Wednesday, November 23, 2011


In the spirit of the impending holiday, I am so, so very thankful for:

My family being happy and healthy. They always come first.

My friends. I am blessed with SUCH fabulous, supportive, understanding friends!! May you all have friends like mine. And yes, I mean each and every one of YOU in that.

Jake. And Myka, Dedushka, Eric, and even Liesel. And in times past, Annie and Zilla, Jenna and Katherine. These characters who inhabit my head fully and allow me to inhabit theirs. I love spending time with them. (I admit it--I need it.)

All the hardworking lovely people in the kidlit industry, especially those I'm fortunate enough to know or work with: agents, editors, copyeditors, proofreaders, designers, marketing, sales...all of them. Together they bring books to kids and teens. How very cool is that?

I hope all you Americans in the crowd have a wonderful, restful Thanksgiving. For the rest of you, enjoy the quiet? :))



Friday, November 18, 2011

Sock-knocker: Originality--INCARNATE

I was a very lucky girl last week, for many reasons.

One of the reasons I can tell you about is that I was given a Kindle ARC of an amazing new book coming out in 2012: INCARNATE, by Jodi Meadows.

I was looking forward to it, because I know Jodi on Twitter and she's super-cool. Plus I love the cover. How could you not?
Isn't that gorgeous? PLUS I wanted to read it so hard after seeing this blurb:

Ana is new. For thousands of years in Range, a million souls have been reincarnated over and over, keeping their memories and experiences from previous lifetimes. When Ana was born, another soul vanished, and no one knows why.

Even Ana’s own mother thinks she’s a nosoul, an omen of worse things to come, and has kept her away from society. To escape her seclusion and learn whether she’ll be reincarnated, Ana travels to the city of Heart, but its citizens are suspicious and afraid of what her presence means. When dragons and sylph attack the city, is Ana to blame?

Sam believes Ana’s new soul is good and worthwhile. When he stands up for her, their relationship blooms. But can he love someone who may live only once, and will Ana’s enemies—human and creature alike—let them be together? Ana needs to uncover the mistake that gave her someone else’s life, but will her quest threaten the peace of Heart and destroy the promise of reincarnation for all?

But I admit I was a bit nervous. Why? Because I like Jodi, and I expected so much, that I was afraid I'd be disappointed. It happens, sometimes.


Why? I'm a tough reader. What did it?

Three things.

1. Originality. Good God, this book is ORIGINAL. It's not a twist on an old story I've read, or an interpretation of a myth, or different dystopian plots shuffled around. It is NEW. I have never read anything like it before. So new it had me getting excited, thinking of how this society would work, and how differently characters would react to each other in this world, and what all the implications were...I don't even know how long it's been since I was struck so by how *different* a book was. And in this case, different = amazeballs.

2. Characters. I loved Ana from the start. She's not perfect--in fact, she has some characteristics, especially at the beginning, that aren't really pretty. (low self-confidence, uncertainty, defensiveness) But you get why she's like that, and you see how she gets it herself, and how she counteracts those issues as the book moves along. Plus from the very beginning you see her strength shining through her upbringing. And Sam!! He's not perfect either, or sparkly or brooding, but he is just...aaahhh. I'll let you find out.

3. Writing. Jodi's writing is beautiful, but not in a self-conscious way. I felt from the very first page that I was in the hands of an expert. She never stumbled in pacing or characterization, never lost me to boredom (this happens easily with me). Brava, Jodi.

Definitely a sock-knocker. I think I'll still be looking for my socks when it comes out on January 31st!

Monday, November 14, 2011


A couple of people have asked me how my elementary school talk went. I suppose I can tell you...


You guys, it was so much fun!! The first group was 1st-3rd graders, and my prepared talk lasted only about halfway through our time--I had a moment of panic. But they asked MANY questions. It was funny what the little kids were most interested in. It was all about numbers. "How long did your longest book take you to write?" "How many pages was it?" "How long would it take to write a BILLION words?" :)

The 4th-6th graders were pure awesome. They jumped in with intelligent, thoughtful questions right away. I ended up not only talking about writing process, but also self publishing, writer's block, social networking, having FUN with writing, my book (I let them see my plot board, and they were fascinated with the book--they all wanted to read it!), and even my friend's book. (Em, they all want to read your book too, AND see the movie!)

In short: it was an easy introduction to school talks. A little scary at first, but great fun. I love passionate kids!

There are many other things going on that I wish I could tell you, lovelies. Maybe soon!

MORE updates: As part of my presentation to the kids, I talked about my writing journals--my favorite tool--and let them see two of mine. I was tickled when the teacher told me yesterday that THREE of the upper-elementary kids bought their own writing journals over the weekend. :))

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Where ideas come from

I'm speaking to a whole elementary school of kids about writing on Thursday.

Fortunately, this isn't as nerve-wracking as it sounds. It's two groups of about 12 kids each, and it's at my daughter's school. They were doing a unit on the writing process, and I volunteered to come in and talk about mine, as well as the publishing process in general. (The kids call their stories "published" when they're accepted by the teacher. If only, right?)

The writing process part of the presentation was easy. I've got visual aids and everything (plot boards, marked-up manuscripts, pictures of screaming people...). But the teacher also asked me to "please talk about where your ideas come from."


I know. That question gets asked all the time. But this one I had to really think about. To me, ideas are kind of magical. Sometimes I circle around an idea for a while, pinning it down; sometimes it drops into my head whole. Sometimes it comes from a dream; sometimes a line of text. How do you express that to kids in a way that encourages them, but still expresses that I don't *know* how it works?

I've decided to try this:

Story ideas come from everything you experience: everything you see, read, listen to. Imagination draws inspiration from everyday life, and twists it in a new way, unique to you.

To get story ideas, first you have to pay attention. Then you have to think, and allow yourself to imagine. What if is a fabulous phrase. Play with it.

And then I thought I'd try some what ifs with them, and see what they come up with.

What do you think? How would you answer the dreaded "ideas" question?

Wednesday, November 02, 2011


I was sitting at a concert last week, and started thinking about creativity. What is it? How does this weird thing WORK?

For a large chunk of my childhood, my creative outlet was ballet. From 8-16, I danced nearly every day. Christmas meant Nutcracker time more than anything else. I was in a company; I had significant roles. I always felt a little queasy before going on stage, but once there I slurped it up. It was my place.

Though ballet is not a personal creativity, per se. Yes, you express yourself in the dance, but you do the steps as someone tells you to, in coordination with others. It's like the symphony, a joint effort.

Then I piled up too many injuries, and things happened, and I stopped ballet. Cold turkey.

I didn't know what to do with myself. All this time. All this lack of direction. I was just like...a normal person or something. Ugh.

So I took a drama class, at my high school. The first few classes I was shy and awful. You mean you want me to talk in front of people? But they can see me! But I had the revelation that I could let go in this situation. It wasn't as proscribed as ballet. I could improvise, have fun. By the end of that class I was voted Most Improved--and a month later I got one of the leads in the school play. Enter phase 2.

Acting is more creative than ballet, definitely. There's more of you involved--you now add voice to body and expression. But with the exception of improvisation, it's still someone else's words, someone else's story.

I rode on acting for a couple years. Then I graduated from high school and headed off to a huge university. I wasn't confident enough to try acting there. I didn't dance anymore. What should I do with myself?

I was an English major--so I read a ton, and dabbled in bad poetry, but mostly I just wrote essays. I was a little...lost. I didn't have any creative outlet. I thought about writing a novel, but I just didn't feel like I'd lived enough to have any stories to tell (I may have been right).

It wasn't until years later that I finally decided I COULD try writing, and I feel like right there, my true creativity was found. With stories, it's all me. My words, characters, plot, world. I've tried to stop writing, for various reasons, but it's never lasted long. Even when I stop, I still tell stories in my head.

Child acts, and dances, and even writes stories, but so far her true passion is drawing.

I imagine creativity as a force that comes from within someone, or maybe surrounds them. It ferrets its way out in whatever form it can find: music, dance, art, theatre, writing, comedy, whatever. And then if you stop that form, that outlet, it builds up pressure until you have to let it out somewhere else, or you'll explode. Or implode, perhaps.

But what of people who don't do any of those things? My husband doesn't, for one. Lots of people don't. Is the urge, the force, just not there?

I know lots of you are creative people. What are your thoughts/experiences?