30 July

YALSA and Blink partner to promote Teen Read Week

For Immediate Release
Wed, 07/24/2013


Jaclyn Finneke
Communications Manager
Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA)

[email protected]

Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA)

CHICAGO — The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) announces that Blink, a new young adult imprint of Zondervan is now an official sponsor of Teen Read Week™. By sponsoring Teen Read Week, Blink is aiding in YALSA’s continued efforts to help libraries engage teens through reading and literature.

“We can’t stress enough how extremely important it is for teens to continue to hone their reading skills and develop an appreciation for a variety of literature,” said YALSA President Shannon Peterson. “And thanks to Blink and their sponsorship, we are able to continue in our efforts to help libraries implement innovative reading programs.”

Blink aims to publish “authentic and immersive content that engages and inspires readers.” In addition to appealing to the teen audience, Blink also aims to appeal to adult readers with literature that is both innovative and exciting.

With this new partnership, both YALSA and Blink will partner on a range of activities, including offering a free webinar on trends in YA literature for anyone who joins the online Teen Read Week community at www.ala.org/teenread.

“YALSA and Blink have a critically important goal in common – to get teens excited about reading,” said Chriscynethia Floyd, Zondervan vice president of marketing. “We are pleased about entering this partnership and more excited about the opportunity to introduce our innovative and imaginative YA books to teen readers in libraries across the nation.”

Teen Read Week™ is a national adolescent literacy initiative created by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA). It began in 1998 and is held annually during the third week of October. Its purpose is to encourage teens to be regular readers and library users. This year, Teen Read Week takes place Oct.13-19 with the theme of Seek the Unknown @ your library.

Blink is an imprint of Zondervan, a HarperCollins company headquartered in Grand Rapids, Mich. For more information, visit us online at:

For more than 50 years, YALSA has worked to build the capacity of libraries and librarians to engage, serve and empower teens.  For more information about YALSA or to access national guidelines and other resources go to www.ala.org/yalsa, or contact the YALSA office by phone, (800) 545-2433, ext. 4390, or e-mail, [email protected].

17 July

Flash Flying

The lovely folks at BLINK asked me to write a blog post, but I am SO not a blogger. So I decided to do something a little different. I’m going to introduce one of the characters from Running Lean, sixteen-year-old Stacey Varnell, and let her speak for herself.


Thursday, March 28

            Things happen in a flash and there isn’t time to think, to figure out my blundering reactions. It’s later, when I’m in my room alone, that the reasons sift through my brain and I can put things in order. Flipping out seeing Calvin talking to Flannery today … that was crazy. I was like a wild thing and there was no rational reason for it. He’s right. I should have handled it differently. But Calvin doesn’t understand the reasons why I reacted at all, and I don’t think he ever will.


            Last October sometime. I’d have to look up the date. My sister drove me to this place about two hours from home, where they ride motorcycles on a dirt track. Daddy would’ve had a coronary if he knew we went there, but I just had to go and see Calvin fly. First thing I saw, though, was … that … girl. I’d met her before, of course. And I knew she rode a motorcycle too. But I totally didn’t expect her to be at the MX track with the boys. She ran up to me like suddenly we were good friends, all dressed in this racing suit thing that was half sports mesh and half lumpy joint pads. Her knee-high boots looked like Goth stompers made of rubber instead of leather. Even with all that, she still managed to look skinny, and I wanted to hate her. She grabbed my wrist and told me Calvin was on the track. She dragged me up the dark stairs of a wooden tower to a kind of observation deck next to the track.


            A lime green-clad person on a lime green motorcycle passed right in front of my face as I looked out. We had to be thirty feet off the ground, at least! Flannery leaned over the railing, whistled like a redneck at a NASCAR race. My heart stuck in my throat as that motorcycle sailed to the ground. Sailed. That’s a good word. Because I totally expected a crash. Flannery practically planked her body over that rickety railing, watching the rider land and zoom around a corner. I don’t think he slowed down a bit. His tires kicked up a plume of red dirt. No wonder everything there was covered in dust. The whole big field was nothing but red clay pushed into mounds and ruts. And my boyfriend was out there somewhere.


            I couldn’t see him at first. I hung back in the doorway, thinking that deck would collapse if I stood out there with Flannery. The wind blew my hair in my face, and dust pinged my face, clogging my pores. But that girl acted like she was in a scene from Titanic, leaning against the rail with her arms waving and her copper hair flying in a silky wave. If Calvin came riding to the top of that big mound, he’d see Flannery cheering him on, not me. Not happening. So I took a step out, daring to put my brand new pink Toms on the boards where I could see prints from Flannery’s boots. I could hardly breathe the air because it smelled and even tasted like exhaust. There were at least five motorcycles dashing around the track, including a little one that looked like it was being ridden by a first-grader. Was that even legal?


            And then I saw Calvin’s old orange bike emerge from a low section of the track. He didn’t have a riding uniform like the others, but wore his denim jacket and the same red helmet he used all the time. I joined Flannery at the rail, my palms on the wood somehow avoiding splinters. I wanted to see everything. Calvin loved riding and said he felt alive when he was flying through the air on his Yamaha. I had to experience this with him. He disappeared for an instant at the bottom of the hill and then he was just … THERE! In the air. Six feet away from my face. His happy whoop barely cut through the scream of his engine. My heart jumped so hard I nearly died.


            Flannery said it was a decent jump, but could be better. She tried to tell me all the technical aspects of how Calvin did it, what went wrong or right, and how it would have been different if he’d been riding a newer bike rather than that vintage Yamaha. She knew everything, all the stuff I would never know about motocross and why the dust and the smell and the noise was all worth it. And as she spoke, her long, slender fingers brushed back her shining hair, and her perfect white teeth and her emerald eyes gleamed through the dusty air.

It was at that moment I realized she terrified me.

So today I saw them together in the hallway, and Flannery touched him and leaned in close like they were whispering secrets. I know they’re just friends, but they share something I can never be a part of, something I can’t compete with. It means I have to try harder to hold onto Calvin. I’m not naturally skinny and beautiful like Flannery, and I’ll never be able to ride a motorcycle in a straight line, much less fly through the air on one. So I have to find my own ways to be perfect for Calvin, so he’ll never have an excuse to look anywhere else.

I’m not jealous of Flannery. I’m just … tired.

16 July

Thirst. Fathers. Hope.


I was recently in prison.


It was quite an experience speaking to so many young inmates.

I’d estimate a hundred 17-24s single-filed into a very secure recreation hall.

Take away the orange jumpsuits and the guards and I could almost imagine I was in some all-guys, Ivy-league, college class. Albeit with a few more tattoos.

But I wasn’t. I was in prison.

They divided my audience into three sections, with plenty of weaponed guards scattered between the groupings.

On my left, those who had committed murder or aggravated assault. Straight away, those whose crime were violent and sexual. To the right, those given the designator “mentally and emotionally fragile.”

One hundred young men.

So I spoke. I gazed out at guys who had felt much pain and caused much pain and I wondered if my little words could make a dent or scratch the surface or touch a heart.

One hour later, I shut my mouth, and they respectfully clapped.

The show was over.

It was back to their units.

I moved toward the exit and gave them one last smile–I didn’t figure they received many of those–and then the unplanned happened.

They didn’t leave.

Oh, twenty or so did, but eighty or so didn’t. Eighty or so broke contain and circled me and I could see panic on the guards’ faces. Because we weren’t divided. Murderers mixed with molesters mixed with the mentally ill. And they all mixed with me, whose mind has known rage and lust and panic. We were all together: black and white and Hispanic, eighty in orange and one in denim, and I tell you I felt more kinship with them than I’ve felt in church for some time.

They blocked the door and started to speak; they needed me to hear their promises. Promises that if they ever got out, they wanted to live different. They wanted to be different. They broke like repentant sons to a father, and I don’t know how to judge sincerity, but more than a few wept, and they weren’t from the fragile side of the aisle.

I didn’t want to leave prison, and they didn’t want me too, either. I had found family wasting in the dark.

Now, I get it. Those eighty faces meant eighty victims, victims who lost lives and innocence. And that meant an even bigger circle of people in pain: Goodness knows these sons had done horrible things.

But these young ones couldn’t run and they couldn’t go back and they couldn’t hide the dark side of their humanity: it was imprinted on them in orange. And to a man, they wanted to shake my hand, the hand of a man pretty darn good at running and retracing and hiding.

They were thirsty, thirsty for a “father” to tell them their lives still held hope.

Thirst. Fathers. Hope. Three powerful themes filled the prison.

I stood, surrounded, realizing the same three themes fill the pages of Aquifer, my August 6 release.

A dystopian set in what is now Australia, the citizenry needs no prisons; emotionless humans commit few crimes. Yet deep inside one young man, passion still burns. Luca lives thirsty for love, desperate for his Father’s approval, clinging to hope, even as the survival of a world without water rests on his shoulders. Luca’s heart isn’t so different than those of the young men in orange who stood before me.

Neither is his hunger for freedom.

I was thinking about how the world you’ll explore in Aquifer is a lot like the world of the jail, when two guards finally herded my lost family out the door. Like Luca, I promised I’d return to their land of shadow, and was led out a different way into a world of clear blue sky.

As we walked, my escort mentioned that almost to a man, the prisoners I met had no dad in their life.

Until for one hour, they were adopted.

By me.

Yes, I weep for those they’ve harmed.

And yes, I weep for my wayward sons.

Like them, I’d love for you to visit. I’m just a click away at www.jonathanfriesen.com. I can’t wait to meet you in the pages of Aquifer, a book guaranteed to quench your thirst.