Wednesday, July 30, 2014

What's Up Wednesday - 7.30.14

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.

What I'm Reading

Oh my gosh! I came home to this awesomeness sitting on my stoop! I am so excited for Kiss, Kill, Vanish--especially because I remember reading Jessica Martinez tweeting about how much she loved writing it. That's the coolest part about the publishing process is being around to see projects grow into sales and ARCs and actual books we see on the shelf at B&N.

I also have Rainbow Rowell's Landline on deck.

What I'm Writing

Right now...not a lot. I had so much going on this week, I gave myself a break, but I'm ready to dive back in and get my daily word counts in. I think I have >3K right now and am hoping to make that 5K this weekend. It's so hard writing in the summer because every weekend is filled with get-togethers and cook outs and SO MANY THINGS. I always write best in the dead of winter, so I know if I wait it out, the pace will pick back up.

What Inspires Me

I might catch some eye rolls from this one, but I DO NOT CARE. I am absolutely addicted to the Kim Kardashian Game. It's SO much fun, and reminds me a lot of how obsessed I was with playing The Sims back in the day. Really, though. Look at that A List status! I'm such a baller. :)

What Else I've Been Up To

Our friends Stef and Dave were married this weekend so we flew out to Dayton, Ohio. BFF Kelly's husband and Shannon were the groomsmen and the reception was in this gorgeous theater building in downtown Dayton. A big, public congrats to Stef and Dave! Thanks so much for letting us share in your special day (and eat shrimp on a chip at your reception!).

Have an awesome week!

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Types of Stories We Tell

I've been thinking a lot about stories. Like most hope-to-be-published writers, I've piled up a lot of manuscripts. Flipping through my files, I realized each one is different. Each one taught me something new. And, being the obsessive, analytical person I am, I started categorizing them.

There's The One I Wrote First.
Ah, my first toe dip into the freezing pool of writing! Admittedly, I had no idea what I was doing, but I had a dream and I put my fingers to the keyboard and wrote it down! I refused to show it to anyone. Then I queried it and got a whole lotta form rejections. I got upset. I threw it aside. I moved on. Either way, it was special because it was my first.

The One I First Felt The Rush.
I once affectionately called this the writing equivalent of "chasing the dragon." I didn't sleep. I didn't eat. All my friends were mad at me. The house was dirty. I didn't do laundry for two weeks. And I couldn't care less because I was writing and I was on FIRE!

The One I Didn't Feel The Rush.
Why don't I have that same feeling? Remember when I wrote that last one and the characters felt familiar? The dialogue flowed out fresh? What's wrong with this one? Was that other one a fluke? Have they all been a fluke? Was writing always this hard??

The One That's In Pieces.
And, most likely, will always be in pieces. The characters aren't fleshed out. The story makes no sense. No matter how much time I put into it, it just doesn't seem to come together. I wonder if I should scrap it. I wait for that moment of clarity where it all makes sense and I find the most perfect piece to fill those gaping potholes. Any day will make sense.

The One That Was Awful (aka The Pancake Story). 
After I snagged my agent, I had trouble writing the next book. I wanted to write, but I was creatively exhausted. Instead of taking a break, I wrote anyway. It was awful. I look back on it now and relate it to throwing that first pancake in the skillet. I knew it was going to be messed up, but I cooked it anyway so I could move on and cook up the rest of the batch.

The One That Was Just For Fun.
I used to think every single story had to be so incredibly meaningful. Then I wrote a story just for fun. To make my CP laugh. To keep my agent turning the pages. I smirked the entire time I wrote it, biting my lip while my characters said ridiculous things and twisted the story around.

Let me know what categories your stories fall in! And no matter what...when in doubt, remember:

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Writers Like Us - Nova Ren Suma

This week, Nova Ren Suma is here to share all her writing and publishing secrets! Not only is Nova the author of such amazing books as Imaginary Girls and 17 & Gone, but she also teaches workshops, chats with Sara Zarr, and heads up two of my favorite blog series Turning Points and Book Of Your Heart.

Nova's answers are below in bold.

Nova on Writing

  • I've written SIX books (under my own name... I also ghostwrite more than seventeen books, including series novels and movie tie-ins and very weird things you would never expect of me!), and FOUR of my own books have seen the light of day.
  • My favorite type of scene to write is something dreamy. I’m also a fan of epiphanies, but I try to not let them go on too long. (Sometimes someone needs to stop me.)
  • No matter how long I've been writing, I still have issues with the P-word. Plot.
  • A typical comment from my critique partner is, “What should we order for dinner?” No, seriously, I don’t have a critique partner. I show all my writing at every stage to my other half, E, who is my first reader. We often don’t know what to order for dinner, that’s true, but he always knows what to say to help me reach my goals for each of my books. He’s my secret weapon.
  • The book I wished I wrote is The Diviners by Libba Bray. She’s a mad genius.

Nova on Getting Published
  • When I was querying, I felt like giving up. I queried an adult novel to many agents years ago... and DID give up. Then I found YA and wrote something new and... here I am!
  • The biggest mistake I ever made querying my YA novel was not giving all the agents who were interested enough time to respond. I chose the right agent for me, and I don’t question that. But I didn’t act professionally—I was rushing, and way too excited!—by not notifying one of the agents in time, and he still teases me about that to this day.
  • When I got "The Call," my first thought was, “Sit down.” In my excitement, I somehow found myself standing up on top of the couch.
  • When I saw my book sale in Publishers Marketplace, I didn’t believe it was real. I had to stare at it for a while to be sure.

Nova on Life Outside Writing
  • If I weren't a writer, I'd probably be a photographer. When I was in college, I had two dreams and a self-designed combined major including both writing and photography. Then I got into MFA programs in fiction, and so I chose writing first, and never found my way back to making pictures. I still wonder what would have happened had I chosen photography, but I think the visual influence has made it into my fiction even still.
  • Secretly, I'm terrified of BATS. Actually, my fear of bats is no longer a secret, because when I was away recently in the mountains of California teaching a writing workshop, my students got to see up close and personal just how afraid of bats I am... because on two nights, bats got into the barn, and I freaked out. I was totally cool with the spiders, though.
  • Sometimes, when no one is around, I dance around my tiny city apartment with abandon. It helps with the writing stress. I’ll do it for ten, fifteen minutes... then I’ll get back in my desk chair and write.

Nova Ren Suma is the author of the YA novels Imaginary Girls (Penguin/Dutton, 2011) and 17 & Gone (Penguin/Dutton, 2013). She also wrote the middle-grade novel Dani Noir (Simon & Schuster/Aladdin, 2009), reissued as Fade Out for a YA audience (Simon Pulse, 2012). Her new novel, The Walls Around Us, is forthcoming in March 2015 from Algonquin YR.

Visit Nova online at or read her blog at

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

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Writers Like Us - Alyssa B Sheinmel

This week I'm so very excited to have Alyssa B Sheinmel here for Writers Like Us! Her book SECOND STAR is one of my faaaavorite books this year--and a contemporary Peter Pan retelling!

In the search for her missing surfer brothers, Wendy Darling is caught up between the somewhat-childish, straight-laced Pete and drug dealer Jas and their turf war for the beach.

Alyssa B. Sheinmel did a fantastic job capturing the magic and adventure of surf culture, and drew some pretty awesome comparisons between those who don't follow a traditional academic path to college, opting for adventure. In SECOND STAR's case, boys who want to follow the waves so they can catch the biggest ones. So I loved, loved, loved it--and of course that meant Alyssa needed a space in Writers Like Us.

Alyssa's answers are below in bold.

Alyssa on Writing

  • I've written more… books – well, ideas for books – than I can count, but so far I’ve been lucky enough that four have seen the light of day, with a few more coming down the pike. Every time I have an idea, I start making notes and writing chapters, but very few of them turn into actual books. 
  • My favorite thing to write is... dialogue. When I was in school, dialogue really wasn’t my favorite part of writing a scene. But it’s become something I really look forward to writing. I think it’s when I get to know my characters best. 
  • No matter how long I've been writing, I still have issues with…um, everything? I feel like with every book I write, I learn something more about how to tell a story, but I also come away with a list of things I want to do better next time. 
  • A typical comment from my critique partner is… probably to slow down. Early in a draft, I tend to get wrapped up in either plotting or my character’s voice, and sometimes I need a reminder to slow down and try to do both. 
  • The book I wished I wrote is … I’m not sure I have an answer for this one. I consider myself more of a reader than I am a writer, so I don’t think I’ve ever come away from a book I read wishing that I could have written it. It’s more that I feel like the books I read teach me about the kind of writing I want to do. 

Alyssa on Getting Published
  • If my agent really knew how nervous I was, she would find out…I try to be sort of professional (well, relatively speaking!) when I meet with my agent and editors. But the truth is, most of the time I’m kind of goofy-nervous for every meeting and call. 
  • When I was querying, I felt...vulnerable, but also excited. 
  • The biggest mistake I ever made querying was…I actually had a really nice querying experience. I’d worked at a literary agency and then a publishing house for years before my first book was published, so I feel like I was lucky enough to know the way things worked before I dove in myself. 
  • The craziest thought I've ever had while being published is ... Oh my goodness, I don’t know! Pretty sure my thoughts have run everywhere from fear to misery to excitement to…etc. 
  • When I got "The Call," my first thought was ... I found out an offer had been made on my first book over email while I was on vacation, the day after my birthday. I think the first thing I did was call my best friend for advice. 
  • When I saw my book sale in Publishers Marketplace, I ... Actually, the first time I saw that the deal for my first novel had been announced was when someone else forwarded it to me – I think the subject line read “Is this you?” It was actually so lovely – I saw it because someone else was congratulating me on it. 

Alyssa on Life Outside Writing
  • If I weren't a writer, I'd probably be a ... Before I began writing full time, I worked in the marketing department at a children’s publisher. I loved my job, so I’d probably still be doing that. 
  • Secretly, I'm terrified of ... This isn’t much of a secret– most everyone who knows me know this – but the thing that scares me most is seeing dogs unhappy, neglected, or in pain. I have to run from the room when an ASPCA commercial comes on. (Usually straight to my computer so I can make a donation.) 
  • My secret girlfriend/boyfriend is ... This also isn’t really a secret, since I’ve written about it a lot: I’m a huge fan of The Vampire Diaries and The Originals. I want to be friends with the whole cast. And all the writers of the shows. 
  • Sometimes, when no one is around, I … talk to my dog more than is normal for a person to do. (To be fair, I do this when people are around, too. He’s truly an excellent conversationalist.) 

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

Thursday, July 3, 2014

For Your TBR Pile - The Walled City

The Walled City
By Ryan Graudin
Published: November 4, Little, Brown

From GoodReads: There are three rules in the Walled City: Run fast. Trust no one. Always carry your knife. Right now, my life depends completely on the first. Run, run, run. 

Jin, Mei Yee, and Dai all live in the Walled City, a lawless labyrinth run by crime lords and overrun by street gangs. Teens there run drugs or work in brothels—or, like Jin, hide under the radar. But when Dai offers Jin a chance to find her lost sister, Mei Yee, she begins a breathtaking race against the clock to escape the Walled City itself.

My Thoughts:

Honestly, who did not want this book after all the BEA buzz around it? I was so excited when Little, Brown approved me for an ARC and read it right away. It was such a great read--so much so that I wasn't sure what to say about it afterwards. I could join the chorus and say how beautiful the writing is (it so is!) or how phenomenal the world building is (truly!) and how tight and intense the pacing was (oh my God, I couldn't stop reading if you tore this one out of my hands!) or how gorgeous the cover is (because I have eyes).

The Walled City was all of that, and yet, it felt like something more. Something I couldn't quite put into words. And then I took a glance at Ryan's note in the back:

Even though the city was closed down by the government, the human trafficking still continues. The characters I came to fall in love with: Mei Yee, sold for her beauty and youth and Jin, whose resilience to survive behind the walls in the search for her stolen sister could very well be real. It was chilling and heartbreaking. 

So, rather than give a reader review, I want to devote this space on my blog to promote how we all can learn more about this issue. Ryan suggests visiting the International Justice Mission at

Read this one, because The Walled City will open your eyes and have you Googling for more information and seeking ways you can help.
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