Friday, March 30, 2012

Why Poetry Matters

My Beloved Book
One of my earliest childhood memories is of me at home "reading" and chanting along to a record of a short rhyming picture book. The book, “Over in the Meadow,” illustrated by Ezra Jack Keats and based on the original version by Olive A. Wadsworth, was a gift from my grandparents and uncle. It begins: “Over in the meadow, in the sand, in the sun, lived an old mother turtle and her little turtle one…” I don't know what happened to the record, but I still have that much loved book. At its simplest, it’s a 391-word counting poem that showcases meadow animal mothers and their babies, but to me it’s much more. This tiny gem of poetry tapped on my heart and my mind beginning my love of rhythm and rhyme. That led to a love of stories and poems and prompted my interest in reading, and that grew into my interest in writing my own stories and poetry.  

April is National Poetry Month and this seemed like a good opportunity to think about poetry’s influence in our reading or writing lives. I’m sure that some of us read and/or write a great deal of poetry, while others of us may read or write poetry a little or not at all. Whether or not you are a current fan of poetry, though, I bet you can remember a favorite lullaby, prayer, schoolyard chant, campfire song, story in verse, nursery rhyme, picture book, or poetry collection – some tiny gem of poetry that a caring grown-up or an older sibling introduced to you that tapped on your heart and your mind, that you invited in and you have kept with you for all these years, and as it turns out, is more than a tiny gem of poetry because it is partially responsible for inspiring you to love rhythm and rhyme, or reading and stories, or writing and storytelling. What tiny gem of poetry inspired you when you were young?

If you’d like to know more about National Poetry Month, click here and celebrate poetry!  

Tamera Will Wissinger reads and writes poetry and stories for children. Her novel in verse, tentatively titled GOING FISHING, will arrive from Houghton Mifflin in Spring 2013. Visit Tamera at: 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Hahahaha Balance HAHAHAHAHA

There are three things I know for sure:

1. Never choose the food challenge on Amazing Race 
2. Beer before liquor, never been sicker
3. Do not talk about Fight Club

But balancing work, writing, and family? I haven't got a clue how to do that. If I knew, I'd be doing it. This has become all the more clear to me since having a baby in January. I haven't slept more than 3 hours at a time since... November? Possibly earlier? It wasn't easy to sleep during pregnancy, either, so it's possible I haven't had a truly good night's sleep in a year. Anyway. What was I saying? Where am I? How did I get here?

As someone on Doomsday Preppers would say, balance means having a stockpile of food and a weapons cache with which to defend it. If only life were that simple.

I think any kind of balancing act is a myth. No one can have, be, or do it all, just as no one can be the perfect wife, mother, employee, author, or friend -- and definitely not at the same time. But that's okay, because I think perfection is overrated -- especially for writers or any other kind of artist.

Perfection is boring. And perfection won't help you when something goes wrong in your life.

Anna Quindlen said it best, in her book BEING PERFECT (p.47-48):

"Someday, sometime, you will be sitting somewhere: a berm overlooking a pond in Vermont. The lip of the Grand Canyon at Sunset. A seat on the subway. And something bad will have happened: you will have lost someone you loved, or failed at something at which you badly wanted to succeed. And sitting there, you will fall into the center of yourself. You will look for some core to sustain you. And if you have been perfect all your life and have managed to meet all the expectations of your family, your friends, your community, your society, chances are excellent that there will be a black hole where that core ought to be."

Sarah Skilton grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and graduated with a  TV/Radio degree from Ithaca College in upstate New York before moving to sunny Los Angeles, where she's worked as a production assistant, a TV extra, a film reviewer, and a script analyst. She has also studied Tae Kwon Do and Hap Ki Do, both of which came in handy while writing her martial arts-themed debut YA novel, BRUISED, due out Spring 2013 from Amulet Books

She's represented by Sara Megibow of Nelson Literary. Check out her blogTwitter, and Facebook page.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Balancing it all--or not.

I always joke that I need an extra hour in my day. The truth is, I need like, five.

I have a lot of writing-related stress that would improve if I had more time. Such as:
  • completing my current WIP
  • working on another WIP planned for this year
  • revising a previously written WIP (all the beta-crits are in--just have to do the fixing)
  • dealing with soon-to-be edits on the Fountain
  • playing with the idea of two other projects that have been dancing around in my imagination
  • try to get a few poems published this year
  • finish a family history project I've been delaying for years
And that's just writing.

There's also family/job/teaching/hubbytime/makingbreakfast/writingworkshop/friends/sleep/exercise/blogging/twitter/facebook/bills/finances/dentist/eyedoctor/leakykitchenceiling/makinglunch/ yardstuff/pinterest/ gardening/goodreads /don'tforgettocall mom/pickup allergyprescriptions/ stainthedeck/makingdinner/groceryshopping/gas/oilchange /repairthecarbumper /theveryactive antprobleminthekitchen /compost/throwawaythebadmushroomexperiment/etc.

Do you have a headache now? Yeah, me too. Sorry about that.

My to-do list is endless and somewhere in there, I'm in the twisty intestines of that tornado called life.

The truth is, I'm in one of the most active, most amazing, most busy times of my life and there is not much I actually want to change. I've cut down my work hours for writing; I'm happy with the social networking platform I've built and I'm not willing to ditch any of it yet; and I'm writing as much as I can.  My family is thriving and healthy, and I'm trying to be there for the other people in my life who need me.

It's a lot. I lose a ton of sleep. There are minor and major freak-outs that occur on a semi-regular basis. Am I balanced? Not really. But being on the edge of chaos is the price paid for living in my world.

I have a favorite New Yorker cartoon that shows two office guys in a hallway. The caption summarizes me and my life pretty well. It reads, "I can't complain, but I do."

Lydia Kang is a writer, part-time doctor, and salt-addicted gal with a near-pathological need to doodle.  Her YA sci-fi book, THE FOUNTAIN (title to change) is coming Summer 2013 (Dial Books for Young Readers).

Find her on Twitter, her blog The Word Is My Oyster, Goodreads, Facebook, and Pinterest. And yes, that's about all the social media she can handle. For now.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Apocalypse Now: Interview with SLIDE author Jill Hathaway

Vee Bell is certain of one irrefutable truth—her sister's friend Sophie didn't kill herself. She was murdered.
Vee knows this because she was there. Everyone believes Vee is narcoleptic, but she doesn't actually fall asleep during these episodes: When she passes out, she slides into somebody else's mind and experiences the world through that person's eyes. She's slid into her sister as she cheated on a math test, into a teacher sneaking a drink before class. She learned the worst about a supposed "friend" when she slid into her during a school dance. But nothing could have prepared Vee for what

Vee desperately wishes she could share her secret, but who would believe her? It sounds so crazy that she can't bring herself to tell her best friend, Rollins, let alone the police. Even if she could confide in Rollins, he has been acting distant lately, especially now that she's been spending more time with Zane.
happens one October night when she slides into the mind of someone holding a bloody knife, standing over Sophie's slashed body.
Enmeshed in a terrifying web of secrets, lies, and danger and with no one to turn to, Vee must find a way to unmask the killer before he or she strikes again
So, I was super stoked to do this interview, partly because I got a shiny SLIDE ARC to read as part of the deal (WOOT!) and partly because I "know" Jill from back when we used to frequent the Absolute Write boards together.

In SLIDE, Vee has such a fascinating ability--she can literally slide into other people's heads and experience the world through their eyes. If you could slide into only one person's head (Jill's note: and body!) for a short time, who would you pick and why?

Jared Let's girlfriend. Um, do I really need to explain why? ;)

Yes. Yes, you do. *coughs* Okay, maybe not. Next question. I've read that you're more of a pantser than a plotter (pantsers of the world, UNITE!) Did you intend to write a mystery from the very beginning, or is that just what spewed forth? What are some of your favorite mysteries?

I actually didn't MEAN to write a mystery, but since the seed idea was a girl finding herself staring over a dead body with no idea how she got there, it just sort of happened. Hmm, some recent mysteries I've read and loved are BETWEEN by Jessica Warman and CLARITY by Kim Harrington.

I think Vee is such an interesting character--flawed but relatable (my favorite type). Do you see any of yourself in her, either now or when you were a teen?

I was more like her when I was a teen. Now I'm more like the Mrs. Winger character (but without the solitaire addiction). :D True story: The school librarian came up to me and was like, So you're Mrs. Winger, right?" Hee.

You're a high school English teacher. What do your students and peers think about your upcoming debut as a YA author?

My kids are really psyched for it! We have a countdown on the board. A lot of my colleagues are buying copies for their classrooms, which kind of weirds me out. I think it would be totally surreal to have a student do a book project on SLIDE.

I really enjoyed your characterization and all the different relationships throughout the story and their varying effects on Vee. Which secondary character was your favorite to write and why?

Aww, I love Rollins. I can't tell you why, but you'll figure it out.

(Note: I <3 Rollins!)

SLIDE has some interesting things to say about the price of popularity. Where did you fit into the social hierarchy at school and is there anything you'd do over from high school years if you could?

Yeah, I've seen a lot of people comment about "mean girls" in the book and "jock" stereotypes. I absolutely agree that not every cheerleader or athlete is guilty of bullying--many are super nice kids. I know, I see them every day. But the thing is, people who bully tend to be at the top of the social ladder. And guess who's usually at the top? Not the kids at home playing World of Warcraft, that's for sure. So, um, yeah. If WoW had existed when I was in high school, that's what I would have been doing. If I could go back to high school, I would try not to care so much about what other people thought of me and focus on my own goals and interests. AMEN! I wasted a lot of time feeling bad because I wasn't a part of the "popular" group.

If SLIDE were made into a movie, who could you see being cast as Vee? Rollins? Zane?

Hmm...I'm not quite familiar with young Hollywood, but I think Dakota Fanning would do an excellent job in the role of Vee. When I was writing Rollins, I very much had the character of Jordan Catalano in my head (google it!)* And I see Zane more like Chace Crawford in the first season of Gossip Girl.

*We did, and here you go--WAIT! Is it just me, or this interview turning into Six Degrees of Jared Leto?)

Vee's a bit of a 90's music buff. What's
your favorite song from the 90's?

Tonight, Tonight by Smashing Pumpkins

Favorite snack while writing?

Diet Pepsi. Peanut butter Oreos.

Since we're with the Lucky 13's, we have to ask: what, if any, are you favorite superstitions or lucky writing charms (as opposed to, you know, just Lucky Charms. Which are magically delicious, but probably not all that lucky, since they get chomped on a daily basis.)

I'm super paranoid of losing my work, so I hit save like every five seconds and constantly email drafts to myself.

Thanks so much, Jill! SLIDE debuts TODAY at your local bookstore, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or Indiebound.

Connect with Jill on Facebook, Blogspot, or Twitter!


Jill Hathaway is the author of SLIDE, to be released March 27, 2012 from Balzer + Bray for HarperCollins


Monday, March 26, 2012

A Tool for Finding Balance

This week on the blog, we're talking about that elusive goal that plagues most writers: BALANCE. Whether it's family, a day job, or a social life, it's often hard to make writing fit into a balanced life.

When I was writing THE MADMAN'S DAUGHTER, I had a full-time job at my town’s local government. Each day I went to City Hall to work, and then most evenings and weekends (and many lunch breaks), set to work on my “other” job: writing YA.

So how did I fit in the rest of life—friends, family, fun—to this schedule? Ha. I didn’t. Sometimes, it’s just impossible to do everything. So our house got a little cluttered, and (I’m ashamed to say) I wasn’t the most active friend.

Luckily, for me, once my book sold I quit my day job and am now a full-time writer. This certainly makes achieving balance slightly easier, but surprisingly, not as much as you’d think. Publishing is a tricky business. Some weeks there’s all the time in the world to plug away at the manuscript. Other weeks, suddenly everything is urgent. Copyedits due day after tomorrow. Contract that needs to get in the mail ASAP. A Skype author visit. Critiques of others’ work that must be returned. Guest blog post scheduled for today. Phone call with agent. All this, in addition to finding time to actually sit at the desk and produce words vaguely resembling a story!

This is why achieving balance is still hard, even as a full-time writer. The system I’ve come up with to deal with this (through plenty of trial and error, emphasis on the “error”) is borrowed from Julia Cameron’s THE ARTIST’S WAY. Every time I start to feel off balance, I draw a circle in my journal and divide it into six slices. Each slice represents a different part of my life: Work (writing), Family, Friends, Hobbies, Health (including working out), and Spiritual (including being in nature, meditating, etc).

Then I put a dot in each slice based on how good I feel about that aspect of life at the present time. Closer to the edge means recently I’m feeling confident about that aspect, and closer to center means I need to give that section a lot more focus. For example, my balance chart this week might look like this:

As you can see, woefully out of balance. I need to focus on working out more, and also doing horseback riding and other hobbies, which often get shoved to the wayside when things get hectic. But lately I’ve been feeling good about work and the amount of time I’ve been spending with friends & family.

Now it’s your turn…how do YOU find balance?


Megan Shepherd is a young adult writer living in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Her debut book, THE MADMAN'S DAUGHTER, will be published in early 2013 by Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins as the first in a three-book Gothic thriller series. She is represented by Josh Adams of Adams Literary. Visit Megan at her website, on Facebook, Twitter, or Goodreads.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Why I Hate Revising (But Do It Anyway)

When I was younger, I hated revisions (and by hate I mean, did not do at all.) In high school and college I wrote papers without looking back. Once I pressed that final period key, there was no scrolling up to reread the document. There was no return. I was done.

Fortunately, and to my endless agony, I've learned to get over this. I still hate revisions. Well, I hate the grunt-work of revisions. The results are usually (and rightfully) fantastic.

You see, there's no such thing as a perfect first draft. Even in my stage of teenage denial, I would have been the first to admit it. Characters will develop in ways you didn't predict, backstories will appear halfway through a manuscript. Pace will change. Plots will thicken. You get the idea.

I was in denial because revision, like most things that perfect and refine, is hard. It's messy. At the moments I'm in revisions for a novel that is not LUMINANCE HOUR. And I tell you, it feels like bushwhacking through a jungle full of rabid panthers in 250 degree heat. And my novel looks like this:

I'll be the first to tell you it's in bad shape. I know. I'm the one who's blinking at the Word document in utter despair trying to figure out what I could possible do to recreate the lush forest that was once there. Everything that didn't survive the burning.

The fires of revision are necessary to cull out the weaknesses, the brambles and thorns of our writing that will tear and wound readers, take away from the story. The trees that survive-- the plots, characters and scenes that withstood the flames of critique-- provide the framework for where the story should go. This process, culling weaknesses and regrowing, must go on over and over again, until your forest is fireproof.

So what does this lovely metaphor look like in the real world?

It means never settling for second best. If you know that something can be fixed, do it. Don't bite your lip and hope that a 2D character will slide under your critique partner, agent or editor's nose. Bite your lip and do your hardest to make that character come to life.  It means going over and above to make the story you loved and created be the best it can be.

So don’t be afraid of forest fires or rabid panthers (metaphorically, of course). In the end it will pay off.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go back to my bushwhacking now. 


When she’s not writing and drifting around the globe, Ryan Graudin enjoys hunting through thrift stores and taking pictures of her native Charleston, SC. Her novel LUMINANCE HOUR, the story of a Faery Godmother who falls in love with the prince she’s forced to guard, is due out with HarperTeen in 2013. You can learn about all of these things and more at You can also follow her on Twitter at @ryangraudin

Friday, March 23, 2012

Quick Robin, to the Revision Cave!

I don't have a Robin.

When it's time to tackle a revision, major or minor, a sidekick (or the whole Justice League) sure would come in handy. But the mission to clean up a manuscript is often one you must tackle alone. It can be daunting, and leave you feeling much like the Dark Knight himself (the brooding Christian Bale version with the hangover voice, not the campy BAM! KAPOW! one). It's a necessary part of the process. Writing IS revising/rewriting. You've got to send that manuscript out into the world, and if you don't tear it down and rebuild it before you let it go, your readers are going to let you know that your efforts were...less than heroic.

While you'll likely be fighting the good fight on your own, you will have allies. Beta readers can be your Commissioner Gordon. You editor can be your Oracle. They'll feed you the clues you need to solve the problems in your manuscript. You may not always like what they have to say, but it's better coming from them than from some Rogues Gallery critic who'll be more than happy to pounce on whatever story weakness you failed to address.   

Every writer may spend their time in the Revision Cave a little differently than the next. There's no right or wrong way, just so long as the job gets done. Here's how it typically goes down in my lair:

Draft 1 - This is almost like a training session. I take all the techniques I've learned over the years and use them to get the story down on paper. I know things will have to be refined and improved which is why no one sees this draft. It's just for me.

Draft 2 - I fix the most obvious flaws. I'm not just talking about typos or wordiness, but I make a pass at things I think the Beta Readers and my editor will likely ding me on. Character consistency. Motivation. Believability. In other words, I try to anticipate what a reader will see as a problem area, and fix it before they call me out. Interesting note here: I'm almost always wrong. Most often, the things I think are working aren't, and the things I'm skeptical about, the Betas/Editor love. Go figure. This is the first draft anyone other than me sees.

Draft 3 - This tends to be the toughest time in the cave. I've received feedback from my allies (who might feel like villains, if only for a little while). This is where I stitch up all the wounds (where's Alfred when you need him?) and get ready to go back into battle stronger than ever. EVERY PAGE GETS TOUCHED HERE. I don't necessarily start from scratch, but I will make adjustments in everything I've written based on the feedback I received. This can mean slight dialogue tweaks, or the addition/subtraction of entire scenes. It's imperative that everything gets reviewed, then adjusted, because every change creates a ripple that resonates throughout the manuscript. It's not uncommon for me to have two copies of a manuscript on my screen at once. Draft 2, which is marked up with track changes, colored highlights, and comment bubbles. And a work-in-progress Draft 3 which I expand page by page as I address each draft 2 issue in sequence. When I have a completed digital copy of Draft 3, I print it, then go through and mark additional adjustments in red pen. Finally, I key any red pen changes into my digital copy before returning this updated draft to the Betas/Editor for more feedback.

Draft 4 - By this point, most major concerns have been addressed. There may be more changes, but the scope will usually be reduced. This mission is almost complete.

Draft 5 - If we're lucky, there's no last minute twist that puts us in cliffhanger mode (will the manuscript survive?!). Minor tweaks at most.

I won't tell you that I've never had to do more than 5 drafts of something. It's rare, though. Does a 5th draft mean perfection? Hardly. But you could do 100 drafts and never achieve that lofty goal. You're not supposed to LIVE in the Revision Cave. It just where you keep your gear, where you train, where you do the research. The true mission takes place in the outside world, where you strive to save the day for readers in peril.

Good luck out there. See you next time, folks. Same Revision Time, Same Revision Channel.

Just try not to end up in Arkham in the meantime

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.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Apocalypse Now: An interview with Gina Damico, author of CROAK

So, needless to say, I am super excited to feature this interview with my agent-mate Gina Damico, whose debut novel, CROAK, was published this week.

Want to know more about CROAK?

Fed up with her wild behavior, sixteen-year-old Lex’s parents ship her off to upstate New York to live with her Uncle Mort for the summer, hoping that a few months of dirty farm work will whip her back into shape. But Uncle Mort’s true occupation is
much dirtier than shoveling manure.

He’s a Grim Reaper. And he’s going to teach Lex the family business. She quickly assimilates into the peculiar world of Croak, a town populated by reapers who deliver souls from this life to the next. But Lex can’t stop her desire for justice—or is it vengeance?—whenever she encounters a murder victim, craving to stop the attackers before they can strike again. Will she ditch Croak and go rogue with her reaper skills?

I was fortunate enough to read this book pre-publication and ask Gina some questions about her laugh-out-loud debut novel.

CROAK is one of the most original stories I've read in a while and your world-building of Croak, the town where Lex ends up, is definitely impressive. How did you come up with the idea of modern-day Grim Reapers? I especially loved all the details in the town, such as the diner called the Morgue (which featured such delicacies as Pox Chicken and HomiCider, naturally).
The idea just popped into my head one day at work (because bread stores are such inspirational havens, obviously), and then I just went home and started writing it. No big brainstorming sessions, no analysis of the market. But the more I started writing, the more I started to think that I was on to something here - bookstores were overflowing with vampires and werewolves and unicorns and whatnots, but I hadn't really seen any grim reapers. Plus, it just seemed like a fun new concept to explore, and one that could easily be done with a sick sense of humor.

As for the puns, I am just lame. That's the deal with that.

You are
hilarious. Your book is hilarious. But underneath your quick, witty writing, there's clearly a seriousness to the subject matter, as we're dealing with a town full of Grim Reapers. How did you manage to strike the balance between the rather depressing subject of death and scenes that often made me laugh out loud?
First of all, thank you! *honks clown nose*

I think it's because I, like my main character Lex, am terrible in sad situations. When I offer condolences I always come off as insincere, and then I try to make a joke, which makes things even worse, and things snowball from there until I am politely asked to leave the funeral home.

Prime example: A while back, a good friend of mine was dumped by her boyfriend of several years after he climbed a mountain in Italy and had some sort of life-reassessing epiphany. She was (understandably) a mess, and I was trying (unsuccessfully) to help. Eventually I busted out with: "If it makes you feel any better, this is exactly how DJ was dumped by Steve on Full House." Pause. "What?" she said. "Um, sorry," I stuttered. "I'm deficient." But then she laughed, which did make her feel better, so I guess that sort of sums up any abilities I may have in the department of balancing humor and grief.

CROAK has several entertaining scenes that spotlight the Afterlife and its famous inhabitants, from politicians to writers to inventors. Which famous person would you most want to run into in CROAK's Afterlife and why?
Probably a no-brainer that I would pick Edgar Allan Poe, since he's a character in Croak (though we'd most likely just sit there very awkwardly and eat scones or something), but then there's also Abraham Lincoln to consider, who is so awesome in so many ways. But in the end I'd probably just take the advice of my 16-year-old self and go with Heath Ledger.

What? Too soon?

I am a huge, huge fan of the television show Six Feet Under, though it often left me weeping in a pathetic mess on the floor each week. Oh, um. I mean. What's your favorite television show or episode of a television show that openly deals with death? Bonus points if you can name a favorite movie and book, as well.
Not to completely steal your answer, but if I may completely steal your answer, I too am a huge Six Feet Under fan. The whole last sequence in the finale was, I think, the finest five minutes of television ever made, let alone just a death-related one. I also remember a moment from the pilot, where Nate is talking about being in Sicily and seeing a coffin arrive on the shores, and the way the deceased's family just went apeshit, crying and screaming, and that that's how grief should really be. That always stuck with me.

Book - Where the Red Fern Grows, and if I say any more than that, I will start sobbing. Just typing makes my eyes water.

Movie - Randy Quaid's death in Independence Day. Truly, finer last words have never been spoken than "All right you alien assholes - in the words of my generation, UP YOURS!"

And since this is the Lucky 13s blog, I have to ask - what's your favorite superstition?

I like the one that says if your noses itches, you're going to kiss a fool. Then again, I'm constantly surrounded by fools, so that's kind of a given, isn't it?

Thanks for having me, and happy reaping - er, reading!

Thanks for joining us, Gina, and congrats on the debut of CROAK!

Gina Damico grew up under four feet of snow in Syracuse, New York. She received a degree in theater and sociology from Boston College, where she was active with the Committee for Creative Enactments, a murder mystery improv comedy troupe, which may or may not have sparked an interest in wildly improbable bloodshed. She has since worked as a tour guide, transcriptionist, theater house manager, scenic artist, movie extra, office troll, retail monkey, yarn hawker and breadmonger. She lives in Boston with her husband, two cats, and a closet full of black hoodies.

You can connect with Gina via her website, Facebook, or Twitter.

And you can purchase her book online through the following websites:
Barnes & Noble

This interview was conducted by Lucky 13s member Brandy Colbert as part of an ongoing series of interviews with The Apocalypsies – YA, MG, and children’s book authors debuting in 2012.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Apocalypse Now: An Interview with Jenny Lundquist, Author of SEEING CINDERELLA

Seventh grade is not going well for Calliope Meadow Anderson. Callie’s hair is frizzy, her best friend, Ellen, is acting weird, and to top things off, she has to get glasses. And her new specs aren’t even cute, trendy glasses—more like hideously large and geeky.But Callie soon discovers that her glasses have a special, magical perk: When she wears them, she can read people’s thoughts. For the first time ever she’s answering all the questions right in math class, and gets a glimpse of what goes through people’s minds all day, including what Ellen—and her longtime crush—really think of her.

Crazy glasses aside, Callie has more drama to face when she’s cast as the lead in the school play—and instead opts to be an understudy, giving the role of Cinderella to Ellen. Can Callie’s magic glasses help her see her way to leading lady, or is she destined to stay in the background forever, even with her super freaky magic glasses?

I'm so excited to be be hosting Jenny Lundquist, whose debut MG, SEEING CINDERELLA, releases today. Congratulations, Jenny!
Thanks so much for having me on the blog today. It's shaping up to be an exciting year for the Apocalypsies, and I'm also really excited for 2013 when all the Lucky 13s debut!

First off, I absolutely love Callie from Seeing Cinderella. The twelve year old in me just found her so relatable. Do you see a lot of yourself in her? Or were you more like her best friend, Ellen?

I was definitely more like Callie in middle school. I was shy and introverted, and I spent a lot of time holed up in my room, reading. I was like Ellen in fourth grade, confident, and obsessed with my grades. But around the time that my friends started becoming interested in boys my introversion kicked in, mainly because I wasn't ready for the changes that middle school life brings.

Callie’s girlfriends play a pretty big role in her story. Who was your favourite to write—Ana, Stacy, or Raven? If you could write a spinoff about one of them, who would it be?

That's a hard one. At one point, I started writing a story from Ana's point of view and eventually abandoned it. Each of Callie's friends became very real to me, and one of the things I loved most about writing this story was how Callie's magic glasses gave me an excuse to "see" into each girl's thoughts, regardless of her actions. I had a hard time saying goodbye to these characters. And the main character of my next novel, PLASTIC POLLY, reminds me a little of Stacy (cue mysterious music!).

Callie is obsessed with Red Hots. What were some of the other candies that didn’t make the cut?

None, actually. I can't really tell you where the idea came from, but somehow I just knew that she liked Red Hots. Maybe it was because I had a picture of this sweet, and shy girl with frizzy red hair grubbing on Red Hots in my head, but, yeah, it was one of those things that just came to me and stuck.

What were some of your favourite authors and books when you Callie’s age? Did you always know you wanted to write?

My favorite book when I was Callie's age was THIRTEEN by Candice F. Ransom, in fact, I still own a copy of it.

I always knew I liked to write. The only thing I remember liking about first grade was when I got to write my own picture book for an art project. If I remember correctly, I think the title was Jane and the Giant Snowball and featured a girl running away from—yep, you guessed it—a giant snowball. But I never seriously entertained the idea of "becoming a writer." I believed that I wasn't creative enough to be a writer or that I wouldn't be able to finish a book, even if I started one. For me, part of my writing journey has been rejecting a lot of the negative lies I hear in my head.

Ok , we both know authors are a pretty weird bunch. We all gear up to write in different ways, and no two are the same. What’s a typical writing day for you? Morning or night person? White noise or silence? Are you typically a pantser or outliner? Linear or scene-jumper?

I write in the daytime while my children are in school. When I first started writing, I did it during their naptime, so for me, I've always preferred daytime. After my children go to bed something in me just shuts down and I can't write. Can any other stay-at-home moms relate? So at night I prefer to read, or take notes on upcoming projects or do journal entries for my characters. Anything except sit in front of the computer.

Any advice for new writers, both published and yet-to-be published? How about for any twelve year old aspiring authors out there?

The best advice I could give is: you can do it. You may think that you can't, but you can. The ability to write is like any other discipline, the more you practice, the easier it gets (although it may never be easy, just…easiER). For those twelve-year-old aspiring authors out there, how I envy you! You've got so much time on your side. Go out and live and become who you're supposed to be and write it all down. Keep journals during your middle school and high school years and record all of the pain and wonder you experience. If you don't, one day you'll wish you had. Trust me on this one.

And this being The Lucky 13s, can you tell us your favourite superstition?

I love this question! I'm not a very superstitious person, but I do have a good one. Did anybody play Bloody Mary during sleepovers with their friends? If you didn't, it's this game where you walk into a dark bathroom with your friends, stare into the mirror, and try to see if you can find Bloody Mary staring back at you. I played it with my friends, and it scared me to death. To this day, if I get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, I refuse to look in the mirror.

Thank you so much, Jenny. And we're also looking forward to PLASTIC POLLY, coming Spring 2013!

Buy SEEING CINDERELLA at your favourite bookstore or online at Amazon or Barnes & Noble

Reach Jenny through her Website, Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.

Jenny Lundquist grew up in Huntington Beach, California, wearing glasses and wishing they had magic powers. They didn't, but they did help her earn a degree in Intercultural Studies at Biola University. Her favorite part of college was spending one semester living in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, where she drank lots of tea, met some really interesting people, and honed her Yahtzee skills. Jenny has painted an orphanage in Mexico, taught English at a university in Russia, and hopes one day to write a book at a café in Paris. Jenny and her husband, Ryan, live in Rancho Cordova, California with their two sons, and Rambo, the world's whiniest cat. Jenny is represented by Kerry Sparks of Levine Greenberg Agency.

Elsie Chapman grew up in Prince George, BC, before graduating from the University of British Columbia with a BA in English Literature. She currently lives in Vancouver with her husband and two children, where she writes to either movies on a loop or music turned up way too loud (and sometimes both at the same time). She is represented by The Chudney Agency and DUALED is her debut novel. It will be released by Random House in Spring, 2013.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Revision Process: From Editorial Letter to Victorious Hair-Brushing

This week on the Lucky 13s blog, we’re talking about revision—a topic I’ve become awfully familiar with over the past few months. I’m just finishing up a round of revisions to my middle grade pirate fantasy novel, Magic Marks the Spot, and I thought this would be a good opportunity to show you what revision looks like from a writer’s perspective.
From a non-writer’s perspective, I imagine revision must look sort of alarming. Over the past few months, I have not paid much attention to what I think of as “normal person behavior”: eating at regular times, cleaning the house, cleaning myself, getting dressed, brushing my hair, talking to other human beings, etc. Instead, I have been staring into space and then saying to my husband, “You know, the admiral really does love his daughter in his own warped way, even if she is a pirate.”
And thank goodness, my husband nods and agrees with me, because he knows that revision has eaten my brain, and he is hopeful that despite this, I will someday be able to carry on a conversation that’s not about my book. (Ha!)
From my perspective, though, my revision process is (mostly) orderly and (almost completely) sane. It starts when I receive a letter from my brilliant editor at HarperCollins, letting me know what she loves about the book already and what still needs to be changed. I read that letter many, many times; I take notes on it; I figure out how I’ll address each of my editor’s concerns—and then I put the letter away.
Next, I print out a copy of the existing manuscript. I like to get this done at the FedEx Office down the street. It’s a little pricey, but I get it spiral-bound so it feels more like a real book, which helps me get a better idea of how the manuscript will read in its final form. I take a few days to read through it, taking notes with my red pen along the way. I mark places my editor has questions about, places where I have questions of my own, and places that I particularly love (because it’s always nice to come across an encouraging smiley face on a rough day of revising). Sometimes my comments are marginally helpful: “Add the scene about Philomena and the fish sticks here.” Sometimes they are less so: “Change this!!!” Sometimes I just draw a big red X over an entire paragraph, or page, or scene.
Once the hard copy of the manuscript is all marked up, I start to make changes. When I’m working on a big revision like the one I’m wrapping up now, I actually prefer to type the whole book from scratch, rather than editing an existing version or copying and pasting. When I copy and paste, my brain feels like it’s making a big patchwork quilt, and while the individual squares may be pretty, they don’t really fit together seamlessly. When I type everything onto a new, fresh page, editing as I go, old and new scenes come together more easily. I feel less like a quilter and more like a writer. Which is good, because I know nothing about quilting.
Some writers like to tackle the smaller edits first and then work on the major changes; some do it the other way around. I, however, work chronologically: I start at page 1 and go straight ahead until I reach the end, making each change when I get to it. I set a goal for myself; for this revision, it was 5 pages a day. Sometimes these 5 pages are ridiculously easy because all I have to do is tweak a few words here and there. Sometimes these 5 pages are a completely new scene that takes hours to write. Usually, though, my 5 pages are a mix of small tweaks and medium-sized changes that look simple but aren’t. (It turns out that adding a character to a scene is slightly more complicated than saying, “Oh, and Charlie was there, too.”)
Once I’ve finally reached the end of the draft, I go back through the manuscript and tidy up loose ends. In this current revision, I made a decision about one of my characters but changed my mind about him halfway through; now I have to go back to Chapter 1 and rewrite a few paragraphs to make the character consistent. Then I’ll print the whole thing out again and read through it once more with my red pen, just to see how the whole book flows in its newly revised form. I’ll also dig out my editorial letter again and make sure I’ve addressed each of my editor’s concerns.
And finally, when the book is safely in my editor’s hands once more, I will take a few minutes to brush my hair.
(For a few more of my thoughts about revision and a photo of my marked-up manuscript, you can check out my personal blog post here.)

Caroline Carlson grew up in New England and now lives with her husband in western Pennsylvania. She earned an MFA in Writing for Children from Vermont College of Fine Arts and is an assistant editor of VCFA's literary journal, Hunger Mountain. Caroline is represented by Sarah Davies at the Greenhouse Literary Agency, and her debut middle grade novel, MAGIC MARKS THE SPOT, will be published by HarperCollins Children's Books in Summer 2013. You can find her on Twitter and on her remarkably lazy blog.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Depressed Much?

by Mindy McGinnis

It's St. Patty's Day, and I think that's awesome.

What I don't think is so awesome is the amount of people that assume I'm an alcoholic because I'm Irish.

Sure, I'm thick-skinned so I can take all that teasing in stride, but the holiday dovetails nicely with a recent article about creative children being more prone to depression than their non-creative counterparts.

Why does that dovetail? Name me one sober, optimistic Irish author.

In any case, I think most people do struggle with depression at any given point in their lives, regardless of their creativity. However, I definitely think we're more prone to the dark fingers of that particular malady. And dealing with the rejections that will inevitably come, can make their grip all the stronger.

How to deal? Join an author's forum, for sure. The only people who can truly understand how crushing the blow was on that full rejection are your fellow writers, and they're willing to listen, because they know they'll need your shoulder next week. I highly recommend AgentQuery Connect and Query Tracker as professional and positive places to find others like yourself.

In the end, friends and connections can't make it better on their own. It's up to you to haul yourself up by your bootstraps and keep going. And you're the only person who knows where your own bootstraps are.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Novel Superstitions

Very superstitious... writing’s on the wall.

Just a little Stevie Wonder to get you in the mood!

For any new readers to The Lucky 13s blog, do you know that at the end of our introduction posts, all the Lucky 13s have to mention their favourite superstition? Mine is from a poem by A.A. Milne called 'Lines and Squares': never step on the cracks in the pavement - or else you might get eaten by a bear.

The superstitions of different people and cultures have always fascinated me because they are so varied and yet in a lot of ways they are also similar. Since it is such a deeply ingrained part of human nature, I began to think about what superstitions I could remember from characters in novels.

Superstitious? Me? Never!
One of my favourite (and probably one of the most famous) superstitions has to come from the mighty Harry Potter. Of course, all the witches and wizards must never dare speak the name of “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named”, as if saying the very name aloud could invoke his evil power.

The entire premise of The Spook’s Apprentice by Joseph Delany (known as The Last Apprentice to folks in the US!) is based upon a superstition about the seventh son of a seventh son having special powers. In this case, he can see all sorts of magical creatures that others cannot, and although he trains to protect people in need, he is feared by those who believe he meddles in dark magic.

And in Cecelia Ahern’s The Gift, she misses out Chapter 13 all together in order to preserve the themes of superstition running throughout the book. Somehow I don't think she would make a very good Lucky 13!

In my own work, I knew that the society I was writing about in The Oathbreaker’s Shadow – where promises are sealed with knots and broken vows mark the betrayer with scars on their skin – would be a deeply superstitious one. My characters (especially the older folk), won’t start out on a journey without first making an invocation to the sun goddess, Sola. And shooting stars don't signal it's time to make a wish, but are another dark omen from the gods of a promise broken.

Are any of your characters superstitious? Or do you have a favourite superstitious character from a novel? I remember distinctly a YA fantasy novel where wards are drawn in the air to protect against evil, but I can’t for the life of me remember the name! 


Amy McCulloch is a girl of many publishing hats: author, editor and reader. Originally from Ottawa, Canada, she currently lives in London, UK. Other than books, she is addicted to travelling, running and Starbucks coffee. 

Her debut YA fantasy-adventure novel, THE OATHBREAKER'S SHADOW is due from Random House Children's Books in Spring 2013. Find out more on her blog, add me on Facebook, or feel free to say hello on Twitter!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Apocalypse Now: Interview with Elisa Ludwig, author of PRETTY CROOKED

I'm thrilled to be interviewing Elisa Ludwig, whose debut mystery/thrilled PRETTY CROOKED (Katherine Tegen Books/Harper Collins) hit shelves on Tuesday! Elisa is a fellow "detective" with me over at Sleuths, Spies & Alibis, where we blog about YA/MG mysteries, so I'm especially excited about PRETTY CROOKED's release.

Willa's secret plan seems all too simple. Take from the rich kids at valley prep and give to the poor ones. Yet Willa's turn as Robin Hood at her new high school is anything but. Bilking her "friends"—known to everyone as the Glitterati—without them suspecting a thing is far from easy. Learning how to break into lockers and Beemers is as hard as she'd thought it would be. Delivering care packages to the scholarship girls, who are bullied just for being different, is more fun than she'd expected. The complication Willa didn't expect, though, is Aidan Murphy, VP's most notorious ace-degenerate. His mere existence is distracting Willa from what matters most to her—evening the social playing field between the haves and have-nots. There's no time for flirting, especially with conceited trust-funders like Aidan. But when the cops start investigating the string of thefts at Valley Prep and the Glitterati begin to seek revenge, could Aidan wind up being the person that Willa trusts most? Elisa Ludwig's PRETTY CROOKED is the first book in an adventurous teen caper series filled with mystery, humor, and heart.

In PRETTY CROOKED your protagonist, Willa Fox, faces difficult choices about being accepted or doing the right thing. Her struggles really rang true for me. Would Willa Fox and the teen you have been friends? Why or why not?
I think we could very well have been buddies. I was sort of clique-less and had friends in different groups in high school because I didn't feel like any one group was a natural fit. And even if I had picked a clique, it most definitely would not have been anything resembling the Glitterati. But I would have admired Willa's desire to do the right thing, her rebellious spirit, and her pre-Glitterati fashion sense.

What was the most fun about writing PRETTY CROOKED? 
By far, it was the thieving scenes. They took more research to set up but when I sat down to write them, they just flowed. I remember cackling to myself maniacally on a few occasions.

What do you hope your readers of PRETTY CROOOKED will connect with most?
I guess I'd hope that readers might relate to Willa's situation and find some inspiration to speak up if they see others being bullied. Now, in Willa's case she does the wrong thing in an effort to do the right thing, so she's not a role model. But I'd want readers to feel like it's okay to turn away from the so-called popular people if they are abusing others. If hanging out with these people feels like you're selling yourself out then you probably are.

Willa’s love-hate relationship with arrogant hottie Aidan Murphy positively crackles with romantic tension throughout the book. Willa’s conflicting feelings about him and their biting repartee made the book especially fun. Do you have any favorite literary love-hate relationships? Or any favorite literary couples, in general? 
My inspiration for their relationship came from one obvious source (Veronica Mars and Logan Echolls) and a less-obvious, old-school one (David and Maddy in Moonlighting). I wanted their flirtation to be memorable, so I'm happy you noticed that!

PRETTY CROOKED is the first in a three-book series. Can you give us any hints about what future capers are in store for Willa Fox? 
Willa will be using some of her Pretty Crooked skills in the next two books, but her aims will be different as she sets out to solve some mysteries. And of course there will be some romantic twists and turns!

How do you plan to celebrate your release day?
Ooh, good question. I guess I'd like to sleep in, but that's highly unlikely since I'm sure it will feel like Christmas morning. And though it would be easy to sit in front of the computer all day and bask in electronic debutness, I will make a concerted effort to get outside and do some non-book-related activities, spend time with my man and maybe eat a great meal somewhere in my hometown of Philly.

Since we’re the Lucky 13s, we have to ask: what, if any, are your favorite superstitions or lucky writing charms?
I have a metallic pinecone paperweight on my desk that my writing teacher Beverly Coyle gave me in college and I really like to have that close at hand. I'm fairly superstitious about which cafes I work in and which tables I'll sit at in those particular places... but maybe that is more of a feng shui type of thing. Either way, every step of the journey to publication pretty much feels like a lottery, so whatever kind of luck any of us can summon is helpful!

Thanks so much for stopping by, Elisa -- and congratulations on PRETTY CROOKED's release!
Thanks so much for having me—I can't wait to delve into the 2013 crop.

If you'd like a chance to win a signed ARC of PRETTY CROOKED, stop by Sleuths, Spies & Alibis now through March 19th. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Why I Can't Write

Out for workshopping and lattes with a group of fellow writers last night, we got around to discussing why we weren't getting our work done. All of us work wildly different hours-- from hectic freelance schedules, to full-time jobs, to part-time work with long commutes. And though I suppose we could have all been using that time to write, instead of using it to dissect our lack of creative output, I reached a conclusion: my writing superstitions are preventing me from actually writing.

Yes, I'm busy. I work, I'm in school, I have multiple projects on multiple burners and a chaotic personal life that has spiraled into even great chaos since the beginning of 2012. But truth be told, I have the time to write. I like staying up late and could be writing at 10pm. But I don't. Because my rituals surrounding writing have gotten so strict that they prevent me from taking advantage of those random little pockets of time that appear.

Most importantly, I have to be at a cafe. And preferably Red Horse Cafe near my home in Brooklyn, NY (please don't stalk me! I need all the time I spend there to be writing focused and not stalker-avoidance-focused!) I also need a hot drink. More than that, I need it to be my first hot drink of the day. This means I will occasionally deprive myself from coffee for HOURS, just so that when I sit down to write, it is my first hit of caffiene. This is a terrible, relationship-hindering, nap-inducing superstition that is based on nothing. I also need to have at least three hours of free time, prefer to be showered and hair-straightened, and cannot be hungry.

Oh yeah, and I like the table to myself. When some poor soul wants to share the table with me, I might as well pack it in right then and there, because I will be too flustered to write anything worthwhile.

My neighborhood cafe closes early, so once 8pm hits, I'm out of luck. I will, in desperate times, write in my apartment, but the work feels stale, and lacking in joy. It doesn't feel like actual writing, without all the ritual. And I don't trust myself to do good work, without all my superstitious hoopla helping out.

So what's a girl to do? Develop new, evening-friendly rituals? Or give in to the pull of superstitions and accept that my quirks make me a charming and neurotic writer? Have you ever had luck in abandoning superstition and ritual in order to become more productive? And is the joy still there, even if the rituals aren't?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Apocalypse Now: An Interview with Lissa Price, Author of STARTERS

In a world ravaged by war and genocide, becoming someone else is now possible. Sixteen-year-old Callie discovers the Body Bank where teens rent their bodies to seniors who want to be young again. When her neurochip malfunctions, she wakes up in the mansion of her rich renter and finds she is going out with a senator’s grandson. It’s a fairy-tale new life, until she discovers her renter’s deadly plan.

I'm very excited to be interviewing Lissa Price, whose YA novel STARTERS makes its debut today! Lissa, congratulations on STARTERS! It was a great read, and I made the mistake of starting it late enough that it kept me up much too late.
I have to admit I love it when readers tell me I’ve kept them up all night.
Tell us a bit about writing STARTERS. What was the publishing process like? Was it faster than you would have ever dreamed, or longer than you would have ever feared?
This project has been at lightspeed. Bought in May to be pubbed in March, ARCs didn’t come out until two months before launch. Book two, which is the last in the series, will come out in December of this year. So I’ve been breathless between writing book two and doing publicity which is necessary for a debut. But at this stage, my publicist is determining which publicity is most important as I need to focus on finishing book two. I want to stress that I’m very grateful to be this busy.
What’s cool about STARTERS is how Callie is a teenager—pretty much a given in a YA novel—yet a lot of the supporting characters are actually elderly. It’s an interesting play on age, how life begins at one end and finishes at the other. Did you know you were going to tackle such a complex topic when you first started writing the book, or did it just take on a life of its own?
It really took on a life of its own. I’m a big believer in writing organically, meaning I do create outlines but I listen to the characters so I can be true to the story that is crying to come out. I loved the landscape of the silver-haired Enders and the teen Starters, so that part of the picture was painted in early. I wanted conflict of course, so I started with Callie being skeptical and cautious of Enders and she grows to trust them through her interactions with them. So you picked up on the fact that on one level I’m talking about these issues of age and how we judge people based on appearance when there might be something different if you look beneath. I am interested in different levels of reality and how that lays the groundwork for some fresh emotional situations. For me this is the magic of writing, what keeps me interested.
From the bio in your ARC for STARTERS, you’ve travelled quite extensively. How or why did you decide on choosing L.A. to be the backdrop for Callie’s story? Did you ever consider any other locations?
It was always this setting. I like writing about the Southern California area I live in because I know it so well and so many options exist here. Los Angeles has great contrasts. Beverly Hills seemed like the perfect place for Prime Destinations. A German TV crew came to interview me and they wanted to shoot in some of the locations, so we found a building in Beverly Hills that came very close to my description in the book with the mirrored façade.
Would you like to give us an idea of a typical writing day for you?
Spend the morning answering New York email from one of my publishers or agents and handling publicity – tweeting, interviews, helping friends. Start writing, stop to eat and exercise and do this until late at night. I’ve been on such a tight schedule, I’m working all day, every day. My friends just know it’ll be like this for a while because my tour runs to the end of March. April is booked up already with solid rewrites. I can’t even hope to touch my tbr pile of friend’s books until May or June.
I know you’re most likely hard at work on the sequel for STARTERS. Can you give us one word or phrase as a tantalizer of what to expect?
Nothing is what you expect.
To finish off, because we’re the Lucky 13s, we’re big into superstitions around here. What’s your favourite superstition?
I try not to sit with my back to the entrance door.
Thanks for having me, Lucky 13s!
Thank you so much, Lissa, and congratulations again!

Lissa Price is a member of SCBWI, SFWA, ITW, as well as one of the Apocalypsies, a group of 2012 debut YA and MG authors. In 2012 she joined Beth Revis and the talented gang of five 2011 and five 2012 debut YA dystopian and science fiction authors at The League of Extraordinary Writers.
Her debut YA dystopian thriller, STARTERS, the first in a duology, releases 3/13/12 and the second book releases 12/04/12. See the trailer at the official website: Visit Lissa at,, and follow her on Twitter @Lissa_Price.
Buy STARTERS at your favourite bookstore or online at Barnes & Noble or Amazon.

“…twists and turns come so fast that readers will stay hooked. Constantly rising stakes keep this debut intense.” Kirkus Reviews.

Elsie Chapman grew up in Prince George, BC, before graduating from the University of British Columbia with a BA in English Literature. She currently lives in Vancouver with her husband and two children, where she writes to either movies on a loop or music turned up way too loud (and sometimes both at the same time). She is represented by The Chudney Agency and DUALED is her debut novel. It will be released by Random House in Spring, 2013.