Last month, I was fortunate enough to meet Kevin Sharp when we both participated in a reading in San Jose called the Flash Fiction Forum. Kevin read a beautiful and funny short story, "In Blackest Night," that you can read here published on 100-Word Story. We talked for a bit after the reading, and I got a copy of his debut YA novel After Dakota. I loved it!
Kevin's characters are so real and their problems so compelling that I found myself thinking about them as I went about my day, as if they were my friends. He treats every character with dignity and gives them room to move and grow on the page, making mistakes and being human. And I loved his wealth of descriptions and details, plus all the 80s references seamlessly woven through. I am so glad I read this book -- and very grateful that Kevin took time out of his day to answer some questions about writing for the blog today!
Thanks for stopping by the blog, Kevin! Tell us about your novel After Dakota. What was your
inspiration/motivation behind this book?
The novel is about a year in the life of three teenagers in the 1980s, following the death of one of their friends in a plane crash. Although the subject matter might sound heavy, it was written as a tribute to the classic teen movies of the 1980s, like Fast Times At Ridgemont High, The Breakfast Club, and Say Anything (and so many more). Simply put, I missed seeing those kinds of stories. The characters in the book are older than I was at the time (1983-84), but I definitely have distinct memories of living through those years. I wanted to try and capture that world for a reader who wasn’t alive then, but also bring it all back for a reader who was. My target audience for the book is anyone who is now, or has ever been, a teenager.
Have you always wanted to be a writer? How did you get into writing?
I used to write and draw my own daily comic strips (like the kind you’d find in a newspaper) as a kid. In fourth grade I adapted Star Wars into a stage play, which was performed for our class. It was about as not-good as it sounds. I went on to write a science fiction trilogy my freshman year of high school (the essay “Walking on Sunshine” delves into this painful memory). I recently discovered all three of those manuscripts but am afraid to read them. After college I got involved in screenwriting, which was fun for a while, but I got too burned out on the business side of the movie business.
What is your writing schedule? When/how do you find time to write?
Because I teach high school, I get home from work in the afternoon. I often go to a favorite café to write because I can find 10,000 distractions at home. Writing someplace away makes me feel like I’m going to a job, which in turn makes me more productive. I wrote After Dakota in a house with no internet & can report I got a lot more done in a lot less time. Funny how that works.
What is your biggest advice for other writers, particularly young
writers just starting out?
This isn’t some deep wisdom thought up exclusively by me, but… Finish everything you start. Even if the ending is terrible, put one on and make it better later.
Who are some of your favorite writers?
The younger version of me devoured anything I could get my hands on by Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Piers Anthony, and Stephen King. Some of those writers I still enjoy, others not so much.
I’d now add J.D. Salinger, Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, Grant Morrison, Jo Ann Beard, and Mary Karr to that list (all for different reasons).
What's next for you?
A short story of mine will be appearing in an upcoming anthology, scheduled to be published in spring 2015. I’ve been working on YA sci-fi novel for what feels like a decade. After that I have another book lined up, loosely based on an experience I had in Hollywood.
How can readers get in touch with you?
My website has links to buy After Dakota in all ebook formats, or as a “real” book. You can also find links to some of my short stories, articles, and essays at www.kevin-sharp.com.
Find me on Twitter @thatkevinsharp.
Tuesday, November 11, 2014
Monday, November 3, 2014
By John Hope Bryant
Children are natural-born entrepreneurs. When they're toddlers, they make homemade mud pies and "sell" them to Mom or Dad. As they get older, they start to understand that adults will pay them small amounts of real money in exchange for goods or services, such as a cup of iced lemonade or walking their dog after school.
In 2013, Operation HOPE launched a pilot program in four cities -- Atlanta, Denver, L.A., and Oakland -- to help schoolchildren in underprivileged communities learn the basics of financial literacy and entrepreneurship. In a competition, kids pitch their entrepreneurial ideas to a committee of business leaders, and the winners are given a $500 grant and help in launching their startup businesses.
As a result of this "Shark Tank for Kids," Princess, a 6th grader from Oakland, created Sweet Tooth Bakery, which sells homemade cakes and cookies to local shops. Froylan, a senior at Montbello High School in Denver, got funding for Froy's PCs, a computer repair business he runs out of his home.
Their stories, and many others like them, show that kids, when given the education, opportunity, and guidance, can be entrepreneurial successes.
Since many schools don't teach financial literacy courses or offer similar opportunities, here are some ways parents can teach kids about money, financial responsibility, and entrepreneurship.
Show them how money grows.
Show your kids why investing in two shares of Nike stock will benefit them more than buying one pair of Nike Air Zoom Flight basketball sneakers. Both cost around $160, but only one of those choices will be worth anything five years from now.
Support their natural entrepreneurship.
A hot dog stand at the school football game, a car-care service, or a lawn mowing job teaches so much more than spending allowance money. When kids start small enterprises, they learn about earning, saving, budgeting, and so much more.
Teach them how credit works.
Kids need to know about credit because it helps them understand how to plan for large purchases responsibly. A kid with little or no money can acquire something she or he really wants. For example, it might involve borrowing money from a parent and then paying off the loan each week with chores after school.
Help them make a budget.
Teaching kids how to budget gives them a realistic notion of the relationship between work and money, and how budgeting relates so many everyday outcomes, such as having enough for food; school supplies; clothes and shoes; birthday presents; sports, music, and entertainment; tech toys and devices; and other important parts of kids' lifestyles.
Teach them to think big.
In the most recent Gallup-HOPE Index, more than 87% of youth surveyed believed there was a correlation between how much education they completed and the amount of money they could be expected to earn. Help kids see that the harder they work at doing well in school, the more income and opportunities they'll have later on.
Give them financial dignity.
Kids who grow up in households where parents live under the constant threat of having their car repossessed or their utilities turned off intuitively see the relationship between finances and dignity. No one should have to make a choice between buying food and paying the rent. Help them understand that check-cashing joints or pawn shops take advantage of people who don't or can't belong to traditional banks or neighborhood credit unions. Help them start a youth savings account, where they sock away $5 a month.
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John Hope Bryant (www.johnhopebryant.com) is founder, chairman, and CEO of Operation HOPE, a nonprofit banker for the working poor and struggling middle class, which provides financial literacy for youth, financial capability for communities, and financial dignity for all. His bestselling book, How the Poor Can Save Capitalism: Rebuilding the Path to the Middle Class (Berrett-Koehler, 2014) builds a compelling economic argument for investing in America's least wealthy consumers--and presents practical, positive solutions, with case examples of individuals and companies doing it successfully.