Monday, August 31, 2009

Looking for a new ending

My husband read the new manuscript over the weekend. He was a big help with a lot of things I needed help with.

When he got to the last chapter, the ending of the story, he didn't get it. Not a good sign. He felt bad and kept saying, maybe it's just me - don't change it just because *I* didn't get it. Ha. I kindly explained that this is what writers DO. They write, they get feedback, they rewrite. It's okay. Usually it makes the manuscript much stronger.

So, I'm totally rewriting it. I knew it was risky, the ending I went with. And lying in bed this morning, thinking about it, I decided it was sort of a cop out. Bad Lisa. And good husband for calling me on it!

Now, back to work, hoping I can find the perfect ending.

Have you ever had to totally change the ending of a book? I think beginnings get changed a lot more than endings...

Friday, August 28, 2009

I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME on 2 state lists!!!

Yesterday, I drank way too much Diet Pepsi in the afternoon. How do I know this? Because I woke up at 1:30 am wide awake. I tossed and turned for a long time, then finally got up and found the laptop.

So, what happens when you are awake at 3 am and can't go back to sleep?

You go to facebook, click on Cynthea Liu's link about renaissance learning, go to the site and think, wow, how cool she's on here. Then you wonder, hmmm, am I on here? So you stick your name in and holy cow, one of your titles comes up!

You click on it and then, lo and behold, underneath the information about the book it says:

"This quiz is included in the following state lists."

Your brain is a little foggy at 3 am., so you read it again. State lists? State lists!!!

NH Flume Teen Reader's Choice Awards Nominees
SD YARP High School

Do you know what NH and SD stand for? New Hampshire and South Dakota!

On the NH list, my book is on there with the likes of THE HUNGER GAMES, GRACELING and 13 REASONS WHY!!! Now, I'm pretty sure Ava is going to get her ass kicked in the ring with Katniss and Katsa. But what an honor to be on the list!!

Wow. I really can't believe it, but thank you teens and librarians in New Hampshire and South Dakota!

I'm so glad I had insomnia!! Although I may feel differently at 2:00 this afternoon when I'm at work and desperately want a nap.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Why writing a book is like baking a cake

THANK YOU for all the cheers and congrats and just understanding what a huge accomplishment it is to finish a first draft. Part of me really wants to share the one-sentence blurb so you know what the book is about. But I'm afraid if I share, my excitement will dwindle, and I can't let that happen. So I'm keeping it under wraps for now.

I have a list of all the things I need to work on, fix, improve, what have you, and the list grows every day.

It reminds me of baking a cake.

It's like I've just pulled the cake pans out of the oven and set them on the racks to cool.

The cake is done, but it's not ready to serve to anyone yet. I still need to get the cakes out of the pans without them falling apart, make the filling and frosting, put the filling on the top of one cake, put the other cake on top, frost the entire thing, decorate it, etc. etc.

The big thing is done, and that's a relief. But there's so much more to do.

I'm also a little nervous, because I'm trying something different. We all know, different can be good, or it can be very, very bad.

LIke with my cake, sitting over there on the counter? This time, on a whim, I decided to throw some chocolate chips and m&ms into the batter. It sounded good to me at the time. But how will it taste? What will others think when they bite into the cake and find a blue m&m in there? They could be thrilled, or they could want to throw the thing at the wall. I just have to wait and see.

I don't know what's going to happen with this story. It may be too strange. The ending came out of nowhere and was different than anything I'd been imagining for the last six months. And it kind of made my insides tingle as I wrote it.

Writers have to be okay with the unknown. We have to bake up that cake, make it as pretty as possible, and then serve it up and hope for the best.

No matter what happens, I did it.

With each book I write, I hope I get better. That's what it's all about for me.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some work to do. And now I want cake.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Summer, summer, summer

We went to Silver Creek Falls this past weekend. So beautiful! Here - see???

Afterwards, we drove through Silverton, which is this little town that makes you feel like you've gone back to the 1950's. I love it there. And as you drive around town, you see big, beautiful murals on the side of buildings. There is even a sign in town, like a street sign, pointing visitors to the Norman Rockwell murals. Here are two of them.

At NIKE, where my husband works, they have a farmer's market every Tuesday. Look at these beautiful peaches he got for FIVE BUCKS! I couldn't believe it. They are sweet and juicy and perfect, too.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


I love this book!

Description from Indiebound:

"Gianna Z has less than one week to collect, identify, and creatively display 25 leaves for her science project or else she won't be able to compete in the upcoming cross-country race. As the deadline for her project draws near, life keeps getting in the way."

Kate Messner has such a way with characters and details, I felt like I was a part of Gianna's family. One of my favorite scenes in the book is when Gianna, her mom, and Nonna walk the Frost trail. There, Gee and Nonna read Robert Frost poems on little signs and contemplate why the poems are placed in the particular spots. I SO want to go there!! Anyway, then Gianna climbs a tree, and from there, with the help of wonderful Nonna, she's able to see her mother in a little different light.

Here's a little taste:

"And my perfect tree has a perfect view. The shoe box on the root looks tiny from up here. But the mountains, all hazy purple in the distance, still look big and old. And the trees are amazing. My eyes skim the tops of fluffy red and yellow trees still holding on to September, then swoop down into the dark spaces where the leaves have already fallen, where black branches scratch the edges of the hills."

Such beautiful writing, and yet totally accessible for kids too. Gianna is funny and her family is quirky and they all wiggle their way into your heart and stay there.

THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z. by Kate Messner releases September 1st. Read it!!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Woooo Hoooo!!

I have a finished first draft!!!

50,244 words! I feel like it's on the short side for YA these days, but I write pretty lean in my first drafts, so I think that number will expand.

This is a story I did for ME, to see if I could do it, and I DID! Of course there is work to be done, and lots of it.

But for now, I'm setting it aside for awhile so I can clean my house, catch up on TV shows, read, read, READ, and just, ahhh, enjoy this feeling of having done it.

Those of you in the middle of a first draft right now, it's hard, I know. Just keep going forward. I wrote 20,000 words and then started completely over with this one, because something just wasn't working.

I'm so happy. I think I'm going to break out a bottle of wine my friend brought me from Sonoma wine country to celebrate!


Monday, August 17, 2009

I love hearing good news!

Let's take a moment, shall we, and bask in a couple of cool sales that happened last week.

Kiersten White, who seems like the nicest person, got a 3-book deal from HarperTeen in a pre-empt that, according to Editorial Ass' blog, "rocked New York publishing this week." Kiersten, in her blog, said they had a lot of interest and were ready to go to auction when Harper swooped in with a pre-empt. Wheeee!! She has a fun little sneak peek about the book on her web site, but hurry, who knows if that will stay up much longer now that it's sold.

Yay Kiersten!

Amanda Ashby, author of YOU HAD ME AT HALO and ZOMBIE QUEEN OF NEWBURY HIGH sold a middle grade series to Puffin! Here is the blurb from Publisher's Marketplace on that one: Amanda Ashby's untitled middle-grade series about a girl who accidentally gets turned into a djinn (genie) the day before starting sixth grade and has to learn to deal with her new powers without her mom finding out, to Karen Chaplin at Puffin, in a three-book deal, by Jenny Bent at The Bent Agency (world English).

Yay Amanda!

I say to everyone, don't stop thinking and looking for that big idea that gets your heart racing, don't stop writing, and don't stop believing!

And on that note, I'm signing off for a few weeks to enjoy the last of my beloved summer in the evenings and weekends as I can, while waking early to work on my current project. My goal is to have it finished mid-September, so I can let it rest, then revise, and hopefully send to my agent later this fall. I need to finish it soon because in a couple of months, all of my time and attention will need be focused on the release of CHASING BROOKLYN. Yeah, because...

1-5-10 the chase begins. Are you ready!?

Enjoy the rest of your summer everyone!!

Friday, August 14, 2009

A Friday Five

1. What is it with reading a manuscript like the book will be? Suddenly, I find all these things I didn't see before. Nothing major, just extra words or repetitious words or... I don't know. Just little things. So, my first pass pages are going back with lots of sticky notes today, and I hope my editor doesn't freak out.

Speaking of freak out, I finished going through it late last night. I was exhausted. But then I went to bed and couldn't sleep. I think I was having a little freak out. I kept thinking, will they like it? Don't get me wrong, at this point, I know some people are going to like my books and some people aren't, and that's okay. But those teens who are waiting for this one, anticipating it, will it meet their expectations?? Man, I hope so.

2. My oldest son turns 15 tomorrow. 15!? How is that possible, when I feel 15 myself some days? I don't know. But I just want time to slow down. Please, just a little bit?

3. While the boys and a friend and my husband go see GI Joe to celebrate, I'll be going to see The Time Traveler's Wife. I asked the birthday boy's permission, of course, and he gave me the okay. What a guy.

4. One of my favorite bands, Lifehouse, does the music in the trailer for Time Traveler's Wife, you know. I'm so happy for Jason Wade and the other guys. Hopefully that will mean big sales for them.

5. Make sure and check out Lindsey Leavitt's and L.K. Madigan's posts on LA SCBWI. They did a great job recapping.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

SCBWI '09 wrap-up

Let's see, dance was fun, as always.

I love this picture of Varian Johnson and Suzanne Young. It looks like they're off to the prom!

Here's a row of beauties, huh? It's Lindsey, me, Jo, Sonia G. and L.K. the night of the Blue Moon gala.

Here's me and Tammi Sauer, aka Chicken Dance girl. At the Friday night book sale thing, she sold about 93 copies of her book. I sold 1 copy of mine.

And here's a few of us before we left and flew home. Jessica, me, L.K. and Sonia.

As far as things I learned, here's a quick recap:

Agents and editors told us that books are still selling. But it's definitely different out there. Tougher. We have to work harder than ever to make our books stand out. We must focus on the ONLY thing we can control - our work.

I felt like many of the authors really tried to remind us about why we do what we do. Someone on twitter said it this way, and I like it - stories teach, shield and serve. People need them. Children need them.

Also, we need to be aware of the market, but don't write to the market. Each of us must write the story that is ours and ours alone to tell.

How are books chosen for book fair/book club? Publishers come and share their books to the Scholastic editors, and they make lists (content or no content for YA, for example). Then, they grade the books at meetings, as in A, B, C, D, and F. Yes, really. Each editor has a few categories he/she is reading for. Books need to be squeaky clean, unless it's something like award-winning SPEAK that takes a touchy subject and makes it something that can ultimately help teens. Big titles will headline for them, of course. They have to make money! But they do try to round it out with some debut books and also on types of books.

They bought 3,000 books from over 170 publishers last year. They meet twice a year and just had a meeting the week prior to discuss upcoming books. I went up to talk to Ed, who was there from Scholastic, and he recognized my 2010 books, for example, and recalled that CHASING BROOKLYN went on the content list. I don't expect it will be something Scholastic would be interested in. But IT'S RAINING CUPCAKES would be great for them, I think. We'll see...

Um, what else? Oh, one cool thing that happened, I was sitting next to Lindsey and she introduced me to her friend and asked her if she had heard of I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME. She looked at the cover on my postcard and said, "Oh my gosh, my daughter just finished reading this!!" So, I sent a little note home to her daughter thanking her for reading my book. It's so fun when there are moments like that. :)

I often come home from these things with mixed feelings. On the one hand, yes, listening to amazing authors is inspiring. But it also tends to hurt my confidence a little. Like, what am I doing in a place with so much greatness? Eventually, I get over it and realize the only way to greatness is to keep going back to the page. To keep getting better at what I do. And those big dreams I have, that I realize may never happen, will definitely not happen unless I just keep writing.

And so that is what I plan to do. Soon. For now, I have to get myself back to the day job. LA and amazing writer friends, I miss you!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A this and that post

Congratulations to Lisa Madigan for her starred review of FLASH BURNOUT in Booklist. It's so well deserved and I'm thrilled for her!!

Also, congratulations to Jo Knowles for the release of her book, JUMPING OFF SWINGS, which I loved. It also received a starred review, from Publisher's Weekly!

The stars are shining brightly this week, huh?

My web site has a new look - nothing terribly fancy, but hopefully easy on the eyes and simple to navigate.

I have a few pictures from SCBWI to share, plus Kimberley Little asked if I would share what I learned in the session about Scholastic book fairs and book clubs. I thought I might do that this afternoon, but it's my last day off before I go back to work, and, well, I realized when I started typing, I'm tired. So I'm going to curl up and watch a movie this afternoon before we go on a walk in the nature park in a couple of hours. So look tomorrow for a final conference post. If there's anything specific you want to know about, like how hilarious Shelli Johannes is in person (answer: very!), let me know before I start working on that post tonight.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Six things on a Saturday

1. I have been chatting and critiquing with Lindsey Leavitt on-line for years. I loved her books before anyone else did. Well, okay, her husband and mother and siblings probably loved them too. But anyway, my point is that here, in LA, I have FINALLY met her. She is my roomie and for a few days, I'm in LL heaven. This, alone, makes the trip worth it for me. But, there is more! More, can you believe it?

2. Inspiration came this morning from author Karen Cushman and this afternoon from NYT best-selling author Ellen Hopkins. Some good advice from Karen - "We write because we are writers, and we must let go of the outcome. Or at least try." Again I am reminded, do not write because of what we hope will happen at the end. Enjoy the journey. Then, inspiration came this afternoon from Ellen who reminds us we need to find the stories we have to tell. Maybe we've tried to write it a certain way and it didn't work out, but the story keeps coming back to us. Write it!!!

3. Janet McLeod has cute hair! And she's sweet besides. Speaking of sweet, have spent some time with so many wonderful, kind authors and feel so blessed. Kimberly Derting, Jessica Anderson, Jo Whittemore, Christy Raedeke, Cynthea Liu, Tammi Sauer, Kim Peek, Lisa Madigan,Varian Johnson, Suzanne Young, and, who am I forgetting?? Ack!! If you are checking blogs and are here and we haven't chatted, I hope we get to!

4. The Scholastic Book Fair guy, Ed Masessa, RAVED about David Lubar's MY ROTTEN LIFE book series in a session explaining to published authors how the selection process for the book fair works. Yay David!!

5. I forgot all of my lip glosses and lipsticks. My lips feel naked.

6. Sorry I'm not doing links and LJ names - in a hurry. Forgive me please!!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Three things on a Thursday

1. I'm off to LA bright and early tomorrow morning. I'll miss Sherman Alexie's speech, but 4 days was all I could manage to get away. My husband and kids going to visit family a few hours away and have some fun and adventures while I'm gone, so I'm glad about that. I will hopefully have some fun and adventures too, although I'm really looking for some good inspiration, so I hope I find some of that. If you're there and you happen to have some, please, can you share? Just a little?

2. How is it possible that I am a HUGE John Cusack fan, and I've never seen the movie Better Off Dead? I may need to go to the video store and get it for my plane ride! The movie came to my attention while I read this awesome post by Stephanie Perkins. Some good advice there about finding time to write, as well as a look at some of the best teen movies out there! I just watched Say Anything the other day as I was flipping channels, and man, how much do I love Lloyd? A lot. A whole heck of a lot.

3. I am working on a new project. I want so desperately to give you the one sentence log line I wrote, thanks to David Macinnis Gill's great post about writing log lines. I want to tell you for purely selfish reasons. I want to share it with you so you can tell me it sounds fantastic and I must keep working on it and finish it because you seriously cannot WAIT to read it. But, once it's shared, something changes. I don't know if I can explain it, but it just does. Perhaps then it's not all mine anymore? It's there for people to judge and maybe no one even says anything bad but it's there, in the back of my mind, and I wonder. I wonder, how many people are thinking, that is the most stupid thing EVER? So, I think it's best that I keep it to myself. For now. I'm in the middle with all sorts of things to figure out and it's hard. But I keep sitting down, every day, writing a little or a lot, whatever I can manage, just trying to make progress. It's not a marathon, right?

Hope you are all having a great summer and if I have anything fun/inspirational/educational to report while in LA, I shall do it!!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Ten Commandments for the Miserable Writer

One of my all-time favorite posts of Nathan Bransford’s is the one he wrote in March, 2009 called Ten Commandments for the Happy Writer.

Right now, I’m a pretty happy writer. I try hard to live by those commandments on Nathan’s list.

But maybe you don’t want to be a happy writer. Maybe you want to be the most miserable writer you can possibly be. Well, here are my ten commandments to help you be just that. It only seems fair that we give others a fighting chance to be successful at the kind of writer they want to be, right? I can understand that being a happy writer certainly isn’t for everyone. So if misery is your goal, here you go:

1. No time for play. When you aren’t doing something writing-related, kick yourself. You are a writer and thus there is no time for anything fun in your life, ever. Even if you turn on the TV to watch FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, the best show evah, you must feel guilty about it. Same goes for going to the movies or a concert or a play or out to dance. Understand this - there is no room for fun. None.

2. Send and wait. After your queries are sent out, you should sit at your computer 24/7, waiting for replies. There is nothing more important than being there when the first “No thanks” hits your inbox. No eating, no sleeping, nothing. Just sit and wait. And wait. And wait some more. When you think you may die from all the waiting, you STILL must wait, because unfortunately, death doesn’t come that easily.

3. Ignore your non-writing friends. They don’t understand what it’s like, so to hell with them. If they call and want to take you out for coffee and cupcakes because it’ll do you good to get out, just say no! Cupcakes are evil. And friends who don’t write? Of course they should be fed to the zombies and vampires we live with day in and day out.

4. Read author blogs, get jealous, and weep. Peruse other blogs and read about other writers’ sales and curse the world that it's not you. Because, you know, you could buy a new pen if you actually sold a book. Maybe even TWO! You’ve been wanting a new pen, right? A shiny, sparkly one that writes letters in the most spectacular way! You want one. And it’s not fair because that other writer can buy one now, and you can’t. No fair!!

5. Get pissed and blog about it. Rejection after rejection after rejection and it’s not enough to cry and scream into your pillow at night. Oh no, you should put it on the web for all to see and let others feel your pain. You can even get specific – give names of those terrible people who had the nerve to reject you. Misery loves company, right? Oh yes it does. Loves it so much you’ll be talked about behind your back for months. So yeah, go on, talk up that misery!

6. Read about writing, but don’t write. Buy books about writing. Go to conferences about writing. Read blogs about writing. And all the while, dream about your book on the shelf with your name on it. Take it all in, but don’t you dare do the hard work to do the writing. Oh no, because real writing is for people who have the time to do the work. And you just don’t have the time. Someday you’ll get to it…

7. Don’t get feedback on your work. Nope, feedback from critique partners will just ruin it. No one will understand your book and be able to offer good feedback, so you’re just better at going it alone. Fifty rejections later, there’s NOTHING wrong with your book, those agents are ALL wrong, every last one of them. Keep submitting that 130,000 word middle-grade novel that will surely get you published like HARRY POTTER got J.K. Rowling published. Because you know everything, right?

8. Query on the same book forever. Don’t write another one. No, do NOT write another one. Just keep collecting the no’s on that one you wrote eight years ago that came sort of close one time, but since has collected 287 rejections.

9. Take rejections personally. Let them eat at your heart and soul. Your writing sucks so that must mean you suck as a human being. Go to bed and stay there. At least until you’re ready to query again and then, only send one when you’re ready and willing to take one in the heart again.

10. Believe the negative talk. Last but certainly not least, your ego loves to tell you how crappy you are and that you’ll never amount to anything and you couldn’t write a decent sentence if your eighth grade teacher came back from the dead to help you. Your ego is designed to protect your poor, helpless self, and doesn’t care one bit about your dreams and whether or not they come true, so listen to the ego and believe it. And then, THEN, write with that ugly voice in your head. I’m pretty sure that’s about as miserable as it gets.

Anything I’ve forgotten? Please, enlighten us. The miserable writers can never get enough misery, that’s for sure!

Monday, August 3, 2009


Thanks to all the people who blogged, tweeted, sent pictures, bought books, etc. for my Reader Appreciation Contest. There was a total of 154 entries, which is way awesome!

Drum roll please!

The winners drawn are as follows:

First place (choice of 7 ARCs): Jessica L.

Second place (choice of 4 remaining ARCs): Erika

Third place (choice of 2 remaining ARCs): Justin

Fourth place (choice of one of my 2010 books in ARC form): Krista P.

I have sent each of the winners an e-mail this morning, so if your name is above, look for that!

If you entered the contest and you would like a signed book plate to put in one of my books you own, or a couple of bookmarks, please drop me a line with your snail mail address at the e-mail address where you submitted your contest entry no later than August 8th, and I'll send it off to you. This way you get a little something for your efforts. :)

Thanks so much - it was fun!! Let's do it again sometime!