Thursday, July 29, 2010

Flashback Friday: The Best of Both Worlds: Soothing the Query and Submission Angst!


Welcome to Week Fifteen of Flashback Fridays where the old and new collide on everything from books to movies to first loves to favorite vacations. This week on Flashback Friday it's the *cues Miley* Best of Both Worlds!! Okay, maybe not. If you're suffering from querying or submission angst, there's a little something for both of you in Querying Through the Movies and the Soundtrack to Submission.

Ah, the “Q” word—the word that strikes fear and loathing into unagented writers everywhere. The dreaded query. Books are written about how to write the perfect one, agents blog about the right and wrong way, and writers spend hours and shed blood and tears in places like Query Letter Hell over in Share Your Work on Absolutewrite.

Well, this isn’t another “How To Post”….instead it’s a look at querying through some famous movie quotes. So cue the theme to Chariots of Fire as we take a stroll through film.

“May the Force Be With You”—Star Wars
Whatever your own personal beliefs are, you are going to have to cling to something to make it through the query game unscathed. Querying is not for the faint of heart, and it’s trying both emotionally and physically. You need a good support system of family and friends. Writing buddies are extremely helpful because of the old “been there, done that” adage.

“If You Build It, He Will Come”—Field of Dreams

You’ve written your literary masterpiece—toiled long hours, edited, revised, and reworked. And you’re ready to send it out into the world of agents and publishers. It doesn’t matter if you’ve written the next Gone with the Wind or Harry Potter. If your query letter doesn’t shine, your book is never going to see the light of day. So, it is the hope of every query writer that they will build the perfect query letter that will interest a dream agent.

“What We Have Here Is a Failure to Communicate”—Cool Hand Luke

You’ve just fired off ten to twenty of the query to end all queries. Now it’s time to sit back and field the massive requests. But then it happens. Your inbox represents tumbleweeds blowing in the wind. Yes, it is inevitable that some agents you query will be non-responders. So, no matter how many times you refresh your inbox, potentially giving yourself Carpel Tunnel Syndrome, it won’t matter. They will simply not reply. You must resign yourself to take a couple of deep breaths and step away from the computer.

“As God Is My Witness, I’ll Never Go Hungry Again!”—Gone With the Wind

After several rejections, it’s tempting to throw up your hands and say, “As God Is My Witness, I’ll Never QUERY Again!” However, you can’t do that. You gotta persevere and keep on keeping it on! You’ll never land an agent without querying, and you’ll never land a publishing deal without an agent—unless you call go small publishing route.

“Stay Classy, San Francisco”—Anchorman

Sometimes after receiving a rejection, it’s tempting to fire off a not so “classy” response to the agent. You know a real acid filled rant about why your literary masterpiece SHOULD have been for them. But you gotta take the higher road and listen to Ron Burgundy. Yep, that’s right, STAY CLASSY!

“We’re Not Worthy!”—Wayne’s World
Yeah, I’ll admit that it’s tempting to get a little
star struck when querying. From the uber-famous agents to the not so famous, we seem to forget that agents are people, too. Just remember that you are worthy and your work is worthy to query any agent out there!

So go forth and party on, er, query!!! And GOOD LUCK!!!

Part Deux: The Soundtrack to Submission
Anyone who has been querying or on submission knows it's not an easy process. While lamenting how I was firmly set in the 7th Ring of Hell the other night, I got to thinking about how we have playlists for our books. We sometimes even have the playlists of our lives--you know those songs that meant something to us during special times and places. Well, that got me thinking of if someone were to put together a compilation cd of all the songs that relate to the agonizing process.
Here's Part One of the Cd!

(1). AC/DC's Highway to Hell: Yeah, this might seem excessive, but seriously, it would be numero uno on my list of the Soundtrack to Submission. I spent nine months on the query train a chug, chug, chuggin’ along. I seriously couldn’t imagine anything could possibly be worse, but alas, it is. Maybe it’s what querying nine months did to me in the fact that submission feels like one more hellish crusade.

(2). Queen's Under Pressure: There’s a lot of pressure in the submission process. First, there’s a race to prove yourself. Gotta sell, gotta sell, gotta sell! The sooner the better---you wanna be that person on submission a week or less before having a preempt deal or going to auction. There’s also the pressure to prove yourself to your agent. They chose you out of hundreds—maybe even thousands—of eager beaver applicants. You wanna make them proud and make them realize they were visionaries when choosing you. So besides proving it to yourself and to your agent, you also want to prove yourself to all your family, friends, critique partners etc—all those people who have supported you, loved you, allowed you to go on acidic, demon possessed rants and still talked to you, etc. It’s a heck of a lot of pressure pressing down on you!

(3). Destiny's Child Survivor & (4). Gloria Gaynor's I Will Survive: You need some songs to remind you that no matter how hard and how emotionally and physically crippling the submission process might be YOU WILL SURVIVE. Sometimes I just have to put on the headphones and let Beyonce remind me that I’m not going to give up because I’m a survivor!

(5). Eye of the Tiger &
(6). Gonna Fly Now:
It’s hard not to feel like a pumped up conquerer when you hear these two songs from the Rocky movies. Just hearing those trumpets in Gonna Fly Now gives you the image of Rocky Balboa working his ass off to get in shape for the big fight. I totally feel revived when I hear it, and somehow I do my own mental run up those stairs and end in a fist pump…well, not a Jersey Shore fist pump or anything like that, lol.

(7). Don’t Give Up, Never Give Up: I really love this Eagle Eye Cherry song. I first heard it in the Holes movie. It’s not just the jazzy beat of the song that I love; it’s also the lyrics. “All our dreams are gone with a loss of faith. We're still hanging on for another day. It's so hard to see that it's going to get better, and when will that be it's hard to say…..Don’t give up, never give up. We won’t stop giving all we’ve got.”

(8). Sitting in Limbo: I think this song just about sums up the most agonizing part of the submission process….the wait. When you’re querying, it’s like you hold the cards. You research the agents, you query them, and then you wait for their response. When going on submission, it’s completely taken out of your hands. Not only do you have to wait, but you have to wait on many other people to let you know what’s going on with your book. The whole song is great, but I especially love these lines:“Sitting here in Limbo waiting for the dice to roll. Yeah, now, sitting here in Limbo. Still got some time to search my soul. Meanwhile, they're putting up a resistance, but I know that my faith will lead me on."

(9). When the Going Gets Tough….the Tough Gets Going: Yes, the awesome 80’s beat from Billy Ocean. And it’s such a true one. To survive the submission process, you gotta be tough, and when things get really hard and you don’t think you can go on, you gotta just keep persevering.

(10). The Climb: I actually blogged about this song when I was querying. It meant a lot to me then, and it still does now. I like the idea that all the hardship of the querying and submission process will mean something in the long run. It's about keeping a dream alive even when you think it's impossible. As long as there's that little flame flickering within you, the dream can stay alive until it comes to fruition.

*******Psst, next Flashback Friday starts the Arcs of August Contest. Leave a comment on today's post, and you'll get an extra entry for the first ARC. Here's a hint: It's by a way cool author and deals with personal issues, hot guys....oh, and some angels and demons.************

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Paper Lantern Lit SPARKS Ideas In Book Development

I recently stumbled across the website for Paper Lantern Lit thanks to a tweet about M.E. Castle's recent sale.   That was the day I found out about book development companies.  I'd always heard of these literary brainstormers who are experts at weaving a plot, but hadn't given much thought to what a book development company does.  So, I figured there must be more of us out there who were in the dark about how this arm of publishing works, and went to the experts.  Lexa Hillyer and Lauren Oliver at Paper Lantern Lit were more than happy to answer some of GotYA's questions, and here they are!

First, please tell us how the whole process of being a book developer works.

LO: It all starts with an idea (what we call a “spark”). From there, we spend months growing and expanding the idea, and developing a full and functional outline for an entire book. We pass it back and forth. We write and rewrite it. Finally, we show it to our agent, Stephen Barbara, at Foundry Media. If he believes it is viable/saleable, we go ahead and begin the process of looking for the perfect writer to bring that story to life. That can take months in some cases.

LH: Once we find a writer…YAY!... we have him or her help us grow the proposal, revising and tweaking the plot outline and writing usually about the first 50 pages of the book. We work really closely with the writer at this point—it’s kind of our incubation period. We really see ourselves as developers of writers as well as developers of ideas. When we think the proposal is ready at last, we share it again with our agent and come up with a submission strategy from there.

What made the two of you decide to start a company based on generating ideas for novels?

LO: Both of us felt that we had lots of surplus creative energy that might be put to good use; and the idea of being able to explore all of our interests and ideas—however kooky or weird—really appealed to us. It has been great for my own writing, too. Generating ideas is like anything else: the more you practice it, the better you become.

LH: It’s demanding but so creatively fulfilling—and there’s always this sense of possibility, that there’s a new idea waiting around the corner.

In your opinion, why is there a need for book developers, and do you see this as an area poised for growth in publishing?

LH: Well certainly now more than ever it seems like publishers are open to alternative approaches to making books. As their lists grow tighter and more selective, it’s harder for editors to pursue books they are truly passionate about, while also juggling books that are high-earning super-commercial blockbusters. So we thought, hey, we’re two people who really understand what it takes to make great stories and develop strong, fresh prose that editors will fall in love with, but our experience also gives us a sense of what sells—so why can’t we offer editors both?

Do you take submissions from published authors as well as unpublished authors?

LO: Yes, we take submissions from published and unpublished, agented and unagented writers. We do have to be careful with writers who are currently under contract with other publishing houses, as we don’t want to disrupt any option clauses.

LH: Exactly. If you have representation and are interested in working with us, please have your agent contact us directly!

Does the author get her name on the book, or is this ghost writing?

LO: The author may, at our discretion, have his or her name on the book; if not, we work with the author to agree on a pen name. But it’s not ghost-writing. We want the author’s face on the book; we want the author to participate in marketing and promo for it.

LH: As I mentioned before, we want to develop our writers and help launch or strengthen their careers. It is in everyone’s best interest if they love and take personal ownership of the books, and go out into the world to celebrate (aka tweet about) them!

Will the same author complete a series, or will there be multiple authors as a series progresses?

LO: It’s obviously our wish for a single author to work on an entire series. Voice is everything! However, we understand that in some cases, writers might ultimately want to branch off and do their own thing.

What benefit can you offer an editor at a publishing house that might put you ahead of the pack in the submissions process?

LO: Well, both Lexa and I have a very strong grounding and background in storytelling; we know how to generate commercial concepts and tightly woven stories. And we’re also deeply committed to working intensively with each writer, not just to grow his or her voice but also to really hone his/her understanding of writing in general. I think that leads to great books. Plus, we do all of the editorial whip-cracking when it comes to staying on deadline! J

LH: I was an editor for seven years, first at HarperCollins and then at Penguin. Lauren and I both have a lot of experience in the field and have lots of great editor friends, so we’re in the position to be a little more in touch with what people are into. Also we’re aware of the market but not slaves to it. We’d rather offer editors something fresh, that they haven’t seen before, than chase trends.

Is the submission process to editors the same as the traditional route that an agent takes, or do the editors get a look at the idea and outline of a project before you proceed with finding a writer? Do you know there is interest in the concept and storyline ahead of time?

LO: We never, ever submit outlines without a written proposal—and a writer—attached to them. That doesn’t even make sense! It’s like trying to grill ribs…without any of the meat on the bone! So far, the process has been roughly the same as what it would be for any writer; we generate a proposal (an outline and fifty or so pages of the book), and then our agent submits it to editors for consideration. Lexa and I definitely pay attention to what’s going on in the market but we don’t obsess over it. We make the stories that are interesting to us. But we love meeting with editors and hearing about their needs and wants because it might, in the future, inform some of our projects or influence the direction of some of our books.

LH: Mmmm. Grilled ribs. Thank you for the analogy, Lauren! Yes some of our ideas come directly from off-handed remarks made by editors, and in those cases we sometimes have very specific people in mind to submit to. In other cases, we want to surprise them, and our confidence in the idea comes from our intuition and experience, and the feedback from our agent. But of course, as everyone knows, there are no guarantees in this industry. In any creative pursuit, there’s always some risk involved—you have to just give it your all and trust in your passion and your hard work!

Do you have a specific publishing house in mind for your projects based on editor relationships and spots they are looking to fill in their lists? When coming up with ideas, do you base them on editor need and feedback?

LO: Well, again, we meet with editors partly to hear about what kind of things they’re looking for and where they think the market is going; all of that is helpful when it comes to shaking loose your creativity. But we have not yet tailored a project to a specific editor, no. We’re not averse to that, however; it just hasn’t happened that way. Lexa and I would still need to feel very connected to the book ourselves.

After you select a writer from his sample pages, how do you make sure he’s in love with the idea before presenting a contract for the project?

LO: Lexa and I think of ourselves as match-makers. If we have done our job correctly during the “audition” process, it means we have actually brought two things—writer and concept—into contact that were preordained and absolutely meant to be. It’s love at first sight, baby!

LH: Totally! We aren’t interested in forcing or foisting our books on people. We let them fall in love and then we seal the deal. We can always tell the depth of the writer’s excitement (or lack there of) from the quality of the audition. We’re not just looking for skill. We’re looking for the voice of a character. When we find that, the writer often feels just as elated as we are to have found their ideal character!

Can agented writers submit sample pages?

LO: Yes, definitely.

LH: As mentioned before, feel free to have your agent contact us directly.

In your experience, how do agents generally view book developing or book packaging? Overall, do you find agents agreeable to their clients’ wishes to pursue this avenue, or is there a drawback for an agent with this model?

LO: I can’t speak generally; agents are so different. But we work with agented writers, for sure; a lot of agents represent clients who may be very talented writers but just haven’t hit on a big idea yet. So I think they like us, because we give their writers a chance to find that “big idea.” If they don’t like us, they do a pretty good job of pretending to!

LH: The same goes for both writers and agents: we’re not interested in collaborating with people who aren’t committed or don’t like our approach. It’s fine if they don’t and we’ll happily go our separate ways! There are certainly plenty of different methods to making great books.

Do your YA ideas tend to fall in one genre more than others, for example, paranormal is still very hot, so do your ideas follow the market trends?

LH: Like I said, we don’t like to chase trends, but we are very aware of them, and if we happen to have a project that we think resonates nicely with a current market fixation, we will absolutely time our submission accordingly. But many of our ideas seem to float into our brains, or bubble up from our conversations and brainstorming sessions, more spontaneously than that. And we believe all of our projects should “have legs” regardless of what readers are currently buying. This puts us in the position to occasionally help define the market, rather than only follow it. After all, tastes and trends constantly evolve, as we all know.

To piggyback off of the last question, when submitting sample pages, does one genre stand out, such as urban fantasy, paranormal romance, or sci fi, due to the heavy world building? Do you look for writers with exceptional world building in addition to exceptional writing to contract for projects that fall into these genres, or would a contemporary submission that catches your attention with a great voice be equally considered for an urban fantasy idea?

LH: We are quite thorough and open-minded as we read the submissions. Of course, yes, if we see a writer has strong world-building skills we will be more likely to audition him or her for a project that involves a particularly unique world.

Our projects are pretty wide-ranging so there’s no point in trying to guess what we might be looking for. Sometimes if we stumble on a terrific writer but we don’t have a project that matches her style, we’ll ask for a new sample, and we’ll say, “Hey, we’re particularly hoping to see a sample with an action sequence,” or whatever, depending on what the project needs.

You should try to exhibit whatever YOUR best strengths are in your sample. Just like match-making, there’s no point in pretending to like outdoor sports if you’re really more of a city girl—you’ll just end up dating a mountain-climber when you’d really prefer to be sipping wine in your new stilettos with an i-banker.

What are the benefits for a debut author working with Paper Lantern versus going the traditional route of submitting projects through an agent?

LO: Well, we like to think of it as a paid MFA class. We work so intensively with our authors; we really turn people into better writers, and we’re proud of that. Also, there are lots of writers who have the talent and the ear for dialogue but really haven’t figured out structure and plot and concept. So we’ve done that for them. But, you know, it’s not for everyone. Some people love us; some people don’t. That’s okay, as long as all of our writers love us, which they do. 

LH: Also keep in mind that working pseudonymously with us does not prohibit you from also pursuing your own work under your own name. This means you kind of get TWO chances to launch a writing career instead of just one!

Does a debut novel by a Paper Lantern author have a better chance to be a break out novel, or buzz book?

LO: We certainly try and position our books very aggressively, at houses and with editors who will give the books 100% of their time and attention. So that definitely helps.

LH: Again, though there are no guarantees, we can certainly say that the projects we’ve sold so far have been acquired as lead titles, which means they will garner a lot of support. It means the publisher is invested in creating that buzz.

What rights do you retain? Does the author have any rights to the work? Are your books international, audio, and film rights actively marketed?

LO: Paper Lantern owns the copyright. However, we often grant our authors a percentage of all subsidiary rights (foreign, film, etc); since we work with a fabulous agency (Foundry Media) with an incredible record of foreign sales, this can add up quite quickly. We also often negotiate sales bonuses and incentives for our authors. It depends on the book, the project, and the deal, but of course, our goal is to be fair and competitive in terms of remuneration.

If a person was interested in becoming or working for a book development company, how would they go about doing that?

LO: Just get together some great ideas and try to get someone to write them for you! That’s pretty much the basic principle behind it. J

LH: Yup, it’s pretty straight-forward. I would add though that we were pretty strategic with our timing. We really paced ourselves and made sure we could do it before leaping in. We’ve set goals for upcoming years and have thought about our business model on a lot of levels. It helps to be really self-aware, and ready to roll with the punches, because it certainly involves some risk. You have to be willing to scratch a project that seemed promising but isn’t going anywhere. It’s good to have people you trust and respect to help judge the value and viability of your ideas. Also it just helps to know that you’ve got, like, more than one great idea ready, in case the first one doesn’t go quite as perfectly as you’d hoped! Finally, I’ll add that it’s a lot of work. You don’t just say, “Hey let’s do a book about kittens and crocodiles” and then start auditioning for it and then sell it. You end up doing intense editing along the way, and holding the fates of some incredible writers in your hands!

Just for fun!

Favorite flavor of ice cream?

LO: Chocolate fudge brownie frozen yogurt.

LH: Strawberry (with fresh strawbs, obviously). Sometimes with chocolate sprinkles.

Mexican, Italian, or other?

LO: Italian. Yummm, pasta.

LH: Italian, definitely.

If you could have dinner with any author ever, who would it be?

LO: Jeez, that’s a difficult question. Probably Agatha Christie, only because I would LOVE to know how in God’s name she plotted all of those mysteries! I can hardly keep track of three narrative threads at a time, much less seventeen…

LH: My two favorite Laurens: Lauren Oliver and Lauren Kate! They both have INCREDIBLE taste in food and wine, and always suggest the best restaurants. Plus they are pretty.

Thank you to Lauren and Lexa for answering our questions!  If interested in submitting to Paper Lantern Lit, please see their submission guidelines on their website.  Please leave us comments!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Flashback Friday: Harry Potter Fandom


Welcome to Week Fourteen of Flashback Fridays where the old and new collide on everything from books to movies to first loves to favorite vacations. Once again, I'm going retro to a Ghost of Post's Past: My late Harry Potter Fandom.

I step into the crowded room, and my breath hitches in my chest. This has been a long time coming, but it’s something I have to do. I tap the microphone and clear my throat. “Um, my name is Krista, and I’m a Potterhead.”

“Hi Krista!” comes the crowd’s enthusiastic response.

Grinning like a Cheshire cat, I stare into the crowd. I have found my people.

Yes, it’s true. I am a Potterhead. The funny thing is I came to the whole Potter fandom late—as in June of 09' late. For years, I would step lightly around Pottermania. I wasn’t completely out of the loop—I watched the first and second movies, and I’d read the first book back in 2003. I knew the buzz words like Hogswarts, Dumbledore, Hagrid, owls….oh yeah, I attempted to be down with it. But within me, I knew something was missing. I would feel a twinge of envy when people raced to the bookstores at midnight to get the latest book or bemoaned the Half Blood Prince being pushed back.
So, I decided to do something about it. In February of 09', I got on Amazon, and to my amazement was able to find a moderately priced box set of books 1-6. A few days later, my heart jumped for joy when I opened the box. There was the key to unlocking my Harry Potter appreciation.

But I can hear you questioning this equation. “Now wait a minute, you say you bought the books in February, but you just started reading them until June? What’s wrong with you, woman!” I know, it’s insanity. Please put the pitchforks and torches away—I couldn’t help it. Life got in the way, but I promised myself as soon as school was out that year, I would begin reading the series. It was one promise I kept.

I managed to devour the first two books at a steady pace—often reading late into the night because I just couldn’t put them down. I think that’s the beauty of the series. Every book takes you someplace new and exciting with a new cast of characters.

So let’s talk about the author for a minute. I think it would be hard to find anyone in the writing community who isn’t awed and inspired by JK Rowling’s success. It boggles the mind to think someone one day could be living in poverty and writing on napkins as an escape and then a little while later become richer than the Queen of England. You almost have to pinch yourself to believe it. But for me, JK Rowling’s true success is not in her monetary wealth, but in the fans’ love for her characters.

Sure, I’d be a total sellout if I didn’t admit I dream a little dream from time to time of making a living solely off my writing or slipping into a darkened movie theater to find “Based on the Novel by Krista Ashe” in the credits. But the writer in me dreams of character love—that undeniable bond that some writers forge between their characters and an adoring fan base. JK Rowling has that in abundance. Harry, Ron, and Hermoine are some of the most beloved characters in modern literature. I fell in love with them myself along with Dumbledore, McGonagall, Hagrid, and the entire Weasley family.

The theme that stands out for me the most in the series is love and friendship. In the very first book, we’re introduced to the idea that Lily Potter gave her life for her infant son, and it was her love that warded off Voldemort’s curse. We also see the early remnants of the “adoptive” family Harry acquires in the world of wizardry. Although Harry grows up quite unloved and unwanted with the Dursley’s, he forges an unbreakable bond with the Weasley family along with Hermoine. Through the series, he builds more of a makeshift family with Dumbledore, Lupin, and Sirius Black—not to mention Ron and Hermoine. And when you get right down to it, who doesn’t want friends like Ron and Hermoine? They’re the truest friends anyone could ever want—the kind who are willing to go to the ends of the earth for you.

Finally, I think the beauty of the series is it has a little something for everyone. First off, there’s magic. Like Harry, I’m anxious in every book for him to get back to Hogwarts. I love all the mishaps and mayhem that go on there, and the fight scenes are so intense. Second, there’s something for sports fanatics in the form of Quiddich. Then as Harry and his friends get older, there are the typical “teenage” infatuations. I think we’ve all experienced the mix-ups that Harry goes through with his first crush, Cho Chang and then his inability to tell Ginny how he actually feels for so long. And some of us have struggled with feelings of more than friendship like Ron and Hermoine. In the end, it is a series that is so fantastical, but at the same time, has it’s feet rooted in the real world.

November can't come fast enough to bring the release of the Deathly Hallows. I know I'll have to be at the Midnight Premier no matter what. In the meantime, all I can do is reread the books, rewatch the dvds, and put the Deathly Hallows trailer on loop!!!




**Please email us your address at or, and we'll get your book out to you asap!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

It’s a Love Story…

This week, we continue with our guest posts from the fabulous Melissa Hill, winner of GotYA's Do the Write Thing for Nashville auction item. Be sure to look for Melissa's final post in September.

It’s one month until the much anticipated release of Mockingjay (If you haven’t read The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, what are you waiting for???), and it had me thinking about why I read YA. To quote Rosie O’Donnell’s character, Becky, from one of my all-time favorite movies—Sleepless in Seattle:

“You don’t want to fall in love. You want to fall in love in a movie.” Or in my case a book. There is something magical about falling in love. And especially for the first time. It’s something you never forget. Reading YA gives me the opportunity to fall in love (for the first time) again and again.

So I thought I would share a few of my favorite romances with you:

Romeo and Juliet—I wonder if Shakespeare knew he was writing the prototypic YA couple whom all others would be compared to.

Seth and Aislinn (Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr)—Seth is laid back and totally devoted to Aislinn. And he makes the whole body piercing thing very sexy.

Clary and Jace (The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare)—Okay, it’s Jace. I don’t think I need to say anything else.

Gemma and Kartik (A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray)—The whole series is a little frustrating. Will they ever get together? But then they do and the scene is totally worth it. Even if it is short lived.

Ever and Damen (The Immortals by Alyson Noël) —Damen is patient and understanding and Ever is willing to do just about anything to be with him.

That brings me back to Mockingjay. Is it August yet? One could argue that The Hunger Games is about much more than a love story. And while I agree, the romantic in me still desperately wants to know who Katniss will choose? Peeta or Gale???

So you guys tell me, who are you favorite YA couples?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Let's Hear it for the Unloved

Love’s a b!tch, and then you die.

Okay—maybe not the most eloquent way to put it—but it seems as good a way as any to describe unrequited love. Sure, maybe it’s not as tactful as the “walking wounded” label Nancy Myers once gave to people suffering from the affliction, and it’s not as romantic as Lloyd Dobler holding up a ghetto blaster and blaring “In Your Eyes” (though I suppose that wasn’t exactly unrequited). Still, I think the sentiment accurately reflects reality: there is very little that’s lovely about unrequited love.

I was well acquainted with the condition in high school (wasn’t everyone?) and I sure as heck don’t recommend it.

And yet...

If I’m completely honest...

It’s one of my favorite plot devices. Give me a decently developed character who’s pining and I’m glued to the page or screen. How else can you explain the fact that I’ve watched The Holiday 36 times (please don’t actually try to explain it, I’m actually a little embarrassed) and have Some Kind of Wonderful memorized. Or the fact I didn’t want to read anything for an hour after finishing “Quiz Bowl Antichrist” by David Leviathan because I wanted to hang onto the story for a little while longer. Heck, I sometimes wonder if the reason I so loved Looking for Alaska and Paper Towns is that John Green’s MCs seem like male versions of high school me—forming attachments that are doomed to never really materialize.

So my question for you, this week, brave YA lovers is: What do you think about unrequited love? Do you like movies and books where one character is secretly pinning for another? Any great books or movies you’d recommend?

And I'm throwing in a Jann Arden video because Living Under June was my seventeen-year-old self's unrequited soundtrack.

Photo by Gabriela Camerotti

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


When those rejections come rollin’ in (and they do – we just hope that they come mixed in with requests) it’s really easy to get stuck on WHY. But dissecting a form rejection is fruitless, and just a tad crazy.

So here are some questions you can ask instead.

WHO – are your beta readers. While your mother, your best friend, and even your high school students may not pull any punches, they also are more likely to “get” you. They know your sense of humor, and they’re already used to the way you phrase things. Get people you aren’t close with. They’ll know if your jokes fall flat or if your voice is off.

WHAT – are you sending out. Are you following query instructions? Does your query look professional?

WHEN – will the first draft of your next book be done? You’ve started it, right? Focusing on increasing the word count of your other projects is a nice way to dilute obsessive thoughts.

– are you sending your queries? Did you check them out on P&E and the AW Bewares thread? You did put in a lot of work on your baby – make sure you’re trying to get it into the right hands.

– can you improve? If you’re lucky enough to get non-form rejections, they can contain valuable advice and commentary for the next time around. You also might get a better sense of which agents to query in the future.
Thoughts? Other questions? Comments!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Flashback Friday: Flashback on What Teens Really Want to Read


Welcome to Week Thirteen of Flashback Fridays where the old and new collide on everything from books to movies to first loves to favorite vacations.

Oh, er, wow, can it really be Friday again? Eesh, it's snuck up on me, and I'm practically postless!

Man, how the times flies. I'd love to say it's been a very productive some ways it has. Next Tuesday I have thirty to forty people coming to my house for lunch. It's a real-life "flashback" because it's been a church tradition in my family since I was just a youngster. It used to be at my grandmother's, but now it's at mine. If you want a preview of what the lunch is like, it's kinda like the movie Soul Food with Vanessa Williams and Vivica Fox. In other words, pictures tables loaded down with good ol' Southern-bring your Tums-caloric intake in the thousands-food!!!

So, with that whined about, er, said, I broke into the OPWFT vault aka the Ghost of Posts Past to bring you this week's Flashback Friday. *cues the music to The Way We Were* This is kind of a sad post for me because I won't be at the school near year where I did this survey. I'm either going to take a position at another school, or I'll be putting my first degree, my English degree, to good use and striking out to new horizons.

Anyway, here's the set-up. I gave my freshman and juniors a survey on the first day of school last year. I've included some of the answers. So, once again, it's just the facts—the bear facts that is. My school mascot was a Grizzly, and when you entered the building, you came 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.

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!”
(So, let the F-Bombs roll, dammit!)

Question #4: How much does the cover of a book influence your decision to read?
“I don’t care about the cover. It’s more about the title that influences me.”
“Not that much. It makes me pick it up and read the back cover to see what the book is about.”
“It influences me a little. A flashy cover does attract, but it’s what it is about that matters.”
“It influences me a lot. I don’t pick it up to see if I like it unless it looks good.
Question #2 What point of view do you like to read the best?
“I like first person better. I like it because I enjoy reading the book from the character’s point of view. “
“I like third person mostly because I like an overview of the matter.”
“I mostly like third person because you get an outside outlook of what’s happening and different views of the plot/problem.

Question 5 (and one that has stumped parents and educators for generations)…Why do you not like to read?
“I can never find a book I can get into. I like books that start off good and there aren’t many books like that. I would be more motivated if I could get something out a book, like a life lesson.” "I don’t like to read because you are just sitting there and reading. It would be more fun being active.”
“Reading makes me tired and I’d rather be doing something outside and it would be better if there were more outside books.” "I don’t like reading because it’s not usually something I think of when I’m bored, but when I get caught up in a book, I can’t put it down.” -*“It’s boring because you have to sit there, and reading gives me a headache.
“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 # 6: 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.”

So what do you guys think? Do you agree or disagree with some of the comments?

**********LATE BREAKING BOOK GIVEAWAY****************************

Next month, the GotYA gals will be reviewing The Summer of Skinny Dipping. How would you like your own copy? To be entered, all you have to do is leave a comment on this post. The winner will be announced next Friday!!!

Here's a bit about The Summer of Skinny Dipping!!!

"Sometimes I still wake up shivering in the early hours of the morning, drowning in dreams of being out there in the ocean that summer, of lookin...more "Sometimes I still wake up shivering in the early hours of the morning, drowning in dreams of being out there in the ocean that summer, of looking up at the moon and feeling as invisible and free as a fish. But I'm jumping ahead, and to tell the story right I have to go back to the very beginning. To a place called Indigo Beach. To a boy with pale skin that glowed against the dark waves. To the start of something neither of us could have predicted, and which would mark us forever, making everything that came after and before seem like it belonged to another life.
My name is Mia Gordon: I was sixteen years old, and I remember everything...."

After getting dumped by her boyfriend, Mia is looking forward to spending a relaxing summer in the Hamptons with her glamorous cousins. But when she arrives she find her cousins distant, moody, and caught up with a fast crowd. Mia finds herself lonelier than ever, until she meets her next-door-neighbor, Simon Ross. And from the very first time he encourages her to go skinny dipping, she's caught in a current impossible to resist.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The faces of writing

Let's set up a scenario.

You're at a party. But not a wild party where people are doing keg stands and beating each other up with staves made of beer cans people making out on the sofa. More like one of those awkward coworker/step family/in-laws parties that make talking to a doorknob sound like a better night.

(Something like this)

So in a brief moment of mingling with others, the question is asked.

"So, what do you do in your spare time?"

Awkward situation more awkward. It's not awkward because of you, but because you know the moment you say that you're a young adult writer, their face turns from this :) to this : /

Why exactly? No one knows. It's a mystery.

It's also frustrating.

The stats on the young adult genre has shot up over 80% in the last two years. That's something to be proud to be a part of. Yet there are always those people that look at you like you've grown a third arm out of your stomach. Polite smile, averted eyes. End of convo and mingling leads to another person who does the same thing.

So naturally, I prefer to make my blog posts flooded with humorous pictures AND writerly knowledge.

With lolcats.

4 Faces From People When Telling Them You're A Writer

1.) The blank stare

No caption needed to explain this one.

2) The serious face

This is the most awkward of all as those piercing eyes stare into your soul, questioning your career decisions, and ready to leap into lecture mode.

Why didn't I go into business again, you ask? Uhh, I can't remember now over how small I'm feeling.

3) A genuine smile

These, for my personally, are rare. Not a lot of people are actually interested in hearing about anything past 'Young Adult Genre,' which is just plain sad. But there are the few that are respectful and attentive, actually interested in your story.

4) The laughing until they realize you're serious face

Worst. Face. Ever.

Nows the part where I ask readers if this has ever happened to them. What was the worst? Do you get it often or do most people seem to accept it easily?

On Behalf Of The Illustrious Kathleen Peacock...

We would like to announce (not the royal "we." I mean "we" here at GotYA. I'm not that weird, I promise)...

That Kathleen's book, HEMLOCK...

Along with TWO OTHER BOOKS...

(that makes it a 3-book deal!!!)


To Claudia Gabel at HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Books!

So CONGRATULATIONS KATHLEEN! And also: CONGRATULATIONS to Emmanuelle Alspaugh and Claudia Gabel, too!

Check out the Publisher's Weekly announcement here. That one-line summary is tantalizing. I am so excited to read, and we are so happy for/proud of Kathleen!

There's really only one thing left for me to say.


Sunday, July 11, 2010

And the Winner Is...

Happy Sunday! The winner of the Canada Day contest is Colleen!

Colleen, I'll be in touch with shipping details.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Flashback Friday: When Krista Met Twilight....


Welcome to Week Twelve of our fabulous segment Flashback Fridays where the old and new collide on everything from books to movies to first loves to favorite vacations.

With Eclipse's record breaking box office opening last week, I felt some Flashback Friday homage needed to be paid to the Twilight series and how I became a fan.

My experience with reading the Twilight Saga goes something like this. Let's Flashback to October of 2009. As I was making my way through a mound of papers—book reports to be exact—I noticed a pattern. The vast majority were talking about this book or series of books to be exact. Yep, you guessed it: Twilight. Sure, this was shortly before the movie’s November release, so there was a lot of film generated buzz going on. Yeah, I figured that out later since I had no idea there was even going to be a movie until I read it on Stephenie's website. So, once I finished all the grading, I decided I should check out what all this Twilight” hoopla was about.

And that my friends was shortly before I became infected by what I like to call “Twiacoccus Infection”. You may even have suffered from it before yourself. It’s that inexplicable feeling that nothing in the world matters besides Edward and Bella. Your Job? Sleep? Family and Friends? Psht, nope, nothing outside of Forks is as important but devouring the Twilight series like Emmett and that Grizzly.

It goes without saying I had an unusual Twilight reading experience. I actually read part of Breaking Dawn first. Hey, it was left in my classroom. Okay, so maybe I skimmed parts to see where the “good stuff” was. Sadly, I learned it was only fade to black “good stuff”. Damn. Then while I was waiting for Twilight, New Moon, and Eclipse to come from Amazon, I started reading Midnight Sun online. This is an interesting piece in my reading saga. Perhaps it’s why(along with aforementioned Twiaccous) that I was able to tolerate Edward’s behavior.

After reading the books, I stayed highly feverish with Twiaccous until the movie’s release. My female students counted down the days until it male students rolled their eyes. For Twilight, I didn’t go to the Midnight Premiere. I went with two good friends the day it opened. However, when New Moon and Eclipse came out, you better believe I was going serious with the Midnight Premiere.

But before I release some Twilight hilarity on you, I should say this. I owe SERIOUS props to Stephenie Meyer. Here’s why. Up until November 2009, I had never written YA except for when I did the Institute of Children’s Literature(and that’s a whole other post for another time!). The summer and fall of 09’ I wrote a Southern Literary Fiction. But when I read Twilight, something happened to me that I had never experienced before. I began to dream about a story just like Stephenie did. For the first time, I had full-blown character schizophrenia where I couldn’t sleep at night for thinking about my characters. What came from reading Twilight was the idea for The Guardians, my YA UF about angels sent to earth to guide and protect lost souls. The Guardians sent me on a long quest to find an agent….on an epic journey of revisions….and a pit-stop along the way where I wrote Don’t Hate the Player—the book that landed me an agent.
So, yes, I may bash Twilight….I may poke fun at Bella or other characters, but in truth, I do so love the story and characters. From time to time, that Twiaccous Infection seeps back into my system. And I’m good with that. And for your viewing pleasure....

And of course, I must recommend some Twi-inspired reading, right? Of course, there is SOOO much Twilight related funny stuff out there that it's hard to narrow it down. But here's two.

Even though it wasn't quite as hilarious as I thought it would be, Nightlight was pretty hysterical with it's Belle Goose and Edwart Mullen. I'd recommend giving it at least a peek when you're at the bookstore.

And then a blog that seriously had me ROFLing so loud that my dogs kept looking at me like I was an idiot would be Cleolinda's. You seriously have to check this out. Her breakdown of Breaking Dawn had me in tears from laughing so hard.

First Draft 15: How to deal...or not.

(A new plan from fabulous guest poster Hélène Boudreau)

Do you suffer from writer’s butt? Is your waistline expanding in direct proportion to your word count? Don’t worry; help is on its way.

Just like those extra pounds that plague freshmen in their first years of college, the First Draft 15™ is the near inevitable by-product of parking your tushie in a chair for the innumerable hours it takes to pound out a novel.

And is it any wonder? There’s the snacking, the sipping and the hours upon hours of near immobility as you put one word in front of the other. Now, perhaps you’re one of those hateful, naturally-thin whippets and this isn’t a problem for you *daggers* but for the rest of us, the First Draft 15 is as unavoidable as paper cuts and chocolate stains down the front of our shirts.

But, how do we arrive at the First Draft 15 value, you might ask? Well, let’s do the math. When I write a first draft, I can usually eke out about 500 words an hour (breakneck speed, I know…). My upcoming novel is about 45,000 words long.

500 words/hr x A hours = 45,000 words

Where A= 90 hours (thank you, calculator icon in my sidebar).

90 hours. Really?

It seemed WAY longer than that. Though, that doesn’t take into account all of the other hours when I just stared out into space, recalculating the distance from my chair to the fridge in metric and standard units.

But, nonetheless, those hours add up and they equal to the amount of time when your metabolic rate approaches zero. Cause, let’s get real: despite the fact that your fingers are busy, busy, busy, tapping out your masterpiece, those small muscle movements, astonishingly repetitive as they may be, aren’t doing much to maximize your aerobic output.

Your First Draft value might be 3 or 5 or 10 lbs but…my own personal metabolic equation is, 90 hours to the power of cheese divided by a variable and AMAZINGLY (or maybe not) this ALWAYS equals 15 lbs for me.

90 hours cheese = 15 lbs

The variable (B) is, um, variable for each writer. Your variable might be fancy Starbuck’s coffee or salty carbohydrates. Mine happens to be cheap chocolate.

I’m not gonna lie. I gained my initial First Draft 15™ quite a few years ago and wear it with pride but writing 2-3 books a year has the potential to add up (but, I won’t bore you with the math. I PROMISE.).

So, herein, I’ve come up with a few handy tips for writers to deal with the First Draft 15™(or not).

TIP #1: Choose low-fat/no-fat alternatives: This just makes good dietary sense. Cheese is still cheese, even if it’s made with skim milk. Plus, with the calories you save, you can cut the slab nice and thick and add a cracker. This makes for a more satisfying snack, necessitating fewer trips to the cheese block, ergo, increasing your writing productivity. And, isn’t that what we all want in the end?

A cautionary note about crumbs: for each crumb dropped, you decrease your overall intake, but you also increase the incidence of ‘whydoesn’tmyspacebarwork?’.

Practice safe snacking and always keep a source of compressed air handy for such occasions. For stubborn cases, view:

TIP #2:
Don’t Drink Your Calories: Yes, yes…we all know that a can of Mountain Dew has enough calories to power a light bulb for six days and I suppose we should talk about that, but, even more concerning is the potential electrical hazard of drinking while typing. So, in the spirit of preserving your hard drive—instead of drinking your calories, I suggest hands-free, gravity-fed consumption for best results.

TIP #3: ‘Exercise’ is Not a Four Letter Word: In fact, ‘exercise’ is an EIGHT letter word. I haven’t crunched the numbers but it stands to reason that using exceptionally (13 letters) long words in your manuscript has the potential of increasing your calorie burn by as much as 63%. (Oops, I promised we wouldn’t do any more math…) Yes, I know I said that typing has negligible aerobic benefits but the numbers don’t lie.

So, there you have it; easy, practical tips you can implement RIGHT NOW to deal with (or not) your First Draft 15™.

* Results may vary.

** First Draft 15™ is not a registered trademark but the ™ just looks more official and adds credibility. Kind of.

*** I don’t have a third postscript. Just wanted to thank you for reading until the very end. If you are my agent or editor and you are reading this, I apologize for the chocolate stains on my last revision.

Hélène Boudreau fully accepts the realities of the First Draft 15™ though struggles daily to strike a balance between her love of cheese and cheap chocolate and marathon walk training in order to avoid the Fifteenth Draft 50™. She is the author of the upcoming tween novel, REAL MERMAIDS DON’T WEAR TOE RINGS, Jabberwocky, December/ 2010. You can visit her at