Monday, February 28, 2011

Ask the Editor: ALISON WEISS

Great news!  Editor Alison Weiss has come up with the fabulous idea of hosting a monthly Ask the Editor feature on our forums.

Yay, Alison!  

She's excited to get to know you, so don't be shy.  Head over to the forums and ask your questions! The thread will open first thing in the morning and will remain open for 24 hours.  Alison will pop in periodically throughout the day to make sure your questions are answered.

Don't miss this awesome opportunity!

Alison's bio:

Alison Weiss is an Assistant Editor at Egmont USA. As a kid, it was not unusual to find her huddled under the covers on a Saturday morning with a stack of books rather than downstairs watching cartoons. Reading and writing have always been passions, but sharing that passion with others wasn’t always as easy. That is until she found the children’s publishing world.

Alison has been with Egmont for nearly three years. During that time she’s been fortunate to work with debut authors and multi-award winning, alike. She’s been part of the editorial team on projects by Walter Dean Myers and Todd Strasser, and has worked with authors including Glenn Dakin, Kristin Clark Venuti, Aimee Ferris, and Lynn Kiele Bonasia.

Responsible for Egmont’s Twitter feed (as @EgmontUSA), Alison is regularly involved in sessions where she discusses the publishing industry and answers writer’s questions. And now, she’s delighted to have the opportunity to answer some of yours.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Are You Hooked? Let's Go!

Okay everyone!  The excerpts are up.


Here are some critiquing pointers for everyone:

1.  Be kind.  Language like "I hated this" and "This is an awful paragraph" are not helpful.  In fact, they offer discouragement instead of help.  And this is about helping each other.

2.  Be honest.  If something needs work, don't say, "This is awesome!"  We will not grow as writers unless we can accept honest evaluations of our work.

3.  Please do not sign in as "anonymous."  Use a screen name that will help us identify you.  Like, yanno, "Authoress."  Except that's mine.

4.  If you are an entrant, please be sure to critique at least 3 other entries.  This is about give and take.

5.  If you are not an entrant, we still want your critique!

6.  If you are a reader but not a writer, your feedback is still helpful.  Let us know that you are critiquing as a potential reader and tell us why or why not you'd like to read more.

Leave your critique at any time over the next few days!  Oh, and entrants?  Please don't pop into the comment box and try to explain yourself or defend things.  Just read quietly and sort through the feedback, deciding what is helpful and what isn't.  Whining isn't pretty. :)

**BIG HUGS!!**  This'll be fun.

Critique Session Entry #9

TITLE: Anywhere
GENRE: YA-Historical

Okay, so three words can’t kill you, right? I’m not even going to say them ‘cause I’d said them more times than I already should. They’d been my wish words, but you should never wish on just three words. Best to fill out the spaces. Get into specifics.

So the beginning. It had been a long week and it was scorching hot for the most of it, but I summoned what energy I could for this one thing, holding my ground – what little there was to hold. Let me tell you, doing something like that against my father took way more energy than I had. He’s a ‘back down from nothing’ kind of guy, but I’ve got his blood in me – apparently - and as much as I’d like to think otherwise, we share this one thing in common. I’m not the backing down type either.

Still, expecting imminent failure, I take this as a practice moment, a chance to hone my skills for something more significant, knowing of course, that something significant will one day come. It’s bound to, right? Life can’t just float along simmering at the edges without anything happening.

So it’s the moment of stare down. I’m staring. He’s staring. You’ve gotta try, otherwise you end up this vessel of nothingness, going along with anything and everything and completely loosing yourself to silence, and it’s a quick fall into oblivion once you’ve chosen that route. Why does that instantly make me think of my mother?

Critique Session Entry #8

GENRE: Thriller

Everything blurred no matter how much she blinked.

Robert Benning answered the front door almost the moment she knocked. This was fate, unadulterated, and she hated it. The timing couldn’t be explained away, and that ruined everything. She took in his eyes and the soft wrinkles around them as best she could. She had missed so much.

“Rebecca’s alive.”

Benning dropped his glass of wine at the words, the goblet sending shards across the entryway. Any inkling of inebriation evaporated, and track marks she didn’t remember were prominent on his arms. The wine at his feet looked like drops of blood. “Is she okay?”

She shifted on his porch steps, the last place she wanted to be. Her knuckles whitened as she fought to see clearly. His features blurred again for a moment. “No.”

“Where is she?” He stretched to look behind her, but there was no one else in the street that was speckled with dim globe lamps. She wondered what he remembered. Trusting his memories was always a gamble; they were fragmented at best, everyone knew.

“Hell.” Drowning in the raw fear in his eyes, she plunged the knife into him without another word; it was easier that way. She watched his spiked blood slip through the spaces his fingers left unguarded. The colors ran together until she wiped her eyes.

“I’m sorry, Daddy.”

Critique Session Entry #7

Title: Chance
Genre: YA

I couldn't believe that I had been talked into driving down here! Megan had sworn up and down that it would be worth it. She claimed that her college was amazing, that I would love it.

"Really," she had said over the phone, "how could you not like it? The parties here are killer, and it's nothing like home! I swear every other guy here is like a ten on the hot scale." Did she mention one thing about the academics? No. Did she successfully talk me into coming anyway, like always? Yes.

It must be nice living on daddy's credit cards. I think Megan thought of classes as optional. To her they were something you went to when you weren't too hung over and daddy was bugging you about the classes you were taking.

The funny thing is that I'm positive that Megan doesn't even know what classes she's taking this semester. Two weeks ago I called her and she told me she was in a still life drawing class, but when I got the class listings a week later I found that they only offer art classes first semester. Knowing Megan, I knew that she would have actually thought she was in an art class, so of course I called her and asked her where in the world she was. Unsurprisingly, she didn't know, which caused me to go into full lecture mode about how she needs to be more careful. There are some crazy people in this world you know!

Critique Session Entry #6

TITLE: Poseidon's Trident
GENRE: Thriller

Lily Ashwood flashed her identification card and passed through the fence gates into the dig site. A boy walked quickly to keep up. He rushed after her, in his haste forgetting to produce his own identification card, and a gun wielding security guard blocked his way.

'It's alright, Almando,' Lily called to the security guard. 'Gregorio is with me.'

'Sorry, Miss Lily,' Almando replied. 'You know the procedures; he has to show his pass.'

Gregorio hurriedly fumbled through his jacket pockets, then his pants pockets. He at last found it, and held it up for the bulky man to see. The Spanish guard nodded, satisfied, and stepped aside. Gregorio raced up to Lily, and the pair continued on.

'I'm sorry, Miss Lily' the Spanish boy apologised, 'I've never had to show my pass before.'

'It's alright,' Lily replied, slowing her pace to allow her new archaeology student to keep up. 'There was a break in last night, and security has been tightened. Hence Almando's presence.'

The pair sidestepped a pile of rubble and came to a dark cave, guarded by another beefy guard. Lily showed her pass again, and without looking at it, the guard nodded and let the pair in. They donned white hard hats, and Lily swept a strand of blonde hair out of her deep blue eyes and tucked the rogue strand behind her ear. Lily ducked to enter the cave, moving several hanging vines out of the way with her hand. Gregorio followed her and they switched on headlamps attached to the helmet.

Critique Session Entry #5

Title: A Battle For Royalty
Genre: Fiction

Why did I ever want to go for a walk? Tasha’s thoughts pounded in her mind like the pouring rain that drenched her and made her shiver with cold. She had been exploring deep in the woods when a sudden downpour had caught her frolicking in the forest. The rain now pelted her face and hands; grey mist blurred her vision as she tried to navigate her way home.

A flash of lightning lit up the ground in front of Tasha, illuminating a shivering, dripping object that whimpered in fear. Tasha stopped, afraid to move until she knew what the creature might be and whether or not it proved dangerous.

The clouds covering the sky made it difficult to see anything in the already dimming light of evening; Tasha narrowed her eyes, scanning the ground in front of her. As her eyes adjusted to the darkness, she slowly began to see the creature, and waves of curiosity and excitement swept across her face. At first glance, it appeared to be a large, wet lizard, but as she looked closer, it seemed in some way more dragon-like, with scales and wings and a long pointed tail. Tasha loved dragon-kind, but at thirteen years old, she knew they didn’t exist. Still, the creature that lay huddled in a ball on the ground before Tasha, could only be explained as a dragon.

But could it really be possible? Tasha wondered.

Critique Session Entry #4

TITLE: Short Swords
GENRE: Young Adult Fantasy

The darkness was absolute. Sophie concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other. A hand along the slimy stone wall and a rough map in her mind was her only guide. “I must be getting closer,” she thought, opening and closing her eyes to see if it made any difference. It didn’t. Thinking it was lucky she wasn’t afraid of the dark, Sophie pushed on until her foot hit something solid. The preceding thump echoed through the cellar causing Sophie to freeze in fright. When no answering call sounded she dropped her empty sack and ran her fingers around the object she’d just kicked. It was a wooden crate. Pushing the lid aside, the smell of autumn apples intensified and for a moment she was tempted to stay put until she had eaten her fill.

As suddenly as this thought had arrived another pushed itself forward. Brent’s face appeared in her minds eye, matted hair hanging long, his brown eyes shining with the promise of better days to come. She couldn’t abandon him. She knew, even though he had tried to hide it, what he had risked to get her this opportunity. Sophie had watched, out of sight among the shadows, as he had argued her case.

“I ken her to be reliable. We’ve been friends for years now, my mother ken her grandmother,” he pleaded, his street slang thick with the common dirt accent.

But the boys before him were shaking their heads. “It’s not enough Brent, to say ye ken someone so well as to predict their future.”

Critique Session Entry #3

TITLE: The Night
GENRE: Epic YA Fantasy

Aerael leaned across the basin and reached for a half-used cake of soap. Her necklace came free of her shirt, and the stone cast its unearthly light over the soaking dishes.

“By Yirai,” she muttered, hastily tucking it back beneath her collar with wet fingers.

“Watch your language, young lady."

Aerael jumped and turned around--she hadn’t heard her mother come downstairs.

“You must be more careful. Anyone could’ve seen it.” She stepped into the kitchen, the warm light from the hearth washing her in gold and orange.

“No one’s here, Mother. You really shouldn't be up.”

Her cheeks were flushed with fever. “You’re just fortunate no one was around.”

“The doctor said you should get as much rest as you can.” Aerael picked up the kettle. “Tea?”

“The doctor’s been saying that for many years now. And yes, tea is good.”

“I’ll get the water going. I can bring it up when it’s done.”

Her thin shoulders caved, and her dark, graying hair fell into her face. “I suppose I’ll be in my bedroom.” The steps creaked beneath her slight weight as she went up the stairs.

Shaking her head, Aerael put the kettle over the fire, prepared the ginger-lemon mixture, and poured the hot water over the leaves to steep. She considered the dishes. If she started now, she might forget about the tea and let it get too strong. Better to wait.

Checking the dining room to be sure she was alone, she took a seat on the stone hearth and drew out her necklace.

Critique Session Entry #2

TITLE: Willow
GENRE: YA Paranormal

I looked around the empty room one last time. I took in the white carpet and bare sea green walls. There were indents left on the carpeted floor where my furniture once sat. Little holes in the walls where I had hung posters of my favorite bands. It was hard to wrap my mind around the idea that we were actually leaving the one place that held every memory of ours. The familiar empty, hollow feeling took over my body, weighing me down till I couldn’t stand anymore. I fell to my knees and leaned my head against the door frame as my thoughts took me back to the day when things fell apart. I still remember the dreadful day, almost nine months ago, as if it just happened.

*  *  *
It was a cold night in December. Mom had just left her clothing boutique when she called.

“Riley, hon, do you mind warming me up a plate for dinner? I just had so much to do at the store, I couldn’t get out till now,” she said

I could hear the car’s engine rumbling in the background. The radio was switched on to a local station. The DJ was talking on the other end, informing his listeners to watch out for black ice on the roads tonight. The temperature had dropped this past week and we’d had snow all morning.

“Sure, but mom, I’m on the other line with Adam so I’ll see you when you get home,” I said.

Critique Session Entry #1

TITLE: Darkblood
GENRE: YA Fantasy

Chains and rain. Ice cold band around my wrists, water dripping off my face. It was salty rain again, cursed and foul.

“Stand.” The grating voice of Sliy broke through my ringing ears, loud enough to hear, soft enough to send a ripple of hatred through me, making my new scars twinge. He walked along the rows of people chained together. As he passed I heard them whimper or shriek in pain. Then he was beside me, looking into my eyes with his own colorless ones. The pain was blinding all over again.

“We have reached our final destination,” he called as he reached the end of the line, his voice ringing through the stale air. “Should you show any talent, consider yourself lucky. You will become a yovi for the high King.”

He was coming my way again. I didn’t think I could last another wave of pain. The girl in front of me was crying quietly, I heard the word ‘betrayer’ amidst her sobs. It was the rhythm of all our heartbeats. We had been lied to, deceived. Except for me. I knew.

“Should you fail,” he continued, enunciating the last word. Pain pulsed and shuddered through me as he passed again. I could feel the screams I held inside. “Consider death your luck.”

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Our First In-House Critique Session!!

Are you ready for some honest feedback from your peers?  And from me?  *grin*

The first page of a novel either sucks us in -- "hooks" us -- or it doesn't.  Ever wonder if your opening paragraphs are strong enough to draw in a reader, make him crave more?

Here's your chance to get some feedback/critique on the opening page of your novel--our first Write On ARE YOU HOOKED? critique round!  Here are the rules:
  • You may submit the first 250 words of your novel, whether it is a completed work or a work-in-progress (WIP).
  • The submission window will open at 2:00 PM EST today, and will close at 2:00 PM on Friday or when we have 10 entries--whichever comes first.
  • You may only submit one entry.  Subsequent entries will be disqualified.
  • All entries will be posted anonymously.  
  • By entering this critique round, you are giving implicit permission to have your work posted and publicly critiqued.
  • By entering this critique round, you agree to critique a minimum of 3 other entries.
  • Send your submission to A Writer Gone Mad at awritergonemad.submissions(at) (Replace the (at) with an @ sign.)
  • You will receive a reply email with your post number.  Please be patient; unlike the critiques on Miss Snark's First Victim, this contest is NOT automated.  Mad will be taking care of submissions by hand.
  • Format your entry EXACTLY AS FOLLOWS:
SCREEN NAME: (type it here) (this is whatever name you use when you leave comments here)
TITLE: (type it here)
GENRE: (type it here)

(type your first 250 words here)

I think that covers it!  The entries will post on Saturday; you may begin critiquing immediately.

Please leave your questions in the comment box below!

Monday, February 21, 2011

And We Have a Winner!!

From Ms. Boudreau's own lips (erm, fingers):

"The entry that made me LOL the most was Jess's: Real Mermaids Don’t Wear Skinny Jeans, especially considering Jade's, um, plus-sized frame."

Congratulations, Jess!  Please email your address to helene (at) to receive your signed copy of Real Mermaids Don't Wear Toe Rings.

A big thanks to everyone who participated!  I promise this is the first of lots of fun contests.


Friday, February 18, 2011


We've got a special thread on the forum NOW! Pop over and ask Ms. Boudreau your questions on writing, publishing, and what it feels like to kick the Diet Coke habit.

Don't miss out!  The thread will be open for a limited time only.


Thursday, February 17, 2011

HÉLÈNE BOUDREAU'S Title My Next Books Contest!

Ready to give the next two Mermaids books their titles? The contest is open NOW!


1. You must be a registered member of the Write On! forums. (Click here to join.)
2. You must be a follower of this blog (see side bar).
3. Come up with the FUNNIEST, CLEVEREST titles for books 2 and 3 in the Mermaids trilogy as you can. Leave them IN THE COMMENT BOX BELOW.
4. You may enter as many times as you'd like!
5. Keep your entries PG, please.
6. I will close the comment box at the end of the day tomorrow (Friday). Ms. Boudreau will choose the winner and I will announce it on Monday.

The prize: A book-plate signed copy of Real Mermaids Don't Wear Toe Rings!

On your mark....get set....


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

On Mermaids, Voice, and The Writing Life: HÉLÈNE BOUDREAU

Are you ready to learn a few things about Hélène Boudreau, author of the lighthearted modern fantasy, Real Mermaids Don't Wear Toe Rings?

Get ready for an awesome interview. Hélène is about as sweet as they come, and she's shared some GREAT INSIGHT on how to make your characters come to life.  Which is something she's terribly good at.

AUTHORESS: Real Mermaids Don't Wear Toe Rings isn’t your first book. Tell us what else you have written!

HÉLÈNE: You’re right! Real Mermaids Don’t Wear Toe Rings is actually my eighth published book. I also have a junior chapter book series called Red Dune Adventures and a middle-grade time travel novel called Acadian Star, plus five non-fiction books.

AUTHORESS: I REALLY enjoyed Mermaids. From the very first page, when Jade’s in the bathtub and discovers she’s grown a—well, you know—I was immediately rooting for her. How do you DO that? How do you make Jade so real and so RIGHT INSIDE MY HEAD?

HÉLÈNE:  That’s cool! I’m so glad you related to Jade! I really wanted her to be an every- day teen readers could relate to, despite her extraordinary circumstances.

As for making her seem like she is ‘RIGHT INSIDE MY HEAD’ well…I can share a couple of techniques I use when creating a character. These are tips you can use to bridge the gap between the reader and the point-of-view character.

1. Creating a relatable character: Jade is not the perfect size 6 pretty girl. She has a weakness for chocolate and one foot constantly in her mouth when talking to her crush. I don’t know about you but I can relate on all those fronts. When a reader can see themselves reflected in a character in this way, they’re more likely to root for their success.

2. Creating an identifiable character: Have you ever had to buy something embarrassing at the drugstore? Or been mortified by a parent? Or had to keep a secret from a friend? These are situations with which most people can identify. It’s like saying ‘yes, I totally get that’ while the character is going through those situations. These identifiable situations help the reader feel invested in your character.

3. Using sensory detail: By engaging as many senses as possible, through the eyes of the point-of-view character, your reader becomes much more immersed in the character’s persona. If the reader can sense what the character sees, hears, tastes, smells and feels it’s almost like they are climbing inside the mind of the character and taking on that persona. Injecting sensory detail like this through the narrative of the story gives dimension to your character and engages your reader on a deep level.

AUTHORESS:  You’ve recently signed a deal for two more Mermaid books (hooray!). Can you give us a tiny hint about what’s to come? Or at least let us know how long we have to wait!

HÉLÈNE:  Book 2 will be out in spring 2012. We haven’t seen the last of the Freshies and the Mer-council and Jade, Cori, Trey, Lainey or Serena, for that matter. There will be plenty more embarrassing moments for Jade, too. I haven’t finished torturing her just yet. ;-)

AUTHORESS: So you’ve managed to create a believable, very “today” mermaid story. What was your inspiration?

HÉLÈNE:  The setting for the story was based on a town near where I grew up in Nova Scotia, Canada. We used to take boat trips there with my dad when I was a kid. You can actually sail from the ocean, up a canal and through a boat lock and into a lake, just like the setting of the story. I was always amazed by the purple jelly fish on the ocean side of the boat lock compared to the white jelly fish in the lake. It always made me wonder how different it would be to live in a lake compared to the ocean. That was the inspiration for my underwater mer-world in Real Mermaids Don’t Wear Toe Rings.

Jade’s character was mostly me getting in touch with my inner dork. I could totally see myself doing a lot of the things she did; fumbling her words while talking to a cute guy or sending a cooler full of Gatorade careening into space.

Her geeky, gadget-loving dad was fun to write too, since I based a lot of his character on my husband. I had a lot of fun debating with him about how similar they were; whether he would Google ‘menstruation’ in the middle of the pharmacy while buying feminine hygiene products for one of our daughters, like Jade’s dad did, or whether he’s capable of driving and carrying on a conversation at the same time. It confirmed for me how ‘adorkable’ my husband is and how appealing that can be in a character as well.

AUTHORESS:  Mermaids is a middle grade novel. How is that different from young adult? What made you decide to write for this age group?

HÉLÈNE:  I wasn’t consciously trying to write a middle grade versus a young adult book. I mainly wanted to tell a story from the perspective of a thirteen year-old girl who feels like she’s being left behind by friends who are developing faster than she is. It was hard to find a category to classify this book since it kind of bridges the middle grade/ young adult gap but I just tried to tell as honest a story as possible and hoped it would find its readers.

AUTHORESS:  You are represented by the lovely Lauren MacLeod of the Strothman Agency. Can you share some highlights from your how-I-nabbed-my- awesome-agent story?

HÉLÈNE:  People talk about their ‘dream agent’ but what I truly wanted was an agent who knew the market, was enthusiastic about my writing and could direct my career.

I got that +++ when I finally connected with Lauren. I had queried quite a few agents before stumbling on a blog by Mitali Perkins where Lauren discussed her likes and dislikes. She mentioned she was looking for clean/ funny/ middle grade/ leaning toward commercial manuscripts and I thought ‘Hey! That sounds like my book. ’

You can read what Lauren thought of my query on the Guide to Literary Agent
blog HERE.

AUTHORESS:  You’re, like, a mom. How does that work? When do you get your best writing done?

HÉLÈNE:  I always marvel at people who say they can only write in the morning or late at night or at the coffee shop. Being a parent doesn’t always afford such luxuries. I usually end up writing whenever and wherever I can! I’ve been known to sneak in a bit of revision while the girls are at art class or take my laptop with me while they play in the park. This is killer on my keyboard, though, and I usually have to get out the hi-pressure air every week or so to blow out the leaves and playground sand from between the keys.

AUTHORESS:  If I’m 14 or 15 or 17 and I’m writing my first novel, what’s your best-ever advice?

HÉLÈNE:  My advice for aspiring authors is this—anything is possible! This is true in a book and in real life. In writing, don’t be afraid to take risks! Make your characters squirm, put them in impossible situations, go down the road less travelled. The same goes for your writing life. Take risks, be brave and don’t be afraid to fail. You can always go back and revise.

Conceive it, believe it and achieve it.

AUTHORESS:  So many drafts, edits, revisions. How did you know when Mermaids was actually DONE? How do you know when ANYTHING is done?

HÉLÈNE:  It’s hard to know when it’s absolutely done but it helps to have a good team of critiquers to help along the way. I put my early drafts of Mermaids through my rigorous critique group for over six months. Then, I did 3-4 rounds of beta-reads with some trusted readers. While I was querying agents I did 2-3 major revisions. When I signed with my agent I did another revision. When the manuscript was acquired I did a large-scale revision and then a smaller content-type revision. Then finally, a copy-edit at the very end. At some point with each book I need to let go, put my trust in the process and let it be the book it was meant to be.

AUTHORESS: Do you listen to music when you write?

HÉLÈNE: I love Top 40 music so I usually have it playing in the background while I write. It can’t be too loud, though, or I find it distracting. Writing with earbuds, with the volume on super-low tends to work best for me. Just enough to block out the universe but not too much so that I feel the need to rock out with my very shaky rendition of ‘Soul Sister’.

AUTHORESS:  Is it true you’ve recently stopped drinking Diet Coke forever?

HÉLÈNE:  *slurp* “Huh? Oh…yeah, definitely. What was the question?” *wipes chin*

AUTHORESS: Is being a Real Author as awesome as it seems?

HÉLÈNE:  Being an author and having books published is absolutely awesome and I feel grateful every day that I get to do what I love for a living. It’s not without its challenges and it is definitely a LOT of work but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

AUTHORESS:  Chocolate or vanilla? Coffee or tea? Summer or winter?

HÉLÈNE:  Vanilla. Neither. SUMMER!!!!! Flip-flops!!!!


HOORAY!  Thank you, Ms. Boudreau, for a fabulous interview.

And guess what's next?  A contest to win a book-plate signed copy of Real Mermaids Don't Wear Toe Rings!

WHEN: The contest will open TOMORROW AT 3:00 PM EST, so check the blog!

WHAT: Why, thinking up titles for Hélène's next two Mermaid novels, of course! The funniest entry will win.

WHERE: Right here on the blog! All entries will go into the comments box.

Spread the word! And see what fabulous titles you can come up with. YOU might be Write On's very first give-away winner!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Heads Up: What This Week Will Bring!

The Write On community is off to a great start! Lizzy informs me that your first official chat was a success, though she hopes more of you will join in next time.  Please be sure to check out the poll on the forums and let Lizzy know what time will work best for YOU! (This multiple-time-zone thing is definitely a challenge.)

Anyway!  This is your official YOU DON'T WANT TO MISS THIS blog announcement.  Here's what the rest of this week has in store for you:
  • An amazing interview with HÉLÈNE BOUDREAU, author of Real Mermaids Don't Wear Toe Rings.  (Yes, I've read it. Yes, it's a really fun, gotta-turn-the-pages book for the 10-and-up set. Yes, you want to read it, too.)
  • Our FIRST CONTEST!  The prize: A book-plate signed copy of Real Mermaids Don't Wear Toe Rings.
  • A special ASK HÉLÈNE thread on the forums!  Details TBA.
 So make sure you're around.  Hanging out with a published author is exactly what you need to be doing.  Don't miss this!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Growing Up Pre-Internet

It may as well say "prehistoric."  Right?

Because if you're 18 or under, you can't imagine your life without the Internet.  I mean, isn't that sort of life without electricity or flushable toilets?

Or oxygen?

Yet I survived teenhood pre-internet.  Wanna know what it was like?
  • I had two ways with which to communicate with my friends:  in person or on the telephone.  Well, I could write letters, too.  Come to think of it, I did a lot of note-passing in high school.  It's a lot easier to sneak a few scribbles onto a scrap of paper than it is to try to hide the fact that you're texting illegally.
  • So this telephone thing?  It was attached to the wall.  And the receiver was attached to a long, curly-stretchy cord that I sensitively stretched right across the kitchen entry so I could sit around the corner in my "phone spot".  I had to sit there for the entire conversation (unconscious of the fact that I'd put the rest of my family in danger of strangulation).  This means I couldn't go into my room, pee, or leave the premises.  It was the age of IMMOBILE communication.
  • If I wanted to find out a boy's phone number, I had to use a phone book.  That is, the fat, printed-on-cheap-paper thing that arrives on your porch once a year (I'm not sure why they still print those things).  And I had to know his father's name.  And probably the street he lived on, just to be sure it was the right number.
  • Then, of course, I wouldn't call him.
  • When I actually wanted to WRITE to a friend, it was with real ink on real paper.  It was a good thing my dad was a mailman, because we always had stamps in the house.  It was one of the few things I was allowed to remove from his desk drawer without permission.  Talk about privileged!  I mean, stamps on demand.  How cool is that?
  • I didn't even have to mail the letters, because my dad always took our mail to work with him.  That's about as close to the convenience of email as it got.
  • Of course, there was no way to know whether the letter was actually RECEIVED.  Not unless I received a reply (which could take DAYS).  Or maybe a phone call.
  • And if the phone rang during supper? We weren't allowed to answer it.  We had to LET. IT. RING.
  • Can you imagine being 16, hoping to hear from someone Really Important, and NOT BEING ALLOWED TO ANSWER THE PHONE?
  • O.O
  • When I wanted to know whether the latest book was out from my favorite fantasy author, I had to go to the bookstore and LOOK THROUGH THE SHELVES.  Mind you, these were book-twos and book-threes I was waiting for.  DYING to know what happened next, and no way to track when the next release would be available.  I couldn't afford the hardbacks, either.  So when those gorgeous, hardbound books finally appeared in the bookstore, I had to wait a very long time for the paperback to come out.  Think about that.  Then think about how easy it is to pop onto Amazon or Borders and find out EXACTLY when your favorite author's next book will arrive.  
  • Term paper research? Hours at the library. With encyclopedias and other books-with-tiny-print.  And you're not allowed to have food or drinks in the library.
  • Invitations?  Came in the mail.  
  • Movie trailers?  We saw them when we went to the movies.  Whether we wanted to or not.
  • Finding like-minded teens who shared our passions and interests and with whom we could totally be ourselves no matter what?  ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE.  Especially if you lived in a very-tiny-town-where-almost-everyone-except-you-played-sports.
And that's my main point.  LOOK WHAT YOU'VE GOT HERE!  Maybe you're the only kid at your school who's uber-geeked over writing novels.  Maybe you've got friends who support you, but they're not writers so they don't really Understand.  (Yeah, capital U. Understand!)

But you've got the Internet, which provides you with myriad ways to hook up with like-minded people.  As a writer (and as a reader), everything you need is literally at your fingertips.

Advice! Information! Critique! Community!

There's a lot of bad stuff out there.  Surfing the web isn't risk-free.  But you're here, on this blog and in this community, because you know how to find the GOOD stuff.  Stuff that's going to help you grow as a writer.  Stuff that's going to make a difference in your life because you're taking your talents and abilities seriously.

I survived without the Internet, but you can THRIVE WITH it!

It's a great time to be a young writer.  I'm privileged to be getting to know each of you.

Write on!

(Okay, that's a really dorky ending, isn't it?  But I couldn't resist.)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Grab the Opportunity: Secret Agent Contest!

Those of you who already follow Miss Snark's First Victim know all about our monthly Secret Agent contests.

For the rest of you:

The Secret Agent Contest is for aspiring authors with manuscripts that are complete and ready for querying.  A maximum of 50 first pages (250 words) post on the blog and are open to critique from my blog community and A SECRET AGENT.

Who's the Secret Agent?  Each month, it's a different literary agent whose identity is not revealed until the contest closes.

Know what's really cool?  Since the contests have begun, there have been SIX AGENT SIGNINGS as a direct result of them!  Which is all kinds of exciting.

Anyway, February's Secret Agent Contest begins TODAY.  Head over to
MISS SNARK'S FIRST VICTIM and read the entries and critiques. You can learn SO MUCH through what other writers--and agents!--are saying about the excerpts.

Take notes! Apply what you learn to your own writing. It's an amazing-and-totally-free way to beef up your knowledge base and improve your skills.

Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

What would make YOU happy?

Needless to say, I've got some cool things planned for this blog.  Like our very first teen-centric interview with a published author.  And critique sessions that focus on sharpening basic writing skills.

That sort of thing.

But what I'd like more than anything is to hear from YOU.  What would make you happy?  What would help you most in your writerly journey?

A lot is already going on in the forums, of course.  (What, you haven't join yet? WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?)  There's already an intense book discussion going on, for instance.  And a chance for you to get to know each other on the general discussion board.  Obviously that's what the forums are for.

The blog, on the other hand, is the place where I can bring you the best information, instruction, and interviews, as well as critique opportunities and--wait for it--CONTESTS!  Because who doesn't love a great contest?

So talk to me.  Leave your suggestions and ideas in the comment box below.  And be sure to say hey and tell me your age, too!  I do pop over to the forums, but that's ultimately Lizzy's show.  I'd love a chance to get to know you and answer your blog-related questions RIGHT HERE.

Now's your chance, while the blog is new and shiny!  Help me make it into EXACTLY what you'd like it to be!

Well.  Within reason.


Monday, February 7, 2011

Welcome To Your New Blog Hang-out!

I'm super excited about the launch of this blog, and I'm glad you stopped by!  If you're wondering who I am and what's going on, now's your chance to find out.  To wit, your very own interview of me:

YOU: Who are you, anyway?

ME:  I'm known to the online write-o-sphere as Authoress, hostess of the popular blog MISS SNARK'S FIRST VICTIM.  MSFV is a blog for mostly-grown-up aspiring authors who are far enough along in their writing to benefit from online critique and feedback from literary agents.

Not that you don't deserve some attention for your writing, too.  That's why I've created THIS blog, which is probably your next question.

YOU: How did you guess?

ME: I'm pretty good at this interview thing. *smile*

Anyway, the truth is I'm thrilled every time I meet an under-adult-aged writer.  I love to encourage, to teach, to offer pep talks to teens who aspire to write well and, perhaps, to some day be published.

Of course, reading and writing go hand in hand.  So this blog isn't JUST for aspiring teen writers; it's also for teen READERS.  (And, um, if you're a writer, I'm assuming you read a lot, too.  So that makes you doubly invited to this blog.)

YOU: Not to sound rude, but what's in it for me?

ME:  In addition to informative and entertaining blog posts (I sound like a commercial), we've got our own forum for you to connect with each other.  This'll be a safe place for you to ask writing- and publishing-related questions, share your ideas, and build a community of writers tailor-made for YOU.

Because it's awesome to be a teenager AND a writer AND a lover of books.

You might even be treated to the occasional piece of (embarrassing) (purple-prosed) writing by my teenaged self.  We'll see.  I may be SO not a teenager anymore, but that's no reason to make myself look bad.  Right?

Also?  The blog will include guest appearances from fabulous authors, in-house critique sessions of YOUR work, and contests involving REAL (as opposed to fake) agents and editors.

Lots of fun stuff!

YOU: So, are you a writer or something?

ME: Yes!  I write middle grade and young adult (that's you) science fiction and fantasy.  I'm represented by the best literary agent in the world, Josh Getzler.

Okay. I'm biased.

Anyway, you can read more about me on the "Authoress" tab above.

YOU: So, when your first novel is published, how will we know who you are so we can, yanno, buy your book?  And read it?

ME: Naturally, I'll reveal my REAL identity at that time.  Probably with a fun contest attached to it.  Because, yeah.  My book isn't going to say "by Authoress" on the cover.

YOU: It's just you, then, running this blog?

ME: Nope!  I've got two amazing teens helping me run this thing:
  • Lizzy, 16-year-old aspiring author, will be running the forums.
  • Mad Writer, 17-year-old aspiring author, will be assisting with critiques and contests.
You can read their brief bios in the sidebar.  I'm SO GLAD they've both volunteered their time to help with this blog.  Be sure to thank them whenever you see them doing something awesome.  Which will probably be frequently.

YOU: So, what should I do next?

ME: Glad you asked!  To connect right away--and to stay connected--you should:
  • Subscribe to this blog.  Right now.
  • Join the FORUM.
  • Go to the "GENERAL" discussion board and introduce yourself!
That's it!  The fun will unfold from there.

Questions?  Observations?  Leave them in the comment box below!  Otherwise, get over to the forums NOW and jump right in!  We can't be a community until we're a...well, community.

I'm looking forward to getting to know you!