Friday, August 22, 2014

0 Sometimes a Massive Breakdown Can be a Good Thing by Kate Brian

Kate Brian is the author of many YA novels, under this name as well as Kieran Scott. The second book in Kieran's True Love trilogy, COMPLETE NOTHING is hitting store at the end of September. The third and final book in Kate Brian's Shadowlands trilogy, ENDLESS, came out in July!

Sometimes a Massive Breakdown Can be a Good Thing by Kate Brian

For the longest time, I have been on a crazy writing schedule. The Private series was published twice a year, and once it spawned the spin-off Privilege, I was publishing three or four times a year. And yes, I was writing all the books myself (with plotting assistance from my editors). At the same time, I was developing other projects and working on some non-fiction, basically doing everything I could to keep my brain fresh and keep paying the bills. Occasionally someone would ask me, “How do you do it?” (My answer? “I don’t know. I just do.”) Or, the less kind, “When do you think you’re going to hit the wall?” In other words, when do you think you’re going to lose your mind and end up blubbering in the corner, unable to remember the names of your children, let alone the names of the hundreds of characters you’ve created over the years? My answer was always, (insert self-deprecating chuckle) “I suppose it’ll have to happen eventually.” But in the back of my mind, I couldn’t really imagine it. I’d always thrived on being busy, loved rising to the occasion, couldn’t wrap my brain around stopping.

Then, my mom died. My mom, who was basically my best friend, my greatest confidant, and the first person I called whenever anything monumentally good or soul-crushingly bad happened. The couple of months leading up to her death and the year afterward were the worst times of my life, and they just happened to coincide with the writing of the Shadowlands trilogy. If you haven’t read the books, I’m not giving too much away by telling you that the protagonist, Rory Miller, lost her mother to cancer four years prior to the beginning of the trilogy. In fact, her parting with her mother—at her house, in her bedroom, slow and agonizing—were not unlike my parting with my mother. It was all imagined up before it happened in real life, but I was writing and revising these scenes, working with this character who was defined by this tragedy, in the midst of dealing with it all myself. It was scarily parallel, and let’s just say, it was not good for my psyche.

And so, it finally happened. Somewhere around the fourth revision of Hereafter, the second book in the Shadowlands series, I finally hit my wall. I was pouring all the emotional aftermath of my mom’s death into that book, and thinking that if anything good was going to come out of my mom dying it would be that Rory would be realistic. My editors disagreed. Therefore, the four revisions. Of course, I took offense at their notes to soften Rory, to make her less angry, that she was unlikable the way she was, because hey—I was going through this and she was basically me. How dare they tell me what I was going through? That I was too angry? That I was unlikable? So there were many tense conversations with my editor and with my agent, followed by one, massive, breakdown when I couldn’t get my point across, when I couldn’t make them understand. I remember a lot of screaming and crying and snot and tears. I remember screaming at my agent on the phone to do something. I also remember my agent being extraordinarily patient with me, calming me down, and then going about making everything better. (Sidebar: If you’re looking for an agent, find someone who is human and kind. It comes in handy.)

There was a moment, actually, there were weeks, in which I really thought I was never going to write another word. I thought I’d lost the elusive “it” that gave me my voice, that made me me. I seriously considered becoming a realtor or a baker. I had to just step away for a while.

Unfortunately, I was also on deadline, so I couldn’t step away for too long. It turned out, however, when I sat down to work again, it was easier to look at the manuscript and see the problems my editors saw. I realized I wasn’t writing a book about my experience, I was writing a book about Rory’s experience. And while, yes, she still missed her mother, she was four years further into living with it than I was. She had adjusted, to whatever degree one can adjust to such a loss, while I most certainly hadn’t. Once I’d gotten all my emotions out, and screamed and cried and vented, I was able to approach things with a clear head. I revised the book, and it was finally put to bed.

Luckily, the final book in the series was much easier to write. It started in a dark place, but ended up in a lighter one. Just knowing that I was working toward a happy ending made the work so much easier.

But my breakdown didn’t just get me through the rest of the trilogy. It made me realize a few things about myself and the person and the writer I wanted to be going forward. I realized I didn’t need to kill myself writing four things at the same time. I realized I didn’t want to work on anything too dark—at least not for a while. And I realized that, while the actual business of sitting down and writing is a solitary pursuit, having a solid support team is so very important. Being honest and realistic with my editors and my agent about their expectations and my abilities has gotten me a long way in this career, and won me a few champions along the way. They rallied around me during the toughest moment in my personal and professional life, and for that I’m eternally grateful.

About The Author

Kieran is from Montvale, New Jersey and was raised in Bergen County.[1] She enjoyed cheerleading, singing, and acting when she was growing up.

She graduated from Pascack Hills High School[2] and attended college at Rutgers University with a double major in English and Journalism. She worked as an editor for four years before becoming a writer.[3]

She resides in New Jersey with her husband and sons.

Website | Twitter | Goodreads

About The Book

True’s matchmaking skills are the stuff of legend! The second novel in Kieran Scott’s delightful teen romance series that called “the next Twilight.”

True is not exactly loving New Jersey. Banished from Mount Olympus and tasked with helping couples find love without using her powers, the goddess-formerly-known-as-Cupid is having a tough time. Especially now that True’s immortal love, Orion, has also appeared at her New Jersey high school—but with no memory of their relationship.

To distract herself from seeing Orion flirt with another girl, True focuses her efforts on making a match: Peter and Claudia. Peter is the star quarterback and the most popular guy in school. But he’s insecure about his future, so he preemptively dumps Claudia, his girlfriend. (If she won’t want to be with him later, why stay together now?) Claudia doesn’t take the breakup too well, and she’s ready to show the quarterback of their rival school just how ready she is to get over it.

But True sees something in these two seniors. She believes they should be together—but can she help them find their way back to each other (and get herself closer to home)? Or have things already spun too far out of control?

Amazon | IndieBound | Goodreads

Thursday, August 21, 2014

0 #PitchPlus5 Writing Contest! 7 Agents plus 10 Bestselling & Award-Winning Authors Provide Feedback on Your Work!

Here is the big contest info post I promised you. But remember because of the sheer size of this endeavor we have a separate website for all contest posts. So I recommend you go ahead and add to your favorites!

  • We will take the first 25 Middle Grade/Young Adult/New Adult entries submitted in the correct format after NINE AM EST on 8/24 and the first 25 MG/YA/NA entries submitted in the correct format after 9PM EST to the email Please remember that we have many teen readers on this blog who are under 18, so keep the first pages rated PG. (I'm the last person to suggest any kind of censorship for ANY reason, but there is a level of expectation based on what readers are used to seeing here at AYAP.) 
  • Only one entry per person to make sure everyone has a shot at feedback. 
  • Entries will consist of the first five pages of a COMPLETED manuscript, which should not exceed 1250 words (but please feel free to complete the sentence). Please use single spaced text, no indentations, one space between paragraphs. 12 point font. Please make sure to include your name, email, manuscript title, word count and genre/subgenre. For example:
    IDA Luv Anoffer
    78,000 words
    YA Magical Realism
  • The accepted entries will all be posted on by 6AM EST August 26.
  • We will invite reading, comments, and love from anyone who wants to participate — until 6:00 AM ET on 9/4. By noon on 9/6 we announce the top 25 entries as judged by our respected blogger judges, who will score the entries according to a standard scale with two bloggers reading each entry and a third blogger serving as a discrepancy judge if there is a wide disparity in scores.
  • The top 25 entries will then be invited to send their query pitch (of no more than 150 words) and a revised first five pages by Midnight EST 9/8, to be posted the next day no later than NOON EST. These entries will be judged by our amazing author judges, who will also score the entries according to a standard scale with two bloggers reading each entry and a third blogger serving as a discrepancy judge if there is a wide disparity in scores.
  • The top 10 will be announced on 9/20 by NOON EST and will have until MIDNIGHT on 9/21 to send in their revised entries in order to move on to the agent round beginning 9/22. 
  • Winners will be announced on 10/3/14. 
  • All feedback, from the public, bloggers, authors, and agents will be posted as comments on the entry or emailed on score cards, but the identity of the judge making the comment will not be revealed. You'll just see Judge 1, or Judge 2, etc. You will, however, have a bio for all of the judges involved in that round. This will give all participants the opportunity to receive feedback that they can apply immediately to their work, and give anyone who is inclined to watch the process the ability to learn vicariously.

Boy do we have PRIZES. So many that the top FIVE entries as judged by our esteemed agents will receive something priceless:
  • 4 Runners Up will receive one of the following: A one chapter critique from Agent Christa Hescke, Agent Jordy Albert, Agent Victoria Lowes, or Agent Alex Slater!
  • TWO Grand Prize Winners will receive one THREE Chapter Agent Critique from either Melissa Nasson of RPC or Lara Perkins from Andrea Brown AND a free query pass to the also amazing (and currently closed to queries) Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency!
  • AND if that's not enough - we will have a poll near the end of the contest for YOU to pick your favorite two entries that did NOT make it to the finals. Those entries will win the following:
  • Runner Up: One chapter critique from the AMAZING Angela Ackerman (co-author of the can't do without writer's tool: The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writers Guide To Character Expression).
  • First Place: One chapter critique from New York Times Best Selling Author, Jen Nielsen!


Not everyone will get the critiques offered above, however EVERY participant will receive copies of the score sheets from our awesome judges, presented anonymously. These score sheets are standardized and rated on a scale across a spectrum of different areas from likability of characters to story question to premise, freshness, and quality of writing. Even if you don't win, you'll get information you can use to take your writing up a notch.


To keep up with the contest, follow hashtag #PitchPlus5 on Twitter!


Third Round - The Agent Judges

Jordy Albert of the Booker Albert Literary Agency

Jordy Albert is a Literary Agent and co-founder of The Booker Albert Literary Agency. She holds a B.A. in English from Pennsylvania State University, and a M.A. from Millersville University of Pennsylvania. She has worked with Marisa Corvisiero during her time at the L. Perkins Agency and the Corvisiero Literary Agency. Jordy also works as a freelance editor/PR Director. She enjoys studying languages (French/Japanese), spends time teaching herself how to knit, is a HUGE fan of Doctor Who, and loves dogs.

Jordy is looking for stories that capture her attention and keep her turning the page. She is looking for a strong voice, and stories that have the ability to surprise her. She loves intelligent characters with a great sense of humor. She would love to see fresh, well-developed plots featuring travel, competitions/tournaments, or time travel. Jordy is looking for: *ROMANCE (contemporary, New Adult, erotica, or historical--soft spot for Regency). * YA: Open to pretty much any genre; however, she's looking especially for YA that has a very strong romantic element. *Middle Grade (action/adventure, contemporary).

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Jess Dallow of New Leaf Literary

Before moving back to her home state of New York, Jess Dallow spent eight years working at a talent agency in Hollywood. Deciding books and cold New York winters were more her speed, she became an intern at New Leaf Literary before being hired as the subrights and film/tv assistant. She is looking to build her list with strong character driven stories, dialogue that can play out like a film in her head and something that will make her laugh and cry (maybe even at once.) Specifically in YA she's looking for something with heart, friendship and romance. In adult, she's looking for new adult, romance, and crime fiction. In her spare time, Jess can be found at either Sprinkles or Dylan's Candy Bar, stuffing her face with cupcakes and gummy bears. 

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Christa Heschke of McIntosh and Otis

Christa Heschke graduated from Binghamton University with a major in English and a minor in Anthropology. She started in publishing as an intern at both Writers House and Sterling Lord Literistic, where she fell in love with the agency side of publishing. Christa has been at McIntosh and Otis, Inc. in the Children's Literature Department since 2009 where she is actively looking for picture books, middle grade, and young adult projects. 

She is a fan of young adult novels with a romantic angle, and strong, quirky protagonists. Within YA, Christa is especially interested in contemporary fiction, horror and thrillers/mysteries. As for middle grade, Christa enjoys contemporary, humor, adventure, mystery and magical realism for boys and girls. For picture books, she’s drawn to cute, funny, character driven stories within fiction and is open to non-fiction with a unique hook.

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Victoria Lowes of the Bent Agency:
I was born and raised in Queens, New York and graduated from the City University of New York, Queens College. Before joining the Bent Agency, I completed internships at Serendipity Literary and the Carol Mann Agency. In my spare time I can be found teaching dance classes for young students or watching re-runs of The Office. I love books that teach me something, whether it be about a culture I don’t know, event in history or about the dynamics of a tumultuous young romance. I want to root for your characters -- connect with them and the problems they face. I'm looking for characters as complex and interesting as those I meet in real life.

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Melissa Nasson of Rubin Pfeffer Content: 

Melissa Nasson is an associate agent with Rubin Pfeffer Content. She is also an attorney and contracts director at Beacon Press, an independent publisher of non-fiction. Melissa is currently accepting submissions, and she is actively seeking MG, YA, and NA fiction in all genres (though she has a soft spot for fantasy and sci-fi). She will also consider fiction intended for the adult market, particularly edgy speculative fiction and gothic/horror novels. She is not considering non-fiction at this time.

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Lara Perkins of Andrea Brown Literary
Lara Perkins represents all categories of children's literature, from picture books to young adult. Lara works closely with Executive Agent Laura Rennert, with whom she jointly represents a number of clients, in addition to building her own list. She is also the agency's Digital Manager. Lara is a fan of insightful, page-turning, voice-driven young adult and middle grade fiction, as well as quirky, witty picture books. For middle grade, she's particularly looking for compelling, unexpected mysteries, stories set in fascinating, unexpected worlds (real or imagined), and stories that hit home in their depiction of ending/changing friendships or family shifts. Humor is always welcome. For young adult, Lara is looking for heart-breaking but very funny contemporary (or contemporary with a fantasy or paranormal twist) novels. She loves a bittersweet romance when it's solidly grounded in reality between believable, memorable characters. She's also drawn to character-driven fantasy with striking world building, and whip-smart, page-turning psychological mysteries. In the picture book realm, Lara is drawn to picture books that take a small but universal experience of childhood and draw out something beautiful or hilarious, and an endearingly flawed main character is central for her. She loves working with author/illustrators, and she's drawn to a wide range of illustration styles. Some of Lara's recent titles include THE FANTASTIC FAMILY WHIPPLE by Matthew Ward (Razorbill/Penguin)*, A MILLION WAYS HOME by Dianna Dorisi Winget (Scholastic Press), IF YOUR MONSTER WON'T GO TO BED by Denise Vega (Knopf/Random House), THE STEPSISTER'S TALE by Tracy Barrett (Harlequin Teen)*, and I'M NEW HERE by Anne Sibley O'Brien (Charlesbridge). Noteworthy deals include a two-book, six figure deal to Razorbill/Penguin and a two-book deal to Harlequin Teen (*together with Laura Rennert). Lara has a B.A. in English and Art History from Amherst College and an M.A. in English Literature from Columbia University, where she studied Victorian Brit Lit. In her pre-publishing life, she trained to be an architect, before deciding that books, not bricks, are her true passion. She spent over a year at the B.J. Robbins Literary Agency in Los Angeles before coming to Andrea Brown Literary. She is a frequent speaker at conferences nationwide, and currently is based in the SF Bay Area.

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 Alex Slater of Trident Media:
When asked how he became an agent at Trident, concentrating in the expanding children's, middle grade and young adult businesses, Alex simply replies, "It was only natural.” While karma is not an established business concept, it is clear that Alex's career arc led him in this happy direction. 
Start with Alex's love of fiction, and in particular the stories that captivate the minds and imaginations of young people, from those so young that books are read to them, to young adults who get captivated by creative fiction. "I love to let myself go, and become the reader, whether the story is directed at a ten-year-old or a teenager," says Alex. 
Next is Alex's experience at Trident, where he has been since 2010. He became a very successful agent representing the company's children, middle grade and young adult authors in many licensing arrangements in the global marketplace for translation and in the English language in the U.K., having placed books with publishers in dozens of countries. Alex was Trident's representative at the Bologna Children's Book Fair in Italy, as well as the broader-based London and Frankfurt book fairs. His experience in representing fiction in these areas showed him what elements in stories work well, and how to maximize the value of what an author has created. 
Alex's plan is to, "Look for stories that will rise above the rest with characters that will be remembered well past childhood, with the potential to cross over to other media and formats," such as programming, games, motion pictures and merchandise. "Trident is the leader on taking advantage of the latest opportunities presented by changing technology," says Alex, and, "I will be there to help make the latest innovations happen for my authors." 
"I believe that the most successful writers have a bit of the dreamer in them." And Alex passionately believes that he can help turn their dreams into reality.

Second Round - The Author Judges

Kelley Armstrong

Kelley Armstrong is the #1 New York Times best-selling author of twenty-one books for adults and young adults. She has been telling stories since before she could write. Her earliest written efforts were disastrous. If asked for a story about girls and dolls, hers would invariably feature undead girls and evil dolls, much to her teachers’ dismay. 

Today, she continues to spin tales of ghosts and demons and werewolves, while safely locked away in her basement writing dungeon. She lives in southwestern Ontario with her husband, kids and far too many pets.

Her work includes the Otherworld series, the Cainsville series, the Darkest Powers/Darkness Rising series, and Sea of Shadows, this year's stunning first installment in the Age of Legends series.

* * * 

Erin Cashman
I have been writing for as long as I can remember; in grade school usually from my perch near the top of our maple tree (much to my mother’s displeasure!) With three kids and a career as an attorney, I often wrote late at night, or stolen hours here and there. I wrote a previous middle-grade novel about a treasure, and could wallpaper a large room with all of my rejection letters! But within a few weeks of sending The Exceptionals to Pam Glauber, an editor at Holiday House, she called and told me that they wanted to publish it! I was thrilled and very fortunate to work with such a brilliant editor.  The Exceptionals is a Bank Street College of Education Best Children's Book.

My mother was born in Galway Ireland, moving to America when she was about twenty. She believed in angels, fairies and leprechauns, and loved to tell the most imaginative (or who knows – real!) stories. I inherited my love for books from my father, who ironically dropped out of high school at the age of sixteen, joined the Army and eventually went back and finished high school and then graduated from Bentley College, going nights. I grew up in Framingham, Massachusetts. I graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Bates College in Maine and from Boston College Law School. I live in Massachusetts with my husband, three children, and our dog. 

Delilah S. Dawson is a writer, a geek, an artist, an adventure junky, and a coffee and cupcake connoisseur. She writes books for young adults and mostly-adults that range from whimsical to dark to sexy to horrific to adventuresome. She can occasionally be NSFW, but when she is, it's usually because she's ranting about writing or sexism or talking honestly about her experiences with rape, depression, and suicide. Delilah loves having adventures, playing on the trapeze, horseback riding, seeing superhero movies, going to cons, traveling, reading, tacos, the ocean, pretty boots, eating weird animals, tattoos, vests, cosplay, The Cure, painting, narwhals, octopodes, crows, cheese, drinks made with elderflower, dark chocolate, cold sheets, Boyd Crowder, and shows like Justified, Firefly, Venture Bros., Community, Adventure Time, Arrested Development, TWD, and Frisky Dingo. Please geek out with her on Twitter for full SQUEE. She is also an Associate Editor at Cool Mom Picks and Cool Mom Tech and can teach you to wear a baby on your back so you can pretend to be Luke Skywalker toting Yoda.

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Christine Fonesca
Critically acclaimed and award-winning nonfiction and fiction author Christine Fonseca is dedicated to helping children and adults find their unique voice in the world. In nonfiction, she delves into the world of giftedness, resiliency, and temperament, offering children and adults a no-nonsense, how-to approach to facing the world head on. In fiction, she explores the more complex aspects of humanity through sweeping romances, Gothic thrillers, and psychological horror stories. Christine's words have been heralded as "thoughtful", "Lyrical and poetic", "gorgeous writing that pulls you in", and "a great voice for teen girls" by editors, critics, book bloggers and readers. She was awarded 2013 Special Achievement Award from the Surrey International Writer’s Conference for her body of work and efforts to give back to the writing community and was a semi-finalist in the Kindle Book Review's Best Indie Book (YA) for her thriller, Transcend. Her 2013 titles include The Girl Guide, Quiet Kids, and the final installment in the Requiem Series, Dominus. Collide, a YA paranormal thriller, is her most recent release. Christine lives in the San Diego area with her husband and children. When she isn't crafting new books, she can be found sipping too many skinny vanilla lattes at the local coffee house, or exploring the world with her family.

* * *

S. E.  Green

You name it and I’ve pretty much done it. Hiking, rafting, swimming, snorkeling, sailing, surfing, mountain biking, spelunking, canoeing, power lifting, running, camping, para sailing . . . well, you get the drift. 

I’ve been all over the world, use my crazy adventures to spice up my writing, and I’m always on the lookout for the next best thrill. 

My award winning teen spy series, The Specialists, was an ALA top pick and a National Reader’s Choice Recipient. Killer Instinct marks my debut into the world of thrillers. Believe it or not, I dreaded reading and writing when I was a kid. So it’s pretty ironic I’m now an award winning author.

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Nancy Holder
New York Times Bestselling author Nancy Holder was born in Los Altos, California. A navy brat, she went to middle school in Japan. When she was sixteen, she dropped out of high school to become a ballet dancer in Cologne, Germany. Eventually she returned to California and graduated from the University of California at San Diego with a degree in Communications. Soon after, she began to write; her first sale was a young adult novel with the unfortunate title of Teach Me to Love. Nancy’s work has appeared on many bestseller lists. A five-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award from the Horror Writers Association, she has also received accolades from the American Library Association, the American Reading Association, the New York Public Library, and Romantic Times. She and Debbie Viguié coauthored the New York Times bestselling Wicked series for Simon and Schuster. They have continued their collaboration with the Crusade and the Wolf Springs Chronicles series, and are hard at work on a teen thriller. She is also the author of the young adult horror series, Possessions, for Razorbill. She has sold many novels and book projects set in the MTV Teen Wolf, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Saving Grace, Hellboy, and Smallville universes. She has also sold approximately two hundred short stories and essays on writing and popular culture. Her anthology, Outsiders, was nominated for the Bram Stoker Award in 2005. She is an editor and writer of comic books, graphic novels, and pulp fiction for Moonstone Books, where much of her work centers around Sherlock Holmes. She writes a column for the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Bulletin. She also teaches in the Stonecoast MFA in Creative Writing Program, offered through the University of Southern Maine. This summer, she will serve as the Writer in Residence at Odyssey, a six-week summer intensive workshop at Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire. She and her daughter Belle, have sold two short stories together. Their cats, dogs, and leopard gecko allow them to live with them in San Diego. She loves Castle and Firefly, is attempting to catch up on Dr. Who, and firmly believes that nothing says breakfast like really strong coffee and potato chips.

* * * 

Brendan Kiely
Brendan Kiely received an MFA in creative writing from The City College of New York. His writing appeared in Fiction, Guernica, The AWP Writer’s Chronicle, and other publications. 
Originally from the Boston area, he now teaches at an independent high school and lives with his wife in Greenwich Village.

His 2014 debut novel, The Gospel of Winter, received starred reviews from Booklist, Kirkus, and Publishers Weekly. 

Brendan Kiely has written a novel that is both unflinching and redemptive.” — Colum McCann, NYT Bestselling author and National Book Award winner for Let the Great World Spin

“The Gospel of Winter marks Brendan Kiely’s auspicious debut as a novelist.”— A.M. Homes, author of May We Be Forgiven and winner of the Women's Prize for Fiction

“An emotional coming of age story that you won’t soon forget.”— John Corey Whaley, winner of the Printz and Morris Awards for Where Things Come Back

“The Gospel of Winter comes to us in full flower, a rich, complex, wise, beautifully written novel and a compelling read.”— Frederic Tuten, author of Tintin in the New World
* * * 

Jen Nielsen

New York Times Bestselling author, Jennifer Nielsen, was born and raised in northern Utah, where she still lives today with her husband, three children, and a dog that won’t play fetch. 

She is the author of The Ascendance trilogy, beginning with THE FALSE PRINCE; the forthcoming A NIGHT DIVIDED, and the forthcoming MARK OF THE THIEF series. She loves chocolate, old books, and lazy days in the mountains.

* * * 

Tamora Pierce
Tamora Pierce was born in South Connellsville, Fayette County, Pennsylvania. She began telling herself stories as she did dishes, and her father suggested that she try to write some of them down. The next year, as she was still scribbling her own stories, her English teacher introduced me to The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkein. She got hooked on fantasy, and then on science fiction, and both made their way into her books. 

She wrote her way through college at the University of Pennsylvania, and has continued writing ever since. Her work includes more than six series and numerous short stories, and she is the 2013 winner of the Margaret A. Edwards Award from the American Library Association for her "significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature"

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Diana Renn
I write contemporary novels for young adults featuring globetrotting teens, international intrigue, and more than a dash of mystery. TOKYO HEIST (Viking/Penguin) is my first novel, and I have two more novels coming out from Viking: LATITUDE ZERO (2014) and BLUE VOYAGE (2015). When I was five years old, I knew that I wanted to be a writer. I always loved writing in school, and I was fortunate to have had many encouraging teachers. I also knew that in order to be a good writer I needed to be a good reader. I majored in English at Hampshire College, and earned my M.A. in English and American Literature from Brandeis University. Over the years I’ve juggled all kinds of jobs in the word business to support my writing habit. Among them: a college writing instructor, an ESL teacher in South America, an editor in educational publishing, a textbook writer, a script writer for language instruction videos, a bookseller, and a comic book shop salesclerk. (Can you guess which was the most fun?) I love to travel, and I’ve enjoyed teaching students from all over the world, so international experiences are a large part of my fiction. I grew up in Seattle, and I now live outside of Boston with my husband, our young son, and a moody cat. In my spare time I love taiko drumming, bike riding, and, of course, traveling.

First Round - The Blogger Judges

Alyssa Hamilton of Swept Away By Books & Adventures in YA Publishing

Alyssa Hamilton is a twenty-something English and Publishing student who hails from Vancouver, Canada. When she is not in class, she is at the bookstore where she works—whether or not she is on duty. 

Her passion for reading started at a young age and has continued to grow, so most of her pay cheque goes toward buying books to fill her already overflowing bookshelves. Her favourite genres within YA are dark and gothic, paranormal, contemporary, high fantasy, and retellings. When she doesn't have a book in hand, you can find her hiking, picking out her next tattoo, or enjoying the outdoors.

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Amanda from Of Spectacles and Books

Amanda earned a BA in English from a small university in Texas. She is currently getting her Masters in Creative Writing and hopefully go on to obtain her PhD. She dreams of becoming a published author and writing of great adventures and daring sword fights. 

One of her main goals in life is to own a library with a ladder and backpack across Europe. Amanda also enjoys the smell of old books, wearing scarves, social networking, glasses rather than contacts, and boys who can play acoustic guitar. Talk King Arthur or in a British accent and she just might swoon.

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Angela Ackerman of Writers Helping Writers
Angela is a newly-minted forty year old writer living in Calgary, Alberta, which is nestled close enough to the Rockies to go on a day jaunt, but not so close as to be pummeled by snow and excruciating cold temperatures in the winter months. Despite being Canadian, she lives in a house, not an igloo, she refuses to wear toques and she generally travels by truck, rather than moose or ATVs or beavers or whatever other things the outside world suspects. Angela’s husband and two kids are beyond awesome. The former rarely complains about the hoarder-like piles of books and paper surrounding her desk, regardless of being a self-professed neat freak. Her kids, both teen boys, have inherited Angela’s interest in All Things Strange, and are great to bounce off apocalypse theories and freaky ‘what-if’ scenarios that are common in Angela’s books. Angela often writes about mythology in the real world, but twists everything so that it’s much darker and interesting. Bad things happen, but her teen and pre-teen characters always rise to the challenge in impossible situations. This is no surprise, because kids have internal strength that represents the best qualities in all of us. They struggle, adapt and survive. This is why she writes for this amazing YA & MG audience. Another passion of Angela’s is helping writers succeed. She enjoys working with writers on strengthening their craft and helping them find the tools and resources they need to take their writing to the next level. She teaches workshops on writing and social media, belong to SCBWI and is a strong believer in paying it forward. Along with Becca Puglisi, she is the author of popular brainstorming tool, The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writers Guide To Character Expression.

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Becca Fowler of Pivot Book Review
My name is Rebecca, but I think that sounds like an old lady name, so I go by Becca :) I am 22 going on 23 (that doesn't have quite the ring to it as it does on The Sound of Music) I live in the great state of Oklahoma (where the wind REALLY does come sweeping down the plain) I live with who I've dubbed The Parentals (who are, not-so-secretly, the BEST) I have one older sister who is married, and has two girls (which means I get to play the Coolest Aunt Ever) I am convinced I will be the old cat lady (minus the cats, because I heart dogs) Speaking of dogs, I have two! An Aussie named Dixie, and a Sheltie named Gentry! I work for my family's business. We rent out inflatables, aka Bouncy Houses, and MORE! I aspire to be a Young Adult author! It is my dream!! My favorite hobbies include: Reading (duh) Writing Skating Drawing I am a total introvert. I would much rather stay home than go out. I am, also, horrible at talking about myself, because I can't think of anything else at the moment!

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Brenda Drake of Making Connections
Brenda Drake, the youngest of three children, grew up an Air Force brat and the continual new kid at school until her family settled in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Brenda’s fondest memories growing up is of her eccentric, Irish grandmother’s animated tales, which gave her a strong love for storytelling. So it was only fitting that she would choose to write young adult and middle grade novels with a bend toward the fantastical. When Brenda’s not writing or doing the social media thing, she’s haunting libraries, bookstores, and coffee shops or reading someplace quiet and not at all exotic (much to her disappointment).

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Brooke DelVeccio from the Cover Contessa
Brooke is the creator and owner of The Cover Contessa. She is a book lover for as long as she can remember. She used to pass her evenings in high-school reading books on her bed with a good friend and comparing how far they'd get in a certain amount of minutes. She started this blog a few years ago with the intention of sharing her reviews with people. It blossomed from there and now she includes interviews, release blasts, cover reveals, guests posts, and just about anything else you can think of that applies to books. She has been working as a nurse since 1997 and can truly say she really loves what she does. She's married to her soul mate since 2001 and has three beautiful and active boys! Though she i will always consider herself a Brooklyn girl, she currently lives in Northern New Jersey. As a side job, she works as a publicist for Spencer Hill Press where she currently represents four authors. Her preference in books is MG, YA and some NA, and she'll read almost any sub-genre except horror. But she'll try out any book if it comes highly recommended from a most trusted source! She has dabbled in writing, but has not come away with anything serious, YET!

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Hafsah at Icey Books
Girl. 21. Sister. YA writer. Reviewer. Book Blogger. Blog Designer. Maybe more than that. Hafsah began IceyBooks in late 2010 after many months of reviewing for her local library’s teen blog. What started as just reviews has now expanded to interviews, giveaways, cover reveals, and blogging tips. Aside from blogging, Hafsah is also an author. Her debut YA science fiction novel, UNBREATHABLE, which takes place on a planet much like Mars, released on October 29th, 2013. In addition to being an author, Hafsah has been designing blogs and websites since the age of thirteen. In late 2011, she opened IceyDesigns and began professionally designing blogs, websites, print work and providing social media/marketing solutions to clients – both authors and bloggers alike.

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Julie Musil - Writing and Blogging Between Carpools

Julie Musil is a children's writer, wife, and mother. She lives in a rural California town amid hiking trails and dirt bikes with her high school sweetheart, John. They have three amazing sons, two cute little doggies, and one menacing kitten.

Julie is the author of The Summer of Crossing Lines and The Boy Who Loved Fire, and she is on the Faculty of The Fiction University.

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Nichole from YA Reads

Last year Nichole graduated from a local community college with her AA. She is currently a Junior at the Evergreen State College. She is currently working on her BA with an emphasis on English/Literature. She is planning on applying to the MIT (Master’s In Teaching) program for her MA in hopes to become a high school English teacher.

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Sheri Larsen from Writers Alley
I write fantasy, romance, and paranormal adventures for young adults and middle graders. I also write sweet picture books for the youngest of children. ~Daily News~ For everyday Sheriisms, visit me at WRITER’S ALLEY, where I explore the joys & angst of writing all that’s KidLit, the publishing world at-large, motherhood, and parenting with all its humor. ~Recent News~ After near misses and almosts with literary agents, I submitted my YA novel to smaller publishing houses, which vetted me multiple offers for my YA paranormal fantasy MARKED BEAUTY, including three offers for a sequel. This led to my signing with senior literary agent Paula Munier of Talcott Notch Literary. {She’s amazing!} We spent the next months making the manuscript shine, deciding to submit to larger publishers, while still considering my current offers. The manuscript is currently on submission. The hope is that a deal will be reached later this year. Here’s my most recent school visit, teaching a writing workshop to some of the most amazing elementary school kids from the Oak Hill Writers Club.

Discrepancy Judge

Martina Boone

Martina was born in Prague and spoke several languages before learning English. She fell in love with words and never stopped delighting in them. She’s the founder of, a two-time Writer’s Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers site, and, a site devoted to encouraging literacy and all this YA Series.

Her Southern Gothic romance, Compulsion, the first novel in the Heirs of Watson Island series from Simon & Schuster, Simon Pulse, will be published October 28, 2014. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

9 WOW Wednesday: Tahereh Mafi on Making Mistakes

Today's WOW post is from the archives, an article from the lovely Tahereh Mafi, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Shatter Me series. It was written before her smash success -- and in case the best-selling status didn't give you a hint of the magnitude of that success so far, it includes foreign rights have sold in 25+ territories, film rights optioned by 20th Century Fox, and a marriage to Ransom Riggs, author of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children.

This post was written before Shatter Me, and for all of you -- us -- who are still struggling, who still doubt, who face the blank page and wonder whether a current piece of work is worth it, read on. (Hint: Yes, it is! : ) Believe in yourselves!)

on making mistakes

by Tahereh Mafi

Tahereh Mafi
the path to publication is paved by perseverance. it’s full of mistakes and inadequacies; it’s bursting with emotion and fleeting moments of hope and despair. it’s the manifestation of your blood, sweat and tears on paper. getting published is about taking an infinite number of chances. it’s about taking a deep breath and swallowing the burn of a million tears that have somehow fallen down your throat. it’s about waking up every morning to an inbox full of rejection and having your heart explode in your hands multiple times a day. it’s about being vulnerable.

you finally allow someone to take a look at your stories only to have them rip it apart.
you finally land an agent only to discover the hard work has just begun.
you finally manage to sell a book only to realize you feel even tinier than you did before.

but then.

when you get a small yes of possibility from someone willing to take a chance on you.
when you get positive feedback from a beta reader, an agent, a highly-regarded friend.
when you hear from readers, fellow writers, strangers you never knew existed.

somehow all the pain is worth it.

my journey toward publication has barely started and i’ve already done everything wrong. i wrote my manuscripts wrong. i edited wrong. i queried wrong. i waited wrong. i made every possible mistake but i was committed to never giving up. i discovered that mistakes are okay when you learn from them, and bad manuscripts are just fine if you learn to laugh at them later. i knew that if the first book didn’t work i would write a second one. and if the second one didn’t work i would write a third. nothing was a waste of time. not the fourth book, not the fifth or the sixth. not the time i addressed a male agent by a woman’s name, not the times i thought “editing” meant “looking for typos”, and certainly not the hours i spent hunched over my computer with imaginary friends and places painting my world into something i never knew i could see.

i discovered:
  • my first novel taught me how to write.
  • my second novel taught me how to edit.
  • my third novel taught me how to write elegantly.
  • my fourth novel taught me how to write commercially.
  • my fifth novel taught me how to combine all four.
  • my sixth novel taught me how to write a book.
it’s easy to lose hope. it’s easy to look around and compare, to feel deficient. but the truth is that we’re no different, you and i. i might have an agent and i obviously don't like proper capitalization but that doesn't make me special. it doesn't make me cool. it doesn't make me a better person. it doesn't erase the fact that i had to battle the query-wars every single day for too long. it doesn't erase the countless rejections i've received and will continue to receive for the rest of my life.

we're all human-beings aspiring to live up to our potential, aspiring to live up to our goals for the future. and i hope that when you look at your manuscript you will not doubt yourself. because you can never wonder if it's worth it, this novel you are writing. you can never wonder if you are wasting your time. because every single moment is a moment you are learning, growing, maturing, and cultivating your mind. this, what you are doing? is not a waste.

because you know what it means to persevere.
because you are made of momentum.
because you will be unbelievable.

never give up.

i'm cheering for you.

Find Tahereh:

Website | Twitter

Ready for a giveaway? How about a full set of the Shatter Me trilogy signed by Tahereh?

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

8 Marvel versus DC Comics -- Thoughts on Writing Characters Post Guardians of the Galaxy

We went to see Guardians of the Galaxy on opening night. I was skeptical, I admit it. A talking raccoon with a gun? Not usually my cup of Earl Gray, what can I tell you.


It was actually irreverent, charming, engrossing, funny, and unexpectedly warm. In short, it was better than great.

Trying to explain the reason for that greatness to someone who hadn't seen the film left me a little bit perplexed though. Because if Marvel can make a film starring a talking, gun-toting raccoon, surely someone can make a decent film with a woman lead? (Cough, Wonder Woman, cough. I'm looking at you D.C.)

Which brings me to another point. As good as this movie was -- and it is going to be shown at my house frequently, trust me -- what I loved most about it was that the female character actually got to drive the bus. This isn't Gamora's movie, don't get me wrong. Zoe Saldana plays just one piece in an ensemble cast, but that piece is the one who provides the motivation and the heart for the team to do what it must (see how non-spoilerly I made that?) to overcome the bad guy. And frankly, without her, the plot would have devolved into get the thing the bad guy wants, run like hell, go back to your previously scheduled lives.

What else did I love about Gamora?

I love that she's sexy, in a Wicked-Witch-of-the-West sort of way, but that despite a couple of almost-moments with Star-Lord (as played by Chris Pratt), she doesn't succumb to insta-love. The tension is building and you can see it coming, but Marvel didn't cheese up the script by including a gratuitous romantic sub-plot that wouldn't have been believable. Instead, they focused on pulling together a bunch of loners and making them into a team.

The resulting dynamic is warm. It's human--even if only one of the characters involved was actually homo-sapiens. Ish.

And that brings me to my topic of the day. It seems to me that there are two schools of approach emerging vis a vis comic book adaptations, and that the same goes for any sort of fiction.

Marvel has a repertoire of films that stars characters who seem to think all is more-or-less okay in their larger-than-life worlds, and then get dragged into something that's clearly not okay. How they deal with their changed situation and how that transforms them creates the underpinnings of the story and provides the extra layer of warmth that connects us to those characters.

Recent Marvel Films include:

  • Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
  • X-Men, Days of Future Past (2014)
  • The Amazing Spider Man 2 (2014)
  • Captain America - Winter Soldier (2014)
  • Thor: The Dark World (2013)
  • The Wolverine (2013)
  • Iron Man 3 (2013)

DC on the other hand includes:
  • Man of Steel (2013)
  • The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
  • The Green Lantern (2011)
  • Jonah Hex (2010)
I keep trying to put my finger on what's missing in the DC films for me. I think it comes down to humor. There's a certain amount of wallowing in darkness that the DC films dive into that Marvel leavens with just enough humor to keep the characters from getting broody.

Don't get me wrong: I write dark. My characters (duh, they're cursed, right?) have some pretty crappy lots in life. But even if they feel sorry for themselves, they don't like feeling sorry for themselves. And from now on, I'm going to refer to that as a Marvelous way to handle character. I'm going to work on that even harder.

So what do you think? Do you see a difference in how the two studios portray character? Handle characters ARCs? Bring human into their scripts?

And now for some winners : ) 

The winner of the Pick 3 Arcs #1 is:

Patricia Lopez

She can pick three of the following: BZRK, The Walled City, Sinner, Ghost House, of Scars and Stardust, Lament, I'll Give You the Sun, Unmarked, Lux, White Hot Kiss, Falling into Place, Scintillate.

The winner of the Pick 3 Arcs or Books #2 is:

Rebecca Greer

Pick Any Three: Unmade, Perfected, Beauty of the Broken, Til Death, Unravel Me, Compulsion, Shatter Me, The Raven Boys, Diamond Boy, Allies and Assassins, The Walled City, Black Ice

The winners of the two ECHOES OF US ARCs  by Kat Zhang are:

Anne VanLoon

Heather Ratlin

Monday, August 18, 2014

21 Giveaway of SEA OF SHADOWS by Kelley Armstrong plus New YALit Releases 8/18-8/24

Hi everyone! It's Monday again and time for another roundup of YA books coming out this week! It's a quiet week for YA releases, but we have a giveaway of a signed copy of SEA OF SHADOWS by the wonderful Kelley Armstrong!

Enjoy and have a great week!

Martina, Alyssa, Katharyn, Erin, Jan, Lisa and Clara


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Sea of Shadows
by Kelley Armstrong
Signed Hardcover Giveaway
Released 4/8/2014

Kelley Armstrong, #1 New York Times bestselling author, takes an exciting new direction with this big, breathtaking blend of fantasy, romance, horror, and pulse-pounding action, perfect for fans of Graceling and Game of Thrones.

Twin sisters Moria and Ashyn were marked at birth to become the Keeper and the Seeker of Edgewood, beginning with their sixteenth birthday. Trained in fighting and in the secret rites of the spirits, they lead an annual trip into the Forest of the Dead. There, the veil between the living world and the beyond is thinnest, and the girls pay respect to the spirits who have passed.

But this year, their trip goes dreadfully wrong.

With all the heart-stopping romance and action that have made her a #1 New York Times bestselling author, and set in an unforgettably rich and dangerous world, this first epic book in the Age of Legends trilogy will appeal to Kelley Armstrong's legions of fans around the world and win her many new ones.

Purchase Sea of Shadows at Amazon
Purchase Sea of Shadows at IndieBound
View Sea of Shadows on Goodreads


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A Blind Spot for Boys
by Justina Chen
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Released 8/12/2014

Winner - Jill Lurie

Shana has always had a blind spot for boys. Can she trust the one who's right in front of her?

Sixteen-year-old Shana Wilde is officially on a Boy Moratorium. After a devastating breakup, she decides it's time to end the plague of Mr. Wrong, Wrong, and More Wrong.

Enter Quattro, the undeniably cute lacrosse player who slams into Shana one morning in Seattle. Sparks don't just fly; they ignite. And so does Shana's interest. Right as she's about to rethink her ban on boys, she receives crushing news: Her dad is going blind. Quattro is quickly forgotten, and Shana and her parents vow to make the most of the time her father has left to see. So they travel to Machu Picchu, and as they begin their trek, they run into none other than Quattro himself. But even as the trip unites them, Quattro pulls away mysteriously... Love and loss, humor and heartbreak collide in this new novel from acclaimed author Justina Chen.

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about A Blind Spot for Boys?

Imagine a young woman who’s a complete man magnet. Imagine that she’s been heartbroken by someone she thought was her Mr. Right. Imagine that she’s been in denial over the truth about their relationship: who he truly is, who she pretended to be. Imagine learning to see herself and her past clearly. “It was shocking to consider that even though Dom went to the right school, knew the right people, drove the right car, aspired to the right career, he may never have been my Mr. Right.” That’s what I love about Shana’s journey in A BLIND SPOT FOR BOYS. She’s able to look unflinching at the truth by the end of the book. Love. That.

Purchase A Blind Spot for Boys at Amazon
Purchase A Blind Spot for Boys at IndieBound
View A Blind Spot for Boys on Goodreads

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by Tom Leveen
Hardcover Giveaway
Simon Pulse
Released 8/12/2014

Winner - Vivien Probst

Who's the real victim here? This tense and gripping exploration of cyberbullying and teen suicide is perfect for fans of Before I Fall and Thirteen Reasons Why.

Late at night Tori receives a random phone call. It's a wrong number. But the caller seems to want to talk, so she stays on the line.

He asks for a single thing—one reason not to kill himself.

The request plunges her into confusion. Because if this random caller actually does what he plans, he'll be the second person connected to Tori to take his own life. And the first just might land her in jail. After her Facebook page became Exhibit A in a tragic national news story about cyberbullying, Tori can't help but suspect the caller is a fraud. But what if he’s not? Her words alone may hold the power of life or death.

With the clock ticking, Tori has little time to save a stranger—and maybe redeem herself—leading to a startling conclusion that changes everything…

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about Random?

My favorite thing about RANDOM was the opportunity to get inside the head of a character that may very well be not well liked by readers. And with good reason. The thing about this protagonist, Tori, is that she’s not exactly the hero of the piece; and as her creator, I had to spend time in emotional-memory places I usually don’t have to inhabit for very long. It was a challenging book to write. I worry that some readers won’t understand the point of the novel as a result.

Purchase Random at Amazon
Purchase Random at IndieBound
View Random on Goodreads


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False Future
by Dan Krokos
Released 8/19/2014

True Earth has returned during a massive snowstorm in Manhattan-and this time they have an army. Rhys, Noble, Sophia, and Peter know they don't stand a chance against the enemy without Miranda. And once they revive her, she's horrified to find her world in flames.

The enemy occupation is brutal, but the director promises to release her hold on the city if Mr. East is turned in, and Miranda and her team are determined to find him. With her grief over the losses she has suffered fueling her spirit, Miranda knows that this time the sacrifices have to be worth it.

Packed with suspense and deception, Dan Krokos brings Miranda's journey to a mind-bending conclusion as she risks losing everything in the fight for her future.

Purchase False Future at Amazon
Purchase False Future at IndieBound
View False Future on Goodreads

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Starlight's Edge
by Susan Waggoner
Henry Holt and Co.
Released 8/19/2014

Zee has given up her entire world to be with David on far-future Earth, confident that their love will overcome all obstacles. But beneath its lustrous surface and dazzling technology, New Earth is full of challenges, including the animosity of David’s wealthy and powerful family.

As Zee struggles to find her place, David travels back to past Earth. Then, on a mission to Pompeii on the eve of the Vesuvius eruption, he vanishes. Zee knows he is in mortal danger, but will she be able to rescue him in time?

Purchase Starlight's Edge at Amazon
Purchase Starlight's Edge at IndieBound
View Starlight's Edge on Goodreads

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Sunday, August 17, 2014

6 Announcing Our Biggest Contest Ever!

I, Lisa, have taken over this regularly scheduled post to bring you a very special announcement.

One week from today, August 24, we will open submissions for our most spectacular contest yet – The Pitch Plus Five Contest!!!

Not only do we have 27 AMAZING judges, including incredible book bloggers, best-selling authors, and fabulous agents from some of the best agencies out there, but we’ve upped the ante.

This isn't just a contest to enter if you're hoping to get an agent. The whole philosophy behind of our contests is that we want to pay it forward by helping newer writer get meaningful feedback from experts (as well as peers) to tell you how close you are to submission-readiness and to guide you in revisions you may need.  As readers as well as writers, we want to foster good manuscripts because there can never be too many good books!!


We’re accepting not the first sentence, not the first page, but the first FIVE pages of your manuscripts so that you can get feedback from these amazing people and make your work that much better. AND if you make it to the author round? You’ll get to include your query pitch as well! Pretty amazing, right?

Now get in gear and spit-shine those manuscripts! Because one week is when we open the proverbial doors. We’ll have two windows for submission to try and help out those in other time zones, and we’ll be taking the first 25 MG, YA, and NA entries in each window that meed all of the submission guidelines. I will post the full guidelines on Thursday along with the bios of all the incredibly generous judges. There will also be prizes. I’m talking agent and author critiques and even a free query pass to a mega-agent currently closed to queries.

In that vein, I’d also like to announce the Twitter hashtag for this event so we can all communicate with each other between announcements and posts. #PitchPlus5

Are you ready? We can't wait to see your work!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

3 Author Interviews with Adele Griffin, Tom Leveen, Jessica Spotswood and Justina Chen! Plus a GIVEAWAY!

Adele Griffin, The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone

What was your inspiration for writing this book?

The book was inspired by Edie: American Girl by Jean Stein. Which is still a great book.

How long did you work on the book?

From concept to design, it took about a year-- a focused, high-energy year because there were a lot of movable parts.

What's advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?

If I had any advice to give a writer, it would be to get to the end and see what you've got. That was particularly true with Addison!

Website | Amazon | IndieBound | Goodreads


Tom Leveen, Random

What was your inspiration for writing this book?

The inspiration for RANDOM came from the true story of the suicide death of Phoebe Prince, and the students who were later charged with crimes associated with it. The story was covered deeply by Emily Bazelon on Slate, which I followed closely while it unfolded. There were so many angles to approach the tragedy from. I think that’s where the idea to tell a similar story from a bully’s point of view came from—what makes a person say and do terrible things to another person? When authors ask questions, books are usually the result.

How long or hard was your road to publication? How many books did you write before this one, and how many never got published?

RANDOM is my fifth published novel; my sixth will be out a year from now, also with Simon Pulse, called SHACKLED. I don’t want to jinx it, but as of this writing, I’ve sold everything my agent has actually pitched. Having said that, yes, I have a ton of manuscripts lying around on my hard drive that will probably never see the light of day – not in their current incarnations, anyway.

What's your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc?

My writing ritual (writual?) typically involves spending 8 to 10 hours a week at an indie coffee shop to get brand-new writing done. No revision, no research, no internet, no email…it has to be fresh writing. Sometimes, that’s a page a day. Sometimes it’s 10. Afternoons I use for revision and business-y junk at home, where I’ve got a huge white board on my wall. Total blessing, I highly recommend them!

I used to listen to music while writing, but now I find it distracts me. But I do still build a playlist for every book; something emblematic of the story or characters or mood. RANDOM had lots of Azure Ray, for example.

What's advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?

My current advice is less about actual writing and more about life: If you have life partners, people you are beholden to – spouse, kids, parents, whatever – make sure you carve out time for your writing. You deserve it. Work it out with whoever you have to. Maybe it’s only for an hour on Tuesday morning from 5 to 6. Fine – but then zealously guard that time. I’m not saying to get a divorve over it – don’t! – but do come to some kind of agreement with the people in your life who rely on you. Again, you deserve that time. You really do.

Website | Amazon | IndieBound | Goodreads


Jessica Spotswood, Sister's Fate

What was your inspiration for writing this book?

Here's my "love list" for the book, in no particular order: a Cahill Christmas scene; a sexy scene that echoes Cate and Finn's first kiss, with the feathers (but not with feathers); a rich, handsome newspaperman who's very liberal but very much a product of his time when it comes to women; a witch who won't put up with his nonsense, and the banter between them; a public hanging; Cate becoming the most wanted witch in New London; Cate dreaming about throwing Maura and Elena through a window (she deserves a little revenge fantasy by this point); a Christmas bazaar, inspired a little bit by GONE WITH THE WIND; a city on fire (also GWTW); and two heartbreaking deaths.

Website | Amazon | IndieBound | Goodreads


Justina Chen, A Blind Spot For Boys

What was your inspiration for writing this book?

Confession: I went to 13 proms. Yes, 13. I remember telling my agent, Steven Malk, that in passing in one of our conversations, and he started laughing. As in chortling. When he finally collected himself, he said, “That’s your next novel.” But going to 13 proms actually sounds a little like the set-up for a horror story, no? But the kernel of that idea morphed into A BLIND SPOT FOR BOYS. Take one man magnet, give her some heartache, put her on a Boy Moratorium. And who does she meet? Her match. A lacrosse guy who is on a Girl Moratorium. Love at first clash.

How long did you work on the book?

It took me a little over a year to research and write A BLIND SPOT FOR BOYS. No, I didn’t serial-date a ton of men as research, but I did hang out with some pest control experts and meet a real live adorable and wonderful bedbug sniffing dog. You’ll have to read the book to understand why I now have a true aversion to bedbugs. And I also traveled to Machu Picchu and was transformed by that place. No, correction: not transformed. Rearranged. And I think the place rearranged Shana in the book, too.

How long or hard was your road to publication? How many books did you write before this one, and how many never got published?

I had a pretty typical path to publishing: I wrote and wrote and wrote and was rejected, rejected, rejected. Shortly after I sold my first picture book, a character started pestering me as I dreamed at night and ran in the morning. I jotted down the first three chapters of what would become my first YA novel. My agent was miraculously able to sell those first 75 pages or so at auction for a two-book deal. But not everything I write gets published. I just finished working for seven solid months on a book idea that’s been haunting me for the past decade—and I am not sure it will ever see a bookshelf over than mine. Even so, nothing is wasted. And I learned so much about plotting and pacing in those seven months.

What's your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc?

I typically try to give my early, predawn mornings over to meditation and prayer. That just sets the right tone for my writing day. I’m plugged into a higher purpose and don’t get as ruffled when a sentence refuses to heel or a scene feels like a muddled mess. When I write first draft these days, I need to have complete silence. I find that I can hear my character’s voice much clearer in quiet. As exciting as it is to move to a new home, which I did just about two months ago, I haven’t found my “spot.” So I’m being very feline now, writing wherever the sun goes in my new home. 

What's advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?

I may be the last person to give advice since I feel like I’m a novice with each book that I write—I’m learning about the process, I’m learning about myself, I’m learning about what really challenges my worldview. But perhaps the one piece of advice I can give is as applicable to writing as it is to life: enjoy the good moments. Sometimes, I feel like all I’m doing is rush, rush, rushing. Hurry up and throw breakfast together so I can run over to my computer to write. Hurry up and throw laundry into the wash so I can run over to my computer to write. Hurry up and… Well, you get the picture. I think we sometimes have to slow down to the good moments that are always unfurling before us. Like: the conference where a teen girl gasps in utter astonishment, grabs her friend by the arm and whispers, “I think that’s Justina Chen!” Here’s the thing: the very next book signing I attend, maybe two people will show up. So relish those those wonderful highs because the lows will come and they will be humbling. Even worse, the lows can dash you and squelch your creative spirit…unless you hold onto the good.

Website | Amazon | IndieBound | Goodreads