Friday, August 29, 2014

10K by Labor Day

Jodi Meadows, Joy Hensley and I are challenging ourselves to write 10K by Labor Day. 3-day weekend. 10K words. MADNESS!

Come write with us on the hashtag #10KbyLaborDay


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

What's Up Wednesday - 8.27.14

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 went back to the old school logo from last year. When I took my hiatus this winter, I missed out on all the new WUW logos.

What I'm Reading

Okay, so currently I'm reading FORBIDDEN (which, I'm enjoying but also having a hard time wrapping my brain around some of the character development. I mean, the book is so controversial and I love those types of books that challenges ideas and pushes taboo, but... alas...)

However, I am really excited about what I have up on deck! WILDLIFE by Fiona Wood was available on NetGalley (thanks, LBKids!) and I jumped at the opportunity to read. Kelly Jensen over at Stacked was recommending it pretty fiercely (and I typically agree with her reviews...speaking of which, check out her blog for some really awesome insights into contemp YA!).

What I'm Writing

The writing is going well! I blew through 12K last night. Because of the day job, I set small, consistent goals to hit every night (between 500-1,000 words) and am keeping up well. My hope is to have a first draft ready in November. Last night I got to write a big, climatic argument (which are my favorite because you just get to GIVE it to the other character).

What Inspires Me

A few things right now. So first, let's talk about Ariana Grande. She is the most ADORABLE pop star out there right now. I also have her entire album on repeat this week. But I think my favorite thing about her is her ponytail. Seriously, if a Twitter/Tumblr account called Ariana's Ponytail appears out of nowhere this weekend, it's probably because I caved and started it.

During the VMAs, she was twirling around on stage in those thigh high boots and her hair was so gorgeous. (I wish mine was long enough to rock the high up ponytail!) But I was thinking, THAT! That's what it's about. Pop culture in general gets so much shade thrown at it because we just won't allow ourselves to have fun. So do me a favor this week and don't be self conscious to let your inner pop star show. Bust a move in the middle of the grocery store. Sing a little louder in your cubicle. Flip that hair when you cross the street. 

Okay, so the second thing is also Ariana Grande-related. And it's her brother, Frankie who is competing on Big Brother. I have been glued to my TV all summer over this show and I've completely fallen in ship (is that a thing?) with Zankie (Zach and Frankie). Look at these two! Aren't they adorable?? Except (SPOILER) Zach was just evicted from the Big Brother house and now their showmance is no more. Agent Lauren and I am sad, but we will forever have this gif. 

<3 Have an awesome week and rock your inner pop star! <3

Monday, August 25, 2014

Agents Like Us - Lara Perkins

Lara Perkins from Andrea Brown Literary Agency is here to share all her agenting secrets and slushpile wishes!

She is looking for all types of kid lit: picture books, middle grade, and young adult. You can read more about her here, see her submission guidelines there, and see her recent deals here. And you can always follow her on Twitter @Lara_Perkins. Her answers are below in bold. 

Lara on Agenting
  • When writers query me, I really wish ... I hope they've taken a look at my interests and tastes, which can be found on our agency website ( in blog interviews like this one. I always feel bad for the author when I receive a query that is clearly not going to be a good fit for me, and the author would have known this with a quick look at my bio on our website. 
  • My favorite part about being an agent is ... The moment when fall in love with a new manuscript, when I get that electric charge of "oh, wow, this is cool," and even though it's just me alone at my desk with the pages, I can picture an editor, a bookseller, a reader hopefully seeing what I see and falling in love, too. That charge is addictive. 
  • Rules and trends aside, what I really look for in a story is ... Relatable, flawed, mistake-prone characters, who are funny, smart, and goodhearted but struggling with complicated situations and emotions. A voice that manages to be both funny and insightful--and even lyrical or poetic. I'm a sucker for romantic tension, especially when it is complicated, dark, and laced with tragedy--think WUTHERING HEIGHTS or REBECCA.

    I also love work that strives to engage honestly (raising questions rather than answering them) with the most challenging, uncertain, thorny issues kids are facing, regardless of genre. I love a good mystery when it is solidly grounded in reality with believable, memorable characters. I always get a kick out of unreliable narrators done well, and I love projects of any genre that are page turning but have a literary edge. 
  • Whenever I make a book deal, I ... Celebrate by going to my local bookstore and buying a new book. Good karma!
  • I really wish I saw more mysteries and thrillers with truly unexpected twists or revelations in the slush. I'm pretty tough to surprise, so when a twist does surprise me and is well set up, it wins me over completely. Projects like this are definitely not a dime a dozen, but I would love to see more work in this vein. I'm greedy, though--I'd love to see more of all the types of work I mentioned above!

Lara On Clients
  • My ideal client would be ...Professional, passionate, thoughtful, and dedicated. 
  • What I love most about my current clientele is ... I'm lucky to work with authors and illustrators who fit the description above perfectly. As a group, they are talented, hardworking, and always looking for opportunities to grow or challenge themselves. They're pretty darn inspiring, actually. 
  • What I want most for any client is ... To be published well, with the right editor match, house support, and a solid plan for reaching and building their readership. Once the title is released, my fingers are crossed for great word-of-mouth to bring as many readers to the book as possible!

Lara On Life
  • If I weren't an agent, I'd probably be ... An architect. I was working towards my masters in architecture when I took a leave of absence to dip my toe into publishing and academia. I was so happy to have literature play a central role in my life again, so I never went back, but I still enjoy architecture and design as a hobby and, on the agenting side, I love working with author/illustrators. 
  • My favorite (non-client) book is ... Currently, Nancy Farmer's HOUSE OF THE SCORPION (though this changes week to week!). I finally read it for the first time recently, then immediately read it again, and then forced my husband to listen to the audiobook with me on a road trip. A great read/listen each time!
  • Secretly, I'm terrified of ... Small underground spaces. Spelunking is for crazy people in my opinion, and visiting a former California gold mine as a six year old was my nightmare come true. I lasted five minutes and then fainted, mostly to make sure my parents got the message and never took me anywhere like that again. 
  • My secret boyfriend is ... Declan from Emily Martin's THIS SIDE OF INFINITY, forthcoming with Simon Pulse in Spring 2016. I know. I'm the worst. It's a client book AND it hasn't been released yet, but I can't help myself. He's funny, kind, flawed, and always makes my heart skip a beat. 
  • I have a total girlcrush on ... Puck Connolly from Maggie Stiefvater's THE SCORPIO RACES. Smart, brave, funny--how could you NOT love her? 
  • Sometimes, when no one is around, I ... Read books out loud, dramatically, to myself. My secret dream is to be an audiobook narrator, but I would never inflict my readings on anyone else. My accents are terrible. 
  • My favorite drink is ... North Coast Brewing Company's Red Seal Ale. I'm not a big drinker, but I'm first generation Czech on my mom's side, so my family takes our beers and ales very seriously.

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

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

What's Up Wednesday - 8.20.14

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

This week has been all about reading ISLA AND THE HAPPILY EVER AFTER. I'm a pretty speedy reader, but this one I wanted to take in sip by sip. I missed Stephanie Perkins' work so much and this one was SO worth the wait.

What I'm Writing

This summer I started a new project. Typically, I like to write the first few chapters--set up the world, characters and establish the stakes--then throw the MS out to a few trusted readers. I got the green light on this MS and then Agent Lauren and I set a November deadline, so I'm working bit by bit. I've been outlining and plotting pretty meticulously, so I know where I'm going. The characters are a lot of fun and I feel like I'm found the voice pretty easily.

What Inspires Me

I will be the first to admit that I have a really strange sense of style. I tend to like anything that belongs on a twelve year old or a Japanese school girl. I blame Catholic school and growing up in the 90s and a huge love for anime because I could never shake my wardrobe choices of plaid skirts and Mary Janes. (When I was 16, I still wore lacy socks that I cuffed...and had Minnie Mouse on them!)  

So when I found THIS PURSE at one of those carts in the middle of the mall, I HAD to have it. I found out it's a knock off FURLA bag. While mine is made out of plastic, theirs is made of rubber and leather. I love it!

When I took my new bag out for a lunch at the local cafe, I had several compliments from complete strangers. One nice lady remarked at how roomy it looked, and I responded with an over-enthusiastic, "I HAVE A BOOK IN HERE!" (Because, you know, why would I respond like a normal person with a polite "thank you"?)

What Else I've Been Up To

My birthday is on Sunday! For the last seven years, Shannon and I've spent every single birthday on the beach, but this year life is getting in the way. He has to work and my back up birthday plans in NYC with BFF Kelly fell through too. It might be the first birthday I've ever spent alone, but I'm looking forward to it. Since I have some writing to do, I'm thinking about camping out in a fun Philly spot to write. Any suggestions?

<3 Have an awesome week! <3

Monday, August 18, 2014

For Your TBR Pile - Kiss Kill Vanish

Kiss Kill Vanish
By Jessica Martinez
Published: October 7, Katherine Tegen

From GoodReads: Valentina Cruz no longer exists.
One moment, she was wrapped in Emilio’s arms, melting into his kiss. The next, she was witnessing the unthinkable: a murder in cold blood, ordered by her father and carried out by her boyfriend. When Emilio pulled the trigger, Valentina disappeared. She made a split-second decision to shed her identity and flee her life of privilege, leaving the glittering parties and sultry nightlife of Miami far behind.

She doesn’t know how to explain to herself what she saw. All she knows now is that nothing she believed about her family, her heart, or Emilio’s love, was real.

She can change her name and deny her past, but Valentina can’t run from the truth. The lines between right and wrong, and trust and betrayal, will be blurred beyond recognition as she untangles the deceptions of the two men she once loved and races to find her own truth.

Thank you HarperTeen for the ARC!

My Thoughts:

Each and every single Jessica Martinez book gets better and better. Not only does Jessica cover a wide range of characters, from violinist prodigy Carmen in Virtuosity to Mo in The Vow, but her stories always read as fresh and new. Each one is so different, I'm always excited to see what plot line or topic she'll cover next. Valentina's story was gripping and suspenseful, all while maintaining a contemporary storyline.

Looking back at Martinez's span of novels, she centers the heart of her stories around teens coming to terms with the decisions their parents make. In Kiss Kill Vanish, Valentina discovers the truth about her father's art trading--as well as why Emilio is working for him. By vanishing to Canada, she lives with the little money in her pocket, the love of a stolen mandolin, and the guilt of what she's seen and who she's left behind.

Kiss Kill Vanish is a lonely novel, one that reminded me of the first few months I lived on my own. But the heaviness of the beginning speeds up into a pulse-racing thriller as Valentina gathers her strength and confronts her demons.

This was definitely a growth novel for Martinez and I can't wait to see what she writes next. Don't miss out on this one when it releases in October.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Some Things I Know About Depression

You could say I'm only writing this blog post because of yesterday's tragic news about Robin Williams. You could also say that I'm going to be one of many blogging about this today.

Yesterday, I had to step away from the outpouring of advice and stories and suicide prevention help information. It felt like too much to bear. Depression has touched my life--as well as the young adult writing community--in so many ways, it feels like it's taken up its own residency. It's hard to not recognize the patterns when our favorite authors go quiet for too long on Twitter or when book releases are pushed back for personal reasons. The simple truth is I know a few things about depression.

It likes to sound simple. How many times has the word depression been used to describe disappointment? Or an upsetting incident? "Perk up, buttercup! What do you have to be depressed about?" Depression wants you to watch your friend bounce off to enjoy their life. It makes you think you should be able to do the same. If it were only that simple.

No one would every say, "You just need to get some sunshine to cure that cancer" or "That schizophrenia would be under control if you got out of bed today." Depression is a disease, not a symptom.

It doesn't discriminate. It doesn't care who you are or where you came from. How good or how bad you may have had it. What your upbringing was like or where you went to school. How successful you've been. How nice you are. How many people you have depending on you. It doesn't care who you are. It simply doesn't care.

It doesn't affect everyone the same way. Sometimes it's with you forever. Other times, it sneaks up out of nowhere. For some people, it's manageable. Recoverable. Pop a pill. Talk it out. Breathe. You're you again. For others, it seeps into their pores and coats their lungs like tar. It's not as easy to "perk up" and "be thankful" or even be questioned as to "what do you really have to be depressed about."

It likes to stay hidden in those dark places. The cracks of your mind. The depths of your soul. It whispers to you that if anyone knew, they'd judge you. You'll lose yourself. They'll treat you differently. You'll become a joke. You'll be labeled as someone with a mental illness.

Worse, it will tell you it's not a big deal. Everyone gets sad. It never explains why your soul is dead or why the sadness feels like you're being dragged down a dark tunnel. It doesn't give a timetable as to when it will feel normal again so you can read a book, listen to music, talk to a friend.

It fights you to the end. If you take that medicine, you won't be you. This will never end. I will always be here. There is no way out. Don't even try.

Of course, I can tell you it gets better. That there's help out there. But when you're in the middle of battling depression, those things don't help. For most people suffering with depression, it takes the intervention of a loved one to say, "You need to call and get help right now."

This morning, Kate Concannon, friend and blogger at Life Sucks In A Strapless Bra, asked her readers,
I beg of you to be kind today … and hell, most days.
I ask you, my readers, don't forget to be kind to yourself. If you're battling a demon, don't let it fool you into thinking you're not strong enough. Or that you're ridiculous for taking this so seriously. Or that you shouldn't need help. Don't wait too long and let that demon take hold, because you are too good to not be here.

And if you need some extra words of advice to know you're not alone:
Libra Bray, Miles and Miles of No-Man's Land
Stephanie Perkins, Where I'm At In My Head
Myra McEntire, The Shame of Depression (link is currently down)

Saturday, August 9, 2014

For Your TBR Pile - The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley

The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley
By Shaun David Hutchinson
Published: January 20, Simon Pulse

From GoodReads
: Andrew Brawley was supposed to die that night. His parents did, and so did his sister, but he survived. Now he lives in the hospital. He serves food in the cafeteria, he hangs out with the nurses, and he sleeps in a forgotten supply closet. Drew blends in to near invisibility, hiding from his past, his guilt, and those who are trying to find him.

Then one night Rusty is wheeled into the ER, burned on half his body by hateful classmates. His agony calls out to Drew like a beacon, pulling them both together through all their pain and grief. In Rusty, Drew sees hope, happiness, and a future for both of them. A future outside the hospital, and away from their pasts.

But Drew knows that life is never that simple. Death roams the hospital, searching for Drew, and now Rusty. Drew lost his family, but he refuses to lose Rusty, too, so he’s determined to make things right. He’s determined to bargain, and to settle his debts once and for all.

But Death is not easily placated, and Drew’s life will have to get worse before there is any chance for things to get better.

Thank you Simon Pulse and Edelweiss for the eARC!

My Thoughts:

There's something really temporary about hospitals. The entire time you are there, you're waiting: to be seen, to be healed, to find out what comes next. For Andrew Brawley, he's waiting to die because he cheated death once. Now, with nowhere to go and no one to go to, he makes a his own temporary home inside the hospital befriending the staff and patients.

To cover his tracks and to explain to anyone who questions why he's there so much, he works under the table in the cafeteria and visits his grandmother who is in a coma. But death (aka the social worker) is still looking for him, waiting for him to slip up.

I was completely captivated by Andrew's story. The premise is brilliant, and had me questioning how Hutchinson was going to pull this off in the end. How could a boy slip through the cracks and go entirely unnoticed in a hospital with so many people bustling around?

But what I loved the most about this book was while Andrew's stuck in his purgatory, he's not living his life. When you're waiting, you're not falling in love or having adventures or seeing or experiencing new things. Slowly, he experiences these things through his make-shift hospital family: the ER doctors who keep him updated on the patients, his boss in the cafeteria who is grieving the loss of a son, and friendships with the teenagers in the pediatrics unit.

This was a brilliant story, full of heart and enough suspense to keep you guessing until the very end. I highly recommend this one to readers of David Levithan.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

What's Up Wednesday - 8.5.14

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

I'm so behind in my reading, but I got caught up in this really awesome ARC from Simon & Schuster. The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley was so good. It's not released until 2015 but you can request from Edelweiss. I was completely swept away when I found out this was about a boy who hid out and lived at a hospital after his parents and sister were killed. He's constantly dodging the social worker (who he calls Death), but more importantly he floats into all of these peoples' lives. I just loved the entire concept.

What I'm Writing

A lot. I'm settling into a new project and having a lot of fun. Rather than set word count goals (which stresses me out), I've decided to make the goals less numerical. So instead, my goals are to write a specific scene or finish a chapter or think out the dialogue for that part. It's working well and I've found that I'm less worried about hitting a target or racing to the finish. After years of being stressed out, I'm enjoying writing again.

What Inspires Me

Have you ever categorized the stories you've written? Last week, I posted this blog about The Types of Stories I've Written, and I've been thinking about it ever since. It seems like there's always That One that felt like it would never be right or The One that made writing seem so easy.

I'd say right now I'm writing The One I Swore I'd Never Write--which is loosely based on my own childhood. Which One are you writing now?

What Else I've Been Up To

Ever since we moved into this house seven years ago, I've had this really ugly orange carpet. It was always in the plan to switch it out to something neutral--especially when I insisted on having pink walls. I mean, really? Could I write stories in any other room that was not pink?

So for the longest time, I had this really bad mismatched room. BUT NOT ANYMORE!

LOOK! (Yeah, that's a faerie statue in the corner. Don't hate. haha.)

And that meant that all of these books needed to go back on the shelf, so I finally made a rainbow shelf. I have no idea where anything is anymore and am rethinking that I might go in and tighten up the gradients, but I LOVE it.

See ya next week!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Agents Like Us - Susan Hawk

Susan Hawk is here to share all her agenting secrets and slushpile wishes!

She exclusively handles books for children: picture books, chapter books, middle grade and YA, fiction and non-fiction. You can read more about her here, see her submission guidelines there, and see her wishlist here. And you can always follow her on Twitter @SusanHawk. Her answers are below in bold. 

Susan on Agenting
  • When writers query me, I really wish … that their own reading in children’s books was more evident. You can really tell when someone has done their homework, and understands the category that they’ve chosen to write in. 
  • My favorite part about being an agent is ... calling a client to say that we have an offer is obviously a favorite, but the other day one of my clients got her first piece of kid fan mail. She was so happy, and there’s nothing like knowing that the book, which I love dearly, made an impact on a kid reader.
  • Rules and trends aside, what I really look for in a story is ... characters that feel real, complicated and compelling; a voice that is the unique expression of this writer; layered story and plot that grab attention; and heart. I want to be moved by your characters and story.
  • Whenever I make a book deal, I ... call the author to mutually jump around and cheer! There is a deep satisfaction in matching my client and a book I love with just the right editor and house. After the call, I’ll wear a big happy grin all day.
  • I really wish I saw more story ideas and writing that surprise me! in the slush. 

Susan On Clients
  • My ideal client would be ... an outstanding writer who appreciates that writing is an art, and publishing a business, and wants to balance both. Someone grateful, willing to work hard to build their career; a good communicator with a wicked sense of humor. 
  • What I love most about my current clientele is ... in addition to the above, how much heart they have, how much they love writing, and how widely varied their work is. 
  • What I want most for any client is ... for her work to find its readership, and for that readership to grow over time as their books and career do.

Susan On Life
  • If I weren't an agent, I'd probably be ... a librarian! In fact, I was a librarian previously. Bookseller also comes to mind. Is there such a thing as a professional list maker? Because I’d be very good at that.
  • My favorite (non-client) book is ... TO CAPTURE THE CASTLE. Smokes, do I love that book. 
  • Secretly, I'm terrified of ... driving across bridges! I didn’t really learn to drive until I was 41 years old and always wonder if it would be different if I’d learned earlier.
  • My secret boyfriend is ... Paul Rudd. Oh Paul, you make me laugh, you do! 
  • Sometimes, when no one is around, I ... sing! I love singing, and pretty much can’t hold back, when someone’s around, not around, anytime. 
  • My favorite drink is ... vino verde! Slice a juicy peach to go into that glass of slightly fizzy wine, and sit in the backyard to sip it!
Want to see more Agent Interviews? Check them all out here.

Friday, August 1, 2014

For Your TBR Pile - Glory O'Brien's History of the Future

Glory O'Brien's History of the Future
By A.S. King
Published: October 14, Little, Brown

From GoodReads: Graduating from high school is a time of limitless possibilities—but not for Glory, who has no plan for what's next. Her mother committed suicide when Glory was only four years old, and she’s never stopped wondering if she will eventually go the same way...until a transformative night when she begins to experience an astonishing new power to see a person’s infinite past and future. From ancient ancestors to many generations forward, Glory is bombarded with visions—and what she sees ahead of her is terrifying.

A tyrannical new leader raises an army. Women’s rights disappear. A violent second civil war breaks out. And young girls vanish daily, sold off or interned in camps. Glory makes it her mission to record everything she sees, hoping her notes will somehow make a difference. She may not see a future for herself, but she’ll do everything in her power to make sure this one doesn’t come to pass.

My Thoughts:

There are two things about A.S. King's writing that I absolutely love: her creativity and her choice of characters.

A.S. King is known for disregarding all the rules when it comes to writing. She breaks them and breaks them well. Her stories have always been inspirational to me because she finds ways to break into all my secret thoughts I didn't think anyone else would understand--about growing up, femininity, family, and the unfairness of life. Her characters are always underdogs, the kids we might overlook because they don't fit the mold of what we think a teen should look or sound like.

In many ways, Glory O'Brien's History of the Future felt like two different stories: one of Glory's path from teen to adult and one of the History of the Future. Preferably, I was most interested in Glory.

Glory's view of the world has always been different. After her mother committed suicide and her father gave up his painting to become a lump on the couch, Glory grew up on microwaved meals and kept femininity an arm's length away. A.S. King explored how a girl grows up motherless to explore her self awareness and sexuality.

There were some gorgeous lines about why girls care so much about clothes and shoes and mascara and hair products and sex--and why Glory does not. Also, "I am tortured by belly fat and magazine covers and how to please everyone but myself" struck a particular and familiar chord with me.

The best part about this book was when Glory and her best friend Ellie drink the bat. Yep. Drank a bat. A liquified bat from a jar...which prompted this deal between Jodi Meadows, Joy Hensley and me--so thanks, A.S. King!

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