Featured Contributor: Alyssa

Alyssa regIMG_0934ularly recommends new and upcoming releases in young adult fiction at Coven Book Club and its sister site Spellbinding Books. She has always loved reading and writing. For more than ten years she was a bookseller at the Boulder Book Store and she still writes staff recommendations. She also taught college writing at the University of Colorado at Boulder for many years and created a course that focused on “coming of age” books by women writers. Currently, she is applying to publishing jobs on the east coast (and enjoying living closer to her nephew, pictured here). Please follow her on twitter.

Alyssa and I met many moons ago in a block of cubicles, in a basement on the University of Colorado at Boulder campus. Alyssa’s cubicle was directly across from mine and we spent many an afternoon waiting for students chatting about our love for YA books and our fledgling novels. When I started CBC, Alyssa was literally the first person I thought of to contribute because I know books are as much as part of her soul as mine. She has been unendingly supportive of this venture and an amazing friend to boot. Hardly a day goes by that we don’t have a Facebook chat going in the background of our other work and she’s the first person I think of whenever I read a new book… “Will Alyssa like this?” or more frequently, “Did Alyssa like this?” because she’s usually read everything before me! Please enjoy our chat about books, reading and our love of YA below.

Allison: What’s your earliest memory of reading?

Alyssa: Before I learned how to read on my own, my dad read to me every night before bed. I remember reading old books with beautiful illustrations: Huckleberry Finn, Tom Sawyer, Swiss Family Robinson, and Treasure Island. He also read to me the first few Ramona and Anne of Green Gables books, which I finished on my own. In grade school, I was obsessed with series: Babysitter’s Club, Sweet Valley Twins, The Dark is Rising.

Allison: I was obsessed with all three of those series as well. I think The Dark is Rising series was what solidified my love for fantasy. What’s your favorite genre to read in?

Alyssa: My favorite genre to read in has changed a lot over the past seven years or so. I think there’s something about surviving grad school and many years of writing and grading academic papers that’s made me turn back to what I loved as a child/adolescent: young adult fiction. Don’t get me wrong, I loved studying literature: Chaucer, Joyce, Melville, Austen, and more contemporary literary fiction and poetry. But after a while I needed a break from critical analysis, literary theories, and only reading what was considered “literature” worth studying. When I rediscovered my love for series–and read Harry Potter, Twilight and The Hunger Games–I remembered what it was like to read addictively and for fun. I love YA fantasy especially, but I read contemporary too. I am also trying to write a YA novel/series, so I read a lot of YA that’s similar to what I want to write.

Allison: I think a lot of us who went to grad school for lit found ourselves pretty fatigued with capital L literature by the end. I’ve written a lot about how popular fiction (including a lot of YA stuff) got me to actually like reading books again, and what a pleasure that was. What’re your favorite books or series?

Alyssa: Here are some of my favorite books/series that I’ve read over the past few years: George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, Marissa Meyer’s The Lunar Chronicles, Sabaa Tahir’s An Ember in the Ashes (so happy there’s a sequel!), Victoria Aveyard’s Red Queen, and Sarah J. Maas’s A Court of Thorns and Roses and Throne of Glass series.

Allison: Some of my big time favorites are in there! We have very similar taste in books, which is one of the reasons I knew I wanted you to work with me on the CBC project. What made you want to contribute to Coven Book Club?

Alyssa: I’ve been writing recommendations for the Boulder Book Store for many years, so I was really excited when you asked me to contribute to CBC back in January. I wanted to be part of a group blog and a supportive community, and I like that CBC celebrates women writers and is a recommendation-only site. It’s been wonderful contributing weekly to CBC and becoming more engaged with the book blogging community. So wonderful, in fact, that I launched Spellbinding Books, which focuses on YA. SB is very much still in the works, but I love developing CBC’s sister site. Another reason I’m a huge fan of YA and enjoy recommending YA at CBC is that it tends to feature strong female protagonists and most YA authors seem to be women.

Allison: I think we’re all in agreement there! This one is for all the obsessive book hoarders (or aspiring book hoarders) out there: what’s the best method for organizing books?

Alyssa: I really struggle with organizing my books. As a bookseller I am used to being overwhelmed by way too many books, and I try to organize them in the order that I need to review them. Now most of the books I review are e-galleys, but that amount quickly gets out of control too and I need an e-reader that holds 20,000 books! Blogging helps, especially when I post about what’s coming out next season and put together TBR lists. I also use Goodreads and Edelweiss to organize what I will read soon, what I’m anticipating for next year, etc. So essentially I organize books by their publication dates and whether they will be in stock at the Boulder Book Store and in need of staff recommendations.

Allison: Thanks so much for the chat, dear friend! To read everything Alyssa’s written on CBC so far, click here.

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