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American Book Review speaker finds joy in young adult genre

By APRILL BRANDON
Sept. 20, 2010 at 4:20 a.m.


If you go

WHAT: The American Book Review reading series will feature author Diana Lopez

WHEN: Noon Thursday WHERE: Alcorn Auditorium on the University of Houston-Victoria campus

MORE INFORMATION: The event is free and open to the public. For more information about Lopez, go to www.dianalopezbooks.com.

Special Mothers' and Daughters' Reception When: 6:30-8 p.m. Thursday

Where: Courtyard of Trinity Episcopal Church, 1501 N. Glass St. In case of inclement weather, the reception will be held inside the church's Parish Hall.

Free and open to the public. Books will be available to purchase and autograph.

For any person who grows up to become a book lover, chances are they were first a lover of young adult books.

From "The Outsiders" and "Deenie" to their modern incarnations of "Harry Potter" and the "Twilight" series, young adult fiction plays a big role in many people's lives.

That connection is what inspired author Diana Lopez to write "Confetti Girls," a popular book published in 2009 in the young adult genre.

On Thursday, Lopez, who also began teaching at the University of Houston-Victoria this year, will speak about what inspired her to switch from writing for adults to younger readers as the next speaker for the American Book Review reading series.

"I really enjoy writing for young people. That's the age where they decide if they're going to be a lifelong reader," Lopez, a Corpus Christi native, said. "I never saw a young child that wasn't excited by books, so something happens around that young adult age that turns some of them off reading. If I can write a book that gets a young person excited, that might influence them to be a lifelong reader, that is such a joy to me."

Initially, the book started out as an adult novel, she added. Lopez began writing from the father character's perspective, but the further she got into the book, the more she realized that it wasn't his story, it was his daughter's story.

"So I switched perspectives and decided to see where it took me," she said.

The result was a story about a young girl named Lina and her relationship with her father and her friends after her mother dies.

Lopez's first book, "Sofia's Saints," was published in 2002 to critical acclaim. She has also just finished her final draft of her second young adult novel, tentatively titled "Breath Sisters," which was shipped off to Little, Brown and Co. two weeks ago.

In between writing, Lopez, who gave up a tenured position at St. Philip's College in San Antonio to join the University of Houston-Victoria faculty, teaches freshman English classes and professional writing classes for upperclassmen.

"It's going great so far," she said. "This is going to be a good semester."

Excerpt from "Confetti Girl" by Diana Lopez"

Guess what I had for dinner last night," Vanessa asks.

"Eggs?" I guess.

"And for lunch today."

"More eggs?"

"That's right," Vanessa says. "How many times can you eat scrambled eggs without scrambling your brain?"

Around Easter, most people hard-boil eggs before painting them with dyes made by dissolving colored tablets in hot vinegar. But in Texas, we make cascarones, confetti eggs. Instead of hard-boiling eggs, we carefully crack open a small hole on the top and let the insides spill out. Then we wash and dye the eggshells. After they dry, we stuff them with confetti and glue a circle of tissue over the hole. On Easter morning, we run around and crack the eggs on each other's heads. Confetti gets everywhere. It's a lot of fun.

Everybody loves cascarones around Easter time, but Ms. Cantu, Vanessa's mom, has made them a year-long event. That's why poor Vanessa lives with mountains of eggs. They're everywhere - eggshells stacked on the kitchen table, above the fridge, on the couch - some blue, orange, or pink and some still white - and next to the eggs are circles of tissue paper and piles of magazines and newspapers because Ms. Cantu believes in making her own confetti with a hole-puncher.

"I don't know what's crazier," I say, "reading all day like my dad or making cascarones like your mom."

"She calls it 'therapy'. I guess she's upset because my dad has a girlfriend. I don't know what the big deal is. It's time to move on. My parents have been divorced for three years."

"Maybe your mom thought he'd come back."

"But she doesn't want him back. She's a man-hater. When she isn't making cascarones, she's watching telenovelas or the Lifetime Channel. All the stories are about rotten men who cheat on their wives."

"Well, my dad's not rotten," I say.

"Neither is mine, but try telling her that." Vanessa grabs a heart shaped pillow and hugs it.

"What are we going to do?" I ask. "Our parents are so miserable."

"Don't worry," Vanessa says. "We'll think of something."

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