Thursday, July 31, 2008

Starting to Freak out a Little

Tip of the Day: Don’t get lazy late in the summer (like me) and forget the sunscreen. Ouch.

It’s easy to pretend like this whole book thing isn’t really happening when you’re busy writing and revising and editing and when you have tons of time from book contract to pub like me (2 ½ years total). But things are moving right on along. I’ve been done with all of my edits on Espressologist for awhile now. My copyedits have been sent back. Earlier in the month I got my flap copy (the stuff that goes on the front flap of the book and the back ad for the book) and I LOVE it. It is so cute and perfect and I’m excited to see it on a real cover. I haven’t seen the cover art yet but I know that is coming next. Last week I even found myself on Amazon! I think that is when it REALLY hit me. This is real and will REALLY be for sale out there in the world for everyone to purchase and read. Oh. My. God.

Of course this is a good thing. A great thing! A fantastic thing! I’m not sure why this is freaking me out now. I mean, I still have over a year until it actually is on sale (September 2009). But I’m starting to get nervous like I really need to buckle down and start figuring out marketing stuff and when/where I’ll do book signings (another OMG in itself!). It’s almost like I’m getting the author version of Mommy guilt. “Am I doing enough for little bookie? Does little bookie have nice enough clothes (Web site)? Will little bookie get picked on at the stores (bad placement)? Is little bookie signed up for enough activities (signings)?” (Note: I don’t really call my book "little bookie". I swear.)

And then Em’s post last week about characters resembling people in your real life. Yikes. One of my characters DOES have a couple of similarities to a family member. It didn’t even occur to me until this week. The character is totally NOT this family member but after reading Em’s post I started thinking, uh-oh. What if this family member thinks I based the character on them and that I’m making fun of them?! Argh. And it’s too late to change anything.

See? It’s almost like I’m finding things to freak out about. And I have over a year to go still. Am I totally weird? Did you other authors freak out for months and months before your first book came out?

Kristina, Miss Soon-to-Pub

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

How Much Book Could A Book Talk Talk (or Let's Give Them Something to Talk About)

Tip of the Day: Carry an umbrella. One that won't flip inside out with a sudden gust of wind. (It's just embarassing.)

I decided to do a Book Talk for the teens at my library. I read tons of books, so it should easy to pick a novel to discuss, right?

Um, no.

I realized that in order to appeal to the largest number of teens, I had to really think about what book to pick. I needed a novel that:

1) Appeals to boys and girls (so probably a boy MC)
2) Isn't too depressing
3) Is out in paperback (so I could afford to buy a copy for 15 teens)
4) Isn't too old/dated (so not too many teens read it already or think it's "old fashioned")
5) Appeals to readers 12-18 (though most of my participants will probably be 12-14)
6) Isn't about too controversial a topic (so parents won't yell at me)
7) Has an author who is contactable online (so I could ask for autographed bookplates for the books)

I posted my question and my list of requirements to the YA Librarian Listserv for my county, and got lots of helpful replies (thanks, all!), and some suggestions of what books worked for them (though many successful novels were definitely "girl books"). Some of the suggestions were for books I'd read and liked, but wasn't passionate about. Others were for books I hadn't read yet and now will read. But time was ticking for me to decide what book to talk!

With all the advice, I thought and branched out on my own. I chose NOTES FROM THE MIDNIGHT DRIVER by Jordan Sonnenblick.
It fit all the requirements and is funny, too! The author has also agreed to send me bookplates! An extra plus is that JS's first novel, DRUMS, GIRLS, AND DANGEROUS PIE is on the local required summer reading list. Hopefully teens will love that book as much as I did, and jump at the chance to read his next.

Of course, all of this made me think about if any of my books fit my own list of Book Talk requirements.

Oh no! They do not! I have all girl MCs! Crap.

What about you? Do you wonder if your book will be talked? Or chosen as a summer reading requirement for a school?

Deena, Miss Recently Repped

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Calling it quits

Tip of the day: if you feel like giving up on your dream of publication make a list of all the reasons you love to write and focus on that instead of thinking about publication.

I realize by titling this blog “calling it quits” some people might jump to the conclusion that I’m quitting writing or even this blog. So I should say upfront that that isn’t the case.

But it doesn’t mean I haven’t thought about it several hundred times in the last month.

I’m sure everyone sitting in our shoes (the Awaiting an Agent/Publication shoes, I mean), goes through this. The times you want to pull your hair out in confusion because even after fixing the scene 20 times on page 131, it still doesn’t work. When you feel defeated after getting a particularly harsh rejection that compares your writing to that of the agent’s dog (or at least that’s how you interpret the letter). Or if you lose confidence in your writing after a bad critique.

It’s not that you want to quit writing in general. But just the working towards publication aspect.

And even though I’ve been in the Awaiting an Agent stage for awhile and have nothing else to compare it too, I would wager a bet that we in particular are more prone to the thoughts of wanting to call it quits. Because when you are sitting in the pre-pubbed position you have to have complete and utter faith in your writing. You haven’t had an agent or an editor that has taken a chance on you and believes in your work. All you have is yourself and select friends you’ve meet along the writing journey. You have to trust in yourself, your writing, and the feedback from critique partners.

And dang-it if sometimes the little voices of people like this guy creep into your head. And for a second you lose faith.

Kind of like how Katee on So You Think You Can Dance felt when asked by the judges if she’d try out for next year’s show if she didn’t make this season. And she answered “I don’t know” and stumbled around with a bunch of other words that almost prevented the judges from picking her.

How many of us have thought of this? Several whom have gone onto be published, too, I’m sure. Katee made it on the show and is definitely one of the front-runners to win, but after getting rejected by the show before and thinking her dream was going to be crushed again this year, it’s hard to keep positive and trust in your abilities.

But I’m sure just like Katee and all of us, even though we think about it frequently, most of us know we’ll never quit. Because the second we think about quitting, we have thoughts about all the reasons we’d kick ourselves in the butt if we gave up now. And if we called it quits, we’d never be published.

So to all of us that may be feeling particularly defeated lately. Whether it be you are waiting on getting a break, uncertain of your next career move, or worried about your upcoming publication. Remember to keep the faith! Or as much of it that you can keep.

--Emily, a certain Miss Awaiting an Agent who wrote this post mainly to remind herself about this

Monday, July 28, 2008

Will It Blend?

Tip of the Day: Plain yogurt, cucumber, chives, and salt in the blender makes a quick, refreshing summer snack. The new iPhone in the blender does not.

I posted last week about a unique setting inspiring stories. If you’re writing a novel, though, you’re stringing together lots of settings. It’s tempting (for me, anyway) to write a lot of different settings, just to keep things interesting. Plus it gives one the illusion of action. “Look, the plot must be moving forward, we’ve never been to the football field before.”

I’ve been thinking about multiple settings differently lately. Yes, each setting itself is important, but how do they fit together? In the words of my favorite webcam show, will it blend?

Think of multiple settings in a novel like multiple fabrics in a quilt. My mother quilts, so I can think in those terms. She goes to the fabric store knowing what her finished project should feel like: warm and cozy, or fun and light-hearted, or modern and urban. And she knows what quilt pattern she’s selected so she knows how many different kinds of fabric to buy. She picks materials she likes, natch, but each fabric can’t just be interesting in itself. It has to fit into the quilt as a whole. Sometimes she has to compromise. She wants more blue in a boy’s baby quilt so she picks a so-so fabric. Sometimes she makes room for a fabric she loves, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. But it’s not enough to scoop up a bunch of material, not to really create art.

So how, then, can a group of settings be structured? The answer is, of course, at your local library. Isn’t it always? How are settings structured in your favorite books? Here are some patterns I like the most.

The Town. In the town pattern, the town itself is so interesting that it spills into every smaller setting within the book. A great example of this is Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series. Forks, WA is so wet, isolated, menacing. No matter where you are—the beach, the woods, even the school parking lot—it’s hard to forget the sense of place hanging over you. Hey, vampires and werewolves managed to survive in Forks because of its awful weather. That’s an interesting town.

I think this common pattern is why so many books take place in Manhattan. It’s like places in Manhattan are more interesting because they’re in Manhattan. You go buy a bottle of water in a YA book, you have to do it in a downtown bodega.

The Theme. In the theme pattern, every setting has something in common. In e. lockhart’s Fly on the Wall, the main settings are the Manhattan School of Arts, the museum, and the MC’s bedroom, which is crammed with her art books, figurines, and models. Every setting is related to each other with the art theme.

I’m considering applying this pattern to my current WIP, running a thread through my settings of attempts at calmness: a library, a bonsai tree, rounded corners, pale blue colors. This probably won’t emerge until like the 18th revision.

The Continuum. In the continuum, the settings move from one extreme to the other. Life as We Knew It, by Susan Beth Pfeiffer, starts with the MC thinking about the Olympics. What could be more global than that? By the end of the novel, the MC and her family are confined to one room.

I could see the continuum model working for a story about a journey, too, with the settings moving from civilized to more and more rugged and treacherous. Seasons can move settings along the continuum, too, from summer to winter. I just read a 100-year-old romance novel I picked up at an antique store, and the settings moved from the West to Manhattan (there it is again) to Europe, to demonstrate the increasing sophistication of the heroine.

Those are three common patterns: the town, the theme, the continuum. I’m missing patterns, I’m sure of it. If you think of one, definitely share it! It’s a fun thing to notice when you’re reading. I wonder how many readers ever see these patterns?

-- Kate, Miss Apprentice Writer

Friday, July 25, 2008

Sell, Sell, SELL!!

Tip of the Day: Buy the book, I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME, if you haven’t already. Please. PLEASE! Don’t make me get on my hands and knees!! (you know I'm kidding, right? Sort-of)

I get asked ALL THE TIME by family and friends, “How’s the book doing?”

I’m not exactly sure what they mean by this, but I think they want to know, is it selling? Are you making money?

It’s always a hard question to answer, because for the most part, I don’t know how it’s doing. Sometimes I say, “It’s doing all right, I guess.” Sometimes I say, “It’s went into a third printing, so I think it’s doing fine.” But if you catch me on a bad day, I might glare at you and say, “I don’t know. I’m trying not to think about it.”

The truth is, I think about it ALL THE TIME. I don’t want to. But you’ll see, when you have a book on the shelves, I think it must be like having a kid off at college. You know you need to let the kid have his independence, but damn if you don’t want to call everyday and find out what’s going on!

I am one of those who obsessively checks Amazon rankings. Mine has pretty consistently stayed in the five digits. The lower five digits, like in the 20-30,000 area, makes me very happy. When it creeps up into the 90,000s, my heart starts racing. And when it goes over 100,000, I have to click away immediately so I don’t burst into tears.

My book has now been out for six months. I think I feel like more copies should be selling, not less. I start to panic and wonder what, if anything, I can do to get word out about the book. Should I send a copy to every talk show host? Every teen magazine in circulation? Should I blanket the city with book signings, even if I would rather hang by my ankles above a big pile of dog poo than sit at a table trying to look happy as NO ONE walks up to the table?

They say the best thing you can do as a debut novelist is to write the next book. I’ve done that. I hope it helps to get my name out there. I’m working on a third novel now. But I’m finding it incredibly hard this time around to shut off all the noise and just write.

Because here’s the thing. The truth I’ve only recently realized. I don’t just want to be a published author. I want to be a successful published author. There’s a difference, you know? A big difference.

Of course, then I have to figure out what success means to me. So I ask you – how would you define success for yourself? Is getting a book published success enough?

~Lisa, Miss Pinch Me I’m Pubbed

Thursday, July 24, 2008

First Lines

Tip of the Day: When writing at the café, order your drinks sans whip cream. It’s like 200-250 calories and only lasts two seconds anyway.

I’ve subscribed to Writer’s Digest FOREVER. Like, way before I started getting the bulk of my writing related news and tips on the Internet. So, I think that would be college, maybe high school. And yes—the Internet was around back then (I’m not THAT old), I just didn’t use it very often.

Lately I find myself disagreeing more and more with various articles in it though. So much that I’m thinking about not renewing my subscription this next year (GASP).

For example, in this last issue there was an article about how important first lines are. And I agree—the beginning of a book is so important. You’ve got to grab your reader and make them want to read your book. But this particular writer was saying (well, ok. I think he said his teacher taught him this but he was backing him up) that the FIRST LINE had to tell the reader everything they need to know—specifically who the main character is, where they are, and what’s going on.

To me, this is BORING. I don’t want to follow some formula for my first line. Yeah, up front the reader should be able to figure out where we are going and our main character etc. but all in the very first line? Nah. Let’s look at a couple of my first lines:

From REVENGE QUEEN: "Is your ex-best friend passing around pictures of you drunk and topless?"

From NIGHT AT CLAIRE'S: “Oh dear lord…” I whisper under my breath.

Ok, you obviously won’t get the whole story from those first lines. And I don’t want you to. You will shortly figure out where I’m headed though if you read on.

Let me try another one. With THE ESPRESSOLOGIST, my main character, Jane, keeps a notebook where she’s basically defining people based on their favorite coffee drinks and she calls this “Espressology”. I open the book with her making an entry into the notebook.

Large, nonfat, four-shot café latte

Cocky, sex deprived, butthead guy drink. Expect only the upmost stupidity to come out of his mouth. So-so body, could stand to work out more. Crappy dresser…

You don’t know where I’m going from the first line of the book but you soon figure out what’s going on. If I were to use the formula suggested in the WD article I’d have a line like this instead,

“Jane Turner, a high school student and coffee barista, is at work making notes in her notebook about a customer who just came in.”


Ok, It’s not THAT bad but I like my opening better.

What about you guys? Do you follow this type of first line advice? What are some of your first lines?

Kristina, Miss Soon-to-Pub

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Light Books Deserve Love, Too (or Un-Scaring Yourself Through Books)

Tip of the Day: Don't forget the sunscreen!

For some reason my TBR pile has been full of dark books lately. Don't get me wrong -- they've been good but man, they don't make you feel warm and fuzzy inside, and there's not a laugh to be had:

MADAPPLE (death, poison, craziness)
THE HOST (loss of human existence)
STREAMS OF BABEL (terrorists, death, poison, illness)
SHIFT (missing persons, evil father)
BAD GIRLS CLUB (abuse, violence, depression)

Thank goodness I had CONFESSIONS OF A TRIPLE SHOT BETTY in there!

But as I pack for a mini vacation this weekend, I MUST get away from the melancholy books that I am in the midst of. I need something FUN to read by the pool.

And this, my friends, is why the lighter books, the less literary, the FUN books of the teen world are necessary. DIVERSITY, PEOPLE! We preach it in America for everything all the time EXCEPT in what we do for entertainment it seems. Certain books are seen as meritless because there aren't "lessons" and the prose isn't at perfect pitch and length.

But sometimes all a reader NEEDS is something light, fun, transportive, and uplifting. Doom and gloom only goes so far -- and if you really need that much of it, you can keep CNN on 24 hours a day.

So I've picked up HOW TO SALSA IN A SARI and plan to grab some other fun titles.

The book I just revised for an interested editor is much more light than many other books I've written -- and I love it! The ed and my agent like the high concept of it. And let me tell you, it was no easier to revise than any of the more serious books I've written. If anything, it was harder bc I had to make the character more likable while still having her fun attitude.

What are some of your favorite LIGHT, FUN YA novels? Meg Cabot, Lauren Barnholdt, and Jennifer Lynn Barnes are some authors who do it for me.

Deena, Miss Recently Repped

P.S. Em, did you know a sequel to BAD KITTY is coming out? YAY!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Characters based on real people

Tip of the Day: for more realistic characters, you might want to try people watching and picking out a few unique mannerisms or actions.

Some of you may have seen those t-shirts that read something like: "Don't make me mad, or I'll write you into my novel." But I'm actually curious, how many people do this.

A book idea I'm playing with in my head right now would feature three people I know in real life as main characters. The only problem is, I'm not sure where you draw the line on how realistic to make characters. On one hand, some people might be flattered you would incorporate them into a book, and others might not. I'd imagine there are several pros and cons.

Pro: basing a character on someone you know could make that person come to life on the page.

Con: if you are too accurate, you might loose a friend or family member in the process.

Pro: it would be easier to get the character right, because all you'd have to do is think of characteristics or even exaggerated characteristics of the person you know in real life.

Con: someone might not understand you were exaggerating his or her characteristics.

Pro: your friend or family member might actually be honored you put them in a book. Kind of like how celebrities want to be on Saturday Night Live, even if they are poked fun at.

Con: they might not.

Some of the cons would be hard to deal with. I guess that's why many authors pick and choose characteristics of people to put in their books, so it's hard for people to figure out a character might be based on them. Which I am also considering, but I still think it would make for a better book in this case if the characters were modeled almost exactly after a few people I know. Especially because I actually really like the people I'd put in the book and think other people would like them as characters as well.

How about you, would you like to find yourself on the pages of a novel?

--Emily, Miss Awaiting an Agent

Monday, July 21, 2008

A Unique Setting

Tip of the Day: If you go on a summer outing to the beach, horseback riding, or berry picking, put your characters in your new setting. What would they like, dislike, find surprising?

My summer vacation in the Adirondacks was a great time to think about setting.

We drove 2000 miles above sea level to the Barton Garnet Mine. I don’t think there’s anyplace like this in the world. Garnet mining is unique because garnets are so hard. They’re used industrially for cutting and polishing. You couldn’t go to the mine and steal a big chunk of garnet because you couldn’t cut it out of the granite. It’s so hard, they cut it out with other garnets. As we chugged over the gravel road on top of the mountain, we could see the old houses that stood sentry over the 150 year old mine pit. I imagined what it would be like decades ago in the Upstate New York winters. You wouldn’t want to be caretaker here, trapped up the mountain. There’s no way they could mine here in the winter. You’d be all alone until spring.

Wow, that would be a great story, except Stephen King wrote it about a ski resort and called it The Shining.

OK, how is the garnet mine different from the Overlook Hotel? Well, it’s a giant pit, for one thing. Actually, it’s a few giant pits carved out of a mountain. The pit we visited hasn’t been mined since the 1980’s. Now it’s beautiful. Nature has reclaimed it. We heard frogs glooping and watched sausage-sized polliwogs swim. The ground was littered with thousands of sparkling red garnet pieces.

We had a tour guide on our visit. Tour guides are invaluable. I’m one of those people who asks the tour guide too many questions. Without meaning to, I’ve taught my kids to do the same thing, so now my children are the annoying ones who pester tour guides. Well, at least they don’t hang out behind the crowd wearing black in the summer and cultivating contemptuous looks.

If I’m going to write a story about this setting, though, I need some facts. Having grown up outside of NYC, the facts I need are wildlife facts. I can’t tell a tree from another tree or a bird from another bird. Up here in the mountains, I’m lucky if I can tell a bird from a gigantic fly.

Tour guide: You can see the garnets in the polished granite mined here. It will be used for the cornerstone of the new World Trade Center.
Me: Excuse me, what kinds of trees are those on the ridge of the pit?
Husband: Those are birch, honey.
Tour guide: You can buy a slab of polished granite in the gift shop.
Me: Excuse me, do you get bears around here? What about wolves, do you get wolves?
Kids [mine of course]: Do the bears eat people?
Tour guide: We don’t get many bears here. Mostly deer. We’re a little too far south for moose. They’re just north of here.

Oooh, now there’s an interesting fact. A starving moose, out of his territory, falls down the pit. Does the caretaker go down to save him? Or make him into mooseburgers? Maybe it’s the Great Depression, people are starving too. They’re still mining this pit but it’s winter so operations are shut down until March. Families live around here, though, just a few families whose fathers work at the mine …

With the right setting, a story practically writes itself.
-- Kate, Miss Apprentice Writer

Friday, July 18, 2008

My Turn, my turn - Lisa's Favorites

Tip of the day: Eat cherries. Beautiful, delicious cherries. But not too many cherries. Otherwise, you’ll get a stomach ache.

All week long, we’ve been discussing our favorite authors. The ones where we count the days until the next book comes out. The ones whose books make us go, if only I could write a book even 1/16 as good as this one. The ones who inspire us and make us work harder.

So here is my list:

1. Laurie Halse Anderson. I probably don’t even need to say more. She has a historical mid-grade coming out this fall, titled CHAINS, and I can’t wait. Who knew I’d ever be so excited about historical fiction? But I found FEVER 1793 fascinating, and she writes her historical fiction in a way that makes it real and interesting. And I think in the end, she understands it’s still about connecting the reader with a character, regardless of what time period or setting you have. Of course I love her YA just as much, if not more. Plain and simple, she is an incredible writer. And not only that, I’ve seen her speak, and she relates to teens in a way that makes you go – wow, she really GETS it.

2. John Green. LOOKING FOR ALASKA is one of my most favorite books of all time. After I read it, I found myself picking it up and flipping through the pages, randomly reading bits here and there, because I missed the characters so much. How often does that happen? I’ll tell you how often. Not nearly enough. The other thing I ADORE about him is his ability to write a serious, thought-provoking book but still have humorous elements that make me laugh out loud. At not one, but two different points while reading LOOKING FOR ALASKA, I laughed until I cried. With his latest book, PAPER TOWNS, coming out in October (I read an Advanced Review Copy) I laughed multiple times. Let me tell you, dear readers, you are in for a treat with PAPER TOWNS.

3. L.K. Madigan and Lindsey Leavitt – Yes, I know, this isn’t really fair. Their books aren’t even on the shelves. YET. But I have read them, and they really are two of my favorite authors. FLASH BURNOUT by L.K. Madigan comes out in the fall of 2009 and PRINCESS FOR HIRE comes out in 2010. When they ask me if I have time to read something, I have to pinch myself that they are actually asking ME for my opinion. They are both so talented, and I expect big things from both of these authors. They inspire me every single day, to become a better writer. Yes, a true sign of a great writer.

Happy reading!

~Lisa, Miss Pinch Me I’m Pubbed

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Writerly Influences

Tip of the Day: If you’re writing and find yourself in a slump where everyone is smiling (I smile, she smiles, we smile) or every line ends in he said/she said, pick up a YA book that you like and see what kind of tags that author uses.

Continuing with our week of favorite authors I thought I’d share the authors who I not only love to read but want to be more like (writing-wise. Although they are all super cute too and dress really well so taking fashion tips probably wouldn’t hurt me either.)

My top three all-time favorite authors that totally influence me and I must read every single thing they write including grocery lists because hey, sometimes grocery lists are fun:

#3 Meg Cabot

Of course Meg Cabot! She’s the YA chick lit goddess of all time! She is not only an idol to many, many YA writers but to her gazillion readers. Em already did a marvelous job outlining all the wonder that is Meg so I’ll just stick to some other reasons to love her. 1) She gives a killer book signing. OMG—total pro. Hands down best book signing I’ve been to. She’s just so darn funny! And so good in front of a crowd. I hope I’m even a tenth as good as her when I start doing book signings!

2) She wears really cute dresses. Refer to picture above. 3) She lives in lots of great places. I love that she has a place in the Keys, NY, and a place in the MidWest. If I’m ever super duper like her I’ll totally do the same. But I’ll probably do Keys, LA, Paris, MidWest. 4) I love that she didn’t pub her first book until she was 30! It seems like so many authors in our biz are pubbing younger and younger so she was inspirational to me personally. Like I could say, well look at Meg Cabot. She’s a super star and she didn’t start pubbing until she was 30! 5) She is the QUEEN of the Vlog. Really. You’ve gotta check them out. Here’s one. And 6) I love her adult books too. I haven’t tried writing humorous books for adults yet but if I do I’m going to study Meg’s first.

#2 Sophie Kinsella

I know, I know, she isn’t a YA author. But this is my Writerly Influence list so I can have anyone I want! Seriously, Sophie introduced me to Chicklit. She personally called me and said hey K, check out my chicklit. Ha, I wish. But she did produce super funny novel after super funny novel and made it so that I can’t walk by a new Sophie Kinsella novel in a store without buying it immediately. Pretty good huh? Sophie first had me at Can You Keep a Secret? It opens with the main character on a flight and the plane is experiencing turbulence. She thinks she’s going to die so spills all of her deepest secrets to the dude next to her. She lives and goes to work the next day to find that dude is the CEO. Awesome. Sophie taught me the importance of having a great opening to your book. Then of course there is her Shopaholic series with the brilliant Rebecca Bloomwood—one of the best main characters ever. If you haven’t read this series you must find some time and do it—it’s fantastic! From this series I learned how cute and fun it was to throw unexpected things into your story—like she has Becky writing letters to her bank (each time she is having money troubles and needs to borrow) throughout each book. So funny.

And coming in as my all-time favorite author…

#1 Lauren Myracle

What can I say? She had me at ttyl. I just loved, loved, loved that series and was sad that it had to end (Are you sure the girls can’t IM their way through college Lauren? And then, you know, husbands and kids and menopause. Please?). I love her style and I know that no matter what Lauren Myracle book I pick up I won’t be disappointed. Each one is reliably wonderful and fun. She has a super cute Web site and fun blog and she’s so friendly and approachable to all of her readers—which is a really awesome quality in a writer. I met Lauren in person not too long ago and she is just as sweet and cool as she seems. I also like to study Lauren’s middle grade novels since she handles writing for that age so well. I’m still working on my first middle grade so her books have been a great example. And finally, she does all of this while being a mom which I find personally inspiring.

So that’s it for my list of authors who are not only my super faves to read but who influence my writing. Which authors do you find influential in your writing?

Kristina, Miss Soon-to-Pub

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Who Do You Love? (or Under the Influence)

Tip of the Day: When you read a book and love it, email the author and tell them so. Even if the author is busy and can't reply, most totally appreciate hearing from you!

I was out of town when the other A2A Misses came up with the idea of discussing our Favorite Authors this week. Yes, it's a great idea, but ACK! I only had 2 days to figure out WHO my favorite authors are!

I forced myself to limit my choices to: The YA Authors Who First Influenced My Own Writing When I Started Getting Serious About It Four Years Ago (And I've Read Every One Of Their Books Since). (Yes, there are four authors. I still couldn't narrow it down to one.)

1. Sarah Dessen. Her novel THAT SUMMER hooked me onto all her work. She writes the novels I would've devoured as a teen. They are pitch-perfect, teen-toned, full of familiar feelings and situations with brilliant little details that weave together perfectly in the end.

2. Ellen Wittlinger. HARD LOVE hooked me onto her writing, and meeting her (at the Rochester Teen Book Fest 2006) made me adore her even more. I just picked up her newest, MARRISOL'S STORY from my own library shelf today and can't wait to dive in. EW's not afraid to tackle subjects that others shy away from (try PARROTFISH for an awesome look at a teen struggling with her gender/sexual identity).

3. Laurie Halse Anderson. Even if she hadn't given me a super helpful critique, and even if I hadn't heard her amazing talks to teens (at Rochester Teen Book Fest 2006) and to writers (SCBWI Fall Philly 2007), and even if all I'd done was read her book SPEAK, I would've adored her anyway. That novel gave me chills it was so good. You must read her blog and hear her speak if you can!

4. Carolyn Mackler. THE EARTH, MY BUTT, AND OTHER BIG ROUND THINGS attracted me with its hilarious title, then kept me reading with its humor and characters. It doesn't hurt that her home town is where I went to college. Her other titles have not disappointed.

You probably noticed that these are all contemporary, realistic, girl-centric fiction authors. When I was doing my "research" for Novel #1, it was a contemp, girl-centric, realistic novel that I was writing, so it made perfect sense for these to be the books I'd read. I'm so glad I did! Their influence continues to help guide my own writing (hopefully these authors will one day come to know this is a good thing!).

I have a huge spot in my writer's soul for some dark novels, too. In the future, I will mention them in a blog post bc as of late, they've been a huge influence on me.

What authors do you love who write the opposite of the typical genre you read?

Deena, Miss Recently Repped

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Another day. More favorite authors!

Tip of the Day: if you have don't so already, share your favorite authors in the comments section! We'd love to celebrate our favorite authors together.

Continuing on with our posts about favorite authors. This post will be pretty easy for me. Sure, there's bunches of authors I love to read books from. And once I find an author I like, I tend to read everything they write. But there's really one author that stands above the pack that I autobuy all her books, and put down every book I'm reading when I get a copy of hers in my hand. And if you know me, this should come as no shock...

Meg Cabot

There's no denying she's the Goddess of YA Chick-lit or humorous book for girls. But there's really so many reasons why I love Meg's books that I have to do a Top Ten list.

No. 10. Meg was the author that got me hooked on teen books.

When I was in elementary school and part of middle school, I loved to read, but once I hit high school I stopped. I thought the books I was supposed to be reading where the literature books they gave to us in our English classes. And while they were okay and had merit. I found reading books about ancient monsters with lyrical language really didn't excite me. So I gave up reading. When I was in college, I discovered some "adult" books, such as mysteries, weren't so bad. So I started reading those on and off. But it wasn't till I was bored one day as an adult that I discovered my true reading passion was YA books. I was wanting to watch a new teen movie, and discovered I had so few choices that I hadn't already seen a million times. And for some reason I got the idea to read a teen book based on a movie. So I picked up the Princess Diaries book at the library and from then on I was hooked. I discovered all of Meg's books, and realized that I loved all her other stuff even more. So I branched out and looked up other teen authors. And found out, reading can actually be fun when you choose the right book. And really, the rest is history.

No. 9. Meg also grew up in Indiana. So there's a bunch of hilarious funny jokes about Hoosiers in her books. Plus, it's fun when you are from the Midwest to root for people from your home state. Kind of like Miss America. But with authors.

No. 8. She's incredibly funny. I don't know many people who've read a Meg Cabot book and haven't mentioned laughing hysterically.

No. 7. She writes so many books that I always feel like it's not that much of a long wait till a new one comes out. Which is an exciting trait in a favorite author.

No. 6. Despite the fact I've read all her books, she still finds ways to surprise me as the reader. And give me something I wasn't expecting.

No. 5. She always has cute boys and happy endings in her books. And really I can't read books without either of these.

No. 4. She's the queen of series. She's one of the only authors I read that does series better than stand-alone books. Which is exciting to follow characters through several story lines.

No. 3. Meg's the only author I will literally stop everything to read one of her books when it comes out. Because I know she will always entertain and put a smile on my face when reading her books. And sometimes all you need is just a smile, you know?

No. 2. I get excited to see what her new books are about and anticipate them long before they hit the shelves. Plus, she's said on her blog that she has so many book ideas that she's worried she won't live long enough to get them on paper. Having a favorite author make a comment that they have so many new book ideas gets me pumped up to read them all.

No. 1. She makes reading fun, which to me is hands down the No. 1 reason I like to read.

So thanks Meg for making so many awesome books!!!

And I can't close this post without giving an honorable mention to Sarah Dessen. I love her books for completely different reasons. She holds the record for having the only book (The Truth About Forever) that when I finished the last sentence, I flipped to the beginning and began reading again immediately after I finished. She also has a way of creating amazing characters that suck you in and won't let you go as a reader. Plus, she has a weakness for hot boys that some people in society would call "bad" but have a softer middle. Lucky for me I also share that weakness.

What about you? Who are some of your favorite authors and why?

--Emily, Miss Awaiting an Agent

Monday, July 14, 2008

I Must Get That Book Immediately If Not Sooner!

Tip of the Day: This week at A2A, we're discussing our favorite authors, which is one of our absolute favorite topics of conversation. C'mon in and pull up a comment!

I have a favorite author. It's so difficult to pull one name off the list of authors I love, but here, watch me, I'm doing it. The name is Terry Pratchett. I have read every one of his many books, and when a new one comes out, I must stop everything--everything--to read it. The kids will not eat. (Bonus tip: it's a great idea to pick up snacks and make them accessible for occasions in life like a new Pratchett novel, so when the kids whine that they're starving, you can grunt and wave your hand in the general direction of the kitchen without your eyes leaving the page.)

Pratchett recently finished off his two YA trilogies, the Johnny Maxwell trilogy (absolutely awesome) and the Tiffany Aching trilogy (hysterically funny), and I await his next novel with great anticipation, as it takes place on a deserted island and promises to be something new. Nation comes out in September and I must get it immediately, if not sooner. Isn't that a wonderful feeling, having a great new book to look forward to? And graphic novel versions of two of his earlier novels have just been released, and I must have them right now. There are a lot of writers whose work I thoroughly enjoy, but very few of them instill this sense of manic possessiveness in me. And don't we all dream of writing books that make people covet them and read them again and again? He's one of the very few authors I reread regularly.

Libba Bray is another favorite of mine. I wait for her next novel with that sense of "I must have this book now!" Because whatever she writes, I know it's gonna rock awesome. I had the chance to hear her speak in Rochester NY at our annual Teen Book Festival, so I know that her next two novels will be contemporaries, and then she wants to do a post-WWI series. Oh, man, doesn't that sound great? I need those books.

What both these authors have in common that I love in their writing is a willingness to take risks. They both develop worlds that are hard to explain to the non-converted. Discworld floats on the back of a turtle through space? Gemma Doyle leaves her Victorian boarding school through a magic door to enter a dimension populated by demons and her dead mother? Yes! Take risks and build new worlds! Do something completely different! That must've been hard at first, incredibly hard to keep the faith that someone, somewhere, would read it and love it.

When I saw Libba Bray, I wrote down this from her conversation with her readers: "Just keep working. Revision will work." I need to post that somewhere I can see it every day. It certainly worked for her and I can't wait until her new novel comes out.

Who's on your short list of writers whose new books you must have, no matter what they're about, and woe to the person (or hungry kid) who gets between you and that story?

-- Kate, Miss Apprentice Writer

Friday, July 11, 2008

A novel-in-verse is still, you know, a NOVEL

Tip of the Day: Keep a little notebook in your purse (you males reading this DO carry a purse, don't you?), and any time you hear a funny piece of conversation, at the coffee shop or wherever, write it down. You never know when it might come in handy in a book.

So, Deena (Miss Recently Repped) and I were talking about novels-in-verse and how they can be good for reluctant readers, but sometimes there is a problem with getting them to read them in the first place.

As a librarian, Deena gets moms who come in, asking her to help select books for the teen girl who doesn’t like to read much, and as soon as Deena says the word “verse,” she’s often told , “Oh no, she wouldn’t like that.” They don’t get the fact that it’s not merely a book of poems, it’s a story with a beginning, middle and end, with a plot and characters - you know - a NOVEL.

I think Ellen Hopkins and Sonya Sones have helped to open up the genre so more kids understand what a novel-in-verse is, and that it’s not just a book of unrelated poems. But there are still people out there who think – yuck! I have read some reviews on I HEART YOU that say something like, “I bought this book, and when I saw it was written in poems, I was really worried, but I ended up loving it.”

So how can we describe a novel-in-verse so people don’t close their ears as soon as the word "verse" comes out of our mouth?

Here are my ideas, but I’d love to hear yours:

1) Don’t even say it’s a novel-in-verse. Just say it’s a fast-moving story with really short chapters and relatable characters that will keep them turning the pages.

2) You could say, “This is a verse novel, but don’t let the verse part scare you. Every poem is very accessible and easy to understand, and kids who don't like to read usually like all of the white space on the pages. It doesn't overwhelm them as much as a regular book."

3) Or how about, "This is a great book that other kids LOVE. It's different. I think that's why they love it."

What do you think?

~Lisa, Miss Pinch Me I'm Pubbed

Thursday, July 10, 2008

What’s your plan?

Tip of the Day: Piggybacking off of Deena’s tip yesterday, if you want a massage and want to save money, check out the massage schools in your area. Lots of them offer massages for the public at cheap rates!

Brace yourself as I go all high school guidance counselor on you—but where do you see yourself in 5 years? I’m guessing that most of our readers are writers at different stages in their career (just like us) so I want to know what you have planned for yourself.

It seems like most authors in this writing business have a plan. Like, I will quit my day job in X years; I will pub by 30; or I will pub no less than two books a year etc. A week or two ago a 17-year-old young adult fiction author (who happens to share my marvelous agent) got her first book deal (WHOO HOO!!) and I was thinking—wow, she is going to have such a long, fab career ahead of her since she’s starting so young. Wish I would have thought of that! But nope, I was busy bagging groceries and chasing boys at 17. I never imagined I could write books back then let alone publish them. I do wonder what this young super star author’s “plan” is. Maybe she’ll see this and answer for us. (No pressure though—really!)

But my plan? I never thought about it much. Seriously! I didn’t have a pub by this age or secure an agent in this amount of time plan for myself. I set short open ended goals like—get agent. And then just tried really hard for that. But I’m not knocking plans at all—I like them, I do! In fact, I’ve decided that I need one. I want something more specific to work towards. So, my new plan for now is going to be to write full-time in 6 years. Ok, so it happens to coincide with when my last little munchkin will be in 1st grade. But I don’t want to just have the whole day everyday to write—I want it to be a fully financially supported career by then. Really I think my plan is super reasonable. It might even happen sooner (and then I’ll just have to get a nanny, or man-ny, ;-) huh?)

So, do share, what are your writing plans for yourself?

Kristina, Miss Soon-to-Pub

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Paperback Spinny Racks (or Puttin' the Rack On Display)

Tip of the Day: Schedule yourself every-other-week massages. You deserve it. Ahhhhh.

I'm done weeding the hard cover (hc) YA books in my library, so I moved onto the paperbacks (pbs). Know what I've discovered?

Many of the pbs have gone out much more frequently than the hcs. Go pbs!

I must remember to mention that there are about four times as many hcs as pbs, but still, there were fewer pbs that hadn't gone out in over a year. Even the books with the plainish looking covers had gone out more than their hc counterparts.

My theory for why this is?

The pbs are on these [horrendous] [atrocious] [page-ruining] [ugly] [bulky] [messy] spinny racks. You know the kind I mean:

As much as I dislike these racks, what they DO do is allow:
1) lots of visible covers
2) easy replacement on rack (uh, yeah, since they're not in alphabetical order)
3) quick browsing of many titles/covers with one glance

Sigh. These racks are the bane of my YA Area's existence, yet they get my books taken out. Oh yes, these are the problems of my world.

Help me out here, folks. Do you like or hate or not care about the spinny racks? What other library display pieces/shelving to you like/dislike?

Deena, Miss Recently Repped

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Talking to the Reader (yeah, you!)

Tip of the Day: ice cream as a reward can make pretty much any activity more exciting!

Using the word "you" in fiction. Some people hate it. Others love it.

Me, I tend to lean towards the "love it" side of the fence.

I picked up AUDREY, WAIT! yesterday, and from the very first use of the word "you" I was hooked and brought immediately into the story.

"The day I broke up with my boyfriend Evan was the day he wrote the song. You know, the song."

For me, when I see the word "you" in first-person novels, it feels like I'm the one the reader is talking to. And I like feeling that close to the main character I'm going to be spending the rest of the novel getting to know. In the above example, it sets the stage for the novel and let's the reader immediately know that the fictional song is famous enough that anyone--including you--would have heard it. I love that! Plus, I love the continued use of talking to the reader as if they are a friend (or maybe a perceived enemy in this case).

For others, I've been told talking to the reader jars them from the text.

I'd imagine most of it involves execution. Because I have seen books that talk to the reader that I thought felt forced and as a result it jarred me out of the story. But I think generally most of it's a matter of opinion.

My very first novel that now sits in an unopened file on my computer (it doesn't even warrant a drawer...yet) used tons of "you's" and notes to the reader. In critiques I got mixed reviews on if people liked it or not. Most of the critiques from my former critique partners that are PB writers or write much more serious YA than I do hated it. Those from others that tend to read the type of YA I write, loved it. There was no middle ground. Either: "I hate this, remove this Emily or I will refuse to read another chapter" (improvising off memory of course) or "this section kicks butt" (okay, those might not have been the exact words either, but you get the point.)

What about you? Do you love being talked to as the reader? Do you hate it? Are you in the middle and don't care either way? Do you think it's risky to talk to the reader so much if so many readers do in fact hate it? Do you wish I'd just stop asking questions now?

Please share, I'd seriously love to know your opinion.

Thanks and have a wonderful week everyone!!!

--Emily, Miss Awaiting an Agent

Monday, July 7, 2008

Indoors-Outdoors Kind of Gal

Tip of the Day: Here's a comic that needs more exposure: My Cage by Melissa DeJesus and Ed Power.

My comic is apropos because I've identified myself since childhood as an "indoorsman." While the other kids were playing freeze tag, I couldn't put my book down. Now my ability to withstand weekends without sunlight allows me to live through Upstate New York winters, typing away at my keyboard.

But as I get older and my parents aren't ripping the books from my hands and kicking me out the door, I find I need to be "one with nature" more than ever. I like to watch squirrels and eat cherries off my cherry tree. I need that sunlight. My skin, not so much, but my brain needs it. So I'm off to the mountains for a week. I'll have this passage in mind, from A Year of Creativity by Brenda Mallon:

Feel the temperature of the sun on your skin. Note the distinctive smells of the
season. See how the light changes at certain times of the day. Listen to sounds
that surround you, and then listen some more to the elusive sounds that often go
unnoticed. Imagine you are seeing the world for the first time ... Make a list
of any plants, animals, or natural features that catch your attention ... Add
descriptions: lush leaves, washed streets, dusty evening light, sun-baked

That's what I'll be doing this week. Hopefully, I won't come back to civilization with pages of notes that say "persistent mosquitoes, painful black flies, oozy slugs, freaking ginormous centipedes."

-- Kate, Miss Apprentice Writer

Friday, July 4, 2008

Wrap it all up in the end

Tip of the day: Happy 4th of July! Have fun, but be careful! Have a bucket of water ready and a hose nearby, just in case.

We've sprinted out the gate at the beginning, perhaps going back a hundred times to rewrite it, hoping to get just the right balance of action, backstory, voice, and character.

We've muddled our way through the middle, hopefully increasing the tension as we go, putting more and more obstacles in our character's way.

Now it's time wrap everything up. Should be easy, right? Um, hardly.

You're now just pages away from being done with the book. But first, you have to write the climax. And you have to tie up any and all loose threads. Can this get a little overwhelming? In a word? Yes!

The climatic scene is the one you've been pushing towards. In WRITING THE BLOCKBUSTER NOVEL, Albert Zuckerman calls this scene the "obligatory scene." It's "the scene that must happen or must be made to happen." This is where the conflict that's been present through the whole book is resolved.

Darcy Pattison, in her book, NOVEL METAMORPHOSIS: UNCOMMON WAYS TO REVISE, examines the obligatory scene. There's a lot of information there, but here's what I take away from what she says.

The initial conflict and the final resolution, this obligatory scene, must match up. This scene usually includes the major characters. It's a big scene, often covering a larger number of pages. It is usually one of the most emotionally powerful. "It often contains a revelation, a complication, a reversal, a twist, a new meaning for old events, or something else that surprises the reader someway. (These surprises must have been prepared for and be believable.) The outcome of the obligatory scene drastically changes the future of an individual character or changes the dynamics between the characters. In other words, the outcome has meaning beyond the mere physical actions."

I am a big fan of a surprise at the climax. But understand, as Darcy says above, it HAS to be believable. And has to be a surprise in a GOOD way. It has to be something that makes the reader's heart sing, not something that confuses the reader or makes her mad.

See, to me, there is no better payoff as a reader than to have something I wasn't expecting happen, and yet have it be SO emotionally satisfying, you want to cry, or cheer, or gasp. Maybe you even DO cry, or cheer, or gasp.

In I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME, the climax occurs when Ava realizes she has to ask Jackson to leave. She loves him, she will always love him, but she can't love him as a ghost. His response to her is a surprise to the reader. It's a surprise to Ava! (I won't say what it is, to avoid spoilers, although if you haven't read it yet, why not? Ha!). Although I don't think he came back as a ghost with that intention, as time went on, and he grew as a character, he knew it was what he needed to do to help her most of all.

I will be honest - in my books where there is a surprise, or a twist, I don't usually PLAN those. They come to me as I write. When I wrote that page where Jackson gives his response, it wasn't anything I had consciously thought of before. I think my sub-conscious had been working on it for awhile. But when it appeared, I actually got chills and I knew without a doubt, it was the right thing to do. To me, that's the best indicator - you get a spine-tingling YES when you write the climatic scene the way it's supposed to be written. Of course it doesn't always come that easily. But don't lose heart. You can still get there.

The thing is - if you are going to get anything right, make it be this. The reader has followed the character through an entire book to get HERE. You have to make it good. You have to make it worthwhile, so the reader will end up putting the book down with a lovely "ahhhhh" and not throwing the book across the room with a loud "Arrrrghhhhhhh!!"

If you don't know what the best resolution is, play the what-if game. At the top of a page, write "What If" - and then list one way the book could end. Draw a line down the middle of the paper, and on one side, list the good things about that ending, and on the other side, write the not-so-good things. Keep brainstorming. The right way WILL come to you.

As for the question, do all endings in kid-lit need to be happy, I'll give you the answer to this question I like the best. It comes from Alvina Lina, an editor at Little Brown, who spoke at a conference I attended a few years back. She said in books for kids and teens, the ending doesn't necessarily have to be happy, but it has to have hope.

So, after you've done the climatic scene, you have to wrap everything up and be fairly brief about it. In both I HEART YOU, and FAR FROM YOU, my editor had to tell me to cut stuff at the end. Yes, there are things to tie up, but the best part of the book is basically over, and you can't go on for too much longer after that. If you can, do a scene where a lot of the people in the book are there so the loose-ends can be tied up with multiple characters in one scene.

There is nothing better than a great ending to a book. So often times, people talk about great beginnings, and while they need to keep a reader reading, it's the ending that will often stick with a person.

I'd love to hear if any of you have read a book recently that made you go WOW at the end. I was recently rereading RULES, and that's one that for me, really works. It's very emotionally satisfying. That's what we want. To be satisfied. The hard part is doing it so the reader isn't quite sure how you're going to pull it off.

Happy writing!

~Lisa, Miss Pinch Me I'm Pubbed

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Outlining a Book

Tip of the Day: When you get revision notes from an agent, editor, critique partner or whoever, don’t start in on them right away. Give them a couple of days to sink in. Things somehow always become clearer with a little time.

I don’t outline when I write. At least, I haven’t until now. I’ve always just sat down and started writing so I guess that makes me a “plunger”. Sure, if I see something coming ahead in my book that I don’t want to forget I type up some notes in a blank document and name it something clever like RandomNotes.doc. (Now I have like, thirty of these files but whatever.) My notes are never really in any particular order though. Outlining sounds so hard—like you have to know what you are doing overall throughout the entire book. When I think of outlining I think of thesis statements and roman numerals. Yuck.

But now I HAVE to outline. I’ve actually been working on one for the last two weeks and it’s a bit tough. I didn’t know how to structure it—chapter by chapter? Bullet points? Paragraphs? So I started googling and of course found nothing. I thought maybe someone would have posted an outline of their book online but duh, then they’d be giving away their book for free. So no luck there.

I had to start doing it and see what happened. So I just put chapter 1 and wrote several paragraphs about what happened in that chapter. Then chapter 2 and so on. I don’t know if I’ve done it correctly. I don’t know if this is what editors expect when they ask for an outline. It reads ok to me though so I’m just going to go with it.

Then just now I decided to google again, this time using “writing a fiction novel outline” as the search term and would you believe I got hits this time? Wish I would have used a better search term the first time. I don’t know whether to say yay or damn. Yay if I’ve done it right and damn if I didn’t. I check out a few links and here is one:

This is one posted at This is a big “oh crap” if this is what I’m supposed to be doing. Because here they just want you talking about characters and their relationships and obstacles in the novel. It doesn’t look like a straight through outline to me.

Here’s another one. Ok, not so bad. She does mention the chapter-by-chapter thing. Only she says a few sentences for each and mine are more like half a page per chap. But this is the closest to a yay we got.

Now this one just hurts my head. Snowflakes? Really? A) I’m not a fan of snow and B) it sounds like you need to be good with math (was an English major for a reason here) when they mention fractals. Blech. Going further down that page the author talks about the 10 steps of designing your novel. And no offense to the creator but if I had read this before I wrote my first book I may have quit. Talk about overwhelming.

I guess when it comes down to it you just have to do what feels right to you. Like this snowflake method above is right for that author but totally wrong for me. The chapter by chapter synopsis style thing worked ok for me so that’s what I’m going to go with. And cross my fingers that the editor likes it of course.

What about you all? Do you outline your books? And if so, what method works for you?

Kristina, Miss Soon-to-Pub

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Books You Must Read (or Summer Readin', Happened So Fast)

Tip of the Day: Sit on the porch to write with your laptop. There's less chance of napping when you're not on a comfy couch.

School is out and summer reading is in! Students are flocking to the library with their reading list, taking out the required reading books by the mini-van full.

Back when I was in high school, the summer reading lists consisted of the classics: CATCHER IN THE RYE, THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, etc. (Basically anything written in a previous decade.) While I do enjoy some of these "classic" titles, there are many that neither I nor my peers enjoyed. And what did that do? It made reading seem boring, like a chore.

BUT! I am thrilled to say that the summer reading books on my local school lists have TONS of fab books on them -- RECENT books! DAIRY QUEEN, SON OF THE MOB, SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS -- these are some of the titles that the school is recommending. Yay! I'm so glad that the choices have been expanded and teens can see that there IS a book for everyone to enjoy.

What's also interesting is that the local ELEMENTARY schools have required reading lists for summer! Some excellent picture books are on the list for the first and second graders like A SPLENDID FRIEND INDEED and HOW TO BE A BABY, BY ME, THE BIG SISTER.

I'm so glad times are changing, minds are broadening, and modern YA novels are given a place on the summer reading lists. NowI can only hope that one day MY books are on the summer reading lists! (It's a great way to keep libraries buying them every year!)

What books do you wish would make the lists for all teens to read?

Deena, Miss Recently Repped

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Lessons from the Lohans

Tip of the Day: if you are going to be outside all day, don’t forget the sunscreen. Even if it’s raining when you leave the house. Otherwise you will regret it later. Trust me.

Watching my new guilty TV pleasure this weekend I learned several valuable lessons about writing from the gang on Living Lohan (I know, I did just use a sentence containing the words “learn,” “lesson,” and “Lohan.” But at least I’m not quoting from Denise Richards: It’s Complicated...yet.)

Lesson One Learned from the Lohans: it’s long been my assumption that most creative careers have a similar starting off point, but watching Ali Lohan try to make it in the music business has confirmed it.

Lesson Two Learned from the Lohans: people who pursue acting, music, and writing all have to believe in what they are creating. Because everyone starts at the bottom. Yes it helps if you are famous, have a famous sister, or are well connected. But in the end, if you don’t have some-sort of talent or that extra “something,” you aren’t going to make it in any creative business. You might get more high-profile people to help push you in the business, which can make or break you, but you still need to work hard for your art.

Lesson Three Learned from the Lohans: even if you are only fourteen, talented, and have big-named people supporting you, you will still have self-doubt. Everyone in a creative field, I’m sure has felt doubt at some time. How can you not? With all the rejection constantly being thrown at you. In acting it might be because you don’t have the right “look” for a part, and in writing it might be your character, your voice, or any number of things that just doesn’t work for that agent or publisher at that time. Yes, it’s not necessarily anything you can change. But it’s still rejection. And getting rejected 100 times, no matter how much you tell yourself it’s not personal, still stings.

Lesson Four Learned from the Lohans: people can notice if you aren’t feeling confident in your own work. Whether it’s music or writing.

Lesson Five Learned from the Lohans: when trying to build confidence, sometimes picturing the end result will help. For little Ali Lohan it was performing on a stage to an empty stadium, but for writers it could be visualizing your book on the shelf. And sometimes that might be all you need to rebuild your confidence to keep going.

* These lessons have been brought to you courtesy of the many hours I watch TV a week.

--Emily, Miss Awaiting an Agent