Monday, August 3, 2015

Wonderful World of Boys

Writing a story that has little boys as background characters?  Here's this month's Top Ten List of how to Keep It Real when writing about the Wonderful World of Boys.

 1. Dig holes in the backyard just for fun.
 2. Can't keep socks on.
 3. Don't mind strange smells.                                                           
 4. Love pranks!!!
 5. Bath is a four letter word.
 6. Lick spoons and put them back in the drawer.
 7. Anything is a weapon - even scrambled eggs.  
 8. Ignore mom, but comes running when the doorbell rings.
 9.  Will fight to the death not to have to clean.
10.  Must have nitro!!! 

Friday, July 31, 2015

When Life Gets in the Way of Writing Conferences

7/11/2015 I married this awesome guy

Classic novels lined the aisle.

Earlier this month I got married to a great man, but I have to admit that it put a bit of a wrench in my summer plans. Last year, I was attending SCBWI & then Breadloaf writing conferences back to back and churning out a lot of writing. This year I've been wedding planning/ honeymooning/ moving stuff/ etc. and the writing conferences I crave so desperately for classes in craft have had to be sidelined a bit. Triona wrote a great blog this week about why you need to go to conferences (you really should go if you can!), but I'm going to list a few of my recent finds on how to gain access to some of the best writing instruction around that you can listen to while unpacking boxes, running errands, etc., and best of all they're free. Granted, none of these are specifically geared to the YA market, but they do have some of the best living literary writers speaking so it's a great foundational education in craft.

1. Breadloaf: This writing conference is competitive and expensive (totally worth it). Thankfully, though, you can get a lot of the craft classes from each year online via podcast. You do have to download iTunes U if you don't have it first, and sometimes it's buggy.

2. Tin House: Another of the competitive and expensive conference crowd (I haven't been, but hear great things), you can hear their classes/readings as well online and don't need iTunes U. I like the lectures more than the readings, personally, but all are nice to hear.

So happy that blogmate JP could make it!
3. AWP: This conference is open to everyone, and has a great treasure trove of past recordings from sessions. I really like the ending of many of the panels when the writers discuss how they approach the topic of the session, and the first one on the list on structure is awesome.

Please let me know if I'm missing any important ones, I'm always on the lookout for great writing instruction, especially when it's free!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Why You Should Go to Writers' Conferences, Even if (Especially if) You're Scared

I attended one of my favorite writers' conferences last week, the Midwest Writers Workshop. It was a blast, as usual—tons of great writing advice, valuable networking with industry professionals, and fun times with writer friends I don't get to see often enough.

I pitched to two agents, had a one-on-one query critique with the Query Shark herself (which was amazing!), and did more socializing than I normally do in a period of several months. On the way home, I was thinking about how comfortable and relaxed I felt the whole time—a complete 180 from the way I felt before attending my first conference back in 2012. I remember sitting in my car in the parking lot, literally shaking as I psyched myself up to go inside the hotel where the conference was being held.

That conference, by the way, was where I met friends and critique partners I still keep in touch with (hi Stacy, Jenn, and Lauren!). I learned that agents and editors weren't scary people—they were just looking for something they loved that they could sell. I also got the expert advice I needed to improve my writing to the point where I finally started getting lots of requests for partials and fulls from agents. If I hadn't been brave enough to sign up for that conference (and actually leave my car), I firmly believe I would have kept spinning my wheels for much, much longer.

We writerly types often (usually?) would rather sit at home with a good book than spend two or three days interacting with a ton of people. But it's so worth it. It's impossible to describe how good it feels to find people who think and feel and write just like you do. And I guarantee that your writing will improve.

If the very idea of a conference still makes you want to throw up, try starting small. Many SCBWI chapters have mini-conferences where they bring in one or two publishing professionals to do a day of workshops. You can also attend an online workshop (like the fabulous WriteOnCon) to get a taste of what an in-person conference might be like.

Or just take the leap and sign up for that big conference you've been eyeing. You definitely won't regret it.
Some happy Midwest Writer's Workshop attendees (I'm second from the right!)

Friday, July 24, 2015

Fall Book Preview and Giveaway: Serpentine, Nameless and Minotaur!

I'm excited to bring you another fantastic giveaway and preview of some exciting new titles releasing this fall!  Don't forget to scroll to the bottom of this post for a chance to win a digital copy of all three books!

1. SERPENTINE by Cindy Pon, out Sept. 8, 2015

SERPENTINE is a sweeping fantasy set in the ancient Kingdom of Xia and inspired by the rich history of Chinese mythology. 
Lush with details from Chinese folklore, SERPENTINE tells the coming of age story of Skybright, a young girl who worries about her growing otherness. As she turns sixteen, Skybright notices troubling changes. By day, she is a companion and handmaid to the youngest daughter of a very wealthy family. But nighttime brings with it a darkness that not even daybreak can quell. 
When her plight can no longer be denied, Skybright learns that despite a dark destiny, she must struggle to retain her sense of self – even as she falls in love for the first time. 
“Serpentine is unique and surprising, with a beautifully-drawn fantasy world that sucked me right in! I love Skybright’s transformative power, and how she learns to take charge of it.” ~Kristin Cashore, NYT Bestseller of the Graceling Realm Series 
“Serpentine’s world oozes with lush details and rich lore, and the characters crackle with life. This is one story that you’ll want to lose yourself in.” ~ Marie Lu, New York Times bestselling author of Legend and The Young Elites
add to goodreads

Cindy Pon is the author of Silver Phoenix (Greenwillow, 2009), which was named one of the Top Ten Fantasy and Science Fiction Books for Youth by the American Library Association’s Booklist, and one of 2009′s best Fantasy, Science Fiction and Horror by VOYA. The sequel to Silver Phoenix, titled Fury of the Phoenix, was released in April 2011. Serpentine, the first title in her next Xia duology, will be published by Month9Books in September 2015. She is the co-founder of Diversity in YA with Malinda Lo and on the advisory board of We Need Diverse Books. Cindy is also a Chinese brush painting student of over a decade. Visit her website at
Connect with the Author: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Tumblr | Goodreads

2. NAMELESS by Jennifer Jenkins, out Oct. 6, 2015

Nameless_450x675Four clans have been at war for centuries: the Kodiak, the Raven, the Wolf and the Ram. Through brutal war tactics, the Ram have dominated the region, inflicting death and destruction on their neighbors.

Seventeen-year-old Zo is a Wolf and a Healer who volunteers to infiltrate the Ram as a spy on behalf of the allied clans. She offers herself as a Ram slave, joining the people who are called the “nameless.” Hers is a suicide mission – Zo’s despair after losing her parents in a Ram raid has left her seeking both revenge and an end to her own misery. But after her younger sister follows her into Rams Gate, Zo must find a way to survive her dangerous mission and keep her sister safe.

What she doesn’t expect to find is the friendship of a young Ram whose life she saves, the confusing feelings she develops for a Ram soldier, and an underground nameless insurrection. Zo learns that revenge, loyalty and love are more complicated than she ever imagined in the first installment of this two-book series.
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Jennifer JenkinsWith her degree in History and Secondary Education, Jennifer had every intention of teaching teens to love George Washington and appreciate the finer points of ancient battle stratagem. (Seriously, she’s obsessed with ancient warfare.) However, life had different plans in store when the writing began. As a proud member of Writers Cubed, and a co-founder of the Teen Author Boot Camp, she feels blessed to be able to fulfill both her ambition to work with teens as well as write Young Adult fiction. Jennifer has three children who are experts at naming her characters, one loving, supportive husband, a dog with little-man syndrome, and three chickens (of whom she is secretly afraid).
Visit her online at

Connect with the Author: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Pinterest |Instagram

3. MINOTAUR, by Phillip W. Simpson, out Sept. 29, 2015

“Where shall I start?” asked Minotaur.

Ovid made an expansive gesture with both hands. “Where else but the beginning of course.”

Minotaur nodded his huge head. “Yes,” he said. “Yes,” his eyes already glazing over with the weight of thousand year old memories. And then he began.

So begins the story of Asterion, later known as Minotaur, the supposed half bull creature of Greek legend. Recorded by the famous Roman poet, Ovid, Asterion tells of his boyhood in Crete under the cruel hand of his stepfather Minos, his adventures with his friend, Theseus, and his growing love for the beautiful Phaedra.And of course what really happened in the labyrinth.

This is the true story of the Minotaur.

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Phillip W SimpsonPhillip W. Simpson is the author of many novels, chapter books and other stories for children. His publishers include Macmillan, Penguin, Pearson, Cengage, Raintree and Oxford University Press. He received both his undergraduate degree in Ancient History and Archaeology and his Masters (Hons) degree in Archaeology from the University of Auckland.
Before embarking on his writing career, he joined the army as an officer cadet, owned a comic shop and worked in recruitment in both the UK and Australia. His first young adult novel, Rapture (Rapture Trilogy #1), was shortlisted for the Sir Julius Vogel Awards for best Youth novel in 2012. He is represented by Vicki Marsdon at Wordlink literary agency.

When not writing, he works as a school teacher. Phillip lives and writes in Auckland, New Zealand with his wife Rose, their son, Jack and their two border terriers, Whiskey and Raffles. He loves fishing, reading, movies, football (soccer) and single malt Whiskeys.
Connect with the Author: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

All About The Lists

Top Ten List with Pencil

All of us dream of one day making it on a "list".  Whether it's the New York Times, Amazon Best Sellers, the Oscars, the Emmys, the best hair day...

It's just fun to make lists. I'm sure every couple has the "you get a pass to do (*&?#<*^$, if you meet this actor/actress" list.  Or my SFSO (safe for significant others) version "Actors I just want to be really really good friends with and hang out at their house ALL THE TIME" list.  Not surprisingly, for the most part, they seem to be all funny guys over 35. 

Here are a few lists that have popped up over the past few weeks that may help you fill in your summer read list, watch list or give you ideas to start other cool lists.  

What's on your list?

1) 10 Best Young Adult Books Turned Into Movies 

Reason: cause this is a YA blog and what better list is there?

2) Tilda Swinton's Summer Reading List 

Reason: cause it's Tilda Swinton, one of the coolest actresses out there.  She slept in a glass box in the MOMO for gosh sake!

3) Emmy Actress Nominees List

Reason: cause this year over 75% of the female nominees are over 35! 

Most of us are just starting our writing careers at this age so it looks like the golden years really are golden!