Sunday, August 2, 2015

Paper Towns Challenge

I’m in LA!
I’m here for the #LA15SCBWI Summer Conference, and I couldn’t be more excited to be here! There are SO MANY sessions... I’m focusing on craft, and WOW. Meg Wolitzer... Varian Johnson... Jordan Brown... Julie Strauss-Gabel...
I got here Thursday night, and since I’m here for a kidlit and YA writer’s conference,  I thought the best way to spend the evening would be by watching an adaptation of a YA novel with my someone who really knows her YA.
So my critique partner, Lindsey Carmichael, and I went to see Paper Towns together.
I have to say straight out that I loved the book, and I thought the movie was an excellent adaptation of the book. Also, seeing the movie with all its elements laid out on screen - the sidekick (who happens to be black), the binge drinking, the misogyny, the Confederate Flag on a t-shirt, the Manic Pixie Dream Girl that people are arguing about (did John Green dismantle the trope, or perpetuate it?) - made me realize two things.*
One: One book cannot address All The Things, nor should it.
and Two: I don’t think it’s possible to dismantle a trope as deeply ingrained as the Manic Pixie Dream Girl.
I want to discuss Point Two at greater length with you guys, but first, you have to see the movie.
So that’s your challenge.
Some time in the next two weeks, go and see the delightful hilarity that is Paper Towns. (Seriously, it’s a GREAT adaptation.) Let me know in the comments to this post that you’ve seen it. And then we’ll talk about the mystique of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl.

*Okay, more than two things. But I’m writing this at 1:40 in the morning and two things are all I can think of right now. And two things are enough for one blog post, anyway.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Friday Forward: Books in the Wild!

It's Friday!

TGIF, guys. This has been a really heavy week - both for me personally, because TREE PLANTING/rewriting/landscaping/kids/GAAAH, and for humans in North America. I'm compiling my thoughts on the heinous acts of a white supremacist who opened fire on nine people in Charleston, and those thoughts will follow at some point (probably on my tumblr), but for now, I think my blog post on how racism is woven throughout America's narrative will suffice.

And now for some fun!

I took The Kidlets to the bookstore on Monday, and I found some awesome books that I've been wanting to sink my claws into. So, of course, I did what anyone would do.

Where are my books? IN THE BOOKSTORE!
I took a selfie! Because, CRAZYWRITERLADY.

I was really excited to see my friend Debbie Ohi's book on the top shelf at the bookstore. This is her first solo picture book, and I am SO excited for her! (And, it's an awesome book. It's about a boy who loves books, and one day he notices that… DUN DUN DUNNNNNN… is books are disappearing! The culprit and the solution have to be some of the cutest plot twists ever. You guys need to go out and buy it, because, seriously. It's adorable.)

And look, look what else I found?

See that book on the far right? The whimsical-looking one? I have been waiting for Maggie Stiefvater's latest addition to her MG titles for aaaaaaaages. I love it when my favorite YA authors write books that I can share with The Kidlets.

And then I got to the bus stop and pulled out the IndigoKids Summer Reading Guide that one of the store people put in my bag, and look what I saw on the cover?

See that book there? The one on the bottom right-hand corner? The one that is awesome? I bought Kevin Sylvester's book, Neil Flambe and the Bard's Banquet, as soon as it came out, and Kidlet Number Two (who will henceforth be referred to as "Love Nugget") read it in an afternoon and then asked me if he could try the recipes.

THAT'S RIGHT. RECIPES. I might be even more in love with this series than I was already, and I'm thrilled that Kevin's book is on the cover of the reading guide. It totally deserves to be there, because it is amazing. Go buy it.

So, that's what I'm reading this week. How about you? What are you reading?

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Wednesday Writing Wisdom: Plotting Multiple Character Arcs

So, I think Wednesdays will be a good day for writing posts. Alliteration and all that, amirite? Plus, writing is the reason I have this blog, so I should probably talk about it once in a while.

These days, I’m revising my novel, which is told from the point of view of three characters. I don’t want to get into how to do all the POV switching successfully, partly because I’m still figuring that out (although I can talk about the figuring-out process), and partly because that’s a much longer blog post than I have time for right now. Maybe we can get into it after I finish this draft and pass it on to my Beta readers.

I want to talk abut plotting all those character arcs, because if plotting one is hard, plotting three is HOLY MELTING BRAIN, WHAT HAVE I DONE?! It’s a lot. Like, A LOT, a lot. It’s a lot to juggle around inside one brain.

So I take it out of my brain, and I put it down on paper. I like to do this after I’ve finished one draft, because then I have something I can really work with. (And my rough drafts are rough and messy and all-over-the-place awful, and they have my permission to be this way. So I expect to need to do this at this stage.)

So, I have my first (ROUGH) draft in front of me. I've printed it out, because that's how my brain works, but that isn't necessarily a must. I get a stack of index cards, and I go through the draft and make one index card for each scene - whose POV it’s from, the central conflict of that scene, and the progression that character makes in that scene - then I lay them all out in order. (The floor is a good place for this.) Then I pull out three highlighters - one for each of my three main characters - and I put a stripe across each card in the color of the person whose POV that scene is told from. If the main part of the action centers around a character other than the narrator for that scene, I put an additional stripe in that character’s color, but that doesn’t happen that often in this book (so far; this may change. Actually, I think I want to play with that idea... *makes note to self and files it away for later*).

ANYWAY, now I’ve got the whole novel spread out in front of me, and I’ve got nice bright highlighted sections to let me know when stuff is happening for each character. It’s really obvious if I’m ignoring a character for too long, or if one character’s climax comes at the wrong time within the novel’s progression. It’s a good way to pull back and get a big-picture look at what’s going on for each character as the novel progresses.

So, that’s one of my strategies. I hope some of you find it useful.

How about you? How do you plot multiple character arcs? Leave your tips and tricks in the comments!

Thanks for stopping by.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Cover Reveal! Goodies! HUZZAH!

I’m just back from a whirlwind weekend at the SCBWI Canada East conference The Art of Story in Montreal - and what a conference! I saw so many people, and learned SO MUCH, and have so much to share...

But not yet, because I need to decompress and gather photos together and collect my thoughts a bit first. My post-conference post (har har, SEE WHAT I DID THERE?) will come later this week.

In the meantime, guess whose book has a final cover!

It's coming...

This girl's book!

I don't know how covers have gone for you guys, but this cover went through a LOT of changes. A LOT. But boy, do I love this version. Just look at that proboscis! Just look at the hairs on that mosquito! Just look at that blood-filled abdomen!


But I love it. I am giddy with cover love.

And look what the UPS man brought me? GOODIES!

Witness my two-tone gorgeousness!

I ordered this awesome tote bag and hat to promote my book! In case you don't know yet, BITE INTO BLOODSUCKERS is the non-fiction book for 7-11 year-olds that I wrote with Kari-Lynn Winters. I got the bag and hat from Vistaprint, and I just LOVE them! Aren’t they gorgeous? (Well, okay - the mosquito isn’t gorgeous. But the MATERIAL is gorgeous! I love the two-tone look.) The tote bag is made of sturdy canvas, and it’s big enough to hold ALL THE THINGS. It’s going to be perfect to bring to school visits! And the hat is just perfect for summer weather!

I am going to be carrying this bag and wearing this hat EVERYWHERE!

To find out more about BITE INTO BLOODSUCKERS (my first book!), which is coming SOON, and to pre-order a copy, check it out online at Amazon, Chapters, and Books-A-Million. (You guys! BOOKS-A-MILLION!!!)

Thanks for your support, and thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, March 19, 2015


You may have noticed that March 17th came and went with no fanfare from me. Which would be normal for most days, except that March 17th was supposed to be the day that my book, BITE INTO BLOODSUCKERS, came out.


My co-author Kari-Lynn Winters and I worked really hard on that book. Like, REALLY hard. I lost sleep more times than I care to admit. So did our editors, and the book designer, and everyone else. But unfortunately, things just didn't quite work out. There were layout things and cover things and all kinds of other things, and all the THINGS just took too long.

Sometimes, this happens.

Sometimes, despite everyone’s best efforts, things just don’t go to plan. It's nobody's fault. It's just the way things go.

It’s disappointing, but it’s okay.

I would rather have my name on a great book than a rushed book. I think this is important to remember, for creators everywhere. Producing stuff you're proud of is important.

SO, I’ve been told by my publisher that our new release date will be sometime in JUNE. Just in time to try out the fun activities in the book in the warm summer months! YAAAY! Mark your calendars!

And in the meantime, you can order BITE INTO BLOODSUCKERS on Amazon by clicking HERE.

Thanks for your support, and thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

When You Wish Upon a Star...

I want to talk with you guys about wishes.

I’m not a particularly superstitious person. I don’t believe that the Universe is out to get anyone, or that the Universe is tilted in anyone’s favor. I do believe that we reap what we sow, but that’s more of an “if you put forward your best self and keep your goals in sight and don’t let the crappy things that happen to you stop you from trying, things will eventually work out in the positive” thing than a Karma or Juju thing.

(Notice that I acknowledge that crappy things happen. They happen to everybody. Nobody’s life is just magically free of crapitude.)

But I totally believe in making wishes.

I wish on everything: falling stars, the first star of the evening, fallen eyelashes, clementine rinds when you peel them off all in one piece, snowflakes

I don’t make wishes because I think that making a wish alone is enough to make something happen. There’s no magic fairy dust that falls on you and changes your reality just because you wished for something. Wishing can’t change the lottery numbers as the machine is popping them out. It can’t make the rain stop, or the temperature go up by ten degrees.

But what wishing CAN do - what it DOES do - is keep you focused. It keeps you moving forward. It reminds you of what you want, so that when the opportunities come, you can take them. And it reminds yo to create opportunities when you can.

Also, it reminds you to keep working for what you want. Emphasis on WORKING. Because working is hard. The discipline is hard to maintain. You need to remind yourself what you’re giving up all this free time for.

Me? I wished for a long healthy life for my kids, which is partly in my (and their) control, and partly up to chance. And I wished to work with an agent. (For about 5 years - yeah. This wishing thing takes TIME.)

Right now, I'm wishing to make a book that is so awesome, people won't be able to help but read it. It might take a while, but I'm gonna keep working on it and wishing for it.

So: wishes. I make them.

What do you wish for?

Monday, March 9, 2015


A while ago, I hinted that I hoped to have some good news to share soon. And then a few posts ago, I mentioned that my trip to New York City for the SCBWI Winter Conference had even more awesome than I was able to include in the post. There's no way you could have known, but those things were connected.

Hee-hee. I know. I'm such a tease.

ANYWAY. You probably want to know what my news is, right?

I bet you do.


Have I drawn this out long enough?

How about now?

Okay, NOW. I have.

Okay, already!

I wanted to wait until all the paperwork was finalized, buuuuut, now that the contract has been signed, I am THRILLED to announce that…

I am now represented by the AMAZING Laura Biagi, of Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency!

I queried Laura last September and she requested my full in November. After she read my manuscript, we made an appointment to chat in New York on the day that I arrived for the conference. Chatting with her was fantastic - I could see that she had really thought about my manuscript, and I could also see that she really "got it". She is smart and on-the ball, she's a great communicator, she gets and loves what I'm working on, and I am so, so excited to have her by my side as we plan my career together!

So. Laura Biagi, Agent Awesome. MY AGENT. I can't believe I get to type that.

What is this crazy life?

To celebrate, I'm giving away a free query critique. Comment with your email address for one entry, share (and link to your shares in the comments) for more entries. The winner will be randomly drawn at midnight on Friday, March 13th/Saturday, March 14th.

And as always: you guys have been with me since my earliest days, and your support has kept me going through both light and dark moments. I love and appreciate every last one of you. Thanks for stopping by!