In this month’s Frenzy…
Daniel Handler and Alice Kuipers tackle your questions on life and love. His perspective, her perspective, and solutions just for you.
Ask Him: Author Daniel Handler answers your questions
I love reading but my boyfriend doesn’t read unless he has to. Is this a bad sign?
Daniel Handler: I can think of no worse sign. A violent drifter with a penchant for literary fiction is more fixable than an absolute charmer with nothing on his bookshelves. Drive around the backroads and see what else you can find.
my boyfriend is really affectionate when we’re alone, but when we’re in public he won’t even hold my hand! What gives?
DH: Think very carefully: what are you touching, right before you appear in public, that your boyfriend doesn’t want to get on him?
I really like this guy but we’re so different. Should I try to find an interest in some of his hobbies, or is it true, do opposites really attract?
DH: The word “hobbies” is boredom incarnate. A man should not have “hobbies.” He should have “interests.” If he is interested in you, and vice versa, then you have at least one thing in common—and after a few dates, I’m sure you can think of others.
my boyfriend never invites me to his house. Do you think he’s hiding a secret?
DH: He’s hiding a very, very messy place. There is bad furniture he’s had forever and piles and of mail he keeps meaning to organize. There is at least one dead houseplant. Things smell. This is his secret. Evaluate accordingly.
Dear Daniel, my girlfriend texts me a million times a day. How can I tell her to stop without hurting her feelings?
DH: Renounce texting. Nobody actually wants to be gotten ahold of at the other person’s convenience. Communicate via post. A million handwritten letters a day will not seem like a problem.
Dear Daniel, I think my boyfriend’s mom hates me. How can I make her like me?
DH: There is no good reason to ingratiate yourself with your boyfriend’s mother. For one thing, it is just about impossible. And for another, if you and your boyfriend’s mother somehow manage to become close, you will begin to remind him of his mother, and nobody, nobody, nobody wants that.
Ask Her: Author Alice Kuipers answers your questions
I never know which book to read next. How do I decide?
Alice Kuipers: Reading is one of the best things about being a writer—I have to read because it’s my job!
Here are some tips for finding good books.
1. Ask around for book suggestions from close friends, but also from people who you don’t know as well. Sometimes strangers are reading amazing things. One friend used her Facebook status to ask for book recommendations. She got forty suggestions.
2. Look at prize winners, but also at the shortlists. I decide if I agree with the jury once I’ve read the whole shortlist.
3. Go to your local bookshop and read the blurbs, look at the covers, then choose one book you’ve never heard of yourself before (sometimes this works out great, sometimes not so much). Ask the booksellers too—they love reading and they have good ideas.
4.There are some excellent teen book bloggers. Most of them tell it like it is—giving a fresh take on reading and reviewing. Hunt for a book blogger you agree with. Maybe they’ll even let you guest post for them! Let me know about the next book you find that you love.
I want to write but I don’t know where to start.
Alice Kuipers: The best way to get unstuck is to stop thinking about writing and actually sit down to write.
Here are some tips to start writing.
1. Give yourself permission to make mistakes and to write badly— you can always edit later on. Then let yourself go. Write the same sentence three times if you have to. This technique is called freewriting and one way to do it well is to time yourself. Give yourself, say, fifteen minutes, and get writing. (You can use one of the prompts on my website if you like). Don’t stop until the time is up. Do this every time you have a spare moment and you’ll be amazed how much you get on the page, and how much less self-conscious you feel when you write.
2. Remind yourself that only you can tell your stories. No-one else will ever be able to do it as well as you can. Good luck.