Thursday, September 8, 2016

Writers Like Us - Becky Albertalli

So because of this news, this blog series totally got away from me--but I'm back and ready to push the series to 50 interviews. Check them all out here, which include advice and insights from Sara Zarr, A.S. King, and many, many others.

This week, Becky Albertalli stops by to share her writing, publishing, and life advice. She's the author of the hilariously swoony Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda and the forthcoming The Upside of Unrequited. You can find her tweeting at @BeckyAlbertalli. Her answers are below in bold.

Becky on Writing
  • I've written two books, and 1.5 have seen the light of day (second one is floating around in bound manuscript form, but it will be released in April of 2017!).
  • My favorite type of scene/character/setting to write: flirty scenes, first kisses, and drunk Simon Spier.
  • No matter how long I've been writing, I still have issues with overusing words – and the specific words change, depending on the character’s voice! My editor always has a few things she wants me to clean up in find/replace. 
  • A typical comment from my critique partner is, “I think it would be okay for this to wrap up less neatly.”
  • The book I wished I wrote is HOUSE OF ORANGE by Lianne Oelke (coming in 2017!)

Becky on Getting Published
  • When I was querying, I felt like I was seventeen. So much yearning and nervousness and hoping to hear from someone.
  • The biggest mistake I ever made querying was nudging agents with an offer over Thanksgiving week. It couldn’t be avoided, and it worked out perfectly, but I feel guilty that there were agents reading during that time!
  • What I love most about my agent is how easy he is to talk to, and how excited he gets about even the little victories for my books.
  • While my book was out on submission, I did not actually expect it to sell. Brooks (agent) sold it in five days. 
  • When I got "The Call," my first thought was that I need to convince Brooks Sherman that I’m about 75% less awkward than I am in real life.
  • When I saw my book sale in Publishers Marketplace, I took a screenshot and sent it to my mom.

Becky on Life Outside Writing
  • If I weren't a writer, I'd probably be a psychologist (I actually am a nonpracticing licensed clinical psychologist).
  • Secretly, I'm terrified of bees.
  • My secret girlfriend/boyfriend is Jim from the Office (but only in an alternate universe where I’m Pam, because I cannot break up my OTP).
  • Sometimes, when no one is around, I wear pajamas all day. Sometimes when everyone is around, I wear pajamas all day, too.

Becky Albertalli is a clinical psychologist who has had the privilege of conducting therapy with dozens of smart, weird, irresistible teenagers. She also served for seven years as co-leader of a support group for gender nonconforming children in Washington, DC. These days, she lives in Atlanta with her husband and two sons, and writes very nerdy contemporary young adult fiction.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Writers Like Us - Cynthia Hand

So because of this news, this blog series totally got away from me--but I'm back and ready to push the series to 50 interviews. Check them all out here, which include advice and insights from Sara Zarr, A.S. King, and many, many others.

This week, Cynthia Hand stops by to share her writing, publishing, and life advice. She's the author of the Unearthly Series (aka the best angel fantasy ever), the tear-jerking The Last Time We Say Goodbye, and the co-author of hilarious My Lady Jane. You can find her tweeting at @CynthiaHand. Her answers are below in bold.

Cynthia on Writing
  • I've written six and a half books, and six have seen the light of day.
  • My favorite type of character to write is a conflicted villain.
  • No matter how long I've been writing, I still have issues with pacing. Almost all of my books require an overhaul from first draft to last, just to get the pacing right.
  • A typical comment from my critique partner is "where's the rest?"
  • The book I wished I wrote is The Knife of Never Letting Go, by Patrick Ness, or The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater.

Cynthia on Getting Published
  • When I was querying, I felt, well, I never technically queried. I got my agent when a few agents contacted me about a literary short story I published while I was in grad school.
  • The biggest mistake I ever made querying was um, see above, but I have never been any good at writing the darned query letter. I'd rather write a novel than a query letter for a novel.
  • What I love most about my agent is all the different hats she wears with me. Sometimes she's my friend. Sometimes my fierce defender. My financial advisor. My cheerleader. My editor.
  • While my book was out on submission, I ate a lot of chocolate.
  • When I got "The Call," my first thought was that I must be dreaming--the whole thing was very surreal.
  • When I saw my book sale in Publishers Marketplace, I cheered. The day I sold my first novel I went to a Barnes and Noble, ordered a caramel frappachino, looked at the YA bookshelves, and cried with utter happiness.

Cynthia on Life Outside Writing
  • If I weren't a writer, I'd probably be a very bored office assistant or a literature professor.
  • Secretly, I'm terrified of elevators getting stuck.
  • My secret girlfriend/boyfriend is Jamie from the Outlander series.
  • Sometimes, when no one is around, I make myself a batch of homemade fudge, which is a real treat since no one in my family likes it but me.

Cynthia Hand is the New York Times bestselling author of several books for teens, including the UNEARTHLY trilogy, the contemporary novel THE LAST TIME WE SAY GOODBYE, and the new historical comedy, MY LADY JANE. Before turning to writing for young adults, she studied literary fiction and earned both an M.F.A. and a Ph.D. in fiction writing. She currently resides in Boise, Idaho, where she teaches creative writing at Boise State University.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Writers Like Us - Courtney C Stevens

Writers Like Us is alllllmost at 50 author interviews, and I've been lining up a stellar line up of inspiring and fun writers to count us down. You can check out all the interviews here, which include advice and insights from Sara Zarr, A.S. King, and many, many others.

This week, Courtney C Stevens stops by to share her writing, publishing, and life advice. She's the author of Faking Normal, The Blue-Haired Boy, and The Lies About Truth. You can find her tweeting at @Quartland. Her answers are below in bold.

Courtney on Writing
  • I've written eight point seven books, and four point five have seen the light of day.
  • My favorite type character to write is someone who feels real and unreal at the same time.
  • No matter how long I've been writing, I still have issues with sleeping. No, seriously, I still have trouble with everything. The more I write and know, the harder it gets, because I want to level up.
  • A typical comment from my critique partner is here’s a link to the difference between farther and further.
  • The book I wished I wrote is the one I’m working on now.
Courtney on Getting Published
  • When I was querying, I felt like maybe I should just take pictures of baby hedgehogs.
  • The biggest mistake I ever made querying was trying to squash hope to protect myself. Many artists are scared to hope. I’m scared not to.
  • What I love most about my agent is she’s aware of how my personal life affects my artistry.
  • While my book was out on submission, I worked my day job and wrote the next book. I had a really keen sense that if it happened, it happened. If it didn’t, I'd write my way to where I wanted to be with the next thing.
  • When I got "The Call," my first thought was I still have to do my day job tonight. How am I going to do my job tonight? I need to call my mom.
  • When I saw my book sale in Publishers Marketplace, I went to my local librarian and thanked her.
Courtney on Life Outside Writing
  • If I weren't a writer, I'd probably be an FBI agent. 
  • Secretly, I'm terrified of losing my hearing.
  • My secret girlfriend/boyfriend is if I told you, well, you see the problem here. 
  • Sometimes, when no one is around, I drive fast on country roads and listen to music and look for places that no one else sees. (I also consider trespassing when there is an old silo with vines crawling up the sides, because … how awesome are those things?)

Courtney C. Stevens grew up in Kentucky and lives in Nashville, Tennessee. She is an adjunct professor and a former youth minister. Her other skills include playing hide-and-seek, climbing trees, and being an Olympic torch bearer. She is also the author of Faking Normal, which Kirkus Reviews called “a story that resonates” and Publishers Weekly called a “rich debut,” as well as the e-novella The Blue-Haired Boy, and the recently released The Lies About Truth.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Writers Like Us - Darcy Woods

I don't know about you, but I'm ready for another round of Writers Like Us. This series started in January of 2013 and has included over 41 authors so far. I'm so excited Darcy Woods is number 42 and will kick off this new round of interviews. You can check them all out here.

Darcy Woods' Summer of Supernovas is out on shelves now and I just adored it to pieces. If you're looking for a fun, swoony romance to kick off your beach reading, pick this one up. In the meantime, let's learn a little about Darcy...

Darcy on Writing
  • I've written 2.5 books (I rewrote my first ms from page one, hence the .5 for recycled premise), and so far one has seen the light of day. But technically not till May 10th!
  • My favorite type of scene to write is forbidden first kiss scenes with toe-curling tension.
  • No matter how long I've been writing, I still have issues with commas. I've been known to drop them randomly like f-bombs. My brain is not equipped for grammar-ing. 
  • A typical comment from my critique partner is "*snorts*" "But why?????" ":)"
  • The book I wished I wrote is Jandy Nelson's The Sky is Everywhere for ALL THE OBVIOUS REASONS. #genius
Darcy on Getting Published
  • When I was querying, I felt like Houdini challenging people to punch me in the stomach. There were times it was absolutely grueling and hurt like hell. But you have to believe in yourself MORE than the pain of rejection. I've been cumulatively rejected almost 200 times. This does not make me a special flower. But it makes me tenacious, a necessary attribute from every author. 
  • The biggest mistake I ever made querying was not being myself. When I queried my first ms, I was soooooo nervous! And I'm quite sure I used pompous phrases like "esteemed cadre of authors." Which I would NEVER EVER EVER use in real life. Not even if you held my feet to smoldering flames. I was just so afraid to be me. The irony, of course, is that YOU is precisely what they want to see. 
  • What I love most about my agent is her tireless belief in me. During my rocky submission process, Catherine Drayton's certainty was unfailing. Unrelenting. You cannot put a price tag on that kind of loyalty. It is everything when the chips are down.
  • While my book was out on sub I got carpal tunnel refreshing my email. Grew ulcers. Drank wine and ate lots of French fries--often all of these were simultaneously.
  • When I got "The Call," my first thought was this is a joke. We'd already had a couple offers fall through, so I couldn't quite wrap my gray matter around it actually happening. Then when I finally realized my agent wasn't kidding, I did this weird, hysterical laugh-cry thing. And she said, "Darcy, you're going to be a published author!" I wept like a babe.
  • When I saw my book sale in Publishers Marketplace, I exploded like a supernova. I think every one of my atoms lit up like sparklers. It was an unforgettable moment.
Darcy on Life Outside Writing
  • If I weren't a writer, I'd probably be a Professional Closet and Refrigerator Feng Shui-er. So let's hope authoring pans out. ;)
  • Secretly, I'm terrified of seaweed. Oh, I'll happily eat it, but do NOT ask me to swim where I can touch it.
  • My secret boyfriend is Captain Jack Sparrow. Maybe it's odd to adore a man who wears more eyeliner than me, but I don't care. 
  • Sometimes, when no one is around, I sing Broadway show tunes to my cats. I also tell my plants they're doing a great job making oxygen.

Young adult author Darcy Woods had three big loves in grade school: Reading, writing, and pizza day. Some things never change. She lives in Michigan with her madly supportive husband, two tuxedo cats (who overdress for everything) and a closet full of neatly organized shoes. Once upon a time, she served in a US Army aviation unit and threw live grenades. Now she throws words.

Darcy’s Golden Heart®-winning debut YA romance, SUMMER OF SUPERNOVAS, comes out from Random House/Crown May 10, 2016.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Writerly Rants - Shelving Projects

Tonight, I took the manuscript I've been working on for the last year and shelved it.
>50K words; two drafts.
An idea I was so excited about nine months ago deflated.
Promises of a finish line and a delivery date to my agent cancelled.
I threw my hands up in defeat.

I had no choice, you see. I've been sitting here in front of my computer for weeks staring and agonizing because I didn't recognize this lumpy story I had in front of me. It was just a pile of words and scenes and characters. And there was this thread of story--there was a lot of WHATs going on, but no WHYs.

Why was this happening?
Why would this character react this way?
Why would it go down THIS way rather than THAT way?
And most importantly, what am I trying to say with this story?

I have this problem. I want people to read my work and weigh in, because who doesn't love to hear feedback? But this story didn't incubate long enough. I didn't let it rest and stand back and let myself re-examine it. I didn't give myself the time to throw my all into it. To work until the late hours of night, writing feverishly. Or replay scenes over and over in my head, perfecting each and every line of dialogue. Instead, I wrote it like a shot in the dark. Throwing spaghetti at the wall. Hoping something stuck. Then too many fingerprints got all over it.

Don't get me wrong: I'm totally grateful for the time and effort people take in reading and critiquing my work. But if it happens too soon in the process, it derails me. Instead of finding the road that leads to the story, I'm taking some back way that someone else took this one time. The journey to finding a story is different for every person and every story, and we have to go our own ways at our own speeds.

So I'm sitting here with something shelved. As in, not trashed, but waiting for the dust to clear. Because, at some point, I'll grasp for the right sound and shape and it will be there for me. The story that wants to be told. That feels right and not forced. That is true to my vision. And it won't involve Band-Aid plotting or Frankensteined scenes.

I'll work on something new, and let this project rest. Give it space and time. Until that moment when I have a thought, "I wonder if I did this..." And then the process starts anew and a new story is born.

Monday, April 25, 2016

April Check In


What I'm Writing



What I'm Reading



I'm finally getting to read Daughter of Smoke and Bone after everyone I've ever encountered has raved of this book. I'm, like, 40% of the way through and am NOT disappointed!


What I'm Listening To


In a super pop mood this week!


What I've Been Up To

Puppy wrangling and writing--mostly with Lucy at my feet. Hopefully with the weather warming up, I'll get a chance to do more than just work!

A photo posted by Valerie Cole ❤️ (@valeriecoleya) on


What Lucy Has Been Up To

Getting into trouble! Mostly because she's starting to get comfortable and feels at home, which makes me happy. This morning she discovered how to unroll the toilet paper--what a fun game (for her)!




A photo posted by Valerie Cole ❤️ (@valeriecoleya) on

Thursday, April 21, 2016

For Your TBR Pile - Summer of Supernovas

Summer of Supernovas
by Darcy Woods
Crown BFYR / Penguin Random House
Published May 10, 2016

The Characters

WILAMENA (WIL) is a fun and spunky girl who has a closet full of vintage dresses and a heart she wears on her sleeve. She's mapped out her romantic future by the stars.

GRANT is the guitar playing, duct-taped shoe wearing brother with a tattooed sleeve and a lime green car.

SETH is the more buttoned-up brother who knows all the right things to say. He'll take you up in a hot air balloon and make you swoon.

When astrology determines your best match for romance, Wilamena is sure she knows which brother is right for her. While Seth wines and dines her, Wilamena continues to bump into Grant at every turn. Does she stay the course of the stars or does she pave her own path? 

For Readers Who
  • Are looking for a super-swoony, light-hearted romance
  • Loved Stephanie Perkins' Anna and the French Kiss / Isla and the Happily Ever After
  • Knows their Pisces from their Capricorns
What I Loved

That Darcy Woods writes such fun characters, witty dialogue, and soft-hearted relationships. Not only were the boys fun to read, but Wil's relationship with her Grams was so wonderful. It reminded me a lot of the closeness I had with my own Grandmother. 

Wil's friendships with boys, as well as girls, is really refreshing. She mingles well with all the characters, not just focusing on the boy de jour. My favorite non-romantic character was Mannie, the drummer in Grant's band. He was overly flirtatious and comically charming.

Plus, this book won The Golden Heart Award from RWA (Romance Writers of America) in 2013!
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