Saturday, July 28, 2012

A Conversation Betwixt Mark and Amy

Recovered from email files
Highly classified
Like, really high
Begin transmission
I am the walrus
Koo-koo kachew!


M: Is this on? *taps mic*

A: Yes, Mark. It's on. This feels like standup comedy. Therefore, I am uncomfortable.

M: Okay, so what do you wanna do? Ask each other questions for a while? Share writing advice? Both? Neither? Lobster?

A: Shall we introduce ourselves first? You are a secret Irishman who sprouts lovely dovely prose and I am the uncomfortable meeting of a stuffy old English lady and a wannabe southern girl.

M: ...yeah, none of that is actually true.

Anyway! Amy, how are you on this lovely... 11:07 EST on a Friday night?

A: Stuffing things haphazardly into boxes. Choking on spit. Repeatedly glancing towards my laptop, Moggle, wishing I could be revising instead. Sparing a few looks at the TV because the Olympic Opening Ceremony is still on. Listening to the BRAVE soundtrack. Sucking on a butterscotch lollipop. Shivering a bit because I'm too lazy to close the window and I accidentally packed all of my sweatshirts. The usual.

And you, my dearest hippo?

M: Listening to Mayday Parade, my favorite band of all time and forever. Eating a Hot Pocket. Drinking Pepsi in an old-fashioned can. Contemplating the plot of my WIP. Trying to determine whether pants are really a necessary invention.

A: I never wear pants while drafting. This is a lie.

So, Mr. O'Brien, shall we tell the world of our opinions on life?

M: Surely, Ms. Zhang! Well, I believe life is a genuinely radiant thing, something to be celebrated regularly. I believe it's something to hold onto, to cherish, to love and adore and care for. I just rhymed.

So what's your opinion on that life thing?

A: I believe that life ought--oh, craperdoodles, Mr. O'Brien. I'm afraid that I must retire to my bedchamber for the night and complete the shoving of my belongings into boxes. Shall we continue on the morrow?

M: Indeed! Don't mind me; I shall sit here and sip tea. All night. While watching you sleep— what?

A: *suspicious glance* Very well. Do try to abstain from hiding in my closet, all right?

M: I make no promises, Ms. Zhang.

A: Mr. O'Brien, were you aware of the fact that in some Celtic myths, redheads were believed to become vampires after they died?

M: I decidedly was not, Ms. Zhang. However, I am ALREADY a vampire, so I needn't worry about such trivial things.

A: Oh, hey, we learn something new every day! So, I believe we were discussing the meaning of life? I seem to recall that you were in the middle of pledging your eternal love for it, in sickness and in health, and I could not agree more.

M: Indeed! Though I said nothing about "in sickness and in health." I am not marrying Ms. Life, pretty as she may be, Ms. Zhang. I am, after all, a hermit.

A: Of course, Mr. O'Brien. Though, I was under the vague impression that life was, in fact, the very proud and hot owner of a Y-chromosome. I have also come to the realization that our conversation is amounting to nothing. Not, of course, that this is news.

M: Indeed, this seems to be fit more for our own amusement than the masses. Hark! Whatever shall we do?

A: We will discuss writing, of course. How goes yours?

M: Fantastical, my dear fellow! I've recently started a new WIP, as the children call them, and I'm quite in love with it. It's a YA romance tentatively called MADDENING, and it's about a girl whose boyfriend slowly descends into paranoid schizophrenia in Texas in the 1980s, and their relationship.

My dearest Amelia Bedelia, it's my understanding that you've recently completed a speculative fantasy. Might you inform us of this simply ravishing ms over a spot of tea? It is, after all, high noon.

A: I would be utterly delighted to. MY STARS WILL FALL is inspired by Celtic and Norse mythology. It's about a girl who hasn't heard her name spoken aloud in three years, a boy who should be dead, a few monsters and the people who are even more monstrous, and hot chocolate.

Now, let's move on. What do you have planned for MADDENING, Mr. O'Brien? You will query it, I hope?

M: Should my current ms not garner an offer of representation, yes, I should want to query MADDENING. Back into the trenches of querying, I suppose. Ms. Zhang, I understand you yourself are currently in a different trench— you and your agent are on submission to publishers. How are you feeling? Is it simply exhausting?

A: Mostly, it's composed of long hours of sitting sadly in an empty bathtub, repeatedly refreshing my email. It's a good life, is it not?

M: Oh, indeed! My email refreshments have been many and short between.

A: Well, Mr. O'Brien, I have been called to a shoe secret emergency meeting with a kangaroo and a beached whale regarding the well being of the entire sandwich world. It has been an absolute pleasure. *salutes*


End transmission

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Interview with Nicole Steinhaus

Hi guys! Sorry about the late post (we had technical troubles), but our interview should make up for it. This week, we're bringing you Nicole Steinhaus, writer, intern for Entangled Publishing, and lovely human being. Check her out!

•How long have you been writing for?
I started writing back in 2009 and, really, it was because my husband was working nights and I was B.O.R.E.D. out of my mind. I’d never written fiction before and spent five months drafting the longest (140k), adjective-ridden, description-heavy story about a girl and a ghost. It was atrocious! And I’m so embarrassed I ever let anyone read it. But it was a learning experience.

•Tell us a little about your book.
The manuscript I currently have out on submission is a YA suspense that follows a sixteen-year-old girl’s journey into proper diagnosis of dissociative identity disorder:Ellie Cox can’t remember—her childhood or how she got the tattoo on her stomach. It started out small… forgetting a drive home or a conversation with a friend. But her blackouts are getting worse, more difficult to disguise as forgetfulness.When Ellie goes missing, no one expects to find her in the apartment of another boy. Not even Ellie. Or her boyfriend, Shane. Another three days have escaped her and, as if that isn’t bad enough, the boy, Griffin, keeps calling her “Gwen.” Ellie is branded as a cheater at school and, fighting for Shane’s forgiveness, she struggles to regain her three days and understand why she lost time in the first place.After discovering her biological last name, Ellie sets out to learn more about her past. And it turns out “Gwen” isn’t just a name Griffin calls her. Gwen is a real person. Living inside Ellie. Created by Ellie’s childhood mind to protect her from the horror she used to call home. Gwen now wants to take over Ellie and live her own life…at Ellie's expense.
After Oprah featured a woman on her show who was living with more than a hundred personalities, I knew DID was something I wanted to tackle fictionally. The idea frightened me, actually. How could I pull off something that, in reality, was so disorienting? Two months of research on top of six drafts and I’m proud to say it’s far more psychologically unsettling than I could’ve ever imagined.

•How'd you get your agent?
Query, wait, revise. Query, wait, revise. Really, that’s all I did. With this draft, I only queried a handful of agents and when Bree Ogden of D4EO Literary Agency approached me with an offer of representation, even though I had several other offers within that following week, my gut told me Bree was the one. She saw exactly what I was trying to pull off with Gwen and Ellie’s story and, more importantly, told me I could.

•How did The Call go?
Uh…you mean after I told Bree to call, realized my phone was dead, read her email that said something along the lines of “Um…you didn’t answer…,” called her back, and then hung up so she could call me relieving me of the long distance charges? Fantastic! Her first words, “I loved your book!” still make me smile. And pinch myself because, honestly, as cliché as this sounds, sometimes I feel like this is all a dream.I asked all the basic questions, wrote everything down knowing I wouldn’t remember a thing once we hung up and tried not to reveal how socially awkward I am on the phone. She went over the terms of the contract and we discussed the plan for my manuscript. She didn’t think any changes needed to be made so we talked on and off the following week about the pitch and then I was out. To The. Big. Six!

•Do you have any formal writing training?
None. However, I’m a teacher with a Master’s Degree in Education and a single subject credential in English so I’ve got a basic knowledge of grammar and punctuation and all of that other fun stuff which I’ve built on by reading craft books and writing-related blogs. I’ve attended conferences and retreats. One thing that’s helped tremendously is reading books in the genre I write. Not only do I see what I’m up against trying to break into the market as a debut writer, but often times I’ll break down plotlines and analyze sentence structure and character growth as I read.

•How did you get your internship at Entangled? Which imprint do you work at?
I owe it all to Alycia Tornetta, Bree’s former intern! And perfect timing. After signing with Bree, Alycia and I became fast Twitter friends and one day I mentioned to her about internships. She said she thought one was opening up at Entangled where she works as assistant editor and the next thing I knew senior editor Stacy Cantor Abrams was calling me! I read for Entangled, Indulgence, Bliss, and Covet.

•Has working on the "other side" helped your writing?
More than I could’ve imagined. I don’t see it as taking time away from my writing. Before this internship, I beta read a few manuscripts a month and what I learned is that seeing mistakes, whether big or small, in someone else’s writing can be a real eye-opener when it comes to your own. On the internship side, I’m privy to what the senior editors are passing on and, more importantly, why. Seeing this side of publishing has also helped with the anxiety of having my own manuscript out on submissions.I wouldn’t have learned about writing without the knowledge of others so I’ve been running a mini-series on my YA Stands blog (http://yastands.blogspot.com) called Reasons Editors Pass to pay forward some of the tips I’ve been learning. So far it’s gotten a pretty good response.

•What piece of advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Nothing new, but it’s what’s worked for me: Don’t rush in to thinking your manuscript is ready for submission. Take the proper steps to ensure it’s the best it can be. And when you do put yourself out there, don’t let the rejections get you down. Use the feedback from the agents/editors to make adjustments and TRY AGAIN.

Find Nicole at:
http://www.nicolesteinhaus.com/
https://twitter.com/NicoleSteinhaus
http://yastands.blogspot.com/ and https://twitter.com/YAStands
http://www.facebook.com/#!/NicoleSteinhausAuthor

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Interview with Julie Murphy


Hi, everyone! We're continuing our interview-every-Saturday month today with an interview with Julie Murphy, author of SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY (Balzar + Bray/HarperCollins, winter 2014)! She is funny and wonderful and didn't scream too much when we coerced her into doing this :)


How long have you been writing for?
I've always dabbled in writing. Whether it was journaling (or really attempts at journaling), poetry, short stories, or screenplays (yes, even screenplays), storytelling in some form has been a part of my daily life for as long as I can remember. A little less than a year ago, I began to take writing seriously. And it's been quite the year!


Tell us a little about your book, SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY.
When sixteen-year-old Alice learns she is terminally ill, she makes a very surprising list of things to do–which includes settling some old scores. She’s made peace with her life—until she goes into remission. Now Alice must face the consequences of everything she’s said and done, as well as her true feelings for the boy she pushed away when tomorrow wasn’t certain.


How did you celebrate The Call from your agent? 
Well, immediately after receiving The Call, I had a solo dance party and then went to work. Womp, womp. But a few weeks after that, I went out for a great big dinner with a few close friends. And I basically bought myself a cupcake every day for at least a month.


Which was harder: querying or going on sub?
Oh wow. Querying is hard. Really, really hard. But submission is a whole other animal. I think the hardest thing about going on submission is, that after querying, we're so accustomed to all the articles and the blogs that detail every square inch of querying. But when it comes to being on submission, you just don't find that same plethora of information out there. Usually, the reason for that is because submission is so very different for every single person.  I was lucky in that both the querying process and the submission process for SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY passed rather quickly. But if I had to choose one or the other, I would say that querying was the harder of the two. That's simply because, when I was on submission, I wasn't alone. I had my amazing agent going to bat for me.


How'd you get your agent? From the slush pile, a conference, a contest?
My dear, sweet agent, Molly, who I gush about at any given opportunity, plucked me out of the slush pile! I've got a detailed agent story on my blog for those interested.

Any strange writing rituals?

Heck yes I have strange writing rituals! Three in particular. The first is popsicles. Boxes and boxes of popsicles. You know I've had a good writing day when my office is littered with popsicle sticks. And then there are movie trailers. I sit down and watch a whole slew of movie trailers before writing. It's very therapeutic for me. The third isn't so strange, but I do a lot of writing longhand. It helps when I'm stuck. And, too, I find that some of my most organic work comes when I power down my laptop and put pen to paper. So there you have it. The secret to my success: popsicles, movie trailers, and writing longhand.


How excited were you when you got your editor?
I don't think there exists a tool on Earth to properly measure my excitement. I could not be more thrilled to be working with Alessandra and the whole team at Balzer + Bray. I don't think I'll ever get used to saying "my editor." My face has been stuck in this really goofy smile. It's kind of starting to hurt. ;)


What piece of advice would you give to aspiring writers? Anything specific for teen writers?
All the usual stuff, of course. Don't give up, keep on trucking, chin up, etc. But most importantly, READ. Everything of value that I have learned about writing has come from a book. Your favorite books make you feel the way that they do for a reason. Find out why. And here's my other piece of advice: don't take all of the advice. Pick and choose what works best for you. Otherwise, you'll just end up with a hodge podge of advice. Sometimes there's no right advice for you, and sometimes you have to set your own rules. In fact, that's one of the best parts about writing. There's no right way.


See? I told y'all that she was wonderful! Thank you SO MUCH for coming, Julie!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Interview with Leigh Ann Kopans


Hi everyone! As promised, we've kidnapped Leigh Ann Kopans today to be interviewed (it almost didn't happen due to some seriously bad planning on Amy's part...). She's brilliant and funny and absolutely wonderful, so I'll stop singing her praises and let you guys see for yourselves!

Thank you so, so much for having me! I love visiting other blogs and I'm honored that you took me up on my (perhaps over-enthusiastic?) twitter volunteering to be interviewed.

How long have you been writing for?

I've been writing for about a year and a half.

Tell us a little about your book, ONE (this is the one you're going on subs for on Monday, right? Oodles of luck to you!)

ONE is about Merrin, a girl with only half a superpower - a One. She can float, but she can't do anything to move herself through the air - meaning she can't fly. She's been dreaming of getting an internship at the Supers' Biotech Hub and figuring out how to fix herself for years.

Then she meets Elias, another One who can push the air around him. There are a couple awesome things about Elias - first, he is very cute and a really good kisser; second, when she touches him, their One powers combine to make them fly.

Everything's going great, including Merrin getting short-listed for that internship she always wanted, until Elias gets kidnapped, and Merrin suspects the Hub is behind it. She's going to have to decide which she wants more - Elias, or a future with the Hub.

I've been obsessed with superheroes since my dad introduced me to the 90s X-men cartoons on lazy Saturday mornings. This book is the ultimate illustration of how I spend WAY too much time thinking about them.

Tell us about your other two novels, SOLVING FOR EX and CHROME

Solving for Ex is about a girl who had to leave her hometown high school after her mad math skills got her into a sticky situation - help one of the most popular kids at school cheat on a final, or suffer merciless bullying. When the bullying drives her to stay with her Aunt and Uncle, she falls in love with the boy next door, Brendan, who has everything in common with her, and, amazingly, is Captain of the Mathletes. But then, a new girl at school is determined to do anything she can to get close to Brendan, including cheating her way to Mathletes State and risking the team everything.

Chrome is a futuristic science fiction retelling of the Exodus from Egypt, with Pharoah recast as a merciless Queen ruling a biodome-encased city and the slave class living beneath it one thousand years after a devastating nuclear world war. Moses is recast as a sixteen-year-old girl, and instead of blood, frogs, and lice, the plagues are faulty circuits and battery acid. I'm pitching it as Battlestar Galactica meets the Bible, and it's all kinds of fun to write.

How long did you query for?

I queried (and contested) One for four and a half months.

How'd you get your agent? From the slush pile, a conference, a contest?

Tricia discovered me in The Writer's Voice Contest, where I was a member of Team Cupid's LC. (http://cupidslitconnection.blogspot.com/2012/05/team-cupidslc-5-one.html)

I also had an offer from a ninja agent, who had seen something she liked on my blog and emailed me directly asking for a submission. So make sure your blogs are up to date with your WiP info! You never know what will come of it.

Tell us about THE CALL.

The Call with Tricia (Lawrence of Erin Murphy Literary Agency) was the most surreal - and amazing - experience. She spent the first ten minutes or so of The Call just telling me everything she loved about my book and its characters. It was honestly a dream come true - she said everything I'd ever imagined someone understanding about One, and then some. She even thanked me for writing my main character! I didn't even know what to say to that.

But then, it got even crazier. She asked me about my plans for a sequel - a SEQUEL! No one had ever even asked me whether I'd thought about a sequel. But wait! She also wanted to know about all my OTHER projects. She explained to me that she was invested in my long-term career as a writer, not just this one book, which was all kinds of confidence-inspiring and, again, a dream come true.

I seriously felt like my brain had been liquefied by the shock. At that point, I'd had 91 form rejections on this manuscript - I had convinced myself it was complete crap. And then here was this amazing agent from a big-shot literary agency telling me that she absolutely loved it, and understood it in a way I never dreamed possible.

Are you nervous about going on submission?

In theory, no. I've been through the muddy, smelly, starving, despairing query trenches twice before (once for my first manuscript and once for One), and I'll certainly survive them, one way or another, with one of the leading industry pros championing my book. Besides, Tricia is my agent for my entire kidlit career, and there will always be A Next Book.

In reality, yes. Completely terrified. It's scary to think of making it this far only to get shot down at the very final step before your book gets to sit pretty on a store shelf somewhere. I'm focusing on that Next Book just to keep myself from completely hyperventilating.

What's your favorite part of working with your agent?

I think it's being able to focus on just the writing, without having to tear my hair out at every moment about how, when, or to whom I will query it. I used to stress a lot about marketability - namely, how very little I knew about whether a project I was working on would attract any attention.

And then, of course, deep down, I just worried that I was a totally sucky writer.

Now that I've signed with Tricia, I have some reassurance from at least one person in the publishing world that I am not, in fact, a completely sucky writer. More importantly than the requisite coddling is Tricia's guidance. She can steer me away from projects that she knows will never make it and advise me on other ones that have the best chance of making my career successful. She has my back, and she believes in me, and that's worth a whole hell of a lot.

What piece of advice would you give to newbie writers? Anything specific for YA writers?
YES! For newbie writers - surround yourself with people who are at the same writing stage as you. Support one another, grow together, and you'll see amazing results in your writing and your careers.

For YA writers - *readies soapbox* Write YA for one reason, and one reason only - because you have stories to tell young adults. Don't write to teach lessons, or to make a point, or to tell teens which decisions to make. Teens are people, with brains, which they use a lot. They'll learn those lessons with or without your books, and they can make decisions for themselves without your input. Teens can smell your agenda from a mile away. Don't try to sneak it past them, because you won't succeed, and you'll just look silly in the process.

Also, if you have to try to "sound like a teenager" when you write, you're doing it wrong. Write about authentic teens with authentic teen voices. Spend some time listening to your characters talk. If they're real enough, they'll tell you what they need to say.


Wow! I didn't know I could get so preachy about writing YA, but there you have it.

Anyway, thanks a ton for having me. I think you two are absolutely incredible, and I'm fascinated by your writing paths. I'm going to be watching for your success stories so I can be appropriately giddy for you, and smug that I knew you when.

And to your readers, thanks so much for reading! It's been fun

Isn't she brilliant, peeps? Thanks A TON for letting us interview you, Leigh Ann!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Exciting Stuff!

Hey, guys!

This month, we're gonna do something a little different. Instead of posting twice a week, we're only putting up new posts every Saturday!

Why am I so happy about this, you ask? Because we're bringing you interviews with some of the most impressive up-and-coming writers! Exclamation point abuse!

Check back every Saturday this month for a new interview with an agented writer. We'll be interrogating them about their novels, advice for you guys, and all sorts of fun stuff. Until then, happy Fourth!