Friday, December 17, 2010

Happy Holidays, Happy News

I'm delighted to be able to share that Jen Bonnell, my editor at Speak (Penguin), has offered me a contract on a third historical YA novel, to pub early in 2013!

Things are still evolving as I work but for the moment this story, tentatively titled Moll, is set in the racy and scandalous 1920s and centers on Jo, a teen girl caught in a web of lies, illegal activities, and family secrets. I love the '20s: a wild time of contrasts, new ideas, liberated (and over-the-top) behavior, gorgeous clothes, and lurking darkness (Hilter became Fuhrer of the Nazi Party in 1921; five million people died in a famine in Russia. And that's just a start.)

I'm anticipating the ARCs of my second YA, Forgiven, early in January. Forgiven is a companion novel to Faithful, and follows Kula Baker to San Francisco in 1906. When I have my hands on my copies, I'll be running a give-away contest, so stay tuned.

I'm so pleased with Faithful's success: nominated for the YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults list, nominated for a Cybils' award, an ALAN pick, and garnering some wonderful reviews. Thank you, sweet readers - I know you can't love every book that comes down the pike, and I appreciate your honesty - and those of you who've told me how much you do love Faithful, know that it means so much to hear.

And if you haven't finished that holiday shopping yet (note to self!), here's a little thought!

Happiest of holidays, everyone - I'll be back in January!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Fabulous New Fiction: 2k11 Debut Author Julia Karr + Give-away!

Give-away - win a copy of XVI - see the note at the end!!

This is the first post for the debut class of 2k11! I'm truly thrilled that my first guest is not only my mentee, but my Penguin pal - and we also share editor fabulous Jen Bonnell - Julia Karr. Her YA novel XVI sounds brilliant - and you can win a copy! Here she is discussing things that might happen in a future world...
The Class of 2K11 debut authors are being mentored by The Class of 2K10 authors. I am so fortunate to have Janet as my mentor! Thanks for being so supportive, Janet; thanks so much for having me on your blog. 
Can you believe there are only 4 weeks left in the 16 Weeks to XVI tour? I know I sure can't. My feelings fluctuate from sheer terror to unbounded excitement (maybe those two emotions are much closer than I think!) 
A recent reviewer of XVI wondered how things could go so wrong from present day to XVI's world. Well, XVI takes place in the year 2150, that's 139 years in the future, several generations from now. I think that's plenty of time for current trends (if unreversed) to morph into common practice, and even law. Here are the four things that have me thinking of a future not-so-bright. 
1. The vise-grip that media has on nearly all westernized nations. If it's on TV or the Internet - it must be the truth. A viewer chooses their channel of choice and believes every word that comes out of the mouths of the talking heads that continue to shape the beliefs of their listeners/watchers. At some point in the future, there may not be a choice of channels, but just one news source backed by wealth, which runs the government and through them, the media. (I do worry about this!) 
2. Currently the distribution of wealth in this country is becoming increasingly polarized. The rich are indeed getting richer, the middle class is disappearing and the have-nots are growing at an alarming rate. In the future, it is entirely likely that not only will the gap increase between the wealthiest and the poorest, but those in between will be judged; sorted by earning capabilities, spending habits (which are encouraged by Media, see above), housing, etc. The ability to move between tiers will become increasingly difficult. 
3. It is impossible to miss the increasing sexualization of teen and pre-teen girls. (I mean, come on - baby booties that look like high heels? Blech!) I challenge you to turn on the TV or the internet and go for five minutes without seeing young girls dressed in clothes that would look as natural on a lady-of-the-night as they are beginning to look on our children. And, that's the thing. The more often you see girls dressed in tight-fitting, revealing clothing, the more acceptable it becomes. Of course, girls should be able to dress attractively, but there is a huge difference between attractive and sexually provocative. 
4. Relinquishing freedoms in the name of safety. Such as: GPS trackers planted in our babies so that if they are kidnapped we can find them. And, then not taken out because, what if, as an adult, we were lost or kidnapped? Sounds like a good idea, right? 
Covert government surveillance of suspect conversations and activities, seems logical, right? Because, of course, the government is only going to eaves-drop on suspected crinimals. Government-mandated, imbedded identification. Easy, right? Takes care of identify theft and it’s always there, follows you from cradle to grave. 
I don’t know about you guys – but, I want “less” government interference in my life – not more. And, to quote Benjamin Franklin, “Those who desire to give up freedom in order to gain security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one. 
So, what do you think? 130 years from now, could these extremes happen? Check out some of these links and let me know what direction YOU imagine the world heading. 
Hope this interview gives you an idea of why I find dystopia such a fascinating subject about which to write. 
Now – on to the contest! This week’s prize is a pre-order of XVI. To be eligible to win, all you have to do is leave a comment (and contact info please!) (Contest is U.S. only – sorry!) 
Next Friday morning (the 17th), Random Number Generator will pick the winner! And – all commenters will be entered in the Grand Prize drawing to be done in Week 1. 
Again, thanks so much for having me on your blog, Janet! It’s been such fun!
You are so welcome, Julia! Julia's website is: 

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Writing Through Obstacles, Wading Through Snow

Everyone faces a few roadblocks to writing, whether personal or creative - I'm in that place at the moment - and my own way to push through roadblocks is to turn to smart crafty type folks for inspiration.

We're now living in a small but cozy cabin in the Montana mountains and we do burn wood, mostly for pleasure, in the fireplace, and my industrious husband spent a number of weeks gathering what I thought was an extravagant amount of wood for this winter. Here's what the pile looked like in October.

All that wood brought to mind one of my favorite quotes, from Annie Dillard's The Writing Life, about her time in a small cabin in Maine:

One night, while all this had been going on, I had a dream in which I was given to understand, by the powers that be, how to split wood. You aim, said the dream - of course! - at the chopping block. It is true. You aim at the chopping block, not at the wood; then you split the wood instead of chipping it.

Now, I really like that metaphor. I think it speaks volumes about life. Even when life throws up obstacles, like the massive (everyone's saying record-breaking) amounts of snow we've been having lately, and that are making life difficult, to say the least.

Dillard recognizes that this metaphor also speaks to writing:

Who will teach me to write? a reader wanted to know.

The page, the page, that eternal blankness, the blankness of eternity which you cover slowly, affirming time's scrawl as a right and your daring as necessity; the page, which you cover woodenly, ruining it, but asserting your freedom and power to act, acknowledging that you ruin everything you touch but touching it nevertheless, because acting is better than being there in mere opacity; the page, which you cover slowly with the crabbed thread of your gut; the page in the purity of its possibilities; the page of your death, against which you pit such flawed excellences as you can muster with all your life's strength: that page will teach you to write.

There is another way of saying this. Aim for the chopping block. If you aim for the wood, you will have nothing. Aim past the wood, aim through the wood; aim for the chopping block.

Aim for the heart, aim for the eternal truth of your work; aim for the chopping block.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Tiny Note on Style

Because it's Thanksgiving week - and I have a great, great deal to be thankful for, and not enough time at the moment to go there - I have only a small post but I hope an interesting one.

One of the sweet catch-phrases that I began to hear repeated over and over during my explorations of the writing craft, especially once I started my studies at Vermont College of Fine Arts, is "kill your darlings." Meaning, "get rid of what you love the most; it's likely to be precious overblown baloney-oil."

Now I'm reading Stephen King's brilliant On Writing (more on that another time) and he quotes Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch (correctly) to "murder your darlings." Quiller-Couch - who went by the pen-name "Q" (I love this, it brings to mind Bond and am wondering if I want to be known as "F"...but on second thought, no) - created this memorable aphorism in a series of lectures delivered in 1913-14 and later published under the title On The Art of Writing. Q says:

To begin with, let me plead that you have been told of one or two things which Style is not; which have little or nothing to do with Style, though sometimes vulgarly mistaken for it. Style, for example, is not—can never be—extraneous Ornament. You remember, may be, the Persian lover whom I quoted to you out of Newman: how to convey his passion he sought a professional letter-writer and purchased a vocabulary charged with ornament, wherewith to attract the fair one as with a basket of jewels. Well, in this extraneous, professional, purchased ornamentation, you have something which Style is not: and if you here require a practical rule of me, I will present you with this: ‘Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it—whole-heartedly—and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings.’

This then is Style. As technically manifested in Literature it is the power to touch with ease, grace, precision, any note in the gamut of human thought or emotion.

There you have it. Ease, grace, and precision. Darlings, begone.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Revision Plus (Darcy Pattison's Novel Revision Workshop)

There's a reason it's called revision. "Re-vision"..."re-envision"...see your work in an entirely new light. Darcy Pattison has been conducting whole novel revision workshops for years, and I've been wanting to attend one for the longest time, and now I know why these retreats are so widely acclaimed.

Years ago, when I was revising Faithful, I used Darcy's book Novel Metamorphosis (ordered at the bookstore) and found it immensely helpful. Even so, it paled next to the experience.

For one thing, Darcy groups participants so that you critique intensively with 3 other authors: you've read their stories and they've read yours. At each learning interval Darcy admits time for the group to discuss that craft issue (plot, character, setting, etc.) in each other's work. This intense discussion and re-discussion - this revisiting the topics over and over - allows for increasingly deeper analysis and deeper focus, and opens the way for a trusting bond among participants. I didn't know about or expect this aspect of the workshop, and I loved it. Loved it.

I'm going to give you a set of bullet points, things that we did/that I learned:

  • the novel inventory - a chapter by chapter look at action and emotion to reveal tension and strong/weak chapters
  • the "shrunken manuscript" - a Darcy original - the manuscript in 8 point font, that can be laid out all at once and allows the writer to see (through the clever use of markers) holes in plot, character development, tension, etc.
  • the narrative arc worksheet - by working through the narrative arc on my shrunken manuscript, I learned that, in the novel I brought, my antagonist didn't actually appear until late in the story. Yikes. Now, why didn't I see that at full scale? Because I was too preoccupied with the words.
  • the emotional arc and character analysis - deepening characters, finding their emotional epiphanies, and connecting the emotional and plot arcs, and intensifying emotions through the use of stronger verbs
  • dialogue techniques - Darcy has a really nice way of simplifying dialogue techniques and demonstrating different ways that exchanges can convey additional information (information that isn't on the page or in the actual dialogue but that exists in subtext through gesture) 
  • choosing sensory details - using markers again on a particular scene, I discovered that I had plenty of visual and some auditory information but that the rest of the senses were utterly ignored. After an exercise in which I free-wrote just sensory details I was able to find a handful to work into the scene
  • connotations and deeper meanings - our entire group came up with improvements to our manuscripts when we brainstormed word connotations and found how we could use them in our manuscripts to deepen the emotional core
I've done lots of workshops, but this was outstanding. Intense, constrained by time, but invaluable. I came away with a workbook that I'll use on every novel from now on.

So, what do you do if you can't attend Darcy's workshop?

First, you can buy her book - it's terrific.

Second, if you have critique partners, you can use the book to guide yourselves through the group exercises and, believe me, that alone will be worth the energy. (If you don't have critique partners...try to find some. Maybe I should discuss that in another post?)

Oh, yes, we did have fun! Meals, a movie (primed for discussion about repetition), and after a wonderful walk with Darcy I even had time to do a little roaming around town and found a green top that looks so much like Maggie's dress in Faithful...I can't wait to find a skirt and wear it. (See? There's actual lacing in it! Fun!)

Re-envision. Whether it's your novel, or a new approach to your writing, or yourself in a slinky green dress...

Monday, November 8, 2010

Revision and Whatnot

A busy month of travel and editing...and the two combined. With no pending interviews and little time to get really creative with my "new blog approach," this is just a personal reflection.

A while back I detailed the editorial process, which goes in order like this: macro edits, line edits, copy edits, design sets, pass pages....Last week I received the copy edits on FORGIVEN, and at this stage I've learned to be both excited and anxious. This is it, the big kahuna, the final chance, the last time in which I have the opportunity to make any "significant" changes to the manuscript. After the copy edits, it's all just teeny-weeny changes, like spelling mistakes and typos; no big scenes or even sentences.

The process is all electronic at Penguin. We use MS Word and the track changes feature, and the pages can get very colorful with our different comments. My line edits were really colorful this time. I had lots of changes at the line edit stage. So when I received the copy edits, I was even more nervous than with FAITHFUL, because there's a bit more complex mystery in FORGIVEN, a bit more subtlety, and I didn't want to mess things up.

Two days in a car, my sweet hubby at the wheel, me reading aloud from the copy edit manuscript, red pen in hand.

He, the left-brained scientist; me, searching for things that didn't work.

Result: an editorial dream team.

Can I arrange a car trip with him every time I write a book and get to this stage, pretty please? Only time and you, dear readers, will tell whether this novel works on the page. But I sure loved the process.

On a different note, I'll be attending Darcy Pattison's "novel revision workshop" this weekend in Texas, and I'm so excited. She wants us all to read two craft books that I have on my shelf and love: Noah Lukeman's The First Five Pages, and Renni Browne and Dave King's Self-Editing for Fiction Writers.

On a final note, just because, a pic I snapped the day before we left Montana: a frosty dawn (yes, that's frost on the lawn) out our front window.

Next time: what I learned whilst sitting at Darcy's feet.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

What I Learned in School This Month

October has been...busy. Three major events that involved traveling (2 by plane, 1 by car) and assorted deadlines both editorially imposed and self-imposed. But as often happens when barrels full of stuff come screaming my way, I learn a lot.

Start with Encyclomedia in Oklahoma - the state librarian conference. I was on a panel (thanks to Stacy Nyikos) with Class of 2k9ers Joy Preble (DREAMING ANASTASIA) and Fran Cannon Slayton (WHEN THE WHISTLE BLOWS) and 2k10ers Bonnie Doerr (ISLAND STING) and Denise Jaden (LOSING FAITH). (That's, left to right, Fran, Joy, Bonnie, Denise, and me.) We had a great time and a huge turnout - over 100 and possibly closer to 200 - librarians attended our New Voices panel. I finally met the inimitable Cynthea Liu and the talented Tammi Sauer. I loved seeing/meeting these guys and we had such fun talking about our travels and travails and the fortunes of a children's book author...

Homework lesson #1: There is nothing like the camaraderie of fellow writers to (a) help you cope with the ups and downs of writing and (b) cement your determination to continue.

Then to KidlitCon - the Kidlitosphere Conference in Minneapolis, hosted by a gracious triumvirate of Andrew Karre of Carolrhoda, Ben Barnhart of Milkweek Press, and Brian Farrey of Flux, and which brought friendly bloggers from across the "sphere"(I had such fun getting to know the people behind the blog names!) The amazing Swati Avasthi (SPLIT), who lives in Minneapolis, offered to help set up signings and a panel and..voila! I was there with Swati, Michele Corriel (FAIRVIEW FELINES) and Jacqueline Houtman (THE REINVENTION OF EDISON THOMAS), all of us from Class of 2k10 (left to right, Jacqueline, Swathi, me and Michele; photo by Andrew Karre.) And boy, was that a learning curve, the result of which (as I hope you'll see) I'll be REINVENTING THE BLOG OF JANET FOX. Rather than try and describe the conference, suffice to say that I learned one major lesson:

Homework lesson #2: Decide who your blog audience is. Right now, it's you guys who are, I think, mostly fellow writers and teachers and librarians. If I want to have teens visit, I need to rethink. Suggestions welcome. 

Then I was on my way to  Montana Festival of the Book in Missoula. What a great conference. I felt like royalty - I was hosted by Humanities Montana (isn't that a gorgeous poster? yes, I bought one!) and together again with Michele Corriel - who, I might add, knows everyone in Montana because of her legacy as a respected and widely published journalist - we presented a panel and were able to sign our books, and I was invited to read with Jeanette Ingold (which was an honor all by itself.)  That's me below with Cherie Newman, a producer at Yellowstone Public Radio, who interviewed me (a thrill!) for a YPR broadcast for January.

Homework lesson #3: Books in every form are alive and well and frankly always will be. The delivery system may change, but everyone loves a story. Fiction, nonfiction, memoir...everyone loves - needs - story.

So. We fellow writers must stick together, must determine our audience when we blog/speak/whatever, and must remember that story will always be around, no matter what happens to the "industry."


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Fabulous New Fiction: 2k10 Debut Author Laura Sullivan

It's amazing to me that the Class of 2k10 has all but fully graduated, and I'm hosting our final debut author today. Where did the year go? Today I'm thrilled to be welcoming Laura Sullivan, who is here to talk about her new novel, UNDER THE GREEN HILL.

Congratulations, Laura, on the publication of your novel, UNDER THE GREEN HILL. Can you tell us a bit about the story and what inspired it?

Thank you so much for having me on Through the Wardrobe! The Chronicles of Narnia were a childhood obsession, and still are, really. I re-read them every couple of years. I even have a “through the wardrobe” reference in my first book.

UNDER THE GREEN HILL is about fairies, sacrifice, and the fate of the world. A group of American children are sent to England to stay with distant relatives, and find themselves in the middle of a fairy war. Rowan, the eldest, is chosen to be the Fairy Queen’s champion, and has to fight a mysterious opponent with a secret agenda. Only one will survive – the other will be the sacrifice to the land. His sister Meg is determined to save him, but everything that lives depends on the outcome of the Midsummer War.

A fellow Narnian! I should have know when I saw that gorgeous cover and heard about your book. How long have you been writing for children/teens? Have you written other books or is this your first effort?

The books I wrote as a teenager (the trunk books that will never see the light of day) were all written for adults. But since I’ve “grown up” almost everything I’ve written has been for children. Maybe I write what I yearn for? UNDER THE GREEN HILL and its sequel, GUARDIAN OF THE GREEN HILL (Fall 2011) are middle grade, while my next book, LADIES IN WAITING, is a bawdy young adult historical.

I recently made the plunge back into adult writing, though. I have a commercial action/romance set in the Everglades ready to go, and I’m working on something I call a pastoral comedy – I’m not exactly sure where it will be shelved!

Because I’m an adult who reads children’s books (not just because I write them, but because I love them!) and I know so many other adults who do, too, I always try to keep both audiences in mind when writing. The young readers are always the top priority of course (and I know we all go crazy when someone says their books are for all audiences, all ages) but I’m generally thinking of adult readers, too, in the back of my mind. It is a very delicate balance.

Wow. I'm impressed with your prolific output and broad range. Can you describe your path to the publication of UNDER THE GREEN HILL?

I wrote UNDER THE GREEN HILL a long time before I sold it – a really long time. I was sure it was the best thing I’d ever written, and I told myself if I don’t sell this, I’m not meant to be a writer. I queried several dozen agents and got nothing but rejections. So I quit writing. Completely. I decided to have an adventure, so I became a deputy sheriff. It was thrilling, empowering (and, to my surprise, made use of my writing skills) and for four years I loved it… but it wasn’t really me. Then I got married and had a baby, left the sheriff’s office, moved to the beautiful hills of eastern Kentucky… and of course began to write again. Writing was the only thing I ever wanted to do. I took another look at UNDER THE GREEN HILL, decided it was as good as I first thought, and sent it out. That time I got an agent right away, had several editors interested, and sold it in a two-book deal within two months of sending my query letter.

So you never know.

That is so true. Do you have any other advice for beginning writers?

Oh, golly… Read. Write. Repeat. Seriously, read everything, the Victorians, the best seller lists, in your genre and outside of it. Set aside time for writing, and stick to it, come heck or high water. If you give up, you better keep your old manuscripts, because you know you’ll change your mind. If you’re a writer, really a writer, I don’t think you can help writing. It is a pretty serious addiction.

And one more thing – never forget that luck is a huge part of this business. It is like playing the lottery. Writing a great book gets you two of the numbers, getting an agent another one, maybe having a platform or knowing some important people gets you that fourth number, but there are still two more to go before you hit the big prize, and you have almost no control over them. So if you get nothing but rejections, or have setbacks later in your career, remember, it might not be you or your writing. Always be working on something new. If you have talent, and persevere, odds are you’ll eventually get published.

Can you tell us something about your personal life – inspirations, plans for the future, goals, etc.?

After a nerve-wracking period of change (editor switching houses, leaving my agent, getting a divorce) things are looking brighter than ever! I have a fabulous new agent, Emily Van Beek of Folio, who loves both my children’s and adult work. I have five manuscripts ready or almost ready, and we’ll be sending some of them them out soon!

Right now I write full-time, and I hope to be able to continue to do that.

Best of luck with all of those changes - and so happy you found Emily! Do you have any new writing ventures underway?

Oh-boy do I ever! More than anything, I love to start a new study, which invariably leads to a new book. I’m a dilettante, which is terrible for, you know, a real working career, but great for a writer. (Not that writing isn’t a real career, but like any of the arts, the money is rarely commensurate with the hours you put into it.) I don’t think I could ever settle down to one genre or topic – and luckily, I have an agent who supports that.

I wrote a Middle Grade book set in Medieval Baghdad – THE BULBULS OF BAGHDAD – and I’m just finishing up a young adult set in Restoration England (1660s). One of the adult books features crime (which I know a lot about!) and Everglades survival, which I had to research. Let’s see, what else… a contemporary young adult called EUGENE about a boy searching through his mother’s very risqué diaries for clues about who his father might be. And a chapter book about a girl and her magic fleas.

I’d love to do more GREEN HILL books – I have so many ideas for what happens next! – but that’s up to the publisher, and of course, the readers.

What’s next? Maybe a YA science fiction about harnessing the amazing power of teen girl emotions to save the world. Maybe a fantasy set in WWII. We’ll see.

Wow - I'm very impressed, Laura. Do you have a website where readers can learn more about UNDER THE GREEN HILL and all of your other endeavors?

I have a very basic web site that will tell you more about my books, and me.   It is still being tweaked so it might be up and down for the next few weeks. Soon it will have information about the contests that will start when UNDER THE GREEN HILL is released October 26. I’m also active on Facebook, and I love to make new friends. Just search for Laura Sullivan. I’m the one with the big pink wings!

(I love those wings!)

Thank you so much for having me on Through the Wardrobe, Janet! It was a lot of fun!

Thank you!

Friday, October 22, 2010

News: Cover for FORGIVEN

I'm very excited today to be able to display the cover for my second novel, FORGIVEN (Speak/Penguin, late spring 2011).

FORGIVEN is a not-quite-sequel to FAITHFUL; in this second novel I follow the story of Kula Baker, a secondary character in FAITHFUL, to San Francisco in 1906. The novel is a romance and mystery and, like FAITHFUL, largely a coming-of-age story that takes my characters through the tumultuous, exciting city of San Francisco of that time and through the great earthquake and fires that so devastated the city in April of that year.

But I do want to mention that one of the subplots in FORGIVEN deals with the exploitation of children/child slavery. It is a facet of the history of Kula's time and place that I discovered during my research, and I couldn't, for obvious reasons, ignore it. I feel that it's important to turn the spotlight on this issue because, tragically, it still exists.

I want to add that Jeanine Henderson is the cover designer, and I think she's brilliant.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Fabulous New Fiction: 2k10 Debut Author Laura Quimby

Today I'm delighted to introduce Laura Quimby, whose debut novel, THE CARNIVAL OF LOST SOULS: A HANDCUFF KID NOVEL, came out early this month and sounds like tons of fun.

Congratulations on the publication of your novel, THE CARNIVAL OF LOST SOULS. It’s such an intriguing title! Can you tell us a bit about the story and what inspired it?

THE CARNIVAL OF LOST SOULS: A HANDCUFF KID NOVEL is the story about Jack, a charismatic delinquent, a foster kid who never seems to feel at home anywhere. His one constant in life is his love of magic and his hero Harry Houdini. Jack is placed with an eccentric professor and finally feels at home, until the professor sells him to an evil magician, the Amazing Mussini, into the land of the dead. Jack must travel with Mussini through the Forest of the Dead where he performs some of Houdini’s famed tricks in Mussini’s traveling magic show. If Jack stays in the Forest long enough, he’ll die himself. To find his way home, he’ll have the help of kids stolen just like Jack—and his wits, nothing more.

I was inspired to write the story after I read an autobiography about Harry Houdini and was inspired by how hard he worked to create magic tricks. Magic is often portrayed as easy and effortless, literally magic, and I loved the idea that magic was man made and tough.

I love stories about magic, and so do kids, who are sure to love this one. How long have you been writing for children/teens? Have you written other books or is this your first?

I’ve been writing for children/teens for about five years. This is my first published novel, but like many writers I have piles of short stories, poems, and novels that I have written over the past twenty years.

Can you describe your path to the publication of THE CARNIVAL OF LOST SOULS? 

Publishing THE CARNIVAL OF LOST SOULS has been a long journey. The book was sold back in 2007 and has been in the pipeline for three years. It got bumped from its original pub date by a year, so I’m excited for it to finally hit the shelves.

Do you have any advice for beginning writers? 

My advice for beginning writers is simple: finish what you start. Every project no matter how small or ambitious, no matter if it sells or ends up in a drawer will help you develop as a writer.

Do you have any new writing ventures underway? 
My latest writing adventure is a YA steampunk murder mystery! I tend to gravitate to strange stories and my latest mystery was inspired by Edgar Allen Poe and is a mystery set in the alternate history of New Baltimore in the late 19th century. I have started a mg/ya mystery blog at:

Steampunk - one of my current favorites! Do you have a website where readers can learn more about THE CARNIVAL OF LOST SOULS?

And my new web site is up at:

Thanks, Janet!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Announcing the Classof2K10 230-Book Giveaway!

Inspired by this post by author Teri Brown, the Classof2K10 is ending off the year with a massive book club giveaway.

Five book clubs around the country can win a prize pack of three to six sets of books written by the authors from the Class of 2K10. The pack includes TEN copies of each book, and in some packs one of the books will be signed by the author.

The contest is open to all book clubs associated with a nonprofit institution, a school, or a library. To enter, just comment on this entry, specifying which of the prize packs you are interested in and which nonprofit you are affiliated with. The giveaway will end on November 11, 2010.

If there are any additional questions, please contact Leah Cypess.
The prize packs are:  
Mid-grade fantasy:
The Carnival of Lost Souls by Laura Quimby
Under The Green Hill by Laura Sullivan
Witchy Worries of Abbie Adams by Rhonda Hayter

Mid-grade contemporary:
Fairview Felines by Michele Corriel
Island Sting by Bonnie Doerr
Leaving Gee's Bend by Irene Latham
The Reinvention of Edison Thomas by Jacqueline Houtman
Shooting Kabul by N.H. Senzai

YA Fantasy/Paranormal Pack 1
13 to Life by Shannon Delany
Freaksville by Kitty Keswick
Mistwood by Leah Cypess

YA Fantasy/Paranormal Pack 2
Past Midnight by Mara Purnhagen
Shade by Jeri Smith-Ready
Under My Skin by Judith Graves

YA Contemporary Pack 1
Change of Heart by Shari Maurer
Faithful by Janet Fox
Losing Faith by Denise Jaden
The Tension of Opposites by Kristina McBride

YA Realistic Pack 2
Of All the Stupid Things by Alexandra Diaz
Party by Tom Leveen
Three Rivers Rising by Jame Richards
The Secret Year by Jennifer Hubbard
Split by Swati Avasthi

  1. You must be a book club affiliated with a nonprofit, school, or library, and located in the continental United States.
  2. To enter, leave a comment at the original post at the Class of 2k10 blog. Specify which of the prize packs you are interested in – you may choose from only one, to all five, as we will be holding 5 separate drawings.  (However, no club will win more than one prize pack.)
  3. Leave an email in the comment where you can be reached should you win.
  4. If the email address is a not an institution address, please specify which nonprofit, school, or library you are affiliated with.
  5. If you are not sure whether you qualify, just leave the relevant information in the comment.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Before the Split Charity Auction

AuctionTo honor National Domestic Violence Awareness month, author Swati Avasthi has combined a blog tour for her debut novel, Split, with a charity auction. Over 40 authors, agents and editors have donated manuscript critiques, personalized books, and more to an online auction that anyone –reader, writer, booklover -- can bid on and buy.  All proceeds go to the Family Violence Prevention Fund. In addition to the auction, Avasthi is donating $1/comment on her 26-stop, month-long blog tour, coordinated by Kari Olson at Teen Book Scene. If we reach the goal and cap of $250, Swati will double the donation to the Family Violence Prevention Fund.  The CDC estimates that one in four women will experience intimate partner abuse during her life and UC Davis estimates that a child who grew up witnessing abuse is four times as likely to perpetrate abuse, 25 times more likely to commit rape and 6 times more likely to commit suicide. Family Violence Prevention Fund has some great initiatives, including Coaching Boys Into Men and Start Strong, that are about breaking the intergenerational cycle and preventing abuse.  

I'm very proud to be a participant in Swati's auction. I've donated a critique of the first 10 pages of your middle grade or young adult manuscript. To sweeten my donation, I'll throw in a copy of my first novel Faithful...and, as soon as it becomes available, an ARC of my second novel Forgiven. Most importantly I promise to give your work my keenest editorial eye.

Click on the button to reach the auction (and check out the other wonderful opportunities, too.)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Fabulous New Fiction: 2k10 Debut Author Michele Corriel

I'm so pleased today to introduce my fellow Montanan Michele Corriel and her debut novel FAIRVIEW FELINES: A Newspaper Mystery. I can't wait to get my hands on my own copy this weekend at her signing at the Country Bookshelf in Bozeman, Montana (and don't you love the cover!?) but for now, here's our conversation.

Congratulations on the publication of your novel, FAIRVIEW FELINES: A Newspaper Mystery. It’s such an intriguing title! Can you tell us a bit about the story and what inspired it?

FAIRVIEW FELINES is the first in a series of middle grade mysteries based on the main character, Thomas Weston, who loves everything about newspapers, ink-covered fingers and all. He dreams of having his own newspaper at school, so when all the cats in his town of Fairview start disappearing, he figures he can prove himself and solve the mystery. Oh, yeah, and he thinks in these really funny headlines.

Inspired? I don't know if it was inspired, but I worked for newspapers for years and before I started to freelance, I worked at a small weekly newspaper, so I knew a lot about how it worked. And I love reading mysteries (who doesn't?). Thomas' voice came to me right away and so did the headlines, the rest was putting it all together.

How long have you been writing for children/teens? Have you written other books or is this your first effort?

FAIRVIEW FELINES is my first middle grade novel. I have a non-fiction picture book coming out this fall called WEIRD ROCKS, published by Mountain Press, and my agent has another, more serious upper MG or young YA (however that works) that I hope will be out in the world soon.

Can you describe your path to the publication of FAIRVIEW FELINES?

My path to publication is more like a labyrinth! I actually wrote the first draft of this novel years ago but I couldn't seem to find the right home for it. I attended a SCBWI conference and met with Miriam Hees, the publisher at Blooming Tree Press. She asked to see it. I rewrote it again (and changed the ending) before sending it to her --  a year later I got the phone call.

Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

First of all, read, read, and read some more. Don't just read your own genre, but read everything you can. Then go to conferences. Go to workshops. You can never stop improving your writing. And most of all, never, never, never give up.

Can you tell us something about your personal life – inspirations, plans for the future, goals, etc.?

I grew up in New York City and moved to Montana about 17 years ago. When I was in high school I won a Pen Women of America award for my poetry and that was that. I knew I wanted to be a writer but I didn't know how to get there. I traveled around Europe, managed a Rock n' Roll club in the East Village, in NYC, and had a poetry performance band. When I moved to Montana I got involved in SCBWI and found I loved writing for young readers. I'm currently working on my fourth novel and I have ideas all the time about my fifth. I love my life! 

Do you have any new writing ventures underway?

I'm working on the second book in the Newspaper Mystery series, besides the ones I mentioned in the previous question. And I continue to write about art for various national magazines.

Do you have a website where readers can learn more about FAIRVIEW FELINES? 

You know I do! It's From there you can find me on Facebook, Twitter, and you can follow my blog called, "Playing with Words."

Monday, September 20, 2010

On a Personal Note: Grateful, Plus

Because I just finished a heavy-duty edit round on FORGIVEN, my second novel due out next spring from Penguin, I thought I break for a personal post. I'm going to list a few of my favorite things - some new to me, some reruns.

5. I discovered a new craft book, HOOKED, by Les Edgerton. Yes, he's talking about novel openings, but he discusses so much more. Here's a sneak peak:
"An opening scene has ten core components: (1) the inciting incident; (2) the story-worthy problem; (3) the initial surface problem; (4) the setup; (5) backstory; (6) a stellar opening sentence; (7) language; (8) character; (9) setting; and (10) foreshadowing."
He goes into great detail on each and every one of these elements, and his insights are fabulous. Love this book. It made me think about my novel in a completely new way.

4. We live in an area that has no cell coverage and very poor radio coverage, but we are NPR addicts. I found a superb dealer in Bozeman (Poindexter's - don't you love the name?) and they turned us on to Sonos, a whole-house wireless system that also streams internet radio. From anywhere in the world. Anywhere. Or streams your entire music collection from your computer to the whole house. Fantastic.

3. And once we found was only a short step to discovering Pandora Radio. OMG - love this!! Setting up music libraries that stream endless new music so that I can make new discoveries...just what I want for whatever mood I'm in. How did we live without this?

2. Bookstores - all bookstores. They've been so supportive of FAITHFUL. Even the biggies - Barnes and Noble and Borders - they've been great. Truly wonderful. But at the moment I'm having a love-fest with a sweet little store in downtown Bozeman - The Country Bookshelf. They hosted me at a signing last Saturday. Welcoming, warm, generous - hearts to them!

1. Autumn. I was autumn-deprived for 15 years. I tried not to focus on it; I love the people in Texas dearly. I always will be grateful for those years. But I knew I missed autumn and had been hungering for it once I arrived here in Montana for keeps and am now experiencing day in and day out of fall - cool weather, rain, brilliant sun (without the heat), turning leaves, deer on the lawn, sweet smells and fires and hot soup. Honey, I'm home.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Reading Like a Writer: Pacing

Lately lots of people I know seem to be talking about pacing in novels. Pacing was the topic of discussion on kidlitchat a few weeks back, about the same time that a thread opened on my Vermont College of Fine Arts discussion board. These conversations were roughly coincident with the release of the final installment of Susanne Collins’ The Hunger Games trilogy, Mockingjay. Perhaps that was accidental; but because I think Collins has mastered the art of pacing, I’d like to take a closer look at the topic and peruse Mockingjay for examples.

I searched for a definition of “pacing” in a few of my favorite craft books, and was surprised at how few make specific mention of it. John Gardner says only “the efficient and elegant writer makes each scene bear as much as it can without clutter or crowding.” Janet Burroway reflects simply, “Drama equals desire plus danger.”

Personally, I think pacing and tension are linked, but I'm still trying to discover exactly how.

It seems that pacing is an art that must be mastered as we craft scene after scene after scene, making each scene work to the max, and bridge these scenes with perfect transitions that let the reader rest...but not long enough to put the book down.

In Mockingjay, when Katniss confronts the damaged Peeta for the second time, the scene is relatively quiet, especially when compared with the action packed scenes that comprise most of the novel:

I’ve just reached the door when his voice stops me. “Katniss. I remember about the bread.”
The bread. Our one moment of real connection before the Hunger Games… “So, what do you remember?”
“You. In the rain,” he says softly… “I must have loved you a lot.”

Now, how does Collins move out of this scene without putting the reader in a doze? By upping the emotional ante between Katniss and Peeta, by not letting them out of the trap they are in:

“…Did you like kissing me?” he asks.
“Sometimes,” I admit. “You know people are watching us now?”

Huh? Why did Katniss say that? Well, clearly, she’s thinking that maybe Peeta’s thinking about kissing her right then, and she wants to discover whether he would and whether it matters that they are being watched – in fact, she wants to discover his heart and whether it still belongs to her. Does he offer it up?

Not if you are Collins:

“…What about Gale?” he continues.
My anger’s returning… “He’s not a bad kisser either,” I say shortly.
…Peeta laughs again, coldly, dismissively. “Well, you’re a piece of work, aren’t you?”

And with that, Katniss and Peeta are emotional enemies, and Katniss is not going to settle into contentment with him (yet), promising the reader more drama (desire plus danger) as clearly spelled out in the closing lines of the chapter:

Finally he can see me for who I really am. Violent. Distrustful. Manipulative. Deadly.
And I hate him for it.

Collins is a master at manipulating pacing. This scene is less than 3 pages long. It acts as an interlude but it gives up nothing in the way of tension - and I think that's because she twists and turns in her characters' thoughts, just as we all twist and turn whenever we argue with those we love/hate.

Do you have any thoughts about pacing versus tension? What other novels do you hold up as examples of good pacing?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Voices You Should Hear: Amy Brecount White

Today I'm delighted to have Amy Brecount White (one of the sweetest people I know) as a guest, talking about her lovely debut novel FORGET-HER-NOTS

Thanks so much for being here, Amy! Please give readers a quick snapshot of your novel FORGET-HER-NOTS.

It's a new spin on garden magic.  In FHN, my main character discovers that whenever she gives someone a flower or herb, whatever it means in the language of flowers comes true.  For example, if she gave you rosemary, that would make you remember something.  Red tulips declare love, and orchids -- well, you just want to be careful around certain blooms.  Also, most people don't know that the language of flowers goes back to Ancient Greece (the myths of Narcissus, Hyacinth, and laurel, for example) and Shakespeare.  It was very fun to weave those details throughout the scenes.

I love the concept of flowers as having a “magical” quality. What was your inspiration for the theme?

I love hanging out in gardens, and I do think that flowers have a certain magic.. Why else do we include them at nearly every special occasion in our lives?  

I found out about the language of flowers when I was looking for ideas as a freelance writer.  I never got that assignment, but I made a symbolic bouquet (a tussie-mussie) for a friend of mine who was ill.  I so wished that my flower messages of hope, health, and strength would come true for her!  It was a small leap from there to wondering what would happen if the flower meanings really did come true.  :-)

Your cover is gorgeous. Is there a story behind it? Did you have any input?

My art director at Greenwillow said it was serendipity.  He was looking for a gorgeous flower image, and this one came in over the transom.  The flowers are scarlet poppies, which mean "fantastic extravagance" in the language of flowers. I fell in love with the cover the moment it popped up on my computer screen.

What was your path to publication – smooth? Bumpy?

I like to say it was a long and windy road with lots of potholes.  :-)  I used to freelance for newspapers and magazines, so I expected the process to be a little quicker.  Writing novels and finding the right agent was more challenging than I expected.

Is there a sequel in the works, or another new novel? Please tell us a bit!

I'd love to write a companion novel to FHN, but nothing's in the works yet.  I just finished a contemporary YA called String Theories.  It's about a girl who gets in over her head, a stream, and the physics of relationships.

I love the title of that one. How are you balancing your writing life with your launch?

Many days I feel pretty unbalanced!  Luckily, I was almost finished with my second novel when my first launched.  I've spent most of the past summer doing promo work, catching up with my kids, reading, and thinking about the next novel, which is still amorphous.

Thanks so much Amy! Can you give readers a way to find out more about you and FORGET-HER-NOTS?

Yes!  You can find me at or follow me on Facebook or Twitter (@amybrecountwhit).
Thanks so much for hosting me, Janet!!

Here's Amy's trailer:

Monday, September 6, 2010

Voices You Should Hear: Mara Purnhagan

I'm welcoming back Mara Purnhagan, one of my 2k10 classmates, on the launch of her second novel in 2010. TAGGED debuted last March; PAST MIDNIGHT is now available, and Mara has a wonderful story to tell about her success.

I’m so impressed that you finished two novel-length manuscripts and managed to sell them both to appear in one year! More about that in a minute, but please tell us a bit about PAST MIDNIGHT first.

Hi, Janet! PAST MIDNIGHT is the first book in my new series. The books follow Charlotte Silver, a typical 17-year-old girl with very atypical parents: they work as ghost debunkers. Charlotte and her older sister, Annalise, travel with their parents and help them film documentaries. They don’t believe in ghosts—until something strange happens to Charlotte that doesn’t fit in with any of her family’s scientific theories. The books take place outside of Charleston, South Carolina, which is an amazing town.

And the cover is so evocative! What was the process that led to your two sales?

Before I sold TAGGED, I had an interview with my editor, Tara. She asked what else I was working on, and I mentioned that I had completed a first draft of a story that could work as either a stand alone or as a series. She was intrigued by the concept and offered me a two-book deal. Then, after she read PAST MIDNIGHT, she offered me another two-book deal. So I’ll have a book coming out every six months for two years. It may sound impressive, but it was really years in the making—by the time TAGGED was published (over a year after acceptance), PAST MIDNIGHT was being revised and the next book, ONE HUNDRED CANDLES, was in its first draft. It seems faster than it really is—there’s no way I could write a book every six months. I’m glad that while I was waiting to hear back on TAGGED, I began a new project. It kept me from losing my mind, and in the end, I had a solid draft completed that helped me secure a two-book deal.

One of my teachers at Vermont College of Fine Arts, Ellen Howard, talked about writers as “fat writers” and “thin writers.” And this has nothing to do with bathing suits! (I’m breathing a sigh of relief here.)
“Fat” writers write fast and pack in lots of pages and then have to do mountains of editing. “Thin” writers write slowly and carefully and edit as they go. Do you think of yourself as a “fat” or “thin” writer?

I think that’s a great way to look at it. With TAGGED, I was definitely a “fat” writer. I chopped more than one sub plot from the final draft. With PAST MIDNIGHT, I was more on the “thin” side (which sounds funny to me because I was pregnant and closely resembled a manatee). There are a lot more plot twists in PAST MIDNIGHT, and I was very careful about how and when I revealed certain information.

For example, there is a sub plot involving a character named Adam. The truth about Adam is revealed in the first half of the book, and I’m hoping readers can identify that truth before it’s revealed, because the aftermath is important to the second half of the book. I like suspense, but not the kind in which you have it all figured out within the first twenty pages and the ending is a letdown. (By the way, I loved the way you built suspense in FAITHFUL—I did not see those twists coming!)

Wow - thank you, Mara! (blushing furiously) 
PAST MIDNIGHT and TAGGED are very different stories. Do you like to work in such disparate voices?

Yes, I wanted to do something different, although each of the books center around a mystery. I love to read mysteries and it’s great to be able to write them. I also think both books can stand alone, which was important to me when I was writing PAST MIDNIGHT. The major plots are all wrapped up by the end—I wanted my readers to have a sense of satisfaction that their main questions were answered.

What are you currently working on?

Right now I’m halfway through my first novella. The novella covers the time period between PAST MIDNIGHT (Book One) and ONE HUNDRED CANDLES (Book Two), and will be available online in January 2011. I’m also working on Book Three of the series, which is scheduled to be released in September 2011—if I can get it done on time!

I am so impressed with your energy. Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers about PAST MIDNIGHT?

Everything mentioned in the first book-- including names of minor characters and a few important quotes—was put there for a reason. If you like the first book and decide to read the second (which comes out in March 2011), you’ll see exactly why some of the details in PAST MIDNIGHT were so important. ONE HUNDRED CANDLES is darker, spookier—and has a body count.

Thank you so much, Mara! Please tell readers how they can learn more about you and your work.

Thanks, Janet! My web site is

Monday, August 30, 2010

Fabulous New Fiction: 2k10 Debut Author Denise Jaden

Denise Jaden has written a gorgeous book about loss and faith and family: LOSING FAITH. I know it's gorgeous because I could not put it down. I'm so pleased to introduce her on the blog today.

Congratulations on the publication of your novel, LOSING FAITH. It's a beautifully written story. Can you tell us a bit about the story and what inspired it?
LOSING FAITH is about Brie, a girl who loses her sister, Faith, in a mysterious accident. While grieving her sister’s death, Brie discovers her role in a dark and twisted religious cult…a cult that now wants Brie for a member.

When coming up for the idea for LOSING FAITH, all I really knew was that I wanted to write a story about sisters. The idea came to me that one of the sisters would have died, and the other would suddenly realize she had never known her sister as well as she thought. I talked it through with critique partners until I discovered Faith’s secrets. I lost a close friend of mine when I was sixteen, and I think this was inspiration in part for the story as well.

How long have you been writing for children/teens? Have you written other books or is this your first effort?
I’ve been writing for about seven years, and while I thought I started by writing for the adult market, it’s only lately that I can look back at my early work and see that I’ve always had a teen voice. I’ve written six novels (seven if you count the one that even I won't look back at!), which are all in various stages of revision.

I know what you mean about discovering that you are really writing for teens! Can you describe your path to the publication of LOSING FAITH?
I wrote the first draft of LOSING FAITH during NaNoWriMo 2007. From there, I spent about nine months revising, then started to query. As rejections staring piling up, I continued to revise. In October, 2008, I attended the Surrey International Writers’ Conference and sat down to pitch my book to Anica Rissi from Simon Pulse, among other agents and editors.  I left the conference with several requests to see my manuscript, including a request from Anica Rissi. I didn’t send to any of the editors at that point, but just doubled my efforts to get an agent quickly. By November I had a couple of offers of representation, and a couple more based on revisions. After accepting an offer of representation from Michelle Humphrey, I went through a line edit with her and we sent out my manuscript to several editors in January, 2009. By March, Anica Rissi from Simon Pulse made an offer on the book, which I was thrilled to accept.

Do you have any advice for beginning writers?
Write because you love to write. Publication is based on so many variables, and can really play with your mind if that is your main goal. Write a lot, don’t be afraid to try new things, but know that not everything is supposed to make it into your finished book. And finally, read, read, read.

My own favorite advice! Can you tell us something about your personal life – inspirations, plans for the future, goals, etc.?
I’m a homeschooling Mom. My son is six and I love the time I spend with him. At this point he is my main focus, but I know as he grows older and more independent, that’ll change. I look forward to the day when I can spend three or more hours per day writing. I’m also a professional Polynesian dancer and I’d love to one day travel more with my dance troupe. But for now, I’m really enjoying plenty of time at home with the family.

Polynesian dancer! Okay, that's another whole blog post. In the meantime, do you have any new writing ventures underway?
Yes, I do! I’m currently working on another YA novel called PERFECT AIM, about a teen archer who, in the midst of family turmoil, falls for her young and understanding woodworking teacher.

It sounds fabulous. Do you have a website where readers can learn more about LOSING FAITH? 
Yes, my website is at and my blog, which I update regularly is at