Friday, June 27, 2014

For Your TBR Pile - The Vanishing Season

The Vanishing Season 
By Jodi Lynn Anderson
Published: July 1st, HarperTeen

From GoodReadsGirls started vanishing in the fall, and now winter's come to lay a white sheet over the horror. Door County, it seems, is swallowing the young, right into its very dirt. From beneath the house on Water Street, I've watched the danger swell.
The residents know me as the noises in the house at night, the creaking on the stairs. I'm the reflection behind them in the glass, the feeling of fear in the cellar. I'm tied—it seems—to this house, this street, this town.

I'm tied to Maggie and Pauline, though I don't know why. I think it's because death is coming for one of them, or both.

All I know is that the present and the past are piling up, and I am here to dig.I am looking for the things that are buried.

My Thoughts:

Oh, Jodi Lynn Anderson. You are my favorite. Like, my absolute favorite. Tiger Lily left me sobbing in my office at 2 AM while I finished the last 20 pages and kept me up all night FEELING ALL THE FEELS. So when The Vanishing Season left a fist-sized hole in my chest, I was like "damn, she's done it again."

Here's what I love about Jodi's work: she's not scared to play with narration. In Tiger Lily, the story is told through the eyes of Tink, the faerie that skims the surface of the main characters' lives. In The Vanishing Season, we're again told the story through the eyes of the ghost trailing after our main characters. I loved this because the reader isn't tethered to one POV or angle of the story.

While a lot of YA is written in first person, there's something incredibly important about being shown a story from multiple angles. There's always two or three--or hell, even four--sides of a story. A lot of readers tend to focus on "I don't agree with this character's decision or reaction" or "she was very unlikable because of X." Showing more angles, the multiples of factors that go into an action or a choice, means we're showing our readers to examine the POV deeper before they judge a character's action.

It also allows breathing room for a story to not just be one person's. Sometimes when we single out just one character and just their side, we leave out the range of moments and consequences and feelings that a wider cast could come together to tell. Since when is an event in someone's life isolated?

Pick this one up. Not just because Anderson knows how to tell a story, and write it well, but because it will leave you contemplating stronger story-telling narration.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

What's Up Wednesday - 6.25.14

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly meme geared toward readers and writers, allowing us to touch base with blog friends and let them know what's up.

You can participate by going to Jaime's blog here. Or Erin's blog there.

Woot! It's Wednesday! Which means this time next week, I'll be at the beach.

What I'm Reading
I hit my 2014 GoodReads Reading Challenge this month and have no intension of slowing down. My local indie bookstore (Children's Book World, holla!) had a Sidewalk Sale last weekend and I walked away with this stack. I'm really want to attack this pile next. Any suggestions?

What I'm Writing

The cork board is filling up with lots of good ideas. I'm starting to move the post-its around and plot out the story. I'm using the blue post-its to mark each Act and what the focus and turning points in each are. Pink is for any scenes where the MC is moving closer to her goal. Purple is for scenes that take her farther from it. I use the smaller flags to indicate subplot ups and downs. It's a little complicated, especially when the story becomes more layered and the post-its start to stack up on top of each other, but it helps a lot to get the basic structure down.

The multi-colored post-its on the sides of the board have writing advice written on them. These say things like:

  • Conflict! Happen. Happen. Happen.
  • Who are the characters that would end up in situations like this?
  • Goal: Everything takes her closer or farther away from it.

What Else I've Been Up To

Shannon's guitars are taking over the house! I went to sit in this chair on Saturday to read and it was like "Haha! Nope! Guess again." Also, his work is gorgeous and I love showing it off. I want his guitar building career to take off almost as badly as I want to be published one day. It's awesome being married to someone who has a creative passion and understands the need to put something awesome out into this world. 

Have an awesome week!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Agents Like Us - Heather Alexander

Heather Alexander recently made the jump from editor at Penguin to agent at Pippin Properties, so of course I rushed to interview her for Agents Like Us! She's sharing all her agenting secrets and slushpile wishes!

She's looking for picture books, middle grade, YA, and graphic novels. Specifically contemporary, funny, historical, gothic style horror, and magical realism, but not high fantasy, medieval, or time travel. She favors literary over commercial.

You can read more about her here and follow her on Twitter @HeatherAlexand. Her answers are below in bold. 

Heather on Agenting

  • When writers query me, I really wish it were a homerun every time.
  • My favorite part about being an agent is getting to develop new talent and new ideas. Nurturing a grain of an idea into a whole book is very satisfying.
  • Rules and trends aside, what I really look for in a story is gorgeous writing and characters I wish I knew in real life. And a story that changes the way I think.
  • I really wish I saw more truly fresh ideas in the slush.

Heather On Clients
  • My ideal client would be someone who loves to brainstorm ideas, and then develop them into something unique and cool. Someone with a million ideas (but who knows how to tell which ones really have legs).
  • What I love most about my current clientele is how eager they are to work.
  • What I want most for any client is a balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Heather On Life
  • If I weren't an agent, I'd probably be, well, I’ve been so many things so far, and there are a lot of things I’d like to try, but let’s go with cheese monger. No, textile designer. No, wait, art restorer. Racecar driver? Spy? At least one of those things.
  • My favorite (non-client) book is, right now, in this moment, Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour. Ask me again tomorrow.
  • Secretly, I'm terrified of contentment, which I equate with stasis.
  • My secret boyfriend is Gene Wilder.
  • I have a total girlcrush on Tina Fey. Of course.
  • Sometimes, when no one is around, I eat chocolate for breakfast.
  • My favorite drink is seltzer. I drink it a liter at a time. I’m going to get the bends!
Want to see more Agent Interviews? Check them all out here.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Currently Reading - July 2014

It's not July yet, but--well--I beat my GoodReads Reading Challenge Goal for the year. How awkward...I mean, in some ways, I'm damn proud. I've annihilated that goal! I'm totally on track to read 100 books this year. Is it completely nerdy that I'm excited by this?

So here's what I've read so far. How are you doing on your reading goals this year? Does anyone want to borrow any books?

PS--do not judge my NA reading choices. Sometimes a girl has to read about some hunky boys.

2014 Reading Challenge

2014 Reading Challenge
Valerie has read 1 book toward her goal of 55 books.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Writers Like Us - Elizabeth Fama

I was so, so excited when Elizabeth Fama agreed to participate in Writers Like Us! Not only has she written one of the most gorgeous, mythical mermaid stories I've ever read, but she's the author of PLUS ONE--one of my favoritest stories out this year. If that cover isn't gorgeous enough to make you pick up her book, put my stamp of approval behind it.

Elizabeth's answers are below in bold.

Elizabeth on Writing
  • I've written 7.5 books and 3 have seen the light of day. Hey, I majored in biology in college and got a PhD in economics! I had a lot to learn about writing. 
  • My favorite type of scene to write is one that's dark, with beauty and longing and death. 
  • No matter how long I've been writing, I still have issues with emotional paralysis. I worry that I'll fail before I even begin, and I freeze.
  • A typical comment from my critique partner is "Would a teenager really use the word 'sternum?'"
  • The book I wished I wrote is As I Lay Dying. So instead I'm plagiarizing it right now. Faulkner will never know.
Elizabeth on Getting Published
  • If my editor really knew how stuck-up I am, he would find out that I want to win a Printz more than I want to sell books. And he'd promptly cut my advance in half. 
  • When I was querying, I felt like everyone who was not an agent was demanding too much of me. "Make your own damn dinner, I have waiting to do!" 
  • The biggest mistake I ever made querying was sending an exclusive submission to Barry Goldblatt, and then having to sheepishly retract it, because NEVER DO THIS. 
  • The craziest thought I've ever had while writing is "This book is gonna scoop the mermaid paranormal market!"
  • When I got "The Call," my first thought was "Does my laugh sound like tinkling bells, or hysteria?"
  • When I saw my book sale in Publishers Marketplace, I print-screened the hell out of it, and then sent it as a .jpg to everyone I knew.
Elizabeth on Life Outside Writing
  • If I weren't a writer, I'd probably be a professor of economics--a miserable one. 
  • Secretly, I'm terrified of one of my kids dying before me. Wait, did you want me to say something inconsequential, like "clowns?" 
  • My secret girlfriend/boyfriend is Howl. 
  • Sometimes, when no one is around, I ...Haha! I laughed out loud at this question. I haven't been alone since 1988. #FourChildren

Elizabeth Fama is the author of Plus One (FSG, 2014), Monstrous Beauty (FSG, 2012), a YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults selection and Odyssey Award honor winner, and Overboard (Cricket Books, 2002), an ALA Best Books for Young Adults. She is represented by Sara Crowe of Harvey Klinger, Inc.

Want more Writers Like Us? Check out the entire series, including interviews with A.S. King, Sara Zarr, Jennifer E. Smith, Kristin Halbrook, Tara Lynn Childs, Robin Benway, Katie McGarry, Trish Doller, and many, many more.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Agents Like Us - Brianne Johnson

Brianne Johnson from Writers House is here today to share all her agenting secrets and slushpile wishes! She's seeking out queries for children’s books, adult fiction and offbeat nonfiction.

Check out her query guidelines here and follow her on Twitter @SecretAgentBri. Her answers are below in bold. 

Brianne on Agenting

  • When writers query me, I really wish that they would do some research (mostly, by reading interviews like this! Thanks Valerie :)) and tell me why we’d be a good fit, specifically.

    And, this is a bit more unusual, but I’d also love to know what some of the driving themes behind your story are. What made you write this particular story? I want to know!
  • My favorite part about being an agent is I really love a collaborative editorial process, and consider myself a very editorial agent. One of my favorite moments in the job is getting back a draft from a client that is much stronger, and knowing in my heart that it’s finally ready to submit!
  • Rules and trends aside, what I really look for in a story is tremendous heart, and a deep personal stake in the themes addressed—this is really what makes for the kind of book that stays with you long after you’ve turned the last page. Hard-earned wisdom. Humor. Unexpected twists. Natural dialogue. A unique hook.
  • Whenever I make a book deal, I call my author! Making “That Call” is one of my very favorite parts of the job. It’s always exciting, and it feels so satisfying.
  • I really wish I saw more historical fiction (MG, YA, or adult) set in unusual times in the slush. I love the Regency and Henry the 8th’s court, but come on—it’s a big wide world out there! I’d also love a historical fantasy or an alternative historical.

    I’m also a sucker for gorgeous language, strong settings, and untraditional love stories—Francesca Lia Block’s WEETZIE BAT books are some of my favorite YA books ever. I come across a lot of slush with a strong pitch and great story ideas, but that fall a little flat on the attention paid to the language, and the underlying heart.

Brianne On Clients
  • My ideal client would be hardworking, receptive to revision, clearly communicative, brilliant, and prolific!
  • What I love most about my current clientele is that they are all of the above :)
  • What I want most for any client is for us to succeed together—to be able to sell their work strongly, and allow them to comfortably quit their day job and write full time (if that’s what THEY want).

Brianne On Life
  • If I weren't an agent, I'd probably be running/working in an indie bookstore in a little waterside town, so I could talk to people about books ALL day long and read by the water on my days off :) OR possibly teaching pottery full-time (I teach on the side now, for fun, it’s a nice physical counterbalance to reading and writing all day.)
  • My favorite (non-client) book is oh, that’s too hard! I’ll just have to tell you what I’m reading right now (I like to juggle books) 11/22/63 by Stephen King (a fantastic alternative historical novel!) BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA by April Genevieve Tucholke, which is a little Stephen-King-like, actually, really delicious YA horror. I recently finished THE SECRET HISTORY, which frankly blew me away (I liked it more than THE GOLDFINCH! Shhh…) And Noa Wheeler of Holt was horrified to learn that I’d never read Tamora Pierce, so she leant me her copy of ALANNA, which is awesome! Alanna was the original Arya Stark!
  • Secretly, I'm terrified of sleep paralysis—when your brain is awake but you can’t wake up your body. It happens to me when I nap every once in a blue moon. Terrifying!
  • My secret boyfriend is Ben Franklin is my Boyfriend in History! I find him fascinating.
  • I have a total girlcrush on Rihanna, because she does what she wants * snaps fingers *
  • Sometimes, when no one is around, I ponder the age-old question of “if a tree falls in the forest and no one is there, does it still make a sound?” #deepthoughts

    Actually :) I love to fall into an audio book + quilting wormhole, where I have been known to lose many hours of time.
  • My favorite drink is a New Orleans-style Sazerac.

Want to see more Agent Interviews? Check them all out here.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

What's Up Wednesday - 6.4.14

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly meme geared toward readers and writers, allowing us to touch base with blog friends and let them know what's up.

You can participate by going to Jaime's blog here. Or Erin's blog there.

I'm back! I'm back! I'm back! I took a very looooong blogging hiatus over the winter. I needed some necessary unplugging so I could finish up a project and get another one started. I missed this meme a lot. I'm so excited to be jumping back in--and I love the new tree design! -->

What I'm Reading

I've been majorly book binging. My husband recently had back surgery so we've been doing a lot of hanging around the house the last few weekends. I've been devouring my TBR pile--which was perfect because it was becoming a bit unmanageable. Here were some of my faves from the last few weeks:

I can't recommend these enough! If you loved Eleanor and Park, try Like No Other. If you want a Tarzan retelling, try Wild. And Second Star is up there with Tiger Lily for my favorite contemporary Peter Pan retelling.

Right now, I'm reading Todd Strasser's NO PLACE. I've been really into grittier contemps that show teens living in diverse settings (i.e., not in the suburbs). If you have any recos, let me know!

What I'm Writing

I'm between projects right now, but I'm starting to daydream and plot out something really fun to write this summer. I recently participated in the My Writing Process bloghop and talked a bit about my cork board process. 

What Inspires Me Right Now

I know it's a tad self-promo-y, but I love the Writers Like Us series on my blog. I started it as a joke with Jodi Meadows when she mentioned she gets asked the same questions a lot in interviews. So I set out to come up with a list that was a little different--what made us all the same as writers.

I think it's really fun to see what authors still have issues with when they write. Most say things like wrapping up their endings or plotting or things I alway struggle with. Also, I love seeing what a typical comment from their critique parters is. Michelle Krys had an awesome this week, "slow your roll, 50 Shades. This is a YA novel!"

Check out the series here.

What Else I've Been Up To

Other than being a complete bookaholic, I also lovingly call myself a product ho. I've been signed up with BirchBox for six months now and have been collecting more samples than I know what to do with! I wish there was a product swap meet up so I could unload some of these. 

I actually got to the point where I looked at this box and thought, "Okay, this is officially ridiculous." So I might spend the rest of this week reading while covered in lotions and lip gloss samples.

See you next week!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Writers Like Us - Michelle Krys

It's the return of Writers Like Us! Michelle Krys was so kind to help me kick off the series again. I had an opportunity to read HEXED and it was so good! Fun and exciting and full of witchiness. It reminded me a lot of my obsession with The Craft.

HEXED comes out June 10th. Don't miss out on this one.

Michelle's Writers Like Us answers are below in bold. Let us know in the comments what makes Michelle just like you!

Michelle on Writing
  • I've written 3 books, and 2 have seen the light of day. (Well, they will! Hexed releases June 10th and the sequel comes out in 2015.)
  • My favorite type of scenes to write are the kissing ones! Second only to the almost-kissing ones. 
  • No matter how long I've been writing, I still have issues with losing interest in a book halfway through writing it, and getting distracted by shiny new ideas. 
  • A typical comment from my critique partner is slow your roll, 50 Shades. This is a YA novel! 
  • The book I wished I wrote is WE WERE LIARS by E. Lockhart. Painfully good.

Michelle on Getting Published
  • If my agent really knew how crazy I was, she would find out that I’m a lot more insecure than I appear. Except I think she already knows it. And maybe even likes me anyway?
  • When I was querying, I felt excited! I’m one of those weird people who actually loved the process. Checking my email constantly, keeping detailed spreadsheets on the responses—I loved it all!
  • The biggest mistake I ever made querying was querying too soon. I was so excited to get my work out there that I queried before the book was really ready. When an agent asked for a full, it took me a full week to send it out because I was busy frantically editing. (Don’t do that, people!)
  • The craziest thought I've ever had while being published is that someone is going to realize they’ve made a mistake and come and revoke my book deal. I still can’t believe this is real! 
  • When I got "The Call," my first thought was “don’t cry at work, don’t cry at work”. (I cried at work.)
  • When I saw my book sale in Publishers Marketplace, I squealed and tweeted it as fast as my shaky fingers would allow. 

Michelle on Life Outside Writing
  • If I weren't a writer, I'd probably be a forensic investigator or detective (I’m obsessed with Dateline NBC and 48 Hours Mystery). Although I do work as a nurse in a neonatal intensive care, and that’s an amazing job too. 
  • Secretly, I'm terrified of birds. Birds pecking at me. Birds flying too close to me. Birds pooping on my head. *shudders*
  • My secret girlfriend/boyfriend is Jason Mamoa. And Kyle Loza (For variety!)
  • Sometimes, when no one is around, I spend all day on celebrity gossip websites. I’m shamefully well informed on the goings on of Hollywood. 

Michelle Krys lives with her husband and son in Northwestern Ontario, Canada. She works part-time as a NICU nurse and spends her free time writing books for teens. Michelle is probably not a witch, though she did belong to a witchcraft club in the fifth grade and "levitated" people in her bedroom, so that may be up for debate. Hexed is her first novel. Visit her at or follow @MichelleKrys on Twitter.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Bloghop - My Writing Process

Young Adult writer and all-around cool person Stephanie Scott tagged me for the My Writing Process blog hop. 
You can visit her blog here or her Twitter there.

1) What am I working on? 

Funny you should ask this! I'm actually between projects, and have been in the process of daydreaming and plotting out my next WIP. It will definitely be a contemporary YA, but that's all I can say about it right now. I have this whole superstition about talking about a project before I'm ready.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I really like to write intense scenes and on the flip side, funny scenes. I try to layer them up the best I can. Some of my favorite stories are the ones that make me CRYYYYY, like soul-cleansing cries. Some of my favorites are Jodi Lynn Anderson's TIGER LILY and Melina Marchetta's JELLICOE ROAD.

With my last manuscript, I was actually scared to give it to my agent because "she's going to think I'm insane for writing this.*"

*She may have, but she loved it anyway.

3) Why do I write what I do? 

Is this the dreaded why-do-I-write-YA question? I've practiced for this! 

When I was thirteen, I ended a fight with my father by storming off to my room and shouting, "My life is like an acid bath!" before slamming the door. I haven't lived it down since. I just don't see how anyone that dramatic as a teenager couldn't grow up to write intensely funny stories for teens as an adult.

A few months ago, I went to see A.S. King (one of my favoritey fave YA authors ever!) at a signing and she said that she writes for the underdog. That teens rarely have anyone on their side, and so she wanted to be their voice.

So, the more I thought of her answer and my own teenage experiences, I thought, 'I want to write ways to survive.' If you think about it, the purpose of life is to survive it and live it. And there's so many ways this world can crush you emotionally, mentally, physically. My life really did feel like an acid bath at thirteen, because I didn't know how to handle the world around me yet. 

So why do I write what I do? To show how to survive.

4) How does my writing process work?

I'm a firm believer that no story is written the same way. Some have taken me years to get going and only come out in little bits at a time. Others have flowed out of my head in just a few very restless weeks. 

But, lately, my process has become much more organized and it starts with a blank cork board. 

I use Post-Its to show ideas/scenes/characters and move them around like puzzle pieces until the story fits together. I also have a "dumping ground" at the bottom of the board for any ideas that don't quite make the cut but I want to come back to.

Right now my cork board is a little blank, but I'm planning to fill it up this summer. 

Who's up next?
Michelle Smith writes books for teens (and adults who aren’t ashamed of their love for YA). She’s a lover of all things happy, laughs way too much, and is a complete sap. She advocates for mental health awareness, and is a strong supporter of The Trevor Project and To Write Love on Her Arms.
Michelle lives in North Carolina with her family. @MichelleA_Smith |
Lauren Gibaldi is an author and public librarian who lives in Orlando, FL with her husband, daughter, and overflowing collection of books. She likes dinosaurs, musicals, and the circus (two of which she’s participated in. Hint: It’s not being a dinosaur). Her debut YA novel, THE NIGHT WE SAID YES, will be released summer 2015 with HarperTeen/HarperCollins. @LaurenGibaldi

Erica Chapman, Erica writes dark/light YA contemporaries & thrillers at night while selling her soul for likes during the day. Her work is represented by the lovely Christa Heschke of McIntosh & Otis. She's a lifetime Lions and Michigan football fan who loves alternative music, Foo Fighters, reading, golf, and playing her guitar. She resides in Michigan where she sits quietly typing her next story on her macbook in a Detroit Lions Snuggie. She's also a blog contributor to the YA Misfits, All The Write Notes, and The Kindness Project. @EricaMChapman
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