Thursday, March 31, 2016

FREE CLASS THIS SATURDAY IN SEATTLE: How to write a query letter & find a literary agent

As part of the fantastic Seattle Writes Program, I’ll be teaching a FREE CLASS entitled Find an Agent and Submit Your Work: The Art of the Query and the Synopsis at Seattle Public Library’s West Seattle Branch.

WHEN?  SATURDAY, APRIL 2nd from 3:30 – 5:30 PM.  

WHERE? SPL West Seattle Branch
2306 42nd Avenue SW, Seattle, WA 98116, 206-684-7444

Thursday, March 24, 2016


I am so excited to read the final book in Romily Bernard's thrilling Find Me trilogy!

If you fancy fabulous YA novels with puzzle-istic covers, here are a few more to try:

Wednesday, March 23, 2016


Today, I have read the usual flurry of "you don't understand me" Tweets by people of diverse faiths, races, dis/abilities. In the publishing cyberverse are the usual posts about how too many cis white women are writing stories of others' experiences. So much criticism and creative energy is put into gaining traction for these hashtags about what is wrong or absent from our libraries, what is ugly in our world. I'm not denying what these people are pointing out. But I also KNOW that you are not required to submit a photograph with your manuscript submissions--I know that editors are seeking all kinds of WELL WRITTEN stories--I know writers of diverse backgrounds whose work is on shelves NOT because of their color but because of their HARD WORK and amazing TALENT. I also know that in Saturday's WSJ (3/19-20/16), book reviewer Jonathan Rose speaks of a young African refugee who cites Jane Eyre because "'I always read novels that have the same background as me'...struggling to survive in a chilly, inhospitable northern climate." I know that, as a young reader, I saw myself in W. Somerset Maughams Philip Cary (OF HUMAN BONDAGE)--a male orphan whose emotional pain was so like my own. I AM TIRED of the misguided notion that young readers are so simple, so stupid that they cannot see themselves (their hearts, their pains, their souls) in a person of another gender, race, type of sexuality. In picture books, like the great WEMBERLY WORRIED, small children are asked to see themselves in the character of a mouse. No problem. Girls, boys, adults, children all love Harry Potter--all embrace his journey of finding self, finding family. Just this week, my agent has forwarded along two rejections from editors today on a book that I've been working VERY HARD on but, maybe, it's not good enough. MOST BOOKS AREN'T, no matter what color the author. It takes a HUGE AMOUNT of time, revision, energy, thought, research, homework, soul-searching to write a publication-worthy book. It's hard to do when you're using up your best words complaining about what you want to see, what isn't on shelves.
So, today, I wish all those passionate, meme-creating, (sometimes a little bit patronizing), "misunderstood" folks would channel their creativity into books to help me understand. #WRITETHEBOOKS

Monday, March 21, 2016

Mid-Career Monday: THE STEEP AND THORNY WAY author Cat Winters on panicking and managing

It's been in print less than two weeks and Cat Winters' latest, THE STEEP AND THORNY WAY, has already been named a Junior Library Guild Selection and amassed an impressive collection of starred reviews. So, I asked her...

You write for teens and adults. As your career builds, how do you manage your projects and deadlines (as well the whole being-a-parent thing)?


I admit, it hasn't always been easy balancing both the YA and adult fiction careers. The opportunity to write my first published adult novel, THE UNINVITED, fell into my lap after an editor at HarperCollins read and loved my first YA novel, IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS. I never expected to be writing two books a year, and I'm not certain I can continue to keep up this pace much longer. But for now I'm doing my best to make everything work . . . and to still take care of my kids and remember that I have a husband!

The tool that saves me the most is my Google calendar. When I look at all that's due in the next six months, I find myself hurtling toward chaos and panic attacks (the latter of which I've started experiencing since becoming a published writer). However, if I list everything that's due on my calendar and focus on what I should be working on day-by-day instead of month-by-month, it helps keep everything under control.
In 2015 Nova Ren Suma wrote an excellent blog post in which she said that she asked herself, "What kind of author do I really want to become?" ( It got me thinking, what type of author do I want to become?

In some ways I'm already the writer I wanted to be: I'm writing full time, traveling a bit for promotions, and I have fans and literary awards. However . . . I don't have much of a life aside from cranking out the books and making sure the kids have what they need. Family vacations are difficult, if not impossible, because I always have something due. The deadlines are intense, plus I have a problem of telling people "no," which makes the deadlines compete with other deadlines.
Ideally, I would love to write only one book a year--maybe even one book every other year. I'm worried about burning out and losing the sheer joy of writing that's been a part of me all of my life. I'm worried about my quality suffering. Plus I'm interested in teaching through writers-in-residency programs, so I can make a difference in the lives of young writers; so I'm not so focused on my own work 100% of the time. I would also like to be able to read more books, something I don't get to do much at all. Reading and exploring the world around me always refills the creative well, and that's just not happening when I'm parked at my desk seven days of the week.

The reality is that most authors can't afford to write full-time unless they're constantly selling and working. Financial security and the fear of never getting published again (publication is never guaranteed, sadly) fuels most of our needs to continually produce new material. However, I'm looking at the future and finding ways to cut back, so I don't lose myself in this crazy, challenging business. 


Monday, March 14, 2016

Mid-Career Monday: Writing Across Genres with Gretchen McNeil

Gretchen's latest foray into horror, RELIC, was released just last week. And, though she's a master of scary storytelling, the uber-talented Gretchen will celebrate the release of her first YA contemporary this spring with I'M NOT YOUR MANIC PIXIE DREAMGIRL (title of awesome, huh?).  With a background in opera, television voice-over work, and all-around "How to be incredible in LA-ness," she is a champion of YA and a smart, passionate reader. So I asked her...

What was the scariest thing about switching genres and what advice might you have for other YA authors considering switching tracks?

Here's what Gretchen said:

I wasn't entirely sure I could plot a book without murder.  My brain equates escalating tension and raising the stakes with murder, mystery, and mayhem, so how was I going to replicate that in a subversive, contemporary comedy?  It was a struggle at the beginning, and the first draft had enough plot for three books.  But as I got to know the characters more, I grew more comfortable with them and allowed those relationships to dictate the plot.  That's when everything fell into place!

As for switching genres, I think the key is maintaining your voice.  I'M NOT YOUR MANIC PIXIE DREAM GIRL and RELIC could not be more different, except when you read them, they still sound like Gretchen McNeil wrote them.  And that is what readers--and publishers--are ultimately buying!


Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Free Writing Workshop with LISH McBRIDE this Saturday at KCLS Woodinville

SATURDAY, MARCH 12, 2016, 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 super-cool author, Morris Award nominee, and 
all-around awesome book person Lish McBride.

Plot, Pitch, Plan. How do you turn a great story idea into an actual novel? How do you sell that novel to an agent, a publisher and a readership? If you love reading or writing high concept novels or just want to get some insider insights into the writing business, this is the class for you!

What can Lish teach you? Well, maybe she'll hint at how to get reviews like this...

“Deeply enmeshed with a magical world and its impossible choices before readers ever meet her, Ava and her wholly believable despair are a refreshing change from the endless parade of naive heroines found elsewhere.” ―Kirkus, starred review for FIREBUG

“With fine writing, tight plotting, a unique and uniquely odd cast of teens, adults, and children, and a pace that smashes through any curtain of disbelief, this sardonic and outrageous story’s only problem is that it must, like all good things, come to an end.” Booklist, starred review for HOLD ME CLOSER, NECROMANCER

This workshop open to writers in grades 7 to adult. Registration is not required but, if you're so inclined or want more details, visit Woodinville Library Program Information Page. Hope to see you there!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Mid-Career Mondays: Taking Joy in the Journey with KIMBERLY GRIFFITHS LITTLE

BANISHED, the second in Kimberley's Forbidden Trilogy hit shelves earlier this year, praised by fans and reviewers!
“...this is a romance, with all the push and pull that goes along with impossible love, and Little elevates the story by creating a perilous landscape, both outward and inward, as Jayden must deal with the hardship of desert life as well as her own desires.” (Booklist, starred)  

At Kimberley's website you'll find a treasure-trove of resources from reading guides to website links to information on belly dancing! So, I asked her...

You write young adult, middle grade and now romance books, promote your work brilliantly, and offer support to other writers. What guidance might you offer others struggling to balance writing with the "business of authordom"?

Kimberley said...The aspect of trying to keep the career going and having to do so much of my own marketing and publicity has been the hardest to accept…I’ve come to realize that I spend at least three times more of my days in career activities that are not actual writing/revision…Nonstop Email, Social Media (Twitter, FB, Tumblr, Goodreads), personal blog, updating my website, book launch parties, Author Newsletter, School Visits, Power Point presentations, guest blog posts, interviews, brainstorming/writing proposals for new books, research, outlining, beta reading, mailing giveaway prizes, designing and ordering swag, creating Teacher’s Guides and Book Club Guides, filming Book Trailers, creating teaser graphics, writing author bios, taking author photos, attending conferences, etc.

It’s true that many writers don’t do all the things listed above, but as a mid-list author trying to break through, I’ll do just about anything to get my name out there. I don’t know how to say no. Because I never know if this interview or that conference—or book fair appearance, or mailing, or blog post, or book trailer, or tweet—will have an impact. It’s all a gamble because we never know what will work or what doesn’t. So I tend to live desperately and try to do it all. I’m trying not to feel so desperate. J

But sloooowly and with each published title your books and your name becomes more well known. It’s much harder for writers who don’t get the big promotional money from their publishers. I try to think of it as making connections with readers one person at a time. I believe that the best word-of-mouth tool is to keep writing and publishing. As long as your editor doesn’t switch houses or your agent quits to start a catering business. Just kidding! But only slightly. The reality is that most writers end up with 2-3 different agents during their careers, and most authors are orphaned by an editor at one time or another.

EVERY book is hard to write—BUT it is a fact that with every book you write, your craft gets better. It’s the absolute truth. And with every book published your readership WILL expand.
Those writers who are passionate and keep working hard at their craft as well as genuinely connecting with readers will have success. You probably won’t make a million bucks (less than 1/10 of 1% of writers ever do), but your stories will be read and you will get fan mail, even if it’s only occasionally—and there is enormous pleasure in that. I’m trying to make a conscious effort to take satisfaction and pride in my accomplishments instead of living envious of other’s successes. To stop feeling discouraged and stressed out all the time—and to start taking joy in the journey and in watching my little dreams come true