Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Spent a lovely weekend in the city at the SFWriter's Conference meeting new people and hanging out with a few old friends I hadn't seen in a long time. On Sunday, I was part of a panel on Capturing the Teenage Heart along with my buds Heidi Kling who wrote SEA, the fabulous book based on the aftermath of the Indonesian tsunami and Naheed Senzai who took the problems in Afghanistan and condensed them down into a fabulous middle grade book called SHOOTING KABUL.

I love speaking not just because I love to talk about writing, but because it forces me to take a close look at the topic and analyze a process that I usually don't question for fear of scaring the magic away. For this talk, we focused on how to take a huge subject like Afghanistan or Indonesia (or hoarding) and distill it down into something that teen readers will love, and it was interesting to see how we each made the story personal.

It was moderated by the lovely editor from Simon and Schuster, Annete Pollert who I'd never met but could easily hang out with for an extended period of time. Funny and hip, but infinitely kind, - if she is your editor, you are in very good hands.

The conference itself was well-organized and the organizers treated us really well - if you are near San Francisco next year you should come along. The Mark Hopkins Hotel is gorgeous, even in the rain, and the range of speakers guarantees there is something for everyone. Our audience seemed to like the presentation and I think we could have kept going for several hours over our 45 minute limit. We were politely booted out of the room to get ready for the next group and kept the conversation going out in the hallway for almost an hour. I even got a CD of our session and despite bad experiences listening to my own voice (come on, you know you skip over your own message on the answering machine) I wasn't horrified when the hubs sat down and listened to all 45 minutes.

Thanks to the SFWC for inviting us and special thanks to Martha Flynn for taking pictures. Sorry I'm so lame that I forgot to turn on the flash.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


Something tells me there will be a giveaway in the near future (like around March 15th).

Monday, February 14, 2011

Writing YA Romance

It's Valentines Day, so of course we've been inundated all day with issues of love, roses and chocolates. For the very first time, my fifth grade son spent his own money on a suit-clad teddy bear and a small box of chocolates (big enough to count, but not so big as to be 'awkward' - in his own words) for the girl he has a crush on. As I write this, I'm dying for him to get home from school and tell me how it went. I was a little conflicted at first about such an early declaration, but then I figured this was just the first of many lessons in dealing with love and relationships and a suit-clad teddy bear is as good a place to start as any.

My first book didn't have a big love-interest factor, but the small romantic scene in the coffee shop was so much fun that the next several books include a large amount of romance. Just about a year ago, I was smack in the middle of writing the first draft for DESTINED and it was like I was sixteen all over again which was both good and bad (although if you asked any of the boys/men I live with, they might imply that the overly emotional state I lived in wasn't ideal).

I had my last first kiss seventeen years ago on my first date with my husband (yes, we kissed on the first date, but we were already old and I'd known him for years). Writing YA brings all of those emotions and feelings racing back again and it is precisely the unknown that makes the new romance so exciting. In my opinion, a good teen romance takes ages to develop and the first kiss stops just short of being agonizingly overdue. You need to have to work to get there, even if you know from the first time you lock eyes, the two of you were meant for each other. For girls, romance is all about the possibilities for the future (it's cliche, but how many of us wrote our love's last name all over our notebooks?) - pretty much every boyfriend is 'the one', although few of us happily marry our high school sweethearts (Agent Erin and my friend Tina excepted). While there has been a trend in YA of including a lot of the physical aspects of the relationship (one of my favorites being pages 126-128 of LOOKING FOR ALASKA and pretty much all of THE DUFF), I'm still a fan of the 'fade to black' in my own writing, at least for now.

The book I'm working on right now is from a 17 year old boy's point of view and lemme tell you, it's a lot different. While still romantic in his own way, my MC is very much hooked on the physical aspects of the relationship he's in as well as the physical attributes of the relationship he'd like to be in. This book has a lot more sex in it than I intended (although still mostly in the 'fade to black' realm) but everything is absolutely necessary in order to be true to the character. He does a ton of stuff that I would kill my own kids for doing, but changing anything would imply that I'm in charge, and anyone whose read this blog for any amount of time knows that this is simply not the case. My fictional teens do whatever they want and I have to shut my mouth and go along for the ride.

I wouldn't want to go back and be an actual teen again, but for a few hours every day I get to feel the excitement, anxiety and overwhelming possibility that is YA romance and that is the best job in the world.

Happy Valentines Day!

Thursday, February 10, 2011


It's once again LitChicks Day! For those of you new to the blog, you might wonder who the LitChicks are - they are Portia (13) and Liesl (14), two of the most well-read gals in town. Each week they bring us a recommendation from their recent reads (which, since they've learned not to reveal spoilers, are completely unedited by yours truly).

This week, it's Portia's turn and her pick is:

BEAUTIFUL CREATURES by Margaret Stohl and Kami Garcia

Beautiful Creatures is another book I think Cynthia was surprised I hadn't read. Maybe it's one of those YA classics that everyone who reads anything reads (like The Hunger Games); I don't know. However, one day, I went over to Cynthia's begging for books to read because I read through my whole bookshelf. This was, of course, before all my school projects got assigned, but that's beside the point. I went home and spent all weekend reading Beautiful Creatures (a nice thick book). I'm not sure what I was expecting from this book. I never ever really considered reading Beautiful Creatures before Cynthia recommended it, but when she's says something's good, it's usually worth reading.

It was a bit funny for me to open the cover, start reading, and realize that Beautiful Creatures is set in the south, in a little town obsessed with the Civil War--excuse me, the War of Northern Aggression. We're learning US history this year in history, so all the wars and civil rights and north and south and slaves and independence is starting to run together. However, it made the setting....more.....familiar? to me. Or relate-able.

This book also reminded me a lot of books like Twilight or Evermore. Books where there is a "forbidden" relationship, where the guy and girl aren't equal. I guess it's not fair to compare because the books aren't really alike at all, but that was something I noticed.

So, Beautiful Creatures follows the story of Ethan Wate who lives in Gatlin AKA nowhere. Same people your whole life, nothing new ever happens.....Booorrinnnggg. When Lena moves in, the niece of the town shut-in Macon Ravenwood, she's the talk of the town. She's also branded a freak at school, but Ethan is somehow drawn to her. It also doesn't help that they share a mental connection and have the same dreams. Lena is not normal. Eventually, Ethan and Lena fall in love, but Lena's 16th birthday is fast approaching. On her birthday she will either be claimed light or dark. Lena is terrified of turning dark, but Ethan is convinced they can find a way to be together even though he is a lowly mortal. (The mortals are always always lowly...)

This was a cute book. I'm a sucker for a nice love story, and the supernatural aspect of it was cool too. I think that us humans are attracted to books and movies about magic and supernatural things because it lets us be creative. It lets us think for one second, that we could actually do cool stuff that was unnatural. At least, it does for me. I also liked the way all the characters tied in. All in all, a definite must read! However, it's not a very lighthearted read, so be wary. If you're sad, this book probably won't cheer you up. The second book was also a little hard to get through immediately after, so I would recommend taking a short break before diving into Beautiful Darkness.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Giving Away THE MOCKINGBIRDS by Daisy Whitney!

Good friend, fancy dresser and awesome writer Daisy Whitney and I had a great time at Kepler's last night - thanks to all of you who came out to see us! In honor of the visit, I'm giving away two signed copies of her groundbreaking book THE MOCKINGBIRDS over on the DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS Facebook page. Head on over there, make a comment and you're entered - we'll pick two random winners tomorrow night.

A little about THE MOCKINGBIRDS:
(Booklist) Silence does not equal consent. . . . The only thing that means yes is yes.” When Alex, a junior at Themis, a New England boarding school, wakes up naked in a boy’s bed, she doesn’t immediately realize what has happened during the previous drunken night. As fragmented memories return, though, she begins to understand that what happened was date rape. With the encouragement of her friends and older sister, Alex submits her case to the Mockingbirds, an underground justice system inspired by Harper Lee’s classic novel, in which Themis students investigate and try crimes committed against other students. Whitney, whose author’s note discusses her own teenage experience of date rape and its aftermath, is a seasoned journalist, and she writes with smooth assurance and a propulsive rhythm as she follows Alex through the Mockingbird’s trial process and its accompanying emotional storm of confusion, shame, fear, and finally, empowerment. Authentic and illuminating, this strong debut explores vital teen topics of sex and violence; crime and punishment; ineffectual authority; and the immeasurable, healing influence of friendship and love.

The LitChicks - Confessions of a Shopaholic

The LitChicks are back and this week, it's Liesl's turn to give us a recommendation. Her choice?

Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella
This book was made into a movie, and I happened to see the movie before I read the book. Normally the book is better than the movie but for this I like both in different ways. The book and movie are different so it's hard to compare but the basic storyline is the same.

This book is about a shopaholic named Rebecca Bloomwood, who ironically is a journalist for the financial magazine "Successful Savings". Rebecca can't resist a sale and can come up with a rationalization for any purchase. however everything starts to fall apart when she gets her VISA bill, her OCTAGON store charge card bill, and a bill for her share of the rent..she realizes that she has a problem and is in serious debt. So, she comes up with a plan. she's going to stop spending. She quickly becomes forgetful of this plan when she sees a sale sign in the window of her favorite store. Anyway, this is a hilarious story of her journey to become debt-free and some pretty cool things happen to her.

To me, a sign of a good writer is someone who can write and when you read that book you feel with the character. When they do something good, you’re happy or proud of them, then on the flip side when they do something bad, you get annoyed at them. I found that with this book. Rebecca knew she shouldn't go shopping, but whenever she did I'd get mad at her. This was a thoroughly enjoyable book. enjoy:)

Thanks Liesl! I've seen the movie, but I haven't read the book - yet.

On this date: In 1959, the music died. Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and "The Big Bopper" die in a small plane crash.