Home Culture How Author Yvonne Ventresca’s Writing Impacts New Jersey Readers

How Author Yvonne Ventresca’s Writing Impacts New Jersey Readers

by Sarah Griesbach
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When Hoboken’s Symposia Book Club members read Yvonne Ventresca’s Black Flowers, White Lies the group was thrilled to find Hoboken on every page. Yvonne’s suspenseful novels for teens place deception and betrayal in familiar places and the result is an especially fun read for locals. Read on to learn about this successful author’s approach to writing.

author yvonne ventresca hoboken new jersey

Photo Credit: Yvonne Ventresca

New Jersey Realities Grounds Her

When Yvonne Ventresca wrote her award-winning young adult (YA) novels Black Flowers, White Lies, and Pandemic, she set them both in real geographic locations she knows well. Black Flowers, White Lies is solidly placed in Hoboken while her recently re-released novel Pandemic takes place in her current home of Chatham, NJ with the town name changed to Portico. Some of the place descriptions are so crystal clear that readers may find themselves imagining a Yvonne Ventresca-led walking tour of the various settings where pivotal scenes take place.

author yvonne ventresca hoboken new jersey pandemic book

Photo Credit: Yvonne Ventresca

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Yvonne incorporates real locations in her writing to root the fictional stories she invents into recognizable realities she can see on a map. She finds her creative work to fabricate characters and the dramatic circumstances they encounter is made easier by the establishment of the known parameters that real locations provide. She can still take liberties to service the story — she added a fictional animal shelter and cemetery to the Hoboken of Black Flowers, White Lies — but the general world-building is already done.

Read More: Symposia Bookstore: A Hidden Gem on Washington Street

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A Tale Set in Hoboken

Ghosts — sometimes from familiar folklore and other times invented for the purpose of the story — appear in tangible locations in author Yvonne Ventresca’s YA thriller Black Flowers, White Lies. She took as good fortune the fact that Hoboken has a slew of ghost stories documented and awaiting her literary use of them. The bride who has haunted Hoboken’s Brass Rail since 1904 gets a mention as do the spirits of Arthur’s Tavern legend. These oft-told tales are masterfully folded into Yvonne’s narrative so that a reader outside of the Mile Square City might be led to do a quick Google search to check for their possible authenticity and likely get a kick out of the rabbit hole read.

author yvonne ventresca hoboken new jersey black flowers white lies book

Photo Credit: Yvonne Ventresca

The Steven’s Institute of Technology campus plays a role in Black Flowers, White Lies as do locations where Yvonne once lived — 77 River Street and an apartment on Bloomfield Street. Using places from her memory allowed her to see the basement laundry room where a crucial scene plays out and to envision the way to the PATH train or the walk down to Sybil’s Cave. And while the Hoboken bookstore that the mother of the main character in Black Flowers, White Lies owns might bring readers of Little City Books or Symposia to mind, neither existed at the time Yvonne was writing that particular novel. It was, however, a happy coincidence that she could visit those great independent bookstores as an author after the book was published.

How + Where to Write

The best location for writing is often circumstantial. For Yvonne, adopting a puppy more than a decade ago pulled her homeward from the hours she’d set aside for her day-to-day writing time. She has given quite a lot of thought to her process and to the act of writing in general and keeps a blog on the topic. There, she describes the nitty gritty work of scheduling her time and focusing her energy on a writing project.

“When I’m working on a first draft, I set time goals. I want to make steady progress each week toward reaching some version of a completed draft (beginning, middle, and end). I find word count goals frustrating, personally, because cutting words means backward progress, so I always use time. Knowing that I’m reaching the amount of hours designated for that week inspires me to keep working.”

Sharing her process is a gift to other writers. Along with words of wisdom on topics around productivity, she provides encouragement that every creative person could use:

“Creative people sometimes believe that they need to wait for inspiration, for the incredible idea, for the muse to visit, before they can begin work. But based on my experience, it’s the other way around. You inch forward with whatever creativity you can muster, and as you work, the magic happens.”

Yvonne’s literary successes haven’t stopped her efforts to improve her own writing practice. She used the break in reality that came with Covid to earn an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. The program focused on writing for children and young adults. This June, she taught three writing workshops at a writing conference hosted by Montclair State University.

Novels That Inspire Resilience

The protagonists in Yvonne’s stories face extreme situations and she tends to disappear the adults who could rescue them. Her heroes survive scary events and come out stronger than they began. She turns disasters that would likely be categorized as traumatic in real life into an adventure. Yvonne describes this effort to keep her books hopeful as part and parcel of writing for a younger audience. She writes in a believable healing arc that shows her characters growing increasingly capable and learning to make good decisions as they triumph over scary dangers. The reading experience is cathartic, which is likely why her readers are as likely to be adults as her intended young audience.

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Yvonne’s literary message seems to be that you can stay whole and even thrive in a world that is fragmenting. Anxiety about the state of the world on a micro and macro level is perhaps a fundamental part of the human condition. Putting onto the page that struggles to find a sense of safety when major disasters occur — be they a pandemic or psychological attacks — can give a reader a fun exercise in rising from the ashes without ever having to have experienced the burn.

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