Friday, February 26, 2010

Portrait of a teen reader: Meet Allison

Some teenagers read only when forced (by gunpoint sometimes.) Some read in spurts, like my 14-year-old daughter who can sometimes read 100 pages a night, and then not pick up another book for a month.

And then there is my daughter’s friend, Allison. I have rarely seen Allison without a book, whether she’s on the soccer field (at half-time, of course) or hanging out with the girls. Usually when we see each other we get this crazed gleam in our eyes and gravitate toward each other; two obsessed book freaks. The other girls, my daughter included groan; there they go again! Allison and I are always exchanging books. I have two of hers now! (and I think she has a few of mine—I tend to lose track).

I thought it would be fun to share some of Allison’s thoughts about books and reading in general, since she is an actual, real life teenager and a member of our target audience.

Welcome, Allison! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I'm 14 in 9th grade. I play soccer, I like swimming, hanging out with friends.

How many books would you say you read a month?
I would say I read at least two books a month.

When did you become the voracious reader you are today?
The first books I was really into was the HOUSE OF NIGHT series. It was about the time when TWILIGHT was not really popular (two years ago). My sister was reading TWILIGHT and kept telling me how great it was, so I moved onto my next series. Then I didn't read anything for a while. I sort of read the IMMORTALS books, but just as something to read until the next book of HON came out. Then I started talking to Lisa who introduced me to the UGLIES series and the MORTAL INSTRUMENTS series. Now I'm waiting for the next book in most of those series, and reading the Sookie Stackhouse series (the books the show True Blood is based on)

What’s your favorite genre?
My favorite genre would be fantasy, supernatural, teen romance.

Is there any particular book that sparked your interest?
The Mortal Instruments is by far my favorite out of everything I’ve read.

Do you prefer series or stand-alones?
I definitely prefer series over stand-alones.

What do you look for in a book? What keeps you reading?
In every book I’ve read there is always forbidden romance, so that really gets me interested. I like books that keep me guessing and really pull me out reality.

Do you have a favorite book?
My favorite stand alone book is WALK TWO MOONS. That book has no out of the ordinary characters and no real twist, but something about it makes me want to read it over and over again.

What kind of book would you like to see on the shelves in the next year or so?
I’m really looking forward to the next book in most of the series I’m reading. Maybe a new kind of genre altogether that doesn’t have any super natural beings.

Do you ever think you might want to write as well?
I would love to write a book someday but I don’t think it would be any good.

Thank you for stopping by, Allison! And let me let you in on a little writer's secret: None of us are any good when we start. You just need a story to tell and the courage (or insanity?) to keep writing. With each book we get a bit better. Some of us even get published. And we are always afraid we aren't really any good. But that never stops us from writing. So be brave and give it a go! If you start now, imagine how good you'll be by the time you graduate high school!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Julia, Julie and Lisa

Is it possible to be in love with a pot?

In my case, yes. You may be wondering why on earth on a blog that has been dedicated entirely to writing, I am crooning about the ridiculously expensive Dutch oven I bought yesterday.

Bear with me. Somehow I will connect this to writing. But first I want to talk about cooking. And Valentine's Day. And the movie Julia and Julie.

Saturday was a busy, busy day for me. I cleaned. Then I went downtown to a gallery opening with my colleagues where a few of our fine students had work in a juried show. Then hubby and I went to IKEA and bought a new couch for the living room (at last) and a desk for my work area. SO, by the time he put on Julia and Julie, I was pooped and not all that engaged. But I loved the movie. And I fell in love with Julie Childs (well, with Meryl Streep as Julia Childs).

So on Sunday, when our plans to go out for a family Valentine's Day dinner seemed like not such a good idea because my daughter had a guitar recital scheduled from 6PM to 7:30 (yes, thank you Riverdale Y—great planning) I decided, all on my own to go Julia. I raced to Bed, Bath and Beyond and bought this magnificent red enameled beauty, eschewing other inferior (but cheaper) models. I knew that Julia would approve of my choice.

I came home laden with food, the Dutch oven and a potato ricer for making mashed potatoes and cooked up a storm. Roast chicken, garlic mashed potatoes and asparagus in cream, all from different JC recipes I found online. I slathered on the butter. And UGHHH. But it was amazing and the food VANISHED with no leftovers in a frantic eating frenzy.

Next Julia recipe, however, I am making modifications. OLIVE OIL. (sorry, Julia).

Okay. What's with me? Why did I love this movie so much? One reason was the lowly young writer, Julie Powell who gave herself a goal and stuck with it, despite the inconvenience. The other was the portrayal of Julia herself, a woman already in the autumn of her years, who stumbles on a consuming passion and does not back down. Both women found a way to persevere for the LOVE OF IT and not for the goals they would achieve. Sure, Julia wanted her cookbook published and Julie just wanted to write something someone would read. But what I took from this movie was the passion for the creating. And I want to write this way. For the love of it.

Then I thought..hmmm. I can do something fun that my family will love with food to thank them for putting up with MY all-consuming passion (writing) which often means they get dinner very late and not always Julia-quality.

So it was my Valentine's gift to the family for putting up with me, I guess. But it was also a tribute to women who strive to achieve and still put food on the table.

Why not enjoy all of it?

The nice benefit to this was as I was struggling to squeeze the potatoes through the ricer, my 14 year-old daughter came in and for possibly the first time in years, wanted to cook with me. I asked her if this was because of the movie and she admitted it was. Then we both discussed how movies (and books) can change and influence us. So it all came around full circle. And she did a smashing job on those potatoes!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Buzz Time—YA author Leah Clifford and A TOUCH MORTAL

Well it's that time again when I shamelessly plug another writer pal (and her fabulous mega-agent Rosemary Stimola whose semi-accurate likeness you will find on this blog about two posts back).

I *met* Leah Clifford online almost three years on the Querytracker forum when there were maybe about fifteen of us originals. Back in those days, I knew her as Gypsygurl. (actually, she' ll always be Gypsygurl to me. Its her brand name). I've been familiar with this manuscript from its earliest days, and right from the start it was clear to me Leah was a brilliant writer with a big future. If she was a stock, I would have invested for sure!

Ever since Leah told us QT-ers back in December that her book had sold, we've been sitting on this fabulous news-so now it's time to shout to the world about Leah's book A TOUCH MORTAL, due from Greenwillow in Winter 2011. I love typing that title. As a self-proclaimed title freak I think it rates a perfect 10.

Anyway, here's the blurb about Leah's sale in Publisher's Marketplace.

YA Rebels vlogger Leah Clifford's A TOUCH MORTAL, the first in a planned trilogy in which a seventeen-year old doesn't remember the details of her final hours, but now, she's a Sider, a lost soul trapped between the living and the dead; endowed with a special power no Sider ever had, she is pulled into a feud between Fallen and Bound Angels which will reveal the truth of her death and alter heaven and hell and everything in-between, to Virginia Duncan at Greenwillow, in a good deal, in a pre-empt, in a three-book deal, the for publication in Winter 2011, by Rosemary Stimola at Stimola Literary Studio.

Okay. Now I hand the mic over to Leah. If you'd like to really meet Leah, you can check her out on her vlog, YA Rebels or follow her on Twitter at

Leah, aka, Gypsygurl, can you tell us a bit about your background?
Sure! I'm an Ohio girl born and raised, with a few great escapes in there. I lived in Colorado for a few years and worked as a flight attendant for a few more, so I went through a period where I was constantly on the move. Before that, I attended a community college where I took some creative writing classes, but other than that I have no "formal" training in writing.

How long have you been writing? Is A TOUCH MORTAL your first book?
I've been writing since I was very young, but only writing for publication for the last few years. A TOUCH MORTAL is not my first book though. I have a trunked novel that is an adult paranormal, but it's pretty awful. When it was finished I queried a bit, but knew I could do better, so I pulled the manuscript and started on the YA novel that grew into A TOUCH MORTAL.

Tell us a bit about the main characters in A TOUCH MORTAL.
My main character, Eden, is so much fun to write! She's snarky and sarcastic, a girl who can hold her own against the boys for sure. She lives in NYC and runs the Manhattan crew of Siders (see PM announcement for what they are). There are also the Angels. One of them, Az, is Eden's ex-boyfriend, who she's on the outs with...though he's determined to change that.

Are any of the characters based on actual individuals?
No, they're all fiction.

What inspired your book?
So, remember that stint at community college I mentioned above? Well, in one of those creative writing classes, I had a story due. Actually, it was late. And I had NO IDEAS. I ended up writing a short story about teens watching a jumper on a building ledge. It wasn't like anything I'd ever written before, and for years I wondered why they were so cavalier about the whole thing. The novel grew from that original short story.

Can you tell us a bit about your road to publication? What obstacles did you face? I started officially querying in January of 2009 and by February I had received four offers of representation. I'll be the first to tell you I had NO idea that was gonna happen. After a period of freaking out, I had a phone call with each agent and went with Rosemary Stimola. We went out on submission, but the responses we received seemed confused in the first pages with the world building. I'd never written YA, and never fantasy, so my world building skills weren't the best then. REVISION TIME!!! I took a few months, added another 100 pages and 20,000 words and we were ready to go out again. The offer came two weeks later.

Tell us something about Leah Clifford we'd never think to ask about?
One of my favorite things is the antique Royal typewriter I own. It still works but needs a new ribbon. Someday, I want to type a rough draft on it (probably for a short story lol). You can see it behind me in most of the Rebels vlogs (I'm Thursday).

Thanks for the interview, Lisa! And thanks for being there every step of the way!
The QT crew rocks!
(yep, they do!)

Monday, February 1, 2010

Conference Notes

You thought I WROTE notes? Okay.. I did.
But they weren't that interesting. The sketch above was at the beginning of the Friday writer's intensive. We were seated at tables of about eight other writers and an agent or editor. The idea was for each writer to read 500 words of their work and then get feedback from the professional at their table and the other writers. In the afternoon we switched writers and pros. At the morning session I had Michael Bourret who is a very nice, funny, and no airs guy. He gave great advice to all of us. The other writers at the table were quite insightful and accomplished in their own right (Hi Jeff! Hi Kipp!). Same goes for the afternoon. I was very pleased with the advice I received. It drove me to really assess the way I began my WIP and took me even deeper to adjust a few key plot points.

The second sketch is super agent, Rosemary Stimola. Not sure I captured her likeness very well except for her outstanding hairdo! She is one cool lady and I wished she talked longer. Sadly I cannot post the sketch of the gentleman who preceded her on the grounds it might incriminate me. I plead the fifth. Anyone who was there will know exactly what I mean.

It was a very useful weekend. Allyn Johnston, whose breakout session was on picture books, should get a prize for "most prepared". This woman put together about 250 hand-stapled dummy books so we could "turn the page" with her. Her joy and love for what she does was evident in every word.

Oh ..and how can I forget! I MET LIBBA BRAY!!! Okay. For two seconds; but I love that woman! She is very down to earth and lots of fun. And an awesome writer as some of you may already know. She is a rock star.

So all that aside, the high point for me was when me and my other two critmates (aka Team Munchkin Cudas) found a cozy corner in the Hyatt and tore the throats out of our WIPs and stitched them back together in the space of two hours. Cath and Dhonielle—you guys are AWESOME!

For my new followers, Cudas is one of my online crit groups. Kate Milford and Lindsay Eland are Cudas. Then there's my other crit group The Wordslingers, of which Heidi Ayarbe and Christine Johnson, (whose books I will be featuring in the upcoming months) are members.

Okay. That's all. Would love to hear from others who were there, too.