KY controversy update & Revision Tip #1

Welcome to December! We woke up to a snow-covered forest and it is still coming down!

The Lexington Herald-Leader wrote an article about the book banning in Montgomery County High School in Mount Sterling, KY, where the superintendent appears to be breaking district policy by refusing to return the books (Twisted, Deadline by Chris Crutcher, Lessons from a Dead Girl by Jo Knowles, The Rapture of Canaan by Sheri Reynolds, What My Mother Doesn’t Know by Sonya Sones, What My Girlfriend Doesn’t Know by Sonya Sones, and Unwind, by Neal Shusterman) to the classroom after the books were approved by the district’s Review Committee.

The superintendent says that he does not believe these books belong in the classroom.

(From the article) "I wrote the teachers over a month ago and said, ‘show me why the books should be in the curriculum and we’ll reconsider that decision,"’ he said. "I’m certainly not the world’s final authority on what ought to be in a college curriculum. But so far I haven’t heard a word from anybody about why we should use these books."

That’s not exactly true. I have a copy of a five-page letter written to Dr. Freeman by one of the top experts in the field about the use of contemporary literature in high school classrooms. The letter explains exactly why those books have a place in his classrooms, citing state standards, research that validates their use, and the district’s own vision statement.

What do you think? Share your opinions with Dr. Freeman ( or on the newspaper’s website, in the Comments that accompany the article. Remember: it is possible to have strong opinions and be polite at the same time.

Congrats on everyone who participated in NaNoWriMo last month. Even if you didn’t hit the 50,000 word mark, you wrote something which is way better than nothing. I’m deep in revisions for my next novel, so I’ll be posting my own revision tips this month for any of you guys who are interested.

Revision Tip #1
When you finish a first draft, don’t look at it for at least a week. Clean up your desk and catch up on your reading. Do some journaling about what you thought the story was at the beginning of the the draft and how it changed when you were writing. Make a list of those pesky little thoughts that are bugging you about places where your characters might not be consistent, or major plot issues. Do this without rereading your pages! Trust me on this one.

PS – A couple of you wondered what was on the back of the shirts we wore for the Turkey Trot 5K. It was a list of all of our names and the tag line, "The family that runs together eats more pie!"

6 Replies to “KY controversy update & Revision Tip #1”

  1. Thanks Laurie, I write contemporary YA, and I’ve been following this. I worked in an alternative school for fifteen years before resigning to write full-time, and about all my male reluctant readers would read was contemporary YA.
    Thanks for writing Twisted. It’s just what boys need: Humorous, edgy, and realistic.

  2. I’ve been following the KY book controversy and shaking my head. Learning how to critically evaluate a book could be done with a children’s picture book, so could most certainly be done with any of the books under fire. And it seems to me that THAT is the skill you need for college. The advantage of using contemporary books for teaching that is you might just turn a few kids on to reading by showing them that books can be relevant to their lives.

    Sorry. Preaching to the choir (or maybe to the preacher). This superintendent’s attitude just burns me.

  3. I just read Twisted the other day and I am amazed yet again at how you touch on sensitive subjects without making them overly dramatic. Tyler’s family situation was suffocating and I could actually feel the tension on each page. Twisted reminded me a lot of the book Damage by A.M. Jenkins, there’s the same sense of being inside the main character’s head and feeling what he is feeling. I liked how Tyler didn’t change to the most popular guy in school and the biggest sports star. He just remained the same, except catching the attention of his crush and then screwing up, but he still tries to stay true to himself and to who he is. Near the end where he finally responds to his father, I was absolutely shocked, but felt that after all of this, it’s lucky that he only lashed out that way instead of doing the multitude of other things he could have ended up doing.

    I think that contemporary YA has a place in classrooms since they touch on serious issues. They may not be as “literary” (whatever that means), but I think for students who hate reading or for students who are unable to relate to the characters in the classics. Simply reading will broaden their world view, but I suppose their parents want them to be protected and contained in a bubble where nothing bad ever happens and there’s no sex, no swearing, no drug use. Teenagers have all of those influences in their lives already, and reading may result in them finding an alternative solution or realizing they’re not the only person in the world dealing with these issues.

  4. HI Laurie:

    Your revision advice is so smart. Sometimes the best thing to do is walk away from a project for a week. I just told a writer friend who is about to query — put it away for a couple days before you send it out because you will find something you want to tinker with and you’ll want all the tinkering done before you send it!

    Twisted was a fantastic book. I simply loved it.

    I write contemporary, edgy books for teens as well and my first novel THE MOCKINGBIRDS comes out next fall from Little Brown. You are an inspiration.

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