!

Got A Month? Get Writing with CampNaNo!

Today is the first day of April. That means a lot of things for a lot of people: pleas for no pranks, people ignoring those pleas, and the sixth day of lockdown here in New Zealand.

For many around the world, though, it is also the start of CampNaNoWriMo, which itself is a spin-off of the November National Novel Writing Month – NaNoWriMo for short. Unlike the classic NaNoWriMo, where the goal is 50,000 words of a new draft, CampNaNo is far more flexible. You can continue a project, write multiple short stories, do editing and rewrites, and set your own goal for the whole thing. Think 50,000 words is far too much, and just want to get a solid start on that novel? 20,000 is grand. Struggling through that finale? If you’re sure it’s just 10,000 between you and typing ‘the end’, set that for your goal.

Best of all, you don’t have to go it alone. Unique to CampNaNo is the cabin feature – writing groups where you can discuss your project and cheer each other on. So why not gather up a group of your friends and get writing socially even when you are distanced physically? There’s plenty of resources available for teens as well, from workbooks to pep talks from famous novelists.

Whether you’re the next teen author like Hannah Moskowitz or Kody Keplinger, or feeling a little like teenage Mary Shelley when she created Frankenstein and the Monster during the Year Without A Summer, each novel begins with an idea and putting words on the page.

We’ve set up a WCL Teen Writers classroom group as well as a Discord server if you want to join us on our month-long writing journey – we will be writing as well, so you won’t be alone. If you are interested, either Facebook message or email us with your details (if you’re a WCL member, include your card number — if not, let us know which library you belong to), and once confirmed we will send out an invitation. We look forward to hearing from you!

Lasers, Feelings, and RPGs

Tabletop roleplaying, such as Dungeons and Dragons, has experienced a revival in recent years, with liveplays and podcasts such as Critical Role and The Adventure Zone gaining large followings of their own. But one of the biggest sides of this is the internet allowing for not only the creation of games and systems, but the permitted sharing and remixing of them as well.

Whether you’re a tabletop veteran or someone just wanting to dip their toes into roleplaying, “micro” or “one-page” RPGs are both an excellent introduction to the hobby and a fun way to spend an afternoon with a group. The games featured here are quick to set up, don’t require massive or complex character sheets, only require six-sided dice, and can be played in the space of a single session.

Hours of nerdy fun are but a roll of the dice away!

While there are dozens of games out there based on this system, here are six to get you started.

Lasers and Feelings
The game on which all these others are based sees the party take on the roles of the crew of the interstellar ship Raptor. Their mission to explore the vast reaches of space is interrupted when their captain is overcome by a strange entity known as Something Else, leaving only the crew to handle what happens next.

Oh, Dang! Bigfoot Stole My Car With My Friend’s Birthday Present Inside
Its premise obvious, Oh, Dang! leads you on a wacky roadtrip in pursuit of a grand theft auto-committing cryptid. Its sequel Ah, Dang! Mothman Won’t Move Out (He Said It Was Just For The Weekend), sees you dealing with even more cryptid problems.

Wits and Chivalry
You are the Knights of the Round Table, sent by the great wizard Merlin to recover the Holy Grail to save an ailing King Arthur. (This is the only game I know of where Monty Python references are not only permitted, but practically mandatory!)

Magic and Mischief
Ever wanted to go to magic school like Mildred Hubble or Harry Potter? Here is your chance. After a Dark Curse befalls the headmistress of the Young Wizards’ School for Arcane Excellence, a distracted staff and student body makes for the perfect time to solve mysteries or cause mischief.

A Dream In The Woods
Inspired by Shakespeare’s play A Midsummer Night’s Dream, players take on the servants of Titania and Oberon to cause mischief and magic while attempting to please their fickle royals.

Sturdy & Wilde Detective Agency
When the players’ employers go missing it’s up to them to follow the trail and solve the mystery in this steampunk mystery game.

If you enjoyed those and/or want to try something different, there are plenty of other options out there from science fiction to fantasy to horror to mystery. There is even a blank template (appropriately enough named Blanks and Spaces) for you to create your own game. Let us know how it all goes!