Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
1) Thank you for joining us, Sarah! What is ICE about?
ICE is set in the present-day Arctic and is about a polar bear, true love, and one girl's impossible quest across the frozen North.
2) Can you give us the story on what inspired you to write ICE?
I wrote ICE as a love letter to my husband. It's about the kind of love where you face the world as a team... the kind where you'd go beyond the end of the world for your love.
It's inspired by the Norwegian folktale "East of the Sun, West of the Moon," which is a variant of "Beauty and the Beast" where the Beauty embarks on a quest to save the Beast. I chose this tale because I was tired of all the fairy tales where the girl spends the whole story asleep or, y'know, dead. I veered rather far from the original tale in my book, but at its heart it is still about a fearless girl and a boundless love.
3) The cover of ICE is gorgeous! Can you tell us about the artist and what you think about the cover?
I looooove the cover. The artist is Cliff Nielsen. He also did the cover art for the Mortal Instruments trilogy by Cassandra Clare and the latest editions of the Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis. I've never met him, but as I understand it, he starts with a photo shoot of a model and then he creates the art based on the photograph. I recently learned that the model for Cassie is named Ashley Bohannon, and I think she's the perfect Cassie. I don't think the polar bear was present for the photo shoot, but I could be wrong... :)
4) What was your journey to publication like?
I had a very standard journey to publication: write, submit, wait, repeat. In other words, I wrote a manuscript and then sent queries to agents whom I thought might be interested in representing me based on research I'd done. The trick is, though, that this process can take a while -- you need to get the right manuscript in front of the right person at the right time, and there are a LOT of people out there trying to do the same exact thing. So you need to stick with it. After you send out a query, don't wait around to hear back. Write another manuscript and then another and another.
5) Can you share with us your writing process and advice?
Everyone's writing process is different. It depends on how your brain works. You need to find what works best for you and ignore advice that doesn't fit. So with that disclaimer... I write every day, and I highly recommend it. If you write every day, then writing becomes a habit, rather than an enormous undertaking. Don't wait for inspiration. Don't wait for large stretches of time. If you want to be a writer, then make writing part of your life right now.
Thanks so much for interviewing me!
Saturday, November 21, 2009
My mouth, I’m told, is way too smart.
This is a confusing thought.
Grown-ups preach all the time for me to
Except when they don’t like
what comes out of my mouth,
they call me being too smart.
They shake their heads and predict
how my smart mouth is going to
head me directly into trouble.
Jewel struggles with parentfication: the child taking care of her mother. Her mom believes a Mr. Right is out there just for her. Both of them endure through many Mr. Rights. The Latest, as Jewel calls all her mom’s boyfriends, promises the mom marriage if only she gets rid of Jewel. Jewel enters foster care.
Jewel goes through several foster homes before she finds one she can handle. You learn about the social worker assigned to Jewel’s case. The conflict between them is more than a generational gap; the conflict evolves from sensing each other’s similar injuries.
At the end of the line of foster homes, Jewel attends high school. The English teacher sees through Jewel’s tough exterior and asks her to tutor a classmate, Ronnie, in math. As Jewel and Ronnie become close, he introduces her to his friends. Just when Jewel thinks Ronnie is going to ask her out on a date, she meets his girlfriend. Distraught, she skips school and hangs out where the Punkers stay. While she is there, she gets hurt.
You’ll have to read the book to see how it ends.
2) What inspired you to write the story?
I was a foster mom for eight years in Vermont. The girls would tell me stories of the things they had experienced. Jewel’s rules - that begin each chapter - come from many of the young ladies who were in my care.
When I moved to San Francisco to attend graduate school, I experienced the feeling of living out of my suitcase for a couple of months. I put the two experiences together.
Also, Jewel’s voice was very strong. I wrote the book in eight weeks. Jewel’s voice was dominant and clear in my mind. I followed her lead.
3) How did you do research for THE THROWAWAY PIECE?
As I wrote earlier, my experience as a foster mom contributed quite a bit of my working knowledge of the foster care system. However I have a firm belief. And those who follow me around will be bored to death to hear it again. I believe that all people have three elements in their life to satisfy. Everyone wants a voice/power to be heard and that ‘no’ means ‘no.’ Everyone wants to belong to something bigger than themselves. How you feel when someone’s eyes light up when you enter a room. Third, everyone wants to be loved and loving.
If you take any book apart, essentially you’ll find one or all three of these in the mix. Also, there have been some good articles lately about taking how you felt when you had a bad dream, then using that memory, to write a scary scene, with those same emotions. That’s what I mean. We are all the same in varying degrees. You can pretty much bet that if you write what is important to you, you’ll hit the bell for a whole audience out there.
For instance, Jewel has watched her mother go from man to man. Her understanding of what makes a good male/female relationship is thwarted. She keeps herself aloof to prevent herself from being hurt, yet the one time she hopes, her hopes are dashed. Who of us hasn’t had their heart broken? Who of us can’t recall a time when we built ourselves up so high on hope that when the event or person didn’t happen, everything turned bleak. All of us can take that experience and write of another going through the same ordeal and pretty much get it right.
4) It sounds like you wanted to reach out to others as well. Was there a particular message you wanted to get across to your readers?
Each of my books has had a motive entwined in the story. In my first book, “White Bread Competition,” I left the heroine at the end of the book beginning the spelling bee. When I do presentations, the teens will ask me why. They want to know if the main character wins. I explain that she is already a winner. Because she showed up. Like their parents show up every day to a job they may not really like, but to provide their children with what they need, the parents keep showing up. Like showing up for football practice, or cheerleading practice, or school classes because showing up can be harder than winning. By showing up, they become winners.
With “The Throwaway Piece,” I demonstrate the way Jewel changed the life of everyone who became involved with her. Something like the movie with James Stewart in “It’s a Wonderful Life” where you see that if he hadn’t been around, events would have turned out differently and many not for the better. What Jewel doesn’t understand at the end of the book is that she does have purpose in her life. She does make an impact on this world. That who she is cannot be duplicated by anyone else. That her presence is a gift to the universe that only she can make. Exactly the same as each and every one of us. There are no carbon copies, and we all touch each other’s lives in ways we may never know. Remember to smile at that person at the store. Your smile may save their life.
5) Can you share with us your best writing advice?
Does this mean I have to follow the advice too? Haha.
The “right” answer is write, write, write. Oh I could write a whole other article on this and have. Watch adverbs. Be specific in your details. Have someone else read your manuscript out loud to you as you follow on your pages with a highlighter. Watch the articles. Short sentences for action scenes. I’m biased about the passive sentence because I am ESL (English as a Second Language). Everything is in the details.
However, one thing I have found in my numerous travels across these States is that girlfriends make a big difference. Of course, I also include spouses and guys that are friends. However, women friends contribute to each other in ways that are intricate to being female. When I’ve been weary, or dismissed my talent, my women friends remind me how important my voice is to this universe.
Everyone needs a cheerleader.
Thanks for joining us today, Jo Ann!
Also, Jo Ann says if you read THE THROWAWAY PIECE and send her an email, she'll give you additional information about the ending.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
1) It's good to have you here, Gayle! What is ROCK STAR SANTA about?
It’s . The tree is lit and children await Santa’s arrival, only they’re not tucked snuggly in their beds dreaming of sugarplums. They’re stomping and clapping at a Christmas rock concertwhere Santa is the “star.” Santa’s snow-white hair is in a ponytail and he’s ready to rock. The rowdy reindeer band includes Donner on electric bass, eerily resembling Keith Richard. Blitzen has a Paul Stanley-like star painted on his eye as he plays the drums, and you can’t help but notice the resemblance of Comet to Slash, as he shoots across the stage.
But Santa is “THE MAN.” He takes the stage, ready to sing and the lights suddenly go out. The child wakes to find himself in bed. He thinks he dreamt the awesome concert until Christmas morning when he finds a torn concert ticket in his jeans. Confused, he stares at a silver snowflake, like the kind that covered the concert stage, flittering outside of his bedroom window. A note from Santa thanking the boy for being his biggest fan hangs on his window and green sequins from Santa’s vest glimmers on the boy’s floor. ROCK STAR SANTA is an original, modern day retelling of a Christmas classic, but what happens on this night before Christmas is rockin’.
ROCK STAR SANTA is available through the Scholastic Book Clubs (See Saw, Lucky, and the Winter Gift Catalog). The flyers are distributed in pre-school centers and the early elementary classrooms.
2) That's a unique take on Santa! What inspired you to write about the rock star Santa?
It was of 2006 and I had been listening to Trans Siberian Orchestra. I’d seen them in a Christmas concert the year before and their rock influence on the must have made an impression on my imagination.
3) The art looks great for ROCK STAR SANTA. What was it like working with an illustrator for the picture book?
Will Terry is a phenomenal illustrator. He has illustrated about twenty children’s books. When I wrote the rhyming manuscript I had no gender assigned for the main character or reindeer band. Will’s artistic talent brought them to life. He was responsible for the subtle references to known rock stars. Though I’ve never met him in person, we communicated through email. An illustrated picture book is a 50-50 proposition. The author must make sure his or her words have strong illustrative possibilities and the illustrator takes those words and designs the characters from them.
4) How did working as a teacher influence you as a writer?
I think being a teacher has given me a distinct advantage in writing for children. I taught in a technical education center where I guided young men and women who aspired to become teachers. I directed them in a laboratory Pre-K and they obtained college credit for their work in my class. Those students were my best critics. The juniors and seniors read my YA novels and the reaction I got from them helped me hone my craft to meet the needs of today’s teen readers. They also performed my through and puppet presentations with the pre-schoolers, which allowed me to see which stories interested the children the most.
5) What do you love most about Christmas?
It would be the smells of the season.
· The balsam tree that sends off a fragrance when the lights are on.
· The molasses crinkle cookies and spice breads baking in the oven.
· The cinnamon candles burning on the mantle and dining room table.
· The logs burning in the fireplace.
· And of course, the .
Gayle--I think you perfectly summed up the best part of Christmas! Thank you so much for joining us today!
If you'd like to get ROCK STAR SANTA as a Christmas present, you can order it through Scholastics Book Club.
Monday, November 16, 2009
1. Holly Cupala is a fellow Seattlite and Readergirlz diva. Her YA novel TELL ME A SECRET is coming out very soon in 2010 (HarperCollins)! (I hope I'll get to interview Holly near the release date...hint, hint.)
3. Holly was one of the first authors I met this year in real life (and first to add me to twitter, blogger, and such) -- she befriended me straight away, including me in various authorly things. She's always been so welcoming and kind. She's highly supportive of other authors as well, bringing baked goods she made to her friends' readings.
4. She's a wicked artist! The painting featured here was done by her for my family. (Titled: Lynn's Roses.) Last summer, I made an art-flower exchange program for Art Saves, where I would send people a poster of my art in exchange for flowers for my dying grandma. Holly decided to do the exchange by painting my grandma's favorite flowers--and what a GORGEOUS painting!! She also added pages of Pride and Prejudice (my grandma's favorite book) in the background. I can't believe she went through all this trouble to make this and I'm so blown away by her kindness. Thank you, Holly! It's so beautiful.
5. I just want to say...HOLLY CUPALA IS AWESOME! And I'm so glad she is my fellow writer friend.
Friday, November 13, 2009
Thursday, November 5, 2009
1) Thanks for joining us, Diana! What made you decide to become an agent?
I fell into it. I was looking to change careers and ended up taking an internship with Writers House, and was lucky enough to get a job as an assistant there when a position became available. I didn't decide to be an agent until much later--Writers House doesn't let assistants represent their own clients right away, and it was a couple of years before I was given permission to take on my first clients--but from the very first day I was there, I realized that I might have stumbled upon the perfect job for me! I've always been a reader, so I just thought everyone could look at a piece of writing and evaluate it, because that was my experience; I had no idea you could actually use that ability to make money. I had worked in sales in the past, and I found the business side of the industry very interesting--contracts, royalties, sales and marketing, and so on.
I was also fortunate to sign some amazing authors right away, which I think made agenting a real possibility for me. I can be extremely tenacious when I want something, but I don't know if I would have wanted to be an agent as much if I hadn't had some early success with it. Becoming an agent is a lot of work, and involves a lot of uncertainty and rejection, and I could accept that... but I wanted to know there was at least a chance that I would get to the fun parts too, and I think starting out with such good clients and projects afforded me that chance.
2) What are you currently looking for and what kind of query letter catches your interest?
I'm looking for young adult fiction (all genres, for older teens as opposed to middle grade), as well as romance, science fiction/fantasy, historical fiction, thrillers, crime fiction, and graphic novels. I also represent some literary fiction. On the nonfiction side, I'm looking for memoirs, biography, history, popular science, and smart narrative nonfiction; I’m particularly interested in memoirs and other nonfiction about sex work, addiction and recovery, and pop culture.
What catches my interest in a query letter is the same as what catches my interest in a book: good writing. The writing needs to be clean and hopefully polished, but at the very least without obvious errors in punctuation, grammar, etc. (I'm not talking about an obvious typo in an otherwise well written letter). I focus a lot on style and voice, as well as the story. I always ask that authors paste the first five pages of the manuscript into the body of the email, because sometimes the query isn't terrific but the book itself is.
3) How often do you expect an author to produce a book and send you WIP pages?
It depends on the author and what they write. (For example, it's way more important to write at least one book per year if you're writing commercial genre fiction, as opposed to literary fiction.) That said, some authors are more prolific and some less; some like to receive critique throughout the writing process, and others don't show their work to anyone, but just send me completed drafts. When I take on a new client, we always discuss their career goals and working style, to make sure we're on the same page as far as what we expect from one another. I do ask my clients to tell me earlier rather than later if they think they may have trouble meeting a deadline, but other than that I don't have a set schedule.
4) A lot of authors wonder what they can do to keep his/her agent happy. Did your clients recently do something that made you happy and/or proud? Do tell!
Sell lots of books! It's also great when they give me presents, tell their friends I'm awesome, and say nice things about me on the Internet. (Just kidding! Except about the sales, I'm only partly kidding about that.)
Seriously, though, it's difficult to pick an example of how my clients make me happy, because I'm pleased with them most of the time. One thing I really appreciate is when authors are proactive about their careers, and about working with me as a partner in growing those careers--and that's something any author can do, regardless of where they are on the road to publication.
Some other stuff that makes me happy:
-- when authors educate themselves about the industry
-- when my clients communicate with me early and often, and don't worry that they're bothering me by doing so... I really DO want to be cc'ed on all those emails!
-- when authors meet their deadlines
-- when authors connect with a larger community of readers and writers
-- when authors do something as simple as update their blog or website, or come up with an idea to help promote themselves & their work
-- when authors are willing to revise multiple times and to take constructive criticism
-- when authors are able to recognize something isn't working, and try a different approach
-- when authors handle difficult situations with professionalism and grace
-- when my clients write good books, and I get to read a book I love before anyone else (and it's still considered "work"!)
5) Great information! Can you share with us your most memorable moment as an agent?
Oh, all the usual big firsts--first sale, first auction, first New York Times bestseller, first royalty check, etc.--were very memorable, but one thing that's always special to me no matter how many times it happens is when I see a debut book by one of my clients in the bookstore for the first time. I'm just so thrilled and grateful that I played a part in bringing that book into existence!
Thank you so much for the fantastic interview, Diana! Sounds like your clients are in great hands!