What Book Brings Back Memories?

From YA Highway Road Trip Wednesday #130:

It takes about 12 hours to read a book, but the book spends a lot more time than that in the home, as a doorstop, a place to hide jewelry, even an old-fashioned petal press.  Is there anything you do with books before/after you’ve read them?

I love the Road Trip question this week, because I’m a chronic book re-reader, so I keep the books I love very close.

But when I really, really love a book, I also buy a copy to give to the person who MUST read said book. So when my now-husband and I moved in together, we wound up with quite a few duplicates. Just one example is NORWEGIAN WOOD, the fantastic love story by one of my favorite authors, Haruki Murakami.

This book is full of memories of True Love to me, and I still pick it up and re-read the same scene I read back then to my then auditioning-to-be-boyfriend:

So I made up my mind I was going to find someone who would love me unconditionally three hundred and sixty-five days a year. 

The scene goes on to describe an act we began to call “strawberry-shortcaking,” whereby a boy brings a girl strawberry shortcake because she asks for it, but when she changes her mind when he arrives with it, and he’s OK with this because he’d do anything for her. The clincher is of course that it must be mutual for it to be True Love, and thus our theory of “mutual strawberry-shortcaking” was born.

And now we have two well-worn copies of Norwegian Wood on our shelf. Not bad, Mr. Murakami.

Stats from #TheWritersVoice

Curious where your manuscript fell compared to the other entrants of #TheWritersVoice contest? Look no further!

My intrepid partner and fellow entrant Ann Bedichek (http://annbedichek.com/blog/) and I crunched the numbers and have the following lovely charts to amaze and amuse.

First off, this contest was open to adult, YA, and MG manuscripts, but the overwhelming majority of entries were YA. Have some YA pie:

As far as genre went, there was a very mixed bag, including a wealth of surprises! Genres in the chart are as close to what was self-identified as possible (some were not identified). Keeping that in mind, the three most-represented genres were fantasy, contemporary, and sci-fi. Wow! Check out the deets here:

And finally, the genre breakdown of the winning entries–looks like contemporary stole the show! Congrats to all the winning manuscripts!

TIMELESS Anthology

I’m thrilled to be able to share the news that my story was selected for the TIMELESS YA romance anthology being published by Pugalicious Press.

First off, the gorgeous cover:

Check out the full list of included titles and authors: http://pugaliciouspress.com/2012/05/02/timeless-short-stories-announced/

My story, AND THE NIGHTINGALE SANG, takes place in an Alpine village in the year 1188. I hope it’s as much fun to read as it was to write! Look for it as an eBook in June 2012.


Thank you, NESCBWI!

Thank you, New England SCBWI, for putting on such a fantastic conference! And by NESCBWI, I mean everyone involved: the faculty, volunteers, and members. The energy in those keynotes and workshops was amazing.

The highlights for me this year (because just saying “everything” would be a cop-out, right?) were:

  • Meeting Sara Zarr, Kate Messner, Jo Knowles and Jane Yolen in person. There is nothing like chatting with an author you admire! What down-to-earth and sweet people they all were.
  • Critique and craft. I got an in-depth, helpful critique from an agent–the effort she put into it amazed me! Likewise the information I learned in both the keynotes and workshops will stay with me as I return back home and begin writing and revising again.
  • The Blueboarder dinner on Friday night. So fun to actually meet people in person I “know” from Verla’s, as well as make new Blueboarder friends!
  • Finally, I cannot thank the NESCBWI enough for awarding me the Ruth Landers Glass scholarship for my YA manuscript. And apparently it’s perfectly acceptable to blurt out, “SHUT UP!” when they announce your name. Just in case anyone was wondering.
  • Thanks to Betsy Devany for snapping this awesome photo of me with Marcela Staudenmaier, who won the Ann Barrow scholarship for illustrators!

Can’t wait until next year!

Drafting and Revising: Finding What Works

When it comes to switching from drafting to revising, lots of people have advice.

“Push through with your draft!”

“Resist the urge to revise!”

I try. I really do. And I can usually make it–most of the way.

But I’ve discovered recently that I do the same thing with each manuscript. The good thing is that my method fits something else people always say, “Do what works for you.”

My drafting/revising process looks like this:

  • Get idea.
  • Go, “Oooooh.”
  • Try to forget idea.
  • If idea won’t go away, start drafting. Just a chapter or two.
  • Put draft aside.
  • After at least a week, look at drafted pages. If  reaction is “meh,” set aside. If  reaction is “oooh,” outline.
  • Prepare 9-point-plot outline.
  • Get some feedback. Apply to outline and first pages.
  • Draft. Draft a lot. Go as far as possible.
  • Keep getting feedback. Collect, save, set aside. Keep drafting. Resist the temptation.
And then it explodes. Kerplooey! Splat! Gaaaaah!
  • Give in. For me, this is usually sometime before the climax. I’m questioning my outline. I’m thinking of the great feedback I received. I go back to the beginning and revise.
  • Once I make it through the revision and back to where I was with the draft, I’m energized. I have a plan. I know where I’m going. At this point–and only at this point–I can finish my draft.

This is what works for me. But I only figured it out by breaking the rules that work for others. Best of luck finding what method works best for you!

Great February Books

Even though I had a crazy-busy month and didn’t get to read as much as I wanted, I still had a hard time picking my favorite book out of the five (only five! so sad) that I read.

Going for a two-way tie, my faves were:

THE DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE by Laini Taylor. What I loved about this book was that I am not a paranormal fan and yet I found those aspects of the story exquisite. I bought this book because of the art student in Prague angle, and hadn’t actually realized how far this book would take me down the paranormal path, but the writing pulled me willingly along. What a gripping love story!

THE GIRL IN THE STEEL CORSET by Kady Cross. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this book because I’d never read anything from Harlequin Teen, but I was pulled in from the very beginning and couldn’t put it down. What they say about teen romance being about the anticipation and buildup more than fulfillment is so true here. So well done! Plus all that steampunky stuff is pretty cool too. 🙂

Looking forward to more great reads in March!

Great January Books

It’s been a wonderful reading month! It’s great to start of the year with a fresh stack of Christmas and birthday books, because it means I’ve got a bunch of new books I’ll probably be re-reading at some point in the future. I read a total of 8 books, including 1 adult book, 1 middle grade, and 6 YA.

I luuuuurved some of my Christmas gifts:

DIVERGENT by Veronica Roth (YA), which I loved as much as everyone on GoodReads, apparently. Can’t wait for the sequel!

THE PARIS WIFE by Paula A. McClain (Adult), which I got together with Woody Allen’s MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, totally throwing me into Paris in the 1920’s. Delicious.

And because I’m lucky enough to have my birthday on Twelfth Night, I also got:

FLUTTER by Erin Moulton (Middle Grade), which was as gorgeous and delicate as wild and adventurous. A beautiful story of sisterly love–made me wish I had a sister!

A MILLION STARS by Beth Revis (YA), which already has me fidgeting for Book Three in the series. Such an exciting read, and by that I mean the characters as much as the plot.

I’m already devouring my first book of February, and can’t wait to read more recommendations of others’ favorites in January. Happy reading!

Fave Reads 2011

At a KidLit Meetup this week, I was raving about the latest book that kept me turning pages all night, and I just couldn’t shut up about it. The writing, the voice, the romance. I was literally fanning myself while telling people, “Oh. My. God! You have to read this book!”

My problem is that there are so many delicious books out there. I feel like I can never get to them all. By the time I’ve finished one, ten more books swoop into its place in my TBR list. I try to keep current and read lots of new books, but this particular book came out in 2010, and even though I’d also heard great things about it, I hadn’t gotten to it until now.

With that in mind, my list of faves for the year includes both new books from 2011 as well as ones I just hadn’t gotten to yet. The thing they have in common is that every book on this list made me rave like a lunatic, of the “Oh. My. God! You have to read this book!” ilk.

Hope you love them, or will love them, or have your own to rave about. Please share your faves below!

Young Adult

IMAGINARY GIRLS by Nova Ren Suma. The title and the cover immediately grabbed me, and as soon as I started this book, I had to know what happened. This book took me places I couldn’t have imagined, with an absolutely unique voice and a plot that stretched the boundaries of reality.

PLAIN KATE by Erin Bow. This also came out in 2010, and the combination of beautiful writing and fairy-tale setting grabbed my attention from the very beginning. A girl without a shadow? A talking cat? Yes, please.

STOLEN by Lucy Christopher. This gripping story also kept me up turning pages. Beyond the constant tension, the unique second-person telling added an amazing emotional element that I didn’t expect.

THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE by Jandy Nelson. This is the one that kept me up all night this week. If you’ve read it, you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, run to the bookstore! So good!

Middle Grade

NOWHERE GIRL by A. J. Paquette. A coming-of-age adventure set in Thailand–sign me up! This story is both beautifully-written and a page-turner to the very end.

PETER NIMBLE AND HIS FANTASTIC EYES by Jonathan Auxier. This book had me with its title, seriously. Then once I started reading, the incredible imagination of the author had me following along with my mouth dropped open half the time. Fans of Lemony Snicket will love this book.

LOVE, AUBREY by Suzanne LaFleur. This one came out in 2009, and is one of those books that seems to appear again and again on people’s lists of favorites, and I can see why. Above all, the authentic voice kept me reading long into the night.

*these are the newest books my four-year-old twins ask for again and again

WINK: THE NINJA WHO WANTED TO NAP by J. C. Phillipps. We also have another WINK book, and my girls love both of them–everything from the colorful artwork to the active antics of their favorite ninja.

EL FANDANGO DE LOLA by Anna Witte. (English version also available at Barefoot Books: LOLA’S FANDANGO) My girls could not love this book more–about a little Spanish girl like them who learns to dance flamenco.


First off, I’m not a “real” NaNoWriMo participant.

But … but … even though I’m not doing it for real, I love the idea of NaNo. The zest and spirit floating around on the interwebs as writers pile up the word count and advance their stories. The dedication with which they attack their manuscripts one day at a time. Every day. I just love it.

So I decided to do a Pseudo-NaNo this year. It feels a little like cheating, but I just couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to surge forward with so much company. My Pseudo-NaNo has two simple rules: 1K words minimum. Every Single Day.

Another thing I’m cheating on is that this is not a brand new manuscript. I had close to 20K and a detailed outline for this project when I started the month, which means that the 30K from November will put me very close to finishing the first draft.  Motivation, people! It’s all about sitting in the chair. Isn’t it? *blinks*

So cheers and good luck to all the real NaNo-ers! And same to any other Pseudo-NaNo-ers out there! Feel free to share any Pseudo experiences here. 🙂

Rutgers 2011

There is nothing like the Rutgers One-on-One.

This conference for children’s writers, held yearly in October, is the place to see and be seen. The one-on-one ratio means that attendees get to rub elbows with as many agents, editors,  and published authors (the mentors) as other (likewise awesome) mentees.

The invaluable face time gives you the chance for others to later connect your name to you-the-individual, and gives you the opportunity to do the same. Because (*whispers*) even big-name editors and agents are people too. No, really. You might not click with your “dream agent” in person. Another who seemed beyond your reach might be totally accessible and down-to-earth.  Plus, if you aren’t sure if someone might be interested in your genre, you can ask! Like, “I read in an interview that you don’t like fantasy, but are you a fan of magical realism?”

One of the best things about the conference is the way it’s organized to maximize a successful conference for everyone. If you’re really shy, you don’t have to worry about approaching a Big and Scary editor or agent. You get the chance to learn from them (and even talk if you can muster the courage) at least four separate times:

  1. Your One-on-One. You get 45 minutes (45!!) alone with your mentor, who is either an editor, agent, or author. That morning, the mentors receive your 3-page sample you subbed to get into the conference, and you can spend time walking through that, through your manuscript as a whole, or talking about other projects, your query letter, or whatever else seems the best use of the time. My mentor in 2008 when I attended for nonfiction was an author, and I had an editor this year for YA fiction, and both of them were absolutely amazing.
  2. Your Five-on-Five. You also get 45 minutes with you, your mentor, and 4 other mentor/mentee pairs. One of the mentors moderates, and you get to discuss whatever people want to know: market trends, what their pet peeves are etc. At my table, we had 3 agents, 1 editor, and 1 author (who spoke that morning as the One-on-One Success Story from a previous year) Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich. It was great to hear how they agreed on so many things, such as:
      • The importance of not writing to trend–just write a good story.
      • The dystopian wave has crested, but some paranormals and dystopians are still in the works–they just have to have a very different angle (or combination of genres, like dystopian historical).
      • Submit your very best work.
  3. The panel discussion. Again, more great insights from a team of authors and publishing professionals.  Mentees could email questions in advance, and agent Marietta Zacker, who moderated the panel, did a great job hitting as many bases as possible with a selection of those questions.
  4. Lunch. Agents and editors remain at their tables from the Five-on-Five, and you can sit wherever you want. Here’s your chance to seek out others on your list you haven’t met!
  5. OK, I said 4, but the last opportunity you can use is the short breaks in between activities. You should never (never) try to approach someone in the bathroom line (NEVER), but if someone is alone at a table or edge of the room etc., they are fair game. This is the perfect chance to put your face to your name with someone you’ve queried, or just to say hello to someone you’ve had contact with, or admire from a distance. Don’t expect or try to initiate a long conversation, but if you have something short to say, this is a good time.

One last piece of the enormous pie of awesomeness that is Rutgers is the chance to network with other amazing writers. Because you have to send in a writing sample to get accepted, you can guarantee that the other mentees are as serious (and as good!) as you.  This conference is a great place to catch up with old friends and make new ones, and I simply cannot recommend it more!