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Comments 2
- on September 9, 2013 in Featured

PrintThe Reading Room has officially announced the winners of the 2013 Reading Room/WriteOnCon Aspiring Authors’ Competition! Thank you to everyone who entered and voted–the talent this year was astounding.

The honor of Third Place and a cash prize of $250 goes to Amy Trueblood and her piece Fighting Chance.

The honor of Second Place and a cash prize of $500 goes to Ashley Laster and her piece Shades and Shadows.

And the honor of First Place and a cash prize of $1000 goes to Michelle Weidenbenner and her piece Love is Just a Word.


Submissions for the Aspiring Authors competition were judged by a panel of three literary agents. Catherine Drayton of Inkwell Management, Charlie Olsen, of Inkwell Management and Jennifer Rofe, of Andrea Brown Literary.

All of the winning entries will appear in a special e-book, which will be available for download soon! Michelle will also have the opportunity to discuss her manuscript with literary agent Catherine Drayton!

In addition, EVERY voter will be entered into a drawing to win a $100 gift certificate, just for voting. So, technically, we’re all winners!


Congratulations again, winners. You did it! Until next year…

Comments 0
- on August 27, 2013 in Featured

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Wait no longer, the votes are in and the top five submissions for The WriteOnCon/Reading Room Aspiring Authors’ Competition have been selected. Click here to vote for your favorite (every voter will be entered to win an $100 gift certificate!) Congratulations to all of the finalists!

Comments 8
- on August 23, 2013 in Featured

Okay, so we’ve drawn the winners to our amazing giveaways for WriteOnCon 2013! ALL WINNERS SHOULD EMAIL US AT WRITEONCON(AT)GMAIL.COM TO cialis 10mg CLAIM THEIR PRIZE.


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–Fiction picture book critique for a manuscript under 1000 words from author Jean Reidy: Cynthia (authorcynthia is part of the email address)

–Query Critique + First 3 Chapters from author Leisl Shirtliff: Lyla Lee

–1st chapter/10 page critique from author Kelly Jensen: PaulK

–5 page critique from author Frank Cole: Judy Palermo

–query critique from literary agent Peter Knapp: Date Larkindale

–10 debut posters from author Caroline Starr Rose: Michele Moss

–a critique of the first 10 pages of a MS from author Jessica Spotswood: Jenn Hguyen

–Critique of a rhyming picture book by author Debbie Deisen: Carol Munro

–a first five page critique from editor Nicole Steinhaus: Pam Brunskill

–a signed paperback of Champagne and Lemon Drops from author Jean Oram (to North Americans): Laboyden

–a critique of your first five pages from Jean Oram: Margie Moore

–query + 1st 5 pages critique from agent Sarah LaPolla: Sharalyn Edgeberg

–copy of (his client’s) Emma Trevayne’s debut YA novel CODA VICTORIA from agent Brooks Sherman: Lisa Tiffin

–a signed copy of OCD LOVE STORY from agent Victoria Marini: Heidi Heilig

–a critique of a picture book or the first five pages of an MG novel with a 15 minute phone call for those participants living in the US from literary agent Danielle Smith: Dale-Marie Bryan

–first chapter critique from literary agent Tamar Rydzinski: Mike Hays


CONGRATS!!! Again, email us at writeoncon(at)gmail(dot)com, and we’ll give you further directions on how to claim your prize.


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Comments 11
- on August 15, 2013 in Featured

Well, a fourth year down! What fun! SO MANY NINJAS. A billionty tweets. “Twitches” viagra online generic that could just as easily be the next incurable disease as they are twitter pitches…

We hope you had an amazing time at the conference this year! We hope the Google Hangouts were cialis online samples as awesome for you as they were for us. New critique partners, new requests, new information, and most of all, the desire to GET OUT THERE AND WRITE!

If you want to let us know what you thought of WriteOnCon in detail, please use our feedback form! We love to get feedback to make the next WriteOnCon even more amazing. CLICK HERE.

UPDATE – Viagra online sales A NEW PRIZE:

The very generous L.L. Tisdel, who you may know from drawing your main characters on the forums during the conference, has offered up a special prize for ONE lucky person that fills out our feedback form. What is that you ask?! Well, she will give you a full color illustration of a scene from your WIP! How cool is that? Once you fill it out (follow the link above), you will be automatically entered into the pot out of which we’ll draw ONE WINNER. The winner will be announced in one week on August 26th here on this site.

Here’s the fineprint:

1. Please allow 1-2 weeks for finalized art from date of communication with winner

2. We’ll hook you up with Laurie via email so you guys can swap information.

3. Art will be digital and sent as a digital file, PNG and/or JPEG

4. Prize would be a depiction of a (safe for work) ;) chosen scene in an original story, by the author, featuring original characters.




WriteOnCon is a FREE conference, but updating and upgrading our technical sites is not free. Even a donation of $5 goes a long way! So if you liked what you saw and want to help us out, please consider donating by clicking the button below!

As usual, we have a send-off video for you. After all, WriteOnCon wouldn’t be WriteOnCon without YOU… or our good-bye flick. Enjoy!

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Comments 135
- on August 14, 2013 in Featured

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What you missed today:

Wednesday, August 14:

A Writer’s Manifesto by author Caroline Starr Rose


Making Picturebooks: A List of the Top 5 Things I Wish Someone Would Have Told Me… by author Lindsay Ward

Surprise, Suspense and Paramystamance by author Kimberly Derting

A Day in the Life of a Writer by author Gretchen McNeil

Writing that Works by author Mindy McGinnis

The Class Schedule by author Erica O’Rourke

Rhythm and Rhyme by author Debbie Diesen — WITH GIVEAWAY — go comment to enter!

How to Pitch an Agent by literary agent Lara Perkins

Live Twitter Pitches with literary agent Danielle Smith

Live Twitter Pitches with literary agent Tamar Rydzinski

Middle Grade Writing or Publishing Questions with author Peggy Eddleman

Cleaning up your manuscript. Quick and Dirty Edit Tips by author C. Desir

Setting the Tone With a Great Query Letter by literary agent Traci Marchini — WITH GIVEAWAY — comment to enter!

Writing and Walking by editor and author Jocelyn Davies

Killer Last Lines—How to End a Chapter by author Elsie Chapman

Writing for Cricket Magazine Group by editor Margaret Mincks

First Page Feedback by literary agent Marietta Zacker

Live Twitter Pitches by literary agents Duvall Osteen and Mackenzie Brady

How to Deconstruct Your Novel by author David Lubar

How Booksellers Sell Your Book by Emelie Samuelson of The Learned Owl

Live Chat with editors Sarah Barley and Andrew Harwell, and literary agent Lindsay Ribar



And holy cow, that’s it!! If you missed out, click away and catch up! Also, a couple of our forum/chat professionals have offered prizes. Up for grabs by commenting on THIS POST:

–a critique of a picture book or the first five pages of an MG novel with a 15 minute phone call for those participants living in the US from literary agent Danielle Smith

–first chapter critique from literary agent Tamar Rydzinski


AND — if you liked anything you read today, anything about the critique forums, the Ninja Agent program, the live chat, the forum events, the twitter pitches, ANYTHING, please consider donating!

WriteOnCon is a FREE conference, but updating and upgrading our technical sites is not free. Even a donation of $5 goes a long way! Please donate by clicking the button below!


Thank you for coming today!

Comments 6
- on August 14, 2013 in Featured

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About Emelie:

Emelie Samuelson is a quirky bookworm in her twenties. When she was 10, she realized that she wanted to be surrounded by books for the rest of her life. Now she works in a book shop and is working on her first novel while she writes a humor blog about her many misguided adventures in life. She drinks lots of coffee and lives in a tiny apartment with her husky, Giovanni.


About The Learned Owl Bookshop: The Learned Owl is an independent community bookstore located in Hudson, Ohio, about halfway between Cleveland and Akron. We have three floors of books for all ages and interests, from classic picture books to travel guides to the latest New York Times bestsellers. If we don’t have a certain book in stock, we can usually order it; we also offer an out-of-print search service.




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- on August 14, 2013 in Live Events

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Comments 14
- on August 14, 2013 in Featured

Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Authors


That Title Has Nothing to Do with the Topic


How to Deconstruct Your Novel

by author David Lubar

One of the most popular investing books among people who have made skadillions of dollars buying low and selling high is Charles Mackay’s Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. While the book does contain a chapter on an economic frenzy involving tulip bulbs in Holland, many of the chapters involve things that, on the surface, have nothing to do with investing. But all of the delusions and madness speak to the mind of the mob, and it is the mob that moves the market. In an interesting coincidence, one of the most popular books among smart, successful, and beloved authors of prose is Robert McKee’s Story, which covers the art not of the novel, but of the screenplay. Granted, a script is closer to a novel than a poison loving Borgia is to an initial public offering, but they are still separate beasties, and the Mckay/McKee coincidence was enough to grab my easily amused mind and inspire an irrelevant title. (I am very bad at following the “kill your darlings” advice, but that’s a topic for another day.)

Robert McKee’s ideas about what makes a screenplay work can be adapted for novels. In my case, I used one of his key beliefs about the purpose of a scene, and modified it into a tool for analyzing, and improving, my novels. We really only need to deal with two basic concepts. The first is the idea of a scene. For scripts, McKee defines a scene as having a fixed number of characters and a fixed location. (In truth, it has been years since I read his book, and I might not be exact in my description of his ideas. But it doesn’t matter if I misstate or misunderstand his ideas. I am going to be very exact in what I did with those ideas.)  Any time a character leaves or arrives, and any time a character moves to a different location, there’s a new scene. The other important concept is that, for McKee, every single scene starts with a character having one goal or expectation and ends with that character having a different goal. (Again, McKeesians, please let me slide if I am not accurate or exact. I am using all of this as a stepping stone.)

So, we have scenes, and we have goals. How did I use this? I made my first deconstruction when I was writing Hidden Talents, back around 1998. It was my first successful novel, and is still popular and selling well. I give the deconstruction some of the credit for this. (Bear in mind I wrote my first unsuccessful novel way back around in 1976.) The exercise revealed a lot of flaws and opportunities in the manuscript. I didn’t do this too early in the process. It didn’t happen right after the first draft. I waited until I felt the novel was finished before I deconstructed it. (There’s no reason not to do this exercise on an early draft, but it is a lot of work, and I tend to do a lot of drafts.)

Why did I do it? I realized it would be a great idea to make sure every scene in my novel served a purpose. But, as I was developing my template, I decided that, for a novel, there should be two purposes — the character has a purpose, but so does the author. (E.g., Martin wants to avoid a bully. I want to show the reader Martin’s cleverness.) I also gave myself a bit of slack. I felt it was fine if not every single scene contained a purpose. There can be a bit of fluff in a novel. A bit. But the deconstruction allows me to see if there is a lot of fluff, and it also lets me see if I have a solid focus on my plot, and a good grasp of my intentions. I also gave myself a bit of slack in my definition of “scene.” If there was a flow of characters in one location, but no major plot changes, I might lump everything into one scene. This was part efficiency, part laziness.

Here’s the template I originally used for Hidden Talents:




Goals and conflicts:


Revision issues:

Setting is obvious. For characters, I don’t bother to list the viewpoint character every time if the book is a first-person novel. The goals and conflicts are those of the characters. The purpose is my reason for having that scene. (This can be one of the most revealing portions of the deconstruction. After months of frantically writing scenes, it is interesting to look at them and try to justify their existence.) The deconstruction for Hidden Talents ran about 22 pages, single spaced. When I did the same thing for Dunk, I added the idea of opportunities as a subtopic in revision issues, and also added the date (which ended up being more of a running track of the day of the week) and time, to help keep things straight. The deconstruction for Dunk ran 32 pages. Here’s the first part. I’ve included a big enough chunk to show the various sorts of things that pop up, and added some comments just now, in brackets, to point out specific things about how all of this worked.

Pages: 1 – 3

Date and time: early afternoon

[The novel is set during summer vacation, so I don’t have to track the actual days of the week.)

Setting: Dunk tank

Characters: Chad, the Bozo

Goals and conflicts: Chad -- Investigate this compelling performance.  Get close without attracting attention.  (Our first sense that Chad doesn't want to attract attention to himself.)

Purpose: Introduce the Bozo, set the scene

Revision issues: none


Pages: 3 - 6

Date and time: same


Characters: Bozo, bald mark

Goals and conflicts: Bozo -- make money, mark -- get revenge, salvage pride

Purpose: Show the Bozo in action

Revision issues: none

[Note – "mark" is the Bozo's target, not a character name. It's a new scene because the focus is now on the Bozo/mark interaction. Also note that the main character doesn't have a goal in this scene, other than to keep watching.]


Pages: 6

Date and time: same

Setting: same

Characters: Bozo, Lady mark

Goals and conflicts: Bozo — make money, mark — get revenge, salvage pride

Purpose: Show the continuity of the Bozo’s technique as he moves from mark to mark, and show him in action with another mark

Revision issues: none


Pages: 6 – 7

Date and time: same, for a span of an hour or two

Setting: same

Characters: Chad

Goals and conflicts: Watch this compelling display

Purpose: Introduce Chad’s desire to get in the tank

Revision issues: none


Pages: 8 – 10

Date and time: mid afternoon

Setting: flashback to his social studies class

Characters: Chad, Ms. Hargrove, the Bozo

Goals and conflicts: Chad — revenge, avoiding being a target

Purpose: Show his sense of being a victim, show how he becomes a target (I need to explore this further)

Revision issues: develop his personality better, get a sense of who he is and how he reacts to authority and adults in general.  Give Chad a slightly more pronounceable last name.  Decide whether he responds to his classmates’ laughter by joking some more.  Opportunity: This is the first crucial character defining moment.

[Note – here, I begin to find things that could benefit from more exploration.]


Pages: 10 – 11

Date and time: moments later (back from flashback)

Setting: boardwalk, by volleyball nets

Characters: Chad, Lunk

Goals and conflicts: Chad — wants Lunk to join him.  Lunk — wants to practice volleyball.

Purpose: Introduce Lunk.  Foreshadow his illness.

Revision issues: New name for Lunk.  Opportunity: Have some girls pass by and ogle Lunk, then not even notice Chad.

[Note – Lunk became Jason. I think that was a good decision. It should be clear, by now, that the character's goals and my purposes are often totally separate issues.]


Pages: 12 – 14

Date and time: about a half hour later

Setting: Chad’s place

Characters: Chad, Chad’s mom

Goals and conflicts: Chad — doesn’t want a new boarder.  Chad’s mom — making a better life for her son and escaping the demons of her past

Purpose: show their financial situation, mention the new boarder, establish the friction in Chad’s relationship with his mother.

Revision issues:  Opportunity: Use the Forbush flashback to establish more about Chad (his feeling that people don’t notice other people, maybe).

[Note – I couldn’t remember what this was about, so I looked at the book and found nothing related to a flashback in this scene. And there isn't anyone named "Forbush." I guess all of that got cut.]


Pages: 14 – 17

Date and time: continued from previous scene

Setting:  same

Characters: same

Goals and conflicts: Chad — get permission to work.  Chad’s mom — protect her son from the bad experiences she had in her own childhood.

Purpose: Establish Chad’s desire to work and his Mom’s refusal to let him get a job.

Revision issues: none


I think that’s enough of an example to show you what I do, and give you some idea of the value of deconstructing a novel. It’s not a small task. I’d say it takes two or three full days to do this for a novel of 60,000 words. You can focus on other aspects. You can do all sorts of variations. (When I’m finished, I often copy and paste all the revision issues and page numbers into a separate file, so I can scroll through and make changes.) You can go for greater or less detail. But give it a try. Ask what your characters want in each scene. Ask what you want. You might be pleased with what you discover.

David LubarAbout David: David Lubar has written more than thirty books for teens and young readers.  His novels, including Hidden Talents and Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie, are on reading lists across the country, saving countless students from a close encounter with Madam Bovary. His Weenies short story collections have sold more than two million copies. He had several books come out this year, including Hyde and Shriek, and Extremities: Stories of Death, Murder, and Revenge (He’s actually a much nicer person than these titles would indicate.)  In his spare time, he takes naps on the couch.

Extremities-finalAbout Extremities: Have you ever wanted to get back at your parents? Have you ever wished your gym teacher would find out what it feels like to suffer and gasp for breath? Have you ever just wanted to seek revenge in a major way? On the lighter side, have you ever thought about dating a vampire? (Before you protest, that particular story was written way before Twilight hit the shelves.) Perfect for fans of plotted fiction, Extremities contains thirteen stories that delve into darkness and evil, with a blend of natural horrors and supernatural encounters.

Comments 3
- on August 14, 2013 in Featured Live Events

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  • -Pitch must include genre (at least a letter — C: contemporary; M: mystery; T: Thriller; ID: Issue Driven; and NF: non-fiction)

We will be TAKING YOUR PITCHES FROM TWITTER using the hashtag #WriteOnCon. These are TWITTER PITCHES, meaning they must be 140 characters or less.

One of the cool things about the Google Hangout is that we can stream parameters into our feeds and thus, display them for our pros. So if you don’t have a twitter account, sign up now! You’ll be ON TWITTER to pitch, once again using the hashtag #WriteOnCon. We have it set so that all tweets with that hashtag come into our Hangout, where one of us will put the pitch on the screen for the pros to read.

You’ll then get to see their honest reactions. So be prepared! You’ll get to see their faces as they read, hear their voices as they react.

The Hangout can be viewed right here on, our YouTube channel, our Facebook page, or on our Google+ page. It’ll be recorded so if you can’t make the event, you can watch the reactions to pitches later (on WOC, YouTube, FB, or Google+). You can use your phone/tablet/whatever to tweet. As long as you use the hashtag, it comes into our stream. So you don’t even have to be home to pitch!

We’re going to try to feed as many pitches as we can. Don’t despair if you don’t get in to one chat. Hopefully we’ll get to everyone over the course of the conference.

For more about how our google hangouts work this year, click here: How The Google Hangouts Will Work

Comments 14
- on August 14, 2013 in Featured Live Events

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Marietta will pick 10 first pages from your submissions and then provide feedback to them during the live event. Comments welcome! Just use the Hashtag #writeoncon during the event!

Comments 16
- on August 14, 2013 in Featured
Writing for Cricket Magazine Group

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The editors at Cricket Magazine Group are thrilled to write a blog post for this year’s WriteOnCon. We offer publishing opportunities outside the traditional book market and love connecting with talented writers cialis online rx of children’s short fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Without further ado, here’s a quick-and-dirty overview of our editorial process and how you can write for our magazines.

Who Are We, Anyway?

If you’re not familiar with what we do, Cricket Magazine Group publishes educational, award-winning literary and nonfiction magazines for kids of all ages. The company launched in 1973 with Cricket and has since expanded to 5 literary magazines, a.k.a. the “bug” magazines (Babybug, Ladybug, Spider, Cricket, and Cicada), and 3 science and ideas magazines (Click, ASK, and Muse). Our mission is to inspire a lifelong love of reading and learning in children.

What Do We Want?

Each magazine has different wants and needs (don’t we all?), so your first stop should be our Submission Guidelines page: This page also includes submission guidelines for the Cobblestone division of history and culture magazines.

The best indicator of what we’re looking for is what’s in the magazine, so read a few issues of the magazine you’re submitting to—remember, everything in print got a YES from our editorial department. After you’ve reviewed our guidelines, submit your short story, poem, or nonfiction article for our review. We now accept (and prefer!) online submissions through our Submittable page:

(Artists, we didn’t forget about you! See our art submission guidelines here:

Pencil Chewing, a.k.a. The Editorial Review

Our First Readers carefully read every manuscript we receive. If a reader sees promise in your submission, he/she will forward it to our editorial department. From there, your manuscript will be thoroughly reviewed and evaluated by our editorial assistant, issue editors, and ultimately the editorial director.

We Like You! We Really Like You!

Yay! We adored your story/poem/article. The issue editor will contact you with an offer of acceptance, an acceptance with requests for revision, or a request for rewrite on spec.

Now What?

Issues are planned at least 8 months in advance of publication, so you may wait 1-3 years to see your (beautifully illustrated) manuscript in print. However, we do our best to make sure your wait is as short and painless as possible. Assignment to an issue depends on many factors including issue themes, budget, and length.

But enough about us! We want to see YOUR writing. To bypass the slush pile and get an expedited response from editors, please type ”WOC attendee” in the subject line of your Submittable submission. This offer stands until December 31, 2013!

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Comments 9
- on August 14, 2013 in Featured

Killer Last Lines—How to End a Chapter

by author Elsie Chapman

There’s a lot of info out there about how to write a killer first line. This is known as “hooking” a reader, grabbing Buy cialis drugs his or her attention strongly enough that they simply cannot put your book down. It’s the brutal truth that a book only has so many weapons in its arsenal to catch a reader’s eye, especially in a bookstore surrounded by hundreds of other books. First is the cover, then it’s that first line.

But what about that killer last line? I don’t mean the very last line of your entire book (which is, I think, even more important than your very first line, and a different blog post for another day), but the last line of a chapter. How to keep a reader engaged enough so that they won’t want to stop reading between chapters?  Not even won’t but can’t, and that the next thing they know it’s four AM and they’re still reading and they don’t even care that they have to be up in three hours?

Just like that killer first line, a successful last line of a chapter makes the reader want to keep reading. That’s really all it comes down to; that is the main goal. buy brand viagra The beginning and middle chapters of a book should end with a reader having more questions than answers, and then as the main conflict is resolved, with more answers than questions. Killer last lines are the perfect ratio of both, depending on whether it’s a chapter from the beginning, middle, or climax of a book.

“Trying to leave behind everything that just happened and knowing there’s no way we can.”

This is the last line from the first chapter of my book, Dualed. It illustrates a sense of loss for West, the main character, a What the hell just happened? scenario. By being presented with her statement of defeat, my goal is for readers to question why she feels that way—why can’t she leave it all behind? What does it mean for her if she can’t?

“Would mean nothing if it weren’t for my desperation making its importance grow by the minute, hour, day.”

This is the last line from a middle chapter, when building tension is important. There’s urgency here, the very real fact that time is running out for West. Her discovery of something important only increases her desperation. Again, it’s that give and take concept that bridges one chapter to the next—what did she find out that further raises the stakes, even as it gives her more insight into her situation?

“This time, I’m jumping back in to save us both.”

This is the last line from a chapter right before the main story arc peaks, closer to the end of Dualed. By now, if I’ve done a good job keeping readers with me as I link chapter to chapter, readers are still on board and just as pumped as West is for her final conflict. This line tells the reader that this is new ground for her, since she has more at stake than which she first thought. Will everything she’s learned up to that point be enough to help see her through?

Like most writing advice, take what you can from this, mentally file it away, and simply keep writing. In the end, it’s something much less technical that fuels the crafting of a book—a writer’s drive and determination. It’s the same for a reader. What makes them stick around for the end isn’t whether or not a chapter’s last line has the correct ratio of question-to-answer, but whether or not that last line makes them care enough to keep reading. The best last lines should technically drive the story forward and make the ride fun. Write those killer last lines by being emotionally invested in your book, and then your readers will feel that emotion, too.


Elsie ChapmanAbout Elsie: ELSIE CHAPMAN grew up in Prince George, British Columbia, Canada, before graduating from the University of British Columbia with a BA in English literature. She lives in Vancouver with her husband and two children, where she writes to either movies on a loop or music turned up way too loud (and sometimes both at the same time). Dualed is her first novel. A sequel, Divided, will be published May 27th, 2014.

About DUALED: Two of you exist. Only one will survive.

DUALED_final_mediumThe city of Kersh is a safe haven, but the price of safety is high. Everyone has a genetic Alternate—a twin raised by another family—and citizens must prove their worth by eliminating their Alts before their twentieth birthday. Survival means advanced schooling, a good job, marriage—life.

Fifteen-year-old West Grayer has trained as a fighter, preparing for the day when her assignment arrives and she will have one month to hunt down and kill her Alt. But then a tragic misstep shakes West’s confidence. Stricken with grief and guilt, she’s no longer certain that she’s the best version of herself, the version worthy of a future. If she is to have any chance of winning, she must stop running not only from her Alt, but also from love . . . though both have the power to destroy her.

Elsie Chapman’s suspenseful YA debut weaves unexpected romance into a novel full of fast-paced action and thought-provoking philosophy. When the story ends, discussions will begin about this future society where every adult is a murderer and every child knows there is another out there who just might be better.


Comments 19
- on August 14, 2013 in Featured

Writing and Walking

By Jocelyn Davies

I happen to love people watching. I have since I was a little kid. I used to visit my grandparents, and we would eat ice cream while sitting on a bench somewhere (at the mall, at the park, at the zoo), making up elaborate stories about the lives of the strangers who passed us by. Even now, when I’m walking down the street, it’s all too easy for me to slip into a trance, watching the people around me. I find my mind wandering, studying what they’re wearing, wondering where they’re going, thinking about who they are and who they’re with and what has led them to pass me on the street at that exact moment. I think those early visits with my grandparents helped to shape the way I think about places and characters. It set cialis me off down the path of one day becoming a writer and editor!

Recently, while waiting for a friend on a street corner, I found myself thinking about how no two people walk exactly the same way. It’s sort of amazing that the physical act of walking is different for each person alive—like a fingerprint. I don’t know why but it really got me thinking.

People walk at different paces. Some turn out their feet, some walk toes-in. Some people are always in a hurry, barreling through to their destination. And some habitually take their time, stopping to check out store windows, pet a cute dog, trip on their shoelace, get in a loud fight, attempt to walk and kiss at the same time. If everyone walked exactly the same way, people watching would be super boring. My grandparents and I wouldn’t have spent so much time on it, and I would never have gone on to work with storytellers, or become one myself.

It occurred to me that writing is kind of the same.

This would seem obvious—our brains are all wired differently, so of course our thoughts and the way we express those thoughts should be different, too.

But it’s the greatest lesson in YA: despite your biological inclination to be your own different, unique, fingerprinty person, it’s easy to end up forcing yourself to be more like something or someone else. Someone cooler, or braver, or more award-winning, or more bestselling. Or perhaps with less frizzy hair.

We work in a wonderfully engaging, generous, and closely connected industry, full of smart and staggeringly talented writers, agents, editors, marketing gurus, publicists, designers, production teams, librarians, booksellers, bloggers and readers. Through the wonders of technology and social media, we are basically all connected to everyone else, all the time. There’s a lot to learn, and a lot to say. (For us introverted book people, this can sound like one of those nightmares where you’re standing on stage in front of the whole school with no clue what you’re supposed to be doing.)

You can use the powers of the internet for so much good—learning the realities of being a writer from the people who are experiencing it right along with you. But it can also be so easy to size yourself up against everyone else. To measure your progress, your success, whether or not you should even be a writer, or, like, a human, by the retweets, the reblogs, the responses. To compare what you write—even the WAY you write—to other writers. You’re not clever enough. Your topic isn’t trendy enough, or maybe it’s too trendy. You write too slow. You write suspiciously fast! You write by hand. You write on your touchscreen phone. You write while listening to music, in public places, while watching a parade of people walk by. You write in bed, surrounded by a fortress of pillows that block out all sound and real-world distractions. You write in the morning, or, like me, you do your best writing at 3AM when there’s nobody left awake to talk to. You’re a writer. No one judges you harder than you judge yourself.

But all of those negative thoughts are like the giant hordes of people who are all dressed the same in commercials. Forget about all that stuff. Forget about them. Connect yourself to the world—but write in a bubble. Forget about your future book deal. Forget about the agents you will one day query when you’re good and ready. Forget about the editors who have been waiting years for a manuscript just like yours to land on their desk! Forget about the cover your future designer will design, and the length of your future marketing plan, and whether or not your future publicist will send you on tour. Forget about the booksellers and librarians who will one day read your bound, finished book, and stock it on shelves and recommend it to that one teenager who hates to read, and that teen will read your bound, finished book, and maybe it will change their life.  And maybe they will hate it, and that’s okay too, because there will also be so many people who love it.

Forget about everything, for now. Now is the time to WRITE. Your book is your oyster, and you are walking down the street, just being you. You have things to say, and characters to explore, and entire worlds in your head that you’ve created, and you need to put those down on paper! Nobody else can do it for you, and nobody can do it like you. Nobody else can tell the story you are trying to tell, in exactly the same way.

Give yourself the freedom to walk in your own quirky, unique way. Write like the wind in a noisy public place! Write glacially in your cozy cocoon. If you tend to use a lot of run ons, don’t try to shorten them. If you like to insert paragraph breaks after two sentences, that’s cool. Make these things a part of your style. Find your own gait, the speed and habits that work for you—you, and no one else. Embrace your bowlegged sentences and pigeon-toed imagery and slightly limping characters. Life as a perpetual people-watcher would be boring if everyone walked the same. And as an editor, the singular thing that has the power to blow me away more than anything else when I’m reading a manuscript is VOICE.

So make up stories about the people you see on the street, and give them an excuse to meet. Let your story write itself. Write from the inside out. Protect the part of you who is a Writer with a capital W. Figure out what your own style is, and cultivate it. Write the book that wants to be written, not the one you think you should write. Finish it. Revise it. Rewrite it. Rewrite it again. Listen to criticism, but stay true to your vision. Keep at it.

Just like walking, it may take longer. It may not always be the easiest or quickest way.

You may look weird, or different.

But someone, people-watching on the street, will notice you.

You’ll stand out.

You will shine.

And you’ll get there.


IMG_0031About Jocelyn Davies, Editor, HarperTeen/HarperCollins Children’s Books 
Jocelyn acquires and edits a variety of teen and middle grade fiction. Her current list includes the forthcoming debut YA novels Playlist for the Dead by Michelle Falkoff and Eat, Brains, Love by Jeff Hart; and middle grade fantasy-adventure series The Cloak Society by Jeramey Kraatz and Otherworld Chronicles by Nils Johnson-Shelton. Prior to HarperCollins, Jocelyn worked at Razorbill/Penguin Young Readers Group, where she edited New York Times bestselling and award-winning authors Richelle Mead, Jay Asher, Carolyn Mackler, and Brenna Yovanoff. Jocelyn is also the author of the A Beautiful Dark trilogy, which concludes this fall with A Radiant Sky. She is drawn to projects with characters that feel real, unique and unforgettable; that sweep her up in the world of the story (whether realistic or fantastical); that offer a fresh and unpredictable twist on a genre; and that above all make her feel something (laugh, cry, bite her nails, etc.).

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About Tracy: Tracy Marchini is a freelance writer and editorial consultant. Before launching her own editorial service, she worked for Curtis Brown, Ltd. for four years. Before joining Curtis Brown, Tracy worked as a correspondent for the Taconic Press and as a children’s book reviewer for BookPage. She has also worked as a freelance copywriter for Scholastic, a non-fiction book proposal writer and a press release writer. She graduated from Binghamton University in 2004 with a BA in English, concentration in Rhetoric. She is currently earning an MFA in Writing for Children.

Tracy has served as a mentor for the 2008 and 2009 Rutgers One-on-One Plus Children’s Literature Conference, and has critiqued query letters and/or manuscripts for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) Poughkeepsie Conference from 2007 to 2009. She also presented as an independent scholar at the 2011 Children’s Literature Association conference and taught “Write A Better Query Letter” through her local BOCES and as part of the Tricks of the Trade conference at the Millbrook Book Festival. She is currently a co-founder of Children’s Writers of the Hudson Valley (CWHV) and will present at their inaugural conference.

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Cleaning up your manuscript. Quick and Dirty Edit Tips

By author C. Desir

Okay, friends, I am hardly an expert viagra online cost on the right way to do things; however, I happen to work as a romance editor for my day job so I’m lucky enough to get a chance to see both sides of the desk. I’m lucky enough to learn about my own bad writing habits when I see them in others. And I’m lucky enough to get hit over the head with awesome writing on a pretty regular basis. You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve read something and thought, “Wow, I wish I could write like this.”

So today, I’m going to give you a few common editorial mistakes that you should address in your manuscript before you send it out. The credit for this list belongs with the other editors I’ve worked with who helped come up with all these common problems. Before I start, I need to tell you that none of these are absolute. Everyone has their own style and rule breakers can be just as successful buy viagra today as rule followers. But if you’re going out for the first time, this might help:

Garbage cialis online samples words: go through and delete or revise


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And then





Make them more descriptive or delete as many as you can. “That” can and should be replaced by “who” when it refers to a person/people.

Wandering Body Parts (also called autonomous body parts).

Eyes, hands and other body parts don’t do things independently of the body they’re in. Sometimes this can work and I don’t mind it because it gets us in deeper POV. But too many and it feels like we’re dealing with detached bodies.


“His eyes grazed my face.”

“His hands gripped my waist.”

“Her chin dropped.”

“His leg pressed against mine.”

Impossible sentence structure.

This especially happens with sentences starting with an -ing phrase. That phrase implies that all the other actions occur with it. It’s an impossible sentence structure if you have the characters doing actions that cannot happen at the same time (like going down the stairs, leaving the club and traveling across town).

Make sure your subject/verbs agree. If you start a sentence with -ing, what’s the subject? The subject is usually the first noun or pronoun directly after it. Can this noun or pronoun be the thing that performed the -ing action? If it’s not, the sentence needs to be revised.

Watch for multiple “as” phrases, “ands”, “thens” and “whiles” in a sentence:

Cecilia threw back her hair as she laughed at Jack’s teasing, running her hand up and down his arm as he looked at her while his eyes sparkled.

A sentence like that has too many actions happening simultaneously; therefore, they lose impact on the reader.

Pronoun/Antecedent Issues:

When you have two he’s, two she’s or any more than one of each in a scene, you need to make sure that each pronoun is attributed to the correct person. The last person mentioned is the one who gets the pronoun attributed to them. If you have several him’s you might need to name names in sentences, so readers know who is doing what action.

Redundant actions:

Her heart beat in her chest

Nodded her head

Shrugged her shoulders

Sat down, stood up

Yhought to himself/herself

These are all givens. Where else would her heart beat? Nodding can only be done with the head. Unless they’re sitting up in bed or something similar, they are sitting down. So: her heart beat, she nodded, shrugged, sat, stood and thought. It’s all about making the sentence tighter and saying it in the most effective way–which is often using less words, not more.

Unnecessary directionals:

Watch for overuse of “up” “down” “out” and other words that imply direction but aren’t necessary.

She walked out onto the porch. Delete out, the sentence still says the same thing: She walked onto the porch.

“Don’t touch me,” she shouted out.

“Don’t touch me,” she shouted.

Unnecessary could:

She could hear—She heard…

He could feel—He felt…

At least half of the time could isn’t necessary. Delete those extra words for a tighter manuscript

Feeling, hearing, knowing and deep POV:

A lot of authors rely on using words like felt, heard, and know. While on occasion these can work, it does weaken writing. Read the following examples and you can see for yourself what creates the best imagery.

She could feel her heart pounding in her chest as he crossed the room toward her.


She felt her heart pound as he crossed the room toward her.


Her heart pounded as he crossed the room, devouring her with his heated gaze. (See? The sexy times are so much more intense in deep POVJ)

She could hear the sound of rain pattering on the roof, a relaxing chorus that lulled her to sleep.


She heard the rain pattering on the roof, a relaxing chorus that lulled her to sleep.


The rain pattered on the roof overhead, a relaxing chorus that lulled her to sleep.

Words to look for: thought, felt, wondered, decided, realized, figured, assumed, worked out, saw, heard, considered, realized, remembered and knew.

That’s it for today! Thank you to my fellow editors for helping me with this list. And thank you to all you writers who help me get better every day.

C DesirAbout C.: C. Desir writes dark contemporary fiction for young adults. She lives with her husband, three small children, and overly enthusiastic dog outside of Chicago. She has volunteered as a rape victim activist for more than ten years, including providing direct service as an advocate in hospital ERs. She also works as an editor at Samhain Publishing. Visit her at

faultlineAbout FAULT LINE: Ben could date anyone he wants, but he only has eyes for the new girl — sarcastic free-spirit, Ani. Luckily for Ben, Ani wants him too. She’s everything Ben could ever imagine. Everything he could ever want.

But that all changes after the party. The one Ben misses. The one Ani goes to alone.

Now Ani isn’t the girl she used to be, and Ben can’t sort out the truth from the lies. What really happened, and who is to blame?

Ben wants to help her, but she refuses to be helped. The more she pushes Ben away, the more he wonders if there’s anything he can do to save the girl he loves.

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Tamar’s is looking for:

  • Open to almost anything. No paranormal. No Holocaust. That’s it! So come ready with “almost anything”!

We will be TAKING YOUR PITCHES FROM TWITTER using the hashtag #WriteOnCon. These are TWITTER PITCHES, meaning they must be 140 characters or less.

One of the cool things about the Google Hangout is that we can stream parameters into our feeds and thus, display them for our pros. So if you don’t have a twitter account, sign up now! You’ll be ON TWITTER to pitch, once again using the hashtag #WriteOnCon. We have it set so that all tweets with that hashtag come into our Hangout, where one of us will put the pitch on the screen for the pros to read.

You’ll then get to see their honest reactions. So be prepared! You’ll get to see their faces as they read, hear their voices as they react.

The Hangout can be viewed right here on, our YouTube channel, our Facebook page, or on our Google+ page. It’ll be recorded so if you can’t make the event, you can watch the reactions to pitches later (on WOC, YouTube, FB, or Google+). You can use your phone/tablet/whatever to tweet. As long as you use the hashtag, it comes into our stream. So you don’t even have to be home to pitch!

We’re going to try to feed as many pitches as we can. Don’t despair if you don’t get in to one chat. Hopefully we’ll get to everyone over the course of the conference.

For more about how our google hangouts work this year, click here: How The Google Hangouts Will Work

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  • Picture Books, Chapter Books, and Middle Grade, any genre.
  • Especially loves magic realism in the above age categories

We will be TAKING YOUR PITCHES FROM TWITTER using the hashtag #WriteOnCon. These are TWITTER PITCHES, meaning they must be 140 characters or less.

One of the cool things about the Google Hangout is that we can stream parameters into our feeds and thus, display them for our pros. So if you don’t have a twitter account, sign up now! You’ll be ON TWITTER to pitch, once again using the hashtag #WriteOnCon. We have it set so that all tweets with that hashtag come into our Hangout, where one of us will put the pitch on the screen for the pros to read.

You’ll then get to see their honest reactions. So be prepared! You’ll get to see their faces as they read, hear their voices as they react.

The Hangout can be viewed right here on, our YouTube channel, our Facebook page, or on our Google+ page. It’ll be recorded so if you can’t make the event, you can watch the reactions to pitches later (on WOC, YouTube, FB, or Google+). You can use your phone/tablet/whatever to tweet. As long as you use the hashtag, it comes into our stream. So you don’t even have to be home to pitch!

We’re going to try to feed as many pitches as we can. Don’t despair if you don’t get in to one chat. Hopefully we’ll get to everyone over the course of the conference.

Okay, deep breath. Want to know when Wednesday’s chats are? Of course you do!

For more about how our google hangouts work this year, click here: How The Google Hangouts Will Work

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How to Pitch an Agent

By literary agent Lara Perkins

When I started brainstorming a topic for this year’s WriteOnCon, I had just finished website a pitch session as the final event of a (great) writer’s conference.  I love hearing about writers’ projects. Whenever I meet a writer, even socially, my first question is always “What are you working on now?” But pitch sessions can be tough. Time is limited. The stakes feel high. Everyone is nervous. And delivering a verbal pitch is a very different beast than writing a query letter or a manuscript.

I figured I had found my topic, but I also didn’t want to write a post that would only be useful for writers who attend conferences (which is NOT a requirement for getting an agent or a publishing deal, let me add). The more I thought about it, the more I realized how often writers are in a position to pitch and how important those pitches are. A local bookseller might ask what you’re working on; your kids’ teachers or local librarians might ask; you might run into an agent or editor serendipitously and have a chance to pitch; you might meet someone at a dinner party who knows an agent or editor and would be happy to put you in touch once they hear the pitch…and so on.

As writers, I’m sure you’re constantly meeting people who can’t wait to hear what you’re working on now. If you have a fantastic answer for them, these curious folks might become your first fans, eager readers who will race to buy a copy of your book when it’s released. So even though I’m focusing on how to pitch to an agent, I hope this might be helpful generally to writers, no matter where you are or what stage you’re at, as you promote and talk about your work.

How to Pitch an Agent (10 tips)

1. Start by thinking about your pitch from the agent’s point of view, then work backwards to figure out what you need to cover in your pitch.

When I’m listening to a pitch, I’m mostly just trying to figure out two things: Is this a book I want to read? If so, is this a book I might want to represent? Anyone who asks what you’re writing is also probably hoping to answer that first question.

To answer these questions, this is the information I feel I need to have:

  • Is this a category I represent? I represent picture books through young adult, so if someone begins pitching me an adult nonfiction project, I’ll usually stop the author and offer to let him or her practice the pitch on me with the understanding that I can’t/won’t request it. It’s good to get this out of the way early, so everyone knows where we stand.
  • What genre is it? Your work doesn’t have to fit neatly into a genre box, but I’m trying to figure out in broad strokes if this is the type of project I’m usually drawn to. For example, while I love character-driven light fantasy, high fantasy is usually not a good fit for me, so that’s an important piece of information to have.
  • How is the story told? What’s the mood and tone of the story? Is the voice likely to resonate for me? An agent might have a particular soft spot for funny Castle-style thrillers, but hate creepy Silence of the Lambs-style thrillers, so describing the type of thriller you’re writing will help both you and the agent figure out if it’s a good fit. (For the record, this hypothetical agent is not me. I love both types of thrillers!) If you just give a plot summary that doesn’t convey the mood and tone of your work, an agent might end up with the wrong impression of your book. For example, if you’re writing a wacky, funny sci fi adventure, but you begin your pitch by describing the realistic-sounding events of your main character’s day at school, when you get to the part where your character is abducted by aliens, it will seem to come out of nowhere and might sound absurd in context. If you start by saying that you’re writing a wacky, funny, off-world adventure, then the alien abduction makes perfect sense, and your listener will have a much better sense of your work as a whole.
  • Who is the main character and why should I care about him or her? Am I interested in this person? Will your target readers be interested in this person? Will we be able to root for him or her? If you can get me to identify with your main character in your pitch, it’s pretty likely that I’ll ask to see more.
  • What are the stakes for the main character? Here, I’m trying to figure out if the stakes seem high enough to sustain the story–and if they’re stakes that will resonate with me and with your target readership.
  • Where does the project fit in the market? Does it share certain strengths with other commercially successful projects? Is it too close to other projects? What makes this project unique? Why is it different in a good way? The sweet spot, of course, is a project that shares certain strengths (a strong heroine, fantastic world-building, etc.) with commercially successful titles, but offers it’s own unique, compelling twist.
  • What’s your thesis? What is this story ultimately about? Not in a plot sense, but in a thematic sense. What are you exploring? Why will this resonate with readers? This is often a great last talking point for your pitch–your opportunity to speak to the universality of your project.

As a side note, these are also the points I aim to cover in my pitches to editors.  If it helps with nerves when you’re approaching an agent, remember that agents pitch, too. All the time. Editors do, too. So the agent or editor across the table from you probably knows exactly how you feel.

2. Construct Your Pitch

That’s a lot of information to communicate, I know. But here’s where you get to use your writer’s toolbox, even though you’re preparing for a verbal pitch. How can you communicate all this information in the most succinct, enticing way? The best bet is to think of some ways to cover more than one of these elements at once.

Here are a few approaches, and you can probably think of others more tailored to your specific project:

  • Comparative Titles: Done right, good comp titles can give a sense of plot, stakes, voice, genre, and mood quickly and effectively. For example, The Selection by Kiera Cass (not a title I represent, of course) was famously pitched as The Hunger Games meets Cinderella meets The Bachelor. That pitch communicates so much information about The Selection accurately and concisely.
  • Focus on the Stakes: Defining the stakes for your main character can pull triple duty, letting us know whether the stakes of your story are high enough, who your character is, and what your story is ultimately about.
  • The Twist: If you can articulate the original twist to your story, then you’ll also likely cover where it fits in the market and why it’s unique and fresh.
  • “It’s Ultimately About…”:  If you can define why you’re story has universal resonance, then you’re likely also making a compelling case for why we should care about your main character, why the stakes are high enough, and why the title will have commercial appeal.
  • Who, what, where, when, and why should I care? This is something my brilliant colleague Laura Rennert always says, and it’s a very helpful tool for crafting pitches. Make sure your pitch covers who your main character is, what the story is, where and when it’s set, and most importantly, why we should care about this story.

3. Don’t Forget to Show Your Excitement

Now that you’ve thought about the pitch from the agent’s point of view and thought about how to include all of that information in a concise way, do a gut check. What led you to want to write this story? Why are YOU excited about it? Make sure you’ve included that! The best pitches don’t feel like pitches; they feel like a writer sharing his or her enthusiasm and passion for the story in question.

4. Prepare A Few Versions:

You’ll want to be prepared with a few different versions of your pitch:

  • Elevator Pitch: this is a one or at most two sentence pitch. Very short. Focused on the heart of your project—the central twist, the central stakes, the overall mood and tone. This is the pitch you can use when someone asks you in passing: “what are you writing?”
  • The 3-5 Minute Pitch: This is the pitch you’re most likely to give if you get a chance to sit down face to face with an editor or agent. Or if someone says, “Tell me more” after hearing your Elevator Pitch. I recommend fleshing out your Elevator Pitch into this longer pitch in a careful way. You still want your longer pitch to be tight and focused, so as you add in more information, make sure it is all enticing, on point, and speaks to the heart of your story. I’d focus on expanding on who your character is and why we should care about him/her, the central stakes of the story, and what the story is ultimately about.
  • A Real Conversation: A lot of times, this is where I see an author really light up and talk with enthusiasm about the project—when we have a half hour over dinner instead of a limited amount of time. You don’t really need to prepare for this, other than knowing your own book inside and out so that you can feel confident discussing it in depth.

5. Think Talking Points, not Script.

So, now that you’ve figured out your pitch, I’d recommend not memorizing the whole thing as it’s written on the page (unless it’s truly one sentence). I’d recommend having a few phrases that you definitely want to use memorized or in mind. Have the points that you want to make in your head or on paper, but let yourself speak naturally. If you memorize a pitch and recite it word for word, unfortunately it usually sounds stilted and it’s harder for your enthusiasm to come through.

6. Aim for Clarity

Although people can easily follow long sentences with multiple clauses on the page, it’s much more difficult for most people when they’re listening. So as silly as it sounds, it’s a good idea to use short sentences when you verbally pitch. Make it as easy as possible for the listener to digest the information. Remember that they’re not reading over your shoulder. They’re listening in a crowded room. So please use active, exciting, concise language, and short sentences.

7. Practice!

Before you pitch to an agent, practice on everyone and anyone who asks about your work. The best practice for pitching is being asked about your work when you’re not expecting it. Practice until it becomes automatic. That way, if an agent asks what you’re working on as you’re trying to wrestle a plate of food in a buffet line with a room full of people talking around you, you won’t even need to hesitate.

8. Be Professional, But Be Yourself

I always appreciate it when an author makes an attempt to connect and be personable and forthright. Of course, you don’t want to be unprofessional, but you should still feel free to be yourself. Again, it comes back to letting your passion and enthusiasm shine through. I can’t speak for all agents, but I don’t even mind when an author tells me he or she is nervous. I’d rather have that out on the table, take a moment or two to chat to help the author relax and feel comfortable, and then dive in. The pitch is always better that way.

9. Keep It In Perspective:

Remember that this is not your only chance to get an agent. It’s likely not even your only chance to get the agent sitting across from you. The stakes are not as high as they may feel. The goal of your pitch isn’t to get an agent. The goal of your pitch is to pique an agent’s interest and hopefully get them excited to read some of your work. It’s your chance to tell them about your work face to face, but a great pitch alone isn’t going to land you an agent. (Maybe someone has a story where that actually happened, but it is definitely not the norm.) Your writing will land you an agent.

10. Try To Take A “No”–Or A “Yes”– In Stride

Even if your work is incredible, not every agent will be the right fit for your work. If an agent declines to request after your pitch, think about whether they were a good fit for the project before you feel too disappointed. And instead of feeling disappointed, I’d encourage you to try to feel relieved; it wasn’t the right fit for this person, you found that out early, and now you’ll be able to query someone else who will hopefully be very excited about your work.

Also, a small caution about requests: remember that the agent hasn’t seen any of your writing yet, so a request from a verbal pitch is great, but it carries a bit less weight than a request based on your first ten pages and your query letter. It’s definitely a good sign and a reason to be excited, but ultimately, it really is all about the manuscript itself.

Thanks for reading, and happy pitching!

LPheadshotBW (1)About Lara: Lara Perkins is an Associate Agent and Digital Manager at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. She has been with the agency for over three years, working closely with Senior Agent Laura Rennert, with whom she jointly represents a number of clients, in addition to building her own list.

Lara is a fan of smart and raw young adult fiction, character-driven middle grade fiction with a totally original, hilarious voice, and so-adorable-she-can’t-stand-it picture books, preferably with some age-appropriate emotional heft. She’s a sucker for a great mystery and is passionate about stories that teach her new things or open up new worlds. More than anything, she has a soft spot for the wonderfully weird and the idiosyncratic.
Recent deals, together with Laura Rennert, include Matthew Ward’s middle grade novel, THE FANTASTIC FAMILY WHIPPLE, sold in a two book, six-figure deal to Razorbill.

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.

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DiesenAbout Debbie: Deborah Diesen is the author of the rhyming children’s picture book The Pout-Pout Fish, a NYT bestseller. Her other books for children are The Barefooted, Bad-Tempered Baby Brigade; The Pout-Pout Fish in the Big-Big Dark; and the forthcoming (September 2013) Picture Day Perfection. Previously a bookseller and a reference librarian, Debbie currently works for a small nonprofit organization. She and her family live in Grand Ledge, Michigan.

About The Pout-Pout Fish: ~POUT-POUT 10x10 jkt-P1.tifThe Pout-Pout Fish tells the tale of Mr. Fish, who spends his days with his fish-face stuck in a permanent pout.  Though his pals try to cheer him up, they have little success.  But as the story swims along, an unexpected friend arrives on the scene and helps Mr. Fish to discover that glum isn’t really his destiny.  The Pout-Pout Fish spent two weeks on The New York Times Book Review picture book best sellers list and was named one of the 2008 Top Ten Children’s Books by Time magazine.  A board book edition of the book is now available.

GIVEAWAY!! Debbie is offering a critique of a rhyming picture book! All you need to do is comment on this post to win. Thanks, Debbie!

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The Class Schedule

By author Erica O’Rourke

Every writer has a bag of tricks they use to better understand their characters – and since summer’s nearly over, the one I’m giving you today has a very back-to-school tone.

One of my favorite ways to explore a character is to build their class schedule. It allows me to better understand my protagonist and the world they live in – their background, setting, family influences, friends, attitude, goals. It’s particularly useful in YA because for many kids, high school is the first time they have any significant choices in their classes and career path.

Even if your character doesn’t go to a traditional school, planning out their “regular” day will accomplish the same thing (and improve your worldbuilding, if you’re writing historical/sci-fi/fantasy). Most importantly, if you have a firm grasp on what a character’s everyday life looks like, you’ll have an easier time finding ways to introduce conflict and shake things up.

Here are the steps I take to build my protagonist’s schedule:

Step One: The Setting

  • Decide what school your character goes to: rural/suburban/city; public/private/magnet; size, socioeconomic status, etc.
  • Find a similar school online and check handbook/course listings. (This is my favorite part, and a total time-suck. You’re welcome.)
  • If your story takes place in a made-up world, think about what people would need to learn.  (i.e., a war-torn society probably won’t have classes in underwater basketweaving or etiquette.)

Step Two: The Goals

  • What does your character want to do?
  • What does his/her parents want him/her to do? Is this a source of conflict?
  • What classes do they take to help them achieve their goals?
    • Core Courses
    • Honors/Regular/Remedial
    • Extracurriculars

Step Three: The Details

  • Who do they see? Friends, antagonists, both?
  • What does their locker look like?
  • What do their teachers think about them?
  • How much homework do they have? Do they do it?
  • Which classes do they struggle in? Which ones do they like? Why?

To give you an idea of how all this comes together, here’s a rough schedule for Delancey Sullivan, the heroine of my upcoming novel, DISSONANCE.

Del belongs to a group called the Walkers – people who can move between alternate realities due to a genetic quirk. While she does have formal, secret training as a Walker, she’s also expected to attend school with non-Walkers, called Originals.

Setting: Far-western suburb of Chicago – mid-sized public school.

Goals: To be a full-fledged Walker.She doesn’t care about regular school; she cuts classes and isolates herself from other students. Her parents would prefer she apply herself, but since they’re Walkers too, it’s not a huge source of friction.

Daily Schedule (important characters in each class):

  1. Orchestra (Eliot)
  2. Physics
  3. Spanish
  4. PE
  5. Trigonometry
  6. Lunch (Simon, Eliot, Bree)
  7. Music Theory (Simon, Eliot, Bree)
  8. American History (Simon)
  9. American Lit (Bree)

Walkers have an affinity for music, so she excels in Orchestra, where she plays the violin, and Music Theory. She does an adequate job in physics, but everything else, not so much. She doesn’t participate in any extracurriculars other than Walker training, which Originals don’t know about. And Music Theory, which she takes with her best friend, her crush, and her crush’s ex-girlfriend – is ripe for disaster.

Since a good portion of the action takes place at Del’s school – or alternate versions of it – it was crucial that I be able to envision her day in detail. Her schedule helped me increase conflict and maintain consistency, which is key when you’re writing about parallel worlds.

Whether you’re writing a contemporary or a space opera, a class schedule can allow you a greater understanding of your character, which will lead to a more fully realized protagonist and a deeper point of view – both essential for a good read.

ericaAbout Erica: Erica O’Rourke is the author of TORN, TANGLED and BOUND from KTeen/Kensington Books and DISSONANCE, March 2014, Simon & Schuster. Mob, magic, murder. And cute boys. Always with the cute boys.

Fond of shiny electronics, coffee, and pajama pants.

About BOUND: “I beat you. Twice. No magic, and I still beat you. And that was when I didn’t know what I was doing.” BoundI smiled, cold as the winter sky outside. “Imagine what I’m capable of now.”

Mo Fitzgerald has made her choice: A life in Chicago. A future with Colin. To leave behind the enigmatic Luc and the world of the Arcs. But every decision she’s made, from avenging her best friend’s death to protecting the people she loves, has come at a terrible price.

As her father returns from prison and the Seraphim regroup, war breaks out in both her worlds. And Mo isn’t the only one with secrets to hide and choices to make. The more she struggles to keep her magic and mortal lives separate, the deadlier the consequences. In the end, Mo must risk everything – her life, her heart, her future—or lose it all.

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Amazon Head Shot (1)About Mindy: Mindy McGinnis is a YA librarian from Ohio. Her debut, NOT A DROP TO DRINK, releases September 24 from Katherine Tegen / Harper Collins.

NotaDroptoDrink_finalAbout NOT A DROP TO DRINK: Regret was for people with nothing to defend, people who had no water.

Lynn knows every threat to her pond: drought, a snowless winter, coyotes, and, most importantly, people looking for a drink. She makes sure anyone who comes near the pond leaves thirsty, or doesn’t leave at all.

Confident in her own abilities, Lynn has no use for the world beyond the nearby fields and forest. Having a life means dedicating it to survival, and the constant work of gathering wood and water. Having a pond requires the fortitude to protect it, something Mother taught her well during their quiet hours on the rooftop, rifles in hand.

But wisps of smoke on the horizon mean one thing: strangers. The mysterious footprints by the pond, nighttime threats, and gunshots make it all too clear Lynn has exactly what they want, and they won’t stop until they get it….

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A Day in the Life of a Writer

by author Gretchen McNeil

8:00am            Fire up laptop.  Modest daily goal: 1500 words.

8:05am            Make pot of strong coffee.  Arrange healthy “brain food” snacks for the day: carrot sticks and hummus, trail mix, dried acai berries.

8:15am            Wonder why the hell it takes your operating system so long to boot up.  Does it run on a hamster wheel?

8:20am            Open Word file and reread previous day’s writing to “get back in the right head space.”

8:40am            Delete 300 words from yesterday.  Yikes, better get moving.  Crack knuckles and start to bang out some wordage.

9:00am            400 words!  I’m a freaking BOSS.  Take a break to check social media websites.

11:00am          Holy crap, did I just spend two hours on Pinterest?  Shake it off.  You’re almost a third of the way to your goal.  You’ve got this.

11:30am          Glance at word total.  Realize you’re not at 390.  How the hell did lose words???

12:00pm          Snack time.  Perhaps brain food will help get me back in gear.  Grab carrots sticks and hummus and regroup.

1:00pm            Managed to add 200 additional words for a grand total of 590.  Mojo officially gone.  Maybe a dog walk will help the creative process?

1:50pm            Return from walking the dog invigorated with a fantastic idea of what happens next in the novel.  Sit down at laptop and prepare for epic flood of words and…  Oooo!  An email from my agent!

2:10pm            Stupid Hollywood prodcos passing on rights to my book.  Again.  What do they know?  Shake it off.  Where was I?  Oh, right.  Epic flood of words in three…two…one…

2:45pm            78 words?  That’s all?  Okay, I need inspiration.  Grab copy of Stephen King’s On Writing from bookshelf and open to random chapter.

3:00pm            See?  It’s a business.  I have to treat writing like it’s my job.  You need to write 832 more words in 3 hours.  277 1/3 words per hour is completely doable.  And…GO!

3:45pm            17 words.  Maybe you should try word sprints?

4:30pm            115 words.  Okay, someone must be on Twitter for a word war.

5:05pm            173 words but your writing buddy is on the east coast and has to put the kids to bed.  Crap.  Grab more snacks for brain power.

5:15pm            OMG I FREAKING HATE MY LIFE!  And hummus.  Hummus blows.  You need better snacks.  Head to corner market.

5:30pm            Jelly Bellies and Ding Dongs: writer’s dinner of champions.

5:45pm            SUGAR HIGH!  *writes like the wind*

6:00pm            1500 words written!  Of course, you’ll probably have to delete half of them tomorrow, but whatevs.  That’s “tomorrow.”  You pour a glass of wine.  It’s hard out there for a pimp.

Okay, all humor aside, most writing days are just like this: a horrible, painful slog where you want to cut off your hands just so you have an excuse not to write anymore.  Especially if there’s a deadline involved.  (Deadlines have a way of making everything more painful.)

Back when I was a grad student, still bright eyed and gloriously naïve about my chances as an opera singer, our program director gave our class the best piece of advice I’ve ever gotten: If you can choose any other career in the world other than this one that will make you happy, DO IT.  This business is brutal.

It wasn’t meant to be discouraging.  Far from it.  Leon Major at the Maryland Opera Studio was the most positive, inspirational man I have ever worked with.  What he meant to do was prepare us for what it meant to pursue an opera career: pain, tears, frustration and no guarantee of success.  And if you follow that path, you’d better be prepared for what’s in store.

This translates to the arts across the board, I believe.  It’s definitely true of writing.  So I’ll say this to you right now – if there’s anything else in the word you can do other than writing that will make you happy, go pursue it right freaking now.

Still here?

I thought so.

Now go write some damn words.


Gretchen McNeilAbout Gretchen: Gretchen McNeil is an opera singer, writer and clown. Her YA horror POSSESS about a teen exorcist debuted with Balzer + Bray for HarperCollins in 2011. Her follow up TEN – YA horror/suspense about ten teens trapped on a remote island with a serial killer – was released September 18, 2012, and her third novel 3:59 – sci fi doppelganger horror about two girls who are the same girl in parallel dimensions who decide to switch places – is scheduled for Fall 2013. Gretchen’s new YA contemporary series Don’t Get Mad (Revenge meets The Breakfast Club) about four very different girls who form a secret society where they get revenge on bullies and mean girls begins Fall 2014 with GET EVEN, followed by the sequel GET DIRTY in 2015, also with Balzer + Bray.

3:59About 3:59: Josie Byrne’s life is spiraling out of control. Her parents are divorcing, her boyfriend, Nick, has grown distant, and her physics teacher has it in for her. When she’s betrayed by the two people she trusts most, Josie thinks things can’t get worse. Until she starts having dreams about a girl named Jo. Every night at the same time—3:59 a.m.

Jo’s life is everything Josie wants: she’s popular, her parents are happily married, and Nick adores her. It all seems real, but they’re just dreams, right? Josie thinks so, until she wakes one night to a shadowy image of herself in the bedroom mirror—Jo.

Josie and Jo are doppelgängers living in parallel universes that briefly overlap every twelve hours at exactly 3:59. Fascinated by Jo’s fabulous life, Josie jumps at the chance to cross through the portal and switch places for a day. But Jo’s world is far from perfect. Not only is Nick not Jo’s boyfriend, he hates her. Jo’s mom is missing, possibly insane. And at night, shadowy creatures feed on human flesh.

Josie is desperate to return to her own life. But there’s a problem: Jo has sealed the portal, trapping Josie in this dangerous world. Can she figure out a way home before it’s too late?

From master of suspense Gretchen McNeil comes a riveting and deliciously eerie story about the lives we wish we had—and how they just might kill you.


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Surprise, Suspense and Paramystamance

By author Kimberly Derting

A few years ago I did a VLOG for WriteOnCon about writing suspense that involved a naked Barbie and a shark. It was pretty impressive.

Obviously, when the Big Wigs at WriteOnCon saw the production values of my VLOG, they just had to have me back. So here I am, talking about suspense again. But in a whole new way. Like, with way fewer naked dolls.

Before we dive in to suspense (which may or may not contain naked dolls), I should first mention how booksellers and publishers will determine what genre each book should be categorized under, and what online tags should be used to help readers find the books that interest them. Seems pretty easy, right? But here’s the thing, not all books fit into those neatly defined categories.

Take THE BODY FINDER, for example. It’s kind of a mystery/thriller mash-up with a paranormal spin. And, on top of that, it’s a romance as well. So, basically it’s a paramystamance. Good luck finding that genre in your local bookstore!

But I didn’t think about any of those things when I was writing THE BODY FINDER, or any of my books, for that matter. I never once considered how I was going to fit my story into a neat little box, mostly because it made no difference. The secrets to writing suspense are the same whether you’re writing a fast-paced action-thriller or a toe-curling romance. For whatever genre you write, it’s all about trying to keep your readers on the edge of their seats. Let someone else figure out what shelf your book should be on.

One of the first things you should know is the difference between surprise and suspense, both of which are great tools to keep in your writerly toolbox.

Surprise is something that you know is going happen, but that your reader doesn’t see coming, whereas suspense is that thing that your reader knows about but is still holding their breath as they wait for it to happen.

Think of it like this:

Your main character is hanging out at a café on a sunny Sunday afternoon having a nice soy latte with her BFF. The birds are chirping, people are riding their bikes, she checks her cell phone and gets a sexy text message from her new love interest when all of a sudden…BANG! A bomb goes off at the table she was sitting at!


On the other hand, say you already knew there was a bomb under the table because it was the guy she met the night before who planted it there (dun-dun-dun). She’s enjoying her latte, she’s telling her BFF all about the guy who swept her off her feet, but WE (as readers) know that she’s on a clock and if she doesn’t get up soon, she’s toast. Literally. Our job as writers is to ratchet up that tension. When she gets the text, we reveal to the readers that it says something like, “Time’s up.” And by that point we have them right where we want them, in the throes of suspense.

Get it?

Don’t get me wrong, I like surprise as much as the next gal. When the kid at the end of THE SIXTH SENSE said, “I see dead people,” I nearly peed my pants. But suspense is a powerful tool to draw your readers in. Which is clearly why I’m talking about it. Again.

Here are some suspense tricks:

1)  Use the Red Herring approach. Sounds like some sort of cold, dead fish, right?  Well, it’s not. The red herring can be your best friend when you’re writing. Don’t know what a red herring is? Here, let me help. Red Herring: something intended to divert attention from the real problem or matter at hand; a misleading clue.   Think about it, you have to give your readers clues along the way, hints as to how your story will wrap up, but you don’t want those clues to be too obvious or you might as well just tell them whodunit and get it over with! One way to make those hints less conspicuous is to use the “red herring” trick. Just when you’re dangling a particularly juicy bit of information onto the page, divert their attention by giving them something even shinier to look at…something more interesting to focus on.

2)  Cast aspersions and doubt onto your characters. This seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how easy it is to fall into this trap. Make sure your “bad guy” isn’t wearing a black hat and your “hero” isn’t always riding a white horse. Don’t let anyone off the hook. Give your readers a reason to question everyone. In romance, a lot of writers create love triangles to build this sense of tension for the protagonist, forcing her (or him) to choose between two romantic opposites. Making the readers ask who will they pick? Is he/she the same one we would choose?

3)  Ratchet up the tension. How many times have you been reading a scene and you’re perched on the edge of your seat practically screaming at the pages—at the character—not to go in the room where danger awaits? You know what I mean.  We do it with books, TV, at the movies. But it’s those moments before the protagonist is wandering into dangerous territory that really get your heart racing and make you want to jump out of your skin. In the VLOG I did before, I used the movie JAWS as an example. The girl (or naked Barbie in the case of the VLOG) is swimming along, minding her own business, and suddenly you hear it…the music. You know the shark is coming, but she has no idea. You hold your breath. You squeeze the hand of the person next to you. You want to yell to her “Swim!  For the love of God, swim!!!”  But once you see the blood gurgling to the surface, and the girl has disappeared beneath the dark waters, you already know she’s a goner and you can breathe again.  At least until you hear that familiar soundtrack once more.

Take your time constructing those “moments before”. Set the scene by describing the atmosphere, what they’re smelling, hearing, and feeling around them. Think about the emotions the character is going through…is their heart racing? Is their breathing shallow? Give the reader some time to really fret over that character’s well-being.

So how does that same principle apply to romance, you ask? Simple. What’s really the best part of the love story? I love a good kiss as much as the next girl, but even better than the kissing scenes are those moments before the first kiss (or kisses).  The close calls and what-ifs and will-he-or-won’t-he moments that have you leaning closer to the page and holding your breath.

The second thing people often confuse is the difference between a mystery and a thriller. I’m secure enough to admit I’ve made this mistake myself. But here’s the straight skinny:

Mysteries are meant to be solved. Think Agatha Christie or Arthur Conan Doyle. Generally the crimes occur “offpage,” and the theme is Whodunit? It’s like a giant mind puzzle, with the main character usually being a detective of sorts—either real or amateur—and the story revolving around the victim. The author gives you clues along the way, which are meant to lead readers to try to solve the crime on their own.

Thrillers, on the other hand, are just that: Thrilling. These are emotionally gripping stories in which the reader sees the action all along the way, and is usually two steps ahead of the main character, who can be just about anyone. The main theme is almost always: Will the hero survive???

And, as I mentioned before, a lot of books (like mine) don’t fit neatly into one category or the other, but it’s good information for any writer to have. Especially so when someone asks you, “what kind of books do you write?” you can stand there and stare at them blankly, while you say, “I have no idea.” Or better yet, say, “Paramystamance”

Oh, and the possibility of a naked doll in this blog was a little thing I like to call a Red Herring.

DertingAuthor PhotoAbout Kimberly: Kimberly Derting is the author of the BODY FINDER series (HarperCollins), THE PLEDGE trilogy (Simon & Schuster) and THE TAKING trilogy (coming Summer 2013 from HarperTeen). She lives in the Seattle area, with her husband and three children, who often find the outrageous things they say either in the pages of her books or posted on Twitter or Facebook for the entire world to see.
You can visit her website at

About THE ESSENCE: The EssenceAt the luminous conclusion of The Pledge, Charlaina defeated the tyrant Sabara and took her place as Queen of Ludania. But Charlie knows that Sabara has not disappeared: The evil queen’s Essence is fused to Charlie’s psyche, ready to arise at the first sign of weakness. Charlie is not weak, but she’s being pushed to the brink. In addition to suppressing the ever-present influence of Sabara, she’s busy being queen—and battling a growing resistance determined to return Ludania to its discriminatory caste system. Charlie wants to be the same girl Max loves, who Brook trusts, but she’s Your Majesty now, and she feels torn in two. As Charlie journeys to an annual summit to meet with leaders of nearby Queendoms—an event where her ability to understand all languages will be the utmost asset—she is faced with the ultimate betrayal. And the only person she can turn to for help is the evil soul residing within.

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Making Picturebooks: A List of the Top 5 Things I Wish Someone Would Have Told Me…

By author Lindsay Ward

Hello Writeoncon Attendees!

I am so excited to be posting for this event and I hope that what I share with you will be helpful as you navigate your careers in children’s publishing.  Because some of you are published, some are not, some are writers, some are illustrators, some are both, I have created a list of the top five things I wish someone would have told me before I got into publishing.

1. You’re the Talent.  We tend to overly glorify agents and editors because ultimately they are the gatekeepers to the publishing houses.  They choose who gets published and who doesn’t.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m incredibly pro-agent, and would not have published where I have without one.  I absolutely love both my editor and agent.  But, it’s incredibly intimidating to be in the presence of one when all you want is to be published.  You may even word vomit on them the second you make eye contact.  Just remember to keep your cool if and when you get the opportunity to have a conversation with one about your work.  Your words and/or illustrations have gotten you this far, you have their attention so make the most of it.

That being said, it’s really easy to just say “yes” to the first agent who offers representation, especially when you have been querying for a while, but take your time and consider what you want out of an agent relationship.  What are your expectations?  Be up front about what you are looking for when you talk to the agent.  Most of the time you won’t get to meet them in person, you’ll have to make a gut decision based off of a phone conversation.  Trust yourself.  I’m here to tell you that you’re the talent and it’s okay to consider your options among agents before choosing the right one for you.  After all, they have your career in their hands.

2. Be Your Book’s Biggest Advocate.   I think one of the most common misconceptions in this business is that all you need to do is get your foot in the door.  Once you have an agent everything will be smooth sailing, right?  Wrong, once you’re published the process of querying will look like a walk in the park.  Because now, you have a whole new set of challenges to worry about.  Not only do you need to consider the next book you want to write, but you need to worry about the shelf life of the current one.  Schedule appearances, promote yourself, market your book(s) as much as possible.  Be a presence.  Because if you are, your book is, and it will have a fighting chance to stay in print.

3. Trust Your Instincts.  When my agent and I went out on submission with When Blue Met Egg, I was lucky enough to have a three different houses interested.  I was so excited, I couldn’t believe they actually wanted my book.  Then came revision requests, which are not necessarily a bad thing and are common in the acquisitions process.  Two of the houses wanted the book to be set in a nondescript city.  They felt that setting the book in New York City would narrow down the readership.  For those of you who have read When Blue Met Egg, you know the city is the third character of the story.  The book doesn’t work with out New York.  I discussed it with my agent and came to the decision that this was something I wasn’t willing to change because I would be compromising myself and my work.  So I held my ground, which was terrifying.  At this point I had no idea if they would all walk away.  Compromise is a good thing and you will make a lot of revisions to your work before it’s printed, but there is a line.  Trust yourself and your instincts to know what is best for you and your story.  In the end everything worked out, the third publisher made an offer that didn’t include changing the city, and I am still happily working with the same editor on my third book with that house.

4. Let the Story Guide You.  This applies to writers and illustrators, but I’m specifically speaking from an illustrator’s perspective.  It’s so easy to get comfortable with your work.  Always challenge yourself and try new techniques.  Sometimes I think we as illustrators get caught up in our style, the look we are known for.  For me, that has always been cut paper and mixed media.  It wasn’t until I started working on the book that I’m finishing up now, that I realized it was okay to change things up a bit.

My new book has a baby for the main character.  When I sat down to do the color studies, I kept doing them in cut paper.  I couldn’t figure out why they looked bad.  Finally, I realized that I wasn’t paying attention to what the character needed.  Henry, the baby in my story, is squishy and bit round, the type of baby whose cheeks you want to pinch.  Cut paper was too sharp for his look, he needed something much softer.  So on a whim I tried pastel to see what would happen, and suddenly everything fell into place.  Take time with your stories, get to know them and your characters, it will make you a better writer and illustrator.

 5. Be Patient.  If nothing else, learn to be patient in this business.  You will find that you’ll always be waiting for revision notes, for your contract, for your check, for your royalties, for your book to come out, for your next book to come out, and so forth and so forth.  That’s publishing, get used to it.  It’s a waiting game.  That being said, all of it, the whole process, is absolutely 100% worth it.

LindsayWardAbout Lindsay: Lindsay Ward has a BFA in Illustration from Syracuse University. She has illustrated a handful of children’s picture books including The Yellow Butterfly (Bright Sky Press) by Mehrnaz S. Gill, A Garden for Pig (Kane Miller Books) by Kathryn Thurman, and the covers of both STAR Academy books by Edward Kay (Random House Canada). Lindsay’s most recent books Pelly and Mr. Harrison Visit the Moon (Kane Miller Books) and When Blue Met Egg (Dial Books for Young Readers) were both written and illustrated by her. Her upcoming book with Dial Books for Young Readers, titled Please Bring Balloons, will be released October 2013. You can visit her on the web at or check out her blog at

Please Bring Balloons

About PLEASE BRING BALLOONS: Every day can be an adventure. Especially if you bring balloons. Ever wondered what it would be like to ride a carousel right off its platform?  As Emma discovers, all it takes is a handful of balloons and a very kind polar bear to show you the way.  This soaring story of friendship, between a carousel bear and the little girl who noticed him, will take readers to the arctic and back—in time for bedtime, of course—and remind them anything is possible.  Even flying.

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- on August 14, 2013 in Featured


By author Jessica Spotswood

Is your protagonist an only child? If so, you might be missing out on an excellent source of conflict! I’ve heard from lots of readers who have identified with the complicated mix of love and rivalry between the Cahill sisters. Here are a few questions to ask yourself when considering a potential sibling relationship:

1. Where does your protagonist fall in the birth order? Self-sacrificing older sisters like Katniss can be immediately sympathetic to the reader, but most of us aren’t quite so selfless – and in my opinion, a mix of love and competition is a more interesting dynamic. Are you writing a bossy older sister whose younger siblings feel suffocated and rebel? (This is a major source of conflict in my Cahill Witch Chronicles.) Or does she feel trapped and resent having to look out for the younger kids? Maybe your eldest sib feels like her parents have been overly strict with her while they spoil the baby of the family. Or is she a younger sibling who feels like she’s always in her overachieving sister’s shadow and can never live up?

2. How do your siblings see the world differently? Brothers and sisters were (usually) raised in the same environment, but they often have very different personalities or opinions. It’s a great chance to explore the “nature vs. nurture” debate. (See Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield for an extreme example.)  Do they have totally opposite opinions on politics, fashion, or the course of their dystopian society’s revolt against the powers that be? Maybe they don’t like each other’s friends or romantic partners. These can all be fertile grounds for arguments.

3. Is there something about her sibling that your character envies? It’s easy for even the most well-meaning family members to compare one against the other, with long-lasting results. Does your character wish she could draw, sing, or throw a football like her sibling? As an adult, it’s easier to see where you each shine – but as a child or teen, your sister’s talents may feel like they highlight your own perceived failings.

4. Who’s the favorite? Or at least the perceived favorite? How is your main character’s relationship with her parents different from her siblings’? There are also grandparents and farther-flung family members to consider. And if there are more than two siblings, some may be closer or have more in common than others, leaving someone feeling left out.

5. If your protagonist and her siblings aren’t close now, were they ever? What happened to change things? Perhaps there was a particular betrayal – or perhaps it was just a gradual growing apart. But there’s also a big continuum of sibling closeness between icy silence and sharing absolutely everything. The relationship may change drastically from day to day. Sisters might be the best of friends, borrowing clothes and giving each other advice one minute, and the next someone says something wrong and sparks World War III. Even a tiny argument can unearth a mountain of half-forgotten old resentments. Siblings may forgive, but they rarely forget.

6. What secrets do your siblings share? Sometimes families see each other at their best. More often, I think, we see each other at our worst. What embarrassing things have your protagonist’s siblings been privy to? Would they ever tell? There may be skeletons in the family closet that your character has been sworn to secrecy about. Maybe all siblings know about grandpa’s affair – but maybe not.

7. Perhaps more interestingly – what secrets don’t your siblings share? It can be awfully difficult to keep things from someone you live with. Or perhaps it isn’t – and that could be interesting to explore too. Is there something your protagonist’s sibling should have clued in to long ago but has been oblivious about, or vice versa? What kind of guilt or resentment could ensue?

8. What memories does your protagonist share with her siblings? It can be really interesting to include flashbacks or recollections from childhood. This is particularly bittersweet if there’s currently some conflict or distance between the siblings. Regardless, they’re likely the only people in the world who shared certain moments, happy or sad, that shaped them. Car trips, summer vacations to the beach, holiday traditions, childhood fears, deaths in the family – all of those are experiences they’ve shared. But it’s totally possible that each member of a family could remember the same experience differently. A memory that’s hilarious to one sibling could be humiliating for another. A pivotal experience that one sister will never forget might be hazy to another.

9. What role might your protagonist still be playing, even if it doesn’t fit her anymore? Siblings often define themselves in opposition to each other. It may seem cliché for one sister to be sporty and the other bookish, or one a popular cheerleader while the other is the witty loner. But clichés often become clichés for a reason. (See the TV show SWITCHED AT BIRTH!) I was the one who liked pink while my sister liked blue; I was neat and she was messy; I was obnoxiously eager to please and she was the door-slamming tantrum-thrower. It’s easy to slip into roles –  and to keep up the habit even after those roles no longer accurately define us.

I hope these questions have been a helpful starting point in thinking about how to write siblings! If you’ve got your own brothers and/or sisters, it can be easy to draw from real-life experiences. But if not – why not read up and see how others have handled it? Some of my favorite complex sisterly relationships are in CHIME by Franny Billingsley and the Kat Stephenson books by Stephanie Burgis. There’s awesome brotherly conflict is in April Genevieve Tucholke’s upcoming BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA and in Sarah Rees Brennan’s Demon’s Lexicon series. And for a classic example of brother-sister dynamics, there’s always TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD’s Jem and Scout. Readers, what are some of your favorites?


Jessica SpotswoodAbout Jessica: Jessica Spotswood is the author of the Cahill Witch Chronicles: BORN WICKED (2012), STAR CURSED (2013), and as-yet-untitled book 3 (summer 2014). She grew up in a tiny, one-stoplight town in Pennsylvania, where she could be found swimming, playing clarinet, memorizing lines for the school play, or – most often – with her nose in a book. Now Jess lives in Washington, DC with her playwright husband and a cuddly cat named Monkey. She can be found doing yoga, teaching writing workshops for teens, or – most often – with her nose in a book. Some things never change.

SC cover2About STAR CURSED: With the Brotherhood persecuting witches like never before, a divided Sisterhood desperately needs Cate to come into her Prophesied powers. And after Cate’s friend Sachi is arrested for using magic, a war-thirsty Sister offers to help her find answers—if Cate is willing to endanger everyone she loves.

Cate doesn’t want to be a weapon, and she doesn’t want to involve her friends and Finn in the Sisterhood’s schemes. But when Maura and Tess join the Sisterhood, Maura makes it clear that she’ll do whatever it takes to lead the witches to victory. Even if it means sacrifices. Even if it means overthrowing Cate. Even if it means all-out war.

In the highly anticipated sequel to BORN WICKED, the Cahill Witch Chronicles continue Cate, Maura and Tess’s quest to find love, protect family, and explore their magic against all odds in an alternate history of New England.

GIVEAWAY!! Jessica is giving away a critique of the first 10 pages of your MS!! All you need to do to enter to win is leave a comment on this post! Thank you, Jessica!!

Comments 38
- on August 14, 2013 in Featured
A Writer’s Manifesto (Navigating a Debut Year)

A Writer’s Manifesto

by author Caroline Starr Rose

My first book came out in the beginning of 2012. Since then, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what this new life phase means — how the title “author” might define me.

This manifesto came about as a result. It’s freed me to focus on what matters and daily try to set aside all else.

In my public life I will…

  • Be generous in my interactions with others. This doesn’t mean committing to every opportunity or request. It means being warm, friendly, and supportive of the writing community and the publishers, teachers, librarians, booksellers and readers who make it all happen. 
  • Speak well of fellow writers: Whether I know them personally or not. Whether I like their work or not. These people are my people. This is reason enough.
  • Conduct myself in a becoming way: While I can’t control what others think of me, I can choose to present myself in a way I’m proud of, whether that be in person or through social media. I’m in no way perfect, but I can strive not to embarrass myself, the children I write for, or the people who publish my writing.

In my public life I won’t…

  • Add to or perpetuate gossip: In my first months as a debut, I heard things about fellow authors that broke my heart. Whether shared maliciously, as some sort of cautionary tale, or just for fun, it was more than I needed to know. I choose not to participate in spreading the stories any farther.
  • Disparage others’ books, genres, or talents but will find value in what they create: Many writers talk of becoming more critical readers the longer they write. For me, some sort of weird opposite has happened. Because I know first hand of the hard work the writing life demands, I’m learning to appreciate books, topics, and styles I would have ignored years ago. The books I don’t connect with aren’t really my concern: they weren’t written for me. There is an audience for them somewhere.

In my private life I will…

  • Err on the side of love: I got this beautiful quote from author Irene Latham, who first heard it from her mama. It’s a good way to think about the world in general and is especially important in our small community. Assume the best of others, their intentions, their actions. It will make you happier and kinder, too.
  • Let go of what I can’t control: This covers everything from how my work is received by professional reviewers, bloggers, readers, and friends to sales, publicity, and marketing efforts out of my hands. I can do what I can, and that is all.
  • Be real with other authors in a safe, closed community: It is vital to have a group of friends I can go to for support. This life is full of experiences only other writers can truly appreciate and understand. Knowing I can go to these stellar people with anything has helped bolster and encourage me.

In my private life I won’t…

  • Hold my colleagues to unspoken expectations: This one is easy to do without even realizing it — trusting a colleague will read my book as I have read hers, assuming someone else will talk up my titles as I have for him, believing another should comment on my blog as much as I do on hers and on and on. Insisting others are beholden to me because of what I’ve done for them is a sure formula for heartache, especially when those friends have no idea of my expectations. Maybe they haven’t read my book yet but still plan to. Maybe they have, and out of an attempt to be courteous haven’t mentioned it because it wasn’t their thing. Ultimately, it shouldn’t be my concern.
  • Compare or begrudge the successes, sales, or careers of others: The drive to compare is such a gut-level thing it’s sometimes hard to avoid. Some people are able to use comparison as a sort of motivation for their own work. Not me. Comparison leads to frustration and feelings of inadequacy…or feelings of superiority, neither of which benefit me. My friends’ successes don’t somehow negatively reflect on my own efforts. Just because my career will unfold differently from someone else’s doesn’t make it wrong and shouldn’t make me bitter toward others’ success.

In my writing life I will…

  • Write the stories that speak to me: I will continue to write what nourishes and interests me first and worry about the market second.
  • Seek guidance, support, and direction when needed: I will ask questions of my agent and editor when I’m unsure or need help. I will go to other writers in the same life phase or those ahead of me when I need assistance.

In my writing life I will not…

  • Lose my love for story, kids, or words: Once you’re published, art becomes commodity. It’s not right or wrong, it just is. I want my motivation and passion to remain firmly in the place it always has been. While there are no guarantees of success in writing this way, there is much joy. This is more important to me.
  • Compare my work against itself: I choose not to be paralyzed by comparing my titles to previous books I’ve written. Each manuscript deserves to stand alone and has its own merit. The rest of the publishing world has the freedom to compare if they choose. For me to do so is unfair to new stories beginning to form.

Want your own copy of the manifesto? Send me an email with your mailing address (caroline starr AT yahoo), and I’ll drop a mini poster in the mail! Ten copies available.

CarolineAbout Caroline: Caroline Starr Rose spent her childhood in the deserts of Saudi Arabia and New Mexico, camping at the Red Sea in one and eating red chile in the other. As a girl she danced ballet, raced through books, composed poetry on an ancient typewriter, and put on magic shows in a homemade cape. She’s taught both social studies and English in New Mexico, Florida, Virginia, and Louisiana. Caroline’s the author of May B. (2012), Over in the Wetlands, (2014), and Blue Birds (2015). Visit her at her blog and website.

May BAbout May B: Mavis Elizabeth Betterly, or May B. as she is known, is helping out on a neighbor’s Kansas prairie homestead, “Just until Christmas,” says her Pa. Twelve-year-old May wants to contribute, but it’s hard to be separated from her family by fifteen long, unfamiliar miles.

Then the unthinkable happens: May is abandoned to the oncoming winter, trapped all alone in a tiny snow-covered sod house without any way to let her family know and no neighbors to turn to. In her solitude, she wavers between relishing her freedom and succumbing to utter despair, while trying to survive in the harshest conditions. Her physical struggle to first withstand and then to escape her prison is matched by tormenting memories of her failures at school. Only a very strong girl will be able to stand up to both and emerge alive and well.
In this debut novel written in gripping verse, Caroline Starr Rose has given readers a new heroine to root for, one who never, ever gives up.
Comments 138
- on August 13, 2013 in Featured

Okay, we made it halfway!! Woot! So many fun events, and tons of information for writers in all walks of life. If you had to work (boo!), just found out about the conference, or missed something because you like to, you know, eat dinner, here’s what went down today!


Tuesday: August 13, 2013:

Does Your Picture Book Premise Have Promise? by author Jean Reidy – WITH A PRIZE — go comment to enter!

We’ve All Got it Goin’ On…Writing Realistic Characters by author Loretta Nyhan

HOW CHARACTER AND PLOT WORK TOGETHER by author Liesl Shurtliff — WITH A PRIZE — go comment to enter!

Should Writers Worry About Trends & Marketing? by literary agent Anita Mumm

Idea Factory by author Natalie Whipple

Morning Coffee with Adele (in Fire Island) and Julia (in Columbus, Ohio.) by authors Adele Griffin and Julia DeVillers

Three Things All Writers Can Learn from Contemporary Realistic YA Fiction by author and librarian Kelly Jensen – WITH A PRIZE — go comment to enter!

KEYNOTE: Self-Promotion Advice from Debut Authors Shannon Messenger, Debra Driza, Kasie West, and Amy Tintera

How to Handle Editorial Feedback by author Dianne Salerni

The Middle Grade Boy by author Frank Cole – WITH A PRIZE — go comment to enter!

All the “THINGS”! OR Revision 101+ by author Kimberley Griffiths Little

What y’all saying, Bubba? –Creating Voice in Fiction by author Joy Preble

Courage and Kid Lit by literary agent Peter Knapp – WITH A PRIZE — go comment to enter!

Debunking the Myths About New Adult Books by author Christina Lee

What I read and how I reacted: A live blogging of my slush reading by literary agent Carlie Webber

USE AS DIRECTED; SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY by Brian Farrey–Latz, Acquiring Editor, Flux

Promises, Promises by literary agent Marie Lamba

Perfecting Your New Adult Voice by editor Nicole Steinhaus

Diversity in Writing by author Ellen Oh

Adding Emotion to your Writing by author Lenore Applehans


Can You Handle the Truth? Live pitches with literary agents Kathleen Ortiz and Suzie Townsend

Live Query Letter Chat with literary agents Brooks Sherman, Sarah LaPolla, Victoria Marini, and Katie Grimm

Query Critiques by author Jean Oram

Twitter Pitches with Spencer Hill editors Danielle Ellison and Patricia Riley


And holy cow, that’s it!! If you missed out, click away and catch up! Also, a couple of our forum/chat professionals have offered prizes. Up for grabs by commenting on THIS POST:

–a first five page critique from editor Nicole Steinhaus

–a signed paperback of Champagne and Lemon Drops from author Jean Oram (to North Americans)

–a critique of your first five pages from Jean Oram

–query + 1st 5 pages critique from agent Sarah LaPolla

–copy of (his client’s) Emma Trevayne’s debut YA novel CODA VICTORIA from agent Brooks Sherman

–a signed copy of OCD LOVE STORY from agent Victoria Marini


AND — if you liked anything you read today, anything about the critique forums, the Ninja Agent program, the live chat, the forum events, the twitter pitches, ANYTHING, please consider donating!

WriteOnCon is a FREE conference, but updating and upgrading our technical sites is not free. Even a donation of $5 goes a long way! Please donate by clicking the button below!

Thank you for coming today! We hope tomorrow will bring just as much awesome and fun to your living rooms!


Comments 1
- on August 13, 2013 in Featured Live Events


  • -Only YA.
  • -Realistic (Contempoary) and/or speculative fiction.
  • -Completed, revised MSs ONLY.
  • -Pitch must include genre (at least a letter — C: contemporary; F: fantasy: PS: paranormal/Supernatural; SF: Science Fiction; MR: Magical Realism; FTR: Fairy Tale Retellings, etc)

We will be TAKING YOUR PITCHES FROM TWITTER using the hashtag #WriteOnCon. These are TWITTER PITCHES, meaning they must be 140 characters or less.

One of the cool things about the Google Hangout is that we can stream parameters into our feeds and thus, display them for our pros. So if you don’t have a twitter account, sign up now! You’ll be ON TWITTER to pitch, once again using the hashtag #WriteOnCon. We have it set so that all tweets with that hashtag come into our Hangout, where one of us will put the pitch on the screen for the pros to read.

You’ll then get to see their honest reactions. So be prepared! You’ll get to see their faces as they read, hear their voices as they react.

The Hangout can be viewed right here on, our YouTube channel, our Facebook page, or on our Google+ page. It’ll be recorded so if you can’t make the event, you can watch the reactions to pitches later (on WOC, YouTube, FB, or Google+). You can use your phone/tablet/whatever to tweet. As long as you use the hashtag, it comes into our stream. So you don’t even have to be home to pitch!

We’re going to try to feed as many pitches as we can. Don’t despair if you don’t get in to one chat. Hopefully we’ll get to everyone over the course of the conference.

For more about how our google hangouts work this year, click here: How The Google Hangouts Will Work

Comments 4
- on August 13, 2013 in Featured

THIS IS A LIVE FORUM EVENT. Which means it’s not taking place here!


It’s HERE — in the forum! And Jean has some amazing prizes — which we’ll also be giving away in the forum! So head over TO THE FORUM.

Comments 3
- on August 13, 2013 in Live Events

Comments 10
- on August 13, 2013 in Featured Live Events

Can You Handle the Truth? With literary agents Suzie Townsend and Kathleen Ortiz

Suzie and Kathleen are open to:-

  • Anything from Middle Grade to New Adult!
  • Completed, revised MSs ONLY.
  • Pitch must include genre (at least a letter — C: contemporary; F: fantasy: PS: paranormal/Supernatural; SF: Science Fiction; MR: Magical Realism; FTR: Fairy Tale Retellings, etc)

We will be TAKING YOUR PITCHES FROM TWITTER using the hashtag #WriteOnCon. These are TWITTER PITCHES, meaning they must be 140 characters or less.

One of the cool things about the Google Hangout is that we can stream parameters into our feeds and thus, display them for our pros. So if you don’t have a twitter account, sign up now! You’ll be ON TWITTER to pitch, once again using the hashtag #WriteOnCon. We have it set so that all tweets with that hashtag come into our Hangout, where one of us will put the pitch on the screen for the pros to read.

You’ll then get to see their honest reactions. So be prepared! You’ll get to see their faces as they read, hear their voices as they react. The Google Hangout is going to rock!

The Hangout can be viewed right here on, our YouTube channel, our Facebook page, or on our Google+ page. It’ll be recorded so if you can’t make the event, you can watch the reactions to pitches later (on WOC, YouTube, FB, or Google+). You can use your phone/tablet/whatever to tweet. As long as you use the hashtag, it comes into our stream. So you don’t even have to be home to pitch!

We’re going to try to feed as many pitches as we can. Don’t despair if you don’t get in to one chat. Hopefully we’ll get to everyone over the course of the conference.

Okay, deep breath. Want to know when Wednesday’s chats are? Of course you do!

For more about how our google hangouts work this year, click here: How The Google Hangouts Will Work

Comments 12
- on August 13, 2013 in Featured


By  author Dan Krokos

I like thrillers a lot. I like them because I have a short attention span, so the idea of being thrilled is very appealing to me. My debut novel False Memory just won the International Thriller Writers award for Best Young Adult Novel. That does not mean I am an expert on thrillers. Like every writer, I have much to learn. But I will share what I’ve learned about thrillers so far.

Note: these ideas I’m presenting are not concrete. I see countless novels described as thrillers that aren’t, in my opinion, thrillers. But many other people think they are, and they’re probably smarter than I am.

So, what makes a thriller?

A ticking clock:

Usually about halfway through a thriller, or maybe even from the start, something happens which sets events in motion. There is a countdown. Maybe not an actual countdown, but the heroes don’t have all the time in the world to deal with whatever problem they face. This might be the most important part of a thriller, because without it, it’s probably a suspense novel, or a mystery. Sure, in a mystery, the hero has to find the killer before they kill again, but that could happen whenever. Maybe the killer is going to go on vacation. You don’t know.

Setting a limited amount of time for the protagonist to achieve his/her goal really ups the tension. Will they make it in time? (The answer is Yes, they almost always make it.)

High stakes:

In a thriller, more than the hero is at risk. A thriller can have a personal story (and SHOULD, so we actually care about stuff), but usually, other people are in danger too. It doesn’t have to be the threat of a nuclear bomb, or the entire world at risk. It could be anything dangerous. And it doesn’t have to be thousands of people. It could be very small, possibly just the hero’s family. Remember, you don’t have a SFX budget to deal with, so your imagination for destruction is the limit!


Thrillers = action. How much is up to you. If you’re not comfortable with writing action, just remember what Stephen King says: “See the picture, then write about it.” Slow things down, really feel each beat. Like anything, it takes practice.


Keep it short and snappy. We don’t got all day here. The world is about to explode.


Dan KrokosAbout Dan: After pumping gas for nine years to put himself through college, Dan Krokos, now twenty-seven, dropped out to write full-time. He enjoys watching TV, playing MMORPGs, and drinking coffee. Currently, he’s hard at work on the next book in Miranda’s journey.

False SightAbout FALSE SIGHT: All Miranda wants is a normal life. She’s determined to move past the horrible truth of her origin as a clone so she can enjoy time with her boyfriend, Peter, and the rest of her friends at school. But Miranda quickly learns that there’s no such thing as normal – not for a girl who was raised to be a weapon. When one of her teammates turns rogue, it begins a war that puts the world in jeopardy. Now Miranda must follow her instincts – not her heart – in order to save everything she’s fought so hard to keep. with the image of a terrible future seared into her mind, what will she have to sacrifice to protect the people she loves?

Dan Krokos’s sequel to the tour de force False Memory is a mind-blowing thriller with high-octane action that will leave readers begging for the final book in this bold and powerful trilogy.

Comments 19
- on August 13, 2013 in Featured

Add emotion! This is a comment I see a lot on my early drafts when I get them back from crit partners or beta readers. And my first reaction is always – but how? Just tell me how! I’m still no expert on the subject, but I thought I’d share a few tips I’ve gleaned from going through the process.

  1. Get closer to the character via internalization
  2. My first tactic is to add more internal reactions to external actions. So, for example, if someone punches my character, I let the reader know how she feels about that, especially if it’s not the reaction the reader might expect. Of course, adding too much internalization can slow down the pacing, so I strive for a good balance.

  3. Show, don’t tell.
  4. Ah – sounds obvious, right? But compare the following three approaches:

    “When the call came that my mother had died, I was sad.”

    Yes, that’s blatant telling. I know not to do that. So I might try something like the following:

    “The phone rang. The voice on the other end of the line delivered the worst possible news: My mother was dead. I threw myself on my bed and salty tears flowed until my sheets were drenched with them.”

    Better – but I’m still explicitly telling the reader how the character feels. What I can try to do instead is arouse the sympathy of the reader.

    “After I hung up the phone, I picked up the heavy dictionary. When they’d moved my mother to hospice care, she had pushed it into my hands with the last of her strength, and begged me to keep it safe. I opened it to a random page, but the words swam in front of my eyes. My mother would never look up another word again.”

    In this last case, the reader infers that the mother has died. I have provided the space for him to form his own reaction, which makes the emotion potentially more powerful.

  5. Remove filters
  6. Whenever I use the filter words “I feel”, I am placing a barrier between the reader and the actual feeling. I like to refer to this excellent post by Chuck Palahniuk to help avoid this.

  7. Match the writing to the emotion
  8. If my character is afraid, I might write in very short sentences to convey that fear.

    “The man is coming. She needs a place to hide, or he’ll hurt her.

    There. Behind the trash container. She ducks down.

    His footsteps come closer, and she’s sure he can hear the drumming of her heart.”

    If my character is feeling nostalgic, I might use longer sentences with lots of clauses.

    “The man is coming. Back when she was twelve, she used to play hide and seek with him, ducking down in easy places, like behind the trash container. If he found her quick, it meant a piece of black licorice from the corner store, and if he didn’t, he gave up and she went home empty-handed.”

  9. Tie the emotional high points to the character’s journey/driving plot

I don’t often cry in books, but THE HUNGER GAMES gets me every time. I recently figured out why – it’s because Suzanne Collins sets up the major emotional moments to coincide with Katniss’s character arc of rebelling against The Capitol. The three moments that tear my heart to pieces are:

1)   When Katniss volunteers in her sister’s place. This sets the groundwork for her eventual rebellion because not only was she breaking with tradition (no one had ever volunteered before) but she was doing it to protect someone she loved.

2)   When Katniss covers Rue with flowers to honor her death. This is another instance of Katniss breaking with tradition, and this time it is more openly rebellious because she’s not supposed to care about her competitors in the games.

3)   When she and Peeta threaten to deny The Capitol a victor by eating the poison berries. This is the climax of Katniss’s transformation into a rebel, and it is all the more powerful because of the actions that came before it.

These are just a few tricks to try when adding emotion to scenes. Do have others you’d like to share? I’d love to hear them!


Lenore_Appelhans_loewresAbout Lenore: Thanks to her father’s job in the US military, Lenore Appelhans became addicted to travel early. To date, she’s visited nearly 60 countries and has stepped on every contintent except Antartica. She currently lives in Frankfurt, Germany with her husband and three fancy Birman cats. Her novel, The Memory of After (published as Level 2 in hardcover by Simon & Schuster BFYR) is “immensely layered” (VOYA) and “a gripping debut” (NYT Bestselling Author Megan McCafferty). The second book in The Memory Chronicles, Chasing Before, is due summer 2014. She has been blogging about books at Presenting Lenore since 2008.

The Memory of AfterAbout THE MEMORY OF AFTER: Previously published in hardcover as LEVEL 2. In Level 2, the liminal place between our world (Level 1) and heaven, Seventeen-year-old Felicia Ward spends her days in her pod reliving her favorite memories – until she gets broken out by Julian, a boy she knew when she was still alive. There’s about to be an uprising in Level Two, and Julian wants to recruit her to the cause. But unsure whether she can trust Julian, and still in love with her boyfriend Neil on Earth, she finds herself torn between two loves—and two worlds.

Comments 37
- on August 13, 2013 in Featured

Diversity in Writing

by author Ellen Oh

Recently, I was part of a conversation where an author said the following: “But there’s been a lot of anger from some quarters about “appropriation” and “exoticism” … I’m terrified of incurring the kind of wrath I’ve seen online, and have decided I’m not qualified to tackle diversity head on.”

Guys, if this is you, then I want to talk to you about why it is okay to “tackle diversity.” If you are the type to say, “Yes, I want to include diversity! I just don’t know how.” I want to talk to you too, because there are right ways and wrong ways to do it. But mostly I want to tell you how important it is that you all are trying. Thank you for that. Because I was once that little girl scanning through the books desperately looking for someone like me, who wasn’t a stereotype. And now I have kids who are doing the same thing. Thank you for wanting to have this conversation.

But if you are scared about being called out for including diversity in your book, then wake up and smell the diapers, children, because you are not going to be able to make everybody happy. Someone somewhere is going to be offended for something you wrote and for a reason that you never intended! You wrote a girl empowerment book? How dare you put down feminine girls! You wrote about sexual exploitation? How dare you write a slut shaming book! You wrote a POC main character? How dare you white person try and exploit minorities!

Look, I’m Korean American and I wrote a fantasy book based in ancient Korea. I studied it for 10 years on top of all that I knew from being raised by Korean immigrants. And yet I had plenty of people bash me for getting things “wrong” about Korean culture in my book – and most of them weren’t even Korean! So the one thing I can promise you with absolute assurance is, someone somewhere is going to be irate at you for writing. Whether it is the fact that you wrote a POC character or the fact that you are posing in your author picture with a hand to your cheek, someone is going to hate you for something. Listen, you are not ever going to make everyone happy. That’s just human nature. I bet someone out there is reading this post right now and pissed off at me just because they don’t like my face. What can you do? You can start not caring about making everybody happy.

Now writing about POC is a bit different in that most people are afraid of being called a racist. So they avoid diversity because of it. However, let me reassure you that by not including diversity, you are also being called a racist. Maybe not to your face, but you are. And guess what? Being called a racist is nowhere near as painful as dealing with actual racism.

Now that I have freed you from the fear of being reviled on the internet, let’s talk about a few things that you need to keep in mind:

  1. Do your research and be respectful. Don’t culturally appropriate from POC and then claim that your world is different therefore you can do whatever the hell you want with it. Call your world whatever you want, but if your world looks and sounds like China, and you even use Chinese words and architecture and terms specific to that culture, then don’t pretend it’s not China and mix us up with every other Asian culture. It just reeks of sloppy research and not giving a damn. If you want your world to feel Asian without specifically calling out a specific country, it can be done – see Eon/Eona. See The Last Airbender series.
  2. Avoid stereotypes. There are many. The magical negro, the blonde bimbo, the smart Asian math whiz, the ghetto talking black kid, the feisty Latina, the Asian dragon lady, the cryptic but wise Native American, the uppercrusty WASP, etc. Using stereotypes is lazy writing. You don’t want to invest in your character’s development to go beyond an easily recognizable trope. Don’t do this.
  3. Exotification of another culture. “But remember, there are two ways to dehumanize someone: by dismissing them, and by idolizing them.” ? David Wong. I think the context of this quote was about women and how men view them. But it works well in this context also. If you don’t include POC in your book, you are dismissing them. If you do include POC but make them exotic and other-worldish, you are going the other way. Neither is acceptable.
  4. Check your privilege. Don’t get mad that I used the “P” word. I know privilege can be a touchy subject. Asking you to be aware of your privilege is not the same as calling you a racist. What I’m doing is asking you to be aware of it. If you are a female, then you know that male privilege is very real. Take what you understand as male privilege and make a correlation to white privilege and you will see what I mean. And if it helps, read this:
  5. Reach out to minorities for help.  If you know nothing about the culture that you want to include in your book, then reach out for help. Yes, you can find a lot of information on the internet, but some things you can only learn from people who live that culture 24/7.

It won’t be easy, and it shouldn’t be! You will probably make mistakes. And that’s ok! You’ll learn from them and you will fail less and less the more you try. But the most important thing is that you try. Because you are writing for kids. All our kids! And they need to see that their books can reflect their world.

Ellen OhAbout Ellen: Ellen Oh is an adjunct college instructor and former entertainment lawyer who one day picked up a Genghis Khan biography and was never quite the same again. It was the start of an obsessive fascination with ancient Asian history that led to years of researching, which culminated in writing Prophecy, her first novel. She also loves martial arts films, K-pop, K-dramas, and cooking shows, and she thinks the Last Airbender series was the best animated show ever created. Originally from New York City, Ellen lives in Bethesda, Maryland, with her husband and three daughters and is always on the hunt for a decent bagel.

warrior_frontAbout Warrior: Kira, the yellow-eyed demon slayer who fiercely protected her kingdom – and the crown prince – has been proclaimed the Dragon Musado of the prophecy. With the help of the first lost treasure, the legendary tidal stone that controls the seas, she defeated the evil shaman. But her quest is far from over. Her father always said one person can change the world. Will it be Kira?

Comments 0
- on August 13, 2013 in Featured

THIS IS A LIVE FORUM EVENT. Which means it’s not taking place here.

It’s HERE — in the forum!! Go check out what Entangled editor Nicole Steinhaus has to say about New Adult!

Comments 21
- on August 13, 2013 in Featured

Promises, Promises
By agent Marie Lamba

 Hi to all you querying authors! *waves*

As I raise my second coffee cup to my lips and contemplate the queries I’m about to read in today’s inbox, I can’t help but think about how hard this whole process can be.

Yup, it’s hard for you writers to find the right agent who will “get” you and your writing enough to champion your work (I’m a writer too, so I totally understand). But on the agent end of things, it’s hard too. Agents are looking to connect with novels, but all we get is a query and a few sample pages. When we latch onto something that really interests us in a query, it’s like a promise that the manuscript we request will deliver even more of that interest. So, promises, promises. Are you the writer keeping your promise to me?

Too often, I’m seeing these promises broken when I dive into the requested full manuscript, and, yes, that’ll result in a rejection. It’s like a thirsty traveler happening upon a lemonade stand, plunking down a dollar with eager anticipation, only to find she’s walked away with a glass of tomato juice. Not cool.

I think two things are happening with these queries, neither one of which will help you get an agent…

Thing One: You do not have a clear vision of your novel, and because of this, you misrepresent it in a query. You call it a thriller when it’s really a contemporary. You say it’s contemporary when it’s really a paranormal. You call it a YA when it’s really a middle reader novel. You tell me it’s a dark emotional novel when it’s really a comical parody.

Thing Two: You do have a clear vision of your novel, BUT you’ve also read up on what’s hot and what I’m looking for and you recast your query to fit that so you’ll get me, the agent, to ask for it. You may think that if you could just get me to read your full novel I’ll fall in love with it and forget that it isn’t anything like what I’m looking forward to.

But Thing One or Thing Two = Rejection.

The truth is, when I’m settling in to read that requested full, I’m looking forward to reading what you’ve promised to deliver. When it doesn’t deliver those elements, or the focus quickly veers from what I was eagerly anticipating, I’m not delighted. I’m disappointed and confused. What happened to that quirky character the initial pages had me intrigued about? Or that contemporary tale I was looking for? Or that thriller you foretold?

Like with any commercial transaction, the old bait and switch ain’t gonna work. I’m gonna return that product to the seller fast and never look back.

So be careful what you promise. The query builds an expectation. Keep your promise, and I’ll keep interested.

Happy writing and querying!

About Marie: Marie Lamba is an Associate Agent at the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency in New York City, where she represents middle grade, YA and adult fiction, along with some memoir. For complete submission guidelines go to and visit her at to read her weekly Agent Monday posts, which are full of behind the scenes tips for writers seeking an agent. Marie is also author of the YA novels What I Meant…, Over My Head, and Drawn, and her fiction and nonfiction appears in a number of anthologies as well as in numerous national magazines.

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- on August 13, 2013 in Featured


by Brian Farrey–Latz, Acquiring Editor, Flux

Warning: I’m going to say things. Lots of things. They are not absolutes. They are not “the only way” to do things. They are thoughts. They are suggestions. They are things that have occurred to me as an editor who reads a lot of published and unpublished books. Keep what resonates with you. Leave the rest.  Promise? Pinky swear? OK then.

If you’ve attended a writing conference or taken a writing class or read any blog post by a reputable agent or editor, chances are you’ve come across some variation of this advice:


You might hear “Start with action.” Or you might hear “Make a bold opening statement.” There’s nothing inherently wrong with these bits of advice. It’s when they get taken to extremes—or too literally—that problems emerge.

Too many beginning writers assume “start with action” means “open with an explosion.” Or “make a bold opening statement” means “say something controversial.” You’re certainly welcome to open your book with either of these techniques. But often, what follows this one exciting bit fails to sustain the promised excitement. So the question becomes:  how do you balance something intriguing (doesn’t need to be exciting but certainly intriguing) with elements that will keep readers turning pages?

Things to avoid:

1)      Cramming too much into your opening. In many workshops and conferences, the first 5-10 pages get emphasized to the exclusion of all else. And, yes, those pages will set the tone and lay out expectations. But I worry that what many writers take away from this is the need to force every plot point, interesting character and promise of conflict/romance into those gripping first 10 pages. Remember what Robert Bly said: “Be careful how quickly you give away your fire.”

2)      Being too “mysterious.” A bit of mystery to hook readers can be good. Even necessary. But when the opening pages are filled with protagonists being evasive (they name drop, they allude to privately held knowledge), it can lead to more confusion than intrigue.  You definitely want the reader asking questions (see below: Things to consider). Hinting at the unusual is intriguing. It whets the appetite. Too much mystery can come across as the author saying, “I know something you don’t, neener-neener-neener” and can send readers running. In short: don’t forsake fleshing out characters and setting for an endless string of HUH?

3)      Info Dump from Hell. Something I see in a lot of beginning writers—and, admittedly, they tend to be beginning fantasy writers—is the need to inundate the opening pages with lots and lots of backstory. “Here’s everything you need to know that happened BEFORE so I can tell you what’s happening NOW.”  The reason I say this tends to happen with fantasy writers is that these books typically involve a lot of world building and sometimes the writer falls so in love with the past 1,000 years of history they’ve imagined that they forget we really need to be in the here and now.  I think my favorite bit of writing advice that has to do with beginnings—and I apologize now for not knowing the source of this quote (if you know, please pass it on to me)—is this: “Start on the day everything changes.” Backstory can be woven organically throughout and, when it is, it should be done so sparingly. The beginning should establish how things are changing for your protagonist(s) now. Because books are about change. No, really, they are.

Things to consider:

1)      Raise questions. Readers turn pages because you pose questions that need answers. The opening of your book—whether we’re talking the first sentence/paragraph/chapter—should raise questions in a reader’s mind.  (Beware: the question “What the &^%$ is going on?!” is  a double-edged sword: see above, being too “mysterious.”)

2)      Voice. For me, the best openings aren’t about action or drama so intense it could fry your eyebrows off. What I want in a good opening is a strong sense of voice. I’ve seen books start without a conventional mystery or bit of drama and I kept reading because the voice pulled me in. The question was: who is this person?

3)      Simplicity can be your friend. My favorite openings are understated.  Take, for example, a couple good opening lines that I’ve seen recently:

“I said a silent prayer.” –Winger by Andrew Smith

“I am a coward.” –Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein


No violence. No over-the-top pearl clutching. But some powerful words that prompt questions. Coward. Prayer.  And the question: Why?

Some final thoughts: a strong opening is important. But an opening isn’t limited to the first sentence.  Many books have seemingly innocuous opening sentences (or, as I like to call them, subversively intriguing.) The grab might not come in sentence one. It might come in sentence two. Or three. Some really AMAZING books don’t start with an explosion or a death/promise of death, or that must-read-more hook. Some examples:

“I stand rock steady on their hands.”—Black Helicopters by Blythe Woolston

“On the inside, everyone’s the same”—The Twelve Fingered Boy by John Hornor Jacobs

“She’s Abigail Sinclair, brown hair, brown eyes, age 17, from New Jersey—but I call her Abby.”—17 & Gone by Nova Ren Suma

Your challenge: read the opening ten pages of a book you love and a book you hate. What do you find yourself responding to? What questions does the author raise? How invested are you into learning the answers? (Remember, a book that you ultimately hated MIGHT have had an interesting beginning.) Most importantly: how is the author making you feel these things?

Happy writing!

About Brian: Brian Farrey-Latz is a Doctor Who superfan, an acquiring editor at Flux, and an author. We still don’t know how he does it all, but we’re glad he does.

shadowhand covenantAbout The Shadowhand Covenant: With more twists and turns than a palace vault and one unforgettable family of thieves, this second book in Brian Farrey’s epic Vengekeep trilogy will leave you breathless. The Vengekeep Prophecies was termed a “rich fantasy” (Publishers Weekly, starred review) featuring a family of thieves that “couldn’t be more likable” (Kirkus Reviews).

Now, in this exciting sequel, Jaxter Grimjinx is back. Trouble is brewing in the Five Provinces. Mysterious magical artifacts have gone missing from the royal vaults. Master thieves from a secret society known as the Shadowhands are disappearing. And without explanation, the High Laird has begun imprisoning the peaceful Sarosan people.

Jaxter Grimjinx suspects all these things are connected, but after the tapestry fiasco that nearly destroyed Vengekeep, he knows better than to get involved. Then he and his parents receive a summons from the Shadowhands—a summons that they would be foolish to ignore—and Jaxter is thrust into the heart of the conspiracy. With the help of a few new friends and an old friend he would rather forget, Jaxter will have to delve deep into some long-buried and dangerous secrets.

Comments 46
- on August 13, 2013 in Featured

What I read and how I reacted: A live blogging of my slush reading

Carlie Webber, CK Webber Associates


One of the most important skills you can have as an agent is the ability to quickly discern which queries in your slush pile you want to pursue, and which ones aren’t worth your time. The only thing a query has to do is make me want to move on to the opening pages. I don’t have hard and fast rules for what makes a good query; it’s one of those “I’ll know it when I see it” scenarios.

Even though I ask that sample pages be included with query letters in my submission guidelines, this post will only cover my snap judgments on the query letters themselves. Since it takes me about a minute to read a query letter and decide whether to move on to the sample pages, I have selected 60 random entries to my slush pile and listed my immediate reactions.


1. Mystery: The author is outright lying to me in her letter, saying I was recommended to her by someone who I know doesn’t know I exist. That’s not how I want a client/agent relationship to start. Form rejection.

2. YA contemporary: Query sounds right up my alley. It’s well-structured and the subject matter sounds interesting

3. YA paranormal: Good query. Then vampires and angels show up. Form rejection.

4. Memoir: Book revolves around a topic I’m not interested in. Form rejection.

5. MG science fiction: The premise doesn’t appeal to me. Form rejection.

6. YA thriller: Good query in a genre I’m dying for, writing not bad, but by the end of the partial I still didn’t have a clue as to the problems the characters would face. Reluctant form rejection.

7. YA historical fiction: The query does its job but because of the way the plot is described, I know it would be too difficult to sell. Form rejection.

8. Fantasy: Word count, according to the author, is 212,000. Form rejection.

9. YA dystopia: Very short query that describes emotional development instead of the plot. Form rejection.

10. Contemporary romance: Query describes each of the main characters and tells me exactly what they have at stake. I will read the sample pages.

11. YA magical realism: Again, a genre I’m dying for, and this one sounds intriguing; it could appeal to urban fantasy fans. I will read the sample pages.

12. Cozy mystery: This shows the power of a good query. I want to know what happens to the main character even though I’ve never been much of a cozy mystery reader. I will read the sample pages.

13. Romantic suspense: Author clearly knows the market, as he’s listed one of my recent favorite books as a comparative title, but the writing in the query is clunky. Form rejection.

14. New adult with light paranormal elements: I love the subject matter but the writing leaves me a bit confused as to whether there’s a plot. Form rejection.

15. YA paranormal: The subject doesn’t interest me, plus I think this one would be a hard sell. Form rejection.

16. Thriller: Plot doesn’t interest me, and the writing doesn’t spark anything. Form rejection.

17. YA contemporary: The query is overwritten, which doesn’t bode well for the rest of the book. Form rejection.

18. YA historical fiction: The writing is weak and better YA novels on this subject matter are already out there. Form rejection.

19. YA fantasy: Query isn’t spellchecked and contains a lot of rhetorical questions. Form rejection.

20. YA paranormal romance: The whole query is only four sentences, none of which tell me any of the rules of this paranormal world or show me what the main characters have at stake. Form rejection.

21. Historical/time travel: Not interested in the subject matter, and the writing in the query isn’t smooth. Form rejection.

22. Espionage: 99% of the time I’m not the right agent to approach with espionage books. If the writing in this query piqued my interest, I might go on to the sample pages, but it doesn’t. Form rejection.

23. Mystery: Starts off well, but takes a lot of turns for the strange. Has some promising elements and the author knows his/her audience, but ultimately a form rejection.

24. YA historical/paranormal: I don’t learn much about the main characters and am not interested in these particular paranormal elements. Form rejection.

25. YA contemporary: Author is giving the book a job to do before it’s published, and the grammar is poor. Form rejection.

26. Nonfiction: I think this author has me confused with someone else, as s/he’s querying me because s/he thinks I have an interest in a certain topic, which I do not. Form rejection.

27. Historical fiction: Doesn’t do a good job describing the plot, and I don’t feel the stakes for the main character are high enough. Form rejection.

28. Historical fiction: There’s no actual query letter here, just the sample pages, and they don’t interest me. Also, if the word count the author has included is accurate, the book is at least 30,000 words too short for me to consider it commercially viable. Form rejection.

29. New adult: Interesting subject matter, but this is another one where I feel the author has given the book a job to do, rather than focus on making the writing great. Form rejection.

30. Thriller: A lot of espionage elements, and I’m not finding the characters compelling. Form rejection.

31. Thriller: The query isn’t bad but I’m just not the right reader for most political thrillers. Form rejection.

32. Literary fiction: The query is only four sentences and I don’t get a good sense of the plot or action. Form rejection.

33. Science fiction: Very cool concept and I get a good idea of the problems the main character faces. It’s probably too short for me to sell without extensive edits, but I’ll read the sample pages anyway.

34. Historical fiction: The query is two sentences, and the author spends too much time telling me about how the book is already self-published and now s/he wants a traditional publisher. If you have already self-published, I like to know how your sales are going. Lack of information means that I’m going to send a form rejection.

35. YA fantasy: I understand that a lot of fantasy novels have made-up places and names. This is totally fine. What I’m not fine with is being thrown into a lot of these made-up places with no explanation as to what they are, or not being given background on the characters. Form rejection.

36. MG science fiction: The plot and characters are explained well and I get a good idea of what’s at stake. Unfortunately, the ideas don’t excite me. It’s not a subject that appeals to me. This is a perfect example of why querying multiple agents is so important. Even though I’m sending a form rejection, the next agent might not.

37. Contemporary: The grammar in the query is such that I can see it would take me hours and hours of editing just to get the novel to the point where I could send it to editors, and I don’t love the story enough to make it worth that time. Form rejection.

38. I don’t know what this book is about because there’s no query letter at all. The author states s/he knows full well I want a query letter but doesn’t feel like writing one. Form rejection, because if you don’t follow my submission guidelines, how can I expect that you’ll follow my edits and guidance on your writing career?

39. Dystopia: There’s not much explanation about the main character, and the plot isn’t very well explained. Form rejection.

40. YA science fiction: The query is written in first person, which I don’t like. My personal preferences aside, I can see that because of its plot and voice, it would be difficult for me to sell. Form rejection.

41. Adult romance: This is a query for two books. It’s a much better idea to query only one book at a time. More importantly, the ideas behind the books aren’t original or interesting. Form rejection.

42. Historical fiction: I have no interest in the subject matter. Form rejection.

43. Thriller: I’m not connecting to this main character or his problems. Form rejection.

44. MG mystery: Good query overall. It introduces me to the main character, tells me about his/her background, and presents the major problem of the book in a way that’s simple but shows me how it can complicate the main character’s life. I will read the sample pages.

45. Contemporary: The plot seems very convoluted and it seems like things just happen around the main character, rather than the main character being interesting on his/her own. Also, there’s no word count, which I prefer to see in a query letter. Form rejection.

44. MG adventure: I’m having a hard time buying the premise of the book. Form rejection.

45. MG contemporary: The plot doesn’t interest me. Form rejection.

46. Paranormal: It’s very short and there are vampires. Even if the vampires have a non-traditional bent, the minute I say “vampire” no one is going to want to buy this book. The market is too saturated. Form rejection.

47. Novella. Right now, I’m not looking for novellas from anyone except current clients. This could change in the future, but right now I’m sending a form rejection.

48. Thriller: Though this isn’t the best query I’ve seen, the subject could be interesting and the author has an extensive professional background in the subject s/he’s writing about. I’ll read the sample pages.

49. Memoir: I don’t see this reaching a wide audience. Form rejection.

50. Romantic suspense: Query is structured well, introducing the couple and telling me how each one came to be part of the story. I’ll read the sample pages.

51. YA science fiction: There’s not enough description of the world the main character lives in or what she has at stake. Form rejection.

52. Contemporary: This one has a lot of rhetorical questions and awkward, disjointed sentences. The author doesn’t get around to telling me what’s at the crux of the book. Form rejection.

53. Romance: Nothing sounds particularly exciting about this book. Form rejection.

54. YA historical fiction: Has a sex-drugs-rock n’ roll twist that I find really interesting. I’ll read the sample pages.

55. Science fiction: The author spends three sentences describing the book and nine more talking about what the book will accomplish with readers. Form rejection.

56. Romantic suspense: Revolves around a subject that doesn’t interest me, even though the query is decently written. Form rejection.

57. Contemporary: The author spends three paragraphs telling me about the setting and one about the main character, and it’s not a setting I find particularly interesting. Form rejection.

58. YA science fiction: I don’t find the main character compelling. Form rejection.

59. Memoir: It’s a subject that’s very personal to a lot of people, but means nothing to me. I am not the right agent for this book. Form rejection.

60. Romance: The query totals three sentences, and none of them entice me to read the book. Also it’s far too short to consider selling as anything but a novella. Form rejection


After seeing my reactions, I hope you have a better understanding of what leads me to read sample pages or pass on a submission. Know that when it comes to you, the author, the decisions I make aren’t personal. They’re based solely on what I want for my agency and what appeals to me. Agenting is a very subjective business and I always encourage writers to query multiple agents at a time. Casting a wide net means that you’re more likely to snag the agent who’s a perfect match for you.

Carlie WebberAbout Carlie: Carlie Webber is the founder of CK Webber Associates, a literary agency specializing in YA, MG, and a range of adult fiction genres. After obtaining her Master of Library and Information Science and working as a YA librarian, she decided to pursue her interest in the business side of books and enrolled in the Columbia Publishing Course. A veteran of several New York agencies, she is now based in San Francisco. She welcomes both new and experienced writers who bring fresh voices and unforgettable characters. Her submissions wishlist changes from day to day, but she’s especially interested in high-concept YA, horror, and science fiction with an element of fun.


Comments 17
- on August 13, 2013 in Featured

Debunking the Myths About New Adult Books

By author Christina Lee

I’m excited to present at Write on Con, having attended the conference as a Young Adult writer the last two years. It’s an amazing resource for new and seasoned writers alike and I was honored to be asked to speak about New Adult fiction. I know that the majority of conference attendees write Middle Grade and Young Adult fiction and that the founders have included New Adult this year. My New Adult contemporary romance, ALL OF YOU, releases next month with Penguin, so I’m thrilled to discuss this topic with you.

If you’re a Young Adult writer you might be all too familiar with misconceptions readers of your category have had in the past decade. Some may have thought all Young Adult was akin to sparkly vampires. Others might have asked if you had to dumb down your writing for the teenage audience. And there was that one year when readers complained that all YA covers looked the same—girls in beautiful gowns or floating in water.

Why do I bring this up? Because I believe that’s what is currently happening with the genre known as New Adult (or NA, for short). The recent category of fiction pioneered by authors like Jaime McGuire whose BEAUTIFUL DISASTER first debuted as a self published book in 2011. Tammara Webber’s EASY—released in May of 2012—was my first foray into New Adult and like so many other enthusiastic readers, I started devouring other books in the category.

Since I’ve begun writing NA, I’ve heard my share of misconceptions. Here are a few of them: New Adult is just sexed-up YA. It’s only contemporary romance. All the covers feature shirtless men or kissing couples. And here’s my favorite: How hard can it be to write? Just add a few sex scenes to your YA book.

So here I am, debunking these myths for you. Let’s tackle the romance aspect first. For the record, it’s as equally hard to write an intimate scene as any other emotional or physical scene in your book. Go ahead and try it. Then report back to me. Was I right? J Also, adding a sex scene does not make a book NA.

When I wrote my NA, I set out to create an amazing modern love story. Sure it’s gritty and sexy, but it’s written that way because that’s what the story demanded. I didn’t sex-it-up and then pitch it as New Adult. That’s one of the major myths and I think savvy readers would see straight through that kind of stunt.

Several of my favorite New Adult books are contemporary romance. However, there are paranormal, historical, erotic, and sci-fi New Adult books out there that prove it’s not the sex in the book that translates to New Adult. Different genres are being sought out by eager readers as well. Some examples of those other genres: STRENGTH by Carrie Butler, THE HEIRESSES by Allison Rushby, NOT UNTIL YOU by Roni Loren, and TEN DAYS by Olivia Mayfield.

So let’s talk about what New Adult is.  When I wrote ALL OF YOU, I thought about the others books I read and loved and the essence of what made them so. New Adult is first and foremost an age category (roughly ages 18-26, give or take some exceptions and crossovers). But age alone doesn’t make something New Adult. Capturing the right voice is crucial.

So I focused on how the voices of my characters needed to sound—younger than adult romance and older than YA. Most of the NA books I’ve read have been in first person POV, much like many YA books. That POV often makes the characters feel more immediate—more raw and real.  But again, it depends on which genre the New Adult book is written in.

In addition, many of the circumstances—or conflicts—in New Adult books revolve around independence and self-discovery. The main characters have become part of the adult world without the safety net of their family or even age and social constructs. Maybe they’ve entered college, the military, marriage, or the workforce. They’re finally discovering what it’s like to be on their own, to manage expenses and responsibilities—and yes, sometimes their own sexuality.

New Adult is an exciting new category with much potential for growth. New genres are being published daily, so if you’re curious or interested, I’d be happy to offer more reading suggestions.  Feel free to ask me questions on twitter: @Christina_Lee04 and/or check out my website at . Thanks again for having me!

christinaAbout Christina: Mother, wife, reader, dreamer. Christina Lee lives near Cleveland with her two favorite guys. She’s addicted to lip gloss and salted caramel everything.

She’s a New Adult/Young Adult author. Her NA Contemporary Romance, ALL OF YOU, releases September 17th with Penguin. The companion novel, BEFORE YOU BREAK releases in February of 2014. She’s represented by Sara Megibow of Nelson Literary. And is also the creator of Tags-n-Stones (dot com) jewelry.


All of YouAbout ALL OF YOU: In this powerfully emotional debut New Adult novel, Avery has just met her hot upstairs neighbor. He’s irresistible. Tattooed. And a virgin.

Nursing student Avery Michaels wants nothing to do with dating—she’s perfectly happy single. Privy to too many of her mother’s bad decisions and even worse taste in boyfriends, all Avery can handle is a string of uncomplicated hookups whenever the mood strikes. When she meets smoking hot tattoo artist Bennett, she wants him—for just one night. But he won’t accept a no-strings-attached arrangement. He lives by a straight-laced code of values based on his own troubled upbringing. Bennett sees something special in Avery and he wants more from her. Way more. As Avery wrestles with her emotions for Bennett, danger and tragedy force them to open up to each other. And Avery must face the terrifying realization that she wants more from him, too. So she needs to make a choice—let Bennett go or finally let him in.