Wednesday, July 31, 2013

THE SWEET DEAD LIFE Educator's Guide Adventure and other Wednesday Stuff

I've done study guide questions before for my own work. Did these for the DREAMING ANASTASIA series, which my publisher even prettied up for me in the art department, although I I never did see them around again other than on my own web site. It happens. They are good questions, by the way. Some projects, too.

This week I'm working on Educator's Guide questions for the SWEET DEAD LIFE series. There is a certain fascination and yes, awkwardness in analyzing your own writing. Because here's the secret of my writing process: I am telling a story. I spin that story as best as I can through a full draft and then when I read it over, I discover all the subtext and themes and what have you. All the things that clearly weigh on my mind about life and love and faith and courage and redemption and second chances, which somehow tend to be the things I end up writing about. As Stephen King discusses in ON WRITING, I begin with a basic idea-- in this case 'girl's stoner brother comes back after a fatal car accident as her guardian angel and they solve a vast mystery' --and then wind things out from there. Only later do I see what I was really writing about beyond the basics of the plot.

And once I'd written THE A WORD, which is the sequel to Jenna and Casey's story and set to come out next May, 2014, I saw even more. This series that had begun as light and humorous and quirky actually had a serious core to it and that core got more serious as book 2 went on. I want to say it wasn't a surprise, but I think on some level it was. And then I knew I wasn't the only one who saw all this because there was Editor Dan, emailing and saying you know, we here at Soho Press think this book should have a Common Core Educator's Guide. Which was thrilling because I had written a small story that was suddenly larger than I thought and they were good with that. Delighted in fact.

Let me interject here that I know teachers and curriculum folks have varying opinions on the CC and the attached high stakes testing. I know that my home state Texas actually does its own high stakes testing thing. But let me say this: THE SWEET DEAD LIFE guide is as delightfully subversive as the books! It's the kind of guide I would actually have used as a teacher. Because what is good education if not asking the little suckers to THINK and formulate OPINIONS and FORMULATE a rebellious idea or two. Or else what are the teenage years for?

Turns out I'd ending up writing a book about American culture and faith and the sometimes wasteland that is the suburbs in addition to writing a quirky angel book with a Texas twist that's mostly a sibling story although in book 2 is largely about love. Yes! THE A WORD gives Jenna her first love!! I am so excited for you to read!

But back to the guide!

Here's how the first draft of that guide begins right now. It will change a little, but mostly this is it:

Part mystery, part angel book with a Texas twist, Joy Preble’s THE SWEET DEAD LIFE series is at its core a Vonnegut-esque sibling story of love, loss, faith and belief, of what it means to be good and the inherent human failings that cause us to fall from that.

Through the eyes of its young teenage narrator, Jenna Samuels, TSDL presents its readers with an epic battle of good and evil set in the modern wasteland of the Houston suburbs. A fifteen year old girl and her not-so-angelic guardian angel brother find themselves fighting a global conglomerate that has weaponized memory drugs with the real potential of controlling human society. (All against the backdrop of mall culture, fast-food tacos, and Texas high school football.)

Through the suggestions made in this Educator’s Guide, TSDL will challenge students in English and Humanities classrooms to think critically about life and society through darkly humorous and satirical lens.  Those discussions will take them beyond the pages of the novel and will be useful in constructing a Common Core-aligned curriculum. We hope you and your students accept THE SWEET DEAD LIFE’s invitation both to laugh and learn.

That last sentence is important to me since I come to writing through after a long haul in public school classrooms. I believe that we can take learning seriously but still laugh. A lot. And even poke a little fun at our own foibles. Yup. (Hey, I'm a former English teacher. I can use words like foibles.) 

Hope soon to show you the A WORD cover and maybe even the new look for the paperback TSDL cover, which will be out in February! The clever folks at Soho Press have outdone themselves. They really get it, this whole book creating business. I am one lucky girl.


Hannah J said...

I just had to google the word foibles. But other than that, yay! TSDL and the DA series were really funny, by the way. I can't count te number of times I laughed out loud. We're about to study Of Mice and Men at school -- which is interesting and sweet and also about friendship, but it's definitely not funny. Downright depressing at times actually.

Chanel said...


Mrs. Wadyko said...

Did you ever post the Educator's guide? If so, where?

Thank you!! :)