Archive for September, 2011

Crashing The Gate! Writerly Advice From Industry Folks In The Know…

Sep 30 2011 Published by under Angst In Focus,Gate Crashers

“Surround yourself with people who know more than you and soak up wisdom like a sponge.”
P.K. Witte

So you’re an aspiring children’s author? Doing all the right stuff? Joining a critique group? Member of SCBWI (if not Google it)? Reading blogs? Dissecting books? Taking classes? Going to conventions? Tweeting, Facebooking, blogging? Listening and talking to kids, kids, kids? And, argh… You really want to scream because it feels like the gate remains closed no matter what the heck you do?

No one really gets you? Sigh… Sure they do.

Don’t worry. Everyone’s felt like you. Now, Open The Gate-Come On In

Come on, give it a push. Step inside…

Because I get you. Fellow authors certainly get you. Agents, editors, publishers, all understand (honestly). They’re not out to thwart us/you. They want to help!

I Swear! (as in promise)

The Children’s writing industry is amazingly friendly and accessible. And I’ll prove it (cuz I like to prove stuff).

Just to show how accessible the Gate Keepers and fellow writers really are, I contacted some. Seriously, I put on my lucky black heels and queried folks “In The Know.” Just little old me, asking for quick bites of advice for hopeful writers. And you know what? They were delighted to push back the handle and Open The Gate!

This is what they had to say…

Ellen Hopkins

YA author of Burned, Impulse, Glass, Identical, Tricks, Fallout, Crank, & Perfect.

On writing, allow story to flow organically from character. Unless you’re writing a thriller or mystery, plot can overpower character, to the detriment of your story.

On career, remember your first book won’t be your only book. Publicize the heck out of that first one, but jump right into the next one. You’re here because you love to write, not to get famous. Fame follows writing that resonates.

Ginger L Clarke

Author of Watch Out, Maxed Out, Far Out, Black Out, Fake Out, Bug Out, Gross Out & Freak Out.

Be easy to work with. Anything that helps make editors’ harried lives easier is a point in your favor. I always try to be professional, friendly, and responsive, even when what I really feel is defensive, confused, and annoyed. Most editors jump around to different publishers frequently, so it pays to build good relationships that will endure. I have worked with most of my editors at multiple houses and count some of them as friends, not just colleagues, for which I am grateful.

Sarah Davies

Agent at Greenhouse Literary Agency.

The Greenhouse Literary Agency Cares about both the macro and the micro of your story. The macro being the overall plot and structure. The micro being the line on the page. It all matters-every phrase, every word choice, every comma. When you’re writing a great book, you need big ideas and a big vision-but also precision and finesse and a true feeling for language.

Corie Weaver

YA author of Coyote’s Daughter and Bear’s Heart.

Don’t beat yourself up. Life gets in the way, stuff happens. You’ll get back to your WIP as soon as you can. But don’t give up either!

Kristen Kittscher

Author of Young & Yang Detectives, coming early 2013!

The arts seem to be the one field in which people expect instant success. When someone gets a job as a teller in a bank, no one expects them to be CEO within the year. No one pesters the hobby gardener about when they’ll be going into large-scale organic farming. But mention you’re writing a kids’ book, and I guarantee the words “J.K. Rowling” will greet you a millisecond later. As a new writer, you’ll inevitably you’ll feel extra pressure from friends and family who ask about your progress. While they might merely be expressing interest in something you care about, instead you’ll hear undertones of impatience and skepticism. Try not to. After a year or two, they’ll ask only occasionally. After five years, they’ll shut up altogether and look away awkwardly at any mention of books, let alone yours. You’ll hear a lot about the weather and, possibly, baseball scores. A year or two more, and they’ll have forgotten you ever wanted to write a book in the first place. In short, be in this for the long haul. Be in it because you like making sense of life by writing stories. The rest is inconsequential!

Helen ‘Billy Elm’ Williams

MG author of Delroy in the Marog Kingdom.

When you’re on the road to publication, expect your editor to ask you to do a considerable amount of rewriting when you get your first set of proofs. I was taken by surprise. I thought it was a case of reading through to make sure there were no errors and tweaking here and there. Little did I know, the book could be completely rewritten at this stage. I didn’t quite have to do that, but there was more rewriting to be done than I expected, within a tight time frame.

Cynthia Leitich Smith

YA author of Tantalize, Eternal, Blessed, and Tantalize: Kieren’s Story.

Give yourself permission not to know what you’re doing. To explore, stumble, and challenge yourself again and again. There is no such thing as wasted writing. It all serves the journey as a whole.

Bruce Hale

Author of the award-winning Chet Gecko Mysteries.

Persistence is more important than talent any day. We’ve all got some talent stuck to us somewhere, like cat fur, but even the most talented writer won’t succeed if she gives up in the face of rejection.

Elizabeth Fama

YA author of Overboard. Monstrous Beauty coming summer 2012!

It’s important to treat yourself as a professional when you’re writing, because until you’ve published your first book (which you shouldn’t be in a rush to do…that’s my first piece of advice always) you can feel like you’re a lone satellite orbiting a planet that you’ll never land on, which is wasted emotional energy. In addition to joining a critique group, one way to both feel and become more professional is to search out informative blogs — not just blogs about the process of writing, but also respected blogger reviews of books in your writing genre. It’s a great way to keep your finger on the pulse of the business: to understand which books are being talked about and why, and to keep abreast of the nebulous buzz that the industry is generating. I keep my Google reader loaded with all of these sites (there are a lot of them, and you’ll get a feel for which ones you like and respect), and I sift through the updates quickly every morning before I start writing. It’s like reading a personalized “newspaper” devoted to your neck of the industry.

Kristen Lamb

Author of We Are Not Alone—The Writer’s Guide to Social Media & Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer.

Write no matter what. Writers write, even when we don’t feel like it. Those kids that interrupt you every thirty seconds are a blessing. Think of it like running pulling a weighted sled. This is author training. If you can learn to maintain your focus despite all of life’s distractions, think of how amazingly productive you will be when one day you do have that private office and can afford a meth-addicted howler monkey with a sidearm to guard your writing time. Heck, you will probably be twice as productive at least. This job is like one giant funnel. Toss in a few million people with a dream and only a handful will shake out at the end. Is it because fortune smiled on them? A few, yes. But, for most, the harder they worked, the “luckier” they got. They stuck it out and made the tough choices. Successful people and especially successful writers must learn to have a healthy relationship with failure. If we aren’t failing, then we aren’t doing anything interesting. Failure is a tombstone or a stepping stone. Cool thing is that we get to choose which. It isn’t enough to persevere. We must always be reevaluating what we’re doing. We must be learning, growing and improving. I see writers who keep shopping the same novel year after year, rejection after rejection. Move on! Just doing the same thing over and over forever isn’t heroic, it’s moronic. Persistence looks a lot like stupid.

Harold Underdown

Children’s book editor, consultant. Author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Publishing Children’s Books. Creator of The Purple Crayon website—a brilliant place for writers, illustrators and publishers.

Write the story you want to write, and keep working on it until it’s done. THEN worry about the market.

Tamara Ireland Stone

YA author of Time Between Us, coming fall 2012. Movie Rights aquired by CBS!

Agents and Editors often say they’re looking for stories at the intersection of literary and commercial. There are plenty of books that can help you with literary technique, but if you want to pop up the commercial elements of your story, take a quick lesson on screenwriting with Save the Cat Goes to the Movies. It will change the way you think about your manuscript (and forever change the way you watch films). We write for teens. We’re competing with a lot of other fast-paced entertainment options. If we want to write books that kids can’t put down, we’ve got to make our characters come to life and keep the action moving. Screenwriting techniques can help you create the tight plots and well-paced stories publishers are looking for.

Sarah Skilton

YA author of Bruised, coming fall 2012!

Support other writers, and read till your eyes bleed. But don’t just read the genre you write — read everything that even remotely interests you, from non-fiction to graphic novels to YA to historical fiction and everything in between, because if you only read one genre, you may get stuck inside parameters that are somewhat arbitrary, rather than see the unique possibilities only you can bring to the table. Don’t worry about what you “should” be writing. Write the book you’d most want to read. That way, your passion for the project will shine through, regardless of topic or trend. If you write from your heart, then no matter what happens with your book, the weeks and months spent writing it will be time you truly enjoyed.

And there you have it! Thirteen out of the fifteen industry folks I queried replied with wonderful wisdom and heart! Humungous Thanks to everyone for opening the gate and letting us in. The writer’s community is beyond compare! Oh, click the pics for website links.

55 responses so far

Passing the test: YA romance

Sep 23 2011 Published by under Angst In Focus

You’ve all heard of the Bechdel Test, yes? It’s from an old comic strip where one character says she only goes to a movie if it satisfies three basic requirements:

  1. It has to have at least two women in it,
  2. Who talk to each other,
  3. About something besides a man.

It’s amazing how many…uh, most movies #fail here. Including: the original Star Wars films, the newest Harry Potter, the entire LOTR trilogy, even Run Lola Run.

Yesterday, I finished JULIET IMMORTAL by Stacey Jay and loved it—surprising since I don’t like the original play (or any of its movie resurrections). Yet not only did JULIET’s romance sweep me away, it resonated on a different level that took me awhile to pinpoint.

(Continue reading (HINT: JULIET passes the Bechdel Test))

3 responses so far

Jill Hathaway Interview

Sep 18 2011 Published by under Gettin' Real

Welcome to Ink & Angst’s first author interview. We’re thrilled to open our regular monthly feature with author Jill Hathaway! 

Jill Hathaway, Author of SLIDE

From Jill’s website: Jill was born and raised in Iowa. As a child, she loved paper dolls, Archie comics, and writing. In her adolescent years, she wrote emo poetry and produced paper zines that she sold for $1 in local comic book and record stores.

Having earned her BA in English from the University of Northern Iowa and her MA in Literature from Iowa State University, she now teaches high school and community college courses in the Des Moines area. She lives with her husband and young daughter.

Jill spends her free time collecting cool gear for her blood elf paladin, watching Veronica Mars, and listening to angry grrl music.

SLIDE, her debut novel, will be released from Balzer & Bray/HarperCollins in 2012.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
Ah, I remember it well. I was in the second grade and wrote a story about a disgruntled ball of belly button lint named Fuzz. After that, I knew I was meant to write the Great American Novel. Haha, just kidding. It’s just a thing I’ve always liked to do, and I feel beyond privileged to get paid for it now.

What kinds of books did you read when you were a young adult?
You know how they say kids read up? Well, I read a lot of R.L. Stine and Christopher Pike when I was in middle school. By the time I was ACTUALLY a young adult, I was more into Stephen King and Clive Barker.

If you had walk-on music (a song that plays when you enter a room), what would it be? Why?
What an awesome question! *thinks* 
Maybe “Everything is Everything” by Lauryn Hill? So inspiring. Watch the music video here!

What authors have influenced your writing the most?
Someone on Twitter recently said that SLIDE reminded them of the old Christopher Pike and Fear Street books, which would definitely make sense, since that’s what I was reading during my formative years. I was really flattered by that comment.

What was the last book you read?
INCARNATE by Jodi Meadows. It was AWESOME!

Let’s hear a little bit about SLIDE. From Jill’s website:

Doesn't this look awesome?

Vee Bell is certain of one irrefutable truth—her sister’s friend Sophie didn’t kill herself. She was murdered. Vee knows this because she was there. Everyone believes Vee is narcoleptic, but she doesn’t actually fall asleep during these episodes: When she passes out, she slides into somebody else’s mind and experiences the world through that person’s eyes. She’s slid into her sister as she cheated on a math test, into a teacher sneaking a drink before class. She learned the worst about a supposed “friend” when she slid into her during a school dance. But nothing could have prepared Vee for what happens one October night when she slides into the mind of someone holding a bloody knife, standing over Sophie’s slashed body.

Vee desperately wishes she could share her secret, but who would believe her? It sounds so crazy that she can’t bring herself to tell her best friend, Rollins, let alone the police. Even if she could confide in Rollins, he has been acting off lately, more distant, especially now that she’s been spending more time with Zane.

Enmeshed in a terrifying web of secrets, lies, and danger and with no one to turn to, Vee must find a way to unmask the killer before he or she strikes again.

How was the idea for SLIDE born?
I was about to write a novel along with my creative writing kids, so I was bouncing ideas off of a colleague. I wanted a character who’d be able to peek into other people’s lives.

Was high school as dramatic for you as it is for Vee?
Ah, no. Vee has to find a killer before another cheerleader turns up dead. I was more dealing with boy drama. 😀

What do you hope your readers feel after reading SLIDE?
I just hope they think to themselves, “Phew! What a ride!”

What drew you to the thriller genre?
Probably those Christopher Pike and Fear Street books I read when I was young.

On your journey to publication, what motivated you to keep going?
When I saw a lot of my blogger friends landing agents and getting awesome three-book-deals, I felt inspired rather than jealous. (Well, okay. Maybe there was a leeeeeeeetle envy.) It showed me what was possible.

Was there anything about the publishing process that surprised you?
I guess what everybody says–how slow publishing is. Though I’d read enough blogs that I should have expected that.

If you had to describe your agent (Sarah Davies) in three words, what would they be?
Perfect. Every. Way. She is my Mary Poppins.

Where do you hope to be in five years, in your career?
I just hope I’m still writing and publishing.

What is your favorite word?

Thank you again, Jill, for spending time with us! Remember, Jill’s novel SLIDE will be released in 2012!

No responses yet

Kid Versus The Volcano

Sep 16 2011 Published by under Angst In Focus

I have season passes to my local amusement park. I take my kids there a lot (I know, I know… the things we do in the name of research).

For some families, a right of passage to adulthood is a Bar Mitzvah or the first smile in front of the DMV camera. But in our family, manhood is measured against that purple line on the Kings Dominion measuring stick, the one that says you’re finally tall enough to ride every black diamond coaster in the park. Because let’s face it, sometimes size really does matter.

So when my oldest son finally passed the purple line, he pounded his chest and declared there would be no more kiddie coasters. My kid was ready to ride… THE VOLCANO!

The Volcano is an inverted launch blast coaster. It’s fast. There’s fire and scary music. Don’t believe me, click on the pic. It shoots riders out of a flaming volcano — upside down! And there’s fire! Did I mention the FIRE?

My kid looked up at the screaming passengers as they corkscrewed above him, suspended two hundred feet in the air. He watched long enough to memorize every twist and turn and then looked at me and said, “Maybe I’ll try something else first.”

So we walked the entire park, having deep conversations about conquering our fears, and weighing the value of experience against the twist in our gut that says, “I’m too afraid to do this.”

We agreed to start small. We’d work our way up to that Volcano. My son stopped in front of this unassuming hangar and said, “I want to try this one.”

“Are you sure?” I asked. Click the pic to see why. I’d been on it before, years ago, and I’d never forgotten it. It’s a tangle of high speed twists, turns and loops inside a pitch black room. It catapults riders through the dark so fast it’s impossible to see the tracks ahead. “It’s called THE FLIGHT OF FEAR,” I said, trying to dissuade him. The name alone should have told him something. “Everyone says it’s the scariest ride in the park.”

He looked at that harmless exterior and said, “It doesn’t look scary. I want to do that one.”

So we did.

My brand new coaster rider walked boldly under the ropes and waited in line. All around us, people talked. About how terrifying the launch is. About how dark it is inside. About how many loops there are. But it was all just talk. My kid couldn’t truly fear what he couldn’t see. We got to the no-turning-back point, and I asked him quietly,”Are you sure you want to do this?”

He did.

And it was terrifying.

Needless to say, after that, the Volcano was easy. He jumped right in line and shot out of that flaming mountain three times. And I was proud of him. And sort of proud of me too. Because it’s one thing to dive headlong into a new experience when you can’t see the tracks ahead, no matter how scary everyone tells you it is. But it’s entirely another to keep riding, when you know exactly how high the peaks will take you, and how fast the drops will sink. And that there’s fire. Did I mention the fire?

One response so far

Middle School Pulse

Sep 09 2011 Published by under Underground

Exciting things are coming together on the Ink & Angst blog! We will be launching a new monthly feature: Author Interviews! Check back often to meet new authors with recent or soon-to-be publications.You should also be checking back often to see what my amazing I & A cohorts are posting about!

This Friday I would like to present:

Today I’ll give you an inside look at the trends we see in our very own middle school library. Curious about what gets checked out most often? How many times it’s been checked out total? Looking to keep up with what the kids are reading? I’ve got your answers below!

Let me first introduce you to my school (sans name and location). We operate in a suburb outside of Chicago, consisting of 6th through 8th grade. Our students typically come from middle class or affluent families and the library gets a good amount of use, thankfully. Below you will find three charts. Each display the top ten books in the “checked out most often” category. The first chart displays results for the last 30 days (keep in mind we haven’t been in school very long, if you are thinking the totals are low), 1 year back and then 2 years back.Please forgive titles being lower case and such, that’s just how they were put in to the system.


 30 Days Title Author Call # and Times Checked Out
1. [ Book ] Catching fire Collins, Suzanne. F Col 10
2. [ Book ] The Hunger Games Collins, Suzanne. F Col 9
3. [ Book ] Peak. Smith, Roland. F Smi 7
4. [ Book ] Shark girl Bingham, Kelly L., 1967- F Bin 6
5. [ Book ] The clique : a novel Harrison, Lisi. F Har 5
6. [ Book ] Harry Potter and the goblet of fire Rowling, J. K. F Row 5
7. [ Book ] The red pyramid Riordan, Rick. F Rio 5
8. [ Book ] Scat Hiaasen, Carl. F Hia 5
9. [ Book ] Are you in the house alone? Peck, Richard, 1934- F Pec 4
10. [ Book ] The big field Lupica, Mike. F Lup 4
 1 Year Title Author Call # Circulations
1. [ Book ] The Hunger Games Collins, Suzanne. F Col 96
2. [ Book ] Elements Knapp, Brian J. Ref 546 Kna 95
3. [ Book ] Catching fire Collins, Suzanne. F Col 90
4. [ Book ] The invention of Hugo Cabret : a novel in words and pictures Selznick, Brian. F Sel 88
5. [ Book ] The boy who dared Bartoletti, Susan Campbell. F Bar 82
6. [ Book ] Immersed in verse : an informative, slightly irreverent & totally tremendous guide to living the poet’s life Wolf, Allan. 808.1 Wol 74
7. [ Book ] Mockingjay Collins, Suzanne. F Col 70
8. [ Book ] Schooled Korman, Gordon. F Kor 67
9. [ Book ] The red pyramid Riordan, Rick. F Rio 65
10. [ Book ] Found Haddix, Margaret Peterson. F Had 63


 2 Years Title Author Call # Circulations
1. [ Book ] The invention of Hugo Cabret : a novel in words and pictures Selznick, Brian. F Sel 176
2. [ Book ] The Hunger Games Collins, Suzanne. F Col 162
3. [ Book ] Catching fire Collins, Suzanne. F Col 158
4. [ Book ] Diary of a wimpy kid : the last straw Kinney, Jeff. F Kin 111
5. [ Book ] Elements Knapp, Brian J. Ref 546 Kna 110
6. [ Book ] The lightning thief Riordan, Rick. F Rio 109
7. [ Book ] A child called “It” : one child’s courage to survive Pelzer, David J. 921 Pel 108
8. [ Book ] All the lovely bad ones : a ghost story Hahn, Mary Downing. F Hah 103
9. [ Book ] Diary of a wimpy kid : Rodrick rules Kinney, Jeff. F Kin 100
10. [ Book ] Diary of a wimpy kid : Greg Heffley’s journal Kinney, Jeff. F Kin 99


There you have it folks. A quick look at one little middle school’s circulation records. Helpful? Interesting? Hopefully it was both! If you’re a librarian and would like to share your stats, email me at!

5 responses so far

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