Wednesday, April 29, 2009

It's Okay If It Stinks

Recently I had the opportunity to be part of a ten-person critique group with Tobias Wolff, who is well-known in the literary fiction world for his short stories, and probably best known to the young adult world for his memoir This Boy's Life, which I think I was encouraged to read about a thousand times when I was in high school. He's also the author of the novel Old School, a Catcher in the Rye-esque novel about a boy at an elite boarding school. I've still never read This Boy's Life but Old School was v. good, so I was pretty excited to have my work critiqued by him. (Not my YA novel, but one of my adult lit-fic short stories.)

I plan on sharing my thoughts about the actual workshop and critique process in a post on my personal blog, but I wanted to share here one piece of advice Wolff gave that I particularly took to heart. Another member of the group asked if he rewrote, or if he was generally happy with his first drafts. Wolff replied no--and even went as far as to explain that all of his first drafts were crap, awful writing. That it wasn't until he'd rewritten and rewritten and restarted and reworked about fifty times that he was left with anything he liked and that he thought seemed okay.

This was a heartening thing for me to hear, and imagine for many writers, as I have been trapped in the first chapter vortex for some months now. As soon as I think I'm on the brink of getting it right, it either all fall apart or I begin to hate it--and then it's time to start over. I thought I was just being wasteful and neurotic, but it turns out I'm not alone.

I think this constant rewriting process is hard for me because I used to be a one-and-done kind of person. I HATED rewriting. I never rewrote any of my academic papers (including my big, 30 and 40 page ones) in college or grad school. On the occasion that I DID rewrite something, it was generally a very quick process, in which I attended to the specific points that had been told to me by my professor, but left the overall concept and outline of the paper (or story) the same. In fact, when I rewrote a paper for a grad school professor, he gave it back to me and his comment was, "You haven't so much rewritten this as tinkered with it..." He nailed me--up until that point, I'd always be a tinkerer. A few sentences here, a reordering of paragraphs there, but never anything major.

So now here I am, having taking my main character from being 13 to 15 to on the brink of 17, from living on a farm to living in the city above her parent's shop to living in a boarding house. From having a dead grandfather to a dead brother to a dead father. Not to mention about a million other detail changes. It's hard, but I think it's good for me.

But what about you all? Are you tinkerers or full-on architects?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Quick and Entertaining Inspiration

You have no excuse for not coming up with your newest character or plot twist with these sites... - My newest discovery. Labeled based on area codes.
Rated: PG-13, R
* (847): I lost my shoes and bra and was beyond mapquesting - Every Sunday, like clockwork. I heart Frank. Sometimes the comments posted make them twice as meaningful.
Rated: PG, PG-13

-----Email Message-----
I see signs of a father who cares. - My favorites are Wednesday One-Liners and anything overheard from transit workers or bums. A great title adds so much.
Rated: G-R
*I'm Gonna Marry That Girl Someday
Four-year-old-boy: And there was a girl. And she had rainbow hair, and rainbow clothes, and a tattoo that was a rainbow, and rainbow socks.
Mother: What about her?
Four-year-old-boy: She picked her nose! - Beyond addictive. (Whether or not the stuff is true.)
Rated: PG, PG-13
*Today, I was taking a nap while my mom was at work. I woke up when she came home and didn't think anything of it so I went back to sleep. When I woke up again, I went downstairs and our 52" plasma screen TV, my xbox 360, and $1500 computer were all stolen. I'm guessing that wasn't my mom. FML

Post a comment with your favorite fun sites, or something especially awesome you found from one of these websites.

My Two Cents on Our Group.

This started out as a comment on Frankie's post and got way too long:
What I love about our group is that we don't feel like we have to cushion every criticism or suggestion with a compliment. That doesn't sound very mushy, but here's the reason -- we have such genuine admiration and respect for each other's work that we understand that the compliments come as naturally as the critique. Our group is so nurturing and supportive, not catty or competitive, that I never feel threatened by criticism. We are so excited by each other's work that it helps to hone our comments perfectly, because we share this common vision of our characters. This is not to say that we don't disagree with each other sometimes. We even occasionally give conflicting advice, but that's always fun.
Our characters are our babies, and I love when we're critiquing my chapter and one of the other girls says "Oh Maddy wouldn't say that" or "It would be so awesome if June _______" and it's absolutely perfect because they so get what I'm doing. (And I'm pretty sure that Frankie wants my character Paul to jump off the computer screen and be her boyfriend, but that's a different story.)
In conclusion, I heart my ladies!

It's Not "Karma" Sutra...

Last week, I discovered (to my supreme delight) that I am now searchable on Type in my name, and Magnetic Kama Sutra: A Naughty Sculpture Kit appears. Anyone who knew me from grade school or even high school would probably assume that my identity had been stolen, but yes, Donna Gambale wrote about Sex.

How did this all come about? Well, prior to getting my current job, I interned at Running Press in Philadelphia. It's a fun independent trade publisher that creates, among many other things, interactive book-related products. Mini kits are part of their repertoire, and when I left my internship, I offered to write any available ones. Lo and behold, last August, Magnetic Kama Sutra came into my life. (Thanks Jordana!)

I'm not someone who would normally feel comfortable writing about sex positions. Chalk it up to twelve years of Catholic school, but just thinking about writing it made me blush. And blush I did. But I approached it like it was half research paper, half acting exercise. For inspiration, I read a couple Kama Sutra books, Googled a few terms I never thought I'd Google, read a year's worth of Cosmo, flipped through a risque deck of cards, and then sat down to write.

At first I felt overwhelmed by the idea of choosing less than ten positions, but then I realized that pretty much every sex position ever created is a variation on just a handful of basics. (Kind of like the idea of the Seven Basic Plots for writing.) So I chose a variety (some I'd heard of, some I hadn't), and started writing. Coming up with names for them was my favorite. And because great sex is more than just a position, I included a "Location" and "Saucy Little Extra" per position to spice it up even more.

It took me awhile to get into the flow of writing. I giggled. I blushed some more. I procrastinated. But once I got started, I had so much fun. I was no longer Donna Gambale, high school valedictorian and self-proclaimed dork. (Don't ask me who I was, but I wasn't her.) When I read it now, I can barely believe I wrote it. It was one of the most freeing processes I've ever experienced because I pushed myself out of my comfort zone, and I succeeded.

Anyway, Magnetic Kama Sutra comes out December 7th, and it's available for pre-order here. If I have anything to say about it, this won't be the crowning achievement in my writing resume, but it sure is an interesting start!

*** PS - How could I forget to mention how much Frankie helped me with this?! From supplying me with some reading material, to a hysterical two-person critique session in an AU library study room (during which I got on the floor to physically demonstrate a position), to being instrumental in writing and perfecting the perfect opening sentence - you rock, miss!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Let Me Tell You How Awesome These Girls Are...

Thank you so much for my care package! At today's First Novel's Club critique meeting I was presented with a "We're sorry you had a car accident goodie bag" full of vegan desserts and my favorite smoothies! Awwww! I love you guys!

I thought we had a really nice meeting today too-I'm so excited about the progress we've made and where we all are in our stories. I'm also happy with the suggestions I got about how to add a little more atmosphere to Chapter One, so Yay! I think I know exactly what I need to do now to make it perfect, but I'm going to keep moving forward.

Missed you Janine!

Thanks for a great meeting and great goodies! Yum:-)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Critique Group Stuff

Hey Everyone,

Jill Corcoran a fellow YA Writer and Agent just put up an interesting post on her blog about critique groups and a had a few cool links to articles that you might want to check out here.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

When is the Best Time to Write?

Today's post comes from a recent posting over at my personal blog Frankie Writes, which also talks about writing but is a bit more rambling and sometimes includes other things, but not that often since writing is my life. But anyway I was woken up the other day at 2am by my characters who wanted me to write a scene for them.

So what happened at first was I thought I would be writing just a couple of sentences down, maybe a paragraph at most. But then the next thing I knew, I had written six pages out. Which was exhausting and miserable for me the next day, but wonderful over all for a few reasons!

1. I got some writing down! Yay! Always a plus!
2. I figured out the secret motivation behind a character whose motivation I was having trouble pinning down.
3. I think in a wierd way, even though I was half asleep I think I was writing better than usual because I was so tired I wasn't self editing myself and obsessing over every word I wrote-it just flowed out of me.
4. I think by being a bit more in tune with my sub conscious than usual all of these things were able to happen, loose flowing writing and learning secrets behind my characters as if I had delved into their own sub conscious.

And so now I kind of want to set my alarm for 2am every night and write something. Though I highly suspect that this was just a one time deal.

Anyway it made me think...when is the best time to write? I was thinking about for myself and I know that some writers have a very specific ritual of writing at this specific time for this specific allotment. That's not me! I write at all different times all different days. I'm not a morning or a night person, I'm a when the mood strikes person though I make a point to write everyday. The only thing I have is that I tend to write in chapters, like I will write a whole chapter in one sitting. I can't write half of one or more than one, but exactly one.

So what's your writing time look like? When? How long? Go on! Discuss!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Do you Outline, take this Writer to be your Lawfully Wedded Storyteller?

Or why an outline is like an Open Marriage for me. I was just rambling about the way I work with my outline over at my blog. (Ooooh check out my awesome new linking abilities-it's sexy!) And I stumbled upon this metaphor, and so I thought we could open up an outline discussion here, since I have a feeling this works very differently for everybody because there's no wrong way to eat a Reese's.

So here's how I roll. I tend to outline in terms of chapters. I like to know every major plot point, character development and clue/mystery solved or revealed in each chapter and I like to know my cliff hanger endings as well.

And then I sit down and with my outline just a click away on my laptop I begin to work. And usually for a short period of time this is all that happens. I write, I check my outline and we are one and the same. But there always comes a moment when my characters say "Hey! Look over here!" or "I don't want to do that yet!" or "It'd be so cool if I could just say this!" and I then I think, "Yeah! That would be awesome!" and being the nice parent-writer that I am, I let them do it. And nine times out of ten, my characters are right and it works and...then even though we took the scenic route, we find our way back to the outline.

So I decided that me and my outline are in an open marriage. We trust each other, we are loyal to each other, and believe in each other, but I tend to wander away a little bit. I stray, I experiment, I essentially cheat on my outline. But...then at the end of the day, my outline is the one I come home too. As much as I stray, I always come back and we are the better for it, because my little extra interludes and strays always seem to fit into my outline already and make it better.

Thus you have my outline is an open marriage metaphor. Now, how do you all outline? And who here chooses not to outline at all?

SCBWI Thoughts and Writing Chapter 10

I know it's a couple weeks after the fact, but hey, I've been busy getting this little blog off the ground! So here's my take on the SCBWI Poconos Conference that first started this blog.

This was the first event I'd attended solely dedicated to children's writing (a term which always makes me laugh, since I'm writing for sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds and they would probably throw a fit if they knew they were under the "children" umbrella).

My very first conference was the 2008 AWP Conference in NYC. It was enormous, overwhelming, and wonderful. I was in awe of the sheer number of people, and there were so many choices of panels to attend that I was able to center mine on YA and chick lit. At the time, I was writing my senior thesis on the questioning the literary merits of chick lit, and I had just completed the (first draft) of my opening YA chapters, so it was really interesting. My best memory of the conference, though, was hearing Frank McCourt speak. I adore Angela's Ashes, and McCourt is one of my idols in terms of his use of humor. Anyone who can find a quiet humor in a childhood filled with poverty, illness, and death is my kind of writer, and his presentation was in the same tone.

Another notable conference I attended was the 2008 Philadelphia Writer's Conference (PWC), which was unique and helpful because of its multiday workshop format. My short story won 2nd place in the Contemporary category, which floored lil old me. (Seriously, it was like I won a Newbury award or something. Someone liked me!)

But I entered a new world when I went to SCBWI. Though I'm not really bothered by the semi-stigma of being a "YA" author (honestly, it took me awhile to realize that we've been long considered second-class citizens of the writing world, along with anyone who writes "commercial" books), it was nice to be surrounded by people who believed in the value and quality of children's writing.

Meeting and chatting with Lara Zeises had to be the highlight of the conference for me. To be honest, I'd never read her books, though I'd heard of them, but just hearing her speak made me realize I would love her writing style. She provided such a refreshing, useful, and realistic portrayal of the writing world, and of course it was heartening to meet someone so young who had such success already. I'm halfway through Contents Under Pressure, and I think I found my favorite scene. Lucy has this huge crush on Tobin, and he drives her home, and they have this moment in the car as she's getting out --- they don't kiss or anything, but there's a tension-filled brushing of the hands, etc. So she goes in the house and flops herself face first on the first available cushioned surface, completely blown away. Talk about a scene that gave me a huge cheeser. I LOVED those moments when I was 14 (Lucy calls it a "crush buzz"), you're smiling so wide and you can't stop and you feel like you're about to explode with happiness and excitement so you shove your face in a pillow to keep from shrieking to the world about the silliest little thing. Anyway, I highly encourage you to check out her blog and her website .

I attended my first session with Molly O'Neill, assistant editor at HarperCollins. She gave a hands-on character boot camp workshop, which prompted us with numerous questions about a character we were to create from a photograph. I've filed away her handout for future use when a character of mine decides to stump me. (Something's telling me I'll be using it sooner rather than later.)

Sara Crowe is an agent at Harvey Klinger we met who led a fantastic query letter blurb session. She was gracious enough to critique all of our blurbs (and thought mine was effective and well-written --- yay me!), and gave some great practical advice on that topic and many others. Her website is and Sara's blog with her authors is . Our group also had the good fortune of having an extended Sunday brunch with Sara and G.P. Putnam's Sons associate editor Nicole Kasprzak, where we discussed a little bit of business and a lot about the rest of life.

Prior to brunch, I'd attended Nicole's session on the unreliable narrator. I don't know about you, but that technique always intimidated me. It doesn't apply to my current novel, since I'm writing in third person, but I'm planning on using it in a future work. Nicole's session clearly defined what an unreliable narrator was, outlined the different options authors have with using them, and included the all-important ways authors could incorporate the technique in their story. Mystery solved! (Thanks, Nicole!)

Now on to my novel. I've been happy with the slow-but-steady pace at which I've been moving since September. I'm now officially on chapter 10 (of an approximate 17), but lately I've been disappointed at my pace (it's been closer to slow than steady). I'd love to finish it by September, rounding out a full two years since the idea first sprung in my brain in the Writing for Children class. Realistically, I actually think I might be done by December, which is a full two years since I started really considering it a novel and not three chapters that I wanted to weave together. My trouble usually comes at beginning a chapter, especially if I'm not yet passionate about the plot movement in it. Oftentimes, I know what I want a chapter to accomplish, but I can't get into it until about page four. Once I hit that point, my momentum kicks in and I get excited. (It also helps if our group has a meeting that weekend and I go "Oh crap, I have four days to write twenty pages!") And since I'm only on page one of chapter 10, I suppose it's time to stop using this blog post as an excuse to procrastinate. Til next time!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Because Writers Have Notoriously Low Self-Esteem...

We figured it would be more fun if we introduced each other as authors instead of ourselves, so here's a brief introduction to our critique group!

Janine, by Frankie
Meet Janine Leaver, the secret force behind our group. It was actually Janine who had the idea of starting the critique group at the end of the Writing for Children class in which we all met. Janine's words are like poetry in motion, even her emails have a certain poetic charm to them. She is just as fiery and passionate about writing as her red hair. Janine, our token picture book writer, also teaches college level English, having completed her Masters in English at Arcadia University last May. Janine writes stories about small and quiet characters like a mouse named Penelope and a Japanese girl named Jitsuko who have bursts of passion and inspiration in their lives, which is kind what it's like to meet Janine, or read her work- quiet at first followed by an unexpected explosion of passion. To date, Janine's only weakness as a writer is her lack of confidence, which sometimes inhibits her to the point of not writing, but she is overcoming this obstacle.
P.S. Janine is one of two lovely brides-to-be come this June!

Frankie, by Sara
Meeting Frankie is like meeting a character out of one of your favorite novels--she's high-concept through and through! She's a vegan-belly dancer-preschool teacher-children's librarian, not to mention oldest of five. Frankie is also a YA fantasy writer. Her novel-in-progress centers around klutzy Lillianna Brandywine, youngest of seven sisters, whose family is different: on their sixteenth birthday, each girl wakes up with a magical power. Except for Lillianna, of course. Frankie is extremely prolific and willing to give anything a go at least once. Her passion for her work combined with her curiosity makes for writing that is interesting, surprising and powerful. Frankie's strength can also backfire and be her weakness at times, when her curiosity leads her stories down paths that don't end up working out. It's all about the process, though, and we're lucky to have her so we can learn from her occasional failures as well as her many, many successes.

Sara, by Donna
When I first read that Aranelle Serenson’s nose is constantly pink and raw from a habit of rubbing it with her palm, I felt that I'd met her before. But Aranelle was born in the imagination of Sara Thistle Kankowski, someone whose ability to craft detail makes her an extraordinary fantasy writer. She brings readers front and center into any scene. Aranelle is the feisty heroine in Sara's YA novel, and because every protagonist needs her antagonist, there’s also Rankin Fegstill, the creepy, manipulative bastard son of the baroness. Addictive characters like these are only part of Sara’s gift as she writes about independence, family loyalty, and political intrigue. Though Sara knows the overall arc of her novel, she has some difficulty with plotting, and she works on it constantly…despite the fact that she’s a first grade teacher, a swimmer, and will be wed this June. Aranelle’s story has just begun, and we can’t wait to see what happens next!

Donna, by Janine
Our first published member, Donna Gambale, whose Magnetic Kama Sutra hits the shelves December of this year, writes realistic YA fiction. Her current project, a novel entitled Multiple Choice, follows three friends, June, Maddy, and Nina, as they navigate their junior year of high school and hope that their sister-like friendship emerges intact from what turns out to be a tumultuous year. Throughout the novel, as the girls confront challenges ranging from trigonometry class, to divorce, to sex, the depth of their friendship is both demonstrated and tested.  Multiple Choice serves as a great example of Donna’s strengths as a YA writer. Donna’s writing is raw; she neither sugar-coats, nor deals gratuitously with the realities of teen life.  Her dialogue, her greatest strength, is witty and realistic. She captures the essence of her characters and propels their stories forward through dialogue. Conversely, narrative passages are Donna’s weakness, as these sections can be bogged down by minutia. Donna is, however, committed to the process, and she looks for ways to lighten the narration and intermingle it with her compelling dialogue. We’re fortunate to have Donna as a member of our critique group.  We can always count on her for an insightful critique point and for a timely encouraging word. 

Anything we haven't covered that you're dying to know about? Feel free to ask!

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Perfect Outfit

I thought I'd stop by and make a post here so we could get things rolling. I also have a personal writing blog, which can be found at Adventures in Writerland, that I always tell myself I'm going to post on a regular basis, but of course never do.

I have a formal introduction coming in a future post, but let me say this: I am one of those people who has to have the perfect outfit each day. It seems like some people wake up and know exactly what they want to wear, and others just pick the first top and first bottom off the pile, and it just works for them. That's not me at all. I think about while eating breakfast, while in the shower, and while I'm staring into my closet each morning, where inevitably nothing looks suitable. I'm one of those people who will put on the blue shirt, then change it to the purple shirt, then go for the indigo shirt instead. All of this means that I come across days where I simply run out of time to choose the perfect outfit, and instead have to go with the moderately-okay outfit. Moderately-okay outfits are the bane of my existence. They throw off my entire day. They make for the kind of days that make me go out and impulsively buy new clothes, because one off-day can make me feel like my entire wardrobe is inadequate.

You're probably thinking two things right now. First, I must be the worst packer ever when it comes to trips. This is absolutely true. Unless I've hit my stride and I'm able to envision a whole week of perfect outfits (nearly impossible to do), I end up packing half my wardrobe for a three-day trip. Secondly, I bet you're thinking, what on Earth does this have to do with writing?

The answer: a lot!

Frankie posted some very valuable information about the importance of having passion for your project a few days ago. Frankie and I are similar writers in that we're both YA fantasy writers, and we both began our projects for our Writing for Children class in fall 2007. The difference between Frankie and I is that while (in my eyes, at least :) she never seems to get frustrated by her story, I find myself almost constantly feeling like I'm veering off-course or losing momentum on my current draft. I often find this doubly frustrating because it's not that I've lost passion for my work--in fact, when I get stuck like this, my story is often all I can think about. For me, a suitable sentence or chapter or draft is like the perfect outfit. I want it--I need it--and I can't stop until I find it. A lot of times this means I spend hours and hours thinking about writing, but very little time actually putting words down. It also means I often throw out chapters and drafts before they're even finished, because I tell it's just not going to work for me. The whole process drives me crazy, but I keep at it because there's nothing more satisfying to me than finding the perfect outfit, or the perfect story arc.

This post isn't just a place for me to vent my frustration about my current work in progress. It's also to talk about a strategy I learned at the SCBWI Poconos conference from author/editor Lisa Graff in her First Chapters workshop that is aimed at helping the "perfect outfit" issue. Lisa's advice was very simple and straightforward--when she gets stuck, she changes the setting of her first chapter. She explained that, for her, changing the setting often changes the issues that come up in the first chapter, or the order in which the issues appear. This, in turn, helps her identify which issues are really meant to be in the first chapter, which need to be put at the forefront of the story, and which can come in a little later. It also helps her find a more organic way of introducing the issues--sometimes changing the setting can be the difference between telling the reader, "My characters is afraid of water" and showing the reader the problem.

While I was in the workshop, I thought to myself, "This is a good idea. I should figure out a way to apply this to my writing," but it took me a week to fully process how to use it. This is probably due to the fact that it took me all of last week to first perfect the opening three pages of my first chapter, and then promptly become disenchanted with it. Instead of floundering around for a new beginning for weeks, though, I've already managed to come up with something else, using Lisa Graff's wonderful suggestion. And I think this might be the perfect outfit for my WIP--I know I've said it before, but I think I have, with the endless patience and helpful brainstorming of the fellow bloggers on the First Novels Club, figured out my character's main motivation at the beginning of the story--her first and second chapter story arc--and can hopefully finally, FINALLY, leave the house and start the day.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Free Ebooks for Vampire and Fairy Lovers!

Hey Everyone,

I posted this over at Frankie Writes but thought I'd let you know over here as well.

Just wanted to let you know that thanks to Chelsea from the wonderful The Page Flipper Blog there are a bunch of wonderful books you can download online right now, for free!

First up for you vampire lovers is L.J Smith's The Vampire Diaries (you can download the first two books in the series) which is soon going to be a tv series on the CW.

Side Note* And this is so embarassing but I still have no idea how to make a link on here and so if you want to teach me and leave a comment below with instructions I will totally love you forever*

In light of my unlinky abilities here is the link for you to cut and paste into your web browser!

Next up, is Melissa Marr's Wicked Lovely.

I'm very excited about this-it was definitely on my list of to be read and now I can read it for free! Wow! Once again a cut and paste link:

And lost but not least is an e-book sample of 5 upcoming books from the Super Natural Summer Tour.

Included in the ebook are sample chapters from:
Fragile Eternity, Melissa Marr
Stargazer, Claudia Gray
Wings, Aprilynne Pike
The Awakening, Kelley Armstrong
Once Dead, Twice Shy, Kim Harrison

Cut and paste linky below!


Saturday, April 11, 2009

A Writerly Update and Musings

Well Hello new blog! I thought I'd stop in and say hello and write a little somethin-somethin. It's kind of intimidating to come in here and write on this fresh white blank space that I'm sharing with three awesome amazing writers! I'm used to being more random on my own blog.

But I thought I'd let everyone know that I'm currently writing chapter two of my latest draft and I'm having the best time with it. I'm really really excited about this draft and the direction it's going in. And I think that's important.

Writers have a tough line to walk and balance, one of hardwork and one of excitment. An agent at an SCBWI conference once said that if you are not excited about your work, then how can you expect us to be? But when you've been working and reworking and cutting and pasting and revising and editing and deleting and rewriting, sometimes some of that excitement drains. So its important to work hard, but also make sure you retain that fun excited feeling about writing the next sentence or finding out what's going to happen next in a scene (whether you know what's coming or not).

Sometimes when you lose passion for a project it's heartbreaking and it could mean that right now its the wrong project for you, or it could mean that you are approaching things from the wrong angle. I've fortunately been lucky enough to stay passionate about my current work, and I think a part of that is because I'm always willing to experiment and tackle my story from a fresh perspective. The heart of my story stays the same, the plot, the characters and most of the details but the telling changes and I think I've finally found my angle where the story I've been trying to tell is flowing naturally and the excitement over my story is flowing over.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

A Beautiful Day for an Accident

There was no crunch, no bang, no dramatic squealing of tires. Just a jarring bump, like we'd driven over a particularly vindictive pothole. We looked to our back right, and lo and behold there lay the remains of the shiny cherry-red bumper cover. Our critique group was on our way home from a fabulous weekend in the Poconos at the SCBWI-EPA conference when someone rear-ended us in Frankie's brand new car (I'm talking two weeks old here). Of course, the perpetrating vehicle hooked the back of the Camry at the perfect angle to pop the piece right off. The sky was blue, it was a balmy sixty-eight degrees, and the sun shone more brightly than it had in days. In short, it was a beautiful day for an accident.

How appropriate that we get to start this blog off with a bang...or a crash, if you excuse the terrible pun that I can't resist. The inspiration for said blog came to us as we toasted each other with cheap wine after Friday night at the conference, the first we'd ever attended as a group. We'd discovered that we were quite the anomaly at the event--the only group of twenty-somethings in attendance. Of course, there were a couple others our age, but we were an obvious minority. We know that we aren't the only people just out of college or grad school who aspire to write and be published, but for some reason we were all by our lonesome.

In September 2007, this was all new to us, and we were strangers to each other. We met in a combination grad/undergrad Writing for Children workshop course at Arcadia University, and we realized that our interests and critique styles worked so well together that we should continue after the class ended. Our group is our life support as writers. We push and encourage each other, inflate egos that would otherwise curl up in a corner and die, try to figure out the industry, and help each other navigate the curiosities and pitfalls of the first novel. We've entered the world of Serious Authors, if only serious in the way that we fully intend to complete our projects and get them published before we require anti-wrinkle creams.

When we met, we each had dreams of being able to call ourselves Writers, writers who finished what they started, whose work actually saw beyond the inside of the computer. I don't think any of us believed we'd go so far along that path. We've developed dramatically since then, and it's time to chronicle our story.

This blog, for all intents and purposes, is intended for aspiring writers at any stage of the game. We'll keep you updated on our writing progress; any conferences we attend; authors, editors, and agents we meet; books we're obsessed with (or "with which we're obsessed," for the grammatically-inclined); and anything else that strikes our fancy. Of course, if there are any questions you have or topics you'd like to see covered, just let us know, and we'd be happy to oblige!

"The scariest moment is always just before you start. After that, things can only get better." - Stephen King, On Writing
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