Thursday, December 31, 2009

Does your manuscript party like it’s 1999?

A few weeks ago, I read a book where pop-culture references were dropped like bodies in a Tarantino flick. I couldn’t help but wonder how necessary most of the references were and how much consideration had gone into including them.

Some things are timeless. When two characters talk about Star Wars, the author can reasonably assume that the reference has a long shelf-life, that it will stay relevant, and that its presence isn’t dating the work.

On the flip side, when two characters throw out a hilarious reference to a top 40 song that’s popular at the time of writing, the author is running a risk. It may be years before the book is published. Will that reference still resonate in five years? How about a decade? Will it tie the work down to a specific time and place and is that desirable? Do you really want to expose future generations to Nickeback?

About a Boy by Nick Hornby (not a YA title but a book with an amazing teen protagonist) takes place in the mid 90’s. Hornby uses music to help ground his novel in its chosen time period—weaving in a subplot about the death of Kurt Cobain which will always peg the novel squarely in 1994.

And that’s fine. Better than fine. Brilliant, in fact.*

Right about now, you’re probably wondering if all of this has a point and which side of the whole pop culture reference debate (calling it a debate makes it sound so much more impressive) I fall on. Or else you’ve stopped reading.

Personally, I love the occasional pop culture reference—provided it makes sense and doesn’t distract from the story. My own WIP, a werewolf urban fantasy, has nods to both An American Werewolf in London and the CCR song “Bad Moon Rising”. Their presence is a bit of a homage and the scenes work even if the reader doesn’t quite pick up on the joke.

So how do you know if your witty nod to an episode of Battlestar Galactica ends up flying high or crashing on takeoff? Fear not, there are some questions you can ask yourself.

  • Can someone follow the scene or action even if they don’t quite get the reference? Is it something the reader can easily skip over if they don’t quite know what you are talking about?
  • How much of a payoff is there for the reference? Does the reader really need to know that your MC is listening to “November Rain” or just walked out of watching Interview with the Vampire? Sometimes the answer will be definitely. Sometimes you’ll find naming a specific title isn’t necessary.
  • Are your references dating the story (like the GnR and the Anne Rice) and are you okay with that?

Those are my pop culture reference thoughts but I’d love to hear yours. Do you love them or do you find them a distraction? Do you include pop culture references in your own work?

* Obscure homage to Doctor Who and the tenth Doctor’s speaking patterns.

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

Monday, December 28, 2009

When life gets in the way

After a great Christmas, a great party, and an inevitable spat with the inlaws, I’m back at the computer, only to realize that I accomplished NOTHING, writing-wise. I didn’t check out Nathan Bransford’s cool charity blog post, or the fabulous Ask Daphne query post until this morning. I felt way behind some of my more motivated OPWFT.

Then I realized, that’s okay. Because at the moment, my general life is a higher priority than my writing. Do I spend hours writing? Yes. Do I do it when it’s not fun? Yes. Do I keep revising and keep working even after a rejection? Yep. But at the moment my book isn’t paying bills, feeding my kids, or sleeping with my husband ;) I reserve the right to put it away now and then.

What about you? Are you writing over the holidays?

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

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Someone just won a crapton of coffee

I fell in love with Alissa’s post because I wasn’t expecting her inspiration to be a movie as simple as Adventureland, but her logic underlying the inspiration was seamless. Thanks for sharing, Alissa, and email me at!!!

If anyone would like to read her post, you can find it on her website,, which is also pretty freakin’ awesome, might I add.

Other great inspirations for WIPs were Harry Potter, Twilight, Anne Rice, Judy Blume, and Lord of the Rings.

And don’t forget to enter the Handcuffs contest, an incredible book by Bethany Griffin!!! Happy Holidays to our wonderful followers!

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

The wrong way to use handcuffs

(Please note that this contest is closed.)

When I was a Senior in high school, I went with my best friend to her boyfriend’s house. His father was a police officer and had a set of handcuffs lying on the table. We were joking around with them, when I thought I would be cute and amusing and closed them on her wrist. Oops. She wasn’t amused and definitely didn’t think I was cute. Her boyfriend informed us that there was no key for them in the house. Double oops. Well, we discussed what to do, she could keep them on till his dad got home, but his dad would be pissed if he found out we were playing with his “cop things” or we could go out and find someone with a key. We decided on the latter, got into his car and went in search of someone with handcuff keys.

We drove to the fair because it was close and knew there would be security there. She tried to hide her hand under a coat. I laughed so hard but she really wasn’t amused. Of course, she was afraid of what people would think of her and was turning red. We found an officer and I casually went up and asked him if he could uncuff my friend. His eyes twinkled just a tiny bit as he unlocked the handcuff. My friend and her boyfriend were mortified. I still laughed and will probably find it funny till the day I die.

Awesome author Bethany Griffin has written a book involving handcuffs. I loved the book and she uses handcuffs the right way – to cause consequences and growth for her MC! Please check out her web-site, Here is the description from Amazon:
PARKER PRESCOTT IS an ice princess. Cold, aloof, a snob. At least, that’s what everyone says on Marion Hennessey’s blog. And everyone reads Marion Hennessey’s blog.

Parker Prescott is a middle child. She’s the good one, the dependable one, the one her parents trust. Well . . . she used to be.

Parker Prescott’s parents want her to break up with her boyfriend. But she already did, two weeks ago. And then she realized it was a mistake. He came over. He had the handcuffs in his pocket. Everything went downhill from there. Sort of.

Parker Prescott’s world is changing and she no longer knows who she is. Does anyone?
For my contest I am offering a hardcover copy of Handcuffs, a cool journal and a bookmark. All you have to do to enter is post a question for me to ask Bethany for my upcoming interview or share a short story (3-5 sentences) about handcuffs – fact or fiction ;) . When I post the interview next week, I’ll announce the winner. Post your comment before midnight EST December 26. This is an International contest – always wanted to say that.

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

Friday, December 18, 2009

A Mixture of Old and New

(Please note that this contest is closed.)

Yep, that's right. I'm taking you back to the stuff we grew up reading. The stories I couldn't keep my hands off of.

These books are the reason why I write today. I couldn't tell you how many times I read Gallow's Hill in high school. I'm pretty sure my school librarian thought I'd steal it one day.

And Blood and Chocolate? Definitely an inspiration for my werewolf novel now. Ms. Klause knew how to write werewolves. Loved her other books too.

I'm choosing three winners. First place gets Shiver and Blood and Chocolate.

Second place gets Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief and Gallow's Hill.

Third place winner will receive R. L. Stine's Collector's Edition of Goodnight Kiss 1 and Goodnight Kiss 2.

So, my friends, my contest to you is a mixture of old and new. I know we all like to be in the know with the latest YA craze in books, but let's not forget the ones that started it all.

To enter: leave a comment about your favorite YA book growing up. Contest ends December 31st.

P.S. - Thanks to all who stopped by my blog to vote for this contest. :)

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.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Tell Us Your Inspiration and Win an After-Christmas Survival Pack Worth $40!

We all know that this is the time of the year to be thankful. I am thankful for my imagination, I’ll tell you that. I’m thankful for my characters who help give me insight to the world in ways I had never thought about until I had created them.

And I am thankful for J.R.R. Tolkien.

Why Tolkien, you ask?

Well, I have always loved to write, but The Lord of the Rings movies came out when I was in junior high, giving me beautiful insight to the visual world of fantasy, and so much inspiration to create my own world, ensemble cast, and a way to channel my insight of morality.

So here’s where you come in.

Which books or movies gave you the inspiration for your SNI or WIP? Which authors are you thankful for this holiday season for their inspiring world, characters, or outlook on humanity? Why?

Post a blog about this in your own personal or group blog, link the OPWFT blog page, and then link your post in the comment portion of this page to recieve:


We all need a little extra boost to survive the tedious task of cleaning up after Christmas, or perhaps a little rush to get us started on the after-Christmas writing. Tell us about your inspiration and you can receive:

1 lb of whole bean Starbucks Christmas blend

1 12-pack of VIA Columbia Roast for those days when you don’t have the time or energy to brew coffee.

1 $10 Bone China Coffee Mug


A paperback copy of Tamora Pierce’s Wild Magic, a book that was the inspiration for many YA writers!

A $40 Value!

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

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

SOSN Contest 1-- The Underdog

(Please note that this contest is now closed.)

People can’t help loving an underdog. Sure millions of girls wear Team Edward shirts but is it really all that fun cheering on the guy you know will get the girl? Maybe that’s why the romantic underdog is a staple of YA (and other) fiction–we know he probably won’t win but we can’t help cheering him on because, gosh darn it, he’s not so perfect. Whether it’s Miles “Pudge” Harper in Looking for Alaska or Alec and Simon in City of Bones, these poor guys (and sometimes girls) tug at our heart strings.

Want to win the above vintage Hungarian postcard? (In case it’s not clear: pseudo-Jake is on his knees and pseudo-Bella is making faces at him) Tweet the phrase below with your answer to @OPWFT.

My favorite YA underdog is:

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

Monday, December 14, 2009

Don’t Got Shiver? Come Hither! Shiver Agent Laura Rennert’s Five Writing Do’s and a Chance to Win Books and More!

Saying the Andrea Brown Literary Agency plays an important role in young adult literature is like saying chocolate plays an important role in chocolate chip cookies (and, like most writers, you probably know the significance of a daily dose of chocolate). Twice a year, the agency helps host the Big Sur Children's Writing Workshop. For one blissful, glorious, worth-eating-three-months-of-Mr. Noodles-to-get-there weekend, children's writers attend lectures, work on their novels in critique groups, and yes, have cocktails with other writers, editors, and agents.

This year was my first year to go, and I have to say: it was well worth its weight in noodles. With clients like Ellen Hopkins (Crank), Jay Asher (Thirteen Reasons Why) and Maggie Stiefvater (Shiver), Super Agent Laura Rennert has represented some of the most talked about titles in YA. During our workshop, we had the chance to listen to Laura to speak to us about Five Writing Do’s. And without further, ahem, ado, I’ve summed up what she had to say (with my own twist).

1. Craft

Laura says to make sure you have a fresh and compelling voice, and that the voice is authentic to your specific character. Use the POV that works best for your story. To work on your voice, interact with the age group you’re writing about. Or, barring that, eavesdrop on them at the local mall (just try not to look like a stalker).

Also, read your writing out loud to really hone in on what’s working and what’s not in your sentences. After attending the workshop and having to read my writing out loud to strangers—MEEP!—I can tell you this really does make a world of difference in how you hear your own words.

2. Create Memorable and Dynamic Characters

Know your characters. Laura believes in the iceberg analogy: 9/10 of what makes a character tick remains under the surface. And guess what? If you, the writer, only know the top 1/10—like, say, your MC Suzie loves ponies and ice cream sundaes—your can bet your novel will be lacking in depth (yeah, I went for the pun there. Deal with it.)

Also: the more stress you put your characters under, the better. Basically, Laura was too kind to say it, but I’m not---torture your little sweeties until they cry and need a heavy dose of therapy. No, seriously.

3. Coherent and Satisfying Narrative Structure

Capture your reader’s interest from page one, and never let the forward momentum slack. Laura’s example: if your very first scene involves a party, don’t begin your novel when the party starts. Jump to the middle. My elaboration on how not to start:

“Yo, Joe, what’s shaking?”

“Nothing much. You?”

“Aw, nothing much. Hey, did ya catch that Lakers game last night?”

“No, man? You?”

“Uh uh. So, how come you missed it?”

“Oh, well—I was taking a nap.”

Um, guess what? At this point, your reader is probably nodding off, too. Instead of beginning at the, well, beginning, start in the middle of the scene, when the action is already getting underway. Leave your hello's' and nap talk for offscreen. And then, since you’re off to such a great start, don’t back off. Keep the tension mounting from there. You know that old David Bowie and Freddy Mercury song “Under Pressure?” Make it your writing motto. By putting your characters under pressure, you’ll keep the reader reading—always a good thing.

And, according to Laura, another cool thing about upping the stakes? You—and your reader—will get to know your characters better. Laura’s example: If your character tells the truth when nothing is at stake, so what? But if your character’s life or reputation is at stake and they still tell the truth, well—that is truly noteworthy information to have.

A final tip: the main character should change over the course of the novel. Metaphorically speaking. I mean, she or he doesn’t have to morph from human to vamp—although, we’ve heard rumors that maybe that method does work on occasion .

4. Explore the Universal and the Idiosyncratic

According to Laura, this means that within universal themes—such as conflict with friends—give us particular and concrete examples that are specific to your world. Feel free to give us the same old, same old—but with your own unique take or spin.

5. Literary Voice and Commercial Conception

Have a great, strong storyline along with a strong voice. And in case you were wondering if Laura was serious about stakes? She mentions them here again. She says use ordinary experiences but elevate the stakes.

Her example? Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher—a book that looks at teen suicide in an unusual and compelling way.

So, those are the five writing do's that agent Laura talked about.

Good luck, Happy Holidays, and of course—Happy Writing.

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

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Something Old and Something New

(Please note that this contest is now closed.)

As you may have inferred from our name, most of us remember the days before mass email and Google. The days when you actually had to write letters and put stamps on them.

To celebrate the old (us--though we've been assured that twenty-eight is the new sixteen) embracing the new (Twitter), we're launching a Twitter contest.

The old? Cool vintage postcards. The New? You win them by tweeting.

Here's how it works. Watch the blog for vintage postcards. Each postcard will be accompanied by a question.
Tweet your answer to the question to @OPWFT by 10:00PM AST that evening and you'll be entered to win that postcard.

Only one tweet per twitter user will be eligible. Residents of US and Canada only. You'll also have to be following us so we can send you a direct message if you win.

Follow OPWFT on Twitter

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

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Interview with HATE LIST author, Jennifer Brown

From Amazon:

Five months ago, Valerie Leftman’s boyfriend, Nick, opened fire on their school cafeteria. Shot trying to stop him, Valerie inadvertently saved the life of a classmate, but was implicated in the shootings because of the list she helped create. A list of people and things she and Nick hated. The list he used to pick his targets.

Now, after a summer of seclusion, Val is forced to confront her guilt as she returns to school to complete her senior year. Haunted by the memory of the boyfriend she still loves and navigating rocky relationships with her family, former friends and the girl whose life she saved, Val must come to grips with the tragedy that took place and her role in it, in order to make amends and move on with her life.

About the Author:

When not writing about serious subjects, Jennifer Brown, a two-time winner of the Erma Bombeck Global Humor Award, is a columnist for the Kansas City Star. She lives in Missouri with her husband and three children. Hate List is her debut novel.

I tore through Hate List like a woman on a mission! Valerie Leftman broke my heart and made it soar. Jennifer Brown has written one of the most tragic, yet inspiring books about teens and how they relate to their peers and home life.

Hate List has been chosen as one of School Library Journal’s best of 2009.

Jennifer, thank you for taking the time to answer some questions for OPWFT readers. I’d like to start with questions about Hate List – with no spoilers of course!

Q: What inspired you to write a book about a school shooting?

A: Funny that you ask this question — I’ve never really considered HATE LIST to be a story about a school shooting. I’ve always seen it as more of an “emotional journey” story, especially since the shooting has already happened before the story even opens.

That said, I’ve always had questions surrounding school shootings (“Why do they happen?” “Why doesn’t anyone stop the shooter in progress?” “Why do we, the rest of the world, just accept the media’s ‘truth’ about these events?” And, of course, “What happens after?”). Not blaming-type questions, but just… questions — probably in part because I’m a writer and I question a lot of things, but mostly because I’m a mother and school shootings really frighten me.

Also, I dealt with some pretty intense bullying in junior high and high school, and I’ve always kind of carried that around with me. I’ve never quite understood why people are so mean to each other (and not just teens, either. Ever notice how mean grown people can get when they get all anonymous and cocky on an Internet message board? Yipes!). I’ve been carrying around my experience for 20 or 25 years, and I felt like it was beyond time to let it go.

And then — and this is the goofy part, but I can’t leave it out — the Nickelback song, “If Everyone Cared,” got stuck in my head one night while I was sleeping, and I woke up with these two characters in my mind (there’s even a scene in HATE LIST where Nick and Valerie are “lying beneath the stars,” just like in the song) and all those swirling questions and past experiences just sort of collided with one another and the story was just… there.

Q: You take a unique approach by bringing the reader the story through Valerie, who is a victim, a hero, and to some, to blame. How did you come up with your complex story line for Valerie?

A: Well, like I said, I’ve always had these questions in the back of my mind. And I had this notion that what we’re fed (usually that the shooters were evil or were outcasts and horribly bullied and so forth) is perhaps not necessarily the full and only truth. Nothing is black and white like that, but it’s easier to believe that A) the shooter was pure evil, or B) the victims somehow “deserved” it because they tormented him relentlessly, than to try to see that there are all sorts of different “truths” out there, depending on whose perspective you’re adopting. (And, by the way, I don’t think anyone ever could “deserve” to be killed for bullying someone.)

So I knew I wanted a character who sort of represented all of those truths. She stopped the shooting in progress, so she was a hero. But she also created the Hate List, so she was the villain, right? And then there was the whole bullying aspect, where she was really tormented, which kind of made her a victim, too. And if you look at Jessica — one of the bullies — you can see sort of similar conflicting traits. Jessica was a bully, so she was a villain. But she also lost a lot of friends (and almost lost her own life), so she was a victim. And she reaches out to Valerie — the most hated girl in school — after all is said and done in order to make a positive change in her world… which kind of makes her a hero, too. They’re like reverse sides of the same coin.

Q: Valerie’s family dynamic adds further obstacles for her as she heals. Did you research how parents react in situations such as school shootings, or were Mom and Dad from your own muse? They are a very real portrayal of how parents would react – conflicted and unsure how to help their daughter, with the situation compounding the already existing issues in their marriage.

A: The Mom and Dad really were from my own muse. I come from a broken home, so the crumbling marriage thing wasn’t really a stretch for me to come up with, but I also just thought about how a parent might feel if they were in Jenny and Ted Leftman’s shoes. Having never been in this situation, I would never act like I know for sure what they’re going through, but I would imagine that, as a parent, you still love your child, but you’d be pretty horrified by what she’d done; you’d feel some amount of guilt for not having seen it coming; you’d feel like the whole world was watching you and you definitely wouldn’t want your child to do something else to screw up while the whole world was watching. There’d be all kinds of grief involved — grief for the students who died and their families, grief for the loss of your happy family, grief for what your child has gone through — and fear, and self-pity and… probably just about the whole gamut of emotions.

A lot of readers have experienced the parents (especially the dad) as being horribly mean. But I never experienced them that way. I kind of felt sorry for them. Parents aren’t perfect, and we shouldn’t expect them to be.

Q: Was it difficult writing about Nick from essentially two perspectives, as hated school shooter, and loved boyfriend? How did you manage the balance?

A: At first, I didn’t have a good balance. Nick, in my mind, didn’t need to have a soft, vulnerable side that we see because he was already dead before the story begins, and all we needed to know about him was that he was the guy who did this horrible thing. The focus of the story was Valerie, and she didn’t see what the love of her life was planning to do. For whatever reason, she just didn’t see it, possibly because she was so crazy about him and she totally romanticized him.

This is where I have to give my editor (T.S. Ferguson) props, because in re-writes, he forced me to show why Valerie would be so in love with this guy. So the scenes where you see the soft side of Nick… the lovable side… those were brought in during the re-writes. Turns out, T.S. was so right about this. My favorite scene in the whole book is a scene that didn’t even exist in the initial version of HATE LIST, but I love that scene for what it does to bring Nick to life for the reader and to keep Valerie from just being an idiot who fell in love with a bad guy and then was surprised that he turned out to be bad.

So to answer your question… no, it wasn’t very difficult, because I didn’t write the two halves of Nick at the same time. I wrote the “bad” Nick initially, then went back in, months later, and created the “good” Nick.

Q: On a lighter note, who is your favorite character (other than Valerie), and why?

A: Dr. Hieler, hands-down, because he is 100% stolen from a real-life person — my husband, Scott. Scott, a psychologist, played a huge part in helping me understand Valerie’s grief process. I know him better than anyone in the world, and the guy’s just so colorful and wonderful, he makes for a really lovable character. So everything from Dr. Hieler’s body language (slinging a leg over the arm of his chair) to the wooden hot air balloon in his office to playing chess with his clients to catchy sayings like, “Fair is a place where you eat corn dogs and ride the merry-go-round,” are Scott’s. A lot of my readers have fallen in love with Dr. Hieler and, trust me, he’s milking it for everything it’s worth!

For the writers among us:

Q: Do you outline or wing it?

A: I wouldn’t say I “wing it” exactly, but I absolutely do not outline. I spend a lot of time thinking about a story before I sit down to write it, so I have a pretty good idea of the major plot points before I ever set fingers to keyboard. But I do like to allow room for the characters to shape the story themselves a little bit. Occasionally this can land me in trouble, and I can end up with sub-plots that threaten to overthrow the main plot, but that’s pretty easily taken care of in editing.

Q: What was your journey to publication like with your debut, Hate List?

A: I’ve been writing for about 10 years, and up to this point, my focus has always been on humor-writing and lighter romance. In fact, I signed with my agent in 2006 for a light romance I’d written. It still has not sold. So I just kept writing and kept writing. In fact, HATE LIST is my 5th novel — it’s just the first to sell. Because HATE LIST is so far out of my genre, I was kind of afraid to admit that I was writing it. I didn’t really tell my agent what I was working on — I’d just send her these cryptic notes that I was working on something (the poor woman… probably deserves a medal for dealing with me). Finally, when I told her I was about done with the project, she asked if she could see the first three chapters, and I was scared to death! I was scared that she’d see that I’d written out of genre and would hate it and would drop me for wasting most of a year on a non-viable project.

Turned out, she loved it, and started trying to sell it right away! So I sent her the full manuscript and let her have at it. And it all went very, very fast (especially when, as a writer, you’re used to waiting for months for feedback on a submission). It really was just a couple weeks between sending her the manuscript and bids coming in. In the end, we went to auction, with three publishers bidding, which seemed (and still does seem) completely surreal to me. We did a little minor haggling back and forth, and finally accepted Little, Brown’s offer.

It’s probably important to note that I found my agent through a blind submission. Yep. Slush pile. So it does happen!

Q: Do you have critique partners who do the first read?

A: I tend to be pretty close-to-the-vest with my work while I’m working on it. I’m kind of superstitious that way. I don’t even like to tell my parents what a story is going to be about until I’m done writing it. That said, I do have a few writer friends who I completely trust and would go to if I were to find myself in a “stuck” place.

Q: Do you have a point of view and tense preference for your writing?

A: I almost always write in 1st person point of view, because I feel it is the most immersive point of view, for me, as the writer, and also for the reader. And I prefer to write in past tense, but I love the immediacy of a story told in present tense.

Q: Writers sometimes struggle with bad habits, like using too many adverbs, or passive verbs. Do you catch yourself having a writing habit that you try to break?

A: Wild sub-plotting — I have a tendency to, out of the blue, stick a rape scene into a story or some other major thing that doesn’t really work as a random, sudden sub-plot. That said, I tend to go ahead and let myself write those crazy sub-plots, just to get it out of my system, and then delete them later.

Q: Do you edit while writing, or leave editing until after the first draft?

A: I just keep going, and edit after the entire first draft is done. However, every day when I sit down to write, I always re-read the last chapter written the day before, just to get myself back “in voice” and back into the storyline, and if I see something major in that chapter, I’ll fix it then.

Q: What kind of networking do you do, and how do you interact with your readers?

A: I do a lot of online networking (I have a Facebook page, as well as a Facebook Fan Page, I’m on Twitter, I Skype book clubs and classrooms, I blog for a couple websites, including my own, I hang out on Goodreads and check in at LinkedIn every so often, etc.), and I love to interact with readers. I love receiving emails and letters and comments on my blogs, and I always try to respond.

Because I’m in KC and we don’t get a ton of writery events here, I don’t get to do a lot of in-person networking with other writers. But I try to get it in when I can. So I go to whatever conferences and workshops I can get to and try to talk to as many people as possible while I’m there. I also do quite a few speaking gigs for all kinds of different groups — from groups of librarians to mother’s groups, breakfast clubs, schools, churches, book clubs, etc.

Q: Best piece of advice for aspiring authors?

A: Ignore the people who will try to tell you that you should give up. The publishing industry is not dead. You can get noticed through a slush pile. You can make it without “knowing someone.” As long as you believe it’ll happen and you really pursue it… it will happen.

And….just for fun…

Q: Mexican, Italian or other?

A: Italian, of course!

Q: What’s your favorite color?

A: Green

Q: As a humor award winner, what’s your favorite sit com of all time?

A: Hoo-boy, this is tough. Probably Three’s Company (John Ritter was sheer genius), but The Office comes in a veeery close second.

Original post published on Old People Writing for Teens by GOTYA contributor Jamie Blair. To view the original post and reader comments, please click here.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Got flair? (Kathleen wants to give you some)

(Please note that this contest has closed)

Just before Thanksgiving (Canadian, that is), I was shopping for books in a city a few hours from my own. I found myself waiting in line at the local big box bookstore, holding a copy of Goodnight Nobody—a book (not YA) I had quite liked and wanted to share with a friend.

When I got to the register, the clerk squealed and grabbed my purse. I dropped my book, wondered if she was having some sort of fit, and tried to figure out if the bag would fly back and hit me in the face if I yanked it out of her grasp.

“WHERE did you get THIS?” she asked, running her hands over my small, black “got books?” pin. She was Gollum and it was Precious.

“An independent bookstore back home.” I was scared to tell her how far away home was: she looked like she might snatch the precious off my bag at any provocation.

“What’s the name of it?”

“It’s, like, and hour and a half away,” I hedged.

She turned to the clerk next to her. “Did you see this?” she asked, lifting the purse. “Do you feel like going on a roadtrip?” The other girl grinned.

Yes, these two crazy clerks in their late teens/very early twenties were prepared to drive an hour and a half to get a button that said “got books?” It was glorious, awe inspiring, and a little nutty. And it reaffirms my hope that, with the explosion of the YA genre, reading (for teens) is more acceptable—if not, even, dare I say, cooler—than it was when I was in my teens.

And that little story, my friends is the inspiration behind this particular giveaway.

From now until December 12, you have a chance to win an “I Love Books” gift pack. The rules are simple: just leave a comment on this entry letting me know what book (YA or otherwise) you hope to get this holiday season. Only one comment per reader will be eligible. Since I’m the lone Canadian of OPWFT, this contest will be open to BOTH residents of the United States and Canada. It will close at midnight AST.

Here’s what one lucky comment giver will win:

A set of 3 pins (“got books”, “Books Kick Ass!”, “One person can only do so much”)
A set of 3 magnets (“I READ BANNED BOOKS”, “Orwell as an Optimist”, “Speak your mind, even if your voice shakes”)
A William Shakespeare bookmark with info about the bard on the back.
A bookmark of a Will Barnet’s The Caller (otherwise known as the pretty picture of the woman reading)
A pocket calendar you can use to track release dates and library due dates (Don’t anger the librarian! Get those books back on time!)

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

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Lovely Bones Giveaway!!

(Please note that this contest has closed)

This novel has one of the best openings ever. “My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973.”

Can you say WOW?? How can someone read that and not want to know more? This novel reeled me in immediately. I wanted to know about this little girl. Why she was murdered? Who did it? And where she is now?

Now I won’t tell you anything about the story, because I’ll leave that for you to read and discover on your own, but I will tell you THE LOVELY BONES is now a major motion picture and premieres Friday, December 11, 2009. How about them apples?

So in celebration of this event, I am giving away a copy of the novel THE LOVELY BONES by Alice Sebold. How do I win it, you ask? Simple. I want to hear from you. All you have to do is post a comment below quoting your favorite book opening ever (Please keep it to just two to three sentences please) and I’ll pick a winner. Then don’t forget to check back in next week to see if you’re the winner! See, told you it was simple. Good luck!

Original post published on Old People Writing For Teens by Annie McElfresh. To view original post and reader comments, please click here.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Book Review/Giveaway! The Shifter

(Please note that this contest has closed)

The Shifter, by Janice Hardy, is a middle grade fantasy dealing with healing magic. The premise is that unlike with many of the magical-hand-over-the-injury examples of magic, Hardy’s healers don’t technically heal. The pain doesn’t dissipate or go away. It needs to be put somewhere – usually into a mineral called pyruvium. With Nya, it’s different. She puts it into people.

Nya and her sister live in a conquered land, in the midst of a war to control pyruvium deposits (remind anyone of current events?). Her sister, Tali, trains as a real healer while Nya hides her own ability, fearing that with her ability to hurt, she’ll be drafted into the war. Meanwhile, the real healers start disappearing. When Tali becomes the latest victim, Nya makes it her mission to save her.

I loved the characters – Tali and Nya were not unlike Katniss and Prim Everdeen from The Hunger Games. They were immensely relatable and easy to cheer for. On top of that, Hardy’s voice was incredibly easy to slip into. So easy, that I had to write this post without the book sitting next to me – my husband stole it for his work trip.

Here’s the deal:

One lucky commenter will win the The Shifter, by Janice Hardy as well as City of Bones by Cassandra Clare and The Uglies by Scott Westerfield. Just tell us what other YA fantasy and science fiction you like. The winner will be announced on Monday.

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

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Give the Gift of YA This Year

December is here and it’s time to do some writing… gift list writing, that is! No matter who’s on your list, chances are there’s a YA title they’ll love. Here’s a few suggestions, for kids from 1 to 92.

(Okay, 11 to 92, anyway.)

For the philosopher:

Looking For Alaska by Jon Green
Someday This Pain Will Be Useful To You by Peter Cameron

For the thrill-seeker:

Break by Hannan Moskowitz
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

For the people who think their lives are bad:

Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott
Speak or Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
CrackedUp To Be by Courtney Summers
How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

For the history nerd:

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly

For the literature lover:

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

Thanks to the YA forum on AW for their suggestions!

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

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

NaNoWriMo failure

It’s December and NaNo is officially over. For those of you who have read this blog the past month, you’ve seen several posts about NaNo. Well, I thought I would share my NaNo failure story. Yep, my first time posting on this blog and I’m going to talk about my failures.

50,000 in one month – doable? Oh yeah! For me? Nope.

I started off great – 10K in one weekend, the most I’ve ever written in such a short span. I thought, Hey this’ll be a breeze, I can write Larch this month and finish Judgement next month and be ready to query again by the end of January.

By day seven I was right where I should be. By day ten I was behind. That little graph laughed at me every time I clicked on it’s tab. Seriously, I heard it snickering and taunting. By day twenty I was up to 20k, still 10k behind and realized there was no way in Hades I would reach 50k by today. I was going to join the ranks of NaNo failures, plus Larch and Stone wouldn’t shut up in my mind, dreams, shower or car.

Of course I have to be faithful to my characters and finish their story. I have fallen in love with them and their world and finishing their story is something I look forward to. Would I have ever tried a dystopian? A book set in the future? A borderline sci-fi? I must give a resounding no but now I have attempted it, have 30K and a fleshed out plot.

So do I consider myself a NaNo failure? Yes and no. Yes, I didn’t get out the 50k. Too much in my life got in the way: family, homeschooling, beta reading and the oh, five or ten novels I read this month. I guess I could’ve skipped schooling the kids but I do want them to go to college. And I could’ve not read those other books but I enjoyed them.

So the conclusion I have come to is: if 50k was that important to me then I would’ve prioritized it over the frivolous things I did – and no, schooling is not considered frivolous, don’t even go there ;) .

I’m very grateful to NaNoWriMo and will definitely participate again next year, plus I met some great writers in Augusta at our NaNo writing meet-ups. I encourage all writers to try it next year. I had a blast!

Original post published on Old People Writing for Teens by GotYA contributor Jennifer Wood. Original post and reader comments can be viewed here.