Friday, May 30, 2008

A2A Chat with Jennifer Bradbury

Tip of the Day: Read SHIFT. It's an incredible YA novel.

It is my pleasure to introduce Jennifer Bradbury, author of the new YA novel, SHIFT.

In this book, two friends, Chris and Win, head out on the adventure of a lifetime. Their mission? To ride coast-to-coast on their bikes. Only it doesn't go exactly as planned. Because just one of them returns home. And no one knows for sure what happened.

Jen's writing is so strong, I felt as if I was on the bike ride with Chris and Win. The places they go and the people they meet along the way make for such an interesting story. The chapters alternate between flashbacks and Chris' present day situation where everyone, including an FBI agent, is pressing him to find out what happened to Win. Except he doesn't know. Or does he?

A great book about cycling, friendship, and loyalty, SHIFT is one of my favorite reads so far of 2008!!

Lisa: Where do you do most of your writing?

Jen: I do most of my writing at home, in our bonus room. Usually I sit in this chair, which is positioned midway between our office space and the playroom area. Kind of fitting for a job that requires equal parts work and play.

Lisa: Are you a plotter or a plunger?

Jen: I'm a plotter, mainly because I have to have some confidence before I jump in that an idea for a story can sustain itself over the long haul. And I do a ton of plotting in my head before anything makes it to paper. Shift rolled around in my mind for close to two years before I started outlining. When I do get to that stage, I tend to outline in detail, adding to it as I go along. Once I actually start composing, I can pound out a draft in about six weeks. The real surprises for me come in the revisions.

Lisa: What do you do when you get discouraged?

Jen: The same things most of us do. Get a little down, maybe whine a bit to those closest to me. I also pray, and then usually end up realizing what a gift it is that I get to write stories, and that I even have stories to tell, and that tends to help me get going again. Often I know I need to take a break. And while there's a lot to be said for writing every day, I know that sometimes the best thing I can do for the writing and for myself is to take a few steps back and leave it all alone for a little while. I don't know why it works for me, but it does.

Lisa: What are you working on next?

Jen: Right now, I'm working on getting Shift out into the world, which means lots of these fun online interviews. I'll also be starting revisions on my next book for Atheneum, tentatively titled APART, as soon as I get my editorial letter. I've got two other projects that are very different (but I think very fun) that I'll be talking with my agent about soon.

Lisa: What's your favorite part of writing?

Jen: Can I have two? The first is that moment in writing a new draft when you begin to realize that despite all the flaws and unanswered questions, I'm working on something that has life and possibility in it. The second is figuring out a sticky way to solve a problem or revise in an unexpected way in response to a comment from my editor, a reader or my husband. I love it when somebody asks exactly the right question and creates an opening for the characters, theme or story to sort of break through.

Thanks for chatting with us, Jen!

~Lisa, Miss Pinch Me I'm Pubbed

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Happy New Baby, Miss Soon-to-Pub!

Tip of the Day: Buy board books for all the brand new little readers in your life!

For the past nine months, not only has Kristina been waiting for her book to be publish-ready, she's been waiting for her new baby to be ready ready!

And the day has come!

CONGRATULATIONS to Tina and her fam on the birth of her new little baby boy!!!!

Standing in for Tina,
All the other A2A Misses

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Those Who Wish to Police the World (or I Hate Those *Bleep*in' *Bleep*ers!)

Tip of the Day: Get all your political news updates from The Colbert Report. You won't be sorry.

Two weekends ago, I went to a library-sponsored panel talk between Bruce Coville (hilarious and brilliant) , Vivian Vande Velde (edgy and cool), and Cynthia DeFelice (sweet and charming).

They discussed the challenging, censorship, and banning of their books.

Yes, people, you heard me right. These lovely faces above have been CHALLENGED.

Oh, I shouldn't base the book on its author's pretty face?

OK, here is one of the books that just screamed SATANIC to a crazed parent.

Get ready for it....

Brace yourself.....


I know, I know, you had to sheild your eyes from the demonic image bc you also agree that the reference to the COLOR SILVER in this book screams DEVIL WORSHIPPER, and the fact that the dragon is fed chicken livers means the author is a satanic himself.

(I just need to add here in case my sarcasm isn't detected that if I heard someone make these arguments about a book, I'd probably have to be held back so as not to remove their tongues with my bare hands.)

I also learned that the three authors above have dealt with the following:
1) Children coming to school book talks, then lying about why they have to sit in the front row so they can secretly tape the story and then give the tape to mommy sho she can cry "Evil!" to the school administration.
2) The word "church" being removed from a picture book story when reprinted.
3) Parents asking why so many people have to die in their books.
4) The presence of witches in their stories get them challenged.
5) The presence of the word "devil" in book titles get them challenged.
6) "The color green is evil!"
7) "The color black is evil!"
8) "The color red is evil!"

If I go on, I will just get more angry at those who want to parent the world.

What I took away from this panel was that (1) these authors rock, and (2) any nut job can find any reason -- ANY reason -- to challenge a book.

I guess that's not too surprising in a day when the most challenged book of the last year is about boy penguins who raise a baby penguin together, and is based on a true story.


(Cue Psycho knife stabbing scene music here)

In the book my agent is shopping, I think the magical elements would be the first things to be challenged. HARRY POTTER is challenged all the time bc of its "witchcraft" persual.

What would be the first thing to be challenged in YOUR book?

Deena, Miss Recently Repped

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Handling multiple, yeah, maybe not

Tip of the Day: Organic Fruit Leathers are on sale at Target this week. I have no idea if they will be at your Target or if the same sale’s ads are good nation-wide, but I still thought you should know.

It’s not even eleven and it’s been a LONG day. I’ve spent all morning driving around three cities to correct a stupid-human error I made this weekend. And in the process I managed to do several more stupid-human errors. Now after having been eternally grateful I only left my keys in the car with the doors unlocked instead of locked, I can rest. And problem has hopefully been corrected.

But it’s left me all flustered and I’m afraid this post might be slopped together as a result.

Originally I was going to talk about how this past weekend, I’ve been inspired to work on three of my books (two past ones that I’ve just gotten revision ideas on and a current work-in-progress I just started). And I was going to ask for input on anyone who’s juggled multiple projects at once and how it’s worked out for you.

As a result of so many stupid-human errors made this weekend, I’m beginning to wonder if maybe my idea of juggling three books was a bit too ambitious. The books are actually coming along and I made some changes last night on all three projects that I was happy with. But I’m beginning to worry if putting that much effort into the books has left me carless in other areas of my life.

Or it could just be a fluke.

What do you think? Have you juggled multiple projects before successfully? Do you have tips for us newbies in this area that are trying to figure it out? Do you have a way to bring me some fruit leathers from Target for lunch? I could really use them.

--Emily, Miss Awaiting an Agent

Monday, May 26, 2008

Happy Memorial Day!

Tip of the Day: It's hard to imagine a town without a statue or plaque dedicated to the soldiers from that town. What's unique about the memorial in your town? Is there a story in it?

Happy Memorial Day! I'm feeling incredibly thankful this Memorial Day. I'm very blessed in having a creative, artistic family. I'm blessed in having a decent education. I'm blessed in having time to pursue my writing. When I'm feeling down that there's never enough time to write, I remind myself of my ancestors. Hundreds of years ago in Ireland, those women would've gotten down on their hands and knees and begged for a day's worth of the time I have.

I'm blessed that my parents are readers. No matter how broke we were, they always found a dollar for my school's Scholastic Book Fair. My mother took me to the library once every two weeks, from my preschool years through my high school years. I'm blessed to live in a country with a public library system like ours. So many stressful times in my life, the library was my refuge.

I'm blessed to live in this time and this place, with a free flow of ideas and the intellectual freedom to express them. And I'm blessed to have access to incredible amounts of information, enough to keep me learning and curious my whole life through.

[Comic by]

Today, I'm thankful for all the people who brought me to this time and place, especially the soldiers and their families who sacrificed for our freedoms to read, to write, and to exchange ideas. For those of you with friends and family serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, and sacrificing all over the globe, my thanks and prayers are with you.

-- Kate, Miss Apprentice Writer

Friday, May 23, 2008

A2A sightings: Author Chat with Lisa

Tip of the Day: Have a safe and wonderful Memorial Day weekend.

As an extra special treat today, we at A2A would like to direct you to a wonderful interview done with our very own Lisa Schroeder.

Lisa talks about writing, her book I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME, and her journey to publication. Check it out on the Cynsations blog, here.


Thursday, May 22, 2008

Marketing Talk

Tip of the Day: Keep a word document entitled “Marketing Ideas” open on your desktop all the time. Then, each time you see a cool idea from another blog, listserve, etc., copy/paste it into your document. Some day you’ll sit down to sort it all out (at least that is what I tell myself) and you’ll have loads of great information.

It’s getting about that time. The time when I need to start obsessing about how I will market my book. Only thing is, I haven’t a clue. Sure, I know some of the basics like have a Web site (though I really should work on a better one), have a MySpace, blog around (that sounds kinda dirty doesn’t it?), and I just recently joined Facebook (still not sure I’m doing that one right). But I haven’t thought of any really great marketing ideas for when my book comes out. Yeah, I have over a year before that time but being a true writer I must obsess about every little thing NOW. Right? It seems like everyone else has super fantastic marketing ideas all the time!

People make lots of cute bookmarks and buttons, postcards and pens, but what is really effective? Or does it all just become stuff that no one really pays attention to? I kinda like the postcards myself—because then I use them as a bookmark for that book when I read it (or other books by the author). But other than that, what kinda swag is really a good investment? (really dear readers, what kinda swag do YOU like?).

I know I should do some coffee related stuff—obviously. Just not sure what. Maybe give away free espresso mugs? Or have a party or some book signings in coffee shops? Drink myself silly on espressos before a reading to give everyone a good laugh? Hmmm…this stuff is hard.

And then, how do you market directly to teens? Maybe magazine ads would be a good idea but are they really memorable? And are they worth the huge cost? I wonder if Red Bull sells ad space on the back of their cans.

I’ve heard some authors say that marketing at all is a big waste of time. That your book is either going to be a bestseller or it isn’t (depending on how many copies your first print run is. And that is entirely decided by your publisher. Apparently you need to sell X number of books to hit the bestseller lists and if your pub hasn’t printed that many then your chance of hitting the list disappears). These authors say you should spend your time writing the next book. Which I do. Since selling Espressologist I’ve written 3 more books. Of course, I’m always revising them but that’s how it goes. I’d really like to do some kind of marketing but not get too crazy. And something fun.

Take YA author Stephanie Kuehnert (whose book comes out in July and I will be interviewing her for A2A in June). She and the author of Frenemies, Alexa Young, are setting up something called ROCK AND READ. They are going to host events combining readings with music. How cool is that?

I know I still have time to come up with something snazzy to do but I do feel a nagging pressure to work on marketing now. Or at least figure out what I’m going to do. What about you other authors? Do you worry a lot about marketing? Or just focus on writing the next book?

Kristina, Miss Soon-to-Pub

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Check! That! Email! (or From Hyper to Hypocrit in 3 Easy Steps!)

Tip of the Day-- Library Reference Question Edition!: If you are a picture book writer, consider writing a funny one that involves a ukulele. There is a shortage in that area.

The hyper writer in me refreshes her email about 1,329 times a day. On average. Which you most likely know from my previous posts on this topic and your own writerly tendencies to obsess.

Which just proves how much it is on my mind.

And THEN the moment arrives.

An email.

From my agent.


(Though it's really only been a couple days since I last heard from her, but author time, like publishing industry time, is on its own space-time-continuum-quantum-leap.)

(And, OK, I haven't actually ever seen Quantum Leap, but I do admit to having watched pretty much every Star Trek: The Next Generation ever made. I blame my Chem PhD brother for that.)

So, the email is here and what do I do?
1) Open the email as fast as possible and devour every agently word?
2) Forward the email to my CPs before even reading it myself bc I'll tell them what the latest on my subs are anyway?
3) Print it so I have a hard copy of the NYC happenings in my hot little hand that I can draw hearts on?


That's right, you heard me. No. None of those.

What I do is....


That's right, you heard me, people. (Oh dear, if this doesn't solidify my craziness with you, dear readers, nothing will. And Chris, if you are reading this, I swear it's nothing personal!) I see the email and start to shake. Sure, I'm using The Secret and visualizing/expecting AMAZING THINGS for my novel and from the editors, but I'm still SCARED to open the email! I have to mentally prep myself for the possibility that someone doesn't want my book, or that agent-editor lunch plans fell through, or that my agent read my latest revision and has some revision suggestions, or that someone even loves my book. Even the GOOD possibilities and suggestions require mental preparation!

No, I'm not emotionally invested in this business at all. Thanks for asking.

So I take some deep breaths, think about the email, stop thinking about the email, then some time later -- could be minutes or half-hours -- I open the email.

And I'm OK. No matter what it says. I can handle it.

So I file the email away, go back about my daily business, and...

return to refreshing my email every ten minutes.

Am I the only email hypocrit writer?

Deena, Miss Recently Repped

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

A2A Chat with Marlene Perez

Tip of the Day: Agent Nathan Bransford is doing another contest. This time involving dialogue. You can enter here, or just go get involved in the discussion on what makes good dialogue.

I’m so excited for today, because we have one of my writing friends Marlene Perez stopping by to take her hand at the Author2Author Chat. Same five questions as last week, very different answers.

Marlene has a new book out called LOVE IN THE CORNER POCKET, about a billiards and love triangle. The book is super fun. Don’t you love the title and idea behind it? I do, especially because playing pool was something I used to do all the time when I was in high school. I wasn’t as good as Chloe in the book, but I still tried to beat the guys all the time. Anyway, I think you’ll really like this book, so go check it out. Here’s the description:

“Chloe is used to seeing all the angles on the table, so she's shocked when Alex turns up at Gino's Pizza and turns her life upside down. Not only does he confuse her and steal her best friend Bridget, but -- perhaps worst of all -- he threatens to beat her at pool.”

Now, onto the interview with Mar.

A2A: Where do you most of your writing? Do you have a picture you can show?

MP: I do most of my writing in my office/spare room, which also doubles as a catch-all for the junk I need to hide when company comes. I absolutely CAN'T show you a picture of my office. You would run screaming in terror. I also write in coffee shops and bookstores, which are definitely tidier than my own work space. Plus, I don't ever think about cleaning and/or perishing under an avalanche of papers when I'm at a coffee shop.

Emily: Maybe I should try that, my office sounds similar to yours.

A2A Are you a plotter or a plunger?

MP: I am by nature a plunger, but since I've branched out to mysteries, I am becoming a plotter. I really like starting with a character. Or sometimes an image or phrase. I'm often inspired by art or even conversations overheard. Right now, I have an idea for a book that I got after I heard two high school guys talking about their girlfriends in less than flattering terms.

A2A: What do you do when you get discouraged?

MP: Head for the chocolate and then I get back to work. I think it's how you handle the discouragement that really matters. Whenever something negative happens, I remember my critique partner Terry Miller Shannon's advice, which is "real writers get rejected." And I believe in the power of positive thinking. So I try to visualize success and also keep positive people around me. But I also balance that with a clear idea how focused I need to be to succeed in my craft.

Emily: Sounds like you and Deena would get along. She always tries to tell me to visualize success. And I think you both might be onto something.

A2A: What are you working on next?

MP: My fabulous agent Stephen Barbara sold four books of mine in a very short period of time. So right now, I'm working on a new book for Scholastic/Point with a tentative title THE COMEBACK and revisions for the third book for Harcourt in my DEAD IS humorous paranormal series, DEAD IS SO LAST YEAR. Then I'm going to take a nap.

A2A: What's your favorite part of writing?

Finishing! I both adore and avoid the whole process. I'm a big procrastinator, yet somehow, I manage to write. I find I work well when I reward myself for small accomplishments, like finishing a chapter. I've always been envious of those writers who said that the book just flowed out of them. I've yet to experience that. Every single word is like pulling teeth. But I do crack myself up sometimes, so maybe humor is my favorite part of writing.

Emily: And we like that to, because your books are hilarious!

Thanks so much for stopping by Mar. And to everyone reading, go out and get LOVE IN THE CORNER POCKET. You won’t be disappointed. And if you love mysteries, paranormal, or funny books, check out her DEAD IS series starting with DEAD IS THE NEW BLACK this fall.

And there's even more authors coming to chat with us in the future. Stay tuned.

--Emily, Miss Awaiting an Agent

Monday, May 19, 2008

I'm Getting All Meta Now

Tip of the Day: If you missed it, check the archives for last Wednesday's A2A Chat interview with author April Henry. We'll be announcing and posting more author interviews shortly. I can't wait to post mine!

I have a new obsession: Bloglines. If you've never checked this out, Bloglines is a way to manage your RSS feeds. I couldn't figure out the RSS feed mystery to save my life, and I had too many blogs saved to my favorites to keep up. Bloglines is easy to understand. Go to and save their "Sub with Bloglines" button to your Favorites (if you have Internet Explorer). Next time you're reading a blog you'd like to keep up with--like the fabulous Author2Author blog for instance--open your Favorites menu and click "Sub with Bloglines." Seriously, that's it.

Now every time I go to, the site recognizes me and brings up a list of my favorite blogs with the number of new posts in each. I click on any blog in my list and catch up on my reading. I will never miss a funny LOL cat picture again! What a relief.

I love LiveJournal, too. It's a great way to keep up with what my writer friends are doing and congratulate people on their good news. Oh, and then there's VerlaKay's Blue Board ( That's a great place for good news, discussions and advice. And did I mention Yahoo groups? I keep up with two of those: teenlitauthors and a Chautauqua loop. And then there's my email newsletter subscription to Children's Writer enews.

You don't think this is perhaps too much to keep up with? Writers have to read, after all. We need to keep up with the business and discuss craft. And laugh at photoshopped pictures of cats.

OK, it is a lot on online time. Writing blog posts takes time too. I'd like to think it never cuts into my writing time, but who can say? Some days taking a shower cuts into my writing time. Perhaps if I wasn't reading blogs on my lunch break, I'd be writing on my lunch break. Perhaps. The thing about being an apprentice writer is I don't have a deadline, so if I want to spend my lunch breaks trying to keep up with the breakneck plot twists in Mary Worth and Gil Thorp, I can do so relatively guilt free. (Favorite comics link:, where you can make a custom comics page. Discuss the comics at, also available as a LiveJournal feed.)

The thing is, before I found an online community, I was writing in isolation. If I didn't find other writers, if I didn't get a reality check on what the market is like and what this career means, I think I might have gone ... like the writing equivalent of an isolated lady with 50 cats, thinking stuff like: I know, I'll write a story about the cats speaking with rlly bad grammer lik this! That's so original, I'll bet nobody's thought of that!!

Life goes back and forth, and I won't always be in a position to be so plugged in. I'm enjoying it now. The online discussions, interviews, and journals make me think about writing the best I can. It's all part of my apprenticeship--learning from others who have already been there and done that. What do you get out of blogs?

-- Kate, Miss Apprentice Writer

Friday, May 16, 2008

It's all in the details

Tip of the Day: Keep a journal where you can write down certain details about something you notice that might come in handy someday when you are writing a scene.

I went for a glorious walk last night. It was warm with a slight breeze, the sun was setting in the distance creating a canvas of pink and orange, and Mt. Hood was a sight to behold in the distance. But you know what I noticed the most? All of the wonderful smells. One minute it was lilacs, the next it was barbecued hamburgers, and the next it was laundry softener.

So often in our writing we simply describe a scene visually. We forget that there are other things we might experience at any given moment. The sound of birds chirping, the smell of dinner cooking, or the feel of a cashmere sweater on the skin.

In my revision presentation tomorrow, I'm going to talk about the need to go through your manuscript when the first draft is done and think about adding details that will ground the reader in your scene. There should be a balance of sights, smells, and sounds. It should seem natural. What would you be likely to notice MOST in a restaurant, for example? The sight of people around you, the smell of the food, or the clanking of dishes? Perhaps it depends on what kind of restaurant it is?

For some people, the details come easily. I'm not one of those people. Some writers can go on for three pages describing the scene. I'm lucky if I can come up with two sentences. Which is probably why I'm so drawn to writing in verse. So in my revisions, I'm always thinking about how I can make something more clear. More crisp. More real. Other writers often go on too much, and have to take out the chain saw and hack away so the reader doesn't throw the book down in despair because nothing is happening.

What about you? Are you a pro at setting the scene, or do you have to work hard at it, like me?

~Lisa, Miss Pinch Me I'm Pubbed

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Meeting Rock Stars

Tip of the Day: If you write YA and you want to chat with almost 600 super cool YA authors, join teenlitauthors--

How lucky was I to be able to meet three of my FAVORITE YA authors this week? Yes, the fabulous Anderson’s Bookshop had Lauren Myracle, E. Lockhart, and Sarah Mlynowski in to sign their new book, HOW TO BE BAD on Monday night. How to Be Bad is an older YA about three girls on a road trip, all struggling with their individual reasons for needing the escape. And they throw in a couple of cute boys of course (must always have the cute boys). I have to say, I felt like an 11-year old girl at an American Idol show screaming for David Archuleta.

Ok, I wasn’t that bad. But I did sit in the front row about 6 feet away and hung on their every word.

And, they rocked. They started with an intro to the book—giving a set up about each of the three main characters in the book and which author was writing which character’s POV and how these characters came to be on the road trip to begin with. Then they each took turns reading from one of the chaps that they wrote (and even did fun accents).

(e. lockhart)

(Lauren Myracle)

(Sarah Mlynowski)

Following that they answered a zillion questions about the book and their other books. One of the interesting ones was how they wrote the book--all via e-mail. They did it chapter by chapter (kinda like when we were in school and would pass a story around--each adding on a line or paragraph or whatever. But with chaps. You never knew what the person in front of you was going to throw at you) with no plotting whatsoever. They said this was a fun way to do it but that it took mega revising afterwards. It sounds like it was a lot of fun (well, the writing, not the revising). One of the funniest questions was from a young girl who asked, "Are you guys going to write any new books?" To which Sarah answered, "Yeah, that's what we do." I had to cover my mouth to stifle the laugh. I don't think she meant to respond like that but it was funny.

After the Q&A, it was signing time and I was so excited to get to meet the ladies and have a minute to chat. Lauren even remembered me from commenting on her blog. They were impressed that I had my gigantic 39-week pregnant self there and I confessed that I secretly hoped my water would break during the signing so that I'd have a cool story to tell my kid later. They agreed that it would make an interesting addition to their vlog.

I just love going to signings and meeting authors and I learn so much about what I should and shouldn’t do in the future when I have signings. And seeing three of my favorite YA authors made the whole thing 10 times better.

(From L to R, Sarah Mlynowski, Me, Lauren Myracle, and the also pregnant, E. Lockhart)

Kristina, Miss Soon-to-Pub

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Interview with APRIL HENRY, Mystery/Thriller Author Goddess (or Why It's Not Shocking That SHOCK POINT Rocks!)

Tip of the Day: For a flurry of writing news and wisdom, check out April Henry's blog!

Good morning, and thank you for joining A2A for today's special Interview Edition! April Henry has graciously agreed to be featured on our blog and answered five random writing questions from the A2A Misses. But those who know me know I can't just pass the mic without saying a few words of my own first.

I love thrillers, and I love YA, so I LOVED April's first YA novel, SHOCK POINT.

Sixteen-year-old Cassie discovered that her step-father is using a dangerous experimental drug on his patients, so he sends Cassie to Peaceful Cove, an abusive boot camp for disturbed youth in Mexico. Cassie must break free of the camp, get home, and reveal her step-father for who he really is.

Who can resist a plot like that??? And it's totally believeable when April writes it. So read it! Besides, April is making it big on the writing scene. She has 6 books out, and a new YA and new adult book coming out in 2009. Don't miss out!

April also has a lovely author photo, is a runner, a wife, a mother, an Oregonian, and a book lover. Here she is.

OK, April's turn!

A2A: Where do you do your writing?
AH: I do nearly all my writing on my little three-year oldlaptop. But where we go varies: a quiet room at the library, a couch at my gym [your gym has a couch? Jealous!], my couch at home, and the occasional coffee shop. I've found it's much better if I leave home to write - there aren't any dishes to be done or floors to be vacuumed (although sometimes there is food, which is bad).

[Here's a kind of fuzzy pic of April and her laptop.]

A2A: Are you a Plotter or a Plunger (not the toilet-unjamming kind!)?
AH: As a mystery writer, it saves you a lot of time if you know from the beginning who the bad guy is, so that requires at least a little bit of plotting, even if you never write it down. With a thriller, it's not so important to know things in advance, although of course you know your main character won't die (but will come close).
I have written books based on 20-page outlines and written them chapter by chapter, just seeing what happens. When I've sold books on sample chapters and an outline, then of course I've had the outline to follow.
In some ways, you don't limit yourself as much if you just plunge in. But even if I've plotted something out, I try to be open to interesting developments that I think of later on.

A2A: How do you handle discouragement?
AH: The most discouraging thing is to work on a book for a year and not have it sell. [Ouch!] That's happened a couple of times to me, even after I had published several books. One book completely mis-timed the chick-lit market, and the other didn't fit into any category. A "tweener," as my agent calls it, can be a hard sell.
Usually by the time I figure out something isn't going to sell, I've fallen in love with my next project, so that helps. And I've been around enough to know that even successful authors have their ups and downs. Janet Evanovich was once a washed up romance writer. I watched Charlaine Harris have two series fall apart underneath her, then she wrote something she loved that wasn't like anything else out there and started showing up on best-seller lists. [This is great perspective for all of us!]
If all else fails, I call my mom and let her tell me that of course I'm going to be successful. (She really believes it, which helps.)

A2A: What are you working on next?
AH: That's a big question. In the next few weeks, I've got to look at the galleys for Torched, my next YA. [Yay!] Together with my adult co-author, Lis Wiehl, I need to work on the editorial letter for the first in our Faith & Consequences series as well as start writing the second book.
I'm hoping I just sold another YA thriller, [We are hoping, too!] so I'll need to work with that editor. And I just finished revised something completely different- a humorous middle-grade - that I hope my agent will like too. Oh, and I want to write a futuristic-type book, and a book about a girl who discovers her little sister isn't really dead... well, you get the idea. I'm busy.

A2A: What are you favorite things about writing?
AH: I love thinking of new twists. Occasionally, I will have a couple of hours that are so filled with joy that it's like an out-of-body experience. But that doesn't happen that often.
Writing to me is like quilting, and there comes a point when I have all these scraps and I keep sewing them together and then suddenly I see the pattern. I like that.
I also like having written.

Thanks so much to April for her generous answers, and to our A2A readers who so need to check out SHOCK POINT and April's upcoming work!

Look for more YA author interviews in the next couple weeks of A2A!

Deena, Miss Recently Repped

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Authors, In-person

Tip of the Day: if you want to feel revived and refreshed about writing, try going to a conference.

This past week, I was at a conference for my library job. The bonus perk was that many authors I admire were also speaking at the conference, including Tamora Pierce, Judy Schachner, Cynthia Lord, Pete Hautman, John Green, Hank Green, and Maureen Johnson. I blogged a little about the conference on my personal blog here, but I wanted to share some of my favorite words of wisdom from the speakers.

  • “If you need to send a message call Western union, [don’t write a book].” Tamora Pierce
  • When Tamora Pierce was asked at what stage during the writing process she thinks about the theme of her novel, her response was: “when I’m preparing for speeches.”
  • “Be persistent,” Judy Schachner, picture book author. “Or what I like to call: keep ramming head into brick wall.” Her response when asked about the publication process of books.
  • As I mentioned on my other blog, Cynthia Lord’s advice on writing and publishing: 1.) don’t let your inner-editor into the first draft of a novel and 2.) don’t give up on your publication journey.
  • Pete Hautman said most of his book ideas result when he realizes how two unconnected ideas he has on characters and/or larger issues fit together as one book.
  • John Green spoke at length on the importance of using technology to reach your readers in new ways, such as his online Nerdfighter community and Brotherhood 2.0 blogs. He also stated that teens today want to feel connected to the author at all times.
  • Hank Green added that one of his favorite things about their online community is that teens feel they can make a difference. “If you tell them they can change the world, they believe it and then they will do something about it.”
  • Maureen Johnson said when asked why she likes to write for teens that it’s because teens are a lot more open at that age and you can be more creative in books.

There was tons more, but those were my favorite comments. There’s nothing like hearing an author speak in person that can both get you excited about writing and also feeling inferior, since all of them are incredibly smart and dedicated to the craft of writing and to their readers. But it was an amazing time, and I’m so glad I got the opportunity to hear some of them speak.

--Emily, Miss Awaiting an Agent

Monday, May 12, 2008

Is Your Voice Majorly Slangalicious?

Tip of the Day: Nothing says Mother's Day like 1GB of storage. I got a stick drive to organize and backup my writing. It's small enough to take anywhere, so no more emailing myself files from my laptop to my desktop. What do you use for backup?

I'm reading Freaky Friday by Mary Rodgers, which I last read when I was about 13. This may be the first contemporary tween book. It's written in first person and the voice is ginormous. It's like ubervoice. It was published in 1972 and the plot devices are outdated (to talk on the phone in a different room, you have to pick up the phone extension in the other room and run back to hang up the first phone--remember that?). But the voice is so original and the main character is such a character that this book will probably never go out of print. There's a lot of slang. The washing machine breaks with "the most staggeringly horrible noise." Like when "a big crane throws dead cars into a pile and then a compressor thing mashes them all together into one large, tutti-frutti mess." Who wants to avoid adverbs and adjectives when you can use "staggeringly" and "tutti-frutti"?

Which brings me to my problem. I'm writing a book in first person with a 13 year old main character who is also a bit over the top. It's hard to be in character and not be, like, whoa, hauling out the slanginator and BaBam! BaBam! I might have to face the fact that I can't use a made-up word in every paragraph. That I can't add -licious or -riffic to the end of every word in the dictionary. Making up words is so much fun, though. Teens make up words all the time. I make up words all the time. I love verberizing my nouns in staggeringly interesting ways. Verberizing is 50% awesomer than verbing, don't you think? I know in my heart that my main character would talk this way in RL (if she existed).

Then there's the curse word issue. In older YA, it's okay for the main character to express such emotions as "Gddammit, I really f##ed up." I don't see me dropping the f-bomb in this book. I can tell you, there aren't easy substitutions for the curse words, which may be why they're so popular. Freaky Friday uses "cripes" and "crum" but they make me think of British cartoons. I've been using "rats" like Charlie Brown. But what do you think of "sucktastic"? Think I could use that?

Somehow I don't think "sucktastic" has ever made it into a John Grisham novel, which makes me wonder why anyone would write for adults when they could write this instead. The freedom to use "sucktastic" is one to be celebrated but not taken lightly. I must consider it--on revision. Because it's going in there now. BaBam!

How do you rate on the slangometer? Are you majorly slangalicious, or are my made-up words making your eyes cringe? Have you invented a word you're particularly proud of?

-- Kate, Miss Apprentice Writer

Friday, May 9, 2008

A2A The Teen Years - Sing it, baby

Tip of the Day: If Friday Night Lights comes back for a 3rd season, watch it. It's fabulous!

Going to high school in a small town was interesting. And SO MUCH FUN! We had our own version of Blueberry Hill (for those of you old enough to remember Happy Days). The local gas station called The Towne Pump was THE place to go Friday and Saturday nights to see what other people were up to and if there was a party anywhere in town. The drive-in movie theater was often the place to hang out in the summer time (although we did more socializing than movie watching).

But my favorite hang-out memories are from a time before I knew any of that existed.

My freshman year of high school, my friends Nancy, Sally and I would walk up to the local pizza parlor called The Pizza King before the home football game on Friday nights. We would each order our own individual pizza (I alternated between pepperoni with olives and Canadian bacon with pineapple), and then, while we waited for our food, we picked songs on the juke box. And we got up and SANG ALONG.

This was like twenty years ago (cough, cough) so before any of us knew what karaoke was. We just knew we loved the music and felt the need to share that love with the world. Or, at least the rest of the customers in The Pizza King.

How did those customers react, while Sally played the air guitar, I played the air drums, and Nancy sang like the lead singer she was destined to be? They clapped. They bought us sodas. They came up and told us how fun we were to watch. Thinking about it now, I’m sure there were probably a few customers who didn’t appreciate our performance. But if the manager ever got any complaints, he never told us about them.

When our pockets were emptied of quarters and our bellies were full of delicious pizza, we’d walk to the high school to watch the game. I never knew football could be so much fun. I can’t even describe how I came to love those games, and all of the players that made up the team.

Just writing about it, I get this tingly feeling in my chest.

"Those were the days, my friends, I thought they’d never end…”

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Sitting on Bricks is WAY Cool (A2A: The Teen Years continues...)

Tip of the Day: Tacking on to what Em’s TOD was (to go through old high school keepsakes) go through the notes your friends left you in your yearbook. My yearbooks tend to read like a laundry list of all the naughty and fun things my friends and I did that year.

Throughout high school my favorite hangout would change from school year to school year—depending on who I was friends with at the time or who could drive. Hangouts improved immensely when wheels were involved. But one of our best consistent hangouts was only visited during the summer and was oh so fun.

I grew up in a pretty small town with a small high school—our graduating class had 88 people. So by high school most people were pretty sick of each other (ok, well specifically we were tired of the boys. No one wanted to hang out with the same boys from kindergarten) and sought out friends in different towns. That brought me and my friends to neighboring Naperville. Naperville has a huge, beautiful downtown area with street after street of awesome stores, coffee shops, ice cream parlors etc. Amongst these stores is the famous Anderson’s Bookshop which gets like every rocking author there is in there to sign. Smack dab in the middle of downtown is the Naperville Riverwalk—a completely beautiful park with, yes a river running through it, and lots of trees and covered bridges, and flowers and fountains and brick paths etc. So cool to walk around whether you are 5 or 50.

Well, off of the main drag was this super long brick wall, cleverly nicknamed “the wall”. THIS is where we would hang out EVERY NIGHT in the summer. Everybody did—kids from all different high schools would sit along the wall and talk for hours while watching people walk by or cruise by. Cruising was the other big thing to do in this area. Those with cars would drive in circles around the area just so they could see people and be seen.

It became such a big deal to cruise through the Riverwalk that people would hold up scorecards and rate the people in the cars going by. Like 8.5, 9, 10. Other kids would bring their guitars and sit in the grass and play. Even years after I stopped hanging out at the wall my little brother would hang out there with his friends playing the two chords they knew on the guitar and making up songs. Somewhere along the way the cruising got so heavy that they had to put in place a cruising law—something like you couldn’t drive through more than three times in a night. I haven't hung out on the wall in years but I'm guessing teens still gather there on summer nights. It was the perfect place to spend hours at a time meeting new friends and chatting with old ones. Looking back, I wish I had that kind of free time now to just hang out with people every night. Definitely one of the highlights of being a teen.

Maybe the wall will make it into one of my books. Has your favorite teen hangout made it into one of your books?

Kristina, Miss Soon-to-Pub

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Eighth Grade Hilton Hay Days (or When Our Village Made It On the Map)

Tip of the Day: If when you hit puberty your hair starts to turn from straight to curly, do NOT randomly hack off layers of the intermitant frizz.

Thank you for joining us for another post on A2A: The Teen Years! Let me share with you the map that my hometown of Hilton, NY made it on when I was 13.

Yes folks, these are all the McDonald's across the great US of A! GO AMERICA! (Yes, I'm feeling very Stephen Colbert right now (and yes, I swear he's the funniest man alive).)

If you squint real hard at the Western NY part of the map, directly south of Lake Ontario where it looks like north of the thruway had an itchy breakout of hives, there's a Micky D's dot for Hilton, NY! WOO HOO!

When I was in eighth grade and this "restaurant" was brand spanking new, it was THE hangout for after school. Where else could you go for cheap fries, free sugar packets, and bi-annual chances to win $1,000,000 with the Monopoly promo game on the super sized sodas? We slurped our drinks with visions of Hawaiian vacations and dropping out of school to become beach bums with our McD's winnings. Yes, those were the days.

Marching Band practice was in the Hilton High School, which was even CLOSER to McDonald's, so it was also the place to be before and after those practices, not to mention lunch breaks during all day marching sessions. All the teen girls who were cool and cute would get a Happy Meal, then carry the empty, semi-greasy box around with her as a purse, and show off her toy prize inside.

As a bonus, McDonald's borderd the parking lot to the bowling alley, Pleasure Lanes, which was the perfect place for skateboarding, too! So many activities in one geographic location. What the heck did us Hiltonian teens DO before 1992?

The teens in my novel that's being shopped hang out at the soda shop in the insane asylum community. They can't really go anywhere outside the walls of the community, so it's the best they can do. Yet I find it ironic that in both my real life and my characters' lives, the hang out involves a location that serves food. Hmmmm....what does this say about me?

Where do your teen characters hang out?

Deena, Miss Recently Repped

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Hangouts Schmangouts—A2A: The Teen Years

Tip of the Day: If you need inspiration for your YA novels, just go through your old keepsakes from High School. Ideas and character help will pop up everywhere.

Growing up in a small town you learn to get creative with your entertainment, especially on a limited budget. So when my friends and I were in high school, we rarely went and hung-out at a specific place.

More often than not, we were at a friend’s house making videos. Most of which my friends would disown me if I admitted to making. So all I can really say is that they may or may not have included everything from exercise videos followed by music videos of the formerly-chubby Spice Girls, hideous beauty pageants with uniquely-talented contestants, and extreme sports commentary on the non-sanctioned Olympic events of bed diving and shoe tennis. And then there were the times when we decided to leave the video camera at home, but take our “characters” out in public. But I definitely shouldn’t discuss those…

What? How did this picture get here? Clearly, I have no idea who these people are that high jacked the blog.

We also liked to hang out at football games. A lot. Like we are talking driving two hours to games, never missing one, panting on war paint, type of support. Most schools had cheerleaders; we had the additional Camo-Gals…

Um…can you blame us for wanting to hang out at football games, with players like these?

And then there were all the border-line illegal activities of TPing we did. Which went way beyond traditional TPing. Which of course, I have no pictures to document said activities.

Then there was college, which filled up the remaining teen years. And well let’s just say I was amazed to find even crazier friends there.

So I guess you could say any place my friends and I were together was our favorite hangout. So much so that now I love to write about teens, because I had such a blast during my teen years I like to revisit them. Pimpled-face cheesy photos and all.

Monday, May 5, 2008

A2A: The Teen Years

Tip of the Day: Buying lunch at a deli every day? Yes, Coke Classic and Goldberg's Peanut Chews is a great lunch, but you should probably limit consumption to once a week.

Welcome to an irregularly occurring feature of the Author 2 Author blog. It's A2A: The Teen Years! We write YA because we love teenagers. And we've never fully grown out of being teenagers. (You regular readers probably figured that out, huh?)

This week we're discussing hangouts. Where did you hang out as a teen and why? Because there was nothing more important than getting the heck out of your house, was there?

My friends and I had a special meeting place, because I was an incredibly lucky, amazingly fortunate teenager. My high school had off campus lunch. That meant no cafeteria, no smell of industrial food, no ostracizing and bullying over lunch tables, no ridiculous rules and harassed enforcers, no extra time with the people I was never going to get along with. 45 less minutes a day for people to stick their noses in my social life. God bless off-campus lunch, preventer of fights and food poisoning epidemics!

Lunch was still cliquey, of course. This was high school. The basketball players/cheerleaders never entered our deli, and we never entered their pizza place. But as you can see from my graduation picture, I was socially acceptable enough (no extra noses or anything) to gain entrance to the Great Southern Deli for lunch.

You had to earn a table spot there over years of apprenticeship. The junior and senior boys might give up their chairs for us girls, but the freshman and sophomore boys were like young wolves circling the pack, banished to the arcade games while we flirted with the older guys. Of course the young guys took revenge by never letting us girls play the good video games. They'd be all, "Go play Dig Dug, that's a girl's game." Sexist pigs. Not that it stopped me from dating them.

Once we were the upperclassmen, the Great Southern Deli was ours. My friends took part time jobs there. It became the rendevous before any of our super exciting weekend night adventures, which usually revolved around figuring out where to get liquor without a 21 year old. Yup, all planned out at the tables in Great Southern Deli.

The deli was named Great Southern because I grew up on the Great South Bay on Long Island. My high school was very small for Long Island: 90 people in my graduating class. To date me, we played arcade games in delis instead of on Playstations and hoarded quarters. We ordered heros and "regular" coffee (which today means subs and coffee with 1 creamer and 1 sugar packet per cup). My town hadn't let 7-11 or other convenience store chains in yet, or even self-serve gas stations. You wanted a pack of smokes, you went to a deli.

I don't know how common off campus lunch is anymore, especially if you're not a senior. It was debated in my town every year. Local businesses were all for it, but I think some townspeople panicked at the idea that teens were roaming the neighborhood loose every day. The horror!! And that was the best part of off-campus lunch--being treated as adults who could go out to lunch, rather than as some mutant zombie race that had to be cordoned off from the rest of society. Of course, if any of those lone wolf boys by the Gauntlet machines got out of line and jeopardized our off campus lunch, the pack would've eaten him alive.

Time travel with us all week for A2A: The Teen Years! And share your hangout stories in the comments. Let me know what you think about off campus lunch. Blessing or disaster waiting to happen?

-- Kate, Miss Apprentice Writer

Friday, May 2, 2008

The Art of Critiquing

Tip of the Day: Try to go to at least one writing conference a year. I usually come back inspired and motivated to get to work on something new, and anything that does that is well worth the time and money, I think.

I'm going to be speaking at the Oregon SCBWI conference coming up in a couple of weeks. Along with that responsibility, I also get the fun job of critiquing some manuscripts and spending fifteen minutes with each author to go over my notes with them.

I have to admit, it's an odd thing for me to be on the other side of the desk. I have been to many conferences and have received valuable critiques from both editors and authors. I know what it feels like to be in that spot. Most likely a couple of people will be disappointed they didn't get paired with an editor. I understand that. Often times one of the goals of going to a conference is to make a connection with an editor. Knowing there will be some disappointment makes me want to make my critiques even more helpful.

Still, it's hard to know where these people are on their journey. Have they have had a critique before? Do they REALLY want to know what I think? Will there be hurt feelings if I tell them? Will there be hurt feelings if I don't?

I have been critiquing other people's manuscripts for a long time, through a critique group or on the fly, as a writer friend needs one. I know how important it is to give the positive feedback as well as the constructive criticism. And really, there are always good things that can be found. But it's the other part, the constructive criticism, that can be difficult. The last thing I want to do is have someone fall down the stairs of despair, and have him/her give up on the dream of having a book published because of something I say!

So, I'm treading carefully as I type up my notes for each manuscript, trying to word each suggestion in a tone that says "I want to help you!" I hope they know that really is what I'm trying to do. I also hope they know that when you get a critique, you take what rings true with you, and leave the rest behind. I mean, I'm just one person with one opinion. Ask the person next to me about your story, and you'd probably get a different opinion, and totally different suggestions.

Anyway, I think it's going to be a fun day. And I hope I have seven people who leave the table when we're done chatting and think, "I'm so glad I did that."

Have you ever had a conference critique? If so, how did it go?

~Lisa, Miss Pinch Me I'm Pubbed

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Who’s right?

Tip of the Day: Check out YA author Lauren Barnholdt’s cool book trick vlog. She shows everyone how to figure out what printing your book is in. I had no idea how this was done—pretty cool!

Approximately once a week my husband and I get into a debate—he from a reader’s point of view and me from a writer’s point of view. (Some background--I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this in previous blogs but my husband listens to an insane amount of audiobooks on his iPod-- 300+ books last year.) Anyway, here’s the debate and I want you guys to weigh in.

Ghost Writers.

Yup—that’s it. Now I understand ghost writers are necessary for all of the Hollywood memoirs etc. because it’s just so obvious that none (ok, I'll be fair and say almost none in case there is one or two who do write their own) of these celebs are going to write their own books. I’m not going to begin to believe that Dr. Phil is writing a dozen books a year while working all day on his TV show or that Miley Cyrus is about to jam out her memoir on the tour bus in between concerts. In fact, I had a good laugh when watching Oprah and seeing a particular celebrity not have a clue as to what Oprah was referencing in this celeb’s own book. Not only did she not write it I don’t think she ever read it.

No, here’s my problem. I don’t like when people put their names all over a fiction book and someone else wrote it. It really, really bothers me.

For example, about a year ago I came to a horrible realization. The teen fiction series I grew up on, the one I read like 100 books of, Sweet Valley High, was NOT written by Francine Pascal. Nope. This is true. And I’m sorry if you didn’t know and I just ruined your day. Yeah, ok, so Francine never claimed that she “wrote” the books. They say “created by Francine Pascal” on each cover. But hey, I was 12 when I read them. And I didn’t over think this kind of stuff. I mean, look at the covers.

Her name is the only one that appears! I thought she wrote the books herself. This was someone I admired and thought it might be fun to one day write books just like her. Ha! I don’t know why exactly I’m so bitter about this but I am.

And more recently, James Patterson. His name is written in enormous letters across the top of books and he is getting the credit but someone else is writing the book. Oh sure, if you look closely you’ll see who really wrote the book. But how many people are looking closely at each book? How many people just pick up a James Patterson book and go on their merry way?

So back to me and my dear hubby’s debate. He thinks it is just fine that authors have other people write their books because they provide an outline to the book. Outline shmoutline I don’t think it’s the same. I can give someone an outline to one of my books and I don’t think the end product will be nearly the same. Not that it would be worse or better. It would just be different. It’s still not ME writing the book. If Lauren Myracle gave me an outline to one of her books I could manage something but it would NOT be a Lauren Myracle book. And I think that would tick off Lauren Myracle fans don’t you? My husband says an outline is all you need—he doesn’t think it matters who wrote it as long as the idea came from the big name author. And he is always referencing how Robert Heinlein books are continued after he has died just because other people write them and how wonderful this is.

I still don’t agree. What do you think? Am I just overly sensitive because I’m a writer? Do readers who are not writers not care if a book says JAMES PATTERSON across the top but is written by Bob Smith?

Kristina, Miss Soon-to-Pub