Monday, August 31, 2009

5 tips, 5 goofs, submitting to Egmont, and changes in children's publishing

ELIZABETH LAW—Five Tips, Five Goofs to Avoid, and a Bit About Egmont

5 goofs to avoid:
1) Writing something you don’t like or something you’re not good at.
--Write what’s real, not what you think will sell. Do what your strength is, and don’t try to write to the market. *Pay attention to the feedback you receive (from critters, etc.) about what your strength is. It may not be what you think.

2) Spending too much money hoping to make your book big, instead of just writing a good book and going from there.
--She gave an example involving a story about a whale who spurts emotions from his blowhole, or something like that (hi-larious, by the by), with the moral basically being: you shouldn't make a product line based around the characters in your book until you have a good book that sells. T-shirts advertising your whale do not a good book make.

3) Changing the age of the MC to try to fit into something popular.
--e.g., making your middle grade story young adult b/c it's popular right now

4) Not talking to your agent/editor enough.
--Be as organized and helpful to the person on the other end as possible, but don’t use this as an excuse to not ask questions. Be courteous of the time taken, but don't be afraid to ask questions.

5) Not taking your career into your own hands.
--This plays off of #4. You have to be involved.
--Be short, polite, and respectful, but ultimately, your career is up to you.
--Follow up with an agent/editor if they have your MS and you haven’t heard back from them in about 12 weeks. if an exclusive was requested, write back w/in 4’ish months to advise you’re sending the MS on to others, but will withdraw it if you hear back from them.

5 tips:
1) Social networking
--Start early
--Publishers are “enormously interested in social networking to reach readers directly.”
--Network, but don’t let social networking keep you from writing and/or submitting your work.
--Join critique groups.
--Get in the game. Take control of your own life/career.

2) Have a story to go along with a good voice.
--Both voice and story are important.
--Voice, on its own, isn't enough, no matter how good or unique it is. There must be something the characters work out (i.e., a story).

3) Do what you do well and feel strongly about—don’t write to the market.
--Pay attention to the positive feedback you receive--listen to what other people tell you you're good at, b/c it may not be what you think--rather than trying to be something you’re not.
--It’s not necessarily a bad thing to not know what other books yours is like. If it’s good, people will read it and advocate for it, which will lead others to read it and advocate for it.

4) Follow up (with agents/editors) on your work.

5) Don’t complain to professionals.
--“The nicer you are, the guiltier we feel.” (For when they haven’t replied to you yet.)

A bit about Egmont:
--It’s like the new Bloomsbusy/Candlewick; finally coming into America.
--Focuses exclusively on children’s books.
--In America, Egmont is doing a viable trade list—15 books are coming out this fall, 13 of them from America
--All profits of the company go to a Scandinavian charity (not-for-profit corporation), but they take their work very seriously. Finding good writers is what they believe in.
--The books they acquire are ones that they can say, "I understand why children would read this."
--There are 3 editors in the company + an assistant and interns.
--Examples of Egmont books:
...Julia Keller – Back Home
...Pam Bachorz – Candor
...Allen Zerdoff – Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can’t Have
...Lindsay Eland – Scones and Sensibility
...Bree Despain – The Dark Divine
...Alexandra Bruckin – Brightly Woven
...David Patneaude – Epitaph Road

Submitting to Egmont:
--Submit electronically
--What Egmont is looking for: specifically looking for good MG and heartwarming chapter books. Also reps YA—Egmont has a lot of books with yearning on the list; also loves humor. Not doing much PBs, but those with a purpose (e.g., those teaching something) will be considered. Non-fiction that ties into an event (e.g., the Olympics or a holiday) get better store coverage than others.
--submit to:

ELIZABETH LAW—From Johnny Tremain to Edward Cullen: How Children’s Publishing is Changing, and How to Meet the Challenges Head-on

--Children’s books are the stable and/or growing area of publishing.
--*YA hardcover is growing.
--Look at Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games for a good book on pacing. Suzanne is great at economical writing.
--Changes in recent years = books are now more overtly sexual for teenagers
--*Tip: Don’t read others’ work to find out what the authors do, Read to immerse yourself in the characters, which will inspire you to write better.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Reasons why your MS gets declined, and little tidbits from way smart people

More SCBWI (yep, I'm nearing the end):

WENDY LOGGIA—I Wanted to Love This: 7 Reasons Why Your MS Gets Declined

1) Good writing, but no story—i.e., lacking plot/action
-She’s not willing to take a chance just b/c of good writing.
-Question to ask: Why is someone going to buy your book?

2) Your MS is too similar to other novels the editor has worked, to other books in the marketplace, to other books on the editor’s list, or to other books on the list that aren’t doing well.
-A book suited to her taste is good, if it’s not too close to something she’s already working on.

3) She doesn’t know who the reader is for your MS.
-Need at least the national palette market (Borders/B&N) or the school market.
-Your book can’t fall too far off the list of what works for their audience.
-Questions: Who do you want to write for? Who will your reader be?

4) The writer seems like a difficult person to work with, or the editor likes the person but the writing is bad.
-Editors google writers and read their blogs.
-Be careful about criticizing books edited by a house.
-Editors don’t want to see things about how many times you’ve been shot down, or you complaining about how hard it is to write.

5) She loves the concept but can’t connect to the voice.
-Not special enough; can’t see teens connecting to the narrator or attracting children; too much telling/distraction from the reading process.

6) Submitting too early/before the project is ready.
-This speaks for itself, I think.

7) Your work doesn’t stand out.
-A big publisher might pass on books that are small to mid-list if they aren’t very passionate about the book.
-The editor must be passionate about your work to represent it, especially in today’s marketplace.

And now, for a few words of inspiration from really smart people:

-“Kids can smell it on you when you’re insincere. Do what you love. You’ll find your audience; you really will.”
-If you write PBs—-pictures tell the story. Words tell you things the pictures can’t convey. Words should never tell you what the picture can tell (e.g., the color of pillow is told by the picture, not by words).
0You can find an audience for personal work that comes from deep inside. Stick to your vision, and don’t take rejection personally.

-She quoted Richard Peck in saying: “We write by the light of every book we have ever read.”
-Stories don’t only teach; they also shield people from real life.

INGRID LAW—Writing Magic: From the Head to the Heart
-Don’t listen to the “maybe someone won’t like that” voice. Just write. You can’t imagine/predict what readers will and won’t like.
-Put everything you are in your work. Everything you experience becomes part of who you are. The good and the bad experiences serve to inform whatever is coming next and to create whatever magical potion you remain to create.
-Don’t just use your head. Put your heart into your work. Your heart makes your work glisten and pulse.

-“A story is only as strong as the voice telling it.”
-->e.g., Wintergirls shows the purpose of fiction; dramatizing truth no one dares to touch; shows the world children create the minute an adult turns his/her back.
-“A story is a question, not an answer, and we dare ask the questions no one dares to ask.”
-“Questions are roadmaps to show the illiterate out of town.”
-“All stories turn upon epiphanies. Epiphanies are when everything changes and you can’t go back.”
-There are different types of despair. Solitary (working alone), nightmare (e.g., getting to the end of your third-person book and realizing it should've been in first person), and endless (e.g., waiting on a non-ringing phone to ring). But there comes a day when there is no room for the luxury of despair. It's when you see a kid “trying to dig out. You know you can’t help, but you wonder if story can, if companionship will.”
-“That’s what we do. That’s who we are.”

NEXT UP FROM SCBWI--Tools for fast-paced plotting, tips and goofs to avoid, a bit about Egmont, and a 5-ingredient recipe for breakout-novel success. Stay tuned!

And the winner of 13 Reasons Why is ...

The winner of book giveaway episode two, 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher, is ....

Ashley at BooksObsession! (Ashley, please reply to my email by Tuesday.)

Thanks to everyone for participating. The next giveaway will start soon, so don't forget to cast your vote!

**Edit: For all of the super perceptive ones out there like Abby, I got a little overzealous and ended the contest after 1 week instead of 2 (on August 29 instead of September 4). I certainly can't take it away from the winner (congrats, Ashley!), but I will make the next contest extra special. Promise! (*ducks head in shame--bad, Jessica. Bad!*)

Friday, August 28, 2009

My next giveaway: you pick the book!

First off: don't forget to enter for a chance to win Jay Asher's 13 Reasons Why--the giveaway ends tonight at midnight!

I thought I might stop after those 2 giveaways, but I really love this whole "sharing great books with the world" idea. But now I'm stumped as to what to giveaway next. You tell me. (Pretty please?)

*I wanted to add one of those neat little surveys, but I'm not that technologically savvy. So we'll do this the old-fashioned, "add a comment" kind of way. Sorry, ye who are much, much wiser than me. (If it makes it any better, I'm using pictures!)

Option 1:

Option 2:

Option 3:

Option 4 (both Westerfeld books included):


"But Jess!" you say. "What if the one we really want doesn't get picked?!"
Answer: No worries, because I'll give the others away in upcoming weeks, with the order most likely based on popularity of votes. OR ... I'll consider other suggestions, such as combining books, or doing a big giveaway with the top winner taking first choice, etc. Just let me know what you think, but by all means, please vote!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The state of the business, from the people who know it best.

Yep, that's right. More SCBWI. I know, I know, you're all thinking, "Geez, girl ... don't you have anything else to talk about?" But I feel like I can't stop until I've shared it all. It's a sickness, I know. I can't help it. :)


(1) Marietta Zacker

About submitting:
-Nancy Gallt Agency
-Accepting manuscripts—snail mail is better, but email is okay
-Represents every age group and genre
-Send: query + synopsis, via snail mail or email

On the economy: editors are not taking anything for granted; i.e., they’re having deep conversations, etc., to find out exactly what they’re looking for prior to taking it on.

Willingness to edit: agents are not scared to work on a manuscript with an author.
-Authors should expect editing to happen during the agenting process, as well as a heck of a lot more editing after that.
-An agent is trying to edit the work to a point that he/she is confident that it can sell, since editors now want books at a more ready state before considering them for acquisition.

(2) Kelly Sonnack

About submitting:
-Andrea Brown Agency, which specializes in children’s literature
-Specializes in children's books (PB, MG, and YA)
-Send: query + first 10 pages, via email

On the economy: the market is hurting a lot less in the children’s market than in the adult market. When there’s a dip in the market, debut PBs (picture books) tend to get hit first, but these are still being sold.
-Andrew Brown Agency sold 16 books last month (July)
-There is no crisis, but publishers are being more selective and are less likely to take on risks than before. Things are changing, but people are handling it.
-Adults are reading YA, which helps the children’s market.

Willingness to edit: does a lot of editing to help authors get the book as good as they can to get as good of an offer as possible. Doesn't want to send something off a week early if it means the offer will suffer for it.

(3) Dan Lazar

About submitting:
-Writers House, senior agent
-Represents mostly MG, but more YA now.
-List = “weird kids in small towns” theme
-Loves graphic novels, which are being embraced more by the children’s world now
-Send: query + first 5 pages, via email

On the economy: books may be selling for less, but great stuff is still selling.

Willingness to edit: will go through 6 months+ revisions with an author if the book needs that kind of editing, prior to sending it out. This helps sales go more quickly.

The most successful queries are the ones that don’t harp on themes and ideas. Specific details are what’s interesting.
-Include what a character says or what he/she looks like in the query.
-E.g., from a query he received (and I directly quote, so the F-bomb to follow)—“Young Nicole and her museum of fucked up things” made him want to read more.
-Present yourself in the best, most evocative way possible.

(4) Stephen Fraser

About submitting:
-Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency—boutique agency
-Represents children’s lit and teens
-Unpublished submissions welcomed.
-Looking for careers they can cultivate, not just people with one book in them.
-Looking for real/fresh ideas—“dazzle us”

On the economy: believes things are starting to turn back around.

Willingness to edit: will thrash out ideas with existing clients and act in an editorial capacity as much as he’s able to.

“Every good book has a home. There is a place for your good book.”
-Agents want to fall in love with your work. The thrill of finding/discovering new talent is what they’re looking for.

(5) Sarah Davies (p.s. this woman is amazing; more on her to come later, so stay tuned)

About submitting:
-Greenhouse Literary Agency—launched in Jan 2008
-Willing to assist in editing if she sees a great voice, but make your work the best you can before submitting.
-Represents Lindsey Leavitt—Princess for Hire
-Being a literary agent is her passion and her vocation; it’s not just a job.
-Send: view for submission guidelines. Send e-query + first 5 pages.

Willingness to edit: she’s looking more for potential with writers than completion. She can work on plot, but she can’t create a voice for an author.
-She has gone through complete rewrites with authors before.
-She does this to get an author the best deal she can.

An awesome quote from her (it must be said in a British accent to get the full awesomeness effect): “Squeeze the juice from your fruit. Take your characters. Take your plot, and wring every ounce of juice out of them for me.”

(6) Brenda Bowen

About submitting:
-Sanford J Greenburger Associates Literary Agency
-Represents Dan Brown and author of “Fancy Nancy”
-New agent—for about 5 weeks now (as of the date of the conference)
-She started an Imprint at Harper Collins, which was thereafter axed.
-Represents PB and MG (never stated whether she reps YA, so check website prior to submitting).
-She’s looking for strong voices, creative use of language, and confident writing.
-Send: email materials; see website for submission guidelines

General info from panel: (i.e., I have no idea who said these things b/c my note-taking got kind of shoddy near the end):

Publishers want as finished a book as they can get from an agent/editor. The work needs to be very finished and polished before submission.
-Publishing houses are under pressure b/c of flat sales/downturn.
-Books are still selling, including books by new authors, so remain optimistic.

Focus on your craft—learn to write and create great voice and a fresh premise.

Things to look for in contracts:
-Option clause
-High discount royalties (the higher the discount your book is bought at, the more likely you are to have reduced royalties).
-Out of print clause (protect the second life of your book)

That's it for now. Hope this helps at least one of you!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

In honor of Ellen Hopkins' release date of Tricks ...

I can't say enough positive things about Ellen Hopkins. Her writing is beautiful, moving, and terrifying. Her story is both inspiring and heartbreaking, and she's so honest about it that it makes me want to be a better, and more honest, storyteller. Here's a little slice of her, for anyone that needs to remember why we write, or for anyone who needs a refresher in teen voice.

ELLEN HOPKINS—Not for the Faint of Heart: The Climb to the Top

ELEMENTS for success = talent, perseverance, and luck, in varying degrees.
-Luck is something you make for yourself.
-Writing is a constant climb. Don’t look for the easy way to the top; expect to work hard. The climb is not for the faint of heart.
-Build a publishing bio
-Learn the rules before you try to break them.
-Don’t make the climb alone—take classes, join critique groups, attend conferences, etc. Each brings something new; the investment will pay off.
-This business is communication.
-Capitalize on your own experience.
-->E.g., Ellen used her own first kiss/love experience for Christina in Crank
-->E.g., JK Rowling used the pain from her father’s death for Harry

**Tell the story you have to tell—the one that touches your heart, not the one that you have to force onto the paper.
-Good enough isn’t enough; you have to write the best.

Questions to ask yourself:
-How far are you willing to go?
-What are you willing to do?
-How high are you willing to climb?

Publishing, like any other mountain, is ever-changing. Don’t just accept these changes; embrace them. (e.g., Kindle)

"The only indispensable people are writers and illustrators who love and respect children."


ELLEN HOPKINS—Like for Real: The Not So Mysterious Teen Voice

Examples of messages she gets from teens:
-“Love me, hate me, either way, you’re gonna be talking about me.” (common theme = "remember my name")
--“I have a big heart and don’t give up … People like to fuck me over constantly.” (The back and forth shows inner turmoil in children.)
-“If you want to know more, ask me.” (kids are very open)
-“I know the things I know because I know how cruel the world can be.”
-“Without my friends and family, I would be nothing.”
--And her favorite, from a 14-year-old-girl who is, by the way, doing well now (I took a picture of this with my phone b/c it was so beautiful): “Walking through the crowded hallways where sharp glares and friendly faces pass me by and stab my back. Sitting there in Geometry, grinding my toes to prevent my stomach from growling, constantly I thought “I’m dumb” and “Where’s the nearest sharp object?” I don’t meet anyone’s eyes, my hands are constantly hidden, (no hints, I promise). I try to really refrain from talking at all. I abhor by shyness, but lately it’s been hard to overcome it without thoughts of fear. Challenges occur every day, but my main challenge is posed daily. When I look in the mirror and think about myself, and lie inside my head for hours alone. I am only clarifying that my challenge is myself.”

TIPS on voice
- Each teen functions within his/her own realm of experience. Voice is an offshoot of character.
**Create characters and their realm (family, likes, friends, etc.) first. Layer them. Voices will evolve from that place.
-Don’t plot first. Plot needs to flow from character.
-Within every story, each character’s experience will be different, so each voice must be unique. It is very important to maintain distinct voices.
-Climb into your characters’ heads and write like they think—phrases, incomplete sentences, 1-word thoughts, etc.
-Let your characters talk through you. Channel them. Become them. Write “you” as them. (First person can help accomplish this in a more organic matter than third person.)
**Don’t dumb down language.
-Don’t let author intrusion trump teen’s voice.
-Avoid metaphors inconsistent with teen voice. (E.g., “My heart danced like Fred Estaire.”)
-Leave the Valley Girl off the page. Use minimal foreign language and no urban hip, unless you live it. These things pull you out of the story. (e.g., writing "N’Awlins" instead of "New Orleans" pulls you off the page. People will read in the vernacular that they speak; you don’t have to try so hard.) Your goal is to reach the largest possible audience. If you try to appeal to just one segment, you can limit your readership.
**Listen to teens not for how they talk, but for what they’re talking about.
-Look for what’s important in kids’ lives.

-Myspace – younger teens
-Facebook – teens that have been reading Ellen's stuff for awhile
-Twitter – mostly for industry stuff

On cursing/language:
-Some teens don’t curse.
-Some overuse bad language.
-Use as it is necessary to be true to your characters.

-Listen to kids’ music. Check their playlists.
-Music influences voice.
-Question to ask: What type of music does your MC listen to?
-Don’t stereotype with music. Life influences what kids listen to—e.g., some black kids listen to country, some Hispanics like punk, etc.

Your own teen experiences will affect the voice of your characters. Bring authenticity to the voice.
-What were you like as a teen?
-How can that come into play with your teens?
-Characters don’t have to be like you, but this can affect how you write your teens.

Interesting bit of info: Ellen doesn’t write rough/first drafts. She perfects her poems as she goes—sometimes has to tweak a little.

Exercise: Ellen Hopkins didn't start by writing in verse. She attended a workshop, I believe taught by Sonya Sones, where the assignment was for everyone to write a poem. So what did Ellen have all of us do? You got it. We all wrote a poem about a memorable high school experience, and then some people (ballsy freaks of nature, I tell you!) read them out loud. To ELLEN. While I just sat there with chalk in my mouth.

Note: I had mine posted, but it made this post wayyyyy too long. And it was kind of pathetic. :)


So, do yourself a favor. Go and get yourself a copy of Tricks, or anything else Ellen-related. You may squirm and cry and lose a few hours of sleep b/c you can't shut off your brain (yeah, so this happened to me ... especially with Identical), but you won't regret it.

Nightie night. Don't let the bed bugs bite. :)

Trend alert: What's totally now, and what's SO last season...

Jen Rofe and Jamie Weiss, 2 agents with the Andrew Brown Lit Agency (totally cool girls, btw), spoke at SCBWI about market trends. So here's a little info for those of you that aren't suffering SCBWI-info-burnout:

YA is the most flexible genre. It can be fun/sweet/clean, or dirty/raunchy. Your characters can be living, dead, or in between.

Editors look for a unique approach on common themes (i.e., striving for independence, exercising one’s own judgment/making decisions, mental/physical health, sex, family issues).

Things that are good:
-Wish fulfillment gone wrong
-High concept story = one that can be summed up in 1 sentence (“a hook”)
-stories with multiple hooks + literary and commercial appeal (multiple hooks = more than 1 interesting element to your story).

-YA romance (clean/steamy/historical fiction/paranormal)—yearning is always good
-Fairies are still being acquired.
-Mermaids, zombies, and dragons are good.

Paranormal is nearing its peak. If you're writing paranormal, you need different subject matter. Those that are being acquired have different and unique paranormal elements.
-What’s out/over: vampires and dead girls
-What’s coming out right now: zombies and werewolves.
-What's coming out next: Angels.

Nonfiction (here's to you, Mrs. J):
-Much more selective
-Narrative nonfiction is best
-Need nonfiction that is accessible and non-teachy.
-It can be a window into an event, instead of an entire story.

Historical fiction:
-Some houses want it and some don’t.
-It needs a curriculum tie-in and multiple hooks.
-Some houses are interested in historical fiction w/a fantasy bent
-HF can be a window into an event (like nonfiction), instead of an entire story.
-Questions to ask yourself:
a) Is there a reason your story is set in the past?
b) Is your story accessible and relatable to today’s teens?

To do: Get Children’s Bookshelf—free through Publishers Weekly

General trends in publishing:
-Slower turnaround time
-Revisions are required before an offer/acquisition
-Smaller advances—this can mean more royalties, which means publishers will love you.
-Smaller lists, which, in turn, delays publications and acquisitions

Tips for navigating the market:
-Read and study the genre. See how and why the books out work.
-Know your comparable titles. Know what you’re up against, and keep these houses in mind when your book is coming out.
-Join SCBWI/critique groups/etc.
-Immerse yourself in the market.

Querying Andrea Brown:
-If you're a member of SCBWI, add this to your query.
-Should be no longer than a page. Use a straight business-type letter, but make it feel personal.
->E.g. "I read that you like __. My YA is about __. My credits include __."

On subbing to publishers without an agent:
-Be careful about this—it narrows the list the an agent can send to, so the agent is less likely to take on your project.
- If you blind submit to a publisher, it’s very unlikely the publisher will read your work. (This is different if submitting after being allowed after a conference.)

Standalone books vs. a series =
-Houses prefer standalones in this climate, and then waiting to see how it goes.
-Think of your book as a standalone—think, “This book is it,” because you may not get a second book.

YA crossover
-The ideal book will be a crossover from YA to the adult market (e.g., Ellen Hopkins, Swoon, Mad Apple, Twilight, Maximum Ride, Harry Potter)
-Crossovers from adult to YA = e.g., Life of Pi, the Secret Life of Beens, the Lovely Bones
-“Family Reads” = new section in the bookstores with crossover titles.

Look at: AuthorsNow—for debut authors

Monday, August 24, 2009

For those of you who don't blog on the weekends ...

Don't forget to enter my contest for a copy of Jay Asher's 13 Reasons Why! It's a gorgeous book you all must read, if you haven't.

That's it. Short and sweet. :)

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Book Giveaway! (episode two)

Okay, I'm impatient, so I'm going to start the next givewaway now. :) (No worries--Since I'm starting it over the weekend when most people are probably still asleep, I'll be sure to link to it again later this week.)

This week, up for grabs is Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher.

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker--his classmate and crush--who committed suicide two weeks earlier. On tape, Hannah explains that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he'll find out how he made the list.

Through Hannah and Clay's dual narratives, debut author Jay Asher weaves an intricate and heartrending story of confusion and desperation that will deeply affect teen readers.

My (brief) review:
This book is, simply put, amazing. I couldn't put it down; even when I needed a break from Hannah's pain, I kept turning the pages. The story moves at breakneck pace, and Jay Asher is genius at cliffhanger chapters. Clay, the MC, is a smart, relatable guy who doesn't bring a lot of his own baggage to the table, a perfect conduit for Hannah's story. He's also very honest with the reader, never hiding his emotions or his feelings. When I got to his tape, I cried. Those who shy away from books like this shouldn't, because underneath Hannah's story lies something bigger, something that left me with a hopeful smile. If you haven't read this book yet, you must. Odds are, it will change you forever.

Want to enter? Here's 13 ways how:

+1 Leave a comment on this post. If you don't have a blogger profile, be sure to leave an email address, too, or I won't be able to contact you.

+4 if you already follow/subscribe to my blog
+2 for becoming a follower/subscriber to my blog

+2 for posting a link to this contest somewhere on the Internet (sidebar, Myspace, Twitter, etc.)--be sure to leave me a link here if you post one.

+4 for posting an actual blog about this giveaway--leave me the link.

+2 for reading and commenting on one of Jay's blog posts (again, leave me a link).

+2 for posting a little blurb from (one of) the best/worst nights of your teen years.

+1 for telling me your favorite song/movie/book of the moment.

+1 for telling me the book you can't wait to read.

+1 for telling me why you can't wait to read 13 Reasons Why.

+1 for letting me know who referred you.

+1 for every person who says you referred them here.

+2 for telling me something you regret doing or wish you would have done.

+1 for telling me something random about you.

There. I think that's 13.

Open To:

US and Canada residents only. Sorry! My bills this month have been ginormous!


September 4*** at midnight, central time.
***EDIT: So ... I got a little overzealous and ended the contest after 1 week instead of 2 (on August 29 instead of September 4). I certainly can't take it away from the winner (congrats, Ashley!), but I will make the next contest extra special. Promise!

Because I Am Furniture: and the winner is ... (drumroll please)

The winner of book giveaway numero uno, Because I Am Furniture by Thalia Chaltas, is ....


Thanks to everyone for participating. The next giveaway will start within the next couple of days. Here's a hint: it (kind of) rhymes with: Unseen Seasons High, by Day Slasher.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

And here's a not-so-little diddy for all you fantasy writers ...

More from SCBWI:
1) Ingrid Law (author of Savvy) is awesome. If you write fantasy (or if you want to) without a villain, check out her wise words.
2) Holly Black may be the coolest, and the wisest, person ever. If you write fantasy of any sort, definitely check out what she had to say.

INGRID LAW—Major Villains Need Not Apply: Writing Fantasy Without an Archenemy
• Fantasy elements are “gigantic metaphors for growing up and being human.”
--Fantasy can be a powerful took for addressing real world conflicts with metaphors that deal with conflict of the heart.
--In her book, Savvy, Ingrid's MC used her abilities/etc. to cope with heartache, confusion, and what people deal with in real life.

• Girls don't care for villains as much as boys do. If you write fantasy without a villain, you’re creating conflicts that everyone can relate to.

--Take an every day fear/worry, either one that you have or one that your MC has, and turn it into a metaphor.
--Mine: Fear = no stability/lack of consistency and unconditional love. Metaphor = my MC’s desire to have immortality—it’s forever, and he freaks when it’s taken from him. It reinforces the inconsistency in his life and his fear of never having stability.

• Be careful: don’t give children false hope with metaphor.
--Ground your metaphor, so that it’s fair to them.
--i.e., don’t let them think they can fix their parents divorce with the magical metaphor you create.

• Internal and external conflict—
--Internal conflict = conflict of the heart.
--The internal conflict still needs an external conflict that drives your character to make choices and discover new things about themselves.
--Don’t add a supreme villain just because you feel you have to. There are plenty of other ways to create external conflict without one.

• An easy way to show external conflict is to create a character opposite yours—good versus evil, or a character who just wants different things than your main character.
--A good antagonist triggers the MC’s internal conflict or brings it to the surface to be dealt with.
--Ask yourself: What is my MC’s internal conflict?

• Exercise: take the big bad wolf out of The Three Little Pigs—how can you still have conflict?
--My example: The 3 Little Cliques--3 BFF little piggies enter high school, where they learn that straw and sticks can’t sit with bricks.

• Things that thwart the main character to create conflict in a story =
1) Process/challenge of growing up
2) Loss, illness
3) Someone who wants something other than what your MC wants (i.e., differences between people)
4) Anything that will shake up your MC’s life, whether good or bad

• Examples of stories with no villains:
--Half Magic
--The Thirteenth Child
--Tom’s Midnight Garden

• Question: What type of fantasy might suit a conflict the best?

• Exercise: 1) Identify your age group. (2) Create a hero. (3) Where is your character? (4) List 3 personal battles your hero may experience in that setting, and add fantasy elements of your choice.
--My example: (1) Middle grade. (2) The drama llama. (3) At a zoo. (4)(a) monkey tortures the llama with LARP after the zoo closes; (b) the llama has a crush on a neighboring donkey—he creates a love spell in his water bowl; (c) the llama hates being stuck in the zoo, so he contrives a plot for escape involving his nemesis, Larry the Lion.

• Metaphor can be a huge exaggeration of things.
--In Savvy, Ingrid wanted to create a magical land w/o using the word “magic,” so it would apply to everyone.

• Note: Europe likes dark fantasy more than light, fluffy fantasy.

HOLLY BLACK—Examining the Strange: The Basics of Fantasy Writing

• When growing up, she “absolutely believed all of this [the fantasy world] was true.”

• Reading fantasy (and folklore) made her a good fantasy writer. “We build on the work of others.”
--“The most important thing is to read fantasy, including adult fantasy.”
--“Don’t reinvent the wheel; create a whole different kind of wheel.”
--Don’t just read fantasy; read widely. Bring all of those elements into your story.
--Read enough that you become part of the conversation.

• You can do experimental things in children’s lit, b/c it’s a “genre-less genre.”

• Literature lets us put on someone else’s skin.
--Fantasy doesn’t have to be any more escapist than any other form of literature.
--You can learn things in fantasy that’s harder to learn in realism.
--Fantasy actualizes (i.e., is the language of) metaphor. It gives readers room to think about their own issues/fears—e.g., anger/alienation—in a wider variety of ways than with realism.
--e.g., You have to put aside your blame for a monstrous feeling/being (b/c you can’t blame a werewolf for being a werewolf), and say, “Now what?”

• Be careful: look at your story and make sure your metaphors are ones you’re comfortable with. Your metaphors shouldn’t, e.g., imply racism
--Be aware of what stories you’re telling. Fantasy has real things to say about the world and about us.

• Fantasy has to create the sense of “the numinous.” It must be magical/strange.
• Fantasy = the combination of fear and awe (the numinous). Awe is what separates fantasy from horror.
• The numinous/awe gives you the sense the world is bigger, better, and/or stranger for having those things in it.

• “All novels are fantasy. Some are just more honest about it.”
--For fantasy to be successful, a fantasy reader needs to feel like he/she gets more out of it than he/she would’ve in a story based in reality.

• Language in fantasy:
--In Fantasy, language is important. Can’t have flat/inexact prose.
--Sensory clues are very important and can’t be vague.
--We have to believe in the fantastic when we’re reading—e.g., we need to believe an elf brought back a piece of elf land for all of us. You must convince the readers, when they’re done, that your fantasy world is a place they have been (fantasy resembles historical fiction in this way).
--Details make fantasy real, so it can be smelled, touched, and tasted in a realistic way.

• **The real stuff must be really real so we can believe in the fantastical.
• *Do your research, and a lot of it.

• Fantasy normally happens somewhere other than on earth, but not always.
--Regardless, the magical society and the magic itself has its own rules.

• *Work out the rules of your world.
--There are different types of logic:
1) Day logic = it works the same every time, almost like science (e.g., Harry flicks his wand and says a spell—same result every time)
2) Night logic = the rules are seldom spelled out and must work intuitively. This is much harder to write, but satisfying to the readers because it contains the numinous.

• Poetry is all about the language of the very specific moment.

• **On plotting/plot arc
--In fantasy, there must be 2 stories: a fantastical story, and a human story
--The human story starts earlier (e.g., king and queen; queen is in love with the king’s brother).
--The interaction between the fantastical story and the human story moves the plot forward. The resonance is between these tones and how they interact with one another.
--The human story is not a subplot, because it starts earlier and ends later. The fantastical story should always end in something personal about the MC’s life, not at the conclusion of the fantastical element.
--E.g., Does the king accept that his wife loves his brother and go out to fight the demon? If so, what happens if he survives the demon fight? The human story carries on after the fantastical story wraps up (the fantastical story, e.g., is killing the dragon—but can you think of any story that ends with the king standing over the dead dragon? There’s always a human story after that.)

Sorry guys. I know this was long, but I didn't want to cut anything! I hope you enjoy, and if you need clarification, let me know. I'll try my best! :)

Oooh, that award goes great with your eyes!

I'd like to start today's post with a little woot! woot! You ready for it?

Woot! Woot!

Why in tarnations am I shouting, you ask? (If you didn't, I'm telling you anyway.) Because the lovely TereLiz awarded me a Kreativ Blogger award! I love awards ... they're so shiny and sparkly and pretty and sparkly and ... shiny. :) If you haven't checked out Tere's blog, you should. She writes fantasy/paranormal YA, and she's great.

So the thing is, I'm not great with rules. The other thing is, a lot of the bloggie friends I would've sent this award to have already received it at least once, if not multiple, times. So I'm going to do something bad (gasp!) and break the rules. Yep, you heard me. Real bad ass here.

I will, however, tell you 7 things about me, in case you're curious. But don't anticipate witty. My evening work-brain isn't good at witty.

1) I am terrified of bugs. Terrified of them. I have to refresh my computer screen when an advertisement with something creepy/crawly pops up. I have to look away when really nasty ones are on t.v. And I scream bloddy murder when my least favorite of the bugdom gets anywhere near me. (I'll give you a hint: if the world were to self-destruct tomorrow, these grossies would toast human flesh by bonfires and laugh about it for centuries to come.)

2) I used to think I had OCD, but my psych-school little sis advised me that I have obsessive compulsive personality traits (or something like that). I have to have everything in a certain order, whether it's my shampoo and conditioner in the shower, or my olive oils and vinegars in the kitchen drawers, or my files and papers at work. If something is moved, I get really disoriented. I also tend to count my steps. In groups of 8. (I do this when chewing as well.) I try to keep my crazy quiet, so if you see me walking down the street talking to myself, let me know.

3) I'm addicted to chocolate. And sweets in general. Salty things rock my boat as well.

4) I'm shyer than I'd like to be, and it frustrates the hell out of me. I always thought, "I'll go to college, and things will be different," or "I'll reinvent myself in law school around all of these new people," but nope. Still the same ol' introverted, self-conscience me that I was in high school.

5) My sister is my best friend. If anything bad ever happens to her, I'll burrow in a hole somewhere and rot away.

6) The first YA book I remember reading in my adult life was Ellen Hopkins' Crank. It made me fall back in love with YA, and it was a huge contributing factor to my decision to write YA. Of course, when I tried to say those very simple words to Ellen in LA, I came off as a gushy-crazy-stalker fangirl. I anticipate a restraining order to follow.

7) My ideal 9-to-5'er type job would be that person who picks out music for television shows and/or movies. Listening to demos all day, connecting with the emotion in a song, and making an already good scene that much more powerful = big sigh levels of greatness.

Thanks again, TereLiz, for the award. I'll post fantasy notes (tonight or tomorrow) from the conference, just for you. :)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Because it's still Tuesday in central Florida ...

SCBWI taught me a lot of things. It also annoyed me (okay, not really) by adding fire to one of my older story ideas. The characters have bounced around in my head awhile now, so I figured it was time I put them on "paper."

So here's a little snippet from my latest WIP (side note: I'm putting the fantasy/paranormal on hold for awhile, a decision influenced in part by the conference and its lovely speakers, and in part by a very wise agent that, well, told me like it was).

Untitled, contemporary YA:

Skylar leaned over the railing, blonde curls blanketing her hollow cheeks. “I’m not coming back, Natalie.”

“What are you saying?”

She roped her fingers together and looked across the front lawn. The final buses were unloading, which meant the first bell would ring any second now.

“Sky? What’s going on?”

“I’m not playing this year,” she said. “I already told Coach Day.”

My mouth fell open. Skipping summer camp had been a no-brainer, what with everything that had happened, but now this? “But you love basketball.”

“Loved. That was a long time ago.”

“Not that long ago.” I tried to meet her eyes, but she looked at the buses, the new kids, the patches of weeds masquerading as grass. At anything but me.

“Things change, Nat,” she said. “People change.”

I spun the silver ring around my finger. District Champs, Division A. Final score: 67-70. Sky had put up a three at the buzzer in our second overtime. Nothing but net. It was all we'd talked about for weeks.

I looked at Skylar’s finger. It was bare.

---g'night, all!

Monday, August 17, 2009

I need more James Spader.

I just watched the series finale of Boston Legal, and I feel empty inside. I want more Shirley/Carl/Denny/Katie/Jerry. And I need more Alan. I'm sure he'd rank pretty high on the d-bag-o-meter (*almost copyrighted material of Lila), but I was kind of in love with him. And those courtroom scenes! So now I feel like I've been broken up with. Ah well. At least it was him, not me. (Or technically, the network, which the writers took great joy in letting the audience know throughout the final season:)

This was my "smart" t.v.--ya know, the show where my brain had to work just a teensy weensy bit--and now it's gone, and all I'm left with is ABC family. Sigh ... At least I still have Weeds ...

R.I.P. Denny and Alan. R.I.P.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Because who doesn't want to hear from the people behind the Twilight phenom?

Seriously. Even if you didn't like Twilight, you have to respect Little, Brown. So here's a little more from SCBWI:

JENNIFER HUNT—Finding Your Inner YA

Info on Jennifer Hunt:
• Editorial director at Little, Brown Books (original publishers of Little Women and Catcher in the Rye)—oversees Mg + YA fiction acquisition. Published Twilight.
• Oversees all acquisitions and edits her own list as well
• Doesn’t believe in chasing trends. What matters =
--Exquisite writing
--Original voice
--An imaginative story

• Little, Brown is a boutique publisher that strives to be “kid smart”
-Any topic/genre is fair game; they use a more organic approach.

1) Authentic voice
--Little Brown can help with structure/characterization, but voice is special and harder to edit.
--There are many types of voices—a wide breadth
--Qualities of good voice =
a) Age-appropriate—not too old/young, not an adult trying to sound like a kid
b) Character-specific—confidence level, how they cope with problems, gay/straight/questioning, western/city, etc.

--What makes the voice unique? (E.g., Sara Zarr (for an example of a unique voice))
a) An authentic story—
• Make these topics new and original --> Friends, family, surviving school, identity, sex, belonging, first love, etc.
• Do your research. Authenticity makes the difference b/w an amazing book and a mediocre book.
• Mine your own experience and relate to the story.
• Don’t be judgmental of the story.

b) Identity (of kid) (E.g., Hate List, Luna)

c) Authentic emotion—
• As an adult, you can vividly remember teen life, while bringing an adult perspective. But DO NOT judge.
• Exercises you can do as a writer:
--Pick 3 things from your teen life and write a letter to yourself. Focus on problems, and write with perspective about what the challenges were.
--Choose 5 random news stories about teens. Write a short story based on those teens’ experiences, with one story being something you have no familiarity with.
--This helps to broaden your horizons.

• They take their work very seriously—dedicated to excellence. Children and teens deserve this from writers.
• They respect their audience. They don’t judge or limit teens. They don’t dumb down language. (Cerebral for teens is okay. give them something to step into/up to. Do not limit them.)
• They’re willing to hustle--Community building; critiquing each other, developing a support system, doing what they can to be the best writers they can be.

Trends she’d like to see (or see continue) = stories with diverse perspectives.
• All teens have important stories to tell. Ask yourself: “What’s the right way to tell them?”
• Look at their specific stories and the roles they place in each others’ lives.
--E.g., towns aren’t all white/all straight, etc.
--Think about what else is around you and incorporate it into your story.

Formula for a great story = great characterization + great storytelling.

Revisions = she most typically asks authors for more layers and more complex, well-rounded characters.
--She doesn’t like “thin” characters
--Hint: Peek into a kid’s mind and prove yourself. It’ll show up in your final product.

Things to avoid
• Pop culture reference and slang that dates the book.
• Weave authentic slang in so that you get the flavor, but not so much that it slows down the plot.

Goal with YA = To make all teens feel their stories are worthy; to show the diversity kids deal with every day.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

SCBWI, numero dos

Here's a little bit more:

COURTNEY BONGIOLATTI, JORDAN BROWN, JENNIFER HUNT, & ARI LEWIN—Success Stories: Four Editors Distill Secrets of a Successful Book

Jordan Brown
• Focus on what makes you different from others—think of your style as your brand
o Give yourself a brand that sets you apart
E.g., Pixar = you always know what a Pixar movie is, even though they’ve only done one sequal. This is b/c of their style/brand.

Ari Lewin
• It’s difficult to adjust your writing to a trend just to sell a book. The only time this really works is if you’re already established, and someone approaches you with an idea.

Jennifer Hunt
There isn’t just one type of success; there are many, and all of them are equally important to a house.

1) A backless gem = one that sells year after year, way after the advance pays out
E.g., A Mango-Shaped Space

2) The great debut = a book that is launched successfully and solidly, with an established fan base anticipating the next book
The secret to this = YA bloggers + community
E.g., 20 Boy Summer

3) Books that find an author’s voice
Where an author hits his/her own perfect, creative note
E.g., Julie Ann Peters, Luna = sex/gender identity explosed

4) Career-changing books = The book that books an author on the map and makes people search for the author’s backlist.
Books that make the writer say, “I am an author with confidence.”
A book w/a strong vision, even if non-conventional
E.g., Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr

5) Books with a strong—even if non-conventional—vision
Author sticks to his/her vision about what the book can be and makes it a success—it’s not the idea itself, but, rather, the execution.
E.g., The Curious Garden by Peter Brown

6) The phenomenon
A book that takes the world by storm
Great storytelling and characters
E.g., Twilight

• The best guarantee for success is to take the time and do great work.
• Write b/c you love it and for no other reason.

Friday, August 14, 2009

SCBWI, numero uno

I have no idea how to post this, or how much all of you want to see about the speakers, so I've just decided to include it all ... in manageable, shorter blog posts, of course. Here: Sherman Alexie and Kathleen Duey. (And yeah ... try to ignore the formatting. I typed it up with bullets in my notes, and they went all crazy on blogger. Sorry!)

SHERMAN ALEXIEThe Partially True Story of the True Diary of a Part-time Indian

He gets packages of letters from kids of every class/social stature. The common theme, for all groups/class, no matter what the amount of money, is “My choices are being made for me.”

Yeah. That's all I wrote on his. I was so captivated by his storytelling (plus, it was the first keynote of the conference) that I couldn't make my pen move!

KATHLEEN DUEYRivets and Mist: How to Build a Novel

Bring a twist—go at things in a different way.

Keep files of interesting people with intriguing job professions. Get their business cards and let them know you may be calling them some time in the future.
• anyone you meet with a profession could be the source of the twist in your story
• the people around you are gold mines, especially strangers, because you get a blurb from them that isn’t cluttered up with the other things you know about them.

Spark vs. Craft
• It’s better to follow the spark than it is to follow the mastery of craft.
• Write that book you’ve been meaning to write but haven’t.

Creating characters
• Don’t create characters. Meet them.
• Read/research
• Get online and find people who will talk to you that are going through what you’re writing about. interview these people.
• Do this before you do anything else. Then type.
Ask: “Hello. What is your name?” And just go with it.
Ask: Who are you? What are you doing?”
Don’t keep a file with favorite colors, etc. You don’t need this if you know your character beforehand.
• Craft vs. Art
Place your whole trust in the creative, inarticulate part. Craft is much easier to teach than art. If it doesn’t work, try to get your rational mind out of the way.
E.g., put a focal point on your wall—an inspiration—of what you need to do in your story.
Let art lead craft. They have to hold hands, but give your craft more free reign sooner in your career.
If you get locked into your method, you may not be able to find your way back out.
• Creating characters in fantasy
Bring the emotional core back into the real world.
Take the emotional equivalent, if there isn’t a reality equivalent.
E.g., an ostracized fairy = talk to an immigrant for research
* Don’t ask what happens next. Ask what your character would do next.
If your story still stalls, interview people. Ask kids, “What are you guys worrying about?” This can be an amazing conversation starter with children.

Today’s market:
• Fantasy is an overloaded genre, but there is always room for something innovative.
• Amazon is going to start publishing their books.
• Volunteer in classes/story time at the library, etc. Talk to the librarian/teacher about your idea and ask, “Has this been done?”
*A librarian will often read something in draft form.

**Make anyone a good critiquer:
• BCD = Bored, Confused, Didn’t believe it.
o Have a critter read your MS and put any of the 3 letters that fit into the margin when these issues come up. If you can get rid of BCD, then you have a novel.

• Stand back and look at your MS whole.
• Print it out and leave your office. A change of venue can help.
• Read it aloud.

• Put your ideas down when you get them. Use a digital recorder, then transcribe, cut and paste, and put the info into character files.
o If you hear excitement in your voice again—like the fluctuation/excited tone you had when you came up with the idea—it’ll bring back your excitement when you’re transcribing. This doesn’t happen when you jot down an idea.

On outlining:
• She doesn’t outline. When she outlines, characters stop talking to her, because they’re no longer in charge of their own lives.
o She usually has some ending in mind, but not always.
• Sit down and think of the milestones.
o How do you get your MC from who they are here, to where/who you want them to be? (Not outlining, per se; more freedom.) Then sit down and write those scenes.

Other tips:
• Put physical/geographic restraints or cast changes, etc., that limit your character’s ability to do what he/she is used to doing for awhile.
o Put an off-step in your dance.
• You must entertain and hold kids’ interest. Network.
o Sigh up for Twitter—not having a Twitter account is the 1950s equivalent of not having a television.
o Thoughts on networking sites:
 Myspace = friends your mother didn’t want you to have
 Facebook = friends you used to have
 Twitter = friends you want to have
• For a great Twitter account, see Maureen Johnson
• Twitter allows you to live in the same universe as to be part of the agent/editor world.
 **Your Blogger account can feed to your Amazon page.
 You don’t need to network every day. When you go away for a bit and then come back, you have something more important to share.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Holy Bookness Times Two!

Do you love books? Um, yeah you do! If you haven't entered Cindy's contest yet, you must check it out. She's giving away a full library's worth of ARCs, including (drum roll please) ... Becca's Hush Hush!

Seriously, look at all this stuff!
1. Hush Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick ARC
2. Along For The Ride by Sarah Dessen ARC
3. Kiss of Life by Daniel Waters ARC
4. Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater ARC
5. Troy High by Shana Norris ARC
6. Love You Hate You Miss You by Elizabeth Scott ARC
7. Reincarnation by Suzanne Weyn ARC
8. Lovestruck Summer by Melissa Walker
9. Death by Series by Linda Gerber (3 books total)
10. a 5 dollar giftcard from Walmart
11. 3 Sarah Dessen books (Just Listen, This Lullaby, Someone Like You)
12. Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson
13. Fire By Kristin Cashmore ARC
14. Last but not least, I have some extra amazon cards, so I will also include a preorder for CATCHING FIRE BY SUZANNE COLLINS. It will be shipped to on or around Sept 1st (whenever they ship it) AND a book of your choice (under $15.00 please and it can be a preorder as long as it comes out in September-so many good books get released)

Seriously. Tell me that's not amazing?

And if that's not enough, she also has ANOTHER contest here. Seriously, this girl is made of cool.

pssssst: If you enter any of her contests, please let her know I referred you!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Book Giveaway! (episode one)

As I mentioned in my last post, I went to LA, bought a few books to get them autographed, and now have a couple of unautographed ones I'd like to share with others.

This week, up for grabs is Because I Am Furniture, by Thalia Chaltas.

Here's the description from Thalia's site (hopefully she won't sue me for posting her materials here ... I forget the rules)

BECAUSE I AM FURNITURE - a novel in poems

Anke's father is abusive. But not to her. He attacks her brother and sister, but she is ignored, forced to be an invisible witness in a house of horrors. Believing she isn't worthy of even the worst kind of attention, Anke feels about as significant as the living room sofa. Until she makes the volleyball team at school. In a sport where you have to yell "Mine!" to play the ball, Anke learns for the first time how to make herself heard. As her confidence on the court builds, she finds a voice she didn't know existed. And it's not long before she realizes that if she can make people hear her while she's playing volleyball, then maybe she can be heard at home, too.

Author Thalia Chaltas leads you straight to the heart of Anke's darkly complicated world in this devastatingly powerful novel in poems.

A brief review:

This cover called to me from Borders the day I purchased it. It had previously been recommended to me (you rock, Amazon), based upon my interest in Ellen Hopkins. And it did not disappoint. Thalia pulls you into Anke's world and keeps you there, even when you might not want to be. I found this book devastating, heartbreaking, yet impossible to put down. I was so touched by Anke's story that I emailed the author after finishing the novel. Still, months later, I haven't forgotten it. If you've never given a verse novel a shot, you must. If you need confirmation, check out the Amazon link and get an inside look into the first few pages of the book.


Leave a comment on this post. If you don't have a blogger profile, be sure to leave an email address, too, or I won't be able to contact you.

For Extra Entries:

+4 if you already follow/subscribe to my blog
+2 for becoming a follower/subscriber to my blog

+3 for posting a link to this contest somewhere on the Internet (blog, Myspace, Twitter, etc.)--be sure to leave me a link here if you post one.

+2 for reading and commenting on one of Thalia's blog posts (again, leave me a link).

+2 for posting your most embarrassing moment as a teenager (completely unrelated, I know, but I'm a random individual).

+2 for posting something that bothered/plagued you as a teen (i.e., what kept you up at night?)

Open To:

US residents only. Sorry! I'm ridiculously poor after my cat's ginormous and never-ending vet bill and the SCBWI LA conference.


August 21st at midnight, central time.

Best of luck, everyone!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

It's official. I miss LA ...

I'm still typing up my notes for the conference, and I'll get those up soon, but here are a few highlights:

1) The weather was awesome. Amazing. Perfect. And then I came back to Florida, where it is hot. Humid. Sticky.

2) Who doesn't love staying in nice hotels that you can't really afford and pretending like you're royalty for a few days? Oh wait ... that's just me?

3) I met so many wonderful people and learned so much that I think my brain might explode. Seriously. I don't have room for all of the gems and pearls that industry professionals tossed my way.

4) I got books autographed by Jay Asher (such a nice guy!), Thalia Chaltas (I adore her, and she graciously signed my book in the bathroom), Sherman Alexie (ahhh-MA-zing speaker), Ingrid Law (fascinating storyteller), Holly Black (so cool and friendly), and Ellen Hopkins (omg omg omg, I love her).

5) I laughed. I cried. I learned. I. Want. To. Go. Back. Now.

Seriously, this workshop was the most amazing thing I've ever done for my writing career. I hope the notes I share later on this week will help at least one of you.

And ... Since I repurchased a few books this week to get them autographed, I have a few copies of books to auction off. Yay! My first giveaway! I'm kind of excited :)

Thursday, August 6, 2009

I don't do mornings, but ...

5 a.m. sucks. Even the sun knows it. Airports are okay. I actually kind of like them. I'm exhausted. Brain isn't working.

But ... it's all good, since the end result is LA. Yay!!

Hopefully I won't suffer too severe of blog withdrawal throughout the conference. If you all don't hear from me for a few days, just know I'm thinking about you.

If you haven't heard the news, Lila is having their very own writing conference. I'm sure it'll be WAY cooler than the one in LA, so check it out!

Eek! Boarding call!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

You learn something new every day...

Things added to my brain this week:

1) Writing a query is HARD! Okay, okay, so I already knew that. What I didn’t realize was how awesome the feedback would be when I swallowed the tarantula (eww-bugs!) of fear in my throat and posted the darn thing. You are all flippin’ awesome. (A special shout out to Lila and Weronika, b/c your comments were spot on.)

2) I take pride in my stalking. Apparently, you can choose whether you want to show the blogs you follow to the rest of the world, or hide them as a dirty little secret. I say screw privately obsessing; I’m all about sharing the objects of my infatuation to the world.

3) There’s no “c” in infatuation. I learn this almost every time I type it. *buries head under covers in shame.

4) The SCBWI is less than a freakin’ week away, and I haven’t packed or thought about where I’m going to eat/play during my (admittedly limited) free time. I’m stoked and freaked (but mostly stoked). Where the heck did July go??

5) I'm going to miss Boston Legal so very much when it ends. Yeah, yeah, so it's already been off the air for awhile now, but I'm just finishing up the final season. (Yay for Netflix!) With all the dumbed down stuff I watch (love it all as I may), it's nice to let my brain work a little. It's rare that you find a show with a perfect mix of humor, friendship, love, drama, sarcasm, and melancholy, not to mention one that constantly pokes fun at itself and the network. I have one disc left, and after that, I'm going to have a hole in my heart the size of Texas. (I think I just wrote a country song.) Suggestions to fill that hole, anyone?