Wednesday, August 31, 2011

In which I reveal that I'm a dream crusher...

Okay, I know what you're thinking:

No way, Shannon. You are far too sweet to be a dream crusher. Also, have I mentioned how fabulous you look today? Not a lot of people can pull off the giant t-shirt + stretchpants look, but YOU my dear ...

(Um, okay, you're probably REALLY thinking: why did I click on this blog link?)



(Can you tell I'm writing this a wee bit late at night?)

Uh... what was I saying?

Right! The dream crushing thing.

See, I have this pet peeve... (and this is not going to be one of those author-ranting posts, I swear!) (well... maybe a little) (just go with me here)

You know how sometimes you tell someone you're a writer and--after you go through the whole awkward part where they look at you like they're expecting you to say, "Sike!" and then tell them about your "real job" (if, yanno, it were the early 90s when people said things like "Sike!" and didn't immediately get made fun of for being lame)--they get a kind of dopey grin and say something along the lines of, "I've always thought about doing that, I should write a book too!" And then proceed to ask a ton of questions about how to get published.

Yeah ... that's the part where I become a big dream crusher.

But before you judge me--let me clarify.

I do not (repeat: DO NOT) mind when people genuinely, GENUINELY want to be writers, and ask me questions about the publishing process either in person, or via email, Twitter, FB, blog comments, whatever. Shoot--why do you think I help plan WriteOnCon? I love love LOVE helping other writers figure out the mysterious and frustrating publishing world. And I gladly answer any and all questions they may have.

But that's not what I'm talking about.

I'm talking about the people who seem to think I woke up one day and thought: I think I'll write a book today!!!!!!! And then they act like they can do exactly the same thing.

Those people I can't help but give a brutally realistic picture of the time, effort, and sacrifice that 99.9% of all writers have to make in order to get published. Shoot--we endure all of that just to finish a book, regardless of whether it's published or not. And for anyone to assume otherwise is just ... frustrating. So I can't help making it painfully clear that it's not a dream for the feint of heart and they need to be 100% committed if they're going to give it a try.

Hence, dream crusher.

But before you race to unfollow me (or grab the briny pickled things to fling at me *ducks*) for being such a big mean meanie and crushing people's publishing dreams, I'd like to add one thing in my defense.

I truly, TRULY believe that if being published is REALLY your dream, then nothing--NOTHING can crush it. Not revision. Not rejection. And certainly not curmudgeon-y blonde writers who launch into tirades about the publishing industry because you hit on their pet peeve.

So I guess I'm not really a dream crusher, so much as a fleeting-whim crusher. And THAT, I'm okay with.

Plus, I find it hard to believe I'm the only one with this particular pet peeve. Anyone else out there find this annoying?



Uh oh...

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Things I will never forget...

I remember when I started this blog and it only had eight followers--all of which were family members I'd guilted into clicking the "follow" button.

I remember how it stayed that way for MONTHS.

I remember how it felt when my first non-family follower appeared. And then another. And another.

I remember how often I'd check back, worrying the followers might have disappeared.

I remember how lonely it was before I made other writer friends. How hard it was to stay motivated. How much I wondered if I was fooling myself, chasing an impossible dream.

I remember squealing the first time an author @replied to me on Twitter. Squealing even louder when the first author "followed" me. And literally jumping up and down the first time an author responded to one of my emails.

I remember the first time someone who wasn't a friend or family member read some of my pages and told me I was "the real deal." How much those words meant to me. How much I'd needed to hear them.

I remember how hard it was to find Critique Partners. How scary it was to suggest swapping pages with someone. How long it took me to work up the courage to open their notes. How hard it was to let their constructive criticism make me a better writer. How devastating and discouraging it was, the few times the CP attempt just didn't quite *work out*

I remember how many drafts I threw away before I finally figured out the plot and typed, "the end." And how typing those words was just the beginning of the work.

I remember the way my legs shook as I walked into my first writer's conference all alone and picked up my badge. How I couldn't find anyone to sit with at the mixer, and called my husband near tears, wondering if I should go home early.

I remember how sick I felt when I got the list of agents I'd be pitching to. How I texted/dm-ed my friends in a panic, wondering if I'd be able to do it. How I couldn't eat for the entire conference because of the nerves.

I remember how shocked and overwhelmed I was when the agents requested pages. How I worried I'd misunderstood them. How scared I was to let myself hope it was a good sign.

I remember being so afraid to query that my friends had to bully me on Twitter to #hitsend.

I remember crying myself to sleep a few hours later, after getting my first rejection. Then crying again 2 weeks later, when Laura offered to represent me. Happy tears that time, though. :)

I remember the punched in the gut feeling of reading my first Laura-Revision-Letter. Worrying I wouldn't be good enough to pull it off. Having to force myself to dive in and get started. Having to tear my draft apart in order to make it better. And then having to tear it apart again.

I remember getting an email from a friend asking me if I wanted to try organizing a free online writer's conference, and wondering how the heck something like that would be possible. How I decided to give it a try anyway. How I worried the whole thing would be an epic failure.

I remember dancing around my house the first time an author sent me their ARC. How I obsessed over every word of that review, wanting to do the book justice. How that ARC still has a special spot on my bookshelf. Next to the signed copy I bought for myself.

I remember the first time someone recognized me from my blog at a book event. How strange it felt to have someone know who I was--and to care enough to come over and say hi. How I struggled to find something to say.

I remember all of these things--and so many more--in vivid, precise detail. Every step of my journey. Every high. Every low. Every unexpected curve. All the joy, heartache, and fear that went along with it.

And I'm telling you all of this because sometimes I feel like people see where I'm at now, and don't realize all the scary, stressful, sometimes painful steps I took to reach this point. Or worse, they think I've forgotten.

I haven't forgotten.

I remember every moment of my journey--and honestly? I'm still very much that same girl. I still get excited when a new follower pops up in my sidebar. I still squeal when an author I love @replies me. I still get nervous at conferences, I still get stressed by revision letters, and I still get STUNNED when someone recognizes me from my blog or Twitter or FB and comes up to meet me. And I hope that never changes, regardless of where this path continues to take me.

I am grateful for each and every thing I've accomplished.

But it doesn't change who I am. And I hope it doesn't change the way any of you see me. Because it shouldn't.

I may be a few steps ahead of you. Or maybe I'm a few steps behind. But we're all on the journey together. We're all heading to the same place. And none of us should ever forget that.

So what about you guys? What do you remember about your journey?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: Milo: Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze, by Alan Silberberg--and a Giveaway!

So excited to be back for another MMGM--especially since this week I'm featuring a book I simply cannot gush enough about: MILO: STICKY NOTES & BRAIN FREEZE, by Alan Silberberg.

Here's the description of the book:

Milo Cruikshank is a 13 year-old new kid, who has to find a way to hit the "restart" button all over again.

The truth is, ever since Milo's mother died nothing has felt right. Now, instead of the kitchen being filled with music, the whole house is filled with Fog. Nothing's the same. Not his Dad. Not his sister. And definitely not him. In love with the girl he sneezed on the first day of school and best pals with Marshall, the "One-Eyed Jack" of friends, Milo struggles to survive a school year that is filled with reminders of what his life "used to be".

Brimming with heart, humor and ultimately hope, Milo: Sticky Notes & Brain Freeze is a powerhouse of a novel that will stay with you well after you've turned the last page.

I've raved and swooned and gushed and told you all how fabulous this book is before--but I didn't get to showcase it the way it deserves. It's an AMAZING book--one I feel everyone needs to read.

I'll be honest, I cried so hard when I read certain moments in this book. The heartbreaking journey we follow Milo on as he struggles to cope with his mother's death really packs quite a punch (in fact, the editor--Liesa Abrams--said in a panel about this book at SCBWI LA that the running question at S&S was: where were you when MILO made you cry?).

But the amazing thing is that even with all that emotion and sadness--this book is genuinely hilarious (it even won the Sid Fleischman humor award at SCBWI this year). Mixed right in with the hard scenes are laugh-out-loud moments that temper the sorrow and help you put the pieces of yourself back together after the sad scenes break you. And that--right there--is what I find most amazing about this book.

I have no idea how Alan did it, but there's something healing about reading this story. The way Milo pulls himself--and his family--out of the fog is such an empowering thing, and somehow it makes you feel like you can do the same thing. It's a beautiful story and I'm so glad it exists. Both for kids (and adults) who've had to deal with loss, and the rest of us who've been spared that challenge. It truly touches us all.

Which is why I'm giving away a copy of the fancy new paperback version to one lucky winner. To enter, make sure you follow my blog and leave a comment on this post by 11:59 pm PDT on Saturday, September 3rd. I'll draw one random winner and post their name on Sunday, September 4th. International entries welcome.

And... go!

For more middle grade love, make sure you check out these other MMGMs floating around the blogosphere:

- The lovely Shannon O'Donnell always has an MMGM ready for you! Click HERE to see what she's featuring this week!

- Barbara Watson is featuring WOLF STORM. Click HERE to learn all about it. 

- Myrna foster is gushing about NUMBER THE STARS. Click HERE to see what she has to say.

- Michael Gettel-Gilmartin is spotlighting TURTLE IN PARADISE. Click HERE to read his review.

- Pam Torres is showcasing NATE ROCKS THE WORLD. Click HERE to learn more about it. 

- Karen Yingling has some fabulous nonfiction recommendations for everyone. Click HERE to see what they are. 

- The lovely Ishta Mercurio makes her MMGM debut with a feature on JACOB WONDERBAR AND THE COSMIC SPACE KAPOW--with a GIVEAWAY! Go HERE for all the details.

- The awesome Elana Johnson also joins the MMGM fun, featuring JANITORS--with GIVEAWAYS. Click HERE to see why you need to read it too.

And if you want to join in the MMGM fun, all you have to do is blog about a middle grade book you love (contests, author interviews and whatnot also count) and email me the title of the book you're featuring and a link to your blog. It's easier if you email me before Monday, that way your link will be included in the post from the moment it goes live. But if you decide to spontaneously join the fun, I do update the post at several points throughout the Monday. Just email me a link and I'll add you when I do!

Happy Monday!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Eleventh Plague Winner

Just a quick post to announce the winner of my signed ARC of  THE ELEVENTH PLAGUE, by Jeff Hirsch.

*drumroll please*




*tosses confetti*

If that's you, please email me at packratx (at) hotmail (dot) com with your mailing address so I can ship off your prize. For everyone else, never fear--THE ELEVENTH PLAGUE hits stores THIS WEEK! I definitely recommend picking up a copy. 

Hope everyone is having a great weekend!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Unwanteds Winner!

Whoops--almost forgot to post this. (Having winners to announce on Saturday AND Sunday is screwing with my brain)

Anyway, the lucky winner of my lovely ARC of the amazing UNWANTEDS by Lisa McMann is...

*dramatic pause*



Hee--how many of you hate me right now?



keep going...



*tosses confetti*

*flings streamers*

*does a happy dance*

Okay--if that's you, drop me an email at packratx (at) hotmail (dot) com with your mailing address, and I will get your prize shipped off as soon as possible.

For the rest of you, THE UNWANTEDS comes out on TUESDAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

Trust me when I say you don't want to miss this one. It. is. AWESOME! (And if you preorder from Changing Hands in the next few days you can get a special, limited edition prize pack. Details HERE!)

Happy Saturday!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Evil Possums, talking cupcakes, and guys with side ponytails

And, it's that time again, where I borrow, (oh all right, COPY) a post idea from Karsten Knight and share with you more of the crazy things people have googled and somehow found my blog with. 

But first, I have to say, it is AMAZING how many people can't spell Messenger. I mean... I know it's a last name, and last names often get misspelled. BUT IT'S ALSO A WORD!!! Do people really think you spell it Messinger? Or Messanger? Or Mesanger? Or Mesager?

I've also seen Sharon Messenger. Shanon. Shannin. And Shannen. So very bizarre. 

But not as bizarre as THESE:

mouse fear measuring
(I have no idea what this means, or why this leads them to my blog)
(but I kind of love that it does)

celebs with enormous heads
(this pleases me to no end)
(my dream is for google to list me as the #1 authority on this subject) 

What does the term "She was a betty " from clueless mean?
(OMG I'm an authority on Clueless!!!!!)
(my life is complete now!)

what happens to the messenger
(Yeah... what does happen?)
(and let's hope the answer ISNT: someone shoots them...)
(see what I did there?)

shannon messenger llama blog
(Uh... have I blogged about llamas?)
(I don't think I have)
(but clearly someone thinks I have)
(Is that a request?)

justin hartley feet
(Of all the things you could google for Justin Hartley--you wanna see his FEET?)
(Side note: "Justin Hartley abs" triggers a lot of searches too. But those are my kind of people)

pictures of drooling
(For the record--I've never posted a picture of myself drooling)
(I'm far too glamorous and ladylike for such things)

fighting platypus
(I want one!)

they made me choose between abs and a neck
(I ... don't even know where to start with this)
(Why does this lead to my blog???)
(What does this even mean????)
(What kind of crazy person googles this??????)

guys with side ponytail
(I am sooooooo tempted to image search this and see what comes up)
(but I'm a little afraid, too)
(okay, more than a little. guys + side ponytail = *shudder*)

hot 11 year old guys
(oh mans)
(I guess this is what happens when you blog about middle grade AND occasionally about hunky celebrities)
(why do I have a feeling the FBI is monitoring things like this?)
(*glances over shoulder*)

north american opossum evil
(hee--I wouldn't be at all surprised if it was my husband googling this)
(he is CONVINCED possums are minions of evil)
(especially the one that sneaks into our garage every night)
(I think it's cute)
(in that ugly-oversized-rat kind of way)

shannon messenger deadline
(yes--people have actually googled this)
(SEVERAL of them)
(which is awesome!)
(Anonymous strangers are more concerned with my deadlines than I am!)

messenger shirtless
(I ... have no words)
(*crosses fingers that they're referring to a different messenger*)

shannon messenger rainbow
(oh good... people are searching for my humiliating Comic Con costume)

talking cupcakes
(I don't know what these are)

shannon leto
(My 15-yr-old fantasy of marrying Jared Leto has finally come true!!!!)
(according to google, at least)
(and what more reliable source is there?)
(don't tell my husband)

abnormally hairy
(Okay, I totally brought this one on myself with my shenanigans the last time I did this)

Which brings me to this:

shannon messenger hairy feet (hi shannon!)
(*dies laughing*)

I don't know which one of you is responsible for that search--but you are officially my hero. 

And on that note, I think that's enough for today. Unless you have some crazy google searches of your own. If so--share away! :)

Happy Friday!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Bookanista Review: The Eleventh Plague, by Jeff Hirsch--AND A SIGNED ARC GIVEAWAY!!!!

Yay--I'm FINALLY back to my Bookanista Review schedule--and just in time to feature a fabulous book coming out very soon! THE ELEVENTH PLAGUE, by Jeff Hirsch.

Here's how the publisher describes it:

In an America devastated by war and plague, the only way to survive is to keep moving.

In the aftermath of a war, America’s landscape has been ravaged and two thirds of the population left dead from a vicious strain of influenza. Fifteen-year-old Stephen Quinn and his family were among the few that survived and became salvagers, roaming the country in search of material to trade for food and other items essential for survival. But when Stephen’s grandfather dies and his father falls into a coma after an accident, Stephen finds his way to Settler’s Landing, a community that seems too good to be true, where there are real houses, barbecues, a school, and even baseball games. Then Stephen meets strong, defiant, mischievous Jenny, who refuses to accept things as they are. And when they play a prank that goes horribly wrong, chaos erupts, and they find themselves in the midst of a battle that will change Settler’s Landing forever.

So, clearly this is a dystopian--and as many of you may remember, I've been a *little* burned out on the dystopian genre recently, just because there are SO MANY. But I was drawn to this one because a) I'd heard it was awesome from more than one person. And b) it's DIFFERENT. 

It's not set in a world/society so far into the future that it almost feels like it's on another planet. Instead, it takes place in the all-too-familiar ruins of America after a devastating war and plague (a scenario which is described in a disconcertingly plausible way). There's no sci-fi techie gadgets, no highly developed alternate government oppressing the masses with its rules and regulations. And the story takes place only years after "The Collapse," with characters who can actually remember the way things were before. Which gives the story a completely different feel from the average dystopian novel out there. (None of which I am criticizing, btw. I'm a huge fan of many of them. I'm just a little burned out and enjoying some variety). It feels almost real--like something that could possibly (but hopefully not) happen at some point in the future. Which makes it a totally page-turning, wild ride.

I won't say more than that, because I don't want to ruin it for anyone. But I highly recommend it to all of you. Which is why I'm sharing my ARC with one lucky commenter on this post. Oh, and it's SIGNED. :)

To enter, make sure you follow my blog and leave a comment by 11:59 pm PDT on Saturday, August 27th (going to be a quick contest this time, so I can get the prize out to one of you nice and quick.) I'll draw one random winner and post their name on Sunday, August 28th. International entries welcome.

For more fabulous book recommendations, check out what my fellow Bookanistas are talking about:

Elana Johnson revels in Write Your Book Now!
LiLa Roecker  is gaga for Imaginary Girls
Christine Fonseca  celebrates Circle of Fire – with giveaway
Megan Miranda is transfixed by Between
Shana Silver delves into The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer
Corrine Jackson celebrates her “Blogiversary” with YA Authors sharing Lessons Learned
Stasia Ward Kehoe  falls for the cover of The Fox Inheritance

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The "Spread the Love" ARC giveaway!

Ever since I got back from ALA I have been promising you guys some epic ARC contests to share my spoils--and now that WriteOnCon is over, I FINALLY had a chance to organize one. So I've selected four from my stash which I *suspect* you're all going to be pretty exited about, and I give you: The "Spread the Love" ARC giveaway. Here's what's up for grabs today:

(Hee... I feel like I need a drumroll...)

CROSSED, by Ally Condie

The hotly awaited second book in the dystopian Matched trilogy

In search of a future that may not exist and faced with the decision of who to share it with, Cassia journeys to the Outer Provinces in pursuit of Ky - taken by the Society to his certain death - only to find that he has escaped, leaving a series of clues in his wake.
Cassia's quest leads her to question much of what she holds dear, even as she finds glimmers of a different life across the border. But as Cassia nears resolve and certainty about her future with Ky, an invitation for rebellion, an unexpected betrayal, and a surprise visit from Xander - who may hold the key to the uprising and, still, to Cassia's heart - change the game once again. Nothing is as expected on the edge of Society, where crosses and double crosses make the path more twisted than ever.

SHATTER ME, by Tahereh Mafi

Juliette hasn't touched anyone in exactly 264 days. The last time she did, it was an accident, but The Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why Juliette's touch is fatal. As long as she doesn't hurt anyone else, no one really cares. The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old-girl. Diseases are destroying the population, food is hard to find, birds don't fly anymore, and the clouds are the wrong color.

The Reestablishment said their way was the only way to fix things, so they threw Juliette in a cell. Now so many people are dead that the survivors are whispering war- and The Reestablishment has changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she's exactly what they need right now.

Juliette has to make a choice: Be a weapon. Or be a warrior.

In this electrifying debut, Tahereh Mafi presents a world as riveting asThe Hunger Games and a superhero story as thrilling as The X-Men. Full of pulse-pounding romance, intoxicating villainy, and high-stakes choices,Shatter Me is a fresh and original dystopian novel—with a paranormal twist—that will leave readers anxiously awaiting its sequel

PERFECT, by Ellen Hopkins

Everyone has something, someone, somewhere else that they’d rather be. For four high-school seniors, their goals of perfection are just as different as the paths they take to get there.

Cara’s parents’ unrealistic expectations have already sent her twin brother Conner spiraling toward suicide. For her, perfect means rejecting their ideals to take a chance on a new kind of love. Kendra covets the perfect face and body—no matter what surgeries and drugs she needs to get there. To score his perfect home run—on the field and off—Sean will sacrifice more than he can ever win back. And Andre realizes that to follow his heart and achieve his perfect performance, he’ll be living a life his ancestors would never have understood.

Everyone wants to be perfect, but when perfection loses its meaning, how far will you go? What would you give up to be perfect?

A riveting and startling companion to the bestselling Impulse, Ellen Hopkins's Perfect exposes the harsh truths about what it takes to grow up and grow into our own skins, our own selves.

THE SCORPIO RACES, by Maggie Stiefvater

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Shiver and Linger comes a brand new, heartstopping novel.

With her trademark lyricism, Maggie Stiefvater turns to a new world, where a pair are swept up in a daring, dangerous race across a cliff--with more than just their lives at stake should they lose.

Yes--I'm serious. I'm really giving all of those away. It's KILLING me more than a little to part with them--but you guys deserve an awesome contest. So I'm spreading the love.

And I'm hoping that you guys will do the same. The thing about ARCs is, as much as we all get excited about getting to read the awesome upcoming books before everyone else, that's not why the publishers print them. They print them to build buzz, and hopefully garner some reviews, either on blogs, Goodreads, Amazon, B&N, whatever. So while I can't require it (because I would have no way of enforcing it) I'm REALLY hoping that the four lucky winners of these prizes will take the time to spread the love forward a bit, and post a review for them SOMEWHERE. Shoot, even if you just tweet about how excited you are to read it, you're helping spread the word. Wouldn't you want people to do the same for your book someday?

Okay--on to the rules! And let's keep this simple and easy (cause... uh... I'm still recovering from WriteOnCon). I have 4 prizes, so there will be 4 winners. To enter, make sure you're following my blog and leave a comment on this post by 11:59 pm PDT on Saturday, September 3rd. Winners will be posted on Sunday, September 4th. International entries welcome.

If there's one prize in particular that you're absolutely DYING for, go ahead and mention it in your comment and if you win I'll try to match it accordingly. But since winning is random, there's no guarantee you'll get your #1 choice. With prizes this awesome though, you really can't go wrong with any of them.

Also, since this contest is about spreading the love, (and I'm sure a lot of you are dying for extra chances to win) I'm willing to reward you with extra entries if you spread the word about the contest. I'll give one extra entry if you blog/tweet/FB about it (so if you do all three, that would give you a maximum total of four entries).  Just let me know what you did in your comment, so I can count your entries accordingly.

Any questions? Leave them in the comments.

And... GO!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Eyes on your own test paper!

Two posts from me in a row--can you believe it? (I know, I'm stunned too!) But I'm trying to get back in my good blogging habits. So I thought I'd post today about something that has come up in several conversations with writer-friends recently.

Remember in school, how teachers used to say "eyes on your own test paper"? (Yes, in those dark ages before they had to say things like: "no texting during the test!" and "put that smart phone away!")

They said it, of course, because they didn't want us to cheat. But I remember discovering another reason why looking at someone else's test paper was a VERY bad idea.

In middle school, I had an evil teacher (no really, she was. I mean, she taught math--need I say more?) and because she was evil, she decided that her tests would be timed. TIMED.  (See? She was a minion of evil, I tell you. I bet she had fangs and frothy saliva and bloodshot eyes when she left the classroom)

So of course I spiralled into Shannon-panic mode. What if I ran out of time? How fast did I have to answer questions in order to make it? WHAT IF I COULDN'T KEEP UP??? (I was...a bit high stress as a kid. SHOCKING, I know)

All of that panic bubbled inside of me. And do you know what it made me do? Something I'd never, ever considered doing before. I didn't keep my eyes on my own test paper.

I wasn't cheating. I wasn't even looking at their answers. But I was looking. Because I wanted to know where they were. Were they on a question ahead of me? Was I working too slow? Why couldn't I keep up? WHAT WAS I DOING WRONG????

It ... didn't go well.

For one thing, I was very lucky the teacher didn't notice (since I'm sure she probably had some sort of evil lair she sent all rulebreakers with chains and torture devices and an endless supply of old Urkel episodes to make the naughty students sit through). But worse than that ... I did not get a good score. Not because I didn't know the information. Because I was so distracted by everyone else, so focused on what THEY were doing, that I didn't pay enough attention to myself. And I ran out of time because of it.

The same lesson applies to this crazy publishing journey we're all on. It is SO EASY to get caught up in: she just signed with an agent and she queried for less time than me, what's wrong with me, why am I still querying? Or: their agent is a bigger agent than my agent--are they a better writer than me? Or, hey--they sold their book for a gazillion dollars and I did NOT sell mine for that much, what am I doing wrong? Or why do they get more marketing support than me? Why do they have more blog followers? How come they sold their book so fast? How come they're friends with so many writers? Why do they get to go to so many conferences? How come they can afford to quit their day job?

Compare. Compare. Compare.

It's a very downward spiral.

Trust me, nothing THEY'RE doing has anything to do with what YOU'RE doing. Watching them won't get you an agent faster, or make your book sell for more, or get you any of the things that they're getting that you want. But it WILL slow you down. Maybe not in obvious ways. But I guarantee you, it will. Because let's face it, it's discouraging. It's discouraging to see other people getting the things we want. And when we're discouraged, it's really hard to focus on our craft and our stories and make them the best they can be--which is kind of the most important thing when it comes to our career as writers.

Believe me--I know it's hard. We have to pay *some* attention to these things, because we also need to keep up with the industry. Plus, we need to be able to be happy for our friends when they find success.

But we have to keep our eyes on our own test paper too. We can't let ourselves focus on THEM. They're not us. We're all on our own journey--and the only thing that matters is that we're doing the best we can to reach our goals. If we focus on that, we'll eventually get where we want to be. And we'll save ourselves a WHOLE lot of stress and heartache in the meantime.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: The Unwanteds, by Lisa McMann--and an ARC Giveaway!

Not gonna lie--I am still WIPED from WriteOnCon. But now that it's over I'm *trying* to get things back to normal, so I made SURE I had an MMGM for you this week. And today I'm featuring a book I am SOOOOOO excited about: THE UNWANTEDS, by Lisa McMann.

LOVE this cover. I mean, who doesn't want to know what's going on there?

And here's the copy from the book jacket:

Every year in Quill, thirteen-year-olds are sorted into categories: the strong, intelligent Wanteds go to university, and the artistic Unwanteds are sent to their deaths

Thirteen-year-old Alex tries his hardest to be stoic when his fate is announced as Unwanted, even while leaving behind his twin, Aaron, a Wanted. Upon arrival at the destination where he expected to be eliminated, however, Alex discovers a stunning secret--behind the mirage of the "death farm" there is instead a place called Artime.

In Artime, each child is taught to cultivate their creative abilities and learn how to use them magically, weaving spells through paintbrushes and musical instruments. Everything Alex has ever known changes before his eyes, and it's a wondrous transformation.

But it's a rare, unique occurence for twins to be separated between Wanted and Unwanted, and as Alex and Aaron's bond stretches across their separation, a threat arises for the survival of Artime that will pit brother against brother in an ultimate, magical battle.

So ... it's a dystopian middle grade fantasy (or as Kirkus described it: Harry Potter meets The Hunger Games). HOW INSANELY COOL IS THAT????


I'd actually been dying to read this book even before I'd seen the awesome cover or read the plot description. I'd heard Lisa read the first chapter at a signing FOREVER ago and it was the kind of chapter where it was like: OMG I HAVE TO KNOW WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN NEXT!!! (honestly, it was kind of evil of her to leave us hanging that way :D). Plus, it's not every day a mega-successful YA author writes something middle-grade. So as soon as I heard there were ARCs in circulation I emailed my friend at S&S begging for a copy. And definitely squealed when one arrived in my mailbox (okay, I might have bragged about it on Twitter too) (I'm kind of evil as well.) 

And it was so worth the begging!

Her kids are genuine, authentic kids with relatable kid voices, her plot is fast paced and fun, and the world she created is so wonderfully imaginative. More than that though, I love the idea of this book. Of showing kids to celebrate their creativity, to see it as a true power in their lives. And for any kid who's ever felt "unwanted" by their peers (which ... uh ... is probably about 90% of kids in middle school) I love that this book tells them, hey--it's okay to be Unwanted. It's actually the coolest thing to be. Such an empowering message, hidden amongst a whole lot of magic and action and adventure. It's sure to be a hit with kids of all ages--and parents alike. And I highly recommend it to all of you.

THE UNWANTEDS comes out August 30th, but in the meantime I'm sharing my ARC with one lucky winner. To enter, make sure you follow my blog and leave a comment on this post by 11:59 PM PDT on Friday, August 26th. I'll draw one lucky winner and post their name on Saturday, August 27th. International entries welcome!

Ready? Set? Go!

For more middle grade love, make sure you check out these other MMGMs floating around the blogosphere:

- Shannon O'Donnell's featuring WILDWOOD--with a giveaway! Click HERE for details!

- Joanne Fritz is highlighting BIGGER THAN A BREADBOX. Click HERE to read her review.

- Myrna foster is gushing about the AMULET series of graphic novels. Click HERE to learn more about them.

- Pam Torres is showcasing CRUNCH. Click HERE to learn more about it. 

- Anita Layton Miller has a whole host of awesome MG recommendations. Click HERE to find them.

- Please welcome Ms Yingling--a fabulous school librarian--to the MMGM crew! Today she's got two fabulous middle grade recommendations for everyone. Click HERE to see what they are.

And I've gotten A LOT of emails from people recently, wondering what MMGM is, if they can participate, etc. Basically, it's something I created to encourage people to spread a little middle-grade love throughout the blogosphere (since MG tends to sometimes be a bit overlooked)--so it is DEFINITELY "the more the merrier." If you want to join in all you have to do is blog about a middle grade book you love (contests, author interviews and whatnot also count) and email me the title of the book you're featuring and a link to your blog. It's easier--and better for you--if you email me before Monday, that way your link will be included in the post from the moment it goes live. But if you decide to spontaneously join the fun, I do update the post at several points throughout the Monday. Just email me a link and I'll add you when I do. Simple. Easy. And it's a whole lot of fun. 

I know I've been kind of irregular about it for the last few months--and I REALLY appreciate those of you who carried the torch even without me.  I promise I am going to try my hardest to get back in the habit and support this meme again--and I'd love any of you to join in with me. Let's show the blogopshere all the awesome MG they've been missing out on--there's a LOT of it! *fist pump* :)

Happy Monday!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Why I Plan WriteOnCon

Once again I have no MMGM for you guys this week (sorry! I SUPER appreciate anyone who has one out there, floating around the blogosphere--and I promise things will get back to normal, starting next week.)

But this week is a very special week for me--a week I work ALL YEAR to get to--so naturally it's going to affect my blogging schedule a bit. It's WriteOnCon week.

For those who don't know (though I'm not sure that's possible, with how much I ramble about it on here), WriteOnCon is a free online writers conference I help organize with a few other blogger/writer friends. It's a MASSIVE undertaking, and since we make up most of it as we go along, it's always a bit of an adventure. And it starts tomorrow. TOMORROW.


So, as you can imagine, the last few weeks--and the last few days especially--have been a flurry of sending emails and assembling posts and scheduling tweets and editing vlogs and organizing the schedule and emailing faculty and answering questions and problem solving and trouble shooting and brainstorming and putting out fires and rearranging things because of last minute changes and replying to emails (did I mention emails--cause there have been A LOT of emails!) And we're not quite done yet. We're kind of down to the minute here in WriteOnCon-land.

And as I've survived the chaos, I've had more than a few people ask me the same question: Why do you do it?

I can't blame them for wondering. It is a LOT of work. And WriteOnCon is awesome for throwing us curveballs and making things kinda stressful as we push ourselves  to find creative solutions. Not to mention, by the end, I kind of want to throw my laptop out a window.

BUT I DO HAVE A REASON. And it's not money--we don't make a cent off WriteOnCon (the donations we receive cover the HUGE cost of our web hosting--that's it.) It's also not publicity because, well...WriteOnCon isn't about ME. Our awesome faculty are the stars. I'm just the grunt worker in the background, making sure they shine.

So what is it?

Well, it's threefold, really.

1) The ladies I plan WriteOnCon with are five of the most amazing people I've found in this crazy place we call the blogosphere. They're funny, smart, creative, hardworking, dedicated, and just generally awesome. Which is especially amazing when you consider how group dynamics can often be ... tricky. Especially with a project this EPIC and high stress. But with WriteOnCon it's almost effortless. No drama. No issues. Trust me, there's no way I could read and send as many group emails as I do if I weren't working with such an incredible team. And I didn't think it could get any better after last year, but this year we added some forum moderators and a couple of web/graphic people and they have added so much to the group with their talent, creative ideas, and occasional shenanigans. Not to mention hard work. It's an absolutely amazing, one-of-a kind experience to be a part of, and I wouldn't trade it for anything.

2) WriteOnCon allows me to give something back to the writing/publishing community, from which I so often feel like I take more than I give. I don't blog hop as much as I want to. I can't follow everyone on Twitter, or read everyone's FB posts. I don't have time to read/critique people's manuscripts, and I can't bring everyone with me to the conferences/signings I attend. But I can do this. I can help organize this amazing, humongous event that has and will continue to help writers on their journey. And every time someone emails us to let us know they found a critique partner or signed with an agent or sold their book or learned something vital for their journey and that WriteOnCon played a small role in makes me kinda teary. It's such an unbelievable, rewarding thing, and I feel truly honored to be a part of it.

3) It reminds me that the children's publishing industry is one of the most incredible, supportive places I've ever found. I mean, my basic role is to send out emails that read somewhere along the lines of:

Dear Publishing Rock Star,  

I know you're super busy, and have no idea who I am. But I was wondering if you'd like to give a chunk of your already over-packed schedule to help us with WriteOnCon. Oh, and since we're a free conference, there's no honorarium.  What do you say? 

All Best,
Unknown Blogger/Writer*

*okay, the email I send them might be worded TAD more professionally. But that's the basic concept


Seriously, it's INSANE how few people tell us, "NO"--and when they do it's always because of a scheduling conflict. Which is just so incredibly amazing it makes me a little speechless, every time. And reminds me that I have truly found the most wonderful industry to work in.

So yeah, planning WriteOnCon is a bit of a beast, and by the end of this week I fully expect to be curled up in the fetal position whimpering because I've spent three days chained to my laptop with no food or sleep. But it will be SO WORTH IT!

And I wanted to take the chance now--since I may be too exhausted later--to say thank you. To any of you who stop by--even if it's only for a little while. And any of you who blog/tweet/FB/tumble/whatever about what we have going on and help us spread the word. THANK YOU! Above anything else, I plan WriteOnCon for you guys. So I really hope you enjoy what we've managed to put together for you this year.

So it's with great pride (and a huge dash of awe) that I now present the schedule for our 2011 conference, which kicks off officially tomorrow morning. I hope it meets your expectations:

 WriteOnCon Schedule of Events:
*all times EDT, LIVE events are noted in blue and will take place here. Red items signify when various threads open in the forums. All content will take place on the main WriteOnCon site.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Ninja Agent Program officially opens in forum. (start posting your work for them to spot!)
11:00 AM: Author Emma Walton Hamilton’s threads open in the forum. Participants can post their questions for Emma, as well as picture book queries for critique. Entries capped at 50.
8:00 PM: Literary agent Jessica Sinsheimer’s thread opens in the forum. Participants can leave questions for her to answer.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011:

6:00 AM: Welcome Keynote by author Josh Berk – in a BATHROBE!
7:00 AM: Pacing in Contemporary YA by author Sara Zarr
7:30 AM: Call for questions for literary agent Steven Malk
8:00 AM: How to Write A Killer First Sentence by author Jodi Meadows
8:30 AM: Picture Book Queries by author Emma Walton Hamilton
9:00 AM: Myths and Misconceptions by literary agent Holly Root, and editors Molly O’Neill and Martha Mihalick
10:00 AM: Drawing From Memory by author Alan Silberberg
10:30 AM: Writing For Multiple Ages by author Shelley Moore Thomas
11:00 AM: Literary Agents Carlie Webber and Christina Hogrebe’s thread opens in the forum. Participants can post their “Twitter pitch” (pitch in 140 characters or less) and first 100 words for critique/comment. Entries capped at 75.
11:00 AM: Live Forum Q&A and PB query critiques with author Emma Walton Hamilton
***This event takes places in our FORUM. Emma will be answering questions and offering advice on previously submitted PB queries HERE.
***Click here to learn how our live forum events will work.
12:00 PM: On Platform, a live chat with literary agent Sara Megibow
***This is a live event. Please click here to make sure you know how live events work.
1:00 PM: Creating Compelling Settings by author Jessi Kirby
1:30 PM: Puzzled By Picture Books by author/illustrator Sarah Frances Hardy
2:00 PM: Is your MS ready for submission? by author Tom Leveen
2:30 PM: LGBT Lit by author Scott Tracey
3:00 PM: Live Q&A chat with literary agent Suzie Townsend
***This is a live event. Please click here to make sure you know how live events work.
4:00 PM: Don’t Give Up! by author Beth Revis
4:30 PM: Writing Magical Realism by author Nova Ren Suma
5:00 PM: COLLECTIVE BLOGGING & BOOK PROMOTION -- Ten ways to collaborate with fellow bloggers and writers on-line and in-person (For published and not-yet-published writers!)—Stages on Pages
6:00 PM: Author Collaboration with author Jay Asher
8:00 PM: Live Q&A Forum Event with literary agent Jessica Sinsheimer
***This event takes places in our FORUM. Jessica will be answering questions HERE.
***Click here to learn how our live forum events will work.
9:00 PM: Panel of Professionals (Michelle Andelman, Emily Meehan, Annette Pollert, Jim McCarthy)
***This is a live event. Please click here to make sure you know how live events work.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

6:00 AM: The Debut Year by author Lindsey Leavitt
7:00 AM: Illustration 101 by JH Everett and the Studio 5 Illustrators
7:30 AM: Putting Yourself Out There by author Saundra Mitchell
8:00 AM: I DON'T CARE THAT HE'S HOT: Building Believable Romance by editor Martha Mihalick
8:30 AM: The Shakeover Makeover—Shake Your PB Till It Shines! by authors Tiffany Strelitz Haber & Corey Rosen Schwartz
9:00 AM: Novel Beginnings, How to Find the Best Place to Start by author Lisa Schroeder
9:30 AM: How to Write A Synopsis, by author Jodi Meadows
10:00 AM: Literary agent Alyssa Eisner Henkin’s thread opens in the forum. Participants can post their 250-word pitch for critique. Entries capped at 50.
10:00 AM: Creating Characters for Picture Books by author Tammi Sauer
10:30 AM: What Makes Middle Grade Sing? by literary agent Joanna Volpe
11:00 AM: Live Twitter Pitch Event with literary agents Carlie Webber and Christina Hogrebe
***This event takes places in our forum. Carlie and Christina will be commenting on the previously submitted pitches HERE.
***Click here to learn how our live forum events will work.
12:00 PM: Are You Ready to Query? by literary agent Kate Testerman
12:30 PM: On Compactness by literary agent Weronika Janczuk
1:00 PM: Live Q&A with author Sarah Rees Brennan
***This is a live event. Please click here to make sure you know how live events work.
2:00 PM: Character Growth by author Lauren Oliver
2:30 PM: Balancing Writing, Work, and Life by editor Kendra Levin
3:00 PM: Live Query Letter Q&A with literary agent Jenny Bent
***This is a live event. Please click here to make sure you know how live events work.
4:00 PM: Submission Basics by literary agent Ginger Clark
4:30 PM: How I Know If I Like It, by literary agent Sara Crowe
5:00 PM: Literary agent Roseanne Wells’s thread opens in the forum. Participants can post their YA query for critique. Entries capped at 50.
5:00 PM: Live YA Q&A chat with Holly Root and Barbara Poelle
***This is a live event. Please click here to make sure you know how live events work.
5:30 PM: YA Muses Vlog
6:00 PM: Marketing 101 for Children’s Book Authors by author Emma Walton Hamilton
9:00 PM: Panel of Professionals (Kate Testerman, Martha Mihalick, Joanna Volpe, Jen Rofe, Diana Fox)
***This is a live event. Please click here to make sure you know how live events work.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

6:00 AM: Ask A Bookbuyer by bookbuyers Faith Hochhalter and Brandi Stewart
7:00 AM: Chapter Books, Graphic Novels, & Hybrids: Exploring the Potential of the Young Reader Market by author Eric Wright
7:30 AM: How/When I Know A Manuscript Is Right For Me by editor Annette Pollert
8:00 AM: 10 Traits of an Author by author Amy Dominy
8:30 AM: Moments That Matter by author Matt Myklusch
9:00 AM: Writing A Great Query by literary agent Jim McCarthy
9:30 AM: Respect by author Kiersten White
10:00 AM: Live 250-word Pitch Event with literary agent Alyssa Eisner Henkin
***This event takes places in our forum. Alyssa will be critiquing the previously submitted pitches HERE.
***Click here to learn how our live forum events will work.
11:00 AM: Successful Marketing/Promo/School Visits by author Jon S. Lewis
11:30 AM: Pacing by author Tara Hudson
12:00 PM: Live chat with literary agents Marietta Zacker, Joan Paquette, and Michael Bourret
***This is a live event. Please click here to make sure you know how live events work.
1:00 PM: Revision by author Carrie Ryan
2:00 PM: An Editor’s Perspective on What Authors Should and Should Not Talk About Online by editor Liesa Abrams
3:00 PM: Traditional vs. Self-Publishing Live Chat with literary agent Sara Megibow
***This is a live event. Please click here to make sure you know how live events work.
4:00 PM: Dialogue by literary agent Tina Wexler (blog)
5:00 PM: Live YA Query Letter Event with literary agent Roseanne Wells
***This event takes places in our forum. Roseanne will be commenting on previously submitted query letters HERE.
***Click here to learn how our live forum events will work.
5:30 PM: Class of 2K12 Vlog
6:00 PM: Answers to Questions by literary agent Steven Malk
6:30 PM: The Reading Room  TOP 5
9:00 PM: Panel of Professionals (Natalie Fischer, Anica Rissi, Kathleen Ortiz)
***This is a live event. Please click here to make sure you know how live events work.
10:30 PM: AB Lit Chat (Jen Rofe, Kelly Sonnack, Jennifer Laughran, Caryn Wiseman)
***This is a live event. Please click here to make sure you know how live events work.

I don't know about you, but my eyes kind of bug out of my head when I see how many amazing people are on our faculty this year. For full bios/photos, please go HERE and HERE,

And...that's probably all from me for this week. At least over here. But PLEASE come check out the WriteOnCon website. Awesome things will be happening all day long. You don't want to miss out!

Friday, August 12, 2011


I really wanted to do like a proper: HELPING YOU GUYS GET READY FOR ALL THE AWESOME THINGS WE HAVE IN STORE NEXT WEEK kind of post before WriteOnCon. But...well...*I'M* still too busy getting ready for all the awesome things we have in store next week.

As is our way, things are a bit down to the wire here in WriteOnConland, so life is a bit too chaotic to say much more than that. But I promise, promise, PROMISE all the blogging breaks and comment responding neglect and overly rambly posts you guys have endured this summer will be SO WORTH IT. We really have some amazing things for you next week. Our faculty falls into the: Holy-Crap-How-Did-We-Get-Such-Cool-People? Category. And their posts and vlogs? All I can say is O.M.G. It's like a gold mine of incredible info. I can't wait to share it with you. 

Not to mention we have some AMAZING live events--and there are LOTS of them this year--at all different times so that there will hopefully be one that fits your schedules.

So...yeah. Get ready for it. It's gonna be great. And if you want more info on how to prepare or who our faculty is or have questions about certain programs we've created, the WriteOnCon website is FILLED with awesome posts with all kinds of the details my poor, overworked brain is far too lame to reproduce here. So go there and check it out. 

And...back to work. Can't believe it's next week! *twitch* *flail*

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

SCBWI LA 2011 Shenanigans!

Wow. Just wow. I forgot how crazypants-hectic-packed-with-OMG-amazingness SCBWI LA is. I am wiped you guys. WIPED. And inspired. And practically overdosing on all the awesome I got to participate in and absorb.  But mostly wiped. (Especially since WriteOnCon is less than a week away. *whimpers*)

I got to meet a bunch of you--which was SO much fun (thank you so much for taking the time to come up and say, Hi. You really know how to make a silly blonde girl feel special!) But I know a lot of you also couldn't be there, so I wanted to share my stories and photos (though sadly, I didn't take as many pics as I'd planned. Have I mentioned that SCBWI LA is chaotically-overwhelmingly-busy?)

I arrived on Thursday, and after some awesome reunions with author friends and others I'd been dying to meet (um...all of whom I forgot to take pictures with) I went to dinner with Casey McCormick, fellow WriteOnCon planner and SCBWI LA roommate extraordinaire. (and...forgot to take a picture with her. Not off to the best start, now am I? Bear with me here...)

The conference started (EARLY) the next day, and after breakfast with a friend and some amazing sessions and keynotes, I went to the author signing, where I got to meet Laurie Halse Anderson!!!!

Such a kind, engaging, inspiring woman--with gorgeous hair!

(I also got to meet Libba Bray and Norman Juster, but I failed to get pictures. *sigh*)

And here's me with Nova Ren Suma and Casey McCormick at the mixer-signing thingie. :)

Then I changed and had drinks with some of my fellow Bookanistas: Gretchen McNeil, Veronica Rossi, Stasia Ward Kehoe, Shelli Johannes Wells, Jessi Kirby, Cory Jackson (and her agent Laura Bradford), all of whom I forgot to take pictures with... (FAIL!)

But, then I went to dinner with some author friends and someone there was smart enough to take the picture for me!!!
 This is me with the awesome Alan Silberberg, Hillary Homzie, Jo Whittemore, and James Riley at Rock Sugar. (best. green curry. ever.)

And...those are the only pictures I have that weren't at the pajama party.  Fortunately--I took a bunch there because I was pretty darn proud of my custom t-shirt:

Especially the other side...
Makes me giggle every. single. time.

Though I can't take full credit for the design. I had some help from this guy:
(for those who can't tell--the pink bunny is Jay Asher, my awesome agent-brother and partner-in-Shenanigans)

I was fully prepared to let Jay take the fall if need be (he was the one who insisted I add Laura's picture to the mix)  but Laura actually has an awesome sense of humor and found the whole process hilarious. (and yes--if you're wondering, I did send her pictures).

Her fellow ABLA agents who were at the conference found it pretty funny too. Especially Jen Rofe:
(Who seems to be challenging Laura to a pillow fight, here. )

As did several of my agent sisters--including the incredible Ellen Hopkins:
(I love how my hand is a blur in this picture. It's like I couldn't stop sipping my caffeine long enough to pose for a picture) 
(Also--I must say, dancing with Ellen is one of those: not-to-be-missed SCBWI experiences. She puts me to shame!) :)

I also got to hang out more with Alan Silberberg
(who wins the prize--imho--for best pajamas)
Not sure if you guys know who Alan is, but I have gushed and raved about his book MILO: STICKY NOTES AND BRAIN FREEZE (and will be doing it some more very soon), which won the Sid Fleischman humor award this year. SUCH an amazing read.

Then on Sunday, while everyone was off getting their drink on at Kid-Lit drink night--I was lucky enough to be invited by Jen Rofe to go with her and a group of other ABLA authors/clients to a BBQ in Topanga Canyon with Neal Shusterman and Eric Elfman:
And I have to say: Eric can cook me dinner ANY TIME HE WANTS. Seriously, some of the best food I've had. And after a chaotic four days of going going going and crowds everywhere, there was nothing better than being in a beautiful house in the quietly breathtaking canyon with home-cooked food and amazing authors. Love my literary agency even more for letting me be included in that.

And sadly, that's all I have to show you. There were SOOOOOO many more amazing authors I met and/or heard speak, but I forgot to take pictures. But it was definitely one of the best conferences I've been to.  Crowded and overbooked and more than a little exhausting (not to mention my voice is still a raspy mess from five days of talking to be heard over noisy rooms). But it is such a great experience and I definitely recommend it for any of you, as something to put on your Bucket List. :)

Okay, so that was my weekend. How was yours????