Showing posts from 2015

Getting Ready for the New Year

As 2016 approaches (and just as I've sent a completed ms to my agent), I am preparing for a new year of writing. I've got an interesting but challenging story idea that feels like it might need a new form--possibly a new writing strategy. Thus far, I have tended toward the "pantser" (writing in the flow of the character, without an outline) school of writing, but there are world-building and thriller elements in this new story that might benefit from a more "plotter" (planning, via some form of outline, before you begin to write) approach. So, I'm starting my writing year by reading some craft books. If reading about writing sounds like a good idea, or if you, too, are looking to branch out in terms of your novel-building approach, here are a few suggestions. For PANTSERS seeking plotting guidance: For PLOTTERS looking to loosen up on the outlines: For FIRST-TIME NOVELISTS planning a "write that book" resolution: For MID-CAREE

Dr. Seuss had it right. It simply doesn't "...come from a store..."

Whatever holiday(s) you celebrate in December, my wish for you is a season of joy and the gift of a sense of purpose in your life.

Counting down...

The last week of school before break. The epic batches of cookies I need to bake. Preparing guest rooms, planning menus, getting the dog groomed so he'll look (and smell) good for the holiday photos. Wrapping boxes, attending concerts and celebrations. I am seriously looking forward to a holiday NAP! Finally, congrats to J - winner of THE SOUND OF LETTING GO book give away. Hope you got my email!

The Giving Season

Are you still seeking a gift for a YA reader in your life (maybe yourself)? In the spirit of all December celebrations, I am giving away a couple of copies of THE SOUND OF LETTING GO, shipped directly to your USA address of choice. Enter below!

My December reading list...

A little adult, a little YA, a little inspiration... What pages are you turning as we begin the holiday season?

Has the world just changed?

I was welcomed home from an amazing SCBWI writing retreat by this adorable pooch...and a 48-hour, internet-free power outage. Thus the delay in this post. Well, one delay. The bigger one was the world turning upside down. Terrorism, grief, a world filled with pointing fingers and people crossing their arms against compassion--and people showing immense love and compassion. And I sit here, now shame-faced for complaining about my two days without a dishwasher. I've written and deleted several blog posts today. I've been thinking about the kind of diversity we are privileged to be able to demand in the publishing industry...of how our perception of the events of Wikileaks may change now...of the disturbing array of reality-star-style individuals who make up the sad majority of our options for president in next year's election...of my friends in the military and their children and what this terrorism may mean for their families...of my own sons and the world into which I b

Coming up on November 14: Second Saturdays FREE Writing Workshop in Woodinville!

WHAT MAKES A GREAT MAIN CHARACTER? SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 14, 10:30 AM - 12:30 PM Woodinville Library,  17105 Avondale Road NE, Woodinville, WA The next class in this FREE series of writing workshops  will be taught by the amazing SARA NICKERSON In this intense, focused workshop open to writers in grades 7 to adult, Sara will discuss  backstory, likeability, and the intersection between plot and character. Bring paper & pencil, some pages of your work-in-progress, or just the most amazing character name you can invent!  REGISTRATION  is preferred but not required (though clicking the registration link will also lead you to more details). Sara is a thoughtful, intelligent and highly supportive teacher--a not to be missed class!

Writing Craft: The Trouble with Cell Phones & YA Literature

I just watched a CNN documentary called "Being 13: Inside the Secret World of Teens." Short form: Kids use their phones too much and often unwisely. While my first thought was that social media could not be ALL THAT BEING 13 was about, my second though was, WHOA. Could social media be playing such a massive part it the world of MANY TEENS that this is the sum-total of the not-all-that-scientific CNN report? I have heard mystery and horror authors comment on the challenges of writing thriller-style plots in the age of the CELL PHONE. I mean, how many times can a battery die or a teen find him/herself on a wi-fi-free island? But, I think this is only the tip of the iceberg. An anecdote: As an alumni interviewer for my undergraduate school, I am given a roster of teens and told that they should make first contact with me (instead of my tracking them down). Their first method is almost always email--I was astonished when one kid actually phoned me. Thinking about this, I

The Bible and the Search for Self in Two YA Novels

After reading, and loving, DEVOTED in preparation for a writing retreat, something joggled in my brain and I pulled a title from my sorrily epic TBR pile: THE MISEDUCATION OF CAMERON POST . What a read-beside pair! Both titles deal with teen girls who feel that they don't fit--perhaps cannot exist--within the moral and social confines of their communities. In, THE MISEDUCATION..., Cam is a scrappy, only-child orphan living in a highly traditional Minnesota ranching town with her unmarried aunt and diabetic grandmother. And, she is a lesbian. In, DEVOTED, Rachel is one of 10 children in a fundamentalist Texan family, lead by her father, and guided by the pastor of the Christian church they faithfully attend. And, she dreams of being more than a wife and "helpmeet" after high school. Both Cam and Rachel are reviled for the things that make them different, which leads them to feel the pull of love for family members pushing against the need to become their most c

It's Teen Read Week

In support of this year's theme, "Get Away," (and also because I'm preparing for a writing retreat) I am reading DEVOTED by Jennifer Matthieu, the story of a teen girl growing up in community of religious fundamentalists. For me, it is a getaway in two ways. 1-As a reader, I am visiting a world that is unlike my own. 2-Rachel, the main character, is struggling with the question of whether the boundaries of her world feel too tight. Are you reading a GET AWAY book this week? Hope it's a great one! Learn more at YALSA's Teen Read website  here or, if you're a Pinterest person, here !

My Literary Assistant Cannot Keep Up



Leaves falling from the trees and fleecy sweaters being pulled from the shelves signal to me the start of my very favorite writing season. There's so much to learn and to celebrate. Here's a great way to keep your writing moment this October! STUDIES IN PLOTTING FOCUS ON MYSTERY & HORROR SATURDAY, OCTOBER 10, 10:30 AM - 12:30 PM the second Woodinville Library's FREE series of writing workshops will be taught by the inimitable SCBWI-er ROYCE BUCKINGHAM DETAILS: For grades 7 to adult. Studies in Plotting: Focus on Mystery & Horror. Come armed with your favorite scary or suspenseful novel. Discuss what "grabs" us about these books, the components of a great mystery, and what ALL writers can learn about plotting from this format. REGISTRATION  is preferred but not required (though clicking the registration link will also lead you to more details). This class is going to be amazing!

Next on the reading list...

School has begun which, for me, means waiting in parking lots, carpool lanes, for soccer games to start and buses to arrive. So, my must-have car accessory is BOOKS! Right now, it's these:

Speaking of September...

I'll be doing a bit of speaking on both coasts. First, here in the PacNW, I'll be helping the Woodinville Library kick off their amazing Second Saturdays writing program on September 12 with a seminar on  Planning Your Writing Year . It's free and you can register HERE . Then, I'll be joining the delightful Jeanne Ryan for Talking Pages Children's/YA Night on September 15 in Issaquah, to discuss Unlikable Protagonists in YA . More info HERE . Finally, I hop a flight to Boston, MA, for the Boston Teen Author Festival at the Cambridge Public Library. That one is on Saturday, September 26, and I'll be on a panel entitled Reality Bites along with Jessica Brody, Lance Rubin and some other awesome authors. Details (beyond my affinity for artichokes) can be found HERE .

How has your summer been going so far? ANY SURPRISES?

I did not start off the summer intending to back away from social media but that's what I've done. My accidental efforts were helped by three weeks visiting my parents who are lively quite solidly in the 20th century--WiFi and microwave-free! So, instead of Facebooking and tweeting, I've been doing stuff like this:  And I've been reading books, including these: And writing a little bit--not enough but a bit. Has your summer turned out the way you planned? Tweet me your answers to @swkehoe with the hashtag #summersurprise -- and I"ll lumber over to social mediaville and tweet you back!

Excited for September because...


Happy Book Birthday to THE SECRETS OF BLUEBERRIES, BROTHERS, MOOSE & ME by Sara Nickerson

Run, don't walk to your nearest bookstore (or computer) to order this gorgeous middle-grade novel about a twelve-year-old Missy's struggle to not feel left behind as the lives of her family and friends undergo big changes. If you won't take my word for the awesomeness of THE SECRETS..., here's what Kirkus said: "Heart-rendingly unflagging in the face of life-changing events,  Missy's a funny, compelling heroine that readers will cheer for.” Here's the Amazon link if you're so inclined. Or go visit Sara at her website  to learn about her books, events, and school visits!

Been awhile, blogosphere...

I am happy to report that the family has survived two graduations and other end-of-school-year festivities (and stresses). Boys #1 and #2 are gainfully employed for the summer. Boy #3 is hanging with friends and teaching himself to play the guitar (no, I haven't asked him if it's part of some plan to get girls). Boy #4 starts basketball camp next week with his bestie. And I've just become part of the MOST amazing, tiny, heart-filling critique group. So there's the update along with an apology for my continued sporadic blogging in the coming weeks as I try to finish writing this novel. Best wishes to you for a summer of sun, fun & beautiful words!

Graduation Frenzy

This month Boy #2 will graduate from high school. Boy #3 will graduate from middle school. Boy #1 will miss the fun because he's back on the east coast for his summer research job. Boy #4 is celebrating the completion of third grade and the fact that baseball season is not yet over. I'll be doing a lot of smiling and picture-taking. Many of my friends' kids are excitedly planning to attend first-choice schools in the fall, making lemonade out of some less-than-ideal choices, partying, and working. But a few have lost their way. A few have not managed to complete their senior year of high school. And those parents? They are as sad and confused as their children. Watching this spring unfold has really driven home how much pressure we middle class parents put on our kids. Do well in school. Play a sport. Be creative. Take a leadership position in some club. Intentional or not, it's like we see only one way--one path to a success we define as being just like us. It

Starting My Summer Reading List...



I've been thinking a lot recently about the cliche, "To be a good writer, you have to be a good reader." I teach a workshop about writing cliches and have found this one particularly annoying because there is a LONG journey between identifying and enjoying good books and writing one of your own. In trying to break this down, one thing I have realized is that, as a reader and writer, I have maintained a personal bibliography of novels that do certain things well (such as great openings, great development of secondary characters, great happy (or sad) endings) and I turn to these works when I feel my own manuscript comes up short in one of these areas. I also use these books when I teach about various elements of writing craft. Here's a short list of novels I've recently cited in workshops about honing the opening pages of your novel: JUST LISTEN by Sarah Dessen LEGEND by Marie Lu ALCATRAZ VERSUS THE EVIL LIBRARIANS by Brandon Sanderson I AM THE MESSENGER by M


It's been awhile since I've written a post about writing craft which is funny because I've been teaching quite a few live writing classes and mentoring online at the awesome First Five Pages Workshop .  Ironically, as I opine on craft to others, my current WIP is stumbling. So, I decided to take some of the proverbial medicine I often prescribe to students. I designed a writing exercise to examine the interplay between CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT & PLOT. I began with Blake Snyder's SAVE THE CAT BEAT SHEET (Google it), a three-act plot breakdown schema that moves from OPENING IMAGE through establishment of THEME, plot SET-UP, CATALYST (INCITING INCIDENT), all the way to resolution and final images. I blended this with Tom Pawlick's tips on   THE 9 INGREDIENTS OF CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT , particularly #5: AMBITION ("What goal is she trying to accomplish throughout your story?"). Since I have several narrators in this WIP, I create chart, character nam

It's Children's Book Week!

Children's Book Week has been celebrating literacy and book love for nearly a century with amazing programs, book awards and live events held nationwide. And, every year I look forward to the gorgeous posters designed by amazing picture book artists. This year's beauty is by Grace Lee. Learn more here!

Win a free critique of your first 25 #YA or #MG manuscript pages!

Have you entered yet? What are you waiting for? Loading...
The awesome that is Clear Eyes, Full Shelves is hosting its fourth annual verse novel celebration.  Click on over to join the fun--and win some great stuff!

Some writer love for THINGS WE KNOW BY HEART!

Wonderful writers @SarahKKohut @cuppajolie Sara Nickerson, the amazing author of the upcoming THE SECRETS OF BROTHERS, BLUEBERRIES, MOOSE Y& ME Dutton BFYR June 2015 I love Jessi Kirby's beautiful contemporary YA novels and this one is no exception. Unique, compelling, beautifully crafted--a must-read! Here's the  Amazon link for the book  or, if you're so inclined, pop onto   Jessi's Twitter   an d give her some virtual congrats!

Conferences, Writing Classes and a Lion (oh my!)

Spring is roaring in with a full calendar of events--and I'm not just talking about my sons' baseball and Ultimate Frisbee schedules! This Saturday, April 18, I'll be serving as a friendly mentor at the SCBWI Western Washington 2015 Conference , where I am especially looking forward to hearing the amazing Nina Laden's keynote. On Saturday, May 9, from 10-12, inspired by my work as a mentor at the First Five Pages online writing workshop, I'll be teaching a class on polishing the first chapter of your novel at the Woodinville Library . Please do come--it's free and bringing a work-in-progress is not required! As further incentive, if you attend the May 9 workshop, you can sign up for a free 25 minute one-on-one manuscript critique with me on May 10th! And then, of course, there's the previously mentioned  Cavalcade of Authors West  in Tacoma on May 2, and the Spring Author Celebration in The Dalles, OR, on May 30--along with a writing class on

I'll be away from my desk...

...appearing at two awesome events next month: CAVALCADE OF AUTHORS WEST Saturday, May 2 at Pacific Lutheran University, Tacoma, WA YOUTH FICTION FEST Saturday, May 30 at Klindt's Bookstore, The Dalles, OR While I can't wait to talk about reading and writing and all that jazz, my husband is slightly dreading two whole weekends of parenting--especially the part where you have to feed the children THREE TIMES A DAY or they get rather ornery. All kidding aside, he's a marvel at toasting bagels and picking up pizza so I'm confident they'll survive. And, after having done very little out-and-abouting this past year, I am beyond excited to hit the road!

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