Thursday, January 31, 2008

Character Confessions (Or, Where I Dig up My Characters)

Tip of the Day: Save copies of your book in several different places. You also might want to e-mail it to yourself just to have it in your inbox as well.

Characters are always one of the best parts of books. We like to identify with them, sympathize with them etc. Your characters may make or break your book. If you have a really sucky main character but a great plot people might not want to read it because they don’t feel for your character. So, how do you come up with your characters? Last week I confessed that I sometimes like to mush together characters from TV or film into one cool character. Here are a few more confessions:

Confession#1: Part of the reason I like to write in coffee shops is because all of the interesting people are in there! I can’t tell you how many innocent latte buyers came into Starbucks and ended up in one of my books. There is just too much material.

Confession #2: Lots of cute boys I’ve liked in the past have made it into my books. No, I’ll never tell you who they are and I doubt anyone would ever guess but it is like my own little tribute.

Confession #3: Sometimes I put a little bit of myself into a character in the book too. Stephen King always does a cameo in his movies so why can’t I in my books? Example—the school secretary in Revenge Queen that loved the gossip mags and was still trying to drop the 20 pounds after three kids? Uh huh. That was me. :-)

Confession #4: Yeah, sometimes I use people I actually know too. Shhh! But only a little bit about them and then I try to add some really different characteristics to them so that the real people don’t figure it out. Hopefully.

Confession #5: People I wish I knew. I like to think up people I wish I hung out with in high school (not slamming the people I did hang out with of course!! :-) ). I just try and make up really fun, cool characters.

Ok, your turn. How do you come up with your characters?

Kristina, Miss Soon-to-Pub

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Professional Envy (or 10 Things I Hate About You)

Tip of the Day: Never doubt the authenticity of DILBERT. Ever.

I am envious of YA author Sarah Dessen. I admit it. Her book THAT SUMMER totally rocked my reading and writing world and cinched it for me that I HAD TO write YA novels. I devoured all her other books soon after. The relationships and characters she creates are just so...right and make me really really wish I could write like that. So yes, I am envious of her talent and success.

But that doesn't mean I wish her any ill will or anything bad at all. I think that's why I use the word "envy" like "covet" rather than "jealous" which to me has more of a negative thought process associated with it. In fact, I love reading Sarah's blog, was thrilled when I heard about her new novel's release date, and think she comes across as sweet, intelligent, and truly appreciative of her success. I wish her much continued success and happiness because I want to keep reading her books, and I know she worked hard and continues to work hard to get where she is today.

I think that is the key: Envy without unhealthy associations. To use envy as motivation for your own goals, not as a way to wish others less success.

Of course when you are working towards the same goal as someone else and they get there Sooner! Better! Faster! it's hard not to compare yourself to them, but because I am a generally positive person, here are 10 thoughts to Not Get Yer Hate On when jealousy comes out to pound envy on the head:

1. I don't wish I wrote the book that brought this person success. If I had, it wouldn't be the book it is today, and I have too many of my own ideas I need to get on paper!

2. My own books are as good as this person's, so I will find success, too.

3. My own books are better than this person's, so I will find success, too.

4. I work as hard as this person does, so I will find success, too.

5. I may love this person's books, but I wouldn't trade my life for theirs, as our own lives shape our writing.

6. It sounds like this person's path to success was easy, but of course they aren't airing the difficult personal parts of their past/journey that all of us have had.

7. This person got a huge advance, but my book will earn out its advance no matter what the amount, and I'll reap the royalties for years to come.

8. This person is younger than me and already sold their books, but I wouldn't trade what I accomplished when I was that age for what they have now.

9. Someone else already sold a book with a similar theme to my WIP, but that just means the market is open to that kind of book so mine will sell, too.

10. If I had what this person has, it wouldn't make me a better person than I am today.

I love writing. I will never stop. I love revising and seeing my works become more and more polished. I love re-reading my own books and the enjoyment I get from them. I will never stop trying to get them published. I love my life, and all this is enough for me.

How do you beat envy/jealousy?

Deena, Miss Recently Repped

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Wanting “it” now or not?

Tip of the day: Want to have your first page read and a chance to win a query critique, partial critique, 10 minute phone conversation, or books from an agent? Or do you just want to read a bunch of first pages? If so, then check out Agent Nathan Bransford’s The Surprisingly Essential First Page Challenge! The current deadline for entries is this Wednesday.

A few weeks ago, I was talking with a co-worker about writing. During the conversation she asked me: “Are you the type of person that wants it to happen now?” Meaning: want to see my book in print.

Many days I feel like I am that person, but often those days are proceeded with something like:

  • When I tell someone I “also write,” and some random person responds by asking me: “So where can I find your stuff?” or “Do you have a book published, yet?”

  • My family/one of my friends/co-workers, etc asking me: “So where can I find your stuff?” or “Do you have a book published, yet?,” which is followed by me responding “no,” then a sad/"oh poor her” look on their faces, followed by a “haven’t you been writing for, like, 2 years?” followed by a sympathetic, “I’m sure it will happen soon.”

  • When non-writing people feel they are being helpful by giving me unasked-for advice, such as: “Man, I just heard of this author who got published really fast. It was with this publishing company called Lulu. Maybe you should try them.”

  • Or when I get a rejection.

Those are the days when I like to eat excess Moose Tracks Ice Cream and really want it to happen quickly, and the days I constantly convince myself that I shouldn’t tell anyone else “I write.” The days when I feel ashamed to even say, “I’m a writer,” despite the fact I want to tell people, since it is a large part of my life. And those are the days when I yearn to be able to officially tell people, “I AM A WRITER,” with a traditional publishing contract in hand, and not feel bad that I’m still working on publication.

But most days when I’m alone writing or talking with writing friends—the people that actually get this business—those are the days when I realize that everything I’m writing is helping me to publication. I might not be moving fast, but I’m definitely moving forward.

And frankly, I’d much rather have a book worth reading than a sub-par book that’s not.

So, to answer the above question: “Yes, I want it to happen. And happen now. But not if that means my current work-in-progress isn’t ready to be published, yet.”

How about all of you also waiting on a contract, a finished deal, an agent, or anything else. Are you the type of person that wants it to happen now?

--Emily, Miss Awaiting an Agent

Monday, January 28, 2008

My First Repeat Conference

Tip of the Day: Possibly my best tip ever. In the winter, wear loose shoes to conferences and tuck a pair of slipper socks in your manuscript bag. Then, if the rooms are cold, you can walk around in fuzzy socks and nobody will know but you and your toasty toes.

The first writing conference I attended was in January 2007, and it was the Syracuse SCBWI New Years’ Resolution conference. This is a small conference: one editor, one illustrator, and one author. The authors have been stellar: last years’ author was Linda Sue Park. I had absolutely no idea what to expect. My friend Deena, aka Miss Recently Repped, carpooled with me and told me to be ready to be inspired. Linda Sue Park told us she wrote two pages a day, every day, and encouraged us to make that our own resolution. Yes, I thought, all fired with enthusiasm. Yes, I definitely will!

Two days ago, I atttended the January 2008 New Years’ Resolution Conference. I did not write two pages a day every day in the interim. You probably figured that out, didn’t you? But I did keep writing regularly, even if it was only a paragraph a week sometimes.

Novel writing moves at a glacial pace, I think. Sure, those pages and paragraphs add up but I’m an impatient person. I want instant gratification. When my feet are cold, I want my slipper socks and I don’t want to wait until I get home. So publishing is definitely a great fit for me, right? Anyway, it was a great experience to reattend an annual local conference and realize how different my writing life feels this year. For example, there’s a first pages session at this conference, so I brought the first page of my novel in progress. I have worked and reworked this damn first page so many times, it feels like I’ve been writing it forever. You know that Greek legend of the guy who pushes the same boulder uphill every day until the end of time? That’s me and my first page.

Only … this was a different first page than I brought last year! I have a different novel! I haven’t been working on this one forever; it only seems like it. I feel much better now.

This year’s keynote speaker was Tamora Pierce, and she spoke about how important it is to keep going. Her advice was to learn to tell yourself “I’m good” until you believe it. She had to learn to psych herself out, tell herself that since the story was taking over her brain, she might as well let it out on paper, and then once it’s on paper, she might as well polish it, and then she might as well send it out. I brought a camera to take a picture of her, but I’m the world’s worst photographer and I forgot. The woman in front of me drew an impromptu sketch of Tamora Pierce that I think came out much better than any picture I would’ve taken—sad but probably true.

[Imagine nice sketch or photo not taken by me in this spot]

Deena came with me again, and we loved how Ms. Pierce told us about calling her husband when she gets stuck on a plot point. Just like we email people! Maybe my next post will be a list of my potential plot problems and I’ll invite readers to post suggestions. Not that I’m using you or anything. C’mon, it will be fun.

So it was great to go to my first “second time around” conference. I realized I got a lot done this year. New stories, new skills to work on. Am I a better plotter? I think I am. (I need to work on setting and description this year. I hate writing setting and description!) Most importantly, I see myself as a working writer now, producing and improving year after year after year. But Tamora Pierce also reminded me that I started writing because I enjoy it. Those stories stuck in my brain can be fun, not just work. So I’m going to try to have fun with it this year. Sure, my impatient self wants X number of polished pages in hand ASAP. But you know what? I’ll still be writing decades to come, God willing. There’s enough time to write the silly, the plotless, the devoid of description if it makes me happy. Someday I might read it and think “It’s here so I might as well polish it.”

-- Kate, Miss Apprentice Writer

Friday, January 25, 2008

How One TV Show Sums it All Up

Tip of the Day: Make sure you remind your family to be at the book signing *when it starts* if they want to hear your talk.

Yes, despite the fact that my mother didn’t get to hear me practicing for the Oprah show, the book signing went well.

The heart-shaped cookies I brought were delicious, I made it through the talk without throwing up, and we sold about 40 books. Not bad, I suppose.

If you recall, my talk was comparing writing to a TV show. I know you've lost sleep all week wondering WHAT TV show this could be. Project Runway, perhaps, where we might compare cutting fabric to cutting words? Nope. Maybe American Idol, where we might say a good critique group is more helpful than Simon could ever be? Not that one either.

No, I compared writing to the show, The Biggest Loser. Have you watched that one? This season, twelve couples are working their tushes off and eating cardboard so they can weigh in each week and see who lost the most weight and who lost the least amount of weight. I know, you're thinking I must have some really whacked writing routine or something.

Let me tell you how this show is a lot like my world of writing:

• With 200+ rejections to my name and counting, there are days I often feel like The Biggest Loser. I took a trip down memory lane, and shared a few of these with the audience.
• The people on the show had to get over their fear of whether they might fail and just DO IT. That’s what I had to do when I first started writing and submitting. It’s scary. You have to tell that negative voice to shut up, which isn’t an easy thing to do.

• They count calories like I count words. Yes, I know, the difference being, they cry tears of grief if they go over 2,000 calories in a day while I’m crying tears of joy if I get that many words! Still, we’re setting goals, keeping track, and counting. And when we have a bad day, we get up the next day and try again.

• They have trainers who know what it takes to get them back on that treadmill when they want to quit. Fortunately, my writer friends don’t yell like they yell, but when I’ve had a bad day or a bad week, my “trainers” know just what to say to get me back to the keyboard. Like this show, a good support system is crucial to my success.

• These people struggle with not comparing themselves to those around them. I’m sure it’s gotta be hard, knowing your working just as hard as someone else, and seeing them drop more pounds than you. In the writing world, I struggle with not comparing myself to others too. I finally decided awhile ago that I can’t do that, because so much of this crazy business is out of my control. What I can control is the writing. I can work hard to write the best book I can, and the rest, well, I have to keep the faith that I am on the right path for ME.

• The most amazing part of the show is when these people have to get on the scale, in front of the whole world, and show us their weight and how much they’ve lost or gained. Can you imagine? I think writing is a lot like that. We grow to love our characters. Our stories are personal, and to share them with the world is scary. What if people laugh and it’s not funny? What if people don’t see all of the hard work we’ve put in?

• The current season of The Biggest Loser doesn’t end for awhile. I don’t know who wins. But what I do know is that as each person leaves the show, he/she is a changed person. Most of them continue to work out and follow the path of a healthier lifestyle. And each of them is thankful for the time they spent at the campus.

It’s the same for most writers. Every story is not a winner, unfortunately. We get rejected far more than we get accepted. But we continue on the path. We keep writing. Because that’s what writers do. And when we’re in that zone, and the words, and yes, probably some sweat too, are flowing, there is nothing else like it in the world.

And regardless of whether we win or not, like those people who get kicked off and continue to work out and lose weight, we understand there is no going back.

Because words give us life.

~Lisa, Miss Pinch Me I'm Pubbed

Thursday, January 24, 2008

TV Shows that Inspire My Writing (aka Stuff I Like to Watch)

Tip of the Day: Keep a notebook on/in your nightstand for late night inspirations.

A couple of weeks ago my tip of the day was to tell your significant other that your TV watching was research. Well, I wasn’t totally kidding about that—I find lots of inspiration from my favorite TV shows. From little things like what the current fashions are to current slang. And sometimes I like to pick three or four characters off of different shows and mush them all together to make a new character for one of my books. Like, one part McDreamy + one part Pacey Wither + one part Brandon Walsh= ??? Ok, I’m not sure about this particular combo but that’s an example of what I like to do at times.

So here’s a list of some of my favorites. And yeah, some of them are in reruns. But there is good stuff to be found in old shows too!

The Hills

Love, love, love it. The romance, the fights, the glitzy glamour of the teen fashion magazine industry, I love it all. Ok, I know 90% of it is scripted (I mean, how many times can sworn enemies run into each other at dinners/parties/clubs) but it’s brilliant. Good source for writing those fight scenes—I mean, don’t you love Lauren’s face each time Heidi does something to piss her off? Her eyes get big like she’s shocked out of her mind, her jaw drops open, and then you see fury flash across her face. And the best line ever was when Heidi asked for forgiveness and Lauren said, “I want to forgive you. And then I want to forget you.” Ooooh burn.

American Idol

I mean, OMG, what a wonderful bunch of characters they troop across that stage each year! There are so many little personality things you can pick up from watching these people and use in your books. Endless opportunities. And lots of the latest fashions once the competition starts on the stage. And the singing is groovy too of course.

Big Brother

You know that thing about when you don’t know what else to write throw something at your characters that will mess with their lives? Ok, Big brother is like 80 days of that. Messing with people continuously. It’s so inspiring. J

Grey’s Anatomy

Yeah, I don’t get much from all the medical mumbo jumbo as far as writing for teens, but the romance problems are always abundant.

Gossip Girl

Truthfully, I have a handful of episodes on DVR that I haven’t caught up on yet but when I do watch it I like it. Do I think it is realistic as far as your average teen? Not so much. But the roller coaster relationships between friends and boyfriends/girlfriends seem dead on.

Dawson’s Creek

I LOVE the creek! The constant love triangles! Drama, drama, drama. Although I’ve yet to meet real teens that talk like the kids on that show did. Let’s start a petition for a Dawson’s Creek reunion eh?


I tend to like the college years better than the high school years but the drama was heavy all 10 years the show ran. The styles are of course, completely out of date (construction boots on girls anyone?) but the boyfriend stealing and relationship problems are timeless.

Little House on the Prairie

Yeah it’s old. Real old. And I’ve seen each episode like 63 times. But come on it has Nellie Olson. The original mean girl.

Ok, I’ll stop there or you guys will think I do nothing but watch TV. But just on the chance that I can somehow squeeze in a little extra TV time somewhere in my busy schedule, what shows do you find inspiring to your writing?

And just for fun, I’ll throw out a little trivia question: What current reality tv show host appeared on 90210?

Kristina, Miss Soon-to-Pub

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Agented = More Writing Time (or How Internet + Me = Black Hole)

Tip of the Day: Spend $80 to get your studded snow tires on your car to ensure that it never snows again.

I didn't always want an agent. In 2005, when I was writing Novel #2 and querying editors on Novel #1 (bef0re I realized it was: (a) not good, and (b) without plot), I stuck my nose up at the publishing houses who would not dare to even glance at a query from me because I was unagented. I mean, who needed them let alone the specialized people in the industry to send my manuscripts to them? I could print out my own queries, throw some stamps on an envelope and keep my 15% when I got an offer for my books thankyouverymuch! Boo yeah! "Suckers!" I said about those agented writers.

Ha ha ha on me.

After about a year of this thinking and spending some more time on Verla's chat board, I learned the errors of my thinking. And there were many of them. Not only did I realize the benefits of having an agent to do contract negotiations (a language I will never speak), and their ability to get better book deals than I could get on my own, but I also learned that I could get some great reactions out of people by responding to them with, "Um, yeah, you'll have to run that by my agent."

OK, OK, that last part I only realized AFTER I signed with Chris, but the important thing that I gleaned is that agents do research on editors so they know where to send your book! Ding ding ding! Brilliant and important, folks!

This doesn't mean that I am no longer curious as to which editors worked on what books, but all that time I used to spend online and in books looking up editor names and what house they were at and their submission guidelines, I can now do something else.

I can WRITE!

I've heard authors say that a writer should spend their time in percentages something like (*not a direct quote; I don't remember who said it or the exact numbers, but bear with me here*):

Reading: 45%
Writing 45%
Submitting (and related research): 10%

Generally, I agree with these numbers and their application. Yet, before I had my agent, my own percentages were more like:

Reading: 50%
Writing: 20%
Submitting (and related research): 239%

You may notice some skewed percentages here, and I hate to admit that a lot of the 239% was because it was a good way to procrastinate on writing. I told myself it was an acceptable form due to its direct relationship with getting published. For as much as I suck lying to others, I am great at lying to myself.

But now that I am agented, I can't even lie to myself about that because seomeone else is helping me research where to send my novel! And what writer doesn't wish for More Time to Write? So now my percentages are something closer to this:

Reading: 40%
Writing: 40%
Emailing the A2A girls on random topics: 136%

As you can see, I AM improving, and all because I got an agent. Though I am recently repped, I already feel like this relationship will be more productive for me in the long run.

How about you? What are your percentages?

Deena, Miss Recently Repped

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Reconnecting with your Characters

Tip of the Day: when having a writing day it is never a good idea to sit in front of the TV as a VH1’s 100 Greatest [insert anything known to man] Special is about to begin. Five hours later, you will have no writing done, be left wondering where the day went, and in my case wishing 80’s hair bands would be revived.

Yesterday I held my own: Getting to Know Eric Day. Eric is the main love interest in my current work in progress. Given the fact, I’m almost 2/3 of the way into the manuscript, I know Eric fairly well, but yesterday I felt like I needed to get to know him better on a more personal level, since he’s a major factor in the book and I was struggling with a plot element involving him. And I’ve found whenever I’m stumped, getting to know my characters more almost always gets the writing-juices flowing again.

So I set out to think about him all day yesterday in my Getting to Know Eric Day. I wanted to know EVERYTHING about him. His strengths, his weaknesses, what he eats for breakfast, how he combs his hair, what his favorite brand of soap is, etc. Some of this I knew, but some of it I didn’t. And most of it, I knew wouldn’t end up in my book, but I was hoping it would help me anyway.

There’s several ways I’ve gotten to know characters in the past or have heard about from others, which include:

  • Creating a collage: I’ve used magazines in the past to make collages of my characters, and it’s been helpful.

  • Create a cast of who’d play your character in a movie.

  • Shopping for characters

  • Creating a character list/sheet: I do this every time, but usually only at the beginning and it often changes.

  • Creating a music playlist for your book or character

Since, I already knew about my character and had written 2/3 of the book with him in it, I didn’t really need to start from scratch. I’m also a person that likes visual clues to help me, so I decided to look through magazines and clip out some info. Hoping something might catch my eye and get me through the plot point I was struggling with. This time, I was also particularly looking for a picture of someone that resembled my character.

About half way through my search, I discovered there were absolutely no pictures that worked as Eric himself and little in the way of things that reminded me of him (sure this could have been because I was searching for guy-related things in CosmoGirl and Seventeen, but that’s beside the point). So I emailed Miss Recently Repped, Deena, to vent my frustration at finding no pictures of Eric. Her response to me was: “What does he look like in your head?”

I started to really think about her question. It was an excellent question and one that despite the fact I was having a Getting to Know Eric day I hadn’t really thought about, yet.

In the process of thinking about him and writing to Deena about my character something happened, I really felt more connected to him. I started to write about the physical him and a few things about him as a person. I think I was so worried about finding a picture that represented him and trying to find out new things about him, that I was forgetting everything I already knew about him and in the process trying to make him into something else. Instead, all I really needed to do was reconnect myself with who he really was and try to explain that to someone else. And remembering that suddenly made me focus and move forward on the plot point I was struggling with. So, thank you, Deena for your great advice of making me actually “think” about my character.

Does anyone else have any tips on reconnecting with character more than halfway through your manuscript? Or from the beginning?

- Emily, Miss Awaiting An Agent

Monday, January 21, 2008

Beware the Bad Lobster ... um ... Comparison

Tip of the Day: The versions of Gwen Stephani songs you hear on the radio have been censored. Good to know BEFORE you give the CD to your nine-year-old.

I read Dickens’ A Christmas Carol this Christmas and came across this comparison:

Marley's face. It was not in impenetrable shadow as the other objects in
the yard were, but had a dismal light about it, like a bad lobster in a dark

This probably meant something in 1843 that made Dickens’ readers think, “oh, yes, exactly.” But I envision an evil, monstrous lobster, emanating a ghostly glow, clicking together its giant claws of doom. Beware! Beware the bad lobster! It lurks in your dark cellar, waiting to pinch you into oblivion! (I really need an upstairs laundry room.)

I started thinking about bad comparisons even before I read A Christmas Carol, because I love me some bad comparisons. Oh, they don’t seem like bad comparisons when I write them. They make perfect sense to me. Then I get the comments back from my critters: “this confused me.” Once I called the pain of hitting one’s funny bone “silvery.” Because when I hit my funny bone, it feels like there’s an electrified silver wire running from my elbow to the silver fillings in my teeth. What, that doesn’t happen to everyone?

I’ve run into the same problem in books I’ve read. I complained recently about a book that compared the feeling of despair with the taste of a green persimmon. What does a green persimmon taste like? If I eat one, will I taste the despair? Heck, I don’t even know where to get one. Wegmans? This comparison jolted me out of the narrative like a bad lobster in a dark cellar.

I’ve been on the alert for comparisons in my reading ever since. I’ve discovered that too many comparisons in a chapter will make me lose interest. If I spend too much of the chapter comparing this to that, my brain can’t keep up. I’ve also noticed:

1) A good comparison is universal. If I say “as soul-sucking as a trip to the home improvement store,” I know that’s incredibly soul-sucking. But it may be possible other people don’t find home improvements stores as exhausting as I do.

2) A good comparison doesn’t mix up the senses. I’m sure there are exceptions to this rule, such as comparing emotions to music. I can wallow in self-pity like I’m living in an old Radiohead album—or was that another weird comparison? I’d better learn to be more comparison-conservative. In Shannon Hale’s Book of a Thousand Days, she compares her main character’s pain to “a hammer blow to the jaw.” Now that’s a good comparison. Notice she didn’t compare the taste or smell or sight of something to being hit with a hammer.

3) A good comparison uses the setting. In Libba Bray’s Rebel Angels, she describes a bad neighborhood in Victorian London: “ramshackle buildings that stand as stooped as beggars.” The buildings become beggars themselves; the atmosphere of the rundown alley is drawn perfectly in one phrase.

So for 2008, I’ll be scrutinizing my comparisons and using them more conservatively. I’ll avoid weird comparisons like a box of bees. Every time I craft an original comparison, I’ll run it past the Bad Lobster. Is it universal? Does it confuse sight, sound, taste, feeling? Does it enhance the setting? I broke my addiction to semicolons; surely I can break the odd comparison habit.

Kate, Miss Apprentice Writer

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Practicing for the Oprah Show

Tip of the Day: Blow your nose well before any public speaking endeavor.

Tomorrow is my book launch signing at Powell’s Book Store.

In addition to signing books, I will also be doing a 15-minute talk and reading from my book.

Ah yes. For the introverted author, getting up and talking to a bunch of people where you are supposed to be witty, inspirational, and funny all at the same time is pretty much terrifying. Given the fact that most of the people in attendance are people I know, from work and other aspects of my life, it makes it even more so. Because, I mean, if you’re talking to a bunch of strangers, who cares if you suck? You won’t see any of them again anyway, right?

So, I’ve been working on my talk for a couple of weeks. It’s all written out, because, you know, I’m a writer. So it works best for me to do it that way.

But it’s not just writing it out. I have to practice saying it. Over and over again. My commute to and from work for the past week has been spent saying my talk out loud, to just myself. I’m sure people look over and see my mouth moving and my hands gesturing, with no one else in the car, and think I’m a loony bird. But I don’t care. It’s the best place to do it, because my husband and kids don’t have to listen to it fifty times. If they did, they would refuse to go and I need at least a few people in the audience who will laugh at my lame jokes, funny or not.

I suppose this is good practice. My mother insists she is going to get me and my book on the Oprah show. Stay tuned for that! (ha)

You may be wondering what I’m going to talk about. Well, I’m not going to tell you. Because my fans will be furious with me if I indulge anything! I can tell you this, though. I’m comparing writing to a certain TV show.

Yeah, I’ll admit, I’m shallow. And I watch a little too much TV.

Wish me luck!

~Lisa, Miss Pinch Me I'm Pubbed

Wait, Wait, Wait

Tip of the Day: A new literary agency specializing in YA opened this week—

So what do you do in that LONG waiting period between signing your book contract and your book being released?

No, really. What do you do? Someone tell me what to do! I don’t know what to do with myself!!

Kidding. Kind of. But seriously, sometimes there is a freaking long time to wait in between sale and publication. I sold my first book in May 2007. It won’t be out until Fall 2009. F-O-R-E-V-E-R. When I first started thinking about this I was like wow—I’ll be ~~~ years old and my oldest will be in 1st grade! I could have another 2-3 kids in that time period! Kidding of course, I’ll just have that one more that’s already paying rent in my belly. :-)

But back to my dilemma—what should I do to pass the time? I keep writing obviously. And reading tons and tons of great YA books. And critiquing great books for my CPs. And then there’s that other life stuff to do too. But then I think ok, now it’s January and there is still almost two more years to go! Now what?

Maybe you guys can help me think of more stuff to do to pass the time. Here’s what I got so far:

1) Blog

2) Work on my Web site.

3) Think of fun promotion stuff for when the book comes out.

4) Edit whenever wonderful editor asks.

5) ???

What else should I do with myself? One fun thing I find myself doing is telling anyone who will listen that I’m an author. Which is really strange for me—usually I’m kinda private and don’t talk about myself a lot (Yeah, yeah. Stop laughing A2A Girls!). But now I’m having fun trying to see how I can fit it into conversations. And I write it on all those forms now that ask for occupation. And the other day when I was registering at the hospital for an ultrasound the admission’s lady said, “I’ll just put homemaker.” And I said, “oh no, you put author”. So that part is fun! But help me think of more stuff to pass the time ok? Thanks!

Kristina, Miss Soon-to-Pub

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Critique Groups Rock (or Gossip Under the Guise of Progress)

Tip of the Day: Chocolate-covered espresso beans don't count as candy when eaten first thing in the morning; they're more like pills.

My Critique Partners (CPs) rock. They totally helped me get to where I am today in my journey. While I would've kept writing and working towards publication without them, I doubt I'd have an agent right now if they hadn't stuck with me for the past few years.

I know, I know, you all thought I was brilliant on my own. But alas, it takes time and gossip sessions -- I mean critique sessions! -- for me to reach my full writerly potential.

So in what ways have my CPs helped me get to where I am?

1. They provide me with deadlines. When I knew they were waiting for pages from me to critique, I had to send them something or I'd look like a slacker (and when I didn't know them that well at first, I really didn't want them to label me SLACKER!), so I was forced to crank out some new material on a regular basis to send to them.
2. Their own writing is fabulous, and I want to be as good as them. By critting their pages, I was subconsciously shamed into wanting to write something even better. Not a competition between us, but a personal challenge for myself.
3. They give me excellent feedback and ideas. I never realized how questionable some of my scenes were until the fresh eyes of my CPs are on them, and brainstorming with them is worth more than I can say -- and is really fun, too!
4. Critting their work is a lesson on things to watch out for in my own writing. Like when I notice that Tina uses the word "smiles" 139 times her chapter 3, it immediately makes me notice my own overused words (I knew I had a problem with "just" when I found it 235 times in a 200 page manuscript....)
5. Their encouragement and praise is better than chocolate. At times when getting an agent seemed never ending, they kept telling me I had what it takes, and I love them for always believing in me.
6. My local in-person CPs are conveniently close for local writerly events. I know I'm blessed to have the talented Maureen and Kate close by -- without them I'd be going to the Teen Book Fest, Rochester Children's Book Festival, and Upstate NY SCBWI conferences all by myself. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but how much better is it to have another passionate kidlit writer around to share these experiences and boost my writing motivation?
7. My non-local CPs are good for different regional perspective. Like if I talk about Wegmans in my book, they'll be like "What's that?" because I forget that the grocery giant is only in a few states. Plus Em and Tina are a great excuse for a writing retreat road trip!
8. Talking with them keeps me in the writer form of mind. It's easy to lose focus, or to focus on the wrong parts of the writing process, so talking to others with the same goals is super helpful and motivating.

My CPs have made me a better, more focused, and driven a writer. When I signed with my agent, she said one of the reasons she wanted to rep me was my clear willingness to continually improve my craft, take critiques to heart, and keep on learning and striving for something better in my books and myself. It made me feel really good that she recognized that about me, and that my CPs all helped me learn and practice these very things.

If you are on the cusp of signing with an agent and just can't seem to break through, I highly recommend finding some positive but honest CPs. See what they suggest, talk stuff out with them, discuss the market for your book and what agents you should query, and keep going and writing and critting and revising. To find CPs, check out the amazing
Verla Kay chat board or join the SCBWI and log onto their discussion board.

Do you have CPs? Have they helped you on your writing journey?

Deena, Miss Recenlty Repped

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Agent Find 2008

Tip of the Day: when wearing high heels for the first time in three years, it’s probably best to refrain from walking in mud.

Now that the New Year is settling in and publishing is emerging from its holiday break, many of you in the Awaiting an Agent phase might be getting ready to send queries, have set your resolutions for the year to secure an agent, and feel like 2008 is going to be your year.

First I have to say: GO YOU!

The first of the year always feels wonderful to me. It’s like you get to start a new chapter of your life, and cleanse the bad of the last year away, for good. And the excitement to start the New Year off with a bang is fresh and…well…new.

But the bad thing about the start of the New Year for publishing and agent seeking, is that before the beginning of 2008 comes the end of 2007. And at the end of 2007, comes something if you are like me, you dread seeing. The good-old Year End Agent Query Reports. Like this, this, and even this just in the new year.

And if you are like me, your first instinct at seeing numbers like that is to hyperventilate.

Because if Agent Kristin Nelson got 30,000 queries in 2007, then how many queries is she going to get in 2008? Basic mathematics—or at the very least publishing trends—surely suggest the number has to go up, doesn’t it? And if she took on eight clients in 2007, then clearly she doesn’t have as much room left on her client list, right?

And no matter how excited and pumped you are for the New Writing Year, seeing statistics like that can be overwhelming.

Well, my advice to you, fellow Agent Seekers who might be overwhelmed by those stats, is to print them out and shred them to little pieces one by one. Or if you are against paper shredding, then take those stats to heart with a grain of salt. Why am I giving you this advice? Because if I give it to you, then I have to take it myself, right?

Yes, but aside from that, if you could magically chisel away all the people that queried for genres the agent doesn't represent, didn’t revise their manuscripts once—let alone multiple times, sent queries to the wrong agent, and all those that didn’t personalize their queries at all, then the number would be much more manageable. And if you are savy enough to read blogs like this, study the industry, personalize your query letters, and the myriad of other wonderful things I know you fellow Agent Seekers do, then you are ten steps ahead of the other thousands upon thousands of people submitting to agents.

I started the year in 2006 and in 2007 gung-ho to get an agent. Though I had many close calls, I still don’t have one. But what did happen was that my writing has improved tremendously, I’m much more market savy, and I feel I’m much older and wiser, if you will, with this third book. So my time spent in 2006 and 2007 looking for agents, I wouldn’t trade for anything, and it only means my chances of securing an agent in 2008 have increased ten-fold.

And that excites me.

It also drives me.

Because I know I’m not only closer to finding an agent right for me, but also my publication goal.

So here’s to a great 2008 Agent Find.

Till Next Tuesday,

Emily, Miss Awaiting an Agent

Monday, January 14, 2008

Conference in the Snow

Tip of the Day: Will there be good weather for traveling to Syracuse in January? Let me consult my Series of Unfortunate Events Magic 8 Ball … “Misfortune Imminent.”

Next week, I’ll be attending the annual Syracuse, NY SCBWI New Year’s Resolution conference for the West/Central Upstate NY chapter. This will be my second year there. Last year it was so cold (how cold was it?) I was pouring myself cups of hot water just so I could hold them and thaw out my fingers.

Of course, to us native snowbelters, traveling in snowstorms is a matter of pride. Of course I can drive in the snow, I learned to drive in ten feet of snow, during the blizzard of ’91, I was driving back from a Dead show at midnight. In the Catskills. Under an avalanche. [No, I really wasn’t, but don’t tell anyone and ruin my street cred.] So I don’t mind the drive to Syracuse. But I wonder what the guest speakers get out of it. Why would an editor from a big house in NYC decide to come to Syracuse in January for a business trip? Does she get danger pay? Is it a badge of honor around the office, a sign that one is willing to risk it all to find the next great children’s author?

Anyway, we have our choice of afternoon sessions. Maybe you all can help me decide which to attend because I can’t make up my mind. There are two sessions for nonpublished authors: a basics of the publishing world session and a first pages session.

Last year, I went to the first pages session: this is authors reading the first page of their WIPs and the other attendees and the guest editor commenting on it. I don’t like reading my work aloud to a group of people. Remember in elementary school, when you didn’t know how to spell a word so you ran the letters together? So maybe the teacher wouldn’t be able to tell if you had written an “a” or an “e”? When I read my work aloud, I do the aural equivalent of that. Maybe if I read really fast, nobody will notice if I’ve overwritten.

On the other hand, this session seems more craft-oriented than Basics of Publishing, and my head is in a craft-oriented place right now. What’s the point of finding out what houses need if I don’t have enough completed work to send them anything?

It all comes down to what I’m hoping to bring back from this conference. Actually, my main reason for going is that the keynote speaker is Tamora Pierce. Oh, yeah! So maybe I’m looking for inspiration. I don’t expect to be the next Tamora Pierce, but maybe being Kate Fall, writer, isn’t so impossible.

--Kate, Miss Apprentice Writer

Friday, January 11, 2008

The Best Part of the Rollercoaster Ride

Tip of the Day: Blogging is good for your health!

Wow, what an exciting, wonderful week! More on that in a minute…

When I first started writing for kids/teens way back, oh-so-long ago, there wasn't a lot in the way of on-line communities for writers. There was the old yellow board on, and so I hung out there, mostly taking all the information in, posting only on occasion. Through that board, I placed an ad and formed my first ever on-line critique group.

Time went by, and new communities developed. Verla Kay's message board became the new place to congregate. I liked it there. I posted more and more. I got to know people. And people got to know me.

When on-line friends started blogging, I was like, "Oh my gosh, you mean, you write something, there, in public, and people will READ it? But, but, but - I'm not funny, I'm not entertaining, I'm not ANYTHING." And yet, I found I hung out on Livejournal more and more, reading people's blogs, commenting, learning, laughing, etc. And so, a couple of years ago, I took the plunge. I started my own blog.

And it was one of the best things I've ever done. I didn't start the blog to promote myself or the picture book I had out. I just wanted to be connected to other writers. Writing is a lonely business. I wanted to know I wasn't alone on this crazy rollercoaster we ride. And there is SO much to learn. Every day, I think I still learn something new.

This past Tuesday, I posted a celebratory Vlog (video blog), to mark the day my book hit the shelves. When I checked replies and friends' posts at lunch time from work, I was overcome with emotion by what I saw. Post after post giving me and my book so much love!

If you're a writer reading this, thinking about starting a blog, here's my unsolicited advice. Don't think of blogging as a way to talk, talk, talk about your book(s). If you use it that way, you'll turn people off and be disappointed about the lack of response to your posts. Blogging is a fun way to meet people, make friends, stay in touch with other writers and readers, and more. Of course, to make friends, you have to be a friend, too. Comment. Commisserate. Offer to help when someone needs it. Yes, it takes time, but I am here to tell you, it's SO worth it. Those friends will support you years down the road in ways you can't imagine.

It’s definitely a rollercoaster, this business we’re in. But you know what I discovered this week? It wasn’t reaching the top, seeing my book on the shelf, that was the best part.

It was the people beside me, like my blog buddies here at Author2Author, who made it the best ride a girl could ask for.

~Lisa, Miss Pinch Me I'm Pubbed

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Thinking About Book Signings…

Tip of the Day: When your husband gives you that look and says, “You’re watching (insert your favorite teen TV show here) AGAIN?!” Tell him in your most serious voice, “I’m doing research.”

When thinking of all the wonderful new things Lisa, Miss Pinch-Me-I’m Pubbed, is embarking on with her new book release this week , one of the highlights has to be book signings.

When I think of book signings for other people I think ooooh fun! I love to go to them. I love meeting authors. When I think of doing my own book signing, I think AHHHHHH!!!!!! Of course I WANT to do them; they just seem kinda scary at the moment. Like,

1) What do I talk about?

2) What part of the book do I read? And will I sound like a dork?

3) How much of the book do I read?

4) What if the attendants ask a question that I don’t have an answer for?

Ok, really I shouldn’t be too nervous (though I’m sure I totally will be) since I’ve been teaching for 7 years. I should be good at this talking to people stuff. And good at reading aloud and answering questions etc. But maybe because the subject matter is more personal, being my work, that it scares me a little? What do you guys think? Does the idea of having your own book signing scare you? And then do you know what is even scarier to me? That first signing where all of your family and friends show up. I mean, talk about pressure! How have you published writers handled that?

And then once you’ve stopped obsessing about the impending book signing and you are actually there doing it, what the heck are you going to write in your book?? I mean, people got in their cars, drove to see you, bought the book, listened to your reading, and waited in line (ok I’m dreaming of big crowds here…). You have to write something great right? Something profound and life changing. Well, maybe not profound and life changing…I may be getting carried away. Definitely something cool though. Let’s examine some of the signed books in my collection.

Simone Elkeles: “How cool that you came to the festival! Good luck with your book and I hope you make millions.”

I love this one. Sweet and personal. And she wants me to make millions!

Caridad Ferrer: “Congrats! I hope you enjoy my girl!”

I like this one. She said congrats because of a contest and I like that she really feels close to her character in the book to say “enjoy my girl”. Cute.

Melissa Marr: “There are always choices.”

Oooh cryptic. There is obviously a meaning with her signing and I have to read the book to figure it out. Clever.

Meg Cabot: “Meg Cabot”

Hmmm…not much to work with here. But you know what? It’s freaking Meg Cabot and I love her! And she hands down had the best book signing I've ever attended.

And finally…

Name Withheld to protect the book signing challenged: “Thank you for your patronage.”

Uh gee…you’re welcome. I’ve got no warm fuzzies from this one folks.

Ok, so what do you guys think I should write at my future booksignings? I’m thinking I need something that ties into the book. The Espressologist is about a coffee barista that matchmakes customers based on their favorite coffee drinks. What about something like,

“Wishing you love with your latte.”

Kristina, Miss Soon-to-Pub

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

It's Party Time -- Author Style! (or Why I Can No Longer Party Like It's 1999)

Tip of the Day: Use the phrase "Boo yeah!" at inappropriate times today -- in meetings at work, on the phone with telemarketers, at the doctor's office when the nurse finally calls your name -- the possibilities are endless.

While I sit in the limbo land of waiting for my agent to submit my novel to editors, I have to find ways to pass the time.


I should be writing my next novel?

Oh yeah!

No, seriously, I am. I swear! But when I'm not, I like to fantasize about what it will be like when my novel comes out (and what's important to note here is that I didn't say IF it comes out; I said WHEN. Not to get all The Secret-ish on you here, but I truly believe that you need to act without self-doubt in this industry. I KNEW I'd get an agent because I KNEW I loved to write and I KNEW that was what I wanted, and I didn't let anything, anyone, or any of my crappier novels stop me (which is another post entirely).

ANYWAY -- in honor of Lisa's YA debut release yesterday, here are my Book Release Party fantasies!

Picture this: Vegas, poolside at the Wynn. Food catered by Ananda Fuara, music provided by Depeche Mode, perfect weather provided by Mother Nature. All of my friends and family would fly out for the event, and the billboards on The Strip would advertise the event with an airburshed photo of me. All expenses would be covered by a Great Expectations-like benefactor who would reveal himself as Dave Gahan at the end of the night because he loved my work so much.


What? That's not likely to happen? Gah!

But my probable reality's not too shabby either. A party at Spot Coffee, a fabulous Missy Cake, jams rocked by John Viviani and the Filthy Funk, and all my friends and family will be there to eat, drink, and be merry (most likely for a wild, wild afternoon). It will happen! (Note again my certainness of this. All of you Recently Reppeds out there, practice this daily.)

How about all of you? What will your debut release party be like?

Deena, Miss Recently Repped

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Seeing Your Book in the Bookstore -- Emily

Tip of the Day: The laws of science dictate that when you take a camera into a bookstore, the likelihood of a salesperson asking you if you need assistance finding a book is three times greater than without said camera in hand.

Today is the official release date of I Heart You, You Haunt Me by our very own Miss Pinch Me I’m Pubbed, Lisa Schroeder. Congratulations on your release, Lisa. And readers, if you have any doubts about buying the book, just look how lovely it is sitting on a bookstore shelf!

“Hi, I’m Lisa’s book. Won’t you please give me a nice, new home? I’m not picky: anything has to be better than those shipping boxes I’ve been living in.”

I think seeing my book on the shelf for the first time will be one of the most surreal and non-surreal experiences at the same time. Surreal in the sense I can’t believe it’s happening. But non-surreal in the sense, that even now as an aspiring writer each time I go into a bookstore, I can’t help but pick out a spot my book would look nice once I, yanno, get an agent and sell a book.

If/when I finally do see my very own copy of my book on the shelf, I think my first instinct will be to think it’s someone else’s book with the same name and same book title as myself. Mainly because I have a feeling I will be stalking bookstores weeks before my official release date in the hopes of spotting a glance of it on the shelf. And once I actually spot it, I think I might be inclined to take a second glance to make sure it is in fact the book I’ve been trying to find for weeks.

After I had confirmed it was indeed EMILY’S BOOK. I would probably start examining it’s location on the bookshelf.

Take this Picture for example:

Why yes, that would be EMILY’S BOOK nicely located between Uninvited and Vampire Academy.

Then I would start panicking thinking: why is my book placed in between a book named Uninvited and Vampire Academy? Is that supposed to be some sort of sign? Like my book isn’t good enough that the book next to me is saying I’m “Uninvited?*” And what’s the deal with me being squished between two vampire books and having witches close by. Aren’t vampires and witches supposed to be mean? My poor book is going to feel so…well…uninvited. And then they are going to want to teach all my characters to become a vampire at Vampire Academy, I’m sure, which would be a slight departure from their real selves.

After convincing myself that my mind was playing tricks on me and those other books weren’t out to get mine, I’m sure my next thoughts would be something like this:

  • Why is no one picking up my book?
  • If no one picks up my book, then surely my publisher is never going to buy another book by me. And then all my hard work to get even this one book published is going to go nowhere.
  • And if my publisher never buys another book by me, surely it will prove all those people that rejected me during my agent and editor submission phase correct: that my books weren’t good enough.
  • Maybe I should face the book face forward, so people can see it more. Surely they will buy it then, won’t they?
  • Great, no one’s buying it still. It’s because they realize this Emily Marshall chick is a horrible writer. I can see in on their faces as they walk by.
  • Maybe I should ask the bookstore clerk if I can autograph it, because I heard signing books can help sell more.

Then the following conversation might take place:

ME (going up to the bookstore clerk): Um, yeah, so I wrote this book, here. Do you think I could sign them and you can give me one of those spiffy stickers that says, ‘Autographed Copy.’

16-YEAR OLD MINIMUM WAGE BOOKSTORE CLERK: Yeah right, lady, like you wrote a book?

ME: No really. (opening the back cover of my book and pointing to the author picture): Look that’s me.

16-YEAR OLD MINIMUM WAGE BOOKSTORE CLERK THAT IS CLEARLY OUT TO GET ME: whatever lady that person in the photo has much nicer hair then you do.

ME (thinking that was a low blog and talking myself into the fact I’m above arguing with a 16-Year Old bookstore clerk that is clearly in allegiance with Uninvited and Vampire Academy*)


As I head back to the YA books section, I would continue thinking that the conversation didn’t go over as I planned, so I would devise a new plan:

  • Maybe I should move my book to random places in the bookstore. Because aren’t people seeing your book in multiple places, supposed to make it feel more important and want to buy it more?

And of course it would end there: at me thinking about putting my book in multiple places in the bookstore. Because it would be wrong of me to place my book in the “Best Seller” section or on every end cap in the bookstore, wouldn’t it?

Now I have to get back writing the best book I can, so that the above can become a reality. Even if I’m sure in actuality seeing my book on the shelves for the first time would go nothing like the above, but it was fun to pretend.


* NOTE TO READERS: I have in fact heard wonderful things about these books, and am sure in actuality they would welcome my book with open spines J Sorry, I couldn’t resist, though.

Monday, January 7, 2008

The Night Before B-Day

Tip of the Day: The release date for I Heart You, You Haunt Me by Lisa Schroeder is tomorrow!

So we’re excited here for the release date of I Heart You, You Haunt Me. Tomorrow’s the launch date. Will that happen to me one day? Will I ever know the feeling called “my book releases tomorrow”? What would I do the night before release day? I’m sure I’ll be diligently working on my next book, absorbed in work in progress.

Ha ha ha ha ha.

Okay, seriously, I think the first thing I’d do is look up my book on my public library system. Then I’d get frustrated when I couldn’t find it. Don’t they remember me? I’ve paid them enough in late fees to buy cases of my books. Actually I just looked up “Fall” in my county library system and, to my surprise, they don’t have any books by anyone named Fall. So at least I never have to worry about anyone saying about me, “Oh, that Kate Fall. I thought you meant the popular writer Kate Fall, not her.”

Next I would stare at my book cover, because I’m assuming I would love it. Why not, right? I’m fascinated with graphic art and entranced by font designs. Most likely, I’d be thinking the cover came out so much better than the words inside it. And resisting the urge to call the publisher and ask if it would be okay if I changed the ending to chapter 4, because that ending worked fine on an early draft of the book, but really, it makes no sense now, and I was never entirely happy with that scene, come to think of it. This would be the point in my projected night where my husband would hand me a strong drink.

Next I would turn off the phone. Oh, I should have done that first. Because I can’t imagine having anything coherent to say. I’m picturing this:

Phone voice: “Hello, this is your garbage collection company, we haven’t received your payment recently and—”
Me: “What? I don’t have time for this. My book is coming out tomorrow!”
Phone voice: “So you’ll be paying us tomorrow?”
Me: “No! My book goes on sale tomorrow. Who is this?”
Phone voice: “Your garbage company. So, good luck on the book sales, and about your payment—”
Me: “Sales! Don’t even say that word. Shut up, shut up, shut up!”
Phone voice: “Okay, honey, is your Mommy home?”

Eventually I’d make a mental list of all the people who might possibly read my book who I least want to read it. The gorgeous guy from high school who shares physical characteristics with my MC’s crush: maybe his daughter will buy the book, and he’ll see my name … no, no, I use my husband’s family name, the book will fall open and he’ll see my picture, that’s it, and he’ll skim the book. Then he’ll tell everyone in my hometown that I’ve obviously been in love with him for decades and I’m probably a stalker besides.

I’m very glad I took a few minutes to outline what I might do the night before my book launch. Because now I know what I’ll really do: watch “Airplane” and “The Naked Gun” and occupy my mind by anticipating all the dialogue. What’s the craziest thing you picture yourself doing the night before your book release? What’s the craziest thing you’ve done?

Kate, Miss Apprentice Writer

Friday, January 4, 2008

Introducing Lisa - Miss Pinch Me I'm Pubbed

Tip of the Day: OW! Be careful. Pinching can be painful.

There’s been a lot of pinching going on in the past eighteen months. I still, to this day, go back and read that first e-mail from my agent (that almost made me pee my pants) where she told me how much she enjoyed my manuscript, I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME and how much she would love to work with me. It’s like that’s where it all began. That’s where I let myself believe I might have something sorta special, and really allowed myself to picture the possibilities. Me? A young adult author? REALLY?

Prior to writing I HEART YOU, I'd written three mid-grade novels and 1/2 of another YA. This one I felt something really powerful as I wrote the words. And I felt like maybe, just maybe, I'd found my way and discovered the kind of writer I'm supposed to be. But when it starts happening, when you FINALLY get agent interest after four years of trying off and on, and you FINALLY have an editor who says, "Yeah, I love this, let's make into a book," it's still pretty freaking unbelievable.

People keep asking me things like, “How are you able to sleep? Your book comes out in just a few days!” At first I started to explain how I’m old and tired, with a day job and two kids with activities and homework, so sleeping is never a problem. But then I realized it’s more than that. There are lots and lots of steps before you get HERE, to this point. When my Advanced Review Copies arrived, that’s when I really freaked out. That’s when I had trouble sleeping. I e-mailed my editor and said, OMG, people are going to READ this book. Are you sure it’s good? I mean, are you SURE? (Yes, I swear, I did this). It was so weird to see my words in the form of a real, live book.

And, the thing is, in these days before the book comes out, life goes on. I’ve been busy with the day job, holiday and family things, working on my current WIP, and Class of 2k8 stuff. It’s not like I’m thinking about THE BOOK 24/7.

But yeah, sometimes, during a quiet moment, my thoughts drift there, to the book, in bookstores SOON, where people will (hopefully) buy it, and read it.

And then, OW!

Fortunately, so far, early reader response has been positive. I got a gold star over at TeensReadToo!! (Really? OW!)

(I wonder, do you think Jane Yolen still pinches herself with each book?)

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Introducing Kristina-- Miss Soon-to-Pub

Tip of the Day: Eating Booberry cereal for dinner is perfectly acceptable. And even finding it in stores in January should be a cause for celebration.

Hi, I’m Kristina (Miss Soon-to-Pub). Welcome to Author2Author! This is such a fun and cool group of people—I hope you enjoy reading the blog as much as we enjoy writing it! So now onto the part where I blah, blah, blah about myself.

I’d like to tell you this super fantastic story about how I knew I wanted to be an author since I was just a wee little one writing stories on my etch-a sketch but that’d be a big fat lie. Back then I wanted to be a rockstar. And I was sooooo close! Well, not really. But I did explore a number of career possibilities when the rockstar thing didn’t happen and when I graduated college I made a list in my journal of what jobs I wanted to do. It went something like this:

1) High school teacher (check)

2) College teacher (check)

3) Technical Writer (check)

4) Freelance writer (check)

5) Mommy (check)

6) Published Author

And I was working my way through the list really well! Then I hit published author and had no clue what kind of book I should write. And honestly, here’s a little secret, I always thought I was a pretty good nonfiction writer but a so-so fiction writer. When I took fiction writing classes in grad school I was embarrassed to show my work. Everyone else’s stories just seemed so much better. But I was writing the wrong stuff back then.

So I didn’t decide to crack down on this published author thing until 2005. I was 29, had two little babies at home, was freelancing my little heart out both online and in mags, and teaching at a university in Chicago. I came up with an idea for what later became my first book (The Pass Book) and tentatively told my husband one day in the car. He said, “You have to write this.” I said, “oh sure. Yeah—someday I’ll write a novel.” He said, “No you have to write this now.” So I started then. One night a week I left him with the kids, packed up my laptop, and parked myself at the Starbucks in town to write for three hours. I wrote The Pass Book in about 4 months and then slowly edited it. In August of 2006, I took a YA chicklit class where I met my fab critique partners and I got more serious about this whole writing thing. I started querying like crazy and I also started writing book #2, The Espressologist. I was having so many near hits with The Pass Book but in the first part of 2007 decided I would just focus on The Espressologist and started querying that. After a few weeks of querying agents I had two offers for representation.

Things happened fast after that. Three weeks after I signed with my super cool agent, my book went to auction between four publishers, and I ended up with a two-book deal from FSG. The Espressologist will be out in the Fall of 2009 and a second undecided book will be out in Fall 2010.

I’ve found that I really love writing for this genre, which I guess can be called YA chicklit or YA romantic comedy. I like to write fun, fast, hooky books that make me laugh out loud when I go back and re-read them. Since signing with FSG, I’ve written three more books—The Revenge Queen, Boy Swap, and a middle grade novel—Night at Claire’s (which I’m still editing). I love, love, love doing this. It is seriously the absolute perfect job for me. But I still don’t feel like a super “serious” writer. I don’t get up at the crack of dawn everyday and write for three hours or anything like that. I have a sweet husband and three fun kids (plus one on the way) that want to hang out with me too so I’ve always stuck to that one night a week (on occasion two nights) at the coffee shop schedule that I started in 2005.

So I’m definitely no pro at this stuff. I’m totally learning as I go. I just completed my first round of edits on The Espressologist and when I’m not writing new stuff I’m thinking about all of the fun things that lay ahead—like getting to hold my book in my hands for the first time, cringing and hiding under my bed the first time my family reads it, thinking up promotion ideas for when the book comes out, and daydreaming about booksignings and going to speak at schools about my book(s). There is so much to look forward to and I can’t wait to get started.

And of course I’ll share every last juicy detail with you all here. :-)

Kristina, Miss Soon-to-Pub

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Introducing Deena, Miss Recently Repped! (or Fun But Non-Incriminating Information for Anyone Internet-Stalking Me)

Tip of the Day: Beware the combination of an empty refrigerator and full tins of Xmas cookies. Especially at dinner time. And breakfast. And, um, lunch, too.

Hello and welcome to Author2Author! Thanks for spending valuable time here with me when you’re probably already addicted to a dozen other blogs. But I promise, this one is worth adding to your daily read -- soon you won’t be able to sleep at night if you haven’t checked in with us.

Hopefully you’re here because you’re interested in our writing journeys. (But if you are here to internet stalk me, the least you could do is buy our books.) I am happy to share this with you, and hope you’ll weigh in with your own journeys, tips, questions, answers, etc., because lord knows the writer’s gig is never short, simple, or easy and we need all the support we can get!

I’ll start with the explanation of how I got my name, Miss Recently Repped: I signed with my agent one month ago! OK, that was probably obvious, so here’s some more background info on me, starting with those days of no sleep and weirdo roommates that I like to call college.

College Undergrad: Wrote a bunch of short stories. Thought I wanted to be a journalist. Thought wrong. Majored in Communications and Creative Writing while working at the public library.

2001-2002: Finished college, and wrote some more short stories while working my new full time day job as a legal editor. Read a lot of novels. Got bored out of my gourd. Went back to school.

Grad School: Got my Masters in Library Science where my favoritist class was Resources and Services for Young Adults. I reconnected with the books I had always loved and read as a kid – and still loved but just didn’t know it. I had always thought I wanted to be a college librarian, but that class alone convinced me I wanted to go back to public libraries and be a YA librarian.

June 2004: After I got my MLS diploma, I was restless again and searching for a YA librarian job (I’m still seeking this job, so any library directors out there gimme a shout!*****). I was also reading YA novels like a fiend. One day I sat down at the computer and after a fruitless job search, was like “Now what?” “Well,” I answered myself, “I could write a YA novel. How hard could it be? I could be published just like all these other authors whose books I’m reading!” [HA! Yes, HAHAHA on me. Not hard? Right.] I connected with two writer friends and we formed a critique group. I also found a YA novel writing contest online, saw it had a submission deadline of December 31, 2004, and decided I’d have my novel done by then. I did. I submitted Novel #1 in all its unbeknownst-to-me-horrible glory, but I’d met my goal! Go me!

2005: Got the You Did Not Win letter from the contest. Sent out [HORRIBLE] query letters to publishers on it. Wrote Novel #2 and submitted it to the contest in December. At that point I knew it wouldn’t win, but it was still my measurable goal and I had attained it. Got form rejections, and one request for pages on N#1. I pity the editor who read those pages. I also discovered Verla Kay’s Blue Board and learned a TON from it!

2006: Joined SCBWI and went to conferences. Wrote Novel #3 and queried my first agents on it. Got a lot of requests for pages, and this book was better, but I still had a lot to learn. In August I took an online writing class where I hooked up with Emily and Tina, and started my LJ where I met Lisa. Kate joined my in-person critique group. Finished Novel #4. Collected more agent and editor rejections, some “close but not quite rights.”

2007: Wrote Novel #5 and loved it more than any other book I’d written. Went to more SCBWI conferences. My writing got better and better. I queried more agents on N#5 that summer then started N#6. Chris, my agent, got my query via snail mail in July, requested 30 pages soon after, requested the full ms in late August, then emailed in October to tell me she loved the book and wanted to show it to her boss to see if she could sign me! In November I wrote N#7 for NaNoWriMo, and then the Monday after Thanksgiving I got The Email from Chris saying she wanted to call me the next day and that her boss said yes, she could sign me! We chatted on the phone and got along really well. She totally “gets” my novel and she sent me the contract to sign a week later.

Now I am happily agented and awaiting my first agented subs to editors in this new year! I think 2008 will be a very exciting year for all my Author2Author friends.

Hopefully you will never have to read through a post this long from me again, but alas, its length also gives you insight into my blabbermouthness (which I accept with no apologies). I do hope you were entertained and informed about me, and that you come back to read about our journeys going forward!

Deena, Miss Recently Repped

****Eeeeee!!! I just accepted a position as the Young Adult and Circulation Services Librarian at my local public library! I am THRILLED!!!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Introducing Emily -- New Year’s Resolutions…not so much

Tip of the Day: Have a wonderful and safe New Year’s Day, everyone!

Of course, my introductory post would have to fall on New Year’s Day. The day itself is making me feel like I should post New Year’s Resolutions on behalf of our blog. Something along the lines of:

  • We promise to never blog about Britney Spears or even Jamie Lynn
  • We promise to never post author pictures of us wearing any of these outfits
  • We promise to stop eating so much chocolate and eat more vegetables to grow our writer brains

However, according to Wikipedia, New Year’s Resolutions are a “lifestyle change that is generally interpreted as advantageous.” Not saying that any of the above aren’t “advantageous,” but since Author2Author is brand new and this is the first mention of Jamie Lynn, I don’t think there’s anything that needs resoluting or changing as of yet. Plus, I can’t speak for all of us here at A2A, and unbeknownst to me, one of my fellow A2A Misses might really want to write about Britney Spears little sister, while wearing a strapless, zebra-print dress and eating left-over holiday candy. (I’m not naming names, or anything, though).

Also, I do think the point of this post was to introduce myself. So instead of resolutions, you will get a bulleted list about me. (Which is really to your benefit. Because also according to Wikipedia “many resolutions go unachieved and are often broken fairly shortly after they are set.” --- Who would have guessed it, but if it’s on Wikipedia is must be true, right?):

  • My name is Emily, Miss Awaiting an Agent.
  • Though given the slow-moving nature of publishing, I probably shouldn’t have picked a name with any form of “waiting” in the title. It would be nice if all I had to do was lounge around in a pool sipping Mai Tais (or in my case, it’s probably more likely to be a Shirley Temple) and having agents hunting me down, but I’m not delusional enough to think that’s a possibility. However, Agent Seeking, didn’t have as cool of an alliterative name.
  • I’ve been writing fiction seriously for about two years.
  • I’m a horrible writer.
  • I’m a decent re-writer. But I’m still not good enough to break through this crazy publishing world.
  • I’m currently in the process of writing my third book and have some queries, partials, and fulls still out on book number two, though, as of now, I’m focusing most of my energy on my current work-in-progress.
  • I tend to write chick-lit books with some mystery element. Even though, I keep telling myself over and over: mystery books are hard for me to write.
  • I have a sickness for putting musicians as lead guys in my book. I start out with an athletic, jock who builds muscle cars in his free time and end up with a tattooed musician who recites poetry in his spare time.
  • I don’t pretend to know everything about writing or getting an agent, clearly, since I am still agentless, but I have learned a few things over the past two years about the querying and writing process that that I’m excited to share. And I hope to learn tons more from all of you.

Please let me know if you are also in the “Awaiting An Agent” stage. I’d love to hear from you!

Til Next Tuesday,

Emily, Miss Awaiting an Agent