Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Yee – Haw! Good times at TXLA!

The Texas Library Association held their annual conference in Fort Worth, TX last week and I was lucky enough to be a part of it.

My badge.

I arrived on Thursday and the conference was well underway. Walking the floor with fellow Lucky 13er, Polly Holyoke, we played a game called Spot the Lucky 13 books. And they were everywhere! I was lucky enough to snag a few copies for myself.

My haul.

Another highlight of the event was meeting all of the librarians and bloggers. And it was especially fun to meet Lucky 13ers, Mindee Arnett and Cristin Terrill and the Disney Hyperion school and library folks.

Polly Holyoke, Me, Dina Sherman (w/ Disney Hyperion) and Cristin Terrill


But the absolute best part of the event was the TT4L teen book event on Friday night. This was only for teens and they were able to get signed books from a room full of authors. They were thrilled to be there and it was incredible to see their excitement over books. Most only got as far as the hallway before they found a spot and started reading. It was such a fun experience!

My signing station.

 I hope this was just the first in a long line of conventions I will attend. There is nothing like hanging out with a bunch of book people.


Ashley Elston lives in North Louisiana with her husband and three sons. Her debut, THE RULES FOR DISAPPEARING, will be published by Disney Hyperion on May 14, 2013. She is now super experienced in signing her name on the title page of her book. 
You can find Ashley here:

Friday, April 26, 2013

Starry, Starry Night - Astrology and Elizabethan England

Dr. John Dee,
Elizabethan Astrologer to the Stars
If you've been feeling a little unsettled for the past few days, you can blame the heavens. Starting on April 25, we're in the midst of three significant eclipses in the next forty-five days, the first time we've experienced this sort of heavenly transit since the early 1930s. That was a very turbulent time for the world, and today is no different. 

I came across this information a few days ago, and found myself researching what the impact of such astrological chaos would be for me. The message I received was that "despite the crashing of the waves around me, my ship is on the right course."

Okay, so that was a little vague. However, since I'm knee deep in research for upcoming books in the Maids of Honor series, it made me think of how that message might equally have been given to the people of Elizabethan England.

Elizabethans were caught between considering astrology as claptrap or as a powerful and legitimate science. Championed by Dr. John Dee, the greatest astrologer of Elizabethan England and the Queen's own astrologer, the studies of magic, astrology and alchemy proved a fascinating focus for the scientists of the time. This was also the age that saw Nostradamus gain prominence, and the idea of predicting the future appealed to many despite (or perhaps because of) outcry against such studies by the Church. Much later in Elizabeth's lifetime, astrology also played an important role in the works of William Shakespeare -- over a hundred references to astrology can be found in Shakespeare's works, and the subject is mentioned in every one of his plays. In addition, the central character in "The Tempest" is Prospero, whose character is said to be based on John Dee. (see: http://www.elizabethan-era.org.uk/ as a great starting point for researching the Elizabethan time period!) Dr. John Dee also plays a part in MAID OF SECRETS (off stage) and will be a more significant character as the books continue.

With MAID OF SECRETS coming out May 7, I definitely am in a chaotic time, but fingers crossed that my ship is indeed on the right course!

NOTE: If you are looking for debuts from Simon & Schuster authors at your local Barnes & Noble, and don't see them, by all means ask at the desk! With the current disagreement between my publisher and the bookseller chain, B&N is not stocking many of the newer S&S authors. You can still find our books at Amazon and BN.com and Independent bookstores (LOVE Indie bookstores!) but just a word to the wise !

What about you? Do you read your horoscope or pay attention to the stars?

Jennifer McGowan has been writing fiction since well before she knew any better. A past Romance Writers of America Golden Heart winner and 2011 Golden Heart finalist, Jenn is represented by agent extraordinaire Alexandra Machinist, of Janklow & Nesbit.

Jenn's debut novel, MAID OF SECRETS, will be published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers on May 7, 2013. You can find Jenn at Goodreads, online and on twitter.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Happy Book Birthday, ACID!

One piece of writing advice I always give people who ask me for, um, writing advice – especially young writers – is this: never throw anything away, even if you don’t finish it.

Why? Because you never know when you might go back to an idea you thought was broken, and suddenly realise you know how to fix it.

I first had the idea for the book that would become ACID when I was fourteen. A friend and I challenged each other to write a story about someone escaping from jail in a brutal future world. I wrote about three chapters, got stuck, and gave up. But I didn’t get rid of it.

Eight years later, aged twenty-two, I’d just graduated from university after fighting my way through a fine art course, knowing after the second week that I didn’t want to be a painter but determined to get my degree. As soon as I’d put up my final show, I went back to my tiny room in my student flat, turned on my computer, and began another attempt at my prison story. That failed too. I graduated, moved halfway across the country, and decided it was time to have a proper stab at becoming a writer. It would take a year before I realised I was a YA writer, and another four years to get an agent, with a contemporary story that didn’t sell.

That was when I started thinking about my prison story again, and wondering if I could make it work as a YA novel. My agent liked the idea, so I dug out all those old notebooks and scribbled notes, and started looking through them, wondering if there was anything in there I could use to help me bring world that was taking shape inside my head to life. Fortunately, although both attempts at the story had stalled early on, I’d made a lot of notes about politics, technology, infrastructure and everyday life. Worldbuilding is such an important part of any novel that’s set in the future or an alternate reality, and still having all my old notes meant a huge amount of that work was already done. It took over two years to write the new version of my old idea, then edit it and get it ready to go out on submission.

But this time, it worked. In July 2011, Random House Children’s Publishers offered me a two book deal. Today, twenty-one months later – twenty-one months filled with editing, copyediting and proofreading, then first-drafting and editing the next novel, a standalone thriller which will come out next year – ACID hits the shelves. It’s taken three attempts, and nineteen years, but my prison story is finally a real book, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. 

  Emma Pass grew up at an environmental studies centre near London, went to art school in Cornwall and now lives in the North-East Midlands, UK, with her artist husband. For 3 wonderful years she was lucky enough to share her life with The Hound, too (that's him in the picture). She is represented by Carolyn Whitaker at London Independent Books and her YA dystopian thriller ACID is out now in the UK from Corgi/Random House, and releases in the US on 1st April 2014 from Delacorte. You can find her blog here, view her website here and catch her procrastinating on Twitter here.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Three Notes on Poetry

By Lydia Kang

One: I started writing poetry five years ago. 
I'd just had a baby; I was hormonal, and it happened.

Thank god for hormones.

Poetry has been an important facet of my writing journey. Something about playing with words and using them to craft emotion, sensation, and surprise was fascinating to me.

Since I started, I'd had the support of many, many accomplished poets (Steve Langan, Todd Robinson, Lindsey Baker) who saw my lame first tries, didn't laugh, and later critiqued other poems I ended up publishing. They are some of my absolute favorite poets in the world. Others I adore include Ted Kooser ("Pocket Poem"), William Carlos Williams ("A Love Song"), and Louise Gluck ("The White Rose").

Two: I love encountering poetry in YA or MG fiction.
I loved the unexpected, original poems in Another Little Piece by Kate Karyus Quinn, whose book is coming out in June. It totally added to the mystery of the book. And I was entranced by the poetry in The Sky is Everywhere, by Jandy Nelson.

Novels in verse have been a new thing for me. Two very different but thoroughly enjoyable books I read recently were May B by Caroline Starr Rose, and Gone Fishing by Tamera Wissinger. I know there are many others! Mention them in the comments, if you have a favorite. :)

Then there are other fellow Lucky13s whose books influenced by poets and poems, like Evan Rosko's Dr Bird's Advice for Sad Poets. And also, my fellow Dial-sister, April Tucholke's Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea.

And then there is Controlmy sci-fi novel coming in December. Yep, it's got a poem in there, and yep, I wrote it. I never thought of combining sci-fi with poetry, but ten years ago, I never, ever thought I'd be writing poetry myself. What can I say? Poetry does strange and good things to you. :)

Three: #twtpoem
Recently, April Tucholke and I started prompting each other on Twitter with medical-related poetry prompts (atropine, pulse, stitches). And others joined in!

It's been so fun! Keep your eye out for more poetry in your YA and MG books. And in the meantime, joins us for some mini poems by following #twtpoem prompts!

Does poetry play a part in your life, your writing, or your reading? Do you have a favorite poet? 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

My Earth Day Resolution

I don’t really make New Year’s resolutions, at least, not in January. I make my resolutions in April, for Earth Day. Each year I find one small thing I can adjust to make my footprint just a little smaller.

Last summer in Colorado was painfully dry. Scorchingly dry. Swaths of national forest burning dry. So my resolution for this year has to do with water:

I am going to try to keep my vegetable garden alive on greywater. That’s going to mean a lot of trips from the kitchen sink to the backyard, but that’s fine with me—it’s not only the Colorado drought that has water on my mind.

My debut novel, Parched, is a story that explores what happens to two kids when the water is gone. When I do school visits, I hand kids a bookmark with space for them to write on the back and ask them for 3 ways they can conserve water at home or at school. Before they start writing, I ask for a show of hands. I love to hear the ideas that kids have come up with. Things like:

                “I won’t take any more showers.”

                “I won’t ever flush the toilet.”

...and then (when the teachers’ eyebrows have risen to a panicked all-time high) we modify the question slightly. “Okay,” I say, “how can you take care of the water in your area while still taking care of your body and your community?”

Then the really good ideas start to roll:

                “I could turn off the water while I brush my teeth.”

                “I can turn off the faucet while I wash my hands.”

                “I can invite the neighbors to come play in my sprinklers so the water is on in only one house, not two.”

Parched isn’t about water protection and conservation. It’s about two kids, and the emotional and physical struggle they endure in order to survive. But the story is set in our world, one generation down the road, in an all-too realistic premise. So I hope the story will prompt my readers will think about how they use water and to make a few adjustments.

I’d love to know—what’s your Earth Day resolution? Please share in the comments—who knows—your idea just might inspire someone else to try it too!

Author of PARCHED (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, June 2013) Melanie Crowder holds an MFA from Vermont College. Visit her online at www.melaniecrowder.net!

Monday, April 22, 2013


First, let's celebrate The Lucky 13 authors who had April Middle Grade releases! Congratulations to these authors and their fabulous books:

BULLY.COM – Joe Lawlor 04/01/13 (Eerdman's Books for Young Readers)
GENIE WISHES – 4/02/13 – Elisabeth Dahl (Amulet/Abrams)
THE KEY & THE FLAME – 4/02/13 – Claire Caterer (Margaret K. McElderry Books)
THIS JOURNAL BELONGS TO RATCHET - 04/02/13 Nancy J. Cavanaugh (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky)
RUMP – 4/09/13 – Liesl Shurtliff (Knopf Books for Young Readers)
THE FLAME IN THE MIST – 4/09/13 – Kit Grindstaff (Delacorte Books for Young Readers)


April is National Poetry Month, and for our Meanwhile...Middle Grade group post this month we're celebrating by talking about poetry's influence on our writing. 

Jenn, Kit, Polly, Kristen, Elisabeth, Melanie, and Nancy answered this question: Can you tell everyone how/if poetry has influenced you in your writing in general, or how you used poetry or elements of verse (rhyme, rhythm, stanza patterns) in your debut MG Novel? 


Like my own heart beat, I like my sentences to hold a steady rhythm. Sure, what the words mean together is important, but how they sound as they tick off through my head...weirdly more important.

Jennifer Ann Mann, author of SUNNY SWEET IS SO NOT SORRY Bloomsbury, October 1, 2013 You can connect with Jenn on


A.A. Milne’s “Now We Are Six” was a first love; then after years of being a songwriter, using rhymes and songs in The Flame in the Mist was a no-brainer. For example: 
All little children had better beware / Hide in the attic or under a chair / There’s evil a-coming from up on the hill / If the Mist doesn’t get you, the Agromonds will.
The innocence of a nursery rhyme to express darkness was a creep factor I couldn’t resist!

Kit Grindstaff,  author of THE FLAME IN THE MIST
You can also connect with Kit on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.


My father loved to recite poetry, and he was wonderfully good at it. Listening to him made me begin to appreciate the richness in the sound and texture of words. I purposely used spare, simple language in The Neptune Project because it’s set in such a stark and difficult future. But in my fantasy and historical novels, I write in a more lyrical fashion, and I know I’m borrowing cadences and rhythms from the classic poems my father recited for us when I was a child. 

Polly Holyoke, author of THE NEPTUNE PROJECT You can connect with Polly on her Website, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.


While poetry might not seem to have its place in a novel about two best friends who think their school counselor is a dangerous fugitive, it certainly does for me as a writer. I read poetry for breaks as part of my process: the rhythms, the distilling of emotion, and visceral images of some of my favorite poets like Mary Oliver, Billy Collins, Elizabeth Bishop, and T.S. Eliot jog my brain and serve as a linguistic palate cleanser for me! It's a way of stepping outside my own draft, getting some distance, and remembering how in love I am with words. While one would be hard pressed to see evidence of those poets' influence in my own work, their work helps put me on the right mental plane for creating!

Kristen Kittscher, author of THE WIG IN THE WINDOW June 18, 2013 from Harper Children's You can connect with Kristen on her WebsiteTwitterFacebook


There's no poetry in GENIE WISHES per se, but like most writers, I write with my ear as much as my head. I read the whole book out loud at least once or twice, to make sure the music of it--the sounds, the tempos, and so on--worked.

Elisabeth Dahl author of GENIE WISHES, Amulet/Abrams, available now. You can connect with Elisabeth on Twitter, her WebsiteFacebook, and Goodreads


I used so many elements of poetry while writing Parched! I wanted the prose to mirror the sparse setting, so I paid careful attention to the rhythm and restraint of each sentence. I also used imagery as the primary vehicle for emotion in the story. When Parched begins, my characters are trauma-stricken and incapable of trust, so I couldn't just come out and say "she was upset" or "he was afraid." I had to build the atmosphere of those emotions through images, just as a poet would.

Melanie Crowder, author of PARCHED, Harcourt Children's Books June 4, 2013 You can connect with Melanie on her WebsiteBlogGoodreads, and Facebook


My main character Ratchet writes a variety of poetry in THIS JOURNAL BELONGS TO RATCHET.  Her story is told through the assignments in her homeschool language arts journal.  Including poetry as one of the forms Ratchet uses to tell her story just adds another layer to the way the story is written.  I hope Ratchet's poetry shows readers how creative and interesting poetry can be.  

Nancy J. Cavanaugh, author of THIS JOURNAL BELONGS TO RATCHETSourcebooks/Jabberwocky, now available. You can connect with Nancy on her WebsiteBlogFacebook


Tamera Wissinger posted this blog entry. She wrote the middle grade book GONE FISHING: A Novel in Verse, and is thrilled to see the creative variety of ways that these MG authors use poetry in their work! Thank you, friends!