Monday, October 31, 2011

Perfect Writing Day

I’m sitting in the park under a shady tree. Or maybe at a corner table in a cozy café. It’s seventy degrees and sunny. I’ve got accessories: a stack of research books, my computer, an arsenal of pens and pencils, and a sketchbook. I’ve got snacks: something salty and something sweet (preferably of the dark chocolate variety). And coffee. Lots of it.
But most importantly, I’ve got time. I’ve set aside the whole day to write with no distractions, external or self-imposed. No siren songs of day job duties, homework help, or unrelenting laundry. I’ve claimed my time by claiming a place, somewhere away from everything else that vies for my attention. Somewhere I can go on a date with my characters – however eccentric – and not have to worry about what other people think.
Maybe I’ve joined forces with one or two like-minded comrades, engaging in that parallel play that is so rare outside the academic setting. We sit hunched over our laptops, not speaking, but united in a common purpose, buoyed by a cumulative energy and motivated by the happy clicking of keys and the promise of an after-work brainstorming and gab session.
I spend some time revising first, to get reacquainted with my characters and transition from the real world to the world inside my head. Then I move on to new material. The next thing I know, I’m totally lost in my story and look up to find the day is half gone. The work doesn’t have to be easy. While it’s nice to feel like I’m cutting through the pages with no drag, it’s equally satisfying to struggle, if I earn some small victory. Treading water with a fifty-pound plot on my shoulder makes my writing legs stronger.
I seldom have the perfect writing day. More often, I work around the demands of my daily schedule. Usually this means writing in the evening after the kids are in bed and other work is done. But when I can swing it, it’s especially sweet, and I try not to waste a single minute.
Here’s what some friends had to say about the perfect writing day:
Kate Dopirak: “I love when I'm writing and something clicks or fits or flows and surprises me. That thrill usually happens when I'm revising and it gives me that same 'I-did-it' high that I experience from Zumba. Of course getting that 'We love your manuscript' phone call is pretty perfect, too!”

Courtney Stevens Potter: “Not only do I write quickly, but I write with assurance that the characters are in control instead of me. At the same time, I try not to measure success by word count, but instead by the overall direction of the novel and the scenes in my head coming to life on the page.”

Kristin Tubb: "For me, a perfect writing day is a tiny brass key that unlocks an heirloom jewelry box. It opens with a click! to all sorts of lovely gems."

Tammi Sauer: "My perfect writing day takes place once the first draft is down and it's time for me to fix that thing up. It also involves frozen Milky Ways. And, should Tim Gunn want to stop by and tell me to "Make it work," well, that'd be a bonus."

Janee Trasler: "My perfect writing day is the day when the solution to a problem I’ve been struggling with just suddenly pops into my head. This generally happens when I’m doing something as far removed from writing as possible, and usually, when I can’t stop to write it down."

Jessica Young is represented by Kelly Sonnack at Andrea Brown Literary Agency. While she is currently a word gatherer, child-herder, and art teacher, she has also been a: tree planter, art therapist, museum outreach coordinator, lifeguard, homeless shelter art and music group leader, flower factory bouquet arranger, wilderness program canoe trip guide, and (absolutely terrible) waitress.
She can be found on her website and Twitter and hanging out at outdoor cafés. Her picture book, MY BLUE IS HAPPY, will be published in the spring of 2013 by Candlewick Press.

Friday, October 28, 2011

How Writing is Gothic

I teach tenth grade American Literature and one of my favorite units each year is gothic literature, which I always plan right around Halloween (surprise, surprise!). My students read old and contemporary stories, watch a gothic movie and then try to write a piece of their own. The last day of the unit (usually Halloween) is when I put on a dvd of a fire, pull down the projection screen I have in my room and pass around s’more Pop-Tarts. They share stories around the “camp fire” and it’s full of all kinds of Halloween fun.

This year when I introduced the unit to my students, I noticed that the traits of gothic literature seemed really familiar to me. We listened to Wes Craven talk about why people like scary movies and I found myself nodding along with his words.

But I wasn’t agreeing with him because I understood his view on horror movies, I was nodding because I could relate his view and the traits of gothic literature to writing a novel.

Yep, writing a novel is just like gothic literature.

No, seriously.

You want to know how?

Wes Craven says that people love scary movies because they explore what might happen when we face our fears. Scary movies show the result of opening the wrong door or going down into the basement to investigate a strange sound. The movies look at the “what ifs” and follow them all the way through to get an answer to that question.

Isn’t that what writing is? We create our own “what ifs” and follow them through. We explore all the options whether good or bad and follow our characters wherever they take us.

That makes sense, right? Well, what about the other traits of gothic literature?

Here are a few that I think relate to writing.

If editing was a crime, I’d be doing jail time for the rest of my life. I’ve murdered hundreds of sentences, paragraphs and sometimes even characters when I’m working on revisions. You could even call me a serial killer of words.

Decay: I have plenty of old stories that sit on my computer and start to decay as I ignore them. They are in various stages of decay; some I may open regularly and just not do anything with, some of them have just been long abandoned.

Psychological Torture: Who doesn’t labor over a scene or try to figure out how to make an idea work? I am constantly trying to work through my stories and they are always messing with my head. And let’s not forget the psychological torture of my favorite writing argument, “Should I change out of my pajamas and grocery shop, or should I keep writing and live off of a bag of chocolate chips and canned soup?

Darkness/Night: This might not be true for all of you, but I’m a total night owl. I write late into the dark when the word is quiet and midnight has long passed. That’s the best time for new ideas to haunt you.

An Ancient Prophecy: I once got a fortune cookie that said, “You will be successful in what you love.” You can’t ignore a fortune cookie, right? Especially when it comes from one of those good places in the mall that pass out the free samples on a toothpick!

Women in Distress: This often happens during revising. The best way to “save” the woman is distress is to give her large amounts of coffee, gummy candy and microwave popcorn.

Woman Threatened by a Powerful, Influential or Tyrannical Man: Well, my husband tries to be threatening when I’m in a writing trance and I may hole up in the office, stay in my pajamas all day and don’t take a shower for more than 24 hours (okay, I guess that gives him the right to be threatening, I wouldn’t want to live with a scrub like me then either).

High, even Overwrought Emotion: Uhm….if you’ve ever been around me when I’m revising, querying or on submission, you’d say I was the poster child for high, overwrought emotion!

There you have it…the link between gothic literature and writing. Hope you have a great Halloween full of gothic and frightful things!

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Rachele Alpine is surrounded by words! She's a high school English teacher by day (10th grader American Literature), MFA fiction student by night and tries to find whatever free time she can in between to write, write, write.

She's represented by John Rudolph from Dystel and Goderich and her young adult comtemporary novel CANARY will be published in the summer of 2013 by Medallion Press.

She blogs at, or you can find her on Facebook and Goodreads.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The End of the World as I Know It

This week the Lucky 13s are discussing our favorite frightening things, a topic near and dear to my heart. My pop culture upbringing is deeply rooted in horror. I love, love, love scary comics (the old EC books like Tales from the Crypt, and The Vault of Horror), movies (John Carpenter's The Thing is a staple in my home), and, of course, books.

I have a long list of favorites, and Stephen King has a solid 3 entries in my top 10, but one book has reigned supreme in the top spot ever since I was a teen. Nightworld* by F. Paul Wilson is the story of an apocalypse so unique and horrifying it makes the Super Flu in The Stand look like a daycare Chicken Pox outbreak. It makes the nuclear war in Swan Song look like a pack of illegal fireworks misfiring. It makes the vampire domination in The Passage look like Count Chocula beating down Cap'n Crunch on the cereal aisle in Wal-Mart. Can you tell how much of an impression this book made on me (and how much I like hyperbole)?

For those who aren't familiar with Wilson's work, you don't know what you're missing. Don't worry, though, I'm about to tell you. Nightworld is the conclusion of Wilson's "Secret History of the World" saga, a culmination of work stretching over dozens of books, short stories, and other media. The heroes from all the previous SHotW tales come together to, well, helplessly watch the end like the rest of us. The ever-present villain of the saga (whose name I won't speak, let alone type, for fear that he'll know) has reached the height of his power. He can't be stopped, and all the good guys--led by an aging immortal named Glaeken and his sidekick, Repairman Jack (aka the Greatest Action Hero in Contemporary Fiction aka More Hyperbole)--can do is plan a final stand just to let the monster know humanity goes down swinging. A futile effort really, but there's time to kill as the sun rises later and sets earlier each day, giving gruesome nightmare creatures more time to play (and feed) in the dark. 

To tell you more would spoil the fun, and I don't know if I can honestly recommend that you read Nightworld if you haven't read any of the preceding novels. The Keep, a horror novel set during World War II, is more of a proper start to what I promise is a spectacularly epic ride. You can fill a whole bookshelf with nothing but Wilson's work and once you start, you'll be racing to the end...of everything.

*NOTE: This post references the original version of Nightworld. An updated version will be released early next year. And yes, I will be buying it.

Lamar "L. R." Giles writes for adults and teens. Penning everything from epic fantasy to noir thrillers, he's never met a genre he didn't like. His debut YA mystery WHISPERTOWN is about a teen in witness protection who investigates his best friend's murder and stumbles on a dark conspiracy that leads back to his own father. It will be published in Summer, 2013 by HarperCollins. He resides in Virginia with his wife and is represented by Jamie Weiss Chilton of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. Find out more on his website, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Too Scary for Me...Unless

My sister adores horror movies. So does one of my sons. And I have no idea why. I share a decent number of genes with each of them, but apparently not the one that gives you a wonderful feeling when you are scared witless. That kind of tension I can live without.

On the other hand, a good story needs tension to keep the pages turning. The conflict has to register on the worry meter. The reader needs to experience a feeling that something really bad is going to happen unless...

And here I have a sudden epiphany. Maybe the key is in that hedge word unless.

To me, horror means waiting for the inevitable to strike, knowing that it is inevitable. It's a breathless countdown to the terrible thing--the slasher, the ravenous monster, the quicksand. The thing you won't escape.

In my formative years, there was this black and white commercial for Keds, or maybe PF Flyers. It featured a little girl out walking with her pet chimp (huh?) who stumbles into quicksand. Her brother goes running for help in the amazing sneakers they want you to buy. He leaps over a rock. Freeze frame. As far as I remember, that's where the commercial ended. We never saw whether Susie sank to her death or was saved, leaving me to imagine the worst--over and over again, every Saturday morning during cartoons. I mean, they were miles from adult supervision! If someone can find this commercial on Youtube and reassure me that the little girl lived, I'd be grateful. I've had no such luck. In fact, the first person to find me this commercial will win a free copy of my self-published novel Out of Xibalba.

Soon after the sneaker debacle, I was scared silly by Hitchcock's "The Birds"--they were mindless, relentless, inescapable. And they killed Annie, for which I could never forgive them. I can still picture her, like it was yesterday, pecked and dead. Shudder. The other movie that made a huge impression more than 30 years ago was "The Shining." Jack was going nuts (like a typical author) and nothing in this world or the next could stop it. The movie re-ran on TV the other night and I had to leave the room. Just the memory of the redrum mirror moment was overwhelming. Adrenalin rush, of the bad kind.

Curiously, I do love thrillers, which may have just as much tension and bloodshed as horror. So what's the difference? I figure it's all in the hope and possibility of unless. There's a heroic way out in the thriller, a way to avoid annihilation. There is that loophole unless, and it's the protagonist's job to find it and win. I'll be cheering when he or she does.

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Liz Coley writes young adult novels and science fiction/fantasy short stories for anthologies and magazines. 

Her novel Pretty Girl-13 from HarperCollins Katherine Tegen Books will be debuting in 2013. There are secrets you can't even tell yourself.

For more about Liz and her work, visit and or follow her on Twitter at LizColeyBooks.

Friday, October 21, 2011

You Never Forget Your First!

I always enjoyed writing as a kid, short stories, scripts, plays, etc. I wrote my first “book” in the second grade, a charming little tale called The Enchanted Prince, which I still have in an album my mother kept for me. I even wrote a vampire short story when I was in the Gifted program in Elementary School, way before the recent trend. In Junior High School, I wrote a Whodunit mystery play called Murder at Wagner Manor, where the Butler did it (sort of ;-). In my college years, I started writing a paranormal novel called TerrorVision, about a frightening television network (No, not Fox News), but I never made it past a few chapters. But enough with the info dump. Suffice is to say, as much as I enjoyed creative writing and wanted to publish a novel, I didn’t truly get serious about it until years later.

The horrific events of September 11, 2001 were still fresh on everyone’s mind. To add to the depression, I felt stuck in an uncreative, dead end job. One of my co-workers, Denise, told me about a writer’s group she was going to at a local bookstore, and, one Christmas, gave me a present that ended up having a huge impact on the course of my artistic pursuits from that point forward:

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Children's Books by Harold D. Underdown and Lynne Rominger, which I still have to this day. She inscribed it "Steven – You Can Do it!" (This Idiot will be eternally grateful, Denise!).

This book provided me with a wonderful introduction on getting started in the world of writing for children and young adults. With its concise chapters on everything from getting started, exploring different genres, the inner-workings of publishing houses, the mechanics of contracts, book awards, and building a career, I found it a wealth of information that not only shed light on this mysterious and intimidating process, but also provided the inspiration to finally take that first, concrete step toward realizing my dreams.

With my Idiot book at my side, I started my daily routine and began writing my first full novel, a middle grade tale, Darius Devine & The Necromancer's Curse, the story of a young boy determined to bring his dead mother back to life. I plugged away day after day, until I finally gave birth to my whopping 452 page baby. I was finished! The hardest part was over! Now all I had to do was send it out and it would get published within a few months tops, right?

Well...not exactly...

After further consulting my Idiot book, I started sending out query letters and sample chapters to different publishers. I was on my way! But for some inexplicable reason, I kept getting these sterile responses saying they weren’t interested. Some sent back these tiny little postcard thingies instead. And for some reason, they were all addressed to Dear Author, instead of being personalized. Hmmm. What was I doing wrong? I’d written an epic, fun, adventurous book and sent it out. What more could they possibly want?

As the letters and postcards began to accumulate, I came across seven words in my guide book/translator/bible that would change my life forever (No, not "You have won the Publisher's Clearing House"). These words were the key that unlocked this whole publishing mystery: Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Apparently there was an entire organization out there devoted to others like me! Maybe I should look into this. Maybe all I had to do was join and then I’d get published!

Well, it took nine years of honing my craft and writing two other books, but here I am, on the verge of publication at last! And despite the emotional highs and lows, the frustrations, the sadness, the giddiness and the madness, all in the name of that elusive, yet tantalizing, quest that so many of us crave more than air, I can look back and say that it’s true, you never forget your first.

Complete Idiot’s Guide to Publishing Children’s Books, you’ll always be special to me.

Steven dos Santos is represented by Ginger Knowlton of Curtis Brown, LTD. He loves movies, particularly ones about things that go bump in the night, as well as sci-fi and fantasy. Chocolate, Cheesecake, and Happy Endings are nice, too! When not glued to his computer coming up with innovative ways to torture his characters, Steven can be found skulking away on his website, amassing an army on facebook, and sending unanswered tweets to celebrities who, for some inexplicable reason, choose to ignore him on twitter. His debut novel, THE TORCH KEEPER, a Young Adult Post-Apocalyptic thriller, will be published by FLUX Books in early 2013.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Way of the Artist

I'm a total books-on-writing junkie.  I own a million of them.  (Some favorites: Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, Escaping into the Open by Elizabeth Berg, On Writing by Stephen King, The Writer's Journey by Christopher Vogel, and Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg.)  When I find myself in that section of a bookstore, I'm like an addict jonesing for a fix.  There used to be a bookstore in North Hollywood called Many Paths that was entirely devoted to these kinds of books.  That store was like my dealer.

Many, many years ago, I found myself in that section of a bookstore.  And there, on the shelf, was the most beautiful book on writing I had ever seen.  Its red and gold cover called to me.  Its pages were thick and heavy and substantial.  I had to have it.

It was The Artist's Way, by Julia Cameron.

When I got home with my treasure, I slid it out of the bag and flipped it open.  It was divided into twelve "weeks," ie, chapters.  Each week had several homework assignments.  "Oh," I thought, "this book is going to make me work.  I don't have time for this."  And I put the beautiful book away on a shelf.

A few years later, I pulled the book off the shelf and read the introduction.  Cameron talked about "the morning pages" - three pages of stream-of-consciousness writing that you do every morning when you wake up.  The morning pages are an essential part of The Artist's Way.  I thought I'd try out the morning pages before committing to the full 12-week program.  After a couple of weeks, I got busy or lazy or I overslept, and the book went back on the shelf.

A few years after that, I picked it up again.  This time I got about two weeks into the program before "something" came up - and I stuck the book back on the shelf again.

Then in 2006 my life changed.  I had been living in NYC for ten years, temping full-time while trying to be an actor and a writer.  I say "trying to be" because I never felt I owned the right to just call myself an actor or a writer, even though in my heart of hearts, that's what I was.  I wasn't a temp.  I was an artist.  But I felt like a phony identifying myself as that, because I didn't make my living at it.

So I shoved my artist-self into a corner and told myself I was just a temp.  And I was miserable. 

But then in the summer of 2006, I was cast in a summer-stock production of Twelfth Night.  So I hauled myself up to Connecticut, and became a full-time actor for the summer.  I taught kids about Shakespeare during the day, and I rehearsed at night.  I lived and breathed Shakespeare.  My artist-self came out of the corner and into the light.  And I realized I needed to be an artist all the time.

Towards the end of the summer, a few other actors in the company started working through The Artist's Way.  Inspired by them, I pulled the book off the shelf.  This time, I was ready for it.  I was ready to do the morning pages.  I was ready to do the homework every week.  I was ready to dig deep inside myself and answer some of the tough questions that Cameron poses in the book.  I was ready for the transformation I underwent, from a sad shadow-artist hiding out in a corner to a stronger, vibrant artist who no longer felt like a phony.

Yes, I still had to temp to make money.  But just because I was sitting at a desk answering phones didn't mean I wasn't an artist.  If you claim yourself as an artist, then that is what you are - no matter how you make your living.   

So all those years this beautiful book spent sitting on my shelf, it was just waiting.  Waiting for me to be ready, to be open enough to let it in, and to need the change it brought to my life.  Maybe that's why I own so many writing books.  They've all come to me at different times in my life, and at exactly the moment when I needed them.  And, like the closest of friends, they are always there for me, waiting on the shelf, for whenever I will need them again.

Nicole Maggi lives in Los Angeles, CA with her amazingly supportive husband and beautiful daughter Emilia.  She graduated from Emerson College with a BFA, and worked as an actress for many years in New York before the lure of sunshine and avocados enticed her to the West Coast.  Though she still acts, her focus now is on her writing.  In her very limited spare time, Nicole enjoys yoga, hiking, baking...and eating what she bakes!  Her novel SHIFT will be out in early 2013 from HarperTeen.  Follow her on Twitter so she can reach her goal of 1000 followers by her book's release!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Spotlight on Writing Resources: ART & FEAR

Welcome to our first week of blogging here at The Lucky 13s! We're kicking things off with a spotlight on our favorite writing resources.
When it comes to writing, there's no shortage of blogs, books, and magazines to turn to for guidance. Writers like to write, after all. It’s the people seeking inspiration as they pursue the difficult, heart-wrenching work of designing particle accelerators who are out of luck — not us!
In fact, we could easily spend the remainder of our days reading about writing without ever putting a word on the page. Until recently, I appeared to be on track to do exactly that. I may have discovered many favorite books about writing during my long phase of procrastination —Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, John Gardner’s On Becoming a Novelist, Stephen King’s On Writing — but I didn’t write. It was the equivalent of trying to learn how to play guitar by reading about it.
I finally got down to it, at last. My procrastination was really poorly masked fear about not being creative or talented enough to justify spending time writing. In the spirit of combating doubts — and to speed you back to your writing desk — I’ll offer up just one favorite that explores the fears that can undermine an artist:  

Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles and Ted Orland.

While not a book specifically about writing, Art & Fear examines the difficulty of making art, focusing especially on the psychological roadblocks artists put up for themselves. If you want to cultivate the resilience you need to push through times of self-doubt, this book is a great place to turn.

After that, rip out your wireless router, and get back to the page! 

That is, until Wednesday and Friday, when we’ll be back with more of the Lucky 13s writing resource favorites…

Kristen Kittscher’s debut middle grade mystery, THE WIG IN THE WINDOW (Harper Children’s), will be released in early 2013. It follows the comic misadventures of two tween sleuths who suspect their school counselor is a dangerous fugitive — and just might be right! A former middle school English teacher, Kristen lives in Pasadena, California with her husband, Kai. When she’s not writing, she is busy running her after-school tutoring business or taking orders from her hopelessly spoiled pets. She also blogs at Sleuths, Spies & Alibis, a YA/MG mystery-focused site. (Website - Twitter - Facebook)

Friday, October 14, 2011

Kristin Halbrook: NOBODY BUT US

Despite considering a run for the White House and a battle to be the first female NFL quarterback, Kristin happily decided writing was her true creative calling. She began her writing journey with editorial essays and adult upmarket fiction, but found the YA voice to be her strength and hasn't looked back since.

Kristin lives in vibrant and always delightful Seattle, where she spends non-writing time baking, goofing off, playing and watching sports, singing karaoke, exploring the city's foodie culture, spending time with family, crafting and dreaming up new travel itineraries. She prefers working in indie cafes with great espresso to working at home in her jammies.

Though she wouldn't call herself superstitious, Kristin has been known to knock on wood on occasion. Just in case.

Find Kristin at her blog, on twitter, on Facebook, on tumblr or on Goodreads. She is also a co-founder of YA Highway.

Kristin is repped by the superstartastic Suzie Townsend of Nancy Coffey Literary and Media Representation. Her debut, NOBODY BUT US (formerly WILL & ZOE), will be published by HarperTeen in Winter, 2013.

A modern day Bonnie and Clyde, NOBODY BUT US follows two teenagers - one being kicked out of the foster care system and one desperate to escape an abusive home - who run away to Vegas in search of the life of their dreams. But no matter how hard they try or how good their intentions, Will and Zoe discover they can't run fast enough when they end up wanted by the police, out of money, and out of options.

Erin Bowman: TAKEN

Erin has spent most of her life telling stories. It is rumored that her first words were not Mama or Dada, but Once upon a time. In middle school, when kids were going off to sleep-away camp for the summer, Erin was attending writing camp and penning short stories. When not writing, Erin can often be found far away from the computer (hiking or camping), or geeking out over letterpressed stationery, good typography, and everything Harry Potter. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband, better known as The Engineer (he likes his privacy). Erin drinks a lot of coffee, buys far too many books and is not terribly skilled at writing about herself in the third person.

 You can stalk Erin online via twitter, her blog, or goodreads.

Erin is represented by Sara Crowe of Harvey Klinger, Inc. Her debut YA novel, TAKEN will be published by HarperTeen in Winter 2013.

Book description:
Gray Weathersby has spent the last seventeen years fearing his eighteenth birthday. In his isolated hometown, where dust outnumbers grass and crows rival clouds, all eighteen-year-old boys are lost to a phenomenon the villagers have come to call the Heist. After his older brother, Blaine, meets this mysterious fate, Gray's fascination with the Heist becomes an obsession. He craves answers. About the Wall that surrounds his town, a towering structure that no one can cross without dying. About the Council leaders and their obvious secrets. About the nature of the Heist itself.

During his search for answers, Gray enlists the help of Emma, a healer's daughter and a girl he has admired since the day he first stole a wooden toy from her hands as a child. What they find leaves Gray with ideas. Dangerous ideas. Maybe Blaine hasn't been lost forever. Maybe Gray can find him. Maybe it's as simple as climbing the Wall and maybe, just maybe, Gray's fate won't be the same as everyone that has climbed before him

Favorite Superstition:
Erin knocks on wood obsessively. And when there is no wood in sight, she knocks on her head. (She's now wondering what this truly says about her.)

Elsie Chapman: DUALED

It really is a dream come true to become a published author, and I feel so very incredibly blessed. 2013 is going to be one amazing year!

I grew up in Prince George, BC (yeah, it's pretty cold) and moved south to Vancouver (yeah, it's pretty wet) to attend UBC where I received my BA in English and Psych. Now I live in Richmond, BC with my brilliant, computer-geeky-cool husband and two fantastic kids. And two cats (can't forget the cats!). I'm repped by The Chudney Agency in NYC, and you can find me at my blog, facebook, twitter, goodreads, or pinterest.

DUALED (Random House, Spring 2013)

Would you live through the ultimate test of survival?

The city of Kersh is a safe haven, but the price of safety is high. Everyone has a genetic Alternate—a twin raised by another family—and citizens must prove their worth by eliminating their Alts before their twentieth birthday. Survival means advanced schooling, a good job, marriage—life.

Fifteen-year-old West Grayer has trained as a fighter, preparing for the day when her assignment arrives and she will have one month to hunt down and kill her Alt. But then a tragic misstep shakes West’s confidence. Stricken with grief and guilt, she’s no longer certain that she’s the best version of herself, the version worthy of a future. If she is to have any chance of winning, she must stop running not only from her Alt, but also from love . . . though both have the power to destroy her.

Elsie Chapman’s suspenseful debut weaves unexpected romance into a novel full of fast-paced action and thought-provoking philosophy. When the story ends, discussions will begin about this future society where every adult is a murderer and every child knows there is another out there who just might be better.

Did I mention there's romance, too? Because there is. And I love West, I think she's an awesome character with a lot of guts. A few agents have told me she brings to mind a teenaged Lisbeth Salander crossed with Jason Bourne. A Salander-Bourne baby! That is one mind-blowing compliment!

I watch a lot of movies and I read as much as possible. I love that my husband and I have passed on our love of manga to the kids. I run way too much in a futile effort to burn off excessive chocolate consumption. And my favourite superstition? Jinxing myself by even thinking about the possibilities. I try not to look too far ahead, just enjoying each day for what it is.


I never thought I'd write a YA novel. Blame my own snobbery, compounded by MFA-infused snobbery about so-called commercial genres, basted with my lack of understanding of the genre, and garnished with my fear of limiting my writing prospects. But, I met a YA writer and after we became friends and writing confidants, he suggested we try to write a book together.
     Material was produced, but our differing processes caused us to rethink the project. I was left with twenty pages describing a boy named James that talked to an imaginary pigeon and recited Walt Whitman's poetry with an exuberance bordering on insane. DR. BIRD'S ADVICE FOR SAD POETS is the result of a long, meandering writerly journey that began in the second grade, when I won a prize for my first story: "My Trip to the Moon." I illustrated it, too, though drawing was a talent that never blossomed.
     A few years later, I wrote, illustrated, and even 'bound' books for my Gifted and Talented program. Those hilarious sci-fi masterpieces still sit on my bookshelves (though they are thin and have spines made of black tape, so it's hard to admire them from afar). 
     In middle school an English teacher requested I write some poetry for the school anthology. We had 40 students in my grade and very few writers. My poems were influenced by 80s speed metal and Stephen King. In high school I wrote a 20 page short story for my English class. We had to read them in front of everyone. I ran out of time and had to spend ten minutes the next day finishing up. Even I was annoyed with me.
     Poetry took my attention, for years, and it taught me to care about words and sounds. Or maybe I cared about words and sounds and that's why poetry took over? Blame SPOON RIVER ANTHOLOGY and grunge music. By the time I reached college, I had no idea what writing meant to me. No idea what it was for. It was therapeutic, satisfying, and seemed to impress people enough to earn me some credibility as an artsy, though socially awkward, type. 
     Years passed. After dropping out of the first semester of a PhD program, I was perfectly willing to get a regular job that slowly dissolved me, but my wife instructed me to get an MFA. How awesome is she? Pretty awesome. 
     DR. BIRD'S ADVICE FOR SAD POETS is not the only book I'll ever write, but it might always be my favorite. Thankfully, it doesn't include illustrations done by my miserable, clumsy hands.

In this often hilarious, sometimes heartbreaking but always hopeful young adult novel, 16 year old James Whitman is trying to navigate high school and a tough home life while wrestling with depression and anxiety. James recites Walt Whitman, hugs trees, talks to an imaginary bird therapist and tries to figure out why his sister Jorie has been kicked out of school and out of the house. His parents won’t talk about it and act like their family is better off now that she's gone.
     But James feels guilty for failing to defend Jorie over the years and one day while snooping through his sister’s room, he stumbles upon a box that reveals some of Jorie’s secrets.  
     In his quest to try to bring Jorie back home, he ends battling with his parents, the principal, his best friend and even himself as he tries to figure out what part he played in Jorie’s exile and discovers that some of Jorie’s secrets aren’t that different from his own.   
     The novel packs quite an emotional punch at times, as when James contemplates suicide, but we never doubt that James will pull himself out of his hole as he searches for and finds help in surprising places. 
     This debut novel by MFA Evan Roskos offers an incredibly compelling view of teen angst and depression, capturing all the anxiety, dorkiness, emotion, conflicts, passion, and confusion that teens can go through.

Twitter: @EvanJamesRoskos

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Brandy Colbert: POINTE

Photo by Jessie Weinberg
I grew up in the Missouri Ozarks - the city of Springfield, which you may not know is the hometown of Brad Pitt and also has its very own style of cashew chicken. I've been writing since I can remember and have the many, many spiral-bound notebooks with my childhood stories to prove it. As a teenager, I still devoured as many books as possible, but I grew to love magazines as well and knew from the minute I started applying to colleges that I would study print journalism. I graduated from Missouri State University with a Journalism degree and 15 days later, moved clear across the country to Los Angeles.

While basking in the sun and palm trees, I worked for various health and fitness magazines, where I edited articles on everything from fitness for pregnant ladies to maintaining a healthy and tasty vegetarian diet. Six years later, I moved to Chicago where I learned how to ride public transportation and experienced a full-fledged blizzard. I also wrote about business-y things for an investment banking firm. After four years in the Midwest, I'm back in Los Angeles where I'm loving the sunshine and palm trees once again.

I can't get enough of cooking shows, Chuck Taylors, purple, dance, and just about any type of 1970s nostalgia. You can find me talking about any or all of these things (and perhaps even writing, too!) on Twitter or my blog. So come say hi. I'm not much for superstitions, but I may just avoid stepping on the cracks of a sidewalk if the situation arises. You're welcome, Mom.

My debut novel, POINTE, about a ballet prodigy whose life begins to unravel when she’s forced to admit to the role she played in her childhood friend’s abduction, will be published by Putnam/Penguin in Winter 2014. I am represented by Tina Wexler of ICM.


Miriam Forster learned to read at the age of five, wrote her first story at the age of seven and has been playing with words ever since. CITY OF A THOUSAND DOLLS, her debut novel, will be coming from HarperTeen on February 5th, 2013. Here's a summary:
The girl with no past, and no future, may be the only one who can save their lives. 
 Nisha was abandoned at the gates of the City of a Thousand Dolls when she was just a child. Now sixteen, she lives on the grounds of the isolated estate, where orphan girls apprentice as musicians, healers, courtesans, and, if the rumors are true, assassins. Nisha makes her way as Matron’s assistant, her closest companions the mysterious cats that trail her shadow. Only when she begins a forbidden flirtation with the city’s handsome young courier does she let herself imagine a life outside the walls. Until one by one, girls around her start to die.  
 Before she becomes the next victim, Nisha decides to uncover the secrets that surround the girls’ deaths. But by getting involved, Nisha jeopardizes not only her own future in the City of a Thousand Dolls—but her own life.
In her daily life, Miriam is a wife, a terrible housekeeper and a dealer--and duster--of books. In her internal life, she imagines fight scenes, obsesses about anthropology, nature shows and British television, and reads far too much.

 Miriam will fearlessly cuddle black cats and open umbrellas indoors but she draws the line at walking under ladders. (Though that just might be pessimism.) She likes to wander the Internet and when she's not at her blog  Dancing with Dragons is Hard on Your Shoes, she's usually in one of the following places.

Tamera Will Wissinger: GOING FISHING

Tamera Will Wissinger writes poetry, picture books, and middle-grade stories for children. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Sioux Falls College in Sioux Falls South Dakota, and her Master of Fine Arts degree in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Hamline University in Saint Paul, Minnesota. 

Tamera thinks she’s very lucky to be able to read and write as part of her job. When she’s not working she might be fishing or boating, watching the interesting wildlife around her neighborhood, or noticing how each day is so beautiful and unique. She also likes to spend time with her family and friends, golf, watch good movies, listen to music, and crochet, (her mom recently taught her how!) Tamera lives with her husband in Vero Beach, Florida. Her middle grade novel in verse, GOING FISHING, (tentative title) is being illustrated by Matthew Cordell and will be released from Houghton Mifflin in spring 2013. Tamera is represented by Michelle Humphrey of The Martha Kaplan Agency.

About GOING FISHING - Tamera's debut novel for middle grade children:

In GOING FISHING, Sam is so excited about his fishing trip with his dad that he can't sleep the night before, but when Sam's noisy little sister tags along at the last minute, he hopes she won't ruin his fun. GOING FISHING is a novel in verse and is told through a variety of poetic forms.

Online, you can find Tamera here:

On Superstitions:
Tamera doesn't believe that 13 is unlucky - she's excited that her first book is releasing in 2013 and she's happy to be part of the Lucky 13 group. She played basketball through ninth grade and wore jersey #13 for good luck. She’s not sure whether or not it’s a superstition, but she saves all of her fortune cookie fortunes.

Lydia Kang: CONTROL

I'm a geek girl at heart with a love of reading and writing that always fell to the sidelines. After a long time in New York City, I got my MD, began practicing Internal Medicine and started a family. Yet the whole time, I couldn't squash a stubborn inclination to write.

So finally, I did. I wrote non-fiction and poetry, and a few years ago scratched that itch (the novel writing one) and wrote a YA book. After a lot of work and practice, my third try snagged me an agent (the wonderful Eric Myers of the Spieler Agency) and my YA sci-fi book, CONTROL, will be coming out in spring of 2013 (Dial Books for Young Readers).

I now live in the midwest with my husband, three kids, and a terrarium full of stick bugs.

About the book: 17 year-old Zelia has a fatal flaw, and it's not being a lab geek or dressing like a small troll. She must consciously breathe every breath or she'll die. When her sister is abducted for an illegal "Fountain of Youth" gene no one knew she possessed, Zelia must align herself with an underground foster home full of genetically altered freaks. It will take her flaws, their traits, and every single breath to save her sister, because it's not just a life at stake--it's a life that's worth forever.

Oh, and there's a good bit of romance in there as well. More than a pinch, and less than a truckload. ;)

Superstition: I am a science girl. I believe in gravity and the periodic table of elements. So I have no explanation whatsoever for why I knock on wood, won't walk under ladders, and get giddy over four leaf clovers.

You can find me at my blog, Twitter, and FB.

Elisabeth Dahl: GENIE WISHES

I used to hear interviews with authors—fiction writers, especially—and think these people are kind of weird. But they’re weird in the same ways I’m weird. (If anyone ever asked me for career advice, I’d probably say, Investigate professions. Are there whole groups of professionals who are weird in the same ways you’re weird? Well, that’s the color of your parachute.) 

Even though I always wanted to write, I sort of kept this a secret, even from myself. As we all know, aiming for a goal can be far scarier than poking around on the sidelines. I studied literature at Brown, then Hopkins (B.A.), then Georgetown (M.A.). I started working in academic/medical/scientific/business publishing, where I found more people who were my flavor of weird. I wrote, but not a lot. Mostly I copyedited and proofread what other people wrote.

Now, I’m happy to report, I spend a good part of my time writing, for both children and adults. My first novel is for children, and my second—in its first full draft now—is for adults. I also write poems, short shorts, short stories, essays, and humor pieces. (You can see some examples at my website.)

After about a decade in the San Francisco Bay Area, I’m back where I was born—Baltimore, Maryland, where I live with my family. My son, Jackson, is 12. Baltimore isn’t quite as weird as John Waters’ work would suggest, but it’s so very close.

Follow me on Twitter, if you wish (@ElisabethDahl). Or check out my aforementioned website.

DEBUT: GENIE WISHES (Amulet/Abrams Books, spring 2013, realistic/contemporary, middle grade, ages 8-12). In September, Genie Haddock Kunkle’s fifth-grade class elects her to serve as class blogger and she adopts the nom de blog Genie Wishes. Through her first-person narration, blog entries, and line drawings, Genie charts her course through fifth grade.

SUPERSTITION: I’d always harbored a special affection for the number 9. Then my son was born on 6/6/99, which is really just a bunch of 9s in different positions. I like that. (His birth date is not 6s in different positions. It’s just not.)


I should have known I’d be a writer. I grew up among the bookshelves of my parents’ independent bookstore in the Blue Ridge Mountains, reading everything from A Little Princess to Heart of Darkness. I liked to make up stories in my head and secretly resented it when adults wanted to play along, because obviously all adults had zero imagination.

At the time, I thought I wanted to travel the world and do something dashing instead, so I studied abroad, lived all over Europe, learned a bunch of languages I may never speak again, spent two years in an African mud hut, and then ended up right back in Western North Carolina, 45 minutes away from my parents’ bookstore. Something about these mountains and the stories they inspire got a hold on me. And now I am lucky enough to get paid to write down all the stories in my head, and I couldn’t imagine a better life.

My debut YA is THE MADMAN’S DAUGHTER, the first of a historical thriller trilogy loosely inspired by gothic-era classics. It comes out in early 2013 from Balzer+Bray/HarperCollins. I am represented by Josh Adams of Adams Literary, who is literally a ninja—he split a board in half with a karate-chop at our last writing conference. I love talking about books, travel, and life. Visit my website to learn more about my book or connect with me on Twitter or Goodreads.

Book description: London, 1893. 16-year old Juliet Moreau travels to her estranged father's tropical island and finds murder, madness, and a love triangle with an enigmatic castaway and her father's handsome young assistant.

Favorite Superstition: I’ve heard that meeting three sheep is good luck. I’ve yet to meet three sheep, but I enjoy putting myself in situations where I might.


My first completed story was the incredibly misspelled The Evetchers of White Wolf, which I scribbled into my father’s tax notebook at the age of six. Though I had many other hobbies— horseback riding, synchronized swimming and backpacking across as many continents as possible—writing was the one I pursued with all my heart. It eventually paid off in the form of my agent Alyssa Eisner Henkin (Trident Media) who found my novel LUMINANCE HOUR a wonderful home at HarperTeen. Expect to see in on the shelves in Summer 2013.

When I’m not building worlds in front of a computer screen, you can find me browsing thrift stores, helping my husband photograph weddings or biking the streets of my native Charleston, SC. I'm also out and about in the online world. You can find me on my blog, Twitter and Goodreads.

About the book: A partying prince falls in love a Kate Middletonesque fae, who has been protecting the British royal family for centuries, and who must make an impossible choice amidst a backdrop of a Buckingham palace murder and paparazzi mayhem.

Favorite Superstition: Down here in the South we have a lot of Gullah superstitions. One of my favorites is haint blue—people paint the trimmings of their windows and doorways a beautiful, bright blue color to keep away evil spirits. It makes for some very colorful residences!


I’m a southern girl all the way. I love iced tea with every meal, I’m told my accent is very strong by all non-Southerners and I wish crawfish season lasted all year. I live in Shreveport, Louisiana with my husband, Dean, and our three sons, Miller, Ross and Archer. I worked as a wedding and portrait photographer for the last twelve years but now just focus on portraits for close family and friends. My husband and I also own a commercial landscaping company and I am a certified Landscape Horticulturist. Love all kinds of plants! I write any spare moment I get which is more frequent now that all my boys are in school.
My debut novel, THE RULES FOR DISAPPEARING, will be published by Disney-Hyperion in winter 2013. It’s about a girl who, desperate to escape the Witness Protection program and discover what really happened the day that ruined her family’s lives, breaks her minders’ ultimate rule by falling for a boy and embarking with him on a perilous journey to outwit both cops and criminals.
I’m represented by the fabulous Sarah Davies of Greenhouse Literary. She is the best!
Online, you can find me at my blog ( or on twitter ( Social media is fairly new for me so I’m still finding my way there.
My favorite superstition: A common superstition for southern states is to eat black-eyes peas on New Year’s Day for good luck and good fortune. Not sure if it works but we ALWAYS eat them!

Kristen Kittscher: THE WIG IN THE WINDOW

Kristen Kittscher writes middle-grade mystery and is represented by Jennifer Laughran at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. "Lucky 13" has a double meaning for Kristen, as she grew up in 13 cities, including San Francisco, London, and Dallas. After graduating from Brown University with a degree in Comparative Literature, Kristen worked briefly as a story editor in Germany and Hollywood before she discovered she liked teaching middle school much better. She taught seventh grade English for several years and now runs an after-school tutoring business in Pasadena, California, where she lives with her husband, Kai, and their hopelessly spoiled cat and dog. You can get to know Kristen better by following her on Twitter, visiting her website, or stopping by her group children's mystery author blog, Sleuths, Spies & Alibis.

Debut:  THE WIG IN THE WINDOW (Harper Children’s, Winter 2013)

THE WIG IN THE WINDOW is a comical middle grade mystery about two tween sleuths who suspect their school counselor is a dangerous criminal...and just might be right!

Thirteen year old neighbors Sophie Young and Grace Yang are two unlikely best friends whose game of neighborhood spying takes a dark turn late one night when they witness Luna Vista Middle School’s notoriously phony counselor wielding a cleaver in her blood-splattered kitchen. When it turns out Dr. Agford has an innocent (and very silly!) explanation for her alleged crime, the girls find themselves in a world of trouble for lying to police. Yet Agford’s increasingly bizarre behavior and a series of puzzling clues convince the two friends Dr. Agford might indeed be a wanted fugitive. The girls embark on a very real and dangerous mission to uncover the truth, never sure if they—or their friendship—will survive it.  

Favorite Superstition: (a German import) Pressing down on your thumbs for good luck and saying "toi, toi, toi" (the equivalent of 'knock on wood.')

Shari Arnold: Mystique

Shari Arnold began filling notebooks with story ideas when she was in high school, working at her father’s video store. And her love for telling stories continued long after she moved to Massachusetts to attend photography school. She likes loud music, dessert before dinner and mild weather, preferably all at the same time. She lives on the Connecticut shoreline with her husband and their two young children.
Favorite Superstition: You should always knock on wood. Seriously. Why mess with the universe?
Find Shari at her blog, or on Twitter.
Shari is repped by Stephen Fraser of The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency. Her debut, Mystique, will be published by Chronicle Books in Fall, 2013.
Book Description: Only Bauer Grant can pull off gorgeous while dead. But staying dead is another thing entirely. When he wakes up at his own funeral, the town of Mystique calls it a miracle—until it happens again. Something is bringing the residents of Mystique back to life, but what? Presley Caine finds herself caught up in the mystery when Bauer asks her to visit him. Presley can’t figure out why the most popular guy in school is so drawn to her. And when Bauer is kidnapped soon after, she looks to Bauer’s brooding best friend Sam, whose dad works for the powerful Mystique military base, for answers. In her quest to discover the truth, Presley’s relationship with Sam deepens, her feelings for Bauer are tested, and it becomes clear that her own mysterious past is somehow connected to these strange events. But is she strong enough to handle the truth when it is finally revealed?

Christa Desir: FAULT LINE

Christa Desir writes dark contemporary young adult books and is represented by Sarah LaPolla at Curtis Brown, Ltd. She graduated as a theatre major/women's studies minor from Grinnell College and lives with her family outside of Chicago. She spent over nine years volunteering as a rape victim advocate in hospital ERs and is now the board president for the Voices and Faces Project, a documentary project designed to give a voice to rape victims. 

When not writing books about broken people, Christa spends her days editing romance books for Samhain Publishing (this is such an awesome job!). She also frequently humiliates herself and avoids housework whenever possible. You can follow her blog here and find her on Twitter here

Christa's debut novel, FAULT LINE, was created after she attended a survivor testimonial writing workshop offered by the Voices and Faces Project. Written from a boyfriend's perspective, it tells the story of a girl who is gang raped at a party and the fallout of their relationship afterwards. It will be published by SimonPulse on October 1, 2013.   

Writing superstition: When she wants to get really serious about writing, she puts on her husband's Cassius Clay T-shirt and refuses to take it off until she's knocked out at least 5,000 words. (Thank goodness she's a fast writer!)