Monday, April 29, 2013

Back to Business: Craft Chat about Fake Places

Understanding the PLACE in which my novel takes place is an important element of my writing process. I say place instead of setting because I am not merely considering climate, road names, etc., but also how a character FEELS about their world--their "sense of place." Here are some questions I ask as I write...
  • Does the mc feel SAFE in their surroundings?
  • How does the broad economy of the setting impact the micro-economy of the home in which the mc lives?
  • Would the story be different if it were moved to another address? Why or why not?
  • What imagery and metaphor drawn from the landscape can connect readers with the inner life of the mc and show how s/he relates to her/his world?
I prefer FAKE place names because I do not want readers to make assumptions based on nonfiction knowledge of a location. In AUDITION, I used "Jersey," to imply a fictional Northeast city, however many readers told me they assumed "New Jersey" anyway. So for the upcoming THE SOUND OF LETTING GO, I researched to make sure my invented town name did not exist in the real state (NH) of my setting. My goal is to create a New England vibe without conjuring a very specific picture or map point in readers' minds.

Given my (probably too extensive) theories on PLACE, I loved this PW article about imaginary countries in books: Check it out HERE.

Where do you set your stories? In a town remembered from childhood? The city of your college alma mater? A PLACE THAT DOESN'T REALLY EXIST? Why? How do you think this affects the way you develop your main character? And, what's your favorite fictional town?

And, speaking of freaky places, anyone else remember this?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Bookanistas: Wrapping Up National Poetry Month

I've been a very bad poet this April with not nearly enough celebration of National Poetry Month. By way of apology, I am going to give away A SIGNED COPY of AUDITION. 

All you have to do to enter is LIKE MY FACEBOOK AUTHOR PAGE, then leave me a comment HERE VIA MY WEBSITE (sorry you have to scroll down a bit) or below this post with an email at which I can contact you if you are one of the randomly drawn winners.

Here's a bit of book love for two great titles to round out your poetry shelves. The first is a fantastic resource for teachers and writers...
Here's the  B&N LINK for the book or visit the amazing Sylvia Vardell's poetry blog HERE.

And the second is a great YA verse novel about family and mental illness that never loses its topicality or its power. Here's the B&N LINK and the clicky thing for Sonya Sones's terrific website.

This contest will end when my facebook author page reaches 150 likes so TELL YOUR FRIENDS and the drawing could be, like, tomorrow!

Want more Bookanista Book love...?

Katy Upperman  ponders LOVE AND OTHER PERISHABLE ITEMS by Laura Buzo
Kimberly Sabatini wonders at WHEN YOU WERE HERE by Daisy Whitney
Elana Johson  falls for THE FAULT IN OUR STARS by John Green
Tracy Banghart  loves LACRIMOSA by Christine Fonseca
Corrine Jackson adores the ARCADIA BELL series by Jenn Bennett
Rebecca Behrens delves into CODE NAME VERITY by Elizabeth Wein
Lenore Appelhans raves about THE RULES by Stacey ade
Christine Fonseca  celebrates UNDER THE NEVER SKY by Veronica Rossi
Jessica Love hails THIS IS WHAT HAPPY LOOKS LIKE by Jennifer E. Smith
Shannon Messenger  discusses some recent reads

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday: THE PROGRAM by Suzanne Young

Still having fun with BREAKING THE SPINE’s fabulous midweek meme.Here’s this week’s pick…

Why?...I’ve loved Suzanne Young's work since I read A NEED SO BEAUTIFUL and A WANT SO WICKED.  Here she switches gears from paranormal to dystopian with a topical and fascinating plot and a YELLOW COVER OF AWESOME. Boy, those jacket designers must just see Suzanne’s smiling face and think yellow! But, seriously, I’ve been waiting on this one for ages – can’t wait for it to pub next month.
What are you waiting for this week?

Monday, April 22, 2013

Back to Business: Becoming a Plotter?

Like the chicken or the egg, I feel confident that the eternal writers' debate over whether plotting (outlining and other detailed planning before starting ms) or pantsing (a more go-with-the-flow, follow-your-characters) is the optimal way to craft a novel will never really end.
My tendency is to work somewhere in the middle. I start with character and a pretty clear sense of the trajectory my mc will take. Then I do a fairly quick first draft, generally with quite a few research breaks depending on the topic. After that, I make a detailed chapter-by-chapter outline, including date-stamping each verse (or chapter). All the while, though, I try to remain very open to letting my characters act and speak as authentically as possible and try not to push the story in service of a pre-determined plot notion.

Of course, thus far I have published contemporary YA. However, my next manuscript has a strong thriller element. And a technology component. And some government stuff.  In a near-future setting. Can I pants a first draft of a novel that requires futuristic world-building? Or is it time to outline and date-stamp BEFORE I do the first draft? And will that make the first draft weaker character-wise?

Think I've asked enough questions. Do you shift between plot and pants mode depending on genre? Have any other thoughts or suggestions?  Help, please!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Bookanistas: Teen Lit Day!

Happy YALSA Teen Literature Day, featuring its Operation Book Drop. HERE'S MORE on these festivities.

To celebrate TEEN LIT (and if you haven't experienced the YA verse novel) I'm going to offer you six cool titles to get your feet wet. And if you like what you read, get all the scoop about this genre at the terrific or at Cathy Ostlere's cool page.

And last but not least, here's lots more Bookanista Book love for your Thursday pleasure...

FIRST…Jessica Love welcomes our FIVE NEW BOOKANISTAS!
Carrie Harris croons about THE COLLECTOR by Victoria Scott
Corrine Jackson adores CONFESSIONS OF AN ANGRY GIRL by Louise Rozett
Shelli Johannes-Wells  hails HYSTERIA by Megan Miranda
Nikki Katz raves about ROOTLESS by Chris Howard
Gretchen McNeil adores UNREMEMBERED by Jessica Brody
Rebecca Behrens shares why she’s excited to be a newbie Bookanista

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A National Poetry Month present...

The opening pages of my first YA verse novel, AUDITION.

When you are a dancer
You learn the beginning
Is first position.
Heels together,
Feet pointed as far to the sides
As your rotating hips will allow.

And when you are small
And at that beginning,
Your body is as flexible
As your mind.

There you stand,

They do not say to you then
That, when you are sixteen,
Doubt may cramp your muscled calves,
Arch your arrow back,
Leap into your mind.

They do not say to you
When you start in first position
That you may never be

Thin enough

Strong enough

Flexible enough

That you may never be


 On the third of July,
I stand with a hundred other girls,
From stick-thin to gently rounded,
From tiny, taut packages of muscle
To gawky, long-limbed sylphs,

All wearing pink tights,
Black leotards.
Sprayed slick
Against our scalps,
Up and away.
Not a single stray strand to distract
From the tilt of our heads
Or the length of our necks.

I notice a few girls dared
Garnish their chignons
With beads, flowers.

Would it help them grab the attention
Of Dame Veronique de la Chance?
Of choreographer Yevgeny Yelnikov?
Of one of the other important teachers
Who have come to scout talent
Here in Boston today?
Or even catch the spectacled eye
Of the secretary in heavy, blue skirt,
Thick shoes,
Taking notes on a battered clipboard
Where our names
Are connected
To the numbers we wear pinned
Onto front and back?

I was given number 78.

Should I have worn flowers in my hair?

c 2011 Stasia Ward Kehoe

Leave a comment below and your email via the "contact" tab above and I'll email you your very own free AUDITION SAMPLER pdf.

Waiting on Wednesday: ABANDON by Elana Johnson

Still having fun with BREAKING THE SPINE’s fabulous midweek meme.Here’s this week’s pick…
Why?... It's the final installment of Vi, Jag, and Zenn’s breathtaking dystopian journey. Can the rebels defeat the Thinkers at last? Or has the world lost its last chance for freedom? POSSESSION and SURRENDER, the first two books in the series, were breathless, in-the-moment thrill rides of reads.  It’ll be a bitter sweetness to get my hands on this last Possession adventure.
What are you waiting on this week?

Monday, April 15, 2013

Singing the Praises of SCBWI - Part III

Not gonna pitch a novel this weekend.  Not gonna schmooze an agent this weekend. Not gonna feel unimportant this weekend...even though I'm going to a writing conference.

They're helpful lyrics. Don't ask me to sing them because I am NOT American Idol material. I may not even be sing-in-the-shower material.  But set the words above to your own tune and hold onto these notions if you're going to the SEA OF WONDERFUL that is SCBWI Western WA this weekend.

I have the joy and privilege of being a presenter this weekend. But, conference junkie that I am, I have attended MANY conferences where I've experienced disillusionment, despair or even plain old jealousy. I've had an agent read my work and give me nothing but a blank stare, heard beloved authors speak only to realize I've heard them give the same speech (more or less) before, sat with people who were just mad that their first manuscript (the one they'd worked a whole MONTH on) hadn't been grabbed by a superstar editor. Yeah, all that. But none of it matters. The BEST advice I can give to anyone about to attend a conference is to go with OPEN EARS, OPEN EYES, OPEN HEART and a goal of making ONE WRITER FRIEND and learning ONE NEW THING about your craft or career path.

Attend with an attitude of openness and you will (1) achieve your goals and (2) possibly exceed them.

Seriously, I LOVE conferences and I've done 'em the right way and the wrong way. I wouldn't dare try to teach someone how to write a novel but this is advice about which I feel super-confident.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

It's National Library Week!

It's amazing to me how many opportunities we have every year to celebrate books and readers.  And of course there is a special place in my heart for my local library. It's a small place but friendly and filled with bibliophiles and the folks who love and raise them. I'll be taking my youngest son there bright and early tomorrow morning to start off his spring break with a tantalizing pile of books!

Here's a link to the ALA's National Library Week page:

Do you have any great suggestions for celebrating your library this week? Let me know by leaving a comment below!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Bookanistas: Poem in Your Pocket Day

We're just one week away from the Academy of American Poets' POEM IN YOUR POCKET DAY- a day to celebrate the beauty of verse in ways large and small. HERE'S THE LINK to the Academy's website with more info.

This is the book of poetry that got me EVEN MORE HOOKED on the form than I was before...

Here's the start of the poem "Two Husbands" that will be riding in my pocket next week. It's amazing how much insight Taylor packs into the first short stanza.

She says she'll leave him if he screws around;
why not attempt it, if that's all it takes?
He fears forgiveness through her, he has found
uprightness in his dreams of dodged mistakes.

(From THE FLYING CHANGE: Poems by Henry Taylor) - BTW, he won the Pulitzer for this book!


For more Bookanista Book love (poetic and otherwise)...

 Corrine Jackson is swept away by SUCH A RUSH
Christine Fonseca  interviews THE LIES THAT BIND authors Lisa & Laura Roecker
Elana Johson  celebrates THE SELECTION by Kiera Cass
Jessica Love is wowed by WHERE THINGS COME BACK by John Corey Whaley
Tracy Banghart  delves into THE HOST (book & movie) by Stephenie Meyer
Katy Upperman  discusses  Erica Lorraine Scheidt’s USE S FOR BOYS


Monday, April 8, 2013

Singing the Praises of SCBWI - Part II

Nearly a decade ago I attended my first SCBWI regional conference. It was in Seattle, Washington. I’d recently moved to the west coast, leaving behind my beloved critique group, all of my family, my neighborhood, and pretty much all the familiar.

SCBWI was a revelation. There I found a roomful of amazing, like-minded people dreaming my dream, loving what I loved. A decade later, and with no little thanks to SCBWI, I am a published writer.

But SCBWI isn’t a monolithic entity. It is a community of people. And I remember meeting one particular person at that first conference. It was during a break and we’d both chosen to escape outside to a little brick courtyard. Somehow, we got to talking about publishing, agent issues, goals, family life. We’ve been talking ever since.

Just recently, we chatted about writers block. Deb’s comment about that fraught-with-peril phrase:

“If you label it, then you don’t have to really look into it—to deal with the underlying issues.”

I thought that was pretty insightful. But to hear it, I had to meet Deb first. You know, at an SCBWI conference.
Deb can teach you more, too. Go visit her at


Thursday, April 4, 2013

Bookanistas: THE RITHMATIST by Brandon Sanderson

I recently had the pleasure of reading an arc of adult author Brandon Sanderson's (WARBREAKER; author chosen to complete Robert Jordan's WHEEL OF TIME series) new YA novel THE RITHMATIST. It wasn't something I'd necessarily choose, being partial to contemporary novels. However, I truly enjoyed it.

THE RITHMATIST is set in a sort of steam-punk, alternate America with a different geography, the constant danger from "the front at Nebrask" and two types of citizens: ordinary folk and Rithmatists, who are selected through a mysterious inception process, and trained in the art of Rithmatics before being sent to Nebrask to keep the rest of the world safe. The way Rithmatists fight is by drawing complex lines, shapes and figures (Chalklings). Due to their Rithmatic power, they can animate these two-dimension chalk lines into actual battles.

Enter into this scenario Joel, non-Rithmatist son of a deceased, lowly chalkmaker. Living with his mother on the campus of a famed private school for Rithmatists and elite ordinary students, Amedius Academy, Joel doesn't fit in anywhere--until his fascination with the mysterious Rithmatic world, and his friendships with a doddering professor and a misfit Rithmatics trainee, lead him into the thick of a mystery involving the disappearance (kidnapping) of several of his classmates. I found myself turning the pages quickly as the mystery element grew increasingly exciting.

Intrigued as I am by experimentation with literary forms--from Brian Selznick's graphic delight, THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET, to Caroline Starr Rose's poingnant verses in MAY B, I was curious about the seemingly hand-drawn pages detailing Rithmatic lines, shapes, and defences which preceded each chapter. While at first I gave them only cursory glances, by the novel's end, I was swept up into the richly detailed and well-thought-out strategy of Rithmatics, becoming, in a sense, a student of the art myself. And, by the time the climactic battle and iconic "student melee" were fought at the end of the novel, I realized that it was through my increasing interest in the drawings that I was entirely swept up in the dueling.

The Rithmatist is about being an outsider, about judging others before getting all the facts, about the relationship between church and academia, about friendship between those who consider themselves misfits, and about the way students perceive that grown-up world they are about to enter.

I often comment that I'm not really a fantasy, sci-fi, or steampunk reader. But novels like THE RITHMATIST make me wonder if I should stop writing these glittering generalities. Because I am a fan of exciting, ambitious writing and a good story well told. Regardless of genre, THE RITHMATIST is surely that.

Here's what the other Bookanistas have been reading this week...

Tracy Banghart  is tantalized by TOUCHED by Corrine Jackson
Katy Upperman  adores IMPOSSIBLE by Nancy Werlin
Corrine Jackson is wowed by WAIT FOR YOU

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday: GOLDEN by Jessi Kirby

Still having fun with BREAKING THE SPINE’s fabulous midweek meme.Here’s this week’s pick…

 Why?...Jessi Kirby, author of MOONGLASS and IN HONOR, takes her trademark gift for writing romantic stories and adds a journal and a mystery. I WISH I had an arc of this one. I love Jessi’s writing, especially her gift for writing landscapes and road trip tales, and cannot wait to journey along with her new main character, Parker.
What are you waiting on this week?

Monday, April 1, 2013

Back to Business: Singing the Praises of SCBWI - Part I

It's April again. You know, time for those proverbial "showers" (actually we've been having April showers since November here in Washington and the forecast has 'em happening through July). The kids are just starting to count down the days until school's out. But for me, the BEST thing about April is the SCBWI Western Washington Chapters Annual Conference of Awesome. And I'm not just saying that because I'll be giving a presentation with my amazing editor, Kendra Levin. I'll also be fangirling Robin LaFevers and Mac Barnett; learning from amazing agents like Joanna Volpe and Ammi-Joan Paquette; and hangin' with writer friends at all stages of the process from published wordsmith wonders to just-you-wait-cuz-when-they-get-published-they're-gonna-get-a-Kirkus-star friends who have beta read, encouraged and, er, drunk a lot of wine and coffee with me.



Not to get repetive but attending SCBWI meetings and conferences was an essential part of my education in the craft and corporate aspects of children's literature.  So...

It you're anywhere near. I mean ANYWHERE. Idaho? Yeah. British Columbia? Drive on down. San Francisco? Get your arse on a plane.

You will not regret it.

Click. Register. Leave a comment so I can find you and buy you a coffee. Actually, they give it out for free at the conference. Plus there's yummy lunch. But I would love to chat with you all the same :)