Yippee for Week 2 of September #Wipmadness!

Big cheers for everyone who made it to Week 2 of September #wipmadness and hello to anyone joining us! I hope you’re all feeling proud of the progress you made in Week 1–large or small. To celebrate, I tossed your names in my trusty Sox cap and picked a winner for last week’s book:

Deb Marshall step right up!

Just let me know your address and which book you’d like (Circle Nine, League of Strays, The Breakup Bible, or The Forest for the Trees) and I’ll send it off to you. Everyone else, be sure to comment for your chance to win this week!

Continuing with this month’s theme of WIP love, I thought I’d dive into the world of visual inspiration and tempt you all with some photos from my trip to Iceland that have been inspiring me while drafting my current WIP.

Viking ship replica

Blue Lagoon


Heading to Laugardalslaug

Geothermal greenhouses

Although I didn’t get to spend as much time in Iceland as I’d like (which means a return trip must be in my future), I love going there in my imagination every day, and images like this help remind me what a haunting place it is.

What kind of visuals motivate you in your current WIP? I’d love to take a look at any links to pinterest boards, artwork, photos, colors, or textures that have been an inspiration! While you’re at it, feel free to share how you’re doing on your #wipmadness goal for the month!

Welcome to Week 1 of September #Wipmadness!

First off, a quick introduction to any of you in the interwebs not familiar with the glory of #wipmadness. In March of 2011, Denise Jaden kicked off a “March Madness” writing challenge filled with blog hops every day of the month to motivate fellow writers to work on their goals: writing, revising, and even reading. Over on twitter, there was this strange basketball thing going on at the same time, so we had to hunt for a unique hashtag and thus #wipmadness was born.

#Wipmadness was so majorly awesome that other writers started volunteering to host a month-long weekly check-in on their blogs so that the madness could continue. The best part is that it’s never too late to join in. If you’re working on a WIP and could use a little motivation, you have come to the right group!

Like many of the hosts before me, I’m also going to be offering up PRIZES for lucky commenters on the blog this month. I’ve got four awesome books to share (three YA novels and one on craft) and will send one out each week.

If that’s not enough, we’ll be chatting here this month about the things that make us love our projects! *hugs project* Last week, YA Highway asked about our project’s Love List, and I thoroughly enjoyed coming up with my own list and reading the cool lists that other contributors posted. I’m going to be continuing my draft on that project this month with a goal of 15K new words, and I couldn’t be happier. Who wouldn’t want to spend a month in virtual Iceland?

What about you, Wipsters? Care to share an item or two from your own WIP Love List? Anyone else have specific goals for the month? I’d love to hear them!


Twofer Tuesday: Tudor YA Novels

Welcome to my new blog series! I’m starting this to introduce some great sets of twofers: two books I’ve read and want to recommend.

I got the idea for this series when I recently finished two great Tudor-themed YA novels: GILT by Katherine Longshore and TRANSCENDENCE by C.J. Omololu. On the one hand, these books couldn’t be more different (details below), but I loved them both for different reasons, so anyone else fascinated with that time period will probably love them, too!

GILT is historical fiction at its best. From the first page, I was pulled into the head of Kitty Tylney, best friend to Catherine Howard, the fifth of the infamous Henry VIII’s wives. The details of life at this time and place, the intrigue of the situation in which she finds herself, the conflicted loyalty she feels–WOW! I had to restrain myself from looking up the facts that formed the basis for this story in Alison Weir’s THE SIX WIVES OF HENRY VII until I finished.

TRANSCENDENCE is a great contemporary YA that pulls us into different times and places with likewise vivid details, including recurring visits to the Tower of London in Tudor England. Main character Cole’s swoon-worthy romance with Griffon that spans lifetimes makes this book worthy of a read in itself, but when combined with the intriguing mystery Cole uncovers of a cello rival in her past–and present–I couldn’t pass the pages quickly enough.

Any other great Tudor YA reads out there? I’d love to see some more recommendations to add to my TBR pile!

Writing or Querying? Try Road-tripping.

We all know that it’s a good idea to step away from the computer sometimes. But it’s so tempting when it’s right there, isn’t it? Especially when you’ve gotten in the habit of writing or revising every day, or when an agent might be tweeting something relevant. *coughs*

A couple of weeks ago, I decided I needed to physically step away (farther than across the room from my dear, darling laptop). Luckily for me, the timing was perfect to drive out to Wisconsin with my four-year-old twins to visit family, so we got the little Scion xA all gassed up and ready to go.

One of the best things about a road trip? Road trip food that’s different from what we get at home:

The trip couldn’t have been better. Not just the visit with family, which is always fun and doesn’t happen often enough, but the open road, the freedom, the time to think. (Yes, one can even think with two preschoolers in the back of a Very Small Car, having provided them with books, favorite stuffed animals, and the music of their choice.)

Of course I brought my laptop along (duh), but I used it sparingly. Instead, I read books (when not driving), scribbled outline notes on my next WIP in my notebook, and listened to my own music when it was my turn: Beethoven, Sigur Rós, Utada Hiraku. So peaceful, so free!

Now that I’m back, I’m digging back into drafting, but it sure seems like fun again after stepping away. Highly recommended!

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!

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.

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!

Historical Fiction: Equal Parts Historical and Fiction?

When I first started my current WIP—a YA historical novel—I was hoping to use the facts exactly as they were and just fill in the holes with my fantastic story. *coughs* I wrote about 20K words using this plan.

Unfortunately, I hit a wrinkle.

When I started writing my detailed outline, I realized that my story would be soooo much better if I could change some of the facts.

And yet I waffled.

Some things I wanted to change probably wouldn’t be a big deal in regards to remaining true to history. I wanted to change the age and date of death of a rather obscure individual who most people don’t know. I think I’d be OK there. But I also wanted to push the dates that a hugely famous poet wrote a likewise hugely famous series of poems to four years earlier. Ouch.

Could I get around it? Probably. But it might be weird for other cryptic reasons. So I’m still waffling.

How close to history do you keep your historical fiction? Any rules or guidelines that you always follow? Any examples where you decided to break the rules?

Week Five Check-in

The last day of May has rolled in, so time to take stock of #wipmadness progress! How did everyone do? Are you happy with where you ended up against your goals? Congrats to every single one of you for sticking with it!

As I mentioned last week, the theme this week is finishing. My question for you all is when do you declare your manuscript done? Do you have a trusted critique partner who tells you to send it? Do you have a set round of revisions or a checklist  to pass your manuscript through? Do you reach a certain point when you know in your gut that it’s ready?

Because there’s that point, right? When you’re pretty sure you’ve done all the right things: multiple several rounds of revision, hiding the manuscript in the drawer, more critique, more revision, SEND!

And then, crap. Comments from someone else reveal the major work still needed.


So you do it all again, and again (and most probably, again). Desperately seeking perfection. I hope we all find it!