Saturday, May 14, 2011

Attention Event Planners: Book Now for 2011-2012

It's two YA authors for the price of one!

"From Classics to Contemporary" is a joint presentation offered by Jennifer Ziegler, author of Sass & Serendipity (inspired by Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (1811)) and Cynthia Leitich Smith, author of the Tantalize series (inspired by Dracula by Bram Stoker (1897)).

The authors will discuss how they were inspired by these classics, why Stoker and Austen's themes are still relevant to teens/YAs today, the ongoing conversation of books over the generations, and much more.

Act now for the 2011-2012 school year!

Contact Dayton Bookings for more information and to schedule.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Guest Post: P. J. Hoover on When Your Agent is Your Editor

By P. J. Hoover

The life cycle of revisions has an evolution just like everything in the publishing world. An author writes a perfect story, and then it gets ripped apart and reordered on its path to publication.

Traditionally, the story is revised with the help of the author, a critique group, and an agent, and then the story is passed on to an editor. At that point, the author and an editor work together to get the manuscript to a state perfect for publication.

So what happens to the process when the editor no longer comes into the picture? How does the manuscript reach that final level of edits that brings it to publication level? And even more importantly, does this final level matter?

I’m thrilled to be represented by Laura Rennert who happens to be a rock star agent at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. Laura and I first met at the Big Sur Children's Writing Workshop three years back, and we signed shortly thereafter.

Aside from having her finger on the pulse of publishing, Laura is a fantastic editorial agent. With Solstice (Andrea Brown Literary, 2011) we worked through a minimum of six rounds of revisions. Yikes! At times, this felt like revision hell, and okay, it was revision hell, but now, in hindsight, I see so many improvements in all aspects of the manuscript: the romance, the character development, the world building, the dialogue. But perhaps what changed the most was the dystopic element of Solstice. It morphed into an entity I never imagined.

When I first wrote Solstice, the global warming crisis was more of an aside. Piper, the main character, lives in a world at least eighteen years in our future where global warming is destroying Earth. This was fine through many rounds of revisions, but when I started exploring this angle more, tons of possibilities surfaced.

The best thing is that I adored this angle, and I took it and ran. But without my agent’s feedback, I may never have delved into this potential.

Because she is thorough (and awesome), my agent also works with a reader (also awesome) who gives amazing and objective feedback. For Solstice, between Laura and her reader, my story evolved generations beyond the first draft.

But it didn’t stop there. Once revisions were completed, Solstice went through line edits, copyediting, proofreading, and then one more round of copyediting. I thought at times the
editing would never stop.

Does feedback hurt? Sure. Did I get some of those revision letters and cry to my writing group until I’d purged negative thoughts from my mind? Totally. (Okay, we laughed some, too; I admit it. But sometimes the revision notes were just funny.)

Does this level of quality matter for an ebook? Definitely! Ebooks are so easy to buy, and lots of authors now are recognizing their popularity.

As the author of a digital book, I feel like it’s my duty to make sure my work is top quality no matter what the format. And in the end, I have a story I’m super proud to share with the world.

Cynsational Notes

P. J. Hoover
first fell in love with Greek mythology in sixth grade thanks to the book Mythology by Edith Hamilton (Penguin, 1942). After a fifteen year bout as an electrical engineer designing computer chips for a living, P. J. decided to take her own stab at mythology and started writing books for kids and teens. P. J. is also a member of The Texas Sweethearts and Scoundrels.

When not writing, P. J. spends time with her husband and two kids and enjoys practicing Kung Fu, solving Rubik's cubes, and watching "Star Trek."

Her first novel for teens, Solstice, takes place in a Global Warming future and explores the parallel world of mythology beside our own. Her middle grade fantasy novels, The Emerald Tablet (2008), The Navel of the World (2009), and The Necropolis (2010) (CBAY), chronicle the adventures of a boy who discovers he’s part of two feuding worlds hidden beneath the sea.

Cynsational News

Interview: Don Tate -- Illustrating Children's Books by Donna Bowman Bratton from Writing Down the Kid-Lit Page. Peek: "I think the tool I use the most is my Sharpie. I like to sketch with a Sharpie marker because I can block in large areas and quickly see how shapes relate to each other."

Q & A with Associate Art Directors Tracy Shaw and Alison Impey of Little, Brown by Alvina Ling from Blue Rose Girls. Peek from Tracy: "...the weirdest places I've found inspiration would have to be either a chewing gum ad or a perfume sample label."

SCBWI Members Choice Crystal Kite Awards Announced from Austin SCBWI. Congratulations Maja Sereda, Claire M. Saxby, Deborah Underwood, Jo S. Kittinger, Kristin O’Donnell Tubb, Monika Schröder, Ann Angel, Sydney Salter Husseman, Brian Lies, Kate Messner, Kathryn D. Erskine, Tammi Sauer, Marsha Skrypuch, Candy Gourlay, and Bonny Becker. Note: "The Crystal Kite Awards are given by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators to recognize great books from the 70 SCBWI regions around the world. Along with the SCBWI Golden Kite Awards, the Crystal Kite Awards are chosen by other children’s book writers and illustrators, making them the only peer-given awards in publishing for young readers."

Writing for Children & Young Adults: an online master's level class taught by author-editor Jill Santoplo from McDaniel College. Peek: "Graduate & Professional Studies (GPS) introduces a new series of courses focusing on Writing for Children & Young Adults. Offered online, these graduate-level courses can be applied to the Master of Liberal Arts program at GPS, or can be earned on a non-degree basis."

Winners of the 2010 Whitney Awards include The Healing Spell by Kimberley Griffiths Little (Scholastic)(Best Youth-General), Matched by Ally Condie (Dutton)(Best Youth-Speculative), and Kiersten White (Best New Author). Note: "The Whitneys are an awards program for novels by LDS authors."

Self-publishing and the New Gatekeepers by Chris Eboch from Write Like a Pro! A Free Online Writing Workshop. Peek: "Some authors are banding together into groups to approve each other’s work."

A Nameless Protagonist by Jane Lebak from QueryTracker.netBlog. Peek: "...for the most part, every novel you pick up is going to have a protagonist with a name, and there's a reason for that. Because before your reader can identify with your protagonist, your protagonist has to have an identity."

Organizing a Writer's Workshop: Pre-Publicity and Marketing by Jane Friedman from There Are No Rules. Note: also discusses budget, faculty expenses, venue, housing, meals, social events, and schedule. Source: Phil Giunta.

Marketing Nonfiction Versus Fiction: Where the Similarities End by Christine Fonseca from Shelli at Market My Words. Peek: "With my nonfiction books, for example, connecting with readers has proven most successful using a combination of virtual chats (twitter, Second Life, online forums) and real life events (conferences and book chats)."

Why We're Still In Love with Picture Books (Even Though They're Supposed to Be Dead) by Allyn Johnston and Marla Frazee from The Horn Book. Peek: "The words in a picture book are written to be performed. They are meant to be read aloud. Each syllable, each line break, each sentence’s placement on the page and where those critical page-turns occur, the rhythm, the word choice, the repetition (and maybe even the rhyme, if it’s done well) — all of these are massively important."

A Circus for the Brain: J. Patrick Lewis, the 2011 Children's Poet Laureate Speaks by Sylvia Vardell from Poetry Foundation. Peek: "Children spend their whole lives talking, listening, reading, and dreaming in one language (or more, if they are lucky), so why not encourage them to do all those things in the most pleasurable possible way—with poetry."

Cynsational Tip: Looking for somewhere to feature your book trailer? Consider Blazing Trailers: Book Videos and More. See the Blessed trailer page at Blazing Trailers!

Tiff's Top Ten Secrets and Lies of Publishing by Tiffany Trent from Center Neptune. Peek: "It’s all about discovering your own process. Maybe you do need to write every day. Maybe you need to take a breather between novels to 'refill the well.' Maybe you write for a couple hours and then take a walk to keep the ideas flowing. You have to do whatever works for you."

Cynsational Screening Room

Guys Lit Wire Book Fair for Ballou Senior High School from Guys Lit Wire. Donations are much needed; see the Wish List at Powells.

More Personally

The highlight of this week was the Diversity in YA panel at BookPeople. From left to right, Guadalupe Garcia McCall, Dia Reeves, Jo Whittemore, Bethany Hegedus, Cindy Pon, and Malinda Lo, moderated by Varian Johnson (in back).

Here's a shelf shot of Blessed (Candlewick, 2011) at Voracious Reader, a terrific independent bookstore in Larchmont, New York, courtesy of the lovely Melissa Walker. Check out Melissa's upcoming book, Small Town Sinners (Bloomsbury, July 2011).

Beyond that, I'm still thrilled about recent news that Blessed is a YALSA Teens Top Ten nominee and my 2010 picture book, Holler Loudly, illustrated by Barry Gott (Dutton), has been selected for inclusion in Dolly Parton's Imagination Library!

Personal Links of the Week

Cynsational Events

Chris Barton will be signing Can I See Your ID? True Stories of False Identities, illustrated by Paul Hoppe (Dial, 2011) at 7 p.m. May 14 at BookPeople in Austin. See discussion guide. See also Chris on Unbridled Silliness and Carefully Researched Truth-telling.

The Chills and Thrills Book Tour will be stopping at 2 p.m. May 15 at BookPeople. Turn out for authors Mari Mancusi, Tera Lynn Childs, Sophie Jordan, Jordan Dane, Lara Chapman, Jennifer Archer, and Tracy Deebs.

The First Annual BooksmART Festival will be from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 11 as part of Arts & Letters Live from the Dallas Museum of Art. Peek: "Come spend the day with authors, illustrators, musicians and actors, and enjoy talks, workshops, gallery tours, and entertainment, designed to appeal to every member of the family and every age group." Featured children's-YA book creators include Rick Riordan, Norton Juster, Laurie Halse Anderson, David Wiesner, Jerry Pinkney, Gene Luen Yang, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Duncan Tonatiuh, Antonio Sacre, Joe McDermott, Jan Bozarth, and Ann Marie Newman.

Authors Jennifer Ziegler and Cynthia Leitich Smith will speak to YA readers at 2 p.m. June 18 at Bee Cave Public Library in Bee Cave, Texas. Mark your calendars for book talk and pizza!

Austin Bat Cave Offers YA Writing Workshop with Margo Rabb from May 31 to July 5. See more information.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Holler Loudly by Cynthia Leitich Smith, illustrated by Barry Gott is a Dolly Parton's Imagination Library Selection

I'm honored to report that my 2010 picture book, Holler Loudly, illustrated by Barry Gott (Dutton) has been selected for inclusion in Dolly Parton's Imagination Library.

This literacy program serves children from birth through pre-school.

Pictured (right) is the letter I received informing me of the news, just for fun shown along with one of my favorite Dolly CDs.

See Dolly Parton's Imagination Library on facebook and find out how you can help.

See also a Pre-K teacher guide for Holler Loudly, created by Shannon Morgan (guides for kindergarten, grade 1 and grade 2 are likewise available (PDFs).

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Guest Post: Caroline Starr Rose on Writing Verse Novels

By Caroline Starr Rose

Have you ever considered writing a novel in verse? Here are some things to keep in mind:

Is the subject matter right for poetry?

Some topics lend themselves more easily to poetry than others. Some subjects refuse to be written as prose.

While many stories can and will work as poetry, ask yourself if this medium is the best way to tell your story. If not, I'd advise you to take another approach.

Is the protagonist right for poetry?

Often (though not always) verse novels are told from a very close first-person point of view. Such writing calls for a lot of introspection on the protagonist's part. If this isn't your character, it's best, in my opinion, to avoid verse.

Can you sustain the intensity required to write a novel this way?

Sometimes writing in verse feels really natural. Other times, the close-to-the-bone nature of poetry is hard to sustain.

If you are someone who can knock off thousands of words at one sitting, verse novels are going to hurt. Word counts will more realistically be in the hundreds.

Entire novels are usually under 20,000 words.

Can each poem stand alone?

Each poem in a verse novel must capture one moment, scene, idea, mark of change in your character's life. Poems should also be able to function separately from the rest of the story.

Does each poem contribute to the whole?

When I worked through my own verse novel, I kept a quilt in mind, treating each poem like its own square of fabric. Each patch had to be able to function separately while at the same time contribute to the whole.

I trusted that if certain patterns and shades in my story quilt were repeated (think: themes or story strands), eventually the interconnectedness would surface -- a much more organic approach than is normally taken with prose.

Vary the length of poems

Some scenes flow, some end abruptly. Some thoughts wander, some jab. Use this knowledge to your advantage in composing your poetry.

Vary the length of lines

Are there key phrases or words at the heart of your poem? Play with the way you arrange words on the page to determine what look best "speaks" the poem.

Within your poem, group similar ideas as stanzas or allow key lines to stand alone.


Because poetry is both visual and aural, let the structure of your work communicate to your reader your protagonist's emotional state.

Is she frightened? Think of how this feeling looks structurally (little punctuation? words tightly packed together?).

Is he in a hurry? How can you express this on the page?

You can also use specific types of poetry (sonnets, for example), as Pat Brisson did with her book, The Best and Hardest Thing (Viking, 2010).

In writing about Sylvia Plath (Your Own, Sylvia (Knopf, 2007)), author Stephanie Hemphill chose to mirror several of Plath's poems, giving her readers a sense of the poet's style, subject matter, intensity, and character.

Verse novels aren’t books with strange line breaks. They are stories best communicated through the language, rhythm, imagery and structure of poetry.

Cynsational Notes

Caroline Starr Rose
is a former middle school English and social studies teacher. Her middle-grade novel, May B., a historical novel-in-verse, releases spring 2012 from Schwartz and Wade. She blogs about reading, writing, and the publication process at Caroline By Line.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

New Voice: Caissie St.Onge on Jane Jones: Worst. Vampire. Ever.

Caissie St.Onge is the first-time author of Jane Jones: Worst. Vampire. Ever. (Ember/Random House, 2011)(excerpt). From the promotional copy:

For Jane Jones, being a vampire is nothing like you read about in books. In fact, it kind of sucks. She's not beautiful, she's not rich, and she doesn't "sparkle."

She's just an average, slightly nerdy girl from an ordinary suburban family (which happens to be made up of vampires). Jane's from the wrong side of the tracks (not to mention stuck in the world's longest awkward phase), so she doesn't fit in with the cool vampire kids at school or with the humans kids.

To top it all off, she's battling an overprotective mom, a clique of high school mean girls (the kind who really do have fangs), and the most embarrassing allergy in the history of the undead, she's blood intolerant.

So no one's more surprised than Jane when for the first time in her life, things start to heat up (as much as they can for a walking corpse, anyway) with not one, but two boys. Eli's a geeky, but cute real-live boy in her history class, and Timothy is a beautiful, brooding bloodsucker, who might just hold the key to a possible "cure" for vampirism.

Facing an eternity of high school pressure, fumbling first dates, or a mere lifetime together with Timothy, what's a 90-something-year-old teen vampire to do?

When and where do you write? Why does that time and space work for you?

I love to write in big chunks, usually working on a first pass or a revision of an entire chapter at one time, if I can manage it. I do this, of course, sprawled out across my bed.

[Pictured: Frito Pie behaving.]

My house is kind of small, and we have an office/laundry room, but my husband is also a writer with a “day job” that he works from home and somehow that office became his office.

I’m not complaining, mind you. It fits his working style perfectly, and since he’s in there so much, he does ninety-eight percent of the laundry, too. I can’t argue with that!

I have a nice wingback chair in my bedroom, and I scored a vintage rolling typing cart on eBay, so I can sit up and type like a normal person when I want to, but I barely ever do. For some reason, I am most comfortable sitting cross-legged on my bed (hopefully made, but sometimes not) until my laptop starts burning my legs. Then I switch to lying on my stomach with my computer in front of me and maybe my cat balled up on the small of my back or my dog nosing my shoulder for chest rubs.

Writing in long all-day stretches is what works for me right now, because I also have a regular job working in television, and the show I work on currently is broadcast a couple of times a week, live and late at night. On those days, I’m in the office while the sun is up and then I head to the studio, where I usually don’t finish until the wee hours. I can’t steal any time at all to work on a manuscript during those two show days, but I’m so unbelievably lucky to have a gig where the rest of the week is mine to spend on my bed, writing.

I think the reason why the whole bed-as-desk thing works for me is because I’m a creature of comfort, first and foremost. I also think of writing as similar to acting. I’m trying to give life to these characters, so I’ll talk out loud to myself, or I’ll make a face or gesture in the mirror before I try to put it into words. I feel safe doing those kinds of weirdo things in my room. [Pictured: Frito Pie misbehaving.]

Finally, it probably works for me because I still feel, in many ways, like I am a teenager. Or at least that I can very clearly remember just what it felt like to be a teenager. And teenagers are the ones I’m trying to connect with.

So, it seems fitting that the way I’m working now is exactly the same way I was working when I was sixteen, only instead of flopping out and reading a book for Ms. Gallo’s English class, I’m flopped out trying to write a book.

It might be unconventional and it may not work for me (or my spine) forever, but it feels right for now. (And I’m really, really glad you didn’t ask what I wear when I’m writing. The world may never be ready to hear about my Sock Monkey pajamas.)

How have you approached the task of promoting your debut book? What online or real-space efforts are you making? Where did you get your ideas? To whom did you turn for support? Are you enjoying the process, or does it feel like a chore? What advice do you have on this front for your fellow debut authors and for those in the years to come?

Promoting my debut book is an interesting experience. I feel a little like I have two lives now. The first is as this comedy writer/producer/TV worker bee. The second is this new, and somewhat unexpected, life of a YA novelist. '

I have some experience in promoting things, but have never been in a position to promote something that was so…mine. My ideas, my words, my name. It’s exciting and fearsome all at once.

The idea for this book was born online. On Twitter, precisely (@Caissie). I’ve been using Twitter for about two and a half years, because it’s an excellent platform for a joke writer.

Brevity is the soul of wit, right? Well, you can’t get much briefer than 140 characters! I’d been using Twitter mainly to post topical zingers and thoughts that weren’t going into whatever TV stuff I was writing at the moment.

Then, something interesting started to happen. I began to connect with friends of friends – people I probably never would have met in real life – and they were talking back to me and sharing my little jokes with their followers, with whom I was also connecting.

Soon, I had built this little community of people who seem to like my humor and who are, in return, very likable, entertaining, smart, fascinating and generous.

One day when I made some joke about how being a teenage vampire would be so unsexy and awkward, and with my luck I’d be blood intolerant, people responded enthusiastically.

Without the people in my little Twitter community telling me to run with that idea, I might never have taken the next step in writing the novel. And it’s been that community that’s helped me brainstorm ideas for getting the word out there about the book. I owe a lot to these 7,000 people, most of whom I’ve never met in real life! Yet.

Mostly all of my promotional efforts thus far have been online. I’m working on a blog. I already have a little personal blog of personal essays that my personal friends read, and I love that, but I’m hoping to put together something a little more professional before my book comes out.

Your blog has really inspired me, and I’m hoping that eventually I could create an online space that not only serves to promote what I’ve written, but also allows me to promote other work I admire, and maybe even becomes a little community for young readers to communicate with kindred spirits. That’s the dream.

I’ve done a few other things too. I’ve set up an account and an author page on Now I’m racing around trying to put every book I’ve ever read on my virtual shelf. I think I only have twelve so far! If you’re my friend on GoodReads, please believe that I’ve read more than twelve books.

I’ve also made a (gulp) “fan” page on Facebook, which is just surreal to me. Right now, I think my mom is a fan, plus a handful of friends who are basically ribbing me for having made a fan page. This afternoon I’m going to try to talk my son into being my fan, but it might be a tough sell.

In real life, I’m scheduled to be interviewed on a couple of Internet podcasts, which now that I’m saying that I realize have the word "Internet: right in them, but somehow seem more real to me than virtual. I’ve also been asked to do a reading at my local library in Westport, Connecticut, which thrills me.

I’ve never Skyped with anyone in my life, but I am kind of fantasizing that maybe some schools will ask me to do some Skype visits. For that, I would be willing to learn how to Skype!

I’ve also worked with my editor at Random House, Shana Corey, on a list of my own personal contacts in the media to send the book out to. I think people might believe I have some kind of promotional advantage coming from the world of television, but that’s not really the case. [Shana pictured.]

Yes, I worked for David Letterman for several years, and I’m sure he wishes me every success in the world with my book, but it’s not very realistic to hope to be invited on his show to plug it. It just isn’t a likely fit for him or for my book.

If anything, the one advantage I have is understanding a little bit about how these things work, and not harboring any grand illusions that I will get on "Ellen" or "The Daily Show" because I know some people that work there. There’s more to it than that and having been the person on the receiving end of countless envelopes similar to those I’m sending out now, I recognize the chances of exposure are tiny.

But, if my publisher is willing to do it, why not? You never know when a seed scattered on the wind will take root, right? Plus, I’m excited to show my TV colleagues what I’ve been up to since I saw them last.

Whatever happens with the book, I’m enjoying the process of promoting it because I’m learning a lot. I mean, sometimes I wish I could learn a little faster, especially when I’ve spent forty minutes trying to find the button that connects my Facebook page to my GoodReads page, but how psyched was I when I finally found it!

I’m also looking at this as an opportunity to keep building that community that I’ve come to love so much.

Another thing it took me a long time to learn, but I’m so glad I did, is that the scary feeling that mounts just before you put yourself out there is no match for the amazingly beautiful feeling you can get when someone who’s been scanning the crowd says, “Oh, there you are…I’ve been looking to know someone just like you!”

I have yet to learn how successful my promotional endeavors will be, but if I were to offer advice on this front to anyone else, I would say that the first step is to put yourself out there. Join Facebook if you haven’t. Make a Twitter account, or if cyberfellowship is not your style, join a writing group or a book club of like-minded people. These will be the people you will turn to for inspiration as you write, and when you revise, and eventually when the time comes to unleash your writing on the world.

The very important second step, though, which I think that some people may forget, is that it’s not enough to just put yourself out there. You have to be active. You have to communicate with and be there for the other people you meet who are putting themselves out there.

When you’re using any type of community or platform to strictly broadcast your thoughts or your writing, it can be frustrating, because you often start to wonder why folks aren’t responding to it in the way you’d hoped, or at all. That may be because people can only “like” and “comment” and “retweet” and “buy” so many times before fatigue sets in, and they start to wonder what’s in it for them. You may have made an initial connection, but if it isn’t a two-way street, you may not maintain the connection.

It’s important that you’re willing to give as much as you’re asking for – and part of the giving will come in the form of creating something wonderful that people are eager to read and share, but I believe another part is responding to people who reach out to you as often as you can, sharing advice with people who aspire to do what you do and shouting out mad props for all the other people who are out there being creative or talented or dedicated or funny or kind.

Whew! I feel like I sounded kind of like a motivational speaker there. Well, the truth is that I’d love it if everybody got to enjoy the kind of support that I have had throughout this process, and while generating some positive buzz and selling a few books is certainly a welcome byproduct, the truth is that I place tremendous value on my relationships with these people, many of whom I wouldn’t recognize outside of a thumbnail avatar. And that would probably be just as true if I had decided to be a human cannonball instead of a young adult novelist!

Cynsational Notes

P.S. from Cassie: "In my career as a TV professional, I dislike ever having to pass on any pitch, book or otherwise. Every padded mailer that comes across my desk represents someone’s passion and ideas and effort, and those are three things I always want to say ‘yes’ to. And, despite not often being able to put a person’s work on my show, I am often able to enjoy it. In fact, some of my favorite books – books that I’ve read, reread and recommended time and time again – first came to my attention in the form of a pitch. It’s not Oprah’s Book Club, but it’s something."

Monday, May 09, 2011

New Voice: Angie Smibert on Memento Nora

Angie Smibert is the first-time author of Memento Nora (Marshall Cavendish, April 1, 2011)(author blog). From the promotional copy:

Nora, the popular girl and happy consumer, witnesses a horrific bombing on a shopping trip with her mother. In Nora’s near-future world, terrorism is so commonplace that she can pop one little white pill to forget and go on like nothing ever happened.

However, when Nora makes her first trip to a Therapeutic Forgetting Clinic, she learns what her mother, a frequent forgetter, has been frequently forgetting. Nora secretly spits out the pill and holds on to her memories.

The memory of the bombing as well as her mother’s secret and her budding awareness of the world outside her little clique make it increasingly difficult for Nora to cope. She turns to two new friends, each with their own reasons to remember, and together they share their experiences with their classmates through an underground comic. They soon learn, though, they can’t get away with remembering.

What were you like as a young reader, and how did that influence the book that you're debuting this year?

In a round about way, my precocious tastes in reading early on have influenced Memento Nora—or at least me writing in this genre.

In grade school, I remember reading Walter Farley’s Black Stallion series (1941-1989)—as well as an anthology by Alfred Hitchcock. I have a particular memory of the latter because I loved twisty shows like the "Twilight Zone" (1959-1964) and "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" (1955-1962). Plus, my classmates laughed at me for saying he was my favorite author. To them, he was just the fat man their parents watched on TV. So even in grade school, I was getting ahead of myself.

By the time middle school came around, I’d already jumped into adult reading. Possibly that was because YA/middle grade wasn’t huge in the 70s. More than likely, though, it’s because I was bored.

One summer, I started on the classics shelf at the town library. I kept a list of everything I read. I do remember reading Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (1847) and Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse (1951).

Then I discovered science fiction (and fantasy). I’d always loved "Star Trek" (1966-1969) and other science fiction series and movies. I started reading Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein, J.R.R. Tolkien, etc. It was meaty, yet fun reading that took me places (in my head).

I didn’t really start reading YA/middle grade again until much later. I went back and discovered things like the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis (1950-1956).

Now, there’s so much great YA/middle grade fiction out there.

Writers like Scott Westerfeld and Phillip Pullman showed me what YA/middle grade science fiction and fantasy could be: entertaining and intelligent.

So, long story short, I guess I found my voice in YA/middle grade because I felt a huge gap in that genre when I was a young reader.

(Or, I just missed all the good stuff the first time around because I was too busy acting all grown up.)

How have you approached the task of promoting your debut book? What online or real-space efforts are you making? Where did you get your ideas? To whom did you turn for support? Are you enjoying the process, or does it feel like a chore? What advice do you have on this front for your fellow debut authors and for those in the years to come?

Marketing is the scariest part of the whole book process to me. So I decided not to go it alone. I joined both The Elevensies and the Class of 2k11.

I was also asked to join the League of Extraordinary Writers, a group blog about YA dystopian fiction.

The funny thing is that I’m not usually such a joiner, but I recognized that I didn’t have a clue about marketing my book.

And that’s the great thing about the Class of 2k11, for instance. Everybody knows something, and together we can do far more than we can do ourselves.

(Very few authors, especially new ones, have the luxury of a publishing house able to lavish big bucks—or any bucks—on marketing.)

The Class of 2K concept started back in 2007. The Class of 2k11 is a group of 18 debut authors—all YA/middle grade—whose emphasis is on the marketing aspect. However, we have become a great support system for each other. We have a website/blog (as well as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube) dedicated to promoting our books. We also have lined up group book signings, conference events, contests, mailings, etc.

Elevensies is a wider community of YA/middle grade debuts. We do some group marketing but the emphasis (at least in my mind) is more on the online community—and the support we can give each other. It’s wonderful to have 70 or so other writers—all going through the same process—to which you can turn to for advice, celebration, or commiseration.

My advice to fellow debuts is to seek out fellow debuts and work together. It’ll make the seemingly overwhelming task of marketing your book seem more manageable and less like a chore. However, don’t forget that the most important thing is to keep writing.

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