Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Boy Books (or Girls Who Are Boys Who Like Boys to Like Books*)

*with apologies to Blur

Tip of the Day: Take Airbone when you take an airplane. It's worth a shot to not end up with plane plague.

What books do boys like? From polling wise LJ friends and recent observations of my library patrons, it appears that it depends on the age of said boys.

1) Middle-grader boys like graphic novels, and series books like THE MAGIC TREEHOUSE and STAR WARS.
2) Tween boys like manga, graphic novels, and some popular adventure novels like THE LIGHTNING THIEF and THE GOLDEN COMPASS series.
3) Teen boys like manga, graphic novels, and "adult" books on subjects they are interested in.
*Please keep in mind these are EXTREME generalizations.

Notice in (3) above, I have not listed any YA novels! Gah! The AGONY! To try to remedy this, I did a display in my YA section: "Time for Spring...Time for Sports!" and I featured a bunch of YA sports novels that showcase a wide variety of sports (football to rollerblading to tennis) and MCs (girls and boys). I thought maybe this would catch some boys' attention.

Fortunately, some of my display books did go out -- but they were mostly the "girl" novels, like DAIRY QUEEN and OPEN COURT. So probably my teen girl population checked them out. Yay for those books, but what the heck?

Now don't get me wrong; I'm thrilled when guys come in and check out handfuls of manga or Stephen King or non-fiction on the philosopher they're interested in. But there's so many awesome YA books that I KNOW guys would like if they just gave them a chance!

I was THRILLED when a mom came in one day to check out YA books for her three teen sons. She saw my badge and asked while I was arranging my section, "Do you read all of these books?" I said I read many of them and could I help her find something. When she told me about her three boys, man I went NUTS! She went home with, among other things, TWISTED, THE WEDNESDAY WARS, and a handful of fantasy and contemporary books. It was AWESOME!

All that said, us writers STILL hear about the "need" for "boy books" by publishers. But how many of them are selling compared to books that more girls will likely buy and/or read?

And when I'm doing YA library displays, I try to evenly distribute the "boy" and "girl" books -- but with limited display space, obvious checking out of the girly books, and obvious lack of boy-y book circulation, should I bother making my distribution even?

What do y'all** think?

Deena, Miss Recently Repped

**I've been wanting to say that since I got back from Texas.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

When to follow the rules and when not to

Tip of the day: Did you know that you can now click on the right tool bar in Blogger to get links to our old entries by category? Look through posts on “queries,” “revising/editing,” and more. Enjoy!

Growing up I followed pretty much every rule to the book. Coloring inside the lines. Not talking up during class. And so on and so forth. But secretly I wished I could be like the “cool” kids and not care if I broke the rules or not. The kids that looked like they were having so much fun, threw caution to the wind, and didn’t care if they got yelled at for coloring outside the lines.

Yep, I so wanted to be them.

Heck, I still want to be them.

Now, that I’m pursuing a writing career, I’m finding the writer’s world is filled with rule-breakers. I’m not meaning people that break every rule in the book. But as writers we hear tons of advice about what you “should” do here. Like “show don’t tell.” Or what you can do here, “don’t use too many adjectives.”

And then we hear advice like, “you can do anything as long as you do it well.”

Okay, good advice. But what do you follow? And when do you color outside the lines?

I’ve started reading two good books lately that started slow, because they were all “tell” to me. Granted it was done in a way that was interesting.

But these were by established authors, and if it was their first book could they have gotten away with a slow start that told too much and didn’t show it?

I don’t know. Maybe if they did it well enough in at least one agent and one editor’s eyes.

Clearly, I have no answers and am only posing questions. But sometimes when I’m reading books and come across clearly broken writing rules (or should I call them “writing guidelines,” since there apparently aren’t writing “rules”) everyone seems to be telling us, I want to throw up my hands and scream, “I just don’t get it.”

And then I want to start breaking all the rules like these other authors, and then when it doesn’t work out, I just get mad.

So maybe you all can help. When do you think it’s okay to break writing rules? After you’ve sold one book and have more leverage to break rules? Or do you never listen to rules.

You tell me. Here's my first online poll!

--Emily, Miss Awaiting an Agent

Monday, April 28, 2008

Irregular Reading

Tip of the Day: Don't let your kids pick out all the Jelly Belly flavors. They'll pick out fizzy soda flavors instead of Cinnamon or Caffe Latte. That's just not right.

As a reader, I am a writer's nightmare.

Once I put down a book, I very well might not pick it up again. If your main character reaches a point of any peace or rest and I can imagine her living happily ever after from then on, I'm not picking it up again. If you change viewpoint characters too often, I'm not picking it up again. If your main character overcomes obstacles too easily, grr, I'm really not picking it up again. Like if your main character changes everyone's beliefs by making a speech, or slips past the bad guys by crawling under a desk, as happened in the last two books I didn't finish reading.

That's definitely the difference between how I read now and how I read as a teenager. I used to finish everything I read. Now ... forget it. Sometimes I don't finish books that I was really enjoying. For example, I've read about 2/3 of Octavian Nothing. Love it. I think M.T. Anderson is a genius. Yet I haven't finished the book. It's been sitting unopened on my bedside table for weeks. It's like I got my full quota of enjoyment out of it or something.

The problem is that I'm not a disciplined reader. If I love a book, I can't put it down. As a result, I don't read before I go to sleep, because I've spent too many sleepless nights reading and I've learned not to read before bed. I can't read in a car, either--motion sickness. I don't have a set time of the day or week to read! I'm such a slacker! I read here and there, I don't finish half of what I start, and I never read all the books I mean to. What kind of writer am I?

On the other hand, I read to my 9-year-old for half an hour a night. That's pretty disciplined, and we read above her reading level. Also, I'm usually doing critiques for two or three people a week. And my critique partners are writing fantastic, interesting stuff that I want to finish.

But does that justify my sloppy, irregular reading habits when there isn't someone else expecting me to read? If I decided I "should" read a certain amount each week, would it suck some of the enjoyment out of reading? (This is all part of the bigger question: how do I fit everything into my life I want to do? But I'll start small.)

Obviously, this is preying on my mind. I want to painlessly reform my reading habits. Can you all tell me what works for you?

-- Kate, Miss Apprentice Writer

Friday, April 25, 2008

There is no magic pill!

Tip of the Day: Eat blueberries. They are very, VERY good for you. And they're about as close to a magic pill as you'll ever get.

I started seriously writing for kids waaaay back in 2001. I have the "2001 Children's Writer and Illustrator's Market" edited by Alice Pope to prove it.

My first story was about a boy, Oliver, who found a box buried in the sand. The box had a little poem written on it which basically said if you put the box under your pillow and wished to become a certain animal, your wish would come true.

At the time, I had a son who was eating up the Magic Treehouse books, and we couldn't find much else that he liked. So I thought, hey, I'll write books he would like. He likes animals, he likes adventures, I'll write a series about a boy who becomes a different animal in each book.

Writing a chapter book turned out to be harder than I thought. I finished the thing, but there were problems with the dialogue. I mean, a chapter book needs to have lots of dialogue, but I had Oliver and his friend, Katie, swimming in the ocean as dolphins, and dolphins don't actually TALK, you know?

After that experience, I thought, okay, that was too hard. I'm going to try picture books. HA - like that would be easier! I must have written twenty picture book stories before I wrote BABY CAN'T SLEEP. I'd write one, send it to my critique group, get feedback, try to revise to make it better, then I'd send it out to a few editors. Some I believed in more than others, but I probably didn't let any get more than ten rejections before I'd stick it away, telling myself I'd try again "later."

When I got the call from Sterling in 2004 that they wanted to buy BABY CAN'T SLEEP, I had about 100 rejections on various stories. Yes, you read that right. 100!

So what's my point? Sometimes writers will ask me for advice on how to get published. And I always pause for a minute before I respond because it's such a complicated question! We all know there is no magic pill you can take so the next day - *poof* - you're a published author.

But if I had to make a list of things an author might do to better his/her chances, it would be this:

Lisa's Top Five List of Things to Do to Better Your Chances at Publication

5. Join a critique group or find a couple of readers who will give you honest, valuable feedback.

4. Write, write, and write some more. Write every day if possible.

3. Read. Read at least 100 books in the genre you want to publish in. Make a list for each book of what works and why you think that book was published.

2. Go to conferences if you can, and when you're first starting out, don't go to all of the workshops with editors/agents. Go to the ones on craft, and take it all in and go home and do the work. Because the number one thing you can do is

1. Write a fabulous story. Something fresh, something unique, with fabulous writing, fabulous characters, and a fabulous voice. Whether you're writing chapter books, picture books, novels, or anything in between, it really all boils down to this one thing.

This is not an easy business. It is not for the faint of heart. It takes time, dedication, sweat and tears, a TON of tenacity, and a little (or maybe a lot) of luck.

100 rejections is a lot of rejections, you know? At about the 70th one, I thought, maybe I'm just not cut out to be a writer. And I almost quit.

I'm glad I didn't.

~Lisa, Miss Pinch Me I'm Pubbed

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Cover Dreams

Tip of the Day: If you are racking your brain trying to come up with first or last names for your characters, check out the US Census Web site.

Are you one of those people that constantly dreams about what their book cover will look like? I wish I was. Because that is the next step (I think) now that I’m done with edits and waiting on copy edits. But I can’t even imagine what mine will look like! My book, The Espressologist, is about a teenage coffee barista that matchmakes customers based on their favorite coffee drinks. So, I’m guessing there will be something with coffee on the cover (See? I stink at this!). Maybe a giant espresso mug? A big espresso bean? I don’t have a clue. Maybe you have to be artistic to be able to think this stuff up? Like one of my author buddies has been making great fan art covers for a bunch of people. Here is the one she did for my book. You can look through the front page of her blog and see the other ones she has done—they are pretty cool. I don’t know how she comes up with them!

Maybe my main character will appear on the cover like she has it? I don’t know. It never occurred to me. I guess she could be in her barista outfit working or doing her espressology matches. That could be cute. And I do somehow sense that brown and pink will be the main colors. I don’t know why I think this—maybe because I like them. :-)

I should probably have some specific ideas for my cover just in case anyone asks me. Which I’m not sure will even happen. I imagine the publisher’s artists decide on the cover and just show me. I’m determined to start spending a set period of time everyday obsessing about the cover now anyway though. Not lots of time—maybe just a few minutes a day. Because it IS such a big deal. The cover might make or break the book. If it is boring and blah readers will just pass by the shelf and not pick it up. I’m a huge cover shopper—I always zone in on the cute covers. So mine just has to be cute!

What about you? Do you dream about the cover of your book? If so, what is your vision? And if you have any psychic powers and can see what my book cover looks like can you let me know?

Kristina, Miss Soon-to-Pub

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Revisions: Gettin' It On (or Revisions of Sugar Plums Dancing Through My Head)

Tip of the day: Thanks to all our blog readers, including those in "unknown" countries that our url logger can't detect. I feel popular and mysterious!

When I'm doing revisions, it's easy for me to get sucked back into my story and plow through a bunch of pages, but it's also easy to get distracted. Distractions start with the simple ("I need a bathroom break," "I could use a drink," and "I really need to file my nails."), and then lead to more complex time-suckers ("Now that I'm up filing my nails, why don't I cut my bangs with my nail scissors?" or "Let's just see what's going on in LJ-land for a second.").

How does one combat this?

My answer is a Self-Imposed Goals and Rewards System! How does it work? By telling yourself you can only do certain things after you've accomplished something. Here's some examples of Self-Imposed Goals and Rewards I use:

1. I can refresh your hotmail after revising this one chapter and sending it to your CPs.

2. I can refresh the new posts on Verla's Blue Board after revising two chapters.

3. I can refresh new LJ Friends' posts after revising a particularly tough page.

4. I can eat a handful of chocolate chips from the freezer after rewriting one page.

5. I can reply to an email after adding in an important element to a chapter.

6. I can read a chapter of a really great book (right now Libba Bray's A SWEET FAR THING) after revising and re-reading my own chapter.

7. I can go to bed after getting a couple revised chapters off to my CPs.

Believe it or not, these things work!

What is also good motivation for me is I have a revision to do on an older MG novel for an editor and I really want to start on it by the Self-Imposed Date of May 1st. My reward will be probably chocolate chip cookie dough cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory.

How do you motivate yourself to stay away from the internet and get revising?

Deena, Miss Recently Repped

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The one in which I pretend to be an agent

Tip of the Day: if sleep is important to you, then don’t start reading Sarah Dessen’s new Lock and Key novel anywhere near nighttime.

Okay, I know I talked about this teen writing contest I’m judging last week, but I’m not ready to stop discussing it yet. Probably because it took up most of my writing-related time this past week. And also because I think it’s fun to view this contest how agents would view a slush pile. Since I love to hear agent recaps of what’s in their slush pile, I thought all of you might enjoy a similar thing. And this might be even more helpful to you YA writers, because these are the stories that teens today have on their mind (and boy, might it surprise you, like it did me).

Number of stories with the following genres, themes, beginnings, and everything else I felt like noting—out of around 70 stories total:

  • Stories where someone dies, is found dead, or killed: 16
  • Someone attacked, “jumped,” beaten, or abused: 9
  • Involved thieves/stupid criminals: 2
  • Involved a criminal trial: 2
  • Centered on gangs: 2
  • Kidnapping took place: 1
  • Detective stories: 5
  • Centered around an illness: 3
  • Most of the story took place in a hospital: 5
  • War/military stories: 4
  • Vacation stories: 8
  • Sports the central topic: 6
  • Family “issue” stories or stories on divorce: 6
  • Stories all about job troubles or interviews: 6
  • All about relationships, dating, or crushes: 5
  • About moving or starting a new school: 3
  • Night-out or day-out recaps: 3
  • Story about supermodels: 2
  • About actors/actresses: 2
  • Story about literally nothing: 2
  • Centered on music: 1
  • Centered on a dog/pet: 2
  • Ghost stories/heaven stories: 3
  • Alien stories: 2
  • Story involving Candy People: 1
  • Fairy stories: 1
  • Storm stories: 1
  • Start with the weather info: 9
  • Start with a dream/waking up scene: 5
  • Start with weather than immediately switch to someone waking up (didn’t think that was possible, did ya?): 2
  • Referenced “this is my story” in the text: 4

Is anyone else surprise by how much death/illness/beating was going on? And the lack of fantasy stories? I was.

Also an interesting thing to note, an estimated 90% of the main characters in these stories were adults, not teens. So they were definitely thinking about things “older” then themselves, which doesn’t surprise me, but at the same time it kind of does.

Okay, now, I’ll go back to not being an agent anymore.

--Emily, Miss Awaiting an Agent

P.S. A2A loyal reader and commenter, Jennifer Hubbard just announced her first book deal. We are always excited when another author moves up to another stage in her writing career, so congrats Jennifer! We won’t hold it against you that you don’t watch The Hills.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Pencils + Sunshine = Inspiration

Tip of the Day: Another creepy research fact--there's a haunted stretch of Interstate 4 outside Daytona Beach called the Dead Zone, rumored to be the locale of over 2000 deaths. (I should start LiveJournaling all my weird research facts.)

I recently received a beautiful gift: a canister of inspirational pencils. Each pencil has one of the following inspiring quotations:

"Start to write, and let one thing lead to another." - Ring Lardner

"The shorter and the plainer, the better." - Beatrix Potter

"Inspiration comes from working every day." - Charles Baudelaire

"Words are the voice of the heart." - Confucius

"Write what makes you happy." - O. Henry

I'm really starting to believe these are good luck pencils. With them came sunny weather in upstate New York. My kids have been stuck inside all winter and they want out, out, out. For me, it's the beginning of spending every Saturday and Sunday in my backyard (except for my husband's rare weekend days off in the summer, when we'll drive to a lakeside beach).

My pencils and I have been out on my patio furniture and I've been filling a legal-sized, lined notebook with scribbles while my kids tear up the swingset. I tried bringing my laptop outside, but the sun glares off the screen and I can't see a thing. Anyway, I like writing longhand. True, I have to type it all out later. But I like that, too. Instead of sitting at my PC at night staring at a white screen, I have words to fill it with--and then I can keep going.

I've also taken a nonfiction book outside with my notebook and pencils and made research notes. Thanks to my new pencils, I feel like I'm going to get tons of writing done this summer.

It's funny; I'm proud of my techno-computer nerdish leanings and I never used to understand writers preferring to write longhand. It seemed so backward. Typing is faster, easier! All hail the cut and paste! Watch me open up Internet Explorer and have the answer to every question at my fingertips. Crazy longhand writing hermits.

But I'm totally converted now. My pencils can go everywhere with me and they're a lot lighter than my laptop. I'm happy with the quality of what I wrote outside this week. Maybe my brain needed the Vitamin D boost.

Anyone else have good luck writing longhand, or out in the sun?

--Kate, Miss Apprentice Writer

Friday, April 18, 2008

Deep in the Heart of Revisions

Tip of the Day: Do not wait until late the night before your blog day to figure out what you're going to write about when your brain is fried from a hard week with not enough sleep.

People keep asking me how the revisions are going on my next YA novel, FAR FROM YOU.

I never know how to respond.

Maybe it's just me, but when I'm in the middle of them, it feels, well, BAD. It feels messy and ugly and every other yukky word I can think of. It's not that I'm necessarily doing a bad job (at least I hope not), it's just the process I have to go through to come out the other side with a better manuscript. I have to delete stuff and add scenes, and I get stuck, so I leave a blank page, and tell myself, okay, come back to that part later, and pretty soon, I have five different places I'm supposed to come back to and I start to wonder what is wrong with me, and it's just a MESS.

I suppose what people really want to know when they ask that question is if I feel like I'm accomplishing what I need to. But the answer would be, I DON'T KNOW! Okay, in some places, I know it's better. Other places, I'm just not sure. Yet.

I'm looking forward to this weekend, when it's going to be literally freezing outside, and there's nothing else to do but sit down and pound the thing out. More than anything, I get frustrated during the week with the limited amount of time I have to work on it. I hate getting immersed in a scene only to have to stop and get ready for work.

Anyway, if you want to know how the revisions are going, well, they're going. Slowly but surely, they're going. And I guess that's about all one can ask, huh?

~Lisa, Miss Pinch Me I'm Pubbed

Thursday, April 17, 2008


Tip of the Day: When it’s time to sit down and write your dedication and acknowledgment pages, pull out all of your YA books and read through what other authors did. It’ll give you ideas and help you to not forget to thank anyone important in the book creating process.

I can breathe now! Ok, maybe that was a bit dramatic. I’ve been breathing just fine all along but I am done with edits on The Espressologist!! Whoo hoo! And for the curious, here is what that entailed:

1) Editorial letter. My editor sent me approximately a page of overall changes she’d like to see happen in the book. Things like changing the age of some of the characters and removing certain language etc. She gave me about 2-3 months for this but I completed them in about a month or so.

2) Line Edits. Round 1—this was the big manuscript mega marked up. Each page had squiggles and notes galore. I blogged about it here. I believe she told me I had about two months but I busted them out in about 3-4 weeks.

3) Line Edits. Round 2—this was more of the kind of stuff from round 1. Things I missed, new things my editor found, more changes for scenes that still just weren’t working. Here I had a month allotted time but now I was getting good at this stuff and it only took me about a week or two.

4) Final Edits. The end was near! These were all the last final things that still popped up. Mostly missing punctuation, overuse of some words and a couple of scenes that needed more detail. And I got to add in my dedication and acknowledgment page making everything feel oh so real. She gave me two weeks for this but I finished in a week.

And now, just when I’m in the swing of things and getting really good at all this editing stuff and reciting my book in my sleep? I’m done! My book is off to copy edits! What does this mean? Hmmm, well I’m not exactly sure. I know a copy editor will take it and go through it but what does he or she actually do? Let us pause to google.


Ah, here we go. So it looks like the copy editor will make sure all of the grammar is up to snuff, language is suitable, things are consistent, I’m not doing anything illegal etc. It sorta feels like my editor already did these types of things but the copy editor must be the super duper official person to do this. So maybe I’m not as done as I thought? Uh-oh. How bad can this copy editing thing be? Will my manuscript come back to me ripped apart? Any of you pubbed authors want to pipe in on what the deal is with copy editing? More specifically, will I cry when I receive my copy edits? (Remember: 9 months pregnant here. Puppies make me cry.)

I’ll let you know what happens!

Kristina, Miss Soon-to-Pub

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Why Hasn't Anyone Bought My Book Yet? (or The Waiting Is the Hardest Part)

Tip of the Day: Asking your manpanion every day "Why hasn't anyone bought my book yet?" won't make anyone buy your book.

As Miss Recently Repped, I feel I must give you a glimpse into what my life is like. It is very glamorous, as I'm sure you can imagine, full of chocolate chips straight from the bag and couch-laptop sessions. And what goes through my brain is even MORE thrilling!

Why hasn't anyone bought my book yet? Does it suck? Well, it can't suck that bad because no one has rejected it yet either. But it's not at auction or on its way to B&N in a big cardboard display, so maybe it kind of sucks -- or it could be kind of good, but not good enough. Or maybe the piles of other books to be read are just way above mine in the editor's office, or maybe the editors have a headache or the plague and haven't been able to read for a while or they just got one glass eye or something and need to wait for their depth perception to adjust so they can read from a computer screen again.

Then I'll turn off my left brain for a while and do some revisions on the next manuscript, then check my email and the same old same old flips through my head again.....

How about all you? What does through YOUR brain while you're waiting to hear back from editors?

Deena, Miss Recently Repped

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

“It’s a little telly, Dawg!”

Tip of the Day: If you are in the position of judging a contest, I’ve found the easiest way to dwindle down the potential winners is to create an “automatic pass,” “automatic rejection,” and then a “questionable” pile of entries. Then start tackling the “questionable” pile to eventually get to your final selections.

This week I’ve had to channel my inner Randy, Paula, and Simon because I’m judging a High School Writing contest. And instead of saying everything is “pitchy,” I’ve found the No. 1 thing I’m repeating over and over as I’m reading entries is: “all tell” or “telly.”

Granted I have been very impressed with their writing abilities for their age group. And in fact, I think their short stories are far better developed than one of my own short stories I wrote in high school, which borrowed major plot elements from a Lifetime Original movie. I’m sure you can guess how well that intricately plotted movie involving kidnap, psychic visions, an orphaned girl, and mother-who-didn’t-know-she-had-a-daughter fit into an eight page story. However, even if they are better off than I was at that age, I can’t help but realize how easy it is now that I’ve grown in my writing ability to spot beginning mistakes in writers that are just learning and fine-tuning their writing.

Here’s the Top 5 mistakes I’ve seen in the more than 70 entries I’ve read for this contest:

  • All tell, no show. The vast majority of the entries are written more as an essay than a creative writing piece. I’m not sure how lenient to be on this or not, but what I have learned is that seeing an absolute lack of any sort of “show,” has really sealed the importance of this concept in my own writing. And subconsciously the only entries I’ve wanted to put onto the next level in the contest are ones that at least try to show (you know, have at least one sentence of dialogue), even if their grammar or writing voice isn’t as good as some of the other pieces. Merely because it’s very hard to get into a story when it’s “all tell.”

  • No story. Clues such as titles including these words: “event,” “incident,” and “day” should have clued me that the story in fact had no real “story” to tell. Granted good stories could come from these titles and the other titles, but it just happened that about 75% of the stories are about events and include no conflict or story arc.

  • No character arc. Granted it’s an eight to ten page story, but about 90% of these have nothing happen to the character that shows any growth what-so-ever. The reason this isn’t higher on the list is because these are short stories, I’ve been more lenient on this and found myself not writing it on the entries as much as the other two, which have more to do with story-telling and general writing ability in my opinion.

  • Bad formatting. This surprising hasn’t been as bad as I anticipated, but several entries do have major formatting issues that make it nearly impossible for me to read. Basically, they have lumped together dialogue sequences of five or more people talking into one sentence, making it hard to follow.

  • Switching Point of View. Several of the entries start in third person and switch to first person. It’s very hard to follow.

All in all, the writing and grammar itself weren’t as bad as these other mistakes in my opinion. Although, picking a select few to pass onto other judges in these entries has been very challenging. I’m looking forward to seeing what stories the other screener picked out and how she saw their writing flaws compared to mine, since she’s a library media specialist and not a writer. I’m just curious, if the “all tell, no show” was my own personal criteria I was most harsh on for these new writers.

--Emily, Miss Awaiting an Agent

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Anti-Message

Tip of the Day: We have great blog readers! Thanks for entering our Take a Break Book giveway and congrats to the winners.

On Saturday, April 5th, I checked out the third annual Rochester Teen Book Festival. There were lots of well-known writers there giving presentations to very crowded rooms of teenagers and other fans (like me). I didn't have time to see everyone, but I saw Libba Bray (!!) and Todd Strasser, who both gave excellent talks. Libba Bray answered lots of fangirl questions from her readers. She was high energy and a lot of fun.

Todd Strasser talked about developing his stories, and although the talk involved the teens (a lot; it wasn't a lecture), I took something away from it that fascinated me so much, I want to share it with you! It's what I'm calling the Anti-Message.

Todd Strasser started with the message of his example story. The message isn't a moral. It's what your main character has to learn to change and grow within the story. Can you sum up in one sentence what your main character learns by the last page?

With my work in progress, it took me a while. I was like, well, she has a power that she can use to hurt people, but she doesn't want to. She wants to manage it. And the other characters in the book use their powers in different ways, some good, some bad. Eventually I got there: she has to learn to use her power over other people wisely. Which I think is a great theme for a tween novel, because when you're feeling insecure and powerless, it's easy to forget that you have a tremendous power to affect other people.

According to Todd Strasser, once you have the message, introduce the opposite of the message. The climax of the book is where it looks like the opposite of the message will win.

So in my case, the opposite of the message would be that people who abuse their power over others are rewarded. Which is unfortunately often the case in life, and especially in middle school. And it has the added bonus of being fun to write. I was working towards it anyway, but I feel so energized by having the climax of the arc of the novel articulated. Don't you love all those fiction writer terms I'm throwing out there?

What's your MC's message? Would you like to leave us the Anti-Message in the comments? I'd love to see your Anti-Messages. Like the Anti-Message of the Princess Bride is that the practical obstacles in the way of true love can overwhelm it. We can share our Anti-Messages and have a total goth day.

-- Kate, Miss Apprentice Writer

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Congrats to the winners!

Our last and final winner in our TAKE A BREAK giveaway is Hillary!!!

Congrats Hillary! Please send us your address so we can send you EMILY GOLDBERG LOVES TO SALSA. You can e-mail that to us here: Author2author(dot)blog(at)gmail(dot)com.

We'll be having more contests in the future, since they're so much fun, so stay tuned!

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Caribbean Anyone?

Winner of the Day: TALI please e-mail us your name and address at author2author(dot)blog(at) gmail(dot)com to claim yesterday's book, FRENCH KISS. Yay - CONGRATS!!!

Thanks to everyone who has participated in our Take a Break Giveaway this week! It's been so much fun!!

Today is the last day, and I have a fun book for you!


"Emily is a Jewish girl from the suburbs of New York, end of story. Her mother has family in Puerto Rico, but Emily has no contact with them--until she's forced to go to the Caribbean for her grandmother's funeral. Pampered Emily wants nothing to do with her Puerto Rican family--until a very special person shows her that uncovering her roots is like discovering a secret part of her own heart."

Booklist has this to say, "Without heavy messages, Ostow draws on her own half-Jewish, half-Puerto Rican roots to tell a moving story that has a solid plotline and plenty of family secrets--past and present--as it opens up issues of tradition, feminism, friendship, and loyalty."

I've never been to the Caribbean, but oh would I love to go about now! Someone I know at work just got back from a scuba diving trip. She said it was beautiful weather - sunny and 80 degrees. Ahhhhhh...

To enter to win this book, comment below and enter for a chance to win. Double your chances of winning by posting a link to your blog (and leave the blog address in your comment). Winner announced tomorrow! GOOD LUCK!

Lisa, Miss Pinch Me I'm Pubbed

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Paris in the Spring Time

Winner of the day: Meredith please email us your name and mailing address at author2author(DOT)blog(AT)gmail(DOT)com to claim yesterday's book Zig Zag. Congrats!

The book I’m giving away today is French Kiss by Aimee Friedman. It’s a story about two friends who have an awesome time on their spring break in Paris. Senior Alexa St. Laurent originally went to Paris with her boyfriend for a romantic getaway (Note: My mother would SO not go for this when I was in high school. I couldn’t even have a boy in my room WITH the door open.) That turned out to be a sucky idea, however, and he left right after a fight at the beginning of their trip. So Alexa calls her friend, Holly, who is on a school trip in England and asks her to join her in Paris. They meet up and have a great time. You know great time=some hook-ups with cute French boys right?? (Question for all blog readers: Do the French call French kissing, French kissing? Hmmm…)

From the Publisher:

“Two beautiful girls. One sexy city.

Endless opportunities for l'amour.

When Alexa St. Laurent falls in love, she falls hard. Can she keep her cool after meeting a French guy who's too good to be true and too hard to resist?

For Holly Jacobson, being in love with her boyfriend Tyler is as natural as breathing. But there's no denying that Alexa's Parisian cousin, Pierre, takes Holly's breath away...

On a whirlwind rendezvous in Paris, the City of Love, Alexa and Holly are about to discover that everything sounds sexier in French.”

I thought this book was great—a fun, fast read. It was one of those books where I just read the blurb on the back and was hooked to buy it. There was a lot of brand name dropping and commercial stuff like that but I kinda like that stuff. And the scenery and experiences of the girls in the book felt so real that I wondered if the author herself went and experienced these things firsthand, maybe when she was a teen.

Which then made me think, why didn’t I go to Paris when I was a teen? Or really anywhere abroad? I did have a chance once to study abroad in England but a stinkin’ guy talked me out of it because he just couldn’t bear to be without me. Ha! (It was all very Dawson’s Creek when Dawson talks Joey out of studying in Paris. Note to all teenage girls who may find themselves in this position one day—ditch the guy! Take the trip!).

I just love books set somewhere outside of the U.S.—especially in Europe. And taking a trip to Europe is great for inspiration to write these kinds of books. Granted I didn’t go when I was a teen but I did go with my husband and toting two babies a few years ago and it was awesome! And it gave me great ideas for a second Espressologist book set in Europe (so, when my book comes out next fall, please buy one so they ask me to write this book, ok? Thanks.)

So if you want to escape to romantic Paris for a few hours by reading this book (and you know you do), Comment below and enter for a chance to win. Double your chances of winning by posting a link to our contest on your own blog (and leave the blog address in your comments). Winner announced tomorrow!

Kristina, Miss Soon-to-Pub

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Possibilities Rise with the Sun (or Hope SPRINGS Eternal)

Tip of the Day: Wear sunblock to avoid looking like crusty prune at age 50. No one likes prunes. But everyone loves book giveaways so keep reading to find out what you can win! And RHONDA STAPLETON! You are the winner of Em's book! Please email us your snail mail address at author2author[dot]blog[at]gmail[dot]com!

Yay it's spring! As a teen that meant brighter clothes, cuter shoes, school winding down, spring dances, and the hopes of a blossoming new love. Spring fever was a wonderful thing, full of possibilities.

And it still is!

When the sun comes out and the temp rises:

1. I am happier and

2. More optimistic, so

3. I think others are also happier and

4. In a good mood,

5. Like when they're reading my manuscript in sunny NYC,

6. So they'll be nice and ready to buy it!

When I can tear myself away from my email, I sit on my front porch with my laptop and write. I get some of my best writing done outside, with music playing and breezes wafting by.

Oh, who am I kidding. I'm checking my email on my porch, too.

Happy Spring, everyone! Celebrate the sun by commenting to this post for a chance to win ZIGZAG by Ellen Wittlinger. (Also link to this entry on your blog and I'll enter you twice.) This was one of the first books I read that made me decide for sure that I, too, was going to write YA novels. And it takes place over summer vaca on a cross-country car trip, so soak up its warm vibes! I LOVE road trip books!

Deena, Miss Recently Repped

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Take a Break Book Giveaway Day 2

Winner of the day: paperxxflowers please email us your name and mailing address at author2author(DOT)blog(AT)gmail(DOT)com to claim yesterday's book Skinny-dipping. Everyone else get ready to comment to win another book!

I know most of you that live in colder states are probably sick of the snow, but I had to bring it back one more time for today’s Take a Break Book Giveaway. And hopefully you’ll forgive me once you see this book cover also features a prince on it (a fictional, cartoon prince, but sorry that’s the best I could do).

For your chance to win today’s book DO OVER by Niki Burnham all you have to do is leave a comment either on Blogger or our LiveJournal syndication page. And if you put the contest info on your own site, let us know and we’ll give you two entries for today. Easy, isn’t it? Now onto the book you can win…

DO OVER is one of the books in Niki’s Royally Jacked series, but I picked this one not only because it still has the loveable Prince Georg in it but it also involved skiing. And after spending my own Spring Break skiing last week, I had to show the Skiing Love. Despite the fact my own skiing experience didn’t involve a prince of any kind, has left me sore in most parts of my legs, and even more happy when I returned home to find most of the snow had melted while I was away. But I still had tons of fun skiing and I love Niki’s books, so I wanted to share that with a reader.

Here’s what the books about:

“Girl meets prince, Girl loses prince. Girl gets prince back—right? Well, that's what Valerie Winslow is hoping. She's back in Schwerinborg after spending time with her mom (and mom's girlfriend, Gabrielle) in the good ol' U.S. of A., and she's hoping the sparks will fly between her and Georg. At first it looks like everything is fabulous, but a ski trip to the Alps brings out Val's not-so-nice side, and what should have been a romantic weekend turns into a very bumpy ride.”

You can read this book even if you haven’t read the first two books in the series Royally Jacked or Spin Control, though, you might want to read them first if you haven’t already. It would probably help everything make much more sense.

Go ahead and leave a comment already, so you can win the book!

--Emily, Miss Awaiting an Agent

Monday, April 7, 2008

Take a Break Book Giveaway!

Tip of the Day: Here’s something new I learned this week researching for my novel—although Wiccans believe in the three-fold law and Hindus believe in the karmic law, stating that people who use black magic will get bitten in the butt for it, most cultures who believe in magic have no stated belief in a rule of return of any kind.

This week is our Take a Break Giveaway! Each of the five of us selected a book that reminds us of summer, vacations, or Spring Break. And we’re giving them away to our readers. To enter for a chance to win, all you have to do is leave a comment. That’s it: a comment for an entry. Plus you can double your chances of winning. You’ll get a second entry if you post a link to our contest on your own blog. Just leave your blog address in your comment. Each day, we’ll announce the previous day’s winner and let you know how to email us your address. We love these giveaways! They’re a blast.

The book I selected is The Au Pairs: Skinny-Dipping by Melissa de la Cruz. It’s a nice hardcover edition I won at a conference and its cover makes me want to go to the beach. I’ve heard wonderful things about Melissa de la Cruz’s writing and I’d love to read her someday. However, I am completely unable to read this book for reasons beyond my control.

You see, this novel is about girls working summer jobs in the Hamptons and partying, meeting guys, and using expensive name-brand products. And I worked a summer job in the Hamptons, too. I worked at the desk of an expensive resort, like the Suite Life. Ha ha ha ha ha.

I did not party. I did not meet celebrities. This was what my summer in the Hamptons was like:

-- Number of hours worked per week: 80
-- Number of overnight shifts per week: minimum of 3
-- Number of roaches killed in substandard employee housing: five kajillion -- Number of arguments with a celebrity’s mother who objected to her time share being rented to “Asians”: 1
-- Number of letters received by my employers threatening to sue me personally because the guests in the room next door set their alarm clock too early: 2
-- Number of bounced paychecks I received: 12
-- Number of times I heard drunken guests sing karaoke to “Summer Wind”: 517
-- Number of drunken guests who thought it was fun and not creepy to flirt with the girl at the front desk after singing “Summer Wind”: 117
-- Number of times I cashed bounced paychecks for my coworkers (who were treated like crap because they spoke Spanish and couldn’t argue with the local bank, who was in on the scam) right out of the front desk cash register, and just let the lying weasels we worked for try to fire me: after word got around, at least three times per overnight shift. Well, it was fun to be known around town for something.

I did try to go out and party with my coworkers a few times, but it always turned into us falling asleep over our drinks and speculating on who was doing coke to keep up with their triple shifts and still have a life. The kitchen help sometimes displayed ugly knife wounds self-inflicted from working without sleep. And then we compared notes on killing roaches. Good times.

Anyway, I walked out of my summer in the Hamptons with a wad of cash, a few bounced paychecks I could no longer cash out of the resort’s cash register, and a deep seated loathing of anyone connected with Hamptons’ high life. In fact, just hearing about “summer in the Hamptons” causes me to blurt out “they’ll be the first ones against the wall when the revolution comes!” and vow to read Karl Marx.

So therefore, I am scarred for life and unable to read The Au Pairs: Skinny-Dipping. I tried, because it looks like a great book, but it brought all those memories of capitalist exploitation flooding back. If I ever dream of returning to the Hamptons, trust me, it will be with a guillotine. Vive le revolution!

Not that my stay in the Hamptons wasn’t valuable research for my novels. Maybe not the same as Melissa de la Cruz’s, but I was able to write an extremely accurate scene where a boy kills a roach and watches its yellow guts ooze out. If you ever have any questions about roach killing, I’m your go-to girl. Or ask Paris Hilton; I hear she spent some time in the Hamptons, too.

Now leave your comments so I can enter you in my giveaway!

-- Kate, Miss Apprentice Writer

Friday, April 4, 2008

Reviews Schmeviews

Tip of the Day: Check our blog next week where we'll be doing another awesome contest and giving away a book every day. Since vacation time can't get here fast enough for many of us, we've picked books that will take you somewhere wonderful, and we're calling this The Take a Break Book Giveaway!

For a long time, I was worried that none of the major publications (School Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, etc) had reviewed I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME. But then it went into a second printing pretty quickly, and a couple of very positive reviews did come out in VOYA and KLIATT, which aren’t the BIG ones, but still – great exposure for my book.

So I moved on.

I decided it didn’t matter.

My little book was doing just fine, thank you very much.

And then, last week, I noticed a review over at from School Library Journal.

I thought – “Wow, a review from one of the big ones! How come no one told me about this?”

And once I read it, I knew why.

It isn’t an especially positive review. Although there is one line I can use on my web site. "Told in Ava's voice, this novel-in-verse captures the all-consuming nature of intense teen love."

Getting a review that is less than glowing is not very fun. On the bright side, people say a bad review is better than no review, and I've heard most school librarians do use School Library Journal to help them make purchase decisions. Still, it's hard to digest the fact that what one person thought of my book is probably going to be read by people in the biz. Will that review hurt me down the the road? Or do they take reviews with a grain of salt? I have no idea.

What do you think? Would you rather have a bad review than no review at all? Do you think you can almost always find SOMETHING good in the review to share with others?

~Lisa, Miss Pinch Me I'm Pubbed

Thursday, April 3, 2008

To Revise or Not to Revise?

Tip of the Day: Buy colored pencils for edits to tell your marks apart from your editor.

That is the question I faced last week. And in this particular case, I’m not talking about the early stages of the book when you are still getting feedback and revising all of the time. But after you think the book is PERFECT and you are seeking publication and someone says they might possibly publish it if first you do this list of things. First you think:

AHHHHH!!! I can’t possibly change my precious book! (Or is that just me?)

But then you have to let it sit for a few days and REALLY think about the revision request. Will it add or take away from your vision? Does it really need these changes?

I let my revision request sink in for a few days and I came to the conclusion that YES, I will give it a try. I’m still plenty nervous about what big changes I’ll be doing to my book but, at the same time, I started to get excited about it. Just a little. I was driving down the street last weekend and a great new chapter just hit me. So much that I was writing on the backs of envelopes in the car and eventually pulled over so I wouldn’t run into anything/anyone.

Then, I went to a cafĂ© Monday night and started plotting and planning and REALLY got excited about it. These changes could turn out to be really, really cool! So my plan? To continue taking lots of notes this week—come up with lots of chaps/scenes I need to write (or delete) and start writing next week. I also decided that searching online for revision help could also be beneficial. I found some Web sites that hopefully you’ll find helpful too, no matter what stage of revisions you are at.

First stop: a blog entry on Cynsations. Who doesn’t love Cynsations? She’s always got such great entries. Here’s a particularly great one called Novel Critique and Revision Questions. In this one, Cynthia outlines good questions you should ask yourself as you’re revising.

Second stop: Cynthea Liu’s Revision 911. Here she breaks it down into sections, specifically revising characters, plot, setting and description, and so on. This site especially helped me because I was committing one of her listed no-nos—making a character too dumb. That happens when something is staring the character right in the face but you have them ignoring it. Yikes!

Last stop: Revision Lessons: Judy Blume. This is what I call a feel good piece. Why? Because someone as rockin’ as Judy Blume, who has sold over 75 MILLION books, still has to revise. And she even includes a marked-up page of one of her manuscripts.

Ok, back to work for me. But before I go I’m dying to know, have any of you ever had the to revise or not to revise struggle? And what did YOU decide to do?

Kristina, Miss Soon-to-Pub

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

YA Librarians as YA Researchers (or Sorry, No PARTY GIRL* Here)

Tip of the Day: Don't turn on the TV if you want to get any writing done and it's American Idol season. Is that show ever not on? And why do I get sucked in?

As a YA Librarian, I am now part undercover spy. Because my work badge clearly states my reign over the Teen Area, I can hang out there straightening/rearranging/observing the YA shelves -- and those who hang out there -- withhout raising suspicion. Heh heh heh..... ;)

Yes, in the afternoon and evening hours, the teen tables are full, the PCs are clicking away, and the teens are talking. What are they saying? Honestly, I'm not sure. That either means (1) I suck at being an undercover spy, or (2) what they're saying isn't as important as how they're saying it. How they're interacting. What they're wearing. All great details to use in my YA novels!

What I also like to observe are the books that draw the teens' attention, especially on the new shelf or my display shelves. I do stop myself from pulling out my notebook and jumping in front of their faces, firing, "What made you pick up that book? What do you like about it? What do you hate about it? Would you read my book if it was on this shelf?" -- because I know that despite the age I appear on my badge (approx. 14), I am an adult (sigh) and I don't want to scare them out of my beloved Teen Area!

(This is my Teen Area. I'm working on making it snazzier! Can you say cool coffee table, fab area rug, and lounge chairs that are too uncomfortable for adults? :))

What have I learned so far? Teens like:

-series, like Gossip Girls, The A List, The Clique, etc, with no abandon

-new books, face out

-manga and graphic novels

-gaming on the Teen Area PCs

-cell phones

-humor, adventure, and animal stories if you can recommend a good one

I think my novel on submission now is definitely an adventure. Maybe that means I have hope with the teens in my library!

Those of you without teens at home, how do you observe what books they are drawn to in real life? Do you tailor your writing ever to resemble these books?

Deena, Miss Recently Repped

*Apparently PARTY GIRL is THE Parker Posie movie to see before you are officially initiated into the world of Public Librarianship.

It was very not good, but not as much as doing your taxes, so if you do them at the same time, it all works out.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Querying it up Colorado-style

Tip of the Day: Snow is incredibly beautiful, even in April, as long as you don’t have to drive in it and it hasn’t turned into slush, sludge, or any other questionable looking liquid/solid form.

This blog is coming to you live from the great state of Colorado.

Do you feel the low atmospheric pressure due to the high altitude? And the cold, mountain air?

No? Are you sure? Because I sure feel it.

Colorado is known for many things aside from high altitude, such as awesome skiing, the Rockies, and being the home to some pretty kick-butt literary agents. I’m sure many more agents than my current home state of Michigan is known for. So being out here I can’t help but pretend how fun a covert operations to said agents' offices would be to find a way to plant my manuscript secretly on their desks to get them to read it.

Not that I would actually ever do anything like that.

Or at least not do it after I joked about it on this blog.

Because that’s just not how this business is done. No matter how much more exciting a covert operations involving…say, binoculars, bubble gum, shoe strings, a Swiss Army knife-screwdriver, and any other gadget I could fit in my purse…would be then the normal way of getting an agent through the slush pile with a query letter.

So since I'm on vacation and having fun, I thought it would be extra fun to do a list of five things you should also not do to get an agent’s attention, in addition to secretly trying to break and enter into their office:

1.) Don’t send your query in a bolded, 58-type script font.

2.) Don’t send your query for your sports-related story in a dirty athletic shoe.

3.) Don’t send your query for a pie cookbook with the frozen-chocolate pie from page 14 in with the package. Especially in summer. (Flashback: did anyone else see that episode last season on Beauty and the Geek when Joshua actually wanted to put a pie by itself—no wrapping or anything—in a gift basket?…okay, sorry way off topic…back to our regularly scheduled programming…)

4.) Don't send your query for a fantasy written entirely in the made-up language of your world.

5.) Don't call up an agent and tell them you are doing them a favor letting them represent you since you have a book that’s worth one-trillion-million dollars, despite the fact it isn’t finished yet, you don’t have any publishing credentials, and you have to ask them what the word “literary” in literary agent means. While we are at it, this probably isn’t a good thing to state in a query letter, either.

Not that anyone has attempted the above (well at least all of them, but No. 5). I’m not an agent or anything, so I’m just guessing these are big no-nos, and since this is Author2Author, I thought I’d give a heads up to avoid these in case anyone was considering these ideas.

Okay, now I’m off to go back to skiing in my pretty new ski outfit…

No, this isn’t me. Or my outfit. April Fools!!!!!!!

I totally had you fooled for a second there, didn’t I? ;-)

--Emily, Miss Awaiting an Agent