#TRUESTsem Schedule, Assignments, and Passwords

I hope you’re excited for #TRUESTsem, my first BookDeeply event, a virtual book club meets free writing seminar. Learn more about BookDeeply in general and TRUESTsem in particular here.

(Thanks, Aften, for the name inspiration!)

Schedule and Passwords

Here’s the schedule for this month’s BookDeeply, along with the passwords to unlock the posts. You’ll want to read the chapters before reading my post.

  1. Truest chapters 1–5: October 10
    1. No Password Needed
  2. Truest chapters 6–10: October 12
    1. Password: chapter 5, fifth word of the last sentence. rescue
  3. Truest chapters 11–15: October 15
    1. Password: “The song was like an _______” anthem
  4. Truest chapters 16–20: October 18
    1. Password: “How could brilliance love a _____?” blur
  5. Truest chapters 21–25: October 20
    1. Password: The name of Silas’ poem truest
  6. Truest chapters 26–30: October 24
    1. Last word of chapter 30. yes
  7. Truest chapters 31–35: October 25
    1. Last word of chapter 34. truth

Note: each password is a single word with no capital letters.

Remember that you can join the discussion after the fact, too! All you need is a copy of the book. On October 15th’s post, I’ll ask if anyone wants to do a live hangout or group chat at the end of the month.


I’ll be dividing the assignments into two tracks. The first is for plot, and the second is for character and theme. You can participate in one, both, or neither.

BookDeeply Track A: Plot Marginalia

If you’ve got your own copy of the book and have no qualms about writing in it, I want you to have a pencil with you when you’re reading so you can annotate the reversals. In the margins, you’ll draw the following symbols:

+ Character comes up with new goal
– Character doesn’t get what they want
-> character gets what they want

Draw a PLUS SIGN when a character has a new goal. Underline that goal or state in the margins.
Draw an ARROW when they get what they want. Underline the achievement or state in the margins.
Draw a MINUS when they don’t get what they want. Underline the failure or state in the margins.

BookDeeply Track B: Character and Theme Notebook

Divide a notebook page into six boxes (2 columns of 3 rows) and label them:
1. Conflict/Motivations
2. Questions
3. Predictions
4. Answers
5. Motifs
6. Possible themes

Depending on how you write notes, you could have a page per section or a page per chapter. You could also have a page for each of these categories, for example listing questions as you find them on one page, including a page or chapter number. It depends on what you’d rather see at a glance: what goes into a single chapter or section, or how often a literary element appears or how it progresses.

For each chapter, I’d like you to list a new conflict that comes up while you’re reading. It can be as simple as “West vs Dad” or as complicated as “West feels humiliated when she first meets Silas—why is he acting weird?” Sometimes it’s difficult to figure out a character’s motivations. In these cases, look at conflict. There’s no conflict between characters who want the same things! Some characters might seem like they want the same thing, but their approaches clash. If character motivations are obvious, include them in this square.

2–4—Questions, Predictions, Answers
In one box, keep a list of questions that each chapter asks but doesn’t answer. In another, include predictions of what might happen next or what the answers to those questions might be. When you come across answers, note what chapter the question appeared in.

5–6—Motifs, Themes
Include another box for motifs. Motifs are like miniature themes that can be stated in one word. For example, “Truth” is a motif. “Truth is worth killing for” is a theme. Themes are stated in a sentence. In stories that have a central theme, characters will prove or disprove that theme.

The theme is the thesis, and the story is the argument. It’s difficult to really know what the theme is right at the beginning, but in some cases, the theme is stated outright (this is especially true in movies). In the theme box, write down lines that might be the novel’s thematic statement.

If you’re participating in the read along, read chapters 1–5 this week and come back on Saturday for the discussion. If you’ve never commented on my blog before, your comment might not appear until Sunday. I’ll be at NerdCon and might not have time to approve new comments.


Help Me Name This Cool Thing.

I’ve been playing around with the idea of starting a virtual book club with live chats and online hangouts, but I wasn’t really sure how I could pull it off.

Later, I thought it would be cool to deconstruct Jackie Lea Sommer’s debut novel TRUEST on my blog, but somehow still support Jackie.

Then I thought, why not combine the two?

I’m launching #TRUESTsem in two weekends. Here’s the idea, which you may have already seen if you follow me on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, or Facebook:

I’m going to do a TRUEST read-along and writing seminar in October! TRUEST is a contemporary YA novel, and I’ll be blogging a deconstruction of it, but you’ll have to own or borrow a copy to read the later posts. If you write or want to write contemporary or literary YA, you won’t want to miss this!

We’ll start on October 10, and you can join in or stop by at any time, because you’ll unlock sessions with passwords found in the book. Tweet or post using #TRUESTsem if you’re going to join!

If enough people join the writing seminar, I’ll host some online hangouts so we can discuss the book, just like a book club. Then participants can vote on a genre or a debut novel being published in the spring for our next session in 2017.

Here’s how to join:

  • Subscribe to my blog if you haven’t already.
  • Buy or borrow a copy of TRUEST. That’s it—the cost of this seminar is to support a debut author.
  • Tell your friends to do the above! You can use the image at the bottom of this post on your social media pages. Also check out Jackie’s blog and social media for some great TRUEST memes with pretty images and quotes from the book.
  • If you know English teachers, have them encourage their students to join! (Some books may include adult material—I’ll give a parent rating for each book during the first session.)
  • Start reading at any time and chat about it (no spoilers!) using #TRUESTsem on social media.
  • Take notes!
  • Come to my blog on October 10 for the first post.
  • Comment on the blog posts if you’ve got questions or would like to join a hangout. If enough people respond, I’ll send out a survey with possible dates & times. The group hangout(s) will be private so we can discuss the books without spoiling it for anybody.

Here’s what I need help with:

  • I need a catchy umbrella term for these writing seminars / souped-up book clubs. If you comment below, you’re giving me permission to possibly use the term in future posts.

I’m really excited for this, and I’m hoping we can do it again in March if you miss this one! However, if you grab TRUEST later, the blog posts will still be on my blog. Just unlock with words from the book!