Aug 31, 2011

My Dream Crit Partners

It feels weird to be posting and to not be a part of a series or a chain. I thought I'd take this opportunity to give you a classic Jon post and list my dream critique partners. 

When considering dream crit partners, I first take into consideration writing style. John Green and A.S. King top that list with their high levels of humor and deep moments of clarity. I'd love to have Cormac McCarthy and Sherman Alexie in my corner too, so I can finally break the rules in the right ways. 

Personality is another draw for me, and Maggie Stiefvater is the queen of fun in YA. I'd also like to have Neil Gaiman and Lois Lowry hanging around, ya know, for when I need a hearty laugh and some help with some of that deeper meaning stuff.

What about success by association? I'd definitely want to be at J.K. Rowling's right hand. Of course, it's slightly more realistic to ask Suzanne Collins out on a date. Or perhaps James Dashner would let me act as a a character at a signing or two.

Finally, I need a well-grounded, down-to-earth kinda guy or gal to round out my crit group. Who better than Ned Vizzini or Don Calame? Oh, wait, I totally need Stephen Chobsky to get me to watch Rocky Horror. I need someone who can look me straight in the eye and tell me that I suck, then hand me a beer.

Can you tell that I see crit partner as a synonym for hangout buddy? I think my crit partners might agree with that.

Who are your dream crit partners and what are your parameters?

Aug 28, 2011

Orbiting Around the Changes in the Publishing World

I know it's odd, me posting on a Sunday, but I have just joined a blog chain helmed by Michelle McLean and Kate Quinn. The chain gives each member a chance to answer a writing and/or career related question while reading our fellow members' thoughts. Over the last year, I have seen these posts around the blogosphere, and when my friend Christine Fonseca invited me to join, I said yes for the chance to learn and share on a deadline.

This month, the chain started with Sandra (see chain blogroll on sidebar for links) who asked the question

Have the recent changes in the publishing industry affected your writing plans/career? If so, how?

The quick answer is of course my plans have been affected! But the reality is that I am still a novice writer who is discovering what it means to have a strong writing voice and a lack of structure. I posted a few weeks ago on my five-year plan and that I am two years into it. The plan is to be published within five years (NOT by any means necessary) and to have a stronger sense of what having a writing career really means for me. 

In the last two years, my perspective on publishing has changed dramatically. My first and only query letter is something I laugh at now. Matt saw it, it's comically bad. When I first learned about self-publishing, I pigeonholed those who take on that endeavor as impatient, immature brats. Did I mention I am still a novice writer?

You see, I thought you wrote a story, queried, and got a book deal. Hahaha. (Ow, laughing hurts my stomach right now.) Even now, the publishing process is a bit of a mystery for me because I have been focused on writing the best stories I can and I avoid posts that have to do with agents and their advice.

One single event has had the largest impact on my view of the publishing industry and, in turn, my own career.

Last March, when Anita Miller first told me her intentions to self-publish a book that had previously been agented by an all-star agent, my jaw dropped to the floor (it was covered in carpet lint and dog hair...totally gross). Anita and I had grown close as far as virtual partnerships go, and I was concerned for her and troubled by the seeming suddenness of her decision. 

The truth is that Anita did her homework and made a decision to venture off the normal publishing track. Whether or not that decision has paid off is "yet to be determined," in her own words, but I can tell you it has been exciting to read, hail, and promote Anita's two middle grade e-books that she sells for ninety-nine freaking cents.

Anita's journey has been a most acidic catalyst in my own writing career as I watch new opportunities bubble up daily. I have a lot of thinking and decision-making to do as the last three years of my goal come to pass. The focus is not on meeting a fake deadline. The focus is to come to a place where I can clearly reflect on what I have learned and make an informed decision or two on where to go from there.

The changes in the publishing industry are not going to stop, no matter what each of us decides to do with our own writing. Embracing and heralding e-books and self-publishing works does not mean you or I have to choose that path.

What I tell myself every day is to be open-minded and to take the changes the universe hurls at me with stride and a sense of adventure. 

Shaun posted ahead of me and the next link in this chain is Christine, who'll post her answer tomorrow. If you'd like to follow this chain from the beginning (it's so worth it!) head to Sandra's blog for the beginning.

Aug 26, 2011

Series Wrap-Up: Where Are the Gay Parents in Children's Literature?

As our series comes to a close, my interest in books about gay parents has not waned one bit - I will continue this search for years to come.

Last week, I visited the public library in one last attempt to uncover books that contained or focused on the existence of gay parents. I did not find any middle grade novels though, and without a reference list, I wouldn't have known what to search for at all. The availability is limited and it's not really labeled. I spent a good thirty minutes searching through every title from the list at Kris's blog and I found one book, as well as some other non-fiction works.

I had an odd revelation as I checked out my books. I flash-backed to 2002. I was working at that same library then and I was in 10th grade. After clandestinely looking at the cover of Rainbow Boys by Alex Sanchez for weeks, I finally decided to check it out. Of course, I had to mask my interest in the book and I checked out a book about surfing and football at the same time. The most ridiculous part is that I was checking the books out to myself and no one ever even saw me holding them. I was lying to myself, but opening a door at the same time. A closet door to be specific.

As I checked out the Sanchez book and its counterparts, my face burned. Months later, I checked out another Sanchez book, and the experience was much the same, but with less face burning. Soon after that, I checked out The Geography Club, by Brent Hartinger, because I thought the kid on the cover was cute. By that time, I was less mortified by the experience of checking out "gay" books.

Standing at the same counter last week, nearly ten years later, that flashback put a lot of my journey into perspective. I was chagrined when I realized how far I have come. I was checking out books that were deliberately about gay people, and I was not hiding them, I was flaunting them. I had no qualms about including the children's librarian in my discussion and no qualms about posting this series on my blog. I feel comfortable with myself - a rare moment in my life.

Essentially, that is the motivation behind this series: to recognize the existence of novels and picture books that contain gay parents - a direction toward which I am heading - and to call for more books that do the same. I know that I am not the only guy out there looking for books about gay parents for reference. I know that ten years ago I was not the only closeted gay kid learning about other like me through literature.

Thank you for joining Kris and me in this series. I never knew what I expected to find, but I am ambivalent about discovering something I have had all along.

Aug 24, 2011

Series: OUT OF THE SHADOWS, by Sue Hines

Sue Hines' debut novel, Out of the Shadows, has several things going for and against it, and I included the novel in my series because of it's unique characters.

Ro, a wannabe-typical Australian teenager, has a lot to overcome: her mother was gay, her mother was killed by a drunk driver, and her guardian is her mother's partner - a woman she has hated in the past. The plot gets even more convoluted: Ro's best friend, Mark, goes gaga over a new student named Jodie, who has secretly fallen for Ro.

It was sometimes hard to keep track of the different characters - even with alternating POVs - because Hines herself has a very strong point of view that shone throw most characters' narratives. At times, I felt like too much was being thrown into this story, but I was always entertained and the book reads very quickly. By the end, reconciliations abound for Ro - some are too contrived and others short and sweet.

I would recommend Out of the Shadows to reluctant readers as well as writers who are interested in experimenting with their work. Overall, Out of the Shadows is a winner and still feels current despite being fifteen years old.

Aug 22, 2011


This spring, a must-have family story was published: Monday is One Day, written by Arthur A. Levine and illustrated by Julian Hector (one of my favorite illustrators). 

Written for children whose parents go off to work, Monday is One Day does not focus on defining the term 'family', but instead, the book explores different types of families throughout the days of the week.

With basic colors and effectively simple text, Monday is One Day is pleasing picture book to read. The best of the book is its messages. First and foremost, the book is about family and spending time together "with a special thing to do." 

Secondly, the picture book introduces us to several families that fall at different spots along the tradition-nontraditional spectrum, one of which is a two-dad family. The two-page spread is one of the most touching illustrations I have ever set my eyes on (and that's one of the reasons I love Julian Hector's work). 

Of course, Arthur A. Levine has been a well-known name in the kidlit world for quite some time (U.S. Harry Potter) and Monday is One Day adds another wonderful story to his well-rounded repertoire. 

When I finished Monday is One Day, I told Heather that she needed to go out and buy the book and giveaway copies on the street. If your library does not have this book, make sure they order it. Monday is One Day should be in every child's hands at some point in their childhood, just like Goodnight Moon was in mine.

Aug 19, 2011

Series: STITCHES, by David Small

I used to be afraid of graphic novels and Stitches is only the second one I have read that is not about Nazi Germany.

Stitches plays like a film and I read the entire book within an hour, only to flip it back over at the end and sart again.

David Small outlines his childhood in Stitches through vignettes that exemplify what many would consider an awkward and perhaps unfortunate life. Most of Small's story is somber, and indeed, his illustrations portray that. His father did not understand him and his mother is featured in hundreds of slides with a grim look on her face. 

As Small grows up, he starts to figure things out. He figures out how the lies of his childhood in the 1950's caused major, life-changing things to happen when he was a teen.

The moment from Stitches that makes the novel relevant to this series about gay parents is merely a few pages long and takes place when David was 15. He walks in on his mother and her best friend sleeping together.

Even though that moment is short and not as significant as most of the other moments in the book, I chose to highlight Stitches because the story proves how effed up and out of touch any parent can be, whether they are gay or straight. Just because David's mom was gay didn't mean she had anymore understanding or tolerance in her. In fact, it seems as though she had less than most, yet there is one three-inch by three-inch illustration that reconciles years of a tumultuous relationship.

That's a power graphic novels have, and David Small's novel is the most vivid graphic novel out there. Beyond its inclusion of a gay parental character, the book is beyond brilliant and clandestine in its approach. When one reads Stitches, the happiness is in the details.

You need to read Stitches, by David Small.

Aug 17, 2011

Series: JACK by A.M. Homes

The series: Where in Children's Literature are the Gay Parents? continues today with my review of Jack, by A.M. Homes. 

From the first page, Jack exudes teen - Jack is learning to parallel park in an old Volvo. He is not successful, but his dad reassures him that he will get better...with time. From the first few pages, I could tell Jack and his father have an awkward relationship that is loosely held together by love and blood.   

When Jack's father takes him out on a lake in a row boat, Jack knows some news is about to drop and this makes things even more awkward. The problem is his parents are already divorced, so what the hell could top that in a take-your-kid-out-in-a-row-boat-and-break-some-news event? Well, his dad succeeds in raising the level of awkwardness by telling Jack that he is gay. 

Jack's reaction is to run, except the two are in a row boat in the middle of a lake. As soon as the boat hits the dock, Jack takes off and runs away from his father, his life, and himself.

"I stayed in my room all night, trying to figure out how my father could be a queer. I mean, historically, queers are not fathers."

Of course, Jack is not about solely about Jack's father - Jack and his mother have their own issues.

"She was smiling down at me in a fake motherly way that looked like it'd been clipped from the pages of Family Circle."

As Jack's mother tries to force Jack into talking with her about his father, their relationship begins to falter even more. Soon, Jack feels left though he is the only one who sees how devastating his dad's sexual orientation is. Things get worse when Jack's best friend, Max, leaks the story at school and Jack becomes known as the "fagbaby" and is even called a queer himself.

Oddly enough, it's the improving relationship Jack has with his mother's boyfriend and the unwanted attention at school that act as catalysts for opening Jack's mind. It's definitely not all unicorns and rainbows, but the book is filled with insightful, charismatic, and profound dialogues and Jack's self-improving mental monologues.

By the end of the book, Jack has worked hard to reconcile his relationships. While there is still work to be done. Jack has turned himself into an advocate for tolerance and understanding and left me, as the reader, wanting to be the same.

A few more things: a statement on the back of the book compares Jack to The Catcher in the Rye, which is one of my favorite books. I thought the comparison would turn out to be lofty, but instead, I was truly enthralled in A.M. Homes interpretation of a teenage boy. She is an extraordinary writer and gives Jack a unique voice. Also, Jack was published in 1989 and other than a few cultural references that place it in that time, the novel is absolutely relevant for today and feels as fresh as ever.

Lastly, kudos to A.M. Homes for writing a novel about a teenage boy who is going through a transformation and NOT about a boy who has a gay dad.

Thanks for reading! And please check out Kris's thoughts on Between Mom and Jo, by Julie Ann Peters.

Curious about this series? Read the intro post here.

Aug 15, 2011

Series: Where Are the Gay Parents in Children's Literature?

Earlier this summer, a few of my writing friends and I engaged in several #TwitterGames, in which we attempted to out-wit and encourage each other. One day's topic was #WritingCliches, especially in children's literature. Topic after topic was breached, and Kris Asselin and I went off on a particular tangent about parents in kidlit stories. I suggested #GayParents as a cliche, then clicked TWEET. Immediately, I realized gay parents are not a cliche. In fact, I could not think of one kidlit story with gay parents. And Kris put me in my place on the subject too :P

I quickly felt the urge to seek out titles that explored the existence of gay parents, seeing as I plan to be one someday as well as an English teacher who might want to showcase such a topic. Kris's friend supplied a list of titles*, which we used as a reference. I went straight to the website of my public library and searched for some of the titles. I became frustrated when none of the books on the list were at my library, except a few of the picture books. I received the books I reviewed through interlibrary loan which carried a one to two week wait and most of the books came from the east side of Michigan.

In the last month or so, we have been finding and reading a number of titles known for having gay parents. Some are meant to be recognized as such while others are more subtle. I chose to read Jack, by A.M. Homes, and Out of the Shadows, by Sue Hines. I am also highlighting the recently arrived picture book, titled Monday is One Day, written by Arthur Levine and illustrated by Julian Hector. I will add in a few other titles as they come across my desk via ILL. I can assure you that each book I read was touching and poignant in its own way and no two books were alike in nature or message. Together, this series has created a well-rounded impression within me and I look forward to sharing that with you.

AND I am not alone, Kris will be also be exploring other titles in the next two weeks and we invite you to join the discussion and let it be heard. You may take the banner above and let me know that you'd like to join via email and we will link to your blog on the day you're posting. Our schedule is to post Wed and Fri of this week and Mon, Wed, and Fri of next week.

*Visit Kris's blog for a growing list of titles recommended by reference and some great resources related to the topic. Kris is the queen of comprehensiveness!

And check out this awesome picture Heather took in celebration of gay parents! It totally brings me back to my early days of playing LIFE.

Aug 12, 2011

Where Are the Gay Parents in Children's Literature? Blog series begins Monday

Kristine Asselin and I are hosting a blog series that explores the presence or lack there of gay parents in children's literature. The series begins Monday, August 15. Please come back and join in the conversation! 

If you're interested in joining and have a book or two (or more) that you'd like to feature, you may email me at jonarntson AT gmail DOT com or send a Twitter message to @JonathonArntson.

Please feel free to download and save this banner if you'd like to spread the word.

Aug 10, 2011

And a Very Happy Hump Day to You

AKA I have nothing to talk about. How are you doing? How are your virtual connections holding up in the summer months? What are your short-term and long-term goals. Share away!

Aug 8, 2011


This spring, I organized a blog tour for Anita Laydon Miller and the release of her first children's e-book, Earthling Hero. That experience was one of the best I have had in my days of blogging, especially the part where I got to share the genius that is Anita with my other writing friends.

Well, my friends, that chance has come again. Instead of running a blog tour, I am participating in a mass posting.

Why? I am glad you asked: Anita's latest children's e-book is out!

What is it called? Well, it's scary and it's good and it's a book - it's called A Scary Good Book!

I cannot wait to read this $0.99 e-book for children, especially after Anita had the first chapter up at her blog a week ago. Her voice was strong and the premise is promising. Check out the blurb:

Twelve-year-old Hannah Stone tells everyone she’s “okay,” but that’s a total lie. Two years ago her dad was killed by a hit-and-run driver. The detective in charge of the case never found the driver, but he somehow managed to get Hannah’s mom to fall in love with him. The jerk. And speaking of love, Hannah’s developed a major crush on Ollie Ortega—he’s her best friend and the only one she can talk to—a crush on Ollie is so not a good idea. 
Also not a good idea? Searching for a missing person with no help from the police. But that’s exactly what Hannah does when she finds messages in library books—underlined words that point her in the direction of someone who needs her. 
And, suddenly, Hannah’s even further from okay. She breaks into a library, gets caught in a kidnapper’s web, and is stalked by her dad’s killer, all in an effort to save a life…but can she save herself, too?

Intrigued? You should be because this book will be a gem. I am reading it on the NOOK app on my phone, but A Scary Good Book can be read on any e-reader or computer. If you're still an e-book virgin, I suggest giving the experience a shot with one of Anita's books. They are fast-paced and you'll forget you're even reading on a computer.

Enjoy and thanks for helping support my friend Anita!

Aug 5, 2011


Um, so anyway. I posted What was supposed to be my Friday post on Wednesday because I was letting my finger move faster than my brain. So if you are so inclined: Friday's post (or I suppose you could just scroll down...).

Aug 3, 2011

Slight Changes, Big Things

This post was meant for publishing on Friday, but I clicked PUBLISHED instead of SAVE. Please read onto the previous post: Two Down, Three to Go. You guys are super fans if you check out all the things I mentioned. I will leave this post up and link to it on Friday. Make sure you're here Monday for a HUGE ANNOUNCEMENT

Over the last few weeks, my blog has been changing behind the scenes. Many of you have commented on the changing banner, but most of the tabs have changed as well. Oh, and I created a whole new blog to feature my graphic designs.

The Design Blog of Jonathon Arntson now showcases the designs that I spend unimaginable hours creating. The content that will fill this place explains why I have not completed a first draft of any of my novels.

Speaking of novels, check out the updated Works-in-Progress and The Second Person Experiment tabs above. Please, feel free to make comments and ask questions.

Two Down, Three to Go

Two years ago I proclaimed myself a writer, quit my job, moved, and then lamented. Along with the lamenting, I created a long list of goals and the headliner of that tour was my goal to be published within five years.

I was thinking the other day, where should I be along that timeline? I am two fifths of the way...

In that same moment of pondering (which was of course in the shower), I realized I am content with where I am. I have a blog that attracts old and new fans alike, I am serving tables at a popular and successful restaurant where the tips are great, and I am 1/3 of the way to a bachelor's degree.

Of course, all of you will tell me I have a long list of accomplishments, but the reality is that I constantly feel like I am on the edge of doing something career-starting and life-changing. With that said, I do not lead a life of disappointments.

I remember writing a post about being an idea person, but not an executer. I'm okay with that.

So I learned several things over the past two years. I started out as a picture book author and quickly transitioned into a YA and MG writer because my PB's were too...sad and old sounding. So, I scrapped the PB dreams in the interim and focused on the stories of an owl who doesn't even try to fit in, two boys who fall in love with each other, and a girl who makes up stories about her neighbors for her own amusement.

As those stories progressed, they lost steam at different paces. Each project was replaced with a new one and the cycle repeated again and again.

And now here we are. I have not completed a book, let alone a first draft. I'm okay with that. 

I am still learning what voice and tone are and why I seem to have perfected them already. I am still figuring out what a plot is. Even though I can remember my third grade teacher explaining climax and resolution twenty years ago, I have yet to understand what it really is.

My writing is full of rhetorical questions and rants, just as my life seems to be these days. But I am content with the unknown. It means I have places to go and things to discover.

Two years ago, the unknown was a hindrance. Today, the unknown is a blessing and a promise, and I'm okay with that.

Thank you for reading and for your continued support for the last year and a half - what a journey it has been. I cannot wait to share with you the successes of the next three years...I just have to go out and make them happen first.

Aug 1, 2011

Is This Real Life?

We're getting the carpet cleaned throughout the house, so I have no option but to clean my room. If you saw the picture of my room in February, then you know how messy I am. My room is actually twice as bad as that photo and I work at we'll see if I can get it done.

Jonny out.