Monday, January 31, 2011

Must-read signing recap, plus epic 3-book giveaway!

Three fabulous debut YA authors (Lauren Oliver (Before I Fall), Anna Jarzab (All Unquiet Things), and Leila Sales (Mostly Good Girls)) + one bookstore (WORD, in Brooklyn) = signing of awesome!

On Friday, Frankie and I headed to NYC for the Lauren/Anna/Leila signing at WORD. We've been to a LOT of signings, but this was hands-down one of the most entertaining and informative ones! (They all work in the industry, so it was an awesome dual perspective.)

And we totally took epic notes for you guys, so you can see for yourself what we mean! (And pssst -- we have books to give away at the end!)

Q: Why YA?
LEILA SALES - I work in YA, and I mostly read YA because it's what interests me.
LAUREN OLIVER - I find it more liberating than adult novels, which are often about a "slowly deteriorating relationship."
ANNA JARZAB - (Laughs.) Or "the dark underbelly of suburban life."
LS - Or mortgages.
AJ - My master's thesis was All Unquiet Things. I didn't realize it was YA, and once I found out, I learned everything I could about YA and consumed it.
LO - I find YA to be a really dynamic part of the literary world.
LS - I always read and wrote YA.
LO and AJ - Both tried to write adult books.
LO - (Laughs.) My first book I wrote when I was 19, and it was about a man whose wife was dying of cancer, and he has an affair with a "lady of the night."

Anna, Leila, and Lauren
Q: Present company excluded, what book is the epitome of YA for you?
LO - I primarily read non-fiction, but I read both adult and YA fiction. YA has a tremendously enthralling narrative. Adult fiction is less compelling because there's not as much storytelling. For books, Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy and the Hunger Games trilogy stand out.
AJ - Harry Potter has everything you want in novels -- storytelling, depth of characters, whimsy. But discussing YA as a genre is too general; it's like talking about adult fiction as a genre. But now we're starting to put out enough YA that bookstores are separating the categories.
LS - Additional examples are the Princess Diaries series -- it's a great "what if?" idea. And Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You is a great coming-of-age.

Q: YA started growing about 10 years ago. The first readers are "grown up" now, and a new generation has started. How does it affect your writing that your audience is 14 and 24 years old?
LO - I don't think about audience when I write, really. If you write deeply in the character and the world, your book will be fine. And 24 and 14 aren't so different anymore! Also, moms of teens are reading YA.
AJ - Sometimes I think all YA is secretly about people in their 20s. They have the same emotions!
LS - At the heart of YA is the search for identity, and that's relevant all through people's lives today. It's a modern lifelong preoccupation, and it hadn't been before.

Q: (For Lauren) Were you like Sam in Before I Fall?
LO - I was similar in some ways, and different in other ways. I was an amalgamation of all four friends. Sam was lost without knowing she was lost, unhappy without knowing she was unhappy, and her journey was to connect back to her life.

Lauren and Frankie!
Q: How did your work in the publishing industry help your novel writing/publishing process?
LS - It helped me understand the road to publication better. As an assistant editor, I read slush, which helps me understand flaws and teaches me about my writing.
LO - The huge quantity of reading helps. Working in the industry can also facilitate getting an agent.
AJ - I worked at Penguin after my book deal. I work in marketing, which gives me perspective on what publishers value, will put money behind, and will promote. You learn how to behave as an author.
LO - How to behave as an author is critical. Learn how not to be an a-hole.
LS - Getting published and being an author is a profession, a career. You have to constantly learn and improve.
AJ - Working in publishing, you realize how little you know. It gives you a broader perspective.

Q: How many books of yours are at least half-written and will never see the light of day?
LS - Five.
AJ - Eight.
LO - Twelve. I worked three years rewriting an 800-page book that was so problematic and I could never fix. But then I wrote Before I Fall. Also, with unpublished or unfinished books, characters and scenes can reappear in later work.
LS - You have to glean something and enjoy the process for every book, because there are no guarantees.

Q: When you create an emotional connection to readers, do they come to expect a certain type of novel from you, or a certain brand?
AJ - It's still early in all of our careers to have really created a set expectation. You just need to write what's good.
LO - People can generate expectations, but hopefully they're that your work has quality and passion. And hopefully they're forgiving, because ever career author fails at some point.
AJ - However, you don't want to jeopardize or derail your career with something from left field, so you must give some consideration to those expectations.
LS - Voice is really what carries through everything and pulls together an author's body of work.

Q: (For Lauren) Is it difficult to switch between audiences in your work?
LO - The switch from writing MG to YA to MG? For me, it's like switching from contemporary to dystopian --- the labels are applied afterward. Characters speak to me, so I start writing. It sounds hippie-ish, but characters lead you to a story. If you're correctly inserted into a character, there's nothing to worry about. Tell your character's story.

Q: (For Leila and Anna) Leila, your book is single point-of-view and Anna, yours is dual POV. Have you tried writing the opposite?
LS - I tried multiple POV before -- it didn't go well. (Laughs.) They sounded the same. I want to learn to do it, though.
AJ - Dual POV is hard. I'm writing a single POV novel right now, and it's much easier.

Q: What are the worst author behaviors you can think of from working in publishing? Or advice from bad behaviors?
LS - Don't give in a final draft of historical fiction with zero research.
LO - Don't have a sense of entitlement. The people who work in publishing are not your servants.
AJ - Only bother people if you have something to say. Be respectful of their time.

Q: How, as a writer, do you get past the slush pile?
LS - There's no magic formula -- but generally, you always need a unique voice that rings true, and a story only you can tell.
LO - It has to ring true! You can tell if there's authenticity within three sentences.
AJ - It sounds funny, but I hate when fiction FEELS made up.
LS - You don't want it to be too expository. And this is all easier said than done.
LO - Get feedback from readers and learn when to take and when to ignore criticism.
AJ - Read a ton, make note of what you dislike and why.
LS - And also make note of what you do like and love. For me, I read everything Dave Barry ever wrote.
AJ - I started writing when I was eleven, because I read all the Babysitters Club books, and Mallory was writing a novel and SHE was eleven, so I was like, I can do this!
LS - Who didn't love Mallory?! She had seven brothers and sisters, and she rode horses!
LO - No, I wanted to be Stacy.
AJ - I was like Mallory, but I wanted to be Mary Anne -- she had a boyfriend!

Q: You've all mentioned reading reviews, good and bad. How do they shape your next book?
AJ - If you don't read reviews of your books, you're either superhuman or a liar.
LS - Reading reviews isn't like alcoholism or Russian roulette ... it's like checking emails from your ex-boyfriend.
AJ - And you can't change anything reviewers disliked -- too late!
LO - I used to read reviews more, but I don't really any more. Only occasionally. Same with any other criticism, you learn when to take it, and when not to. You should only pay attention to the ones that thoughtfully engage your work. But either way, don't glut on reviews, awesome or mean -- it can disable your ability to do your work.
AJ - Don't write back to reviewers! I'm argumentative by nature, so it's tempting, but never write back.
Anna, me, Leila, and Frankie

Q: What's your next project?
AJ - It's a contemporary novel currently called The Opposite of Hallelujah, about a 16-year-old with a sister who's 11 years older. Her sister's lived as a cloistered nun for 8 years, and she comes home under suspicious circumstances. It's about their relationship, primarily. [FNC comment: You had me at "cloistered nun." We love sister books!]
LS - My next book comes out in October. It's called Past Perfect, and it's about a girl who is a Colonial reenactor who falls in love with a Civil War reenactor, so they obviously can't be together because "they come from different times" --- except that they're from the same time. It's also about the girl getting over her ex and the stories we tell about the past. [FNC comment: This sounds so, so hilarious.]
LO - Delirium comes out February 1st! It's based on the idea that love is a disease. The second book in the trilogy is Pandemonium, and the third is Requiem. [FNC comment: Read more about Delirium HERE! Ahhhh we must devour it!!!)


Ok, wasn't that AWESOME? (For real guys, if you just skipped to the end to get to the giveaway, go back and read the recap!! * wags finger * You know who you are.) And the best part is, all three authors were all super sweet, gracious, and funny when we talked to them afterward.

And now.... giveaway time! So we're giving away one copy each of Before I Fall, Mostly Good Girls, and All Unquiet Things. And they were supposed to be signed, but the snowpocalypse in Philly prevented our book delivery from arriving in time (grrrr), so the authors very kindly signed bookmarks for you! So up for grabs is a shiny new book + signed bookmark -- times three!

Thursday, January 27, 2011


Hey Guys,

Just a quick shout out to everyone attending SCBWI NY this weekend! The lovely Sara will be in attendance at the conference so make sure you say hi to her if you see her!

And BEFORE the conference starts, Donna and I are heading to Brooklyn for a book signing with Lauren Oliver, Anna Jarzab and Leila Sales! SQUEEEEE!

After the book signing we'll all be getting drinks at KidLit Drink Night. Hope to see you guys at one or more of these events.

Let us know what you're going to. And have a great weekend!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Writers Digest Recap

So this past weekend as you know (which you should know if you've been keeping up with the blog--but in case you haven't--well now you do), I was at the Writers Digest 2011 Conference with Donna and Janine (3/4 of the First Novels Club) LIVE BLOGGING all weekend!

If you go to THIS LINK, it will take to you all of our recaps from the conference, which seriously, you should check out because there is some GOOD info there.

So since most of our weekend is actually recapped for you via the Writers Digest Blog...I figured I'd recap for you in pictures! Yay! We love pictures!

Janine and Donna SO happy in our hotel room!
A rare moment when Donna wasn't blogging, or hanging out with super agents

Besides writing and blogging, the FNC has a MAJOR love affair with boots!

Proof I'm staff! This got me access into every talk. But most importantly, it got me near all the electrical outlets. Live blogging uses a lot of laptop battery!
Le Bloggers!
Highlights (without pictures):

*Taking the subway by myself!
*Meeting Chuck Sambuchino!!!
*Japanese delivery to our room
*Listening to Super Agent, Donald Maass talk--he is AMAZING!
*Meeting Andrea Brown Agent, Mary Kole
*The Sheraton's WELCOME TO YOUR DAY Channel! Soothing music and pretty pictures 24/7
*Meeting new writer friends! (This is ALWAYS my fave!)

I hope everyone who attended had as much fun as we did! And I hope everyone who wasn't there gets a chance to check the recaps.

Next on the FNC Event Agenda: New York this Friday for a Book Signing with Lauren Oliver, Anna Jarzab, and Leila Sales, followed by Kid Lit Night with all the writers, agents and editors in town for SCBWI NY!

Monday, January 24, 2011

We give you.... lots and lots of KNOWLEDGE! (Courtesy of Writers Digest.)

Want a free master class on the craft of writing, the publishing industry, and technology and social media from some of the most knowledgeable people in the business?

(We're talking Janet Reid, Donald Maas, James Scott Bell, Chuck Sambuchino, Richard Curtis, and many more people whose names you might not recognize but are so, so brilliant!)

(Hint: The answer is YES. It's FREE!!! NOTHING is free anymore, but this is.)

"I am so smart! S-M-R-T!"

Check out the live blog post links below from the 2011 Writers Digest Conference for information on everything relevant to writers trying to break into the business. We've included the short summary info from the conference website to give you an even better idea of what you're about to learn, and if you click on the presenter's name you can read their bio!

Now go get yourself some learning!

The Future of Publishing: Don’t Give Up On Books (Richard Curtis)
Consider the following: Right now we are infatuated with screen-reading, and there’s a lot to be infatuated about. But the printed book remains the perfect reading device, and anyone who thinks books are over is in for a big surprise.
Though it’s too late to change the old business model there’s a new one, print on demand, that will eventually become the predominant way that books are distributed. Literary agent and book publisher Richard Curtis paints a picture of a near-future where no book is printed until a customer orders it.

Pitch Perfect(Chuck Sambuchino)
You’re at the Writer’s Digest Conference. How can you maximize the value of your time here? How can you get the most out of every contact you make – every agent, editor, and fellow writer in the room. Learn how to leverage your personal passion for the craft into a network of support, instruction and education that can help you attain your goals.

Branding Yourself (Dan Blank)
In this session, you’ll learn how to establish your “brand,” create engaging content and get it in front of your community – the three crucial steps necessary to make it as a writer.

Marketing Yourself in Digital Age (Guy LeCharles Gonzalez)
In this session, Guy will reveal the status is of “traditional” marketing provided by publishers (what do they really do for you, anyway?), why self-marketing is now a necessity for authors, and the most up-to-date tools available for actually doing it.

Your Publishing Options (Jane Friedman)
Should you pursue self-publishing, try to get the attention of a large publisher, or set your sights on a small press? In this session – back by popular demand – Jane Friedman, former Publisher and Editorial Director of Writer’s Digest, offers an objective look at all your publishing options.

Putting Fire in Your Fiction (Donald Maass)
In this session, you’ll learn not only how to infuse your story with deep conviction and fiery passion, but how to do it over and over again. You’ll learn how to think about the story you’re trying to tell, examine its heart and determine exactly what needs to be done to give it that “spark” that so many other works of fiction are missing.

Ask the Agents Panel (Janet Reid, Mary Kole, Jud Laghi, Donald Maass, Chuck Sambuchino (Moderator))
Moderated by Chuck Sambuchino, editor of Guide to Literary Agents, this Q and A with literary agents provides you with an opportunity to find out what agents really think of query letters, what they look for in sample chapters, and what they do—and don’t—like to hear during a live pitch.

Panel: Do It Yourself Publishing (and how to be successful at it) (Patricia V. Davis, David Carnoy, Moriah Jovan, Jane Friedman(Moderator), April Hamilton)
Panelists will discuss everything from self publishing with a service provider, POD options, instant publishing directly to the web and more. Every option will be explored with an additional focus on where DIY publishing might go next!

Building the Perfect Plot (James Scott Bell)
Plot is the engine that propels your story forward. In this session, you’ll get you a crash course in developing fast-moving plots and the story structures used to sustain them.

Keynote Address – How to Be an Author in a World Where Everyone Is a Writer (Richard Nash)
Editor, lecturer and award-winning publisher Richard Nash examines the new reality of publishing, its inherent challenges and its extraordinarily rich opportunities. You’ll come away from this session fired up, reenergized and prouder than ever to be a member of this rapidly growing, but no less passionate, community of artists.

10 Essential Things You Must Know to Craft an Effective Query (Janet Reid)
What does it take to hook someone in the first few seconds or lines and convince them that your work is worth pursuing? You’ll learn that secret here and much, much more.

Author 101 (Kevin Smokler)
* This was a late add to the conference sessions, and it covers the basics of being a successful professional author.

The Art of the Page Turner (Hallie Ephron)
In this session, you’ll learn the critical elements for crafting a tale that not only grabs readers and keeps them reading, but enables you to build an airtight mystery that delivers thrills, chills and a satisfying conclusion.

Three Hurdles to Publishing Success No One Tells You About (Phil Sexton)
Phil will detail what happens inside a publishing house, how your book gets sold, and how it gets positioned on the shelf. Knowledge is power. Knowing the business inside and out can help you succeed where your others may fail.

Panel: How to Use Social Media to Get Noticed and Sell Your Work (Dan Blank, Brent Sampson, Kate Rados, Moriah Jovan, Guy Gonzalez (Moderator))
There’s been a lot of talk about how investing in social media is necessary for writers who want to succeed. But what does it all mean? How do you facebook, tweet, blog and post effectively? And how much time – time that takes away from actually writing – should you spend doing it?

Writers and Mobile Apps: The Big Opportunity (Al Katkowsky)
Learn how to promote your book, or even turn it into an iPhone app, in this intriguing session that reveals the power of this tiny opportunity.

Showing and Telling (Laurie Alberts)
“Show, don’t tell!” How many times have you heard that old adage? It’s so common in writing courses and critiques that that it’s become cliché. But the truth is that the old adage is wrong.

The Writer’s Compass: Using Story Maps to Build Better Fiction(Nancy Ellen Dodd)
If you’re able to start a story well, but have trouble getting to the end, or avoiding a sagging mid-section, this is the session for you. Using a story map is one of many tools Dodd will provide to help you stay on track with a winning story that’s compelling through and through.

Revision: Learn How to Love It (James Scott Bell)
Don’t let the revision process intimidate you any longer. Discover how to successfully transform your first draft into a polished final draft readers won’t be able to forget. Award-winning novelist James Scott Bell shows you how, with revision tips geared to the first read-through, as well as targeted self-editing instruction focusing on the individual elements of a novel, like plot, structure, characters, theme, voice, style, setting and endings.

Successfully Promoting Your Book (Kevin Smokler, Brent Sampson, Kate Rados (Moderator))
One of the biggest challenges for authors is overcoming the marketing “noise” that bombards us from every direction. How, in all of that, can your book be noticed, much less paid attention to?

Creating a Backstory: How and Why It Can Make or Break Your Novel (Hallie Ephron)
As readers, we jump into a story at a fixed point in the life of a character. As writers, we can’t forget that this character has had a wealth of experience before this fixed point. A solid backstory fleshes out the humanity in a character on the page, makes the reader care and propels them forward. For this reason, the importance of a backstory cannot be emphasized enough—learn the how’s and why’s of backstory creation as an imperative writing tool.

Blogging as a Platform and Publicity Machine (Dan Blank)
Learn how to use online media to connect with other writers, readers and those who can help you to fulfill your goals in writing and publishing. In this session, you’ll discover not only the power of blogging, but the step-by-step process of creating a blog, developing its content, managing the process, and using it to market yourself and connect with others online.

The More Things Change… (Benjamin LeRoy)
Ben LeRoy, respected publisher and one of Publishers Weekly’s top “50 Under 40,” closes the Writer’s Digest Conference with an exciting session that reminds us no matter how much technology changes, no matter how readers get their books, and no matter what writers must do to get published, there’s one thing that never changes: a writers dedication to the craft.


What a lineup!

What was your favorite session? My favorites to attend were the craft sessions from James Scott Bell and Hallie Ephron -- but I learned some great tips from the blogging session too!

Stay tuned this week for some fun insider details on the rest of the conference weekend! (The awesome network-y stuff is coming!!!)

Saturday, January 22, 2011

What are you doing over here?!

This weekend, we're hanging out with the Writers Digest folks, recapping top-notch sessions on all the hottest topics in publishing from the super-swanky Writers Digest Conference in NYC!

For all the info, check out:

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Link of Awesome: The Writers Digest Conference Blog

We're cheating on our blog this weekend. Shhhhhhhhh --- don't tell!

Midday Friday through Sunday we'll be live-blogging up a storm over at the official 2011 Writers Digest Conference blog!

Add it to your bookmarks or favorites or whatnot -- just keep checking it out all weekend for the inside scoop on one of the most fabulous writing conferences around!

The Link of Awesome:

Tasty preview info: the schedule of session topics we'll be live-blogging
(Doesn't it look AWESOME? It covers every need-to-know topic out there! Not to mention the agent-palooza! And it's relevant to writers of every genre!)

And check in here every once in awhile, because if we're feeling REALLY ambitious, we might make a cameo or two!

See you there!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Leila Sales Will Rock Your Socks

Do you remember when I read and fell in love with this totally awesome and hilarious book?  Mostly Good Girls was by far one of my top 10 reads last year.

And it turns out the only thing more awesome than this book is its creator, Leila Sales. We were super lucky to have Leila answer a couple of questions for us.

If you were not a Leila fan already, you will be by the end of this post!

1. I loved the way Mostly Good Girls was told in a vignette style. Was this the way you planned to write it from the start, or something that developed as you plotted/dreamed/brainstormed/wrote?

I always intended for the book to be a series of linked vignettes. I love to write humor columns—400 to 800-word pieces that cut right to the chase and never let you go more than a few lines without laughing. That’s a form that comes more naturally to me than traditional novel writing. So I wanted to do an entire novel that was basically a collection of humor pieces. I started out with chapters like “Genevieve is anorexic,” “Genevieve is not anorexic,” and “Like an amusement park, only with wild animals.” The chapters that actually develop the plot came in later.

2. You have no idea how happy it makes me to know the Genevieve chapters came first! They're some of my favorites. So how long did it take you to write Mostly Good Girls? Plot? Revise? Edit?

Two years, on and off. I started in the summer of 2007 and my agent submitted it to publishers in summer 2009. But my second book, PAST PERFECT, I started in May 2010, and it went into copyediting last week. So apparently I can make it from idea to book in way less than two years, if I have to!

3. Wow! This gives me hope. Were you more of a Violet or a Katie in high school?

I was a bit of both, but more like Violet than like Katie (which is probably why Violet got to be the narrator, even though Katie has her own interesting story). Violet is more of a worrier than Katie is, and I was a huge worrier. Katie’s all like, “Wooo, let’s make out with this guy and see what happens!” whereas Violet will think through every possible thing that could happen as a result of making out with this guy, and then ultimately decide that it’s not worth the risk.

4. If you were to give Violet a theme song, what would it be?

I don’t know! What comes to me off-hand is “I Want the One I Can’t Have,” by the Smiths, but don’t hold me to that. If I could give Violet a theme poem, it would be the A. A. Milne poem that opens the book. (So I guess that means I already did give Violet a theme poem…)

5. Ah, good answer. Well if you had your own theme song playing every time you walked into a room, what song would you choose?

“Yes,” by LMFAO. This song would get me psyched to walk into every room, every time. My editor texted me a couple months ago, after I had introduced her to “Yes,” and she said, quote, “This LMFAO song is maybe the best thing to have happened to me in 2010.” So you can see it’s not just my opinion.

6. This is epic, you guys need to see this video. So Mostly Good Girls had me laughing out loud on practically every page. How did you learn to write so hilariously?

I read a LOT of great humor writing. I own at least a dozen Dave Barry books, and I’ve read them so many times I can rattle them off by heart. I probably know some of his pieces better than he does, which is creepy. I’ve also read a lot of Meg Cabot, a lot of Anne Spencer Lindbergh… If you read something enough times, it eventually becomes a part of how you think and how you talk, even if you’re not consciously trying to emulate it.

And I've practiced a lot. I did some humor writing in high school that was about as well-received as Katie and Violet’s story for their school’s lit mag. I had a humor column in my college’s newspaper. And I was in an improv and sketch comedy troupe, Off-Off Campus, which meant 15 hours of being funny every week. I’m not exaggerating. It was basically a part-time unpaid job.

Once I had a full draft of MOSTLY GOOD GIRLS, I gave it to friends and asked them to highlight every line that made them laugh. If there was a single page without a highlighted line on it, I rewrote it to make it funnier.

7. Oooh that's interesting. What's your biggest tip for humor writing?

HAVE INTENSE EMOTIONAL REACTIONS TO STUFF. Seriously. That’s it. The more intense your reaction is to the more mundane of a thing, the funnier it is. My first humor column was about how I absolutely loathe the Olsen twins. People still mention this article to me, even though I wrote it years ago, because, like, what? Who would care that much about the Olsen twins? I also sometimes go off on how I intensely love Degrassi: The Next Generation. Recently I’ve been ranting against this goddamn soup shop in my neighborhood that has a sign outside advertising “HOMEMADE SOUPS.” I am enraged. Either the soups are made in someone’s home and then carefully transported over to the store for sale, or there is someone living in this soup store, like laying a yoga mat on the floor every night and sleeping on it. Whichever it is, I can’t imagine it is FDA-approved. Or, alternatively, they are LYING to me and their soups are, in fact, NOT HOMEMADE. Do not LIE to me, soup store.
      Anyway, yeah. Intense emotions. This is why cool people are usually not funny. They are too busy being chill and apathetic and unimpressed, and that is the opposite of humor.

8. HA! What can you tell us about your next writing project? Because I am SERIOUSLY excited for it!

Thanks! It’s called PAST PERFECT, and it’s coming out this fall (I think October?). It’s about a girl who is a Colonial reenactor, and she falls in love with a guy who is a Civil War reenactor, only they can’t be together, because they “come from different times.” Except actually they come from the same time, i.e. now. Also she’s trying to get over her ex-boyfriend, who broke her heart, so it’s an exploration of memory and the stories we tell about the past. But, you know, it’s a funny exploration.

9. My need to read PAST PERECT now is overwhelming. You had me at "come from different times." Were any events from Mostly Good Girls taken straight out of your life? (We won't tell anyone which ones) ;)

A lot of events in the book were inspired by my real life, but usually they take different turns in the book than they did in life. For example, my friends and I totally explored the boiler room and back staircases in our school. But it didn’t occur to us to try to make money off that. An all-male a cappella group really did once visit our school, and it really was insanely exciting. Mostly what I drew from my real life is the banter between Violet and Katie, which is the sort of conversation that my best friend and I have.

10. And now for the most important question of all. If we met in real life, at like, say a book signing, would you take me on a Harry Potter Tour? Please?

I will take you on a Harry Potter tour of ANYWHERE. If we met in real life, at like, say, the book signing I’m doing at WORD bookstore in Brooklyn on January 28th (to choose an example at random), I would absolutely give you a Harry Potter tour of that bookstore. I would say things like, “You can’t disapparate in the Self Help section,” and, “This bookshelf is where a horcrux is hidden.” I would say this even if the bookstore in question didn’t have a Self Help section.

Oh I cannot wait to take this tour with you, Leila! We'll so be a this book signing! Thank you so much for stopping by today. You Rock! 

And we hope you all enjoyed this interview. If you think of another question for Leila, post below and we'll ask it at her signing, if we're not too busy taking a Harry Potter Tour;)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Agent Interview! Katie Kotchman of Don Congdon Associates

Check out the GLA blog for my interview with literary agent Katie Kotchman!

Find out the top cliches she finds in queries, a common mistake writers make when pitching agents in person, the industry websites she recommends that her prospective clients read, and more!

(Keep an eye out for more GLA interviews by yours truly in the coming weeks!)

Previous agent interviews of mine on the GLA blog:
Elana Roth 
Andrea Somberg 
William Clark 
Laura Blake Peterson

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Droolworthy bookshelves!

I wrote about my wall-sized bookcase. Sara wrote about her built-in bookshelves of awesome. And now ... the mother lode of bookshelves. It puts us all to shame.

For your weekend drooling, I give you BOOKSHELF PORN.

It's a photo blog with bookshelves that are so, so pretty. You'll want to pet them, they're so pretty.

Bookaholics, celebrate!

Check out the blog, then leave a link to your favorite in the comments!
* PS - Can't wait to see what kind of comment spam we get with the word "porn" in one of our posts. :-P

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Plans! Plans! Plans!

The FNC is all busy getting ready to head to NYC two weekends in a row! We've been a little quieter on the blog lately, but you can count on getting some sweet recaps very very very soon!*

Where are we headed?

January 21-23rd: 
Frankie, Janine, and I will be the official live bloggers of the Writers Digest Conference!
This incredible event features a ginormous Pitch Slam where attendees have two full hours to pitch over 50 agents in 3-minute sessions (!!!! my palms are sweating already) AND the schedule is chock full of sessions covering writing, revising, querying, and promoting your work; becoming a successful author; social media and the digital age; and everything else you need to know about being awesome.

-- Here's the website for more details: It's not too late to register!

January 28th:
FIRST, we're heading to WORD bookstore in Brooklyn to see...
Leila Sales (Mostly Good Girls), Lauren Oliver (Before I Fall), and Anna Jarzab (All Unquiet Things)!!!
LOVE all these books, and we're so excited to meet the authors, check out an indie bookstore, and hang out with Lenore(!) and other bloggers-of-awesome.
-- Event link:

And then AFTERWARD, we'll be attending KidLit drink night for some cocktails!
-- Event info: 

And that WEEKEND, Sara will be attending the SCBWI Winter Conference!
-- Conference info:

And then on 1/23, we're co-hosting our very own LIT NIGHT IN PHILLY!
More details to come, of course!

Frankie's headed to a Maggie Stiefvater-hosted Super Amazing Writer Retreat of Awesome!
Check out her blog for the droolworthy details of how you can ask 23 YA writers anything you want!
-- More info: Maggie's blog post

WHEW! We'll be sure to post more about these events as they near, but in the meantime we're JUST SO EXCITED!

Anyone else headed to NYC in January?

*And of course, we'll be writing some regular old posts in the meantime! hehe

Monday, January 10, 2011

The secret way you're telling, not showing.

Do your characters blink so much during dramatic scenes that it might be easier to add in a subplot about chronic dry eye than rewrite the whole darn thing?*

Do they clench their jaws enough to give themselves migraines?

Do they swallow, grin, bite their lip, blush, or furrow their eyebrows excessively?

Do they express every emotion via breath?**

TV and movie lovers, beware!

(Ok, all other fiction writers can beware too, but especially you TV/movie folk.)

(Literal example of blinking overload.)

If your favorite dramatic scenes influence you too heavily on paper, you might write yourself into a common problem: over-describing facial reactions.

In many early drafts, I find myself weaving in way too many details during intense conversations. I picture the scene perfectly in my mind and want to transcribe it on paper so that readers would see what I see.

Here's the problem: I find myself transcribing it exactly. Every minor facial expression included.

But we're supposed to show, not tell, right? And when you watch these intense scenes on TV or in movies, the camera's all zoomed up in our heroine and hero's faces, so all the non-spoken stuff is communicated through those little movements.

(Like this made of awesome scene from the end of Ever After.)

In novels, though, "showing" all those little movements ends up slowing down the scene and making it all clunky and boring. You lose that intensity, that meaningfulness you're trying to convey. And you start "telling."

True "showing" is its own art form. It's all about giving your reader just enough vivid dialogue, exposition, and action to paint a picture --- but not a complete picture.

It's like this Degas painting:
Up close, the tutus aren't detailed at all, but the brushstrokes give such a perfect suggestion of the material that you can practically feel the texture.

(Witness the cultured example! My high school art teacher would be so proud.)

One of the most brilliant parts of reading novels is filling in the blanks yourself, connecting to it on a personal level. I don't need to be told every time a character bites her lip or rolls her eyes, because I should know her well enough that I could imagine it on my own. (Just like I shouldn't need to be told the tone of every line of dialogue.)

In conclusion? Beware of this sneaky little version of telling, not showing. Everything in moderation and all that good stuff. :) For me, most of this lesson was about trusting in my writing -- that it was strong enough to paint a picture for readers and evoke their emotions without resorting to over-description. Believe in what you can do!

Comment time! Anyone else guilty of noting every blink and breath? Any I forgot? Anyone suddenly in the mood to watch Ever After?

* Actually, eyes perform all sorts of acrobatics beyond blinking.
** The comment this refers to was from a Nathan Bransford post on general writerly tics -- overused phrases, verbs, punctuation, etc. It's semi-related to this, but definitely worthwhile to check out simply for editing purposes, and for a good chuckle on how all writers seem to have their characters turning everywhere and looking at everything. And we use "well" and "just" all the time!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

What Does Your Bookshelf Look Like?

Over the winter holiday, I drank hot chocolate and celebrated Christmas and had a chance to see a bunch of different friends and family.

I also moved.  The husband and I bought our first house back in October, and settlement was just before Christmas.  Thankfully, it wasn't quite as stressful as when Donna moved because I wasn't also planning a wedding or ripping down wallpaper.  But I am currently living out of boxes and everything takes twice as long to do because first we have to find where we packed things before we can do anything.

BUT.  I'ts going to be totally worth it in the end, because I am the proud owner of a mega-awesome office.

This is only half the room.  Two of the walls have floor-to-ceiling built in bookshelves, PLUS we still have the six bookcases from our old place, which means I'll finally have room for all my books!

And oh yeah, that door?  It leads to this:

My second floor deck!

It might be covered in snow now, but come the springtime it'll be adorned with planters and adirondack chairs!

The only problem is first I have to finish doing this:

It's my own fault, really.  In my head, yellow bookcases with light blue backing and dark blue trim sounded awesome.  And they are.  When they're finished.  Which will happen.  Eventually.

In the meantime, as I started to put away some books in our old bookcases, I realized something.  I need a system.  I need to figure out a way to put the books away that makes sense.

I've decided to do it by category.  Here's what I have so far:

Graphic Novels (mine)
Graphic Novels (husband's)
Literary Adult Novel
Adult Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Adult Historical Fiction
YA Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Paranormal
YA Contemporary
Reference/Writing Books

But I feel like I might be missing something.  So, I turn to all of you: what other categories should I have?  Or should I go a completely different way?  I have two friends who organize their bookshelves by color.  How do YOU all organize yours?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Book binge LOVE! An Abundance of Katherines

Just want to send a little shoutout to everyone who voted that the next book I read in my year-end book binge was AN ABUNDANCE OF KATHERINES by the ever-so-awesome John Green.

It was one of those books that I'd owned for over a year but hadn't read. Heck, my mom had read my copy. One of my bridesmaids had read it. But for whatever reason, it kept getting bumped.... til you guys.

You have darn good taste.

Suffice to say that, as the only John Green novel I hadn't read, it didn't disappoint. Like many YA writers -- and especially contemporary YA writers -- I'm ridiculously in awe of John Green.

All of his novels are so funny, and the characters just jump off the page. I read them with a smile on my face -- though he's made me cry a couple times, but thankfully not in KATHERINES, which had the lightest tone of all his books. Anyway, they're wonderful.

So if any of you out there HAVEN'T picked up a John Green novel
Looking for Alaska
An Abundance of Katherines
Paper Towns
Will Grayson, Will Grayson (with the superb David Levithan)
do yourself a favor, and bump one (or all of them) to the top of your TBR.

Thank me later.

John Green fans: What's your favorite JG novel? I'm torn between Katherines and Alaska. And Paper Towns. And WGWG. Crap. It's like choosing your favorite child. I can't do this!

And end-of-year book binge recommenders: 2011 is over, but never fear! I'm completing my binge list, one book at a time. I'll keep you updated!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The 2nd Annual No-Kiss Blogfest: My favorite "almost" moment!

For Frankie's 2nd Annual No-Kiss Blogfest, I skimmed my bookshelf and knew EXACTLY which scene I wanted to post that epitomizes the rising, crushing, excruciating, longing tension that comes from when two characters get oh-so-close to kissing that you can just feel it ... and then ... they don't!

As a teen, I LOVED the 10-book Roswell High series by Melinda Metz (which inspired the TV show Roswell). I still re-read it once a year! My favorite romance in the series was between Maria (a human) and Michael (an alien who looks human and lives like any normal teen).

The post-TV-show cover from Pocket Books.
So Michael sees Maria as a cute, innocent friend, and has NO IDEA that Maria's madly in love with him. Silly, oblivious boy. But then in the third book, The Seeker, he starts realizing that maybe he's seeing her as something more.

In this scene, Maria's helping Michael show his younger foster brother, Dylan, what to expect at his first school dance. Poor guy has no idea what he's getting into --- and neither does Michael. :)

"You'll be fine," Michael told Dylan.

"But what about, you know, slow dancing?" Dylan asked.

"Even easier," Michael answered. "You don't even really have to shuffle your feet. You kind of just hold the girl and sway."

"But"--Dylan lowered his voice, sounding embarrassed--"but where ... where are you supposed to hold her?"

Maria changed CDs and a slow song started up. [...] She stepped up to Michael. "You can use me to demonstrate."

He didn't want to touch her now. Not with all those thoughts about her wet shirt filling his brain. But he couldn't think of a way out of it.

"There are a couple places your hands can go. I usually put mine here," Michael told Dylan. He positioned his hands in the curve of Maria's waist.

"A good choice," Maria said. "The girl might do something like this." She linked her hands behind Michael's neck.

This felt ... pretty nice. It didn't feel all wrong and awkward the way he thought it would.

"Is that how far away I should be?" Dylan asked. Any second Michael expected him to pull out some paper and start taking notes.

"Probably to start," Maria said. "But there are signals that a girl wouldn't mind being held  a little closer. Like she might stare into your eyes."

Maria looked up at Michael. Man, her eyes were blue. And she always smelled so good.


"Or she might move her arms around your waist." Maria demonstrated on Michael, and it continued to feel good. He kept waiting for the wave of but-this-is-the-girl-who's-like-my-little-sister feeling to sweep over him. But it didn't come.

The original cover from Archway Books.
Yikes 90s book design!
"That's a pretty clear signal that she wants to be held closer," Maria said. "Of course, some guys, like Michael, are kind of slow. They miss the more subtle hints."

"I'm not missing any hints," Michael answered. He pulled her up against him and slid one of his hands up her back. She snuggled closer, resting her cheek against his chest. That little-sister feeling still didn't come.

"So that's it?" Dylan asked.

"That's it," Michael answered. He started to pull away, but Maria tightened her arms around him.

"There is the kissing thing," Maria said. She lifted her head and stared up at Michael again.

"The kissing thing?" Dylan repeated in horror.

"Yeah, sometimes during a slow dance people kiss," Maria said.

Michael's eyes drifted down to her lips. The color of them reminded him of raspberries. He wondered how they would taste.

But kissing was a whole different deal than dancing. Dancing was kind of borderline. You could be friends and dance together. But if you started kissing, you crossed the border from being friends into ... something else.

"I think you've learned enough for one night," Michael told Dylan.

Ok, all together now: OMG KISS HER!!!!!!!!


Hope you guys loved that one as much as I do. And if you're interested in something original, here's a LINK to my No-Kiss entry from last year, which was inspired by midnight kisses (or almost kisses) on New Year's Eve!

Now head on over to Frankie Writes for the full list of other No-Kiss participants, and get your no-kiss on!
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