II have some very exciting news: I applied for the creative writing program at Interlochen Summer Arts Camp, which is a world-renowned fine and performing arts boarding school/summer camp in northern Michigan, and I was accepted! So this summer, for the first time ever, I will be taking a creative writing course – among the nation’s top teenage writers and instructors. I am very excited for this opportunity – I’ll be able to master the art of creative writing in a classroom setting, surrounded by people who are as serious and passionate about writing as I am.
Miss Literati (www.MissLiterati.com) is the premier website for young writers. Young writers can post their work on the site to obtain feedback from their peers. In addition, Miss Literati features authors and novels that would be of interest to their teen audience.
This week, Jacquelyn Eubanks is the featured author on this website. Miss Literati interviewed her on what it takes to be an author at such a young age and on how to write historical fiction.
Her interview can be found at http://bit.ly/1geaIsV.
Rating: 5.0 stars
Reviewed by Jean Hall for Readers’ Favorite
The burden of achieving social acceptance and outward, physical beauty can be crushing for a teenage girl. But then there are the victories, both small and large; little feats of independence and larger, inward self-acceptance. Jacquelyn Eubanks in The Last Time showcases a sympathetic and beautiful soul with her heroine Charley. Charley (which is short for Charlotte) has been transplanted from rural Georgia to the more sophisticated suburb of Yonkers, New York.
“Although she was born in Yonkers, her experience is decidedly Southern. She has left her heart in Georgia and his name is Frankie. But the fledgling couple keeps in touch as pen-pals in the post-war innocence of the 1950s. Charley loves baseball, it is true. She is a tom-boy, no doubt about it. But all the appealing attributes of Charley make her an object of jealousy with the popular clique at her new, all-girls Catholic high school.
“Jacquelyn Eubanks keeps the story of Charley lively but with some heartbreaking moments. Charley does find unusual courage in the midst of adolescent taunts. The scenes at Charley’s home keep the innocent plot well-grounded. There is mother-daughter friction and a grandfather’s illness. The book has some nice visual elements. There are clumsy, hand-written notes from Charley and Frankie, as well as elegant, cursive chapter headings. The setting of the 1950s is a nice choice to show this bobby-soxer’s life at home and at school. The Last Time by Jacquelyn Eubanks shows the strong but tender heart of a girl who feels the grief of last times, but with the hope of new beginnings.”
I can’t wait for you to read it! I’m SO excited! And to celebrate, here’s the official cover:
Some fun facts about the cover: In order to get the photograph featured on the cover, I had to schedule a photo shoot at my old elementary school building (which is almost 140 years old!). My wonderful photographer, Carol Gould and I went through the empty school to stop and take pictures in all different places, including the gym, locker room, various staircases, a classroom, a fire escape, and even a bathroom. Overall, we took 727 photos!
It was SO COOL to be able to dress up like Charley for a day and pretend to be her. It was like stepping back in time, becoming a part of the 1950s. One thing I had to do to prepare for the photo shoot was come up with a Charley costume. I basically had to recreate a 1950s Catholic school uniform, which consisted of a white button-up blouse, bobby socks, saddle shoes, and a homemade plaid skirt.
The plaid skirt was the trickiest part of the costume! In “The Last Time” I had already described Charley’s uniform skirt as being a maroon and gold plaid.
And let me tell you, it was impossible to find an already-made skirt in that type of plaid! So I resorted to the old-fashioned way of doing things: I bought the right colored material, grabbed a sewing machine, and went to my grandma’s house. We tried sewing pleats, but I totally messed up on the back side of the skirt; so my grandma, being the sweet woman that she is, undid all of the sewing I’d accomplished and re-sewed the whole thing.
It took a week to get done, including two days I spent the night at my grandma’s just to finish making the skirt in time. It turned out really cool, though, and now I have a one-of-a-kind skirt to keep forever as a sort of souvenir.
Now, I don’t want to give away too much, but I will say this about “The Last Time”: be prepared for A LOT of heartbreak, and one intense cliffhanger!
And get ready for the release of “The Last Time”!
We just got the preliminary covers back from Outskirts Press for THE LAST TIME.
Here they are:
Which do you like Best?
So I’m in the dead middle of writing the third installment of “The Last Summer” series, and I’ve come to an important decision:
It is highly unlikely that I will be publishing the novella, “The Last Word”. The reason for that is because in the original version, it is very dark – lots of drama, envy, anger, loathing, regret. It would be interesting, possibly, because it switches between first person points of view of Charley, Frankie, and Arthur.
However, that being said, in the story Charley is a depressed, emotional wreck, a complete and utter basket case who’s basically out of her mind. She runs away from home (which is never a good message to give to my readers), possibly risking her life, all for a boy.
The characters lie, cheat, disobey their parents, use profanities that I was almost ashamed to put on paper, and partake in destructive activities.
Not only is it strung up with far too much teen angst, it’s not even realistic, especially not for a 1950′s time period.
I feel like my readers wouldn’t even enjoy the book, because the characters are all emotionally distraught. Arthur’s a lovesick puppy caught between his logic, conscience, and heart; Frankie’s a complete jerk who doesn’t mind ruining his friend’s reputation; and Charley is delusional and practically suicidal. Readers would truly hate the characters, really. You fall in love with them after two novels and then despise them after a novella ruined them for you…no, I’m not letting that happen.
But in the midst of all of this deciding whether or not to publish “The Last Word”, going back and forth in my head what the right thing to do was, I came across a music video. But not just any music video. Oh, no, a Taylor Swift music video, which makes it extra special in my mind.
I watched it, really soaking it all in, and I instantly knew that this was some sort of inspiration. Just watching the two children, best friends (but clearly feeling something more than friendship), enjoying the innocence of childhood friendship. They color on each other’s faces, build a fort, dance together, act out a play, and sit together on top of the monkey bars at a playground. It’s like they’re in their own perfect, little world. Nothing can tear them apart, or tarnish the bond that they share.
And I just knew, this is Charley and Frankie. Obviously the kids in the music video look nothing like Charley and Frankie, but that’s not the point: they act like how I always figured my characters would act. They do the same things I pictured my characters doing together as little kids.
And I thought, a prequel. That’s what I could do. I could do a prequel. I could keep the title “The Last Word” (if that seemed to fit the story line, of course), or I could call it “The First Summer” (obviously about Charley’s first summer in Valia Springs, when she breaks her arm, meets the boys for the first time, tries to join their team, etc.). Either way, one thing is certain: IF I do decide to write this (I may very well NOT), it will portray the magic and innocence of first love and childhood friendship. The story will be from Charley’s point of view as a child, so the writing will be simple and sound a little young, but that’s all supposed to correlate with the age difference between her character in all of the other books.
My only hope is that if I DO end up writing and publishing a prequel, you, the reader, might feel the same rush of sweetness, cuteness, magic, and innocence as I felt while watching that music video. Because for Frankie and Charley, when their worlds collide, everything changes. Their lives would never be the same.
Awesome news, everyone! About a year ago, I sent a copy of “The Last Summer” to leading Christian model, Nicole Weider, who responded and told me she really liked my book. Now, she has generously posted an article written by me onto her leading website for Christian teen girls, Project Inspired.
Here is the link for anyone who wishes to read the article.
Also, three weeks ago, I was interviewed by a writer, Tyler O’Neil, for The Christian Post, which is a leading Christian newspaper and website. The interview was very exciting, deep, and thorough. The link is here for anyone who wishes to read it.
It seems that every time I write a novel, I end up becoming obsessed about a specific movie. The third book in The Last Summer Series (“The Last Chance”) is no exception to the rule.
Lately (as in, for the past two weeks) I have become absolutely obsessed with the Disney movie “Mulan“…I’ve watched it three times in the past four days, and I get all emotional during the scene where they sing “I’ll Make a Man Out of You”…yeah, it’s pretty bad. Last week on my mission trip, the girls in my group and I were even singing that song as we were ripping off cedar shingles from the walls. And at Vacation Bible School this week, I had to work in the kitchen, and I couldn’t stop quoting “Mulan” and humming the tune to all the songs…
Anyways, you might be wondering why I’m ranting about Disney movies and whatnot. Well, let me explain myself.
Years ago, back when I was in seventh grade, my class had a half day during school and so we got to watch “The Sandlot”. That was the first time I’d ever seen that movie, and I was instantly addicted. I loved it so much that I began fantasizing about what it would be like to be the only girl playing on a baseball team like the one in “The Sandlot”, and if the leader of the team (who was the best, not to mention the cutest, player) had a crush on me. Yep, that’s a totally normal fantasy. Not.
Anyway, so I went home that day after school and kept thinking about this fantasy I had. I loved it so much that I wanted to write it down, make it into a story, so that I could experience it for myself. I wanted to live that fantasy, and the only way I knew how to was through writing.
And so that afternoon, I sat on my bed, grabbed a notebook and a pen, and began writing what would soon be known as “The Last Summer”.
The year after that, when I had just graduated eighth grade and was on my way to high school, I spent the whole summer typing up “The Last Summer” on the computer…and watching Disney’s “Lady and the Tramp”. I had become hooked on the adorable dog romance movie, and I didn’t even know why. I just thought it was so sweet and cute, and the whole Bella Notte scene was (in my opinion) the most romantic idea for a date ever. So I watched that movie A TON and began listening to ’50′s music to get into the spirit of writing a historical fiction novel.
The summer after that, before my sophomore year, I got hooked on “The Karate Kid” trilogy (you know, the one from the 1980′s). I literally fell in love with the character of Daniel Larusso, played by Ralph Macchio, (which is actually kind of embarrassing to admit, now that I think about it) and fantasized about what it would be like to be in his shoes, at a new school with a bunch of kids who hate you and think you’re a loser. The character had to learn to be tough and stand up for himself in the movie, using karate as a tool to gain confidence and courage. I think this movie helped me to write “The Last Time” because there were so many parallels between my book idea and the movie.
Finally, as I write “The Last Chance” this summer, I can’t help but become obsessed with yet another movie. This time, though, the movie is not focused on a boy as the protagonist, but rather a girl disguised as a man…(I wonder if you can guess what “The Last Chance” is about, haha!). Without giving away too many spoilers, let’s just say that the character of Charley in “The Last Chance” and Mulan have A LOT in common. A LOT.
There’s one last point I’d like to make before I wrap things up.
The character of Frankie was originally based on Benny Rodriguez (Mike Vitar) from “The Sandlot” (because back in seventh grade, I thought Benny was incredibly hot)…but his character has really evolved. He’s kind of become a mix of all the fictional male characters I’ve come to know and love, and yet he is his own person, separate and unique from all the others. He’s a cross between Benny Rodriguez and Daniel Larusso and Shang (from “Mulan”)…and yet, he is absolutely nothing like them at the same time.
It has been a while since I last posted a blog, and I think that after such a long time, I should entreat you all to a fantastic little post about an amazing journey I recently went on: for the week of June 30th-July 6th, 2013, I went to Rockaway, NY to work on the homes of Hurricane Sandy victims with Next Step Minisitries. The group I went with was from St. Peter’s ROCK Youth Group.
I’ll admit, I was excited for the trip because I wanted to participate in such a challenging act of service; little did I know that this trip would impact me so immensely.
I started out the week doing nothing more than pulling out weeds and scraping off chipped paint around someone’s house, and at first I thought I was doing nothing more than common chores for someone who was taking advantage of us due to their laziness.
I was terribly wrong. The homeowner soon came to talk to us, and she told us about how the inside of her house was completely and utterly destroyed by the hurricane. There was nothing salvageable.
So she had to completely gut the interior of her house and replace everything – floors, walls, ceiling, furniture, appliances, you name it. And then when winter came, her pipes ended up freezing due to a blizzard and they burst, causing severe water damage.
She was so focused on fixing the immense damage on the inside of her house, that she didn’t have the time or the resources to even begin to fix the outside of her house.
She was so grateful for the fact that we came out to help her in her time of distress. It made me reflect upon my problems, and how they paled in comparison to trials this woman had to endure.
The second day, we were sent to work on a different house not too far away. This time, we would be working on completely stripping the inside of the house down to the bare frame. We spent three days ripping up two layers of wood floor, prying off five layers of wall (including two layers of paneling, one layer of drywall, one layer of completely molded insulation, and one layer of cedar siding shingles), and removing four layers of ceiling (including a drop ceiling that had significant water damage, rotting wood, and moldy tile).
And in a strange and wonderful way, I truly enjoyed all of the backbreaking labor we were doing. It was oddly fun. It was rewarding. It was exhausting. And it made me truly happy.
We became well acquainted with the lady who owned the home, as well as her daughter who lived next door, her daughter’s friend who frequently stopped by to visit and take pictures, a neighbor who let us play with his adorable Pomeranian, and another neighbor who brought us popsicles. They were just the sweetest people ever, and it was really hard to say goodbye to them on our last day.
Our last day was the 4th of July, and this day was the day that everything changed.
It started out with my group arriving at the work site. Everyone in town was dressed in patriotic garb, and in celebration of the holiday, the wonderful people in the neighborhood stopped by to give us 4th of July cupcakes, cookies, donuts, pound cake, and other sweet treats.
We listened to Christmas music (because it was my idea to have a Christmas in July celebration) and sat out on the dock, feeding a flock of seagulls that we affectionately gave German names (such as Freidrich, Hans, and Leiderhosen) and catching crabs.
When our work was done, we headed back down to the church we were staying at. But before we left, the homeowner’s friend told us that we really were a blessing. We had inspired him to go out and do little random acts of kindness for others. We were setting an example that everyone should follow, he said. I could not have been more awestruck. We had touched so many lives that week, and we hadn’t even realized it.
Anyways, back at the church, I was laughing and talking with my new friends from all over the country (such as Colorado, Indiana, North Carolina, and Washington), when we were all called to gather for Worship time. We listened to a live band perform Christian rock music. We watched a video about average people doing extraordinary acts of charity for people in Uganda. We listened to a speaker talk to us about faith. And finally we were asked to write down any sins we had down on a piece of paper, come up to the altar, and nail it to a cross.
It took me a while, but I finally figured out what I would write down. I didn’t have any “sins” per say, but I did have some serious things I needed to get off my chest.
My past. My past had been haunting me for the past three months, filling me with so much stress and anxiety that I literally felt like I constantly had a weight on my chest. So on that piece of paper, I wrote about how I would forgive some specific people who hurt me very deeply. I wrote about how I was done feeling like I had no purpose in life, that I was worthless. I wrote that I was done living in fear and regrets, done with letting the past rule my life and control my happiness.
And I folded up that piece of paper.
And I walked up to the altar.
I knelt down by the cross.
I picked up a nail and hammer.
I placed that paper down on that cross.
And I nailed down every last thing that had been holding me back for so long.
I walked away, and literally felt this heaviness just lift off of my chest. I could breathe again! I felt lighter. I was overwhelmed with inexplicable joy.
After that, we sang and danced with more vigor than ever before to a song about freedom. How appropriate for Independence Day.
Then we left the church – by that time it was like 9 pm – and we went to the beach.
What I am about to explain is literally the most magical moment of my life:
There I stood, my feet ankle deep in the warm ocean. I had my arms spread out, and the cool wind blew against my face, almost making me feel like I was flying. I could see the stars completely covering the sky above me. All around me, fireworks were erupting in magnificent, thunderous blasts of color. In the distance, I could see the New York City skyline, completely lit up and glowing bright. I could hear kids all around me singing patriotic songs, and they had the ambiance of an angelic choir. I could smell the saltiness of the air. I closed my eyes and felt nothing but pure, unadulterated joy.
And from that moment on, my life would never be the same.
I was privileged enough to be able to interview Brianna W., the winner of my book review contest.
She is a very sweet girl and I loved getting to know her. So, here we go:
1.) What is your favorite book of all time and why?
My favorite book of all time might have to be My Girl or The Last Summer. I like My Girl because it’s a very good story and it also kind of was inspired by my book The Weeping Willow.
2.) Who is your favorite author and why?
My favorite author would have to be Judy Blume, because she wrote one of my favorite books(Are you there God, it’s me Margaret? I have a ton of favorite books) and because she is a very talented writer.
3.) What genre of books do you typically like to read and why?
I like to read a lot of blog type books. I’m currently reading one right now! I like to read them because I think they are really cool and fun.
4.) What genre of books you like to write and why?
I like to write a lot of romance and drama, because I just LOVE it.
5.) What is your favorite story that you’ve written and why?
The Weeping Willow would have to be my favorite story. I let my drivers Ed teacher read it and he said someday I would be famous. It’s my favorite book because I think it has become the most successful.
6.) How long have you been writing?
When I was very little I wrote short stories about cats or whatever, but it when it got bigger, I wrote a poem about this corner I would like to sit in, in my house. But, when I got on Miss Literati that was about two years ago.
7.) Why DO you write?
I write because it’s very fun and I love getting new subscribers on my books and seeing all the comments that I got on The Weeping Willow.
8.) Do you plan on using your love of writing in the future?
Yes, I do plan on using my desire for writing in the future. I hope to when I’m older, be an author. It would be one of my biggest dreams of mine.
Thank you for your wonderful review and for participating in this contest. Stay tuned for future contests at www.JacquelynEubanks.com