Interview with Author / Illustrator Julie Bayless

Julie Bayless_picI first saw Julie Bayless‘s phenomenal work at the SCBWI Oakland conference last year. She participated in the “Best Portfolio” contest, which I judged along with the other visiting editors and agents, and she was our unanimous choice. In fact, I now use some of Julie’s samples in my conference talks as examples of character, relationships, and story in illustrations. Julie’s debut picture book ROAR! (the beginnings of which were in her Oakland portfolio) is coming from Running Press Kids, Fall 2015.

When and how did you start writing?

I wrote and illustrated alphabet books starting at age eight.  “Irving Iguana Icked.” is a line from one of them, and the illustration shows Irving saying “Ick!” to several creatures offering him nasty-looking food. I like to think my writing and illustration has taken on a bit more nuance since then, though I like the sound of the line.

WildebeestwithPieCan you remember the first book that made an impact on you? Who were your childhood storytelling heroes?

I loved If I Ran the Zoo by Dr. Seuss and  How the Rhinoceros Got his Skin  from old, politically incorrect Rudyard Kipling. I fondly remember Caps for Sale, by Esphyr Slobodkina, and Rosalie the Bird Market Turtle, by Winifred and Cecil Lubell. I later got my own box turtle and named her Rosalie.

Tomi Ungerer’s Crictor the Boa Constrictor and The Three Robbers were also favorites.  Tomi has some of the most beautiful compositions, which are simple and powerful, and his drawings make me laugh, no matter how many times I look at them.

Can you talk us through the writing of your first book? What were the key moments

I remember thinking , “I’ll write a story with just a very few words; that’ll be MUCH easier!” Ha. 

When I showed my first storyboards to my husband, I was so pleased with them, and he (who has a fabulous sense of humor) didn’t think they were amusing at all.  He thought I was telling a story about a lion cub who has a deeply flawed relationship with her own family.  I trust Doug’s taste in a number of things, but I felt the idea of the book, un-formed at that point as it was, was worthy.  So I forged ahead. Doug has since come around!

Was it hard to get an agent ? Can you talk us through the process?

I joined SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) in 2009. Without that organization, I doubt I’d have an agent today.  Attending talks, getting portfolio reviews, and finding critique groups for my stories and illustrations; that, and drawing like a madwoman was how I got better. 

I sent postcards of my 623542illustrations to publishers every few months for three years, but never got any response.  I decided I needed to win “Best Portfolio” at a conference in order to land an agent to promote my work, and was astonished when it worked!  I met John at the 2013 Oakland SCBWI conference, where I did win “Best Portfolio”.  He said he’d like to see a book from me, so I came up with an initial draft of Roar! in four months.  I got feedback from as many people as I could while I was creating it. When I sent it to John, he offered to represent me, which was only slightly less thrilling than when my husband asked me to marry him. 

Describe your day.   Where do you look for inspiration? 

I spend as much time as possible drawing.  I love the iterative process of refining an idea, working out the composition, the characters, the colors.  I know I’m going in the right direction when I do a drawing that makes me laugh. 

I belong to both a writing critique group and an illustration critique group, and I get a huge amount of support and inspiration from them.  Conferences also provide a great deal of information and inspiration, and remind me to keep my portfolio and website updated.

Every week, I go to the library and grab any picture book that has an appealing cover.  I steal as many ideas as I can from other authors and illustrators!

EmandRafonStump005Are there any tips you could give aspiring author/illustrators who are looking to get published?

Join SCBWI, attend the conferences, familiarize yourself with what other books are being published in your genre, and draw and write as often as you can.  Find a group of people you trust who will give you honest feedback.  When you tell yourself you suck, don’t listen.  Besides, sucking for awhile is the only way to get better!  Don’t edit yourself in your first draft, just push forward.  Send it out, hope for the best, don’t give up.

Find out which tools make you happy, and try out some new ones from time to time. Be open to accidents, in whatever form they arrive.  Art accidents are a great opportunity to surprise yourself. 

See more of Julie’s artwork on her website.

Congrats to Christian Heidicker on His Debut Deal!

A big power-up high five to Christian Heidicker, whose debut y.a. just sold to Simon & Schuster! From Publishers Weekly:

29145-1Christian Trimmer at Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers has bought debut author Christian Heidicker‘s YA novel, Miles in the Infinite Sandbox. Told in “censored” blog posts, the novel follows basement-dweller Miles after he is sent to video game rehab, and touches on issues of pop culture, sexism, and human connection. Publication is slated for summer 2016; John M. Cusick at Greenhouse Literary brokered the deal for world rights.

(You read that right. Christian’s editor is also named Christian. No, that’s not going to get confusing at all.)

When and how did you start writing?

Christian: I was cleaning a deep fat fryer. It was one of those crappy fast food jobs you get in college so you can afford to buy crappy fast food.

While the charred gloop of a thousand dead French fries splatted out into the bucket, images kept popping into my head of a small girl wandering into a forest with a plastic crown and a stuffed gorilla. I had to keep snapping off my rubber gloves to scribble notes on a pizza order sheet. Hold on to your crappy jobs, kids. They can inspire miracles.

IMG_3692Can you remember the first book that made an impact on you? Who were your childhood storytelling heroes?

Matilda is the first book I can remember finishing and then starting right back over again. I loved Matilda’s power over her teachers and parents. Being an only child with a New Age mother who healed my cuts with white light instead of Band-Aids, I’d always had a problem with authority figures. In fact, who are you? Why are you asking me these questions?

My childhood storytelling heroes were C.S. Lewis, Beatrix Potter, A.A.

Milne, Shel Silverstein, Maurice Sendak, and Brian Jacques . . . But everyone knows about them. You’re here for the goods. The work that turned me into a storyteller has to be Jim Henson’s Storyteller. The Soldier and Death episode specifically. Oh, look! It’s on YouTube! You lucky devils: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZvsnV0yNddc If you don’t like the crappy eighties special effects, don’t tell me.

Was it hard to get an agent? Can you talk us through the process?

Someone else got my agent for me. Valynne E. Maetani* and I co-wrote a book about kids that used to eat brains together. (Not really though, it was hamburger.) We worked really hard on it, and when we were finished, Valynne threw on a Safari hat, grabbed a harpoon, and set off into the publishing wilderness. Eight days later, she returned bloodied and sweaty and covered in bruises. She had a lavender sack slung over her shoulder with a man-sized object struggling and screaming inside.

“I have good news,” she said, and poured John M. Cusick out onto the floor.

I highly recommend this approach.

10689931_10152987842073888_9040703992534659725_nDescribe your writing day. Where do you write? How do you organize your time? Where do you look for inspiration?

I wake up between the hours of 7 and 11 a.m. (That’s not a joke.) I don’t care where I write so long as I’m standing. People may give me funny looks at coffee shops, but I feel like hell if I sit for too long, and how else am I supposed to break into interpretive dance if I’m super excited about an idea?

When it comes to organizing time, I’m my own Nurse Ratched. I don’t let myself do things like eat or read or go out on the town until I finish an assignment or a chapter. Right now, I’m eyeballing a cup of tea and a book on the history of Scientology.

I pull inspiration from EVERYWHERE. I believe in the Ray Bradbury reading diet. I read picture books, comic books, books on science and history, the news, classics, music lyrics, anything. Lately, however, I’ve found that just listening to how people speak is crazy valuable.

The other day, I was putting on a puppet play for kindergartners. One of the little girls raised her hand and said, “I don’t know what’s a puppet.” I couldn’t make up that kind of cuteness if I tried.

Can you tell us about your next book?

It’s about a kid who’s committed to video game rehab. Or, if you want to get more specific, it’s about a kid who gets the first date of his life only to be committed to video game rehab where he must earn one million points by learning real-life skills in order to be released and make it back to his date.

Are there any tips you could give aspiring writers who are looking to get published?

YES. Read outside of your genre. The most famous creators out there bring something new to the table. Just look at sci-fi and fantasy.

J.R.R. Tolkien studied language. J.K. Rowling studied mysteries.

George R.R. Martin studied world history. George Lucas studied Akira Kurasawa films. C.S. Lewis studied theology. Of course you should read a bit in your genre to get a feel for what’s out there . . . but I’d like to see the Young Adult romance by someone who studied corn pollination or something . . .

1958461_10152470253823888_2118769219_nCan you describe three aspects of writing craft that have been most important as you’ve developed as an author?

1.     Learn how to finish things. You learn more by finishing and sharing your stuff than by doing anything else. (I’m hoping to reach Nirvana at the end of this questionnaire.) If someone can look at one your work as a whole, they can point out your weaknesses and strengths. Keep a tough skin and pay attention to how they really feel about it.

2.     Give yourself permission to completely screw it up the first

time. It’s super intimidating to approach a blank page, difficult chapter, or even a questionnaire. I’ve found that if I remind myself no one’s going to read the first draft, I can take big sloppy risks and throw in whatever jaunty crabjectives I spoon like.

3.     Start working on the next thing. Writing stings. Sharing

writing stings. Having that writing rejected over and over and over* again stings. BUT if you start working on a new project as soon as the first one is finished, then you won’t think about that poor first manuscript being blown to smithereens and tumbling down to the earth as a papery carcass. Also, you can mentally tell whoever rejected it that you’ve got something WAY better on the way. In fact, I think I’ll go start another questionnaire right now.

*and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over

This is a tricky question because I think the most brilliant writers were kind of . . . well, a-holes. Salinger was a hermit. Truman Capote was in love with himself. Roald Dahl hit his wife apparently. I’m not feeding that guy dinner. So here’s my list of people whose writing I greatly admire and would actually like to hang out with:

The Living:

Toni Morrison

Alan Moore (tolerably grumpy)

Ursula K. LeGuin

Kate DiCamillo

Sherman Alexie

And FINE, Neil Gaiman, you can come. (Ug. I feel like I’m inviting the prom king that everyone’s in love with. Although . . . he is pretty handsome. Er, good at writing.)

The Dead:

Maurice Sendak (charmingly grumpy)

Ray Bradbury

David Foster Wallace

Joseph Campbell

John Steinbeck

Kurt Vonnegut

(Whoa there, all white men.)

A character I wish I’d invented?! Ooh, that’s a good question.

Matilda, The Storyteller, and Swamp Thing all jump to mind . . . But then I wouldn’t have been able to experience them as a reader. So I’ll say . . . L. Ron Hubbard. Imagine a character who could brainwash tens of thousands with a simple sci-fi story . . . WHAT? That guy’s real? I still wish I invented him.

* Valynne’s amazing debut, INK AND ASHES, is coming from Tu Books in Spring 2015. Watch for it! Also Valynne is amazing and you should follow her and check out her websites. Add INK AND ASHES on Goodreads. – JMC

Congrats Julie!

JulieOlsonHeadshotCongrats to Julie Olson on her four-book illustration deal with HarperCollins / Zondervan! (You may remember Julie joined the agency back in September. You can read an interview with Julie here.)

From Publishers MarketplaceJulie Olson to illustrate Mona Hodgson’s four PRINCESS TWINS books, important spiritual lessons in kindness, humility, inner beauty, and trusting God, to Cindy Davis at Zondervan, by John Cusick at Greenhouse Literary Agency (World).

Interview with Rahul Kanakia

RahulKanakiaRahul Kanakia and I started working together last year. In April his debut y.a. novel, ENTER TITLE HERE, sold to Disney-Hyperion, and will pub next fall. Pitched as Gossip Girl meets House of Cards (I KNOW RIGHT), the novel takes the form of an unpublished manuscript written by over-achiever Reshma Kapoor as she launches a Machiavellian campaign to reclaim her valedictorian status after being caught plagiarizing.

I’ve blabbed before about how awesome Rahul’s blog is, but today one of my fav writer/thinkers treats us to his insights on writing, sociability, and finding an agent:

When and how did you start writing?

Rahul: I started when I was a senior in high school. I’d always harbored a vague ambition to write stories (ever since I discovered, by reading the submissions guidelines for the official D&D magazine, DRAGON, that it was actually possible to sell a story for money to a publication), but I’d never gotten around to actually do it. I can’t say why I decided to start writing one, but I know that I finished my first story on or around December 20th, 2003, and promptly submitted it to the highest-paying science fiction magazine that I could find (where it promptly earned me the first of what are, at last count, approximately 1,240 short story rejections).

Can you remember the first book that made an impact on you? Who were your childhood storytelling heroes?

I’d say that it was probably Isaac Asimov’s Foundation. My mom gave it to me, saying that she’d read and enjoyed it when she was a girl my age, living in India. That novel led me to read all kinds of science fiction writers. I loved Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Anne McCaffrey, Mike Resnick, Mercedes Lackey, and all kinds of other writers. In terms of children’s books, I really enjoyed British boarding school books (again, this is the influence of my mom) like the works of Enid Blyton. Oh, and, of course, I enjoyed Astrid Lindgren.

Can you talk us through the writing of your first book? What were the key moments?

I got the idea while I was reading this Michael Lewis’ compendium of financial reportage surrounding the 2007-8 financial panic and collapse. And during one of the stories, the journalist writes about protests in Korea by students who feel like they’re being forced to study too much. During the protests, they marched down main thoroughfares, chanting “We are not study machines!”

Something about that phrase was really evocative for me, and I thought “study machines, study machines…there has to be something I can do with that.” And I started developing this sleek dystopian story involving people being forced to study really hard.

But then, as I was thinking about it, I was like, “What? This doesn’t need to be dystopian at all. This is real life. Here in this world, in our country, there are kids who feel compelled, by society, to study allll the time. So I decided to write about one of them.

The actual writing took place over 31 days, from the end of December to the end of January. I wrote most of it while I was on a family vacation in India. A significant chunk, maybe a third, was written while we were at a rented villa in Sri Lanka that had its own beach and private chef. Now that’s a writing retreat.

Was it hard to get an agent ? Can you talk us through the process?

I wrote ETH in January of 2013. At that point, I had another novel that I’d submitted to a contest for YA novels by people of color. I lost that contest, but I did become a finalist. And the winner of the contest, Valynne Maetani, knew John (she was about to sign with him) and offered, out of the blue, to put me in touch with him. I think it’s the most thoughtful writing-related thing that anything has offered to do for me. Anyway, he liked that book and wanted to sell it. I revised it throughout summer of 2013 and it went on submission to five editors in October/November of 2014, and was rejected by all of them. At that point, John had read ETH and both he and I were more excited about that, so we revised it and it sold in May of 2014.

Getting an agent was definitely happenstance. I’d previously queried 93 agents with that first book. I’m still surprised that John saw something in it that 93 other agents didn’t.

Describe your writing day. Where do you write? How do you organize your time? Where do you look for inspiration?

In general, I think writers really overstate how much time they actually spend writing. I was recently talking to a group of YA writers and one of them brought up her brother, who’s a restaranteur and works sixteen hours a day, and someone else said, “Yeah, but that’s how it is in creative professions, right?”

And I was like, “Alright. Come on. Let’s level. None of us work sixteen hours a day? It’s more like two, right?”

Then everyone looked at me like I was crazy and someone stepped in to change the subject. But I am still firm in my belief that most writers either really exaggerate how much time they spend writing, or their writing time also involves a lot of internet-browsing and Twitter time.

Each Thursday, I decide how many hours of writing I want to do on each of the coming seven days. Then I keep track of whether or not I actually do that many hours and how many days in a row I’ve managed to meet my goal. In terms of actual goals, I usually try to go for 15 hours in a week, though sometimes I hit 18 or 20. When I write, I use the Freedom app to turn off my internet, and I wedge my phone into the folds of the could cushion, so I can’t see it or easily extract it.

Inspiration is tricky. I’m not sure about that. Often I’m inspired by garish stories that I read in the Lifestyles section of the newspaper. Other times I’m inspired by books that I’ve read.

Can you tell us about your next book?

Nope. I have no idea what it’ll be.

Are there any tips you could give aspiring writers who are looking to get published?

Yes. Write hard. Read good. Keep trying. All of that is good advice.

I’d also say that it’s not a bad idea to try to meet other writers. Now, this is not necessary. I didn’t know that many other writers before I started publishing, and writing is one of the few creative professions where it’s possible to get really far even if you have zero connections. In fact, most writers get their agents through blind querying.

But if you go out and meet other writers and befriend them, either in person or on twitter, they can be of help to you. First of all, you’ll often find that if you stay friends with aspiring writers for a few years, then some will break out, find agents, get book deals, etc. And the ones who move ahead can help the ones who’re still struggling to make it. Also, the more contacts you have in the book / publishing world, the more anticipation there’ll be for your book when it actually releases. It’s hard to overstate how many books there are. And most of them are just a name, a title, and a blurb. If, on the other hand, even a few people look at that name and say, “Hey, I know that person,” then that helps.

Now I know that someone out there will read what I wrote and get super-depressed because many writers are anxious and depressive and introverted. Please don’t. I’m not saying that you need to be the coolest and most popular person in the YA world. You don’t. I’m saying to take baby steps. Get on Twitter. Follow other YA writers. Tweet at them once in awhile. I think you’ll be surprised by how little time it takes before you start to get somewhat friendly with them.

Can you describe three aspects of writing craft that have been most important as you’ve developed as an author?

Write in scene. It took me years to learn this. Narrative summary can be bold and have a good voice and be interesting, but it’s rarely surprising. It doesn’t include those chance side-characters and little bits of setting and gesture that take the book in surprising directions. If you write in scene, you’re giving yourself a chance for something to happen.

Choosing what tense to write in has become an extremely maddening problem. People will tell you to write in past tense like it’s extremely simple, but I find it maddening. If I’m writing in past tense (particularly in the first person), then when is the narration situated? Why is the narration proceeding chronologically? Why isn’t the narrator living up things with bits of future knowledge? Also, how can there be any character change: the person telling the tale is, throughout, the person who’s already changed.

On the other hand, present tense isn’t more satisfying. It’s too artificial and too constricting. It feels like it limits you too much to a given moment. It doesn’t allow you to break out of the moment and float more freely through the character’s psyche and their life.

Finally, I have a continued problem with description. Things are important. Objects are important. They’re an important part of life: our choice of objects and surroundings tremendously influences our mood. And they’re also intrinsically interesting. No one wants to just be with heads and words all the time. What I like about novels is that they affirm the importance of the physical world. They affirm the importance of tiny details and little gestures. They’re about what it’s like to be living life in a particular body in a particular place at a particular time. However, I’m terrible at describing things. I just don’t see them in my mind’s eye very well. It’s something I’m working on

Which favorite authors would you invite to a dinner party? What fictional character do you wish you’d invented?

I’d invite Ayn Rand to a dinner party, because I read Old School, which describes a dinner meeting with Ayn Rand, and it seems magnificent. She just so totally believed in her own philosophy. How could that fail to be endearing?

I’d also invite Tolstoy, because, judging by his essays, he always had something interesting to say. I don’t know whether I’d invite bearded old prophet Tolstoy or younger more literary Tolstoy, though. Maybe I’d invite them both.

ENTER TITLE HERE (Disney-Hyperion, Fall 2015) on Goodreads.

Read some of Rahul’s short fiction at Clarkesworld and Birkensnake.

Courtney Alameda and SHUTTER on the Fierce Reads Tour!

Been sitting on this news for weeks and am so so so excited to finally announce: Courtney Alameda will be on Spring 2015’s FIERCE READS TOUR!

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Courtney’s seriously creepy y.a. SHUTTER is coming February 3rd from Feiwel & Friends:

9781250044679Micheline Helsing is a tetrachromat — a girl who sees the auras of the undead in a prismatic spectrum. As one of the last descendants of the Van Helsing lineage, she has trained since childhood to destroy monsters both corporeal and spiritual: the corporeal undead go down by the bullet, the spiritual undead by the lens. With an analog SLR camera as her best weapon, Micheline exorcises ghosts by capturing their spiritual energy on film. She’s aided by her crew: Oliver, a techno-whiz and the boy who developed her camera’s technology; Jude, who can predict death; and Ryder, the boy Micheline has known and loved forever.

When a routine ghost hunt goes awry, Micheline and the boys are infected with a curse known as a soulchain. As the ghostly chains spread through their bodies, Micheline learns that if she doesn’t exorcise her entity in seven days or less, she and her friends will die. Now pursued as a renegade agent by her monster-hunting father, Leonard Helsing, she must track and destroy an entity more powerful than anything she’s faced before . . . or die trying.

Lock, stock, and lens, she’s in for one hell of a week.

Visit Courtney’s website, follow her on Twitter, and like her on Facebook.

Check out SHUTTER on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound, and Goodreads.

A MAD WICKED PAPERBACK REVEAL

10.25.14 Update: MAD WICKED FOLLY just made its *third* Booklist Top Ten List!

Congrats to Sharon Biggs Waller on her new paperback cover!

MWF Paperback Cover

Welcome to the world of the fabulously wealthy in London, 1909, where dresses and houses are overwhelmingly opulent, social class means everything, and women are taught to be nothing more than wives and mothers. Into this world comes seventeen-year-old Victoria Darling, who wants only to be an artist—a nearly impossible dream for a girl.

            After Vicky poses nude for her illicit art class, she is expelled from her French finishing school. Shamed and scandalized, her parents try to marry her off to the wealthy Edmund Carrick-Humphrey. But Vicky has other things on her mind: her clandestine application to the Royal College of Art; her participation in the suffragette movement; and her growing attraction to a working-class boy who may be her muse—or may be the love of her life. As the world of debutante balls, corsets, and high society obligations closes in around her, Vicky must figure out: just how much is she willing to sacrifice to pursue her dreams?

A MAD WICKED FOLLY on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound, Goodreads

Welcome New Client Dannie Morin!

Today we’re welcoming Dannie Morin to the Greenhouse family! I’m thrilled to be working with Dannie on her debut y.a. ARROW & NIGHT, a rad, gender-flipped contemporary retelling of Robin Hood set on the U.S. / Mexican border.

Yeah. I KNOW.

Dannie is an addictions therapist by day, as well as a freelance editor, book blogger, and regular mentor/co-host in Brenda Drake‘s pitch contests. You can check out Dannie’s blog here, and follow her on twitter.

Dannie MorinWhen and how did you start writing?

Dannie: I honestly can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing. In early elementary school I won some sort of writing contest and had my epic ten-sentence story “How the Dog Got His Tail” published in the school anthology (complete with illustrations of tailless, stick-figure dogs). I wrote my first novel–an unabashedly shameless boy band fan fiction–in fifth grade. It was a big hit with my best friend and about five girls in my homeroom class. All through school I was involved in writing—the first writer on my middle school newspaper staff to ever have an article banned by school administration, editor for my high school’s literary magazine, and that token obnoxious freshman in my upper-level creative writing classes in college. It wasn’t until I married my husband that he suggested I was serious about it. So I got serious about it.

Can you remember the first book that made an impact on you? Who were your childhood storytelling heroes?

The first book I remember connecting with was THE UGLY DUCKLING. And it’s sort of a perfect metaphor for writing, isn’t it? When we start writing we have no idea where we belong, what we’re doing, who we are. And once we figure it out, writing life is pretty awesomesauce.

When I was a little older, I had this amazing teacher, Mrs. Altenburg, who read books aloud to us that were way too advanced for our reading level. We would lie around on the floor in her classroom and listen to her read and it was absolutely my favorite thing about school. So I got really into THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA in third or fourth grade. I was convinced there was a world hidden inside my closet. It turns out it was just a bunch of old dance recital costumes and broken tap shoes. But I loved C.S. Lewis’ world-building.

Can you talk us through the writing of ARROW & NIGHT? What were the key moments?

I’d wanted to write a reimagining for a while but I also wanted to stay true to who I am as a writer—gritty contemporary and maybe a little controversial. I was at SCBWI Carolinas about a year ago when the idea of a Robin Hood retelling set at the US/Mexico border popped into my head, fully-formed. I spent October 2013 plotting and wrote the first draft during NaNoWriMo. That was as exhausting as it sounds, so I put it away for about four months before I started revising. I started querying in August and here we are.

 Was it hard to get an agent?

I actually wish there was less focus on that phrase in our community—“get an agent.” It’s more important that you find the right agent for you, who can champion your career and not just one book. Not any agent can do that. The harder parts of this journey have been finding the right agent who not only falls in love with the book I’m pitching, but gets me as a writer. Someone I can see myself building a career with, a partnership that’s going to last for a long time. And I am so stoked to have found that in John Cusick. But it wasn’t easy. Finding the right agent is something entirely different from writing itself, and for me it took a sort of bravery that was definitely outside my comfort zone. And maybe a little magic and fate and higher powers and whatnot, too.

Describe your writing day. Where do you write? How do you organize your time?

My writing time fluctuates. I work a full-time job ten months a year. I also have a two-year-old and I do some freelance writing and editing as well. Basically I don’t sleep. Seriously though, I write when I can. I think the biggest advantage to being a plotter is that I can write a story completely out of order as the mood strikes, and it makes sense when I put the puzzle pieces together at the end of the draft. So if I please the traffic gods and make it to a meeting 20 minutes early, I’m on my phone dictating narrative into Evernote or frantically typing an email to myself before I forget a bit of dialogue that struck me. Probably 25 percent of ARROW AND NIGHT was written on my phone in spare moments. And I’ve been known to roll over in the middle of the night, draft a scene, and not remember doing it when I wake up in the morning. But I’m also blessed to have the most amazing husband who supports my writing 500%. He takes our daughter out every Sunday, and I get a couple hours of solid writing time. And my kid is pretty awesome, too. She’s a great sleeper, so I have some time between her bedtime and my bedtime most nights. But I have to be the one to dedicate that time for writing.

Are there any tips you could give aspiring writers who are looking to get published?

Don’t worry about what other writers are doing. Your journey is yours. Keep writing. Keep reading. And when it comes to querying–do it scared.

Can you describe three aspects of writing craft that have been most important as you’ve developed as an author?

Plot structure–Before I started taking publishing seriously, I thought a needed a beginning and an end and what happened in the middle was pretty much anything goes. A few years ago I discovered Larry Brooks’ series on story architecture and it has truly changed the way I think about plot. It was a lot to process and digest but my writing is ten thousand times stronger for it.

Voice–I’ve read in a few places that voice is something that can’t be taught, but I disagree. Or at least I think it can be learned. One of the things I hear from my CPs is that I have great voice, but that definitely was not always the case. I used to think voice was something that characters had, the ways they spoke in dialogue, but not something that was important in narration. I think becoming a more intentional consumer of kidlit really helped me in that respect.

Balancing backstory and forward momentum–One thing I still struggle with is remembering that the reader doesn’t need to know everything I know about a character. I make a lot of notes on characterization before I start writing. And I used to try to incorporate as many of those notes as possible into the story itself, which leads to mass quantities of infodump and unnecessary backstory. I was reading an interview JK Rowling gave and she was talking about Dean Thomas’ parents, whom you never really hear about in the books. But not knowing those things didn’t negatively impact Rowling’s storytelling. It just gave her something interesting to talk about in interviews.

Which favorite authors would you invite to a dinner party? What fictional character do you wish you’d invented?

I would love to have dinner with Matthew Quick. He has the most fantastic characterization and voice skills and he gives voice to people who need more heroes like themselves in books. I think dinner with Rae Carson would be a blast. She’s so funny and personable and I love, love, love her world-building skills. It would be fun to have dinner with John Green, too, because we both ‘did time’ in Winter Park, Florida growing up, and because his deep empathy and understanding of adolescents is so apparent in his writing.

As for a character I wish I’d invented, the storyteller is as important to making the character unique as the character’s personality and quirks and motivations. If anyone but Veronica Roth wrote Tris Prior, she wouldn’t be Tris Prior. But if I had to pick, I would probably choose Dolores Umbridge. She is so wonderfully obnoxious—the sort of antagonist you love to hate—and I really think it would be fun to plug her into various scenarios and torture her to the delight of readers.

 

 

 

Link Roundup: Words and Music

Cool stuff from some Class of 2015 clients last week:

Rahul Kanakia, whose amazing debut ENTER TITLE HERE is coming from Hyperion in Fall 2015 (think House of Cards meets Gossip Girl. Yeah.) has two new short stories. You can read one right now at the sci-fi and fantasy magazine ClarkesworldSeeking boarder for rm w/ attached bathroom, must be willing to live with ghosts ($500 / Berkeley)

(And if you aren’t following his blog, Blotter-Paper, you should.)

Then check out Tommy Wallach performing “Madeline“, a song from the upcoming “We All Looked Up” album, to accompany his novel of the same name. Both the book and the album come out on March 31, 2015. Subscribe to his channel to see more!

In other news: it’s fall! Hooray!

WE ALL LOOKED UP on Goodreads. Pre-order now at Barnes & NobleAmazon, or Indiebound.

ENTER TITLE HERE on Goodreads

Pics, Posts, and Lists– Last Week’s Link Roundup

Screen Shot 2014-09-25 at 10.14.21 AMThis spring Sharon Biggs Waller‘s debut y.a. A MAD WICKED FOLLY was selected as one of Booklist‘s Top Ten Historicals. This week FOLLY is back on their list of Top Ten Romance Fiction for Youth. Go Sharon! [10.25.14 Update: MAD WICKED FOLLY just made its *third* Booklist Top Ten List!]

Courtney Alameda‘s mind-numbingly terrifying SHUTTER will pub from Feiwel & Friends in January, but in the meantime, here’s Courtney on Scream Queens with a fabulous article about creating better scares with compelling protagonists.

ByWz10UIUAAIaVo-1It’s an author’s (and an agent’s) dream to spot one of your books in the wild– but it really doesn’t get much better than these two young readers with Ryan Gebhart’s THERE WILL BE BEARS (Candlewick Press, 2013) and Hannah Moskowitz’s ZOMBIE TAG (Roaring Brook Press, 2011).

 

 

A MAD WICKED FOLLY on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound, Goodreads
SHUTTER on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound, Goodreads
THERE WILL BE BEARS on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound, Goodreads
ZOMBIE TAG on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound, Goodreads

WE ALL LOOKED UP selected for ABA’s Indies Introduce Debut Authors List

IndiesIntroduceDAExciting news from American Booksellers Association last week: Tommy Wallach‘s WE ALL LOOKED UP (Simon & Schuster, March 2015) has been included on their Indies Introduce Debut Authors list!

From ABA’s announcement:

“For the fifth consecutive season, two panels of booksellers from every region of the country have chosen 10 debut adult titles and 10 children’s titles for the Indies Introduce Debut Authors and New Voices promotion. Featured Winter/Spring titles include fiction and nonfiction, middle grade and YA, publishing between January and June 2015.

Tommy WallachThese standout debuts will take readers from the familiar to the exotic, from New York to Paris, from Montana to Pakistan, and to Swedish Lapland in the 1700s. There’s a mystery, an unforgettable boy and dog, unusual chickens, and a first book by an independent bookseller from Mississippi.”
I’m so excited to see WALU (as we call it ’round here) included on this list, especially on the heels of our big film announcement last week. You can add WE ALL LOOKED UP on Goodreads or pre-order it on Barnes & NobleAmazon, or Indiebound. Which you should do.