Sunday, March 30, 2014

Did you know that March 30 is National Pencil Day?

Go figure?!

Sharing the following picture because, to me, this is how pencils should live: In a messy pile next to a cinder block, thoroughly used, accessible, colorful, loved.

On another colorful note, I've tinted my Twitter pic blue in honor of Autism Awareness Month--April. Just recently, the news has been full of updates on the increased rate of autism diagnosis, new research on possible causes, and much more. It's an important year to stay aware--so much to learn!

Friday, March 28, 2014


I'm loving this book and it's taken a lot of willpower to put it down so as not to miss my writing deadlines. That said, this weekend, I'm promising myself a couple of quiet hours with my beloved pooch and DARK TRIUMPH (also tea & chocolate). Hope your weekend includes some happy reading time, too!

Monday, March 24, 2014

A lovely review for The Sound of Letting Go

Recently, my editor emailed me this gorgeous review from the BULLETIN OF THE CENTER FOR CHILDREN'S BOOKS:

cid:image001.jpg@01CE71C9.A788F920Kehoe, Stasia WardThe Sound of Letting Go.
Viking, 2014 [400p]
ISBN 978-0-670-01553-5 $17.99
Reviewed from galleys -  Gr. 7-10

Ever since Daisy’s autistic younger brother, Steven, turned from unresponsive little boy to threatening manchild, she and her parents have lived on a knife-edge of tension, fearing that a loud sound, a burnt waffle, an errant bad smell could trigger a violent outburst. Daisy empathizes with her parents’ desire to escape, finding release herself through playing her trumpet in the soundproofed room her parents have built for her. She knows that both her musical success and its limitations are due to her brother’s condition; her survivor’s guilt trumpets from every poem in this staggeringly honest verse novel about living with someone at the far end of the spectrum. What sets this work apart is that it tells the whole truth about that experience, from the strain it puts on a marriage, to the financial drain, to the compulsion to hide how bad things are and the isolation that brings, to the heightened emphasis on control and perfection that she and her mother experience, her with her music and her mother with her decorating and cooking skills. Readers may be surprised when Daisy balks at the idea of sending Steven to a group home, but it’s just another way in which the book renders the deep ambivalence of the sibling experience with striking insight; Daisy wonders if she will ever be able to experience relief without guilt, and she questions whether there might be something in her that is broken and autistic, keeping her from true feelings. Kehoe also deploys a complex yet accessible metaphor via Daisy’s contemplations about slavery in her U.S. history class, and she crafts a romance with a not-so-bad-after-all bad boy that begins as rebellion but ends as something like redemption. Gracefully eschewing platitudes about acceptance and advocacy, this is as real, poignant, and messy as it gets.  KC 

I read this, touched and delighted by the reviewer's insight into my book. Despite the lovely critical response, I continue to worry that my novel will not reach the readership I'm trying to touch before it starts down the inevitable road to "Remainder-dom" that its BookScan numbers foretell. I know this is the fate of most novels. But it never stops stinging.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Three Thoughts to Wrap the Week

1...The next class in the free WRITERS WORKSHOP series at KCLS Woodinville Library (17105 Avondale Rd, Woodinville) is tomorrow a.k.a. SATURDAY, MARCH 22 from 11-1 PM. This month I will be joined by guest teacher Jolie Stekly, an instructor from the UW Certificate in Writing program. Jolie will focus on methods for developing 3-dimensional characters and sound plots—and will share her thoughts the “what comes first?” (plot or character) conundrum. Grab a pencil and paper and join us!

2...I am thinking of starting a monthly newsletter for writers, readers & educators. Each issue will spotlight a couple of cool books and events, offer a writing challenge, and provide a mini-educator's guide to a popular novel.  I've been looking at Constant Contact as a way to develop this newsletter but it costs money and I'm wondering if there are better options. Your thoughts?

3...If you're looking for a fun weekend read, here are three books with hot RED SHOE COVERS and spines worth cracking (one sci-fi fairy tale, one YA verse, one contemporary chick lit):

Monday, March 17, 2014

Some advice to middle school students and aspiring writers...

Last week, I had the pleasure of sitting on the Arts & Communications panel at a local middle school's career day. I was joined by piano instructor, an ex-ballerina/arts marketing professional, and a guy who produces giant rock concerts (you know, Lorde, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis). Guess who got all the attention? Seriously, though, the two pieces of advice that I heard myself repeating over the course of four sessions were...

1. Take your time to write, revise and submit your work. Don't send something out that you don't feel represents the very best you can do at this point in time.

2. Realize that, in addition to saying things (writing) well, you need to understand what you are actually trying to communicate in terms of plot and character arc. A well-drawn character who feels and reflects but goes nowhere or a string of scenes that take place in expertly imaged fantasy worlds but do not link together to create a story make THE BEGINNINGS OF A NOVEL and not a ready-to-submit novel. Read, study, reflect and learn to spot the difference in your work.

Maybe these two thoughts should be numbered in reverse. Hmmm. Regardless, it occurs to me that this advice still applies to me with two published books under my belt. So, maybe it's worth consideration by writers at all ages and stages.

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Walking Dead, True Blood and How to Plot Your Novel

Visit me over at Adventures in YA Publishing to learn how vampires, zombies and economics can help you better understand your own plot-building methods--and IMPROVE THEM :)

While you're there, you can enter to win a SIGNED ARC of THE SOUND OF LETTING GO, annotated with my own paranormal musings and practical writing tips!

Sunday, March 9, 2014


This year's theme is "DIY @ YOUR LIBRARY" -- don't you love it?

I am not great with technology. My cellphone and I are barely on speaking terms. Which can be weird. I cannot download media content when sent in an IM. And I really miss Widgetbox because, though the quality was crappy, it was so easy to use!

Needless to say, I’ve always had a bit of fear around Teen Tech Week. It’s cool and I want to celebrate. However, I’m not exactly a robot-building kind of girl. So, what’s a luddite to do?

I’ve decided to build a virtual (as in—only in my mind) Time Machine and travel to the worlds of some of my favorite books for DIY of a less technological or present-day time.

LITTLE HOUSE IN THE BIG WOODS…make butter or maple sugar candy
GOING VINTAGE…embellish a vintage dress to create a cool wearable
THE HUNGER GAMES…relearn archery (I did this in high school and it was awesome)

Into what novel would you (virtually) travel? What would you DIY?

Click here for great ideas to celebrate Teen Tech Week on your own turf:

Friday, March 7, 2014

Pinteresting People & Friday Follows

Wherein I begin my Friday with a few virtual shout-outs to those who inspire, amuse and amaze me...
I #FOLLOW @MartinaABoone  @Casey_McCormick   @NatalieIAguirre   @drydenbks  @inkyelbows BECAUSE of what they give to the writing community


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: OMG YOU GOTTA...

...add THIS BOOK to your Goodreads tbr (and not just because my 13yo is Conrad's biggest fan)...

I had the pleasure of being in a critique group with Conrad while he was writing this novel and I can PROMISE YOU that the writing is beyond fabulous. He's a poet-in-prose--a true writers' writer. Check it out, 'kay?

So, yeah, that's my ENORMOUS WOW for this week. For more tbr suggestions, pop over to Breaking the Spine, host of my favorite meme!

Monday, March 3, 2014

WRITING PROMPTS TO HELP YOU BECOME A BETTER READER (and understand yourself as a writer)

I have recently been reflecting on how the WAY WE READ can help us better understand the way we write. I have explored this idea in several presentations, including one at the Oregon International Reading Association Chapter's annual conference and one at the Montgomery County (TX) Book Festival. 

Because people seemed to find them useful, I've decided to adapt a couple of exercises I used in my workshops to share here:

1. ON A PIECE OF PAPER, write down:
The title of your favorite book.
What happens on the first page or first chapter OR the most significant thing you remember about the beginning of the book.
The name of the main character and what he/she wants at the beginning of the story.
Why you recommend this book to others (if you do)?

Take a look at what you've written. Do you find yourself most drawn to an image? A character? A crisis or other plot element?

2. REREAD THE OPENING CHAPTER of the book you are currently reading, a favorite book or, perhaps one of these titles: VIRTUOSITY by Jessica Martinez, GRAVE MERCY by Robin LaFevers, SPECIAL TOPICS IN CALAMITY PHYSICS by Marisha Pesl, CRANK by Ellen Hopkins, VAMPIRE ACADEMY by Richelle Mead, THE FIFTH WAVE by Rick Yancey.

As you read (to yourself or aloud to friends), ask yourself what is resonating with you in this first chapter along the lines of the questions from exercise 1, above.

When you've finished reading, consider, write down and/or discuss answers to the following question posited by author James Scott Bell in his book PLOT & STRUCTURE:

“What is the story about?  Is anything happening?  Why should I keep reading?  Why should I care?…

3. IF YOU ARE A READER, write a paragraph describing what most keeps you reading past the first chapter. Use quotes or references to the book from exercise 2 above.

IF YOU ARE A WRITER, write a paragraph answering the bold red questions from exercise 2 for your own work-in-progress.

4. Which of the two quotes below better describes your understanding of the word PLOT? Write a 2-3 answer defending your quote selection in terms of books you like to read or to write.   

Choice A: “Can’t I just write about a fascinating character and see what happens? YES. The WHAT HAPPENS is your PLOT.”  --PLOT & STRUCTURE by James Scott Bell

Choice B: “A metaphor for plot would be ELECTROMAGNETISM…the force that draws the atoms of the story together. It correlates images, events, and people. PLOT IS A PROCESS, NOT AN OBJECT.”  --20 MASTER PLOTS by Ronald B. Tobias.

I find these exercises instructive because they help readers get to the underlying sensibility of the story. It may help readers think about the kind of writers and writing they like beyond simple qualifiers like genre or plot. They may love great imagery, exploration of a particular type of idea in a history, fantasy or even contemporary/realistic format. 

The exercises can help aspiring novelists and/or student writers take a more objective, broken-down look at a piece of writing, identifying elements that need strengthening without taking away from the value of what is already on the page.

What do you think?

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Winners & Squirrel Month

First, congrats to the winners of THE SOUND OF LETTING GO blog tour giveaway:

Next, thanks to the delightful folks who were kind enough to host stops at:
Candace's Book Blog, Rather Be Reading, G Reads Books, Good Books & Good Wine, Katie's Book Blog, Addicted 2 NovelsThe Hiding Spot, Diznee's World of Books, Bloggers [Heart] Books, and A Backwards Story

Finally, I am thrilled to announce that TODAY is the first day of what I hope will be my First Annual
MONTH OF THE SQUIRREL. What does this have to do with Young Adult Literature, you ask? Join me this month and I will share. ALSO, every comment you leave at a MARCH 2014 post automatically enters you to and end-of-the-month Literature-and-Squirrel-themed prizes (international addresses are included!). ALL you have to do to win is check back on Monday, March 31 wherein I will post the name of the winner with a link to contact me for prize-mailing information.

To make this EVEN EASIER, I will give you a COMMENT PROMPT: What do you think could be the link between LITERATURE and SQUIRRELS?