Saturday, August 29, 2009

Famous Authors Who Were Rejected Repeatedly

I’m fortunate to have some of the best writing partners-in-crime in the world (in my opinion). One of my friends over on Writers’ Cafe said she came across a website and immediately thought about me. I found myself in better spirits after reading about famous authors, who were rejected–not only by agents but by publishers–numerous times. Their works are famous, and have been read by millions. After reading this article, I can honestly say that I have a whole new outlook on the writing/publishing biz. Take a look.

I also wanted to point out the words of Judy Blume:

“I would go to sleep at night feeling that I’d never be published. But I’d wake up in the morning convinced I would be. Each time I sent a story or book off to a publisher, I would sit down and begin something new. I was learning more with each effort. I was determined. Determination and hard work are as important as talent.”

Her quote made me realize that persistence pays off, determination is required, and hard work is a given.

Original post published on Old People Writing for Teens by former OPWFT contributor Becca. To view original post and reader comments, please click here.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Twifts and Oldsters Unite for interview!

Recently, I had the distinct honor and pleasure of being asked for an interview by Amna/GeekPride from the TWFT blog and AW. It was a surreal and exciting moment to say, “I’m giving an interview!” One of those kinda moments that all “would be” writers dream of happening. The interview was for Amna’s own personal blog, but I thought it was such a cool idea that I asked her if we could borrow the questions and do a series on the OPWFT blog. She graciously agreed, so here is the first OPWFT WIP Interview…thanks again to AMNA/Geek Pride. Here’s a link to her blog:

Q&A- The Amna Way…

Posted on August 20, 2009 by Amna

*Cue theme song*

Welcome to another episode of Q&A- The Amna WAY!

*cue applause*

Okay, I know your dying to know who is my guest. And I’m excited to introduce someone I look up to!

Krista! (aka Juneluv12)

Thank you so much for agreeing to be on my show! I’m giddy with excitement. This is a great honour

Okay.. I’ll stop stalling..On to the interview!!

(1). For my readers, can you give me a quick summary of your current WIP

My current WIP is called The War Within. It’s about seventeen year old girl named, Mia, who is banished from home for the summer after being caught in a compromising position with her father’s research assistant. She’s sent to stay with her grandmother, Livia, even though she has only met her a few times in her life. There is bad blood between Livia and Mia’s father, so the relationship has been strained. The catch is Livia is living with Mia’s aunt who married a Mexican dignitary, so she’ll be staying in Guadalajara, Mexico for the summer. Thus, enters a hot, Latino named, Joaquin, to spice the story up a bit! Lol

So, there’s some great WWII scenes and secret revelations from Livia, and Mia also learns a lot about herself and her relationship with her father.

*Jaw drops to the ground* Wow. Just Wow.

2. If you could be any character in your WIP, who would you be and why?

That’s a hard one. I think there are little bits of me in all my characters! I feel I have some of Livia’s survival against all odds, definitely Mia’s snark and attitude, and Joaquin’s strong faith.

3. Do you have a writing schedule/ set yourself targets?

I wish I could say I had a more dedicated writing schedule. I basically write when the mood hits. I completed DHTP within a month, but that was during the summer when I had more time to write. I’d love to get disciplined and set myself a writing schedule…maybe that can be a resolution for me!

4. Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

First, it would be the repercussions of racism and prejudice, both for Livia and for Joaquin’s family. To quote Auden, “We must love one another or die.” I’m really big on teaching tolerance and acceptance. Then, I would have to say the importance of family. Finally, it would be to love yourself and be honest with yourself and those you love.

5. What inspired you to write your current WIP?

About five years ago, I befriend a Holocaust survivor named, Livia Unger Greeson, through my best friend Victoria. She had met Mrs. Greeson during college, and they struck up a fast friendship. Mrs. Greeson came to speak at the school, and when she found out I was an aspiring writer, she asked me to start chronicling her story. Unfortunately, time wasn’t on our side. I was the middle of Graduate School and then she had a stroke. She passed away in January of 2008.Originally, I had the idea of an adult novel using some aspects of her life and fictionalizing. Then this summer, I had what I like to call a “drive by SNI”, and I realized how I could make this a YA. My friend Victoria, who introduced me to Mrs. Greeson, is married to a man from Guadalajara, and I love the Mexican culture. I found a way to interweave both loves into one story.

6. Do you dream about your characters, scenes or certain settings?

Normally, I do not. I have what I call “image impressions” where I’ll be cleaning house, driving down the road, or even in the shower, and an entire scene will come to me. But the other night, I had a dream about Mrs. Greeson. I was telling her about The War Within, and she was very excited. She was also thrilled I was setting it in Mexico for Victoria!

7. Do you believe you were destined to be a writer?

Depends on which day of the week you ask me, lol. Writing is in my blood. My cousin, David Bottoms, is regionally famous poet who was the Poet Laureate of Georgia for a period of time. My mom claimed I wrote my first story when I was four…it was more pictures than anything, but I have been writing all my life.

8. There are some pretty hot characters in many of OPWFT + TWFT novels, if you could choose one to be with. Who would you choose?

Hmm, this is a toughie. It would probably be a tossup between Fairy/Steph’s Mr. Golden in Submerge, and Merrick in Jamie’s Cant Me If You Can.

9. If you could choose one scene to live through in your book, what would it be and who would you be?

I would love to be romanced by a guy like Joaquin. He’s a man of faith and integrity in a world where so many guys aren’t. So, I’d love to be dancing with him at the Quinceneara scene under the twinkling lights….

10.If you could be any scene in any YA book: what scene, what book and which character?

Hmm, I’m probably gonna catch some heck for this, but I’d probably be Bella in the Honeymoon scene in Breaking Dawn….lol

11. Oddball Question: What’s the difference between a novel and a book?

Um, they’re the same thing….unless you’re talking non-fic

WHHOOOOO! Was that not a great interview?!

Yes it was bloody fantastic! Thank your Krista! You truly rock.

Original post published on Old People Writing for Teens. To view post and reader comments, please click here.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Interview with Kody Keplinger, author of The DUFF.

Hey guys, it’s me Amy! I recently got a chance to sit down AIM style with Miss Kody Keplinger, 17 year old debut author whose novel The DUFF is coming out fall 2010 with Little Brown/Poppy. Read on to discover more about Kody’s inspiration, writing process, and to see if she ever Googles herself.

1) First off, tell us about what a ‘DUFF’ is and how you wanted to use the term for Bianca.

Well, DUFF stands for “designated ugly fat friend.” Contrary to what you may think, I did NOT make that word up. I heard it in high school. A friend was angry because someone had called her “the Duff.” When she told me what it meant, I was like “Wow….I should write a book called ‘The Duff’.” Joking at the time, but then I did. I found the word funny at first, but then infuriating. But when I actually got the plot for the book, I was listening to a song by the Veronica’s called “I Can’t Stay Away.” Then it all just came to me. I knew Bianca wasn’t going to be the stereotypical I’m-a-good-girl-with-a-heart-of-gold kind of “Duff”. That was cliché to me. And she became…well, Bianca became kind of tough. She’s sarcastic and cynical…and my hero, truthfully. She might be seen as “the Duff”, but she’s smart enough to know it’s kind of a dumb, horrible concept, even though it bothers her. I didn’t go in with many goals concerning body image or the word, but Bianca kind of took charge and helped me realize that we’re all Duffs. Every one of us.

2) So true! Tell us a little about the main themes used in The Duff.

Um….wow. I didn’t go into planning to write “themes” to be honest. My characters kind of took the wheel–which makes me sound uber-schizophrenic, but it’s true. By the time I’d finished, I wound up with a couple of pretty heavy “themes”. Body image, obviously, is a major theme. Casual sex is another. And one of my favorite themes, though less obvious, is the idea of how running away from your problems can really cause more problems for you in the end. I felt like I learned the lessons my characters learned right along with them. I didn’t–and never–go into a project with a moral or a lesson in mind. I don’t like being preached to, and I know my peers don’t either. But my characters learned things, and so did I. It was a fascinating experience dealing with some of these “themes.”

3) Tell us a little about your writing process. Outline? No outline? Do you set timeframe goals?

Ha! I’m the WORST person to talk to about writing processes. I don’t outline. I don’t set timeframes. I don’t do anything. I’ll admit–with mild shame–that I’ve started projects without even knowing how they’d end! The most I do is a rough, rough, ROUGH synopsis. Which is always subject to change. But I think that is part of my lack of plot interest. I’m very much a character-driven person. I know my characters inside out. They lead the story. They do the work. I just write it. Lucky for me, I write quite quickly, and I don’t mind editing and revising at all. I love spending time with characters. As I said, I’m uber-schizo. They’re like real people to me…..twisted, right?

4) Not at all! In fact, that risk factor sounds like the very thing that gives your work its electrical charge. Do you have any advice for other YA writers trying to break in?

Oh, trust me, I do. Haha. No, seriously. I did so much research and learned so much from others. I wouldn’t be here without the advice of peers, so I’m glad to pass a few tips on. First, I say revise, revise, REVISE! I know that sounds hypocritical since I started The DUFF in January and had an agent by May, but the thing is, I edited as I went AND had a few beta readers help. That thing was uber-polished by the time I queried it. So don’t–for your own sake–send first drafts out. Read them over. Fix things. Not just grammar, but anything that doesn’t work. Have others help. Same for query letters– don’t send the first draft! Trust me, those things take weeks to polish. But my biggest piece of advice is research. Talk to other people. Google other writers. Find out things. Ask questions. Don’t jump into anything without knowing what you’re getting into. And, of course, have fun. It sounds cliché, I know, but if you aren’t enjoying writing, why do it? Don’t let the goal of publication take the fun out of writing. Don’t write to publish. Write for YOU. If it happens to get published, SWEET! If not, you still accomplished something many people never do–you wrote a book.

5) Spoken like a true bad ass author. What would you say has been the most difficult part about the entire process? The most fun?

The most difficult? Ugh. The writer’s block. People will laugh at me for saying that after seeing how quickly I wrote The DUFF. (Under two months for the first draft). But it’s true. I always–for every project–get these random bits of writer’s block in the last third of the first draft. I mean, I start freaking out over how to get two characters to walk up the stairs! It’s ridiculous and annoying, but I push through it eventually. The most fun part is easy– Revising! I know, that makes me crazy, but I love it! I love making the book even better. I love hanging out with my characters–all of whom I adore! I love reworking scenes or adding in new chapters. Some writers see it as a chore, but I see it as a last chance to bond with characters I may never write again. It’s my favorite part of it.

6) What are you reading right now?

I’m currently reading “Bass Ackwards and Belly Up” by Elizabeth Craft and Sarah Fain. It’s kind of perfect for me right now. It’s about 4 girls following their dreams after high school, and that’s right at the point I’m living. It’s so funny and true. I love it.

7) Is YA your favorite genre to read? Do you have plans to write any books that aren’t YA?

Honestly, I don’t have a favorite genre. I like everything from Jane Austen to Judy Blume to STAR WARS books. If it has a good plot and great characters (characters being the most important to me), I love it. As for non-YA…. not at this time. I love my genre. I just lived it. I’d like to do something college-age in a couple of years…but that’s a tough market. Maybe when I am an adult, like completely adult-adult, I’ll write a mainstream novel. In the mean time, teenagers are my thing. They’re just crazy enough to be interesting and just old enough to know better. It’s a great combo.

You mentioned earlier that you drew inspiration from a Veronica’s song for The Duff. Do you often get inspired by music and other entertainment stuff?

OMG, yes, yes, YES! It’s sad. I feel like a thief sometimes!! But seriously, I do get a lot of inspiration from other forms of entertainment. I do soundtracks for my books because I’m so music obsessed. That’s how The DUFF was born. Now, my second novel, A MIDSUMMER’S NIGHTMARE, was born in a very…. unique way. I was watching Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, and the scene where Carmen is playing tennis with her stepbrother came on. I had this crazy thought of “What if they had gotten together?” A few days later, I was watching my DVDs of The OC, and I saw Willa Holland, and BOOM!!! I had a story about a girl who has a one-night stand with a boy who later becomes her stepbrother. My next project is very much inspired by the dark, twistedness of my favorite movie EVER–Cruel Intentions. So, to answer shortly, yes. I am insanely inspired by every form of media. It’s intense.

9) Have you ever gotten a tad worried to imagine your family/friends IRL reading your racier passages?

Oh, God, yes! The book isn’t graphic or anything. I mean, its YA. Edgy YA, but still meant for teens. But I come from the south. A very wholesome community, to be exact. My Mom is super laid back, and she’s read most of the book, so I’m not worried about her. My Dad and some of my grandparents…. that’s another story. I don’t know if they’ll be able to see past the sexual content and swearing to see the point. I hope they will. But my biggest fear is that my book won’t make it into my own high school’s library. I mean, it’s a huge possibility. I’m very aware that there is a great deal of censorship in the part of the country I was raised in. It worries me. It bothers me. But not enough to change. I know I’m not doing anything wrong by writing what I’m writing. I write things that are very real. If some people don’t like that, I’m sorry. If my family doesn’t like it, I’m really, really sorry. But I won’t change the book for them. I won’t change it for anyone. It’s truthful.

10) Amazing! What’s your favorite writer fuel?

Chocolate. Lots of chocolate. Mountain Dew helps, too.

11) Now for the kicker. Since all of this has happened, have you ever Googled yourself?

Truth? Um…yes. Daily. I can’t help it. I used to not because nothing came up, but then Janet Reid did a blog post about my book and I–silly me–was the last to know! After that, I started Googling myself. My blog comes up as well as Teens Writing For Teens and a guest blog I did for Kristin Briana Otts. But now some awesome things are popping up. My Publisher’s Marketplace announcement, some twitter accounts, the Children’s Bookshelf announcement, my agent’s Publisher’s Marketplace page…. it’s insane. I never know where my name might pop up–so I pay attention now. So, yes. I Google myself. Everyone should. It’s just a good idea….and fun. Teehee.

Originally post published on Old People Writing for Teens. To view original post and reader comments, please click here.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Media Inspiration–What’s Yours?

This post is going to require everyone’s cooperation, so grab your keyboards and get ready!

I want to hear about your muses. You know–when you go to the movie theatre with a big bag of popcorn, and that film on the silver screen gives you a fantastic idea for your WIP in the strangest way. Or maybe the one rock album you’ve studied the lyrics to a million times trying to get every song to fit one of your character’s journeys. You know what I’m talking about. So spill it, and if you can tell us why, the better. I’ll start.


Lord of the Rings– the movies that jumpstarted my high school writing spree. The acting and direction sparked my imagination for the way I imagined dramatic scenes in THE ILLUMINATED.

Transformers– Humor and cinematography opened some doors.

Slumdog Millionare– beauty of using culture as an art form

The Goonies– opened my love for teamwork and bonding, creepy caves, and puzzles

Alice in Wonderland– Inspired my MC Jordan Adeline

I will also leave you with two amazing artists that every time I listen to I can’t help but develop scenes. Check them out:

Secret and Whisper — Great White Whale

Eisley — Room Noises / Combinations

So I must know, what are some of the art forms that have inspired your work, and how? Do you have any recommendations for me?

Originally published on Old People Writing for Teens by GotYA contributor Sarah Harian. To view original post and reader comments, please click here.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Interview with Marilee Brothers, Author of Moonstone and Moon Rise

Through my journey on AbsoluteWrite, I had the pleasure of meeting Marilee Brothers. She is a true gem in the literary world, and if you haven’t read her yet, you’re missing out! After reading Moonstone, I immediately emailed my Media Specialist and several others in my county and said, “We gotta get this book!” Luckily, they agreed.

So, I had a moment to sit down with Marilee and talk with her about the release of Moon Rise, the sequel to Moonstone.

(1). When did you decide you wanted to be a writer? How has the journey been for you?

I’ve always been a mad, crazy reader. In fact, if I finish one book and don’t have another on deck, I go into withdrawal, complete with shivering fits. When I was working full time, teaching, coaching, going to summer school and raising kids, I dabbled in short stories and poetry. As the years passed and I had more time, I got serious about writing. I joined RWA and started entering contests. My area of Washington state is not heavily populated, so it took some time find other writers. I’m now in a wonderful critique group with people I trust. I value their opinions immensely since, as writers, we simply cannot be objective about our own writing. It’s been a long, hard journey to publication, but I learned a great deal along the way.

(2). There is an interesting story of how you became published by the lovely ladies at BelleBooks. Could you tell us about that?

I started writing Moonstone, but wasn’t too enthusiastic about it, because I was trying to sell The Rock and Roll Queen of Bedlam. At that time, I wasn’t sure I even wanted to write YA. I had forty pages done when I entered three RWA contests in order to get feedback. Two of the contests slapped me down big time, basically saying, “Hey, this isn’t a romance!” But, I did make the finals in the third contest, The Dual on the Delta. One judge was lukewarm, one hated it and one loved it. I found out six months later, the judge who loved it was Debra Dixon of Belle Books. She found my website and contacted me. Of course, I hadn’t finished the book! Bottom line: I wrote the rest of it quickly and they offered me a contract.

(3). How did the story of Moonstone come to you?

I know a young woman who grew up in circumstances similar to Allie’s. Her family lived in a small travel trailer next to a cow pasture. Each week, they hitched the trailer to their pickup, and drove to the sewer dump. Her mother had health issues. Money was scarce. School clothes came from yard sales and thrift shops. Despite her hardships, the girl managed to graduate from high school. Her experience lingered in my mind and I thought, wouldn’t it be cool if she’d had paranormal powers? What would happen? How would her life change? Would it make her life better or worse? With that premise, I was off and running.

(4). I have to say that Allie’s voice is dead-on for a teenager in Moonstone. How did you channel your inner-teen?

Do you remember what it was like to be fifteen? I’ve asked a lot of women the same question and they all say, “Oh, yeah, like it was yesterday.”

Why is the age fifteen so significant for women? I don’t know. It just is. But, one thing I know for sure. Allie speaks to me and I tell her story.

(5). I also have to say I had several “laugh out loud” moments while reading…leading me to get a few strange looks at the beach. Do you feel it’s important to weave humor into your books?

Whoa, you read my book at the beach? You don’t know how excited that makes me! I’ve always told my husband, “If I ever see somebody reading one of my books at the beach, I’ll consider myself a success.” True, I didn’t actually see you, but I have a very active imagination, so let’s take a moment. I’m visualizing Krista at the beach, cool drink at hand, the sound of waves lapping against the shore, a brisk ocean breeze tossing her luxuriant, golden tresses as she reads MY BOOK, Moonstone. (Picture me pumping a fist and shouting, “Yes!”)

*Wow, that’s eerie! That’s pretty much dead on to me in Hilton Head this summer!! Er, back to the interview now….

On the humor issue, I discovered I can’t write any other way. My first book was a medieval romance and the first chapter had a very tragic scene in which the heroine’s younger brother falls from a castle window onto the bailey and bashes his tiny brains out. Very grim. Each day, I had to force myself to write. Finally, I realized I was fighting my nature. I wanted to write “funny.” I changed the whole thing to a paranormal, complete with ghost and magic crystal and, in the process, found my voice.

(6). The sequel to Moonstone, Moon Rise, was just released. Can you give us fans of Allie a little taste of what we will see in the novel? And please tell me Junior is coming back….lol

Allie has lost her powers. Junior is in Mexico. Don’t worry, he has a major role in Book Three. The old Bradford place is now home to Melissa Bradford and her seventeen-year-old twins, Beck and Nicole, who aren’t…well, exactly human. Beck is definitely swoon-worthy. Quite by accident, Allie finds out Beck is her healer, the one who can restore her powers. Needless to say, there are still lots of bad guys after the moonstone.

(7). Often we base characters by people we know in real life. Is there a little Marilee in Allie?

Yes. I confess I have a bit of a smart mouth. Also, I’ve given Allie qualities I wish I’d had at age fifteen. She’s more confident and much braver than I was. That’s the great thing about writing fiction. You can put some of yourself in your characters and change history.

(8). You are contracted for two more books in the series. How’s the writing coming on Book Three?

Actually, I’m contracted for four more books. I’ve just completed Chapter Nine of Allie’s third adventure and I’m having so much fun with it. Think faeries!

(9). I have to say that I love the title of your adult book, The Rock N Roll Queen of Bedlam. Can you tell us a little about that?

Allegra Thome, the protagonist, teaches behavior-disordered teens, hence the bedlam. Recently divorced, Allegra lives with her grandmother and aunt in Grandma Sybil’s big Victorian house. In their spare time, the three sing karaoke (60’s and 70’s rock) at retirement homes, hence the rock and roll. As the book opens, Sara, one of Allegra’s students, goes missing. Since Sara’s a foster kid, nobody seems to care that she’s gone except Allegra and her nephew, Nick. There’s also a sub plot featuring a romance with DEA agent, Sloan. The book has some fairly dark stuff in it, but, as per question 5, it’s sprinkled with humor. Since I spent a number of years as a teacher and counselor, this is the book of my heart.

(10).What can you not live without when it comes to writing?

Starbucks Verona Bold and my laptop.

*Wanna get into Allie’s world? We’re giving away Moon Rise starting tomorrow! Be sure to check back and register to win!!! (Please note that this contest has closed)

Originally published on Old People Writing for Teens. To view the original post and reader comments, please click here.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Ins and Outs of Beta Readers

I had an epiphany the other day. I realized that some of the best YA books I’ve read lately aren’t even published. Yes, that’s right, and I’m not even talking about ARCS here. I’m talking about unpublished, unagented gems of literary genius: the books I’m beta reading.

If you’re part of the writing community, you are acquainted with the term “beta reader”. However, if you’re not, you may be wondering what in the world a “beta reader” is. I’ll be honest when I was first introduced to the term, the first thought that flashed in my mind was the fish.

A Beta reader is someone who reads and critiques your novel. Sure, you might have read it a hundred times with red pen in hand, but a beta reader will read it objectively. They will be subjective where you cannot. After all, our WIPS are like children. We love them, and we don’t want to think badly of them. We may not see how this character isn’t necessary or how this scene drags. So, what do you do? You call in a beta reader…or two…or maybe even ten! They’ll make your wip nice and pretty for perspective agents and editors.

Beta readers are great for fact checking, too. They’re like script supervisors on movies. Maybe you have Character A drinking a coke in a scene and then five paragraphs later they’re hopping in the car. Wait, where did the drink go? Or maybe Character A was talking to Character B, but you call them Character C’s name by accident. Hey, it happens. Ever seen the “goofs” section on the Internet Movie Database? It happens in big budget blockbusters, and it happens to writers too.

I mean what would Harry Potter have been like if someone let this mistake happen in makeup!

There are two types of beta reading. One is just a content read. Maybe you have a pivotal scene that you’re not sure works, or maybe you want to know if a character is believable or not. Beta readers will be able to answer these questions for you. They might also find little things you weren’t even expecting.

Another type is line-by-line edits where you edit not only for content, but for grammar as well. Yep, I used the “g” word—the word that exercises fear in the hearts of many. When you have line-by-line edits, beta readers can correct spelling, punctuation, and proofreading errors, and awkward wording or sentence structure. Even if you’re a “grammar god” with eagle eyes, you’re going to miss things—you’re only human. So, go ahead and bring another set of eyes in to check for mistakes.

Here’s what a couple of our OPWFT writers and OPWFT thread contributors feel about beta readers:

“They are like a lifeline to reality. You’re thinking you’ve got either crap or something totally amazing, but your eyes are the only pair that have seen your WIP. You need more than just your opinion to confirm or deny your own.”

“They also catch a lot that you don’t. In your mind, it’s all clear. You know the relationships and the events that occur b/c they’re all in your head playing like a movie. Others may not get it. You might need to clarify some things that they can identify.”—Jamie

“Having beta readers is like having editors before getting the real thing.”—Becca

“For me, beta reading involves treating the novel I’m reading the same as a book I’ve purchased from Barnes and Noble. Regardless of whether or not the writer is my friend, I’m going to give them an honest critique even if I have to suggest several revisions.”—Stephanie

“Beta reading opens my eyes to all the mistakes I make on my manuscript, and it’s always helpful to have another set of eyes, or twenty, on your work.”—Annie

Me as a Beta Reader:
“Pretty much, I look for things that the writer has asked me to look for. If they just want general comments on flow, characterization, plot, etc., then I only comment unless I find a blaring grammar error. If they ask for me to pay attention to grammar, then I basically copy edit. Usually, it’s a mix of the two, and I find that works well. (I’ve only beta-read parts of two so far, though)”

Me as the Writer:
“I’d probably look for a combo of what I just said above. Basically, I’d want someone to be brutally honest about if it’s any good, where there are slow places, if things are written well, show/tell issues, etc. I don’t have any experience with fiction, so in a beta, I’d be looking for someone who could add kind of an expertise, I guess. PLUS, I’d want to know if it’s relevant to the YA market (if YA, of course).

So let the beta reading begin!

Originally published on Old People Writing for teens by former OPWFT contributor Laura. To view the original post and reader comments, please click here.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

On the similarities between trying to land an agent and trying to land a job.

Your query letter is like your resume. Both give you an opportunity to show off prior experience. Relevant education also helps, and a good reference can make all the difference. You should check both for spelling and grammar errors. Your should keep them as short as possible while showcasing what you have to offer. The idea is to get your foot in the door – get that interview or manuscript request.

Once you’re at that next stage, you need to make them want to work with you. You do this by professional behavior and by bringing your best. Sending in a manuscript that you know is flawed is like showing up in a wrinkled suit. Give everything one last check before putting it in their hands.

Here’s a quick list of things not to do if you manage to reach this stage. Don’t contact them before the time you’ve been told they’ll contact you unless it’s really important, as in an offer from someone else. Don’t resort to bribery. Don’t say anything online that you wouldn’t want them hearing. I’m sure that there’s an entire post worth of don’ts that could go here.

Now that you’ve landed an agent/job, the similarities continue. You two are partnering up to make money. You are not partnered to become BFF. Be punctual. Don’t whine. And unless you no longer both believe in the wonderfulness of the product you’re trying to sell, you stick with it even after the sparkly newness wears off.

One last quickie. Thanks to the internet, there are thousands of other people who are thinking the same way you are. Many of them are wackos, wasting the agent’s valuable time that could be spent loving you. Unfortunately, there’s not anything you can do about them ;)

Originally published on Old People Writing for Teens by GotYa contributor Holen Matthews. To view the original post and reader comments, please click here.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Interview with Gretchen Stelter of Baker’s Mark Literary Agency, LLC by Sarah Harian

It is both my honor and pleasure to introduce Gretchen Stelter from Baker’s Mark Literary Agency. Baker’s Mark was established in 2005 in Portland, Oregon by both Gretchen, the Editorial Director, and Lead Agent Bernadette Baker-Baughman. Some of their main fiction interests are edgy YA, urban fantasy, classic stories re-imagined, and magical realism.

Q: First of all, I must ask. How was Comic-Con?

A: Ah, Comic-Con. It was capes, chaos, and comics, just like it is every year, but it was fabulous as well, just as it always is. Bernadette and I have begun to refer to it as Comic-thon, as it is four days of running from meeting to meeting, often from a booth in one section of the enormous SD Convention Center to a booth in another section, meeting with all the people that we only get to see at conventions. Going to the Con is like a really fun reunion with friends and colleagues where you also get to do business and see people dressed as Storm Troopers.

This year was very different from past years for us. Since Baker’s Mark has been agenting for four years this month, publishing schedules and the sheer amount of time it takes to produce a graphic novel means we have a lot of books under contract with only a handful out. This Comic-Con, we got to see two of our clients promote their book (Chris Ryall and Scott Tipton, who wrote Comic Books 101 for Impact Books) and three others get geared up for their October releases with their publishers. The buzz around Boilerplate: History’s Mechanical Marvel by Paul Guinan and Anina Bennett (coming out from Abrams Image) was a literary agent’s dream, and it was a different experience for me to see the scuttlebutt develop with the public around the final product as opposed to with publishers around the pitch.

We also got to meet with Dan Elconin, who wrote Never After (coming out from Simon Pulse), and since he’s based in California, it was exciting to see him and for us all to see the ARCs of his book at the Simon & Schuster booth and hear what’s being said about it before its release date in October.

Overall, SDCC was fun, friendly, frenetic, exciting, and completely exhausting, and I don’t think Bernadette and I would expect anything less.

Q:Was being a literary agent always your dream? What inspired you to become an agent?

A: Actually, no. It had to be explained to me what a literary agent was when I was in grad school! I have a B.A. in literature from Ball State University, and I thought I was going to become a professor. I did a semester of grad school in the Master’s literature program at BSU, took my LSATs and considered law school, and actually ended up studying Writing, Editing, and Publishing at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. There, the program focuses a lot on the editing and journalism side of publishing, and while I loved Australia and the head of my department there, I decided to come back to the States and try to find a program where my editing and journalism experience could be put to good use dealing with book publishing instead of professional or journalistic editing.

I would have to give credit for the inspiration to become an agent to my life-long love of books and my business partner. Bernadette and I met in the publishing program at Portland State University, and she had already sold a book written by a fellow classmate to a small, local publisher. She was going to continue as an agent and wanted a partner. The idea of working with authors and being the advocate that helped them get published definitely appealed to me. I love reading, and I can champion books that I have nothing to do with except that I read them and loved them. I knew that writers need proponents, so the chance to work with Bernadette suddenly provided me the opportunity to spend my days doing just that; reading, editing, and convincing people to love the books I love, which is basically my dream job. Let’s just say, in spite of Bernadette’s ability to sell, she definitely didn’t have to rely on those skills to get me on board with Baker’s Mark.

Q: What are some of the benefits of being established in Portland?

A: The creative community is thriving here—writers, artists, designers, zines, literary journals, creators of all kinds. Amazingly, though, there isn’t a ton of publishing infrastructure to support such a vibrant, imaginative culture. As Bernadette and I were already here and working in the industry, we were aware of all these amazing writers and graphic novel creators who had no idea how to pitch an agent, bag a book deal, or negotiate a contract if they already had a contract. When we started the agency, we wanted to be sure that we were providing a partnership with our clients, not just a “service.” Living in Portland, scores of creators suddenly popped up once word got around that we were an agency taking on new clients AND that we were pitching publishing houses in New York. The idea that you can work with major publishing houses in New York without being based there was still a new concept when we started. While we love the editors we work with and wish we could see them more often than we get to, being near the majority of our clients in what is a relatively close-knit city that is so focused on books really fuels our own passion for everything literary. It’s not just the people who work in the industry either; this town is full of book lovers, readers, artists, libraries, bookstores, and people who just generally get having that passion for something creative. Maybe the rain breeds it in us; we’re forced to stay indoors while living out amazing worlds in our heads.

Beyond that, I just love Portland in general: The nature, the bike-friendliness, the general zeitgeist. It’s the only city town I’ve lived in where I’ve just fallen in love with the city as well as the people.

Q: Besides simply not being hooked by the story, what is one/are some of the main reasons why you turn down a partial or full manuscript?

A: Dialogue. I am a stickler for having believable dialogue, especially with YA projects. If you can’t write like a teenager talks, you probably aren’t really in their space and relating to them like you need to be. I can love the plot and feel that the prose is pretty solid, but weak dialogue just kills it for me. As the Editorial Director, I work with our writers to try and get their manuscripts as tight as possible before Bernadette takes it to publishers, and I’ve learned that dialogue is one of those things that you just can’t breeze through and “fix” in a manuscript.

Q: On the other hand, what makes you fall in love with a manuscript?

A: I love a plot that moves, a character I want to be or can at least relate to, and dialogue that is true to the characters. I also love tight prose that really shows the writer not only has talent and uses all the resources within their reach but also cares deeply about what they are showing me. Additionally, I really love a new take on an old story. I recently read What Would Emma Do? by Eileen Cook, and I got quite a ways through it before I realized that it was a YA re-imagining of The Crucible. The editor who gave it to me didn’t even mention this fact, and it wasn’t so obvious that it hit me over the head, and I loved the subtlety in that. That was amazing, and we’ve had some great manuscripts come our way that do that.

Q: Baker’s Mark deals heavily with graphic novels. Are you a big comic fan?

A: Absolutely. I was a huge comic fan as a kid, mainly Archie, X-Men, and Spiderman. Now, of course, I still read tons, but I mainly read graphic novels, not comics as much (DMZ from Vertigo & Polly and the Pirates from Oni are two exceptions to that). If I put together a reading list for someone looking to get a good idea of what graphic novels are all about, or at least why I love them, I’d tell them: Scott Pilgrim, Pop Gun War, The League of Extraordinary Gentleman, Blankets, The War at Ellsmere, Persepolis, Maus, Jar of Fools, 12 Reasons Why I Love Her, and Therefore, Repent.

Q: If you could design a dream YA protagonist, what would some of their traits be?

A: They’d be sarcastic, flawed, quirky, eccentric, lovable, real and have striking wit, good inner dialogue, interesting friends and relatives, and a certain amount of self-deprecating humor.

Q: What was your favorite book as a teenager and why?

A: Hmmm, favorite book as a teenager….just one? I’d have to say my tastes fluctuated quite a bit from the time I was 13 until I was 19. In my younger years, I started reading Lois Duncan books and I think I managed to read all the ones that were already published by the time I was done with my freshman year. I became a bit John Irving fan thanks to my junior-year English teacher, Mr. Olmstead (an amazing teacher). Once I got near the end of my high school years I was reading Dean Koontz and F. Scott Fitzgerald. As much as I want to say that I had a huge affinity for a specific YA novel, Lois Duncan’s writing was my only favorite who wrote YA. That’s why I love YA works now: They are true to the ups and downs, the hormones, and the drama—both real and imagined—of being that age.

Q: Do you have any new or upcoming releases from clients that you would like to share with us?

A: Absolutely. I touched on this when I talked about the Comic-Con, but I would love to repeat it! Boilerplate: History’s Mechanical Marvel by Paul Guinan and Anina Bennett will be coming out from Abrams Image at the beginning of October. It’s a fabulous illustrated book covering the exploits of the amazing Victorian era robot Boilerplate.

Later that month, we have Never After by Dan Elconin coming out from Simon Pulse. We’re really thrilled for this project as well. This is a dark re-imaging of the Peter Pan story written by a brilliant, college student.

Q: Is there any advice that you would like to give to unpublished and first-time authors?

A: This might seem somewhat clichéd, but for unpublished writers, don’t become disenchanted by rejection. It’s not easy on purpose. If you love what you do, do it well, and don’t mind promoting yourself; chances are that you’ll eventually get recognized. Also, it’s important to realize that you need to have someone who is a true advocate for you, someone who truly believes in you, so those agents or publishers that turn you down actually are doing you a favor; if they don’t really get your work, they won’t be doing your career any favors by aligning yourself with someone who isn’t facing the same direction as you.

For first-time authors, after you get a book deal, a lot of people will work on your book during the course of its birthing process, and they all have opinions of what should happen to your work, not necessarily in line with what you originally intended. Listen to your agent and editor because they know what they’re talking about but stand up for issues you think important to the integrity of your work. You, after all, are the creator.

Just For Fun:

Q: If you were chosen to save the world from an impending doom and could choose your own superpower, what would it be?

A: I was always an X-Men girl myself, and while my brother always got to be Gambit and I was Storm when we were kids. Now, I would totally steal my brother’s idea and take Gambit’s powers. Manipulating energy and possessing hypnotic charm—not to mention the cool card throwing—how can you beat that?

Q: Tell us your favorite musical artist, favorite movie, and favorite television show.

A: Right now, I’m listening to a lot of Vampire Weekend and Kings of Leon, but I will always adore Van Morrison and Nina Simone, who I must consider my all-time favs. My favorite movie of recent watching is The Reader; my favorite movie overall is probably The Sting. How can you not love Paul Newman and Robert Redford in a good old-fashioned caper? Favorite television show is easy: Bones.

Q: Are you reading anything for fun right now?

A: Oh, I’m always reading quite a few books, and to be honest, I have fun reading things I “have” to as well, so I’ll give you the list of what I’m currently reading and you can judge if it’s fun or not: Johannes Cabal: The Necromancer by Jonathan Howard, Dear Mr. Mackin by Rev. Richard J. Mackin, and Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead.

Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with OPWFT!

For more information on Baker’s Mark Literary Agency, their interests and disinterests, and how to submit, visit

Originally published on Old People Writing for Teens by GotYA contributor Sarah Harian. To view the original post and reader comments, please click here.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Writer’s Digest Competitions

A friend sent me the link to the Writer’s Digest Competitions and I wanted to share it with all of you. If anyone is interested, the deadlines aren’t until the end of the year (or last couple of months), and they also pay.

So, saddle up those stories that you’ve kept in hiding and get out there and show them what you’re made of!

Original post published on Old People Writing for Teens by former OPWFT contributor Becca. To view the original post and reader comments, please click here.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Bear Facts Survey About Real Teens and Their Reading Habits

Yes, just the facts—the bear facts that is. Our school mascot is the Grizzly, and when you enter the building, you come face to face with this giant Grizzly bear in a glass case. As one former student said, “Nothing says school spirit like dead bear!” But, I digress.

Here are the bear facts from Part One of the survey including what real teens like to read, what trends they’re tired of, what they’d like to see more of, and do they read books because of the hype.

Question #1: What do you like to read?

“I really enjoy reading mysteries/murder stories. They give more intense and dramatic plots. They make you want to continue to read and push for the ending.”

“Romantic books. Books about the old times like Janette Oke books.”

“Historical fiction, adventure, some romance. And fantasy like Harry Potter, Twilight, Eragon, and Artemis Fowl.”

“I like to read books about adventure, but then have a part with the main character in love.”

“Tragic love stories”

“Books about addiction and how they deal with it and problem teens and historical books.”

“I like reading non-fiction. To me non-fiction has more action and is interesting.”

“I like reading books on relationships and love. I feel like I can relate better to it.”

“I like books that deal with history, especially the Civil War. I also like books that are funny.”

“I like to read books that have suspense in them. I also like reading books that send a chill up my spine.”

“Stuff on history or criminal/crime/ghost books.”

Question #2: What trend are you tired of seeing in YA literature?

“Pretty people is the worst. They think being scantily clad and wearing the latest clothes and the latest shoes is all people care about. I’m utterly disgusted by this genre, and I’m tired of YA literature portraying this.”

“I’m getting tired of hero books.”

“Vampires…Twilight was enough.”

“Faeries, dragons, and knights.”

“Emo teens and Vampires.”

“I’m not tired of seeing any trend because I like to keep an open mind when reading or choosing a book.”

“Clicks because they exclude everyone.”

“Extremely fake creatures and faeries.”

“I’m tired of reading the same action books that always result in the same ending.”

“Problematic home lives in books.”

“I’m sick of pretty, preppy, god-is-holy girl books. I like deep, dark, and depressing novels and foreign languages.”

Question #3: What would you like to see more of in Young Adult Literature?

“I would like to see more real world discussion books. More books that describe the real challenges of the world. More real life plots and situations besides the perfect bubble they think we live in.”

“I would like to see more of something real. Most teen relationship stuff is totally fake. Things like this can rarely be true. The shy girl doesn’t just man up and talk to the hot jock. She stands on the sidelines and watches and dreams he’ll find her.”

“I would like to see more reality. Everything is all fantasy and dealing with magic.”

“Christianity…more kids having faith in Christ.”

“More morals and less sexuality”

“Books that are smarter…no more dumb tween stuff with dumb drama. I like books that use bigger words and have better plots and developed characters.

“More love stories.”

“I would like to read more about ghosts and mysteries.”

“I would like to see more funny things happen in YA literature.”

“I’d like to see a little more maturity. It’s annoying how people are so immature.”

“Authors feel like they can’t speak right because of younger kids…so let out the profanity!”

“I want more relationships because getting into high school, you want to see what its like having a teen relationship with a guy.”

“More serious conflicts instead of overexaggerated situations.”

Question # 4: Do you read books because of the hype?

“I read books that are interesting to me, not because of the hype.”

“Whenever I decide to read a book, my decision is more based on the first sentences. If it drives me to read more or if it is a downer.

“Most of the time I read books because I hear that they are good from other people.”

“I usually read the book description before I pick up the book. If I have no interest, I won’t read it. “

“I usually read books based on their summaries and also because of familiar authors.”

“I don’t care as long as they’re good books.”

*Check back for Part Two: Who Are Your Favorite Authors? How much does the book jacket influence you? What Point of View Do You Prefer? and the age old question: Why do you not like to read?

Original post published on Old People Writing for Teens by GotYA contributor Krista Ashe. To view the original post and reader comments, please click here.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Teaser Tuesdays on AW!

In the YA section of the Absolute Write forum, there’s a thread named YA Blogroll. This is where we arrive early every Tuesday morning, bleary eyed from late nights of writing, and flushed with excitement to share a snippet of our hard work. After posting a teaser on our blogs, we announce our newest post in the YA Blogroll thread.

Then the fun begins!

We anxiously visit one another’s blogs and comment on the snippets. Many times the small appetizer is from a fellow AWers work in progress that we feel connected to as a cheerleader during Friday Nite Writes, or as someone who has been a sounding board along the creative trail. Having a sense of pride for a fellow writer’s progress is as much of a reward as reading all of the wonderful comments left on your own Teaser Tuesday blog post.

This is your invitation to read, comment and follow the blogs on the YA Blogroll. Just think…someday these titles will be lining the shelves of your favorite bookstore and you can say “I remember when…”

Original post published on Old People Writing for Teens. To view original post and reader comments, please click here.

Monday, August 3, 2009

And the Winner Is . . .

The winner of Jay Asher’s THIRTEEN REASONS WHY is Sarah! I used the wonderful Research Randomizer to determine the results. Congrats, Sarah; feel free to email us at opwft(at)yahoo(dot)com with your contact information. Stay tuned for our next contest!

Original post (and contest) published on Old People Writing for Teens. To view original post and reader comments, please click here.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Out of the Mouth of Babes…er, Teens

I guess you could say Monday is D-Day for me. It’s the first day of school. Yes, we start incredibly early in Georgia, but alas, we march on. Monday will bring a fresh batch of faces into my classroom along with some old faces I’ve taught before. I’ll be teaching Freshman and Juniors this year. But my schedule and the fact I could run screaming from the computer in agony at the loss of my summer isn’t the point of this post. No, it’s to tell you about our upcoming series of interviews with real teens about reading.

So, here’s how it’s gonna go down. Tomorrow, my classes are going to take an anonymous survey about reading. Questions will range from why they like or don’t like to read, what trends they feel are overdone or what they’d like to see more of, and how they feel about the “it” books. I’ll be compiling the data, and then giving you guys insight to the teenage mind…eerie, isn’t it?

After the first survey, I’ll be doing a closer examination at specific teens, or I guess I should say, “stereotypes” of teens. I’ll be interviewing the “reluctant reader”, the “adolescent teen male reader”, and then of course, the “uber excited reader”!

So check back with us to see how this exciting series progresses. And of course, if you have any specific questions you’d like to address, please comment or email me at I’ll be happy to forward them on.

Original post published on Old People Writing for Teens by GotYA contributor Krista Ashe. To view original post and comments, please click here.