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The 411

My name's Lauren. I'm the author of books for teens and tweens, including TWO-WAY STREET, THE SECRET IDENTITY OF DEVON DELANEY, and FOUR TRUTHS AND A LIE. Feel free to friend me, leave a comment, or check out my website.


A road trip with her ex?
Danger ahead....

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10 Feb 2010 @ 3:16 PM
Jonas Forever and The Jersey Shore!
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I was talking on the phone with my sister this morning and I asked her what I should blog about. She said the Jonas Brothers. (Also, just fyi, she’s twenty-two. Not that I’m judging. I mean, I’m still mourning the Nick/Jessica break-up.)

Anyway, it is ridiculous to ask me to blog about the Jonas Brothers, since here is all I know about them:

1. There are three of them.

1a. They apparently sometimes all wear sunglasses.

2. They wear purity rings. (I do believe they are pure, but see #3.)

3. One of them, Kevin, is married. (I knew one of them was married, but I didn’t know which one until this morning when I asked my sister. Also like I said, I believe they are pure, but I also believe the purity ring really, ah, motivated this marriage, if you get my drift. I think the other two will follow suit and get married asap.)

4. There is a whole contingent of people who want Joe Jonas to get together with Demi Lovato. They call this pairing “Jemi” and people will be like, ‘ZOMG, JEMI FOREVER!”

Jemi Forever

5. There was a very big scandal involving Demi Lovato’s mom leaking something about how supposedly Jemi really is together, but they keep it a secret. (Not sure why, but I suspect the purity ring might have SOMETHING to do with it?)

6. One of them (Nick?) has a solo album. (My sister insists this is a side project, but I say he’s pulling a JT.)

Wow. It turns out I actually know more about the Jonas Brothers than I thought. That’s kind of embarrassing, actually. (But not too bad because I write for tweens, and need to keep on top of this stuff.)

Anyway, I guess I should maybe get back to work. There is no snow here in Boston so far, which is very disappointing. I went out last night and stocked up on food and everything. Sigh.

At least I still have The Jersey Shore marathon that I DVR’d to keep me company. Talk about embarrassing! Although to my credit, I DID resist watching it for a very long time. But no one told me it is kind of just like THE REAL WORLD only in Jersey! I thought it was more like The Hills, where they would show people who actually live on the Jersey Shore, instead of just putting a bunch of strangers in a house together.

I like this much better. Already there has been a love triangle, a girl getting punched, a love story complete with crying and meeting the parents, and of course lots of scandals in the hot tub.

But of course, I am going to work first, watch later. La, la, la...
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5 Feb 2010 @ 12:05 PM
But I *NEVER* Have Plans...
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So it turns out the Lauren Conrad signing is tonight, not last night as I had previously thought! Unfortunately, I have plans tonight. Also, just so you know, this never happens. That I have plans two nights in a row. Like, I go out and do things a lot (well, sort of) , but it’s never a plan. It’s mostly just like, “Oh, wow, it’s 8:30, we should go for Mexican food!” or “ZOMG, did you see the preview for that movie, let’s go see it right this instant!”

This sounds spontaneous and fun, but really we’re just too lazy to make plans.

So anyway, I won’t be going. Which is sad, but honestly, I probably would have been the oldest person there, and what would I have said to LC? Probably nothing. I would have been too nervous that she’d be judging my outfit. (Although I’ve actually heard she’s really nice in person. But maybe that’s because she silently judges?)

I would have a lot I would have wanted to ask her, though, like how she feels about The Hills being really dumb now that Kristin is the star (probably she likes it) and what she thinks about Heidi getting like five hundred surgeries in two hours (probably she thinks it’s crazy!)

In other news, I just sent a proposal for an adult romance to my agent. And by adult, I mean, not YA or tween. (Nothing too scandalous, content-wise.) It was soo different writing it, since it was in third person (not something I’ve ever done before), and I really had to make sure I didn’t slip into the teen/tween voice, which is something I struggle with. It’s just so natural to me.

What about you guys? Have you ever written something different than what you’re used to? Why did you do it and what did you struggle with?

More later,
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4 Feb 2010 @ 11:07 AM
TGI Thursday
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So it seems that some people are staying away from the internet this month.

This sounds like complete and total crazy to me, but maybe that just means that I should be internet free for the month as well? But I won’t, mwhahahah.

Also, I realized that this came out on Tuesday and no one even ALERTED ME!

What’s the use of not giving up the internet if no one even TELLS you about things like this?

I know. It’s embarrassing! It’s wrong! It’s ruining publishing!

Whatever, I don’t care, OMG, the first one was so bad it was good, and it ended on a total cliffhanger, and I MUST FIND OUT WHAT HAPPENS NEXT. Also, Lauren Conrad is doing a book signing tonight in Boston. No, I am not going. And it’s NOT just because I already have other plans, I swear, la la la.

Okay, I have to get back to work now. I’m finishing up page proofs for HAILEY TWITCH IS NOT A SNITCH.

What are you guys working on? It seems like everyone’s blogs are so dead these days -- I miss hearing about everyone’s new projects/agent searches/new contracts/etc!

More later,
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2 Feb 2010 @ 1:42 PM
Happy Groundhog Day!
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There are meatballs in the crockpot and they are making the whole house smell soooo good. I can’t take it. I might have to eat some before The Boy gets home. (Okay, fine. I already ate two. Whatever. I made them, so I should get to have a couple at least!)

Today is Groundhog Day. That means if the groundhog sees his shadow, then there will be six more weeks of winter.

This makes no sense to me, because a) how can they tell if the groundhog sees his shadow? b) six more weeks of winter puts us at mid-March, and when have you ever heard of spring starting before mid-March? and c) the movie Groundhog Day is only on once today, at 6 pm on Bravo, which seems like a missed opportunity to me.

Anyway, I don’t believe in Phil the groundhog.

I prefer to hurry spring up by using positive thinking techniques, like refusing to wear my coat as long as it’s over thirty degrees, or celebrating when it’s still light out at 5:30. It totally works.

Well, sometimes.

Oh, well. At least if it’s winter and I have to stay inside, there is plenty of good TV on.

Like The Bachelor, which is very good this season and included a contestant getting kicked off for having a scandalous affair with a crew member!

The only thing is that they’re calling it The Bachelor: On The Wings Of Love since the bachelor is a pilot. Which is pretty cheesy, but whatev.

And Life Unexpected, which is OMG, so good AND it has Kerr Smith in it. (Is it weird, though, that all the people from Dawson’s Creek are now playing parents? It seems wrong. Like James Vanderbeek playing a single dad in that one Lifetime move, MRS. MIRACLE. He should be back in his bedroom with Katie Holmes!)

Make It Or Break It is still always good, and Being Erica (am I the only one who watches this?) is in its second season. Plus American Idol is back, and The Amazing Race is starting up again on the 14th. (Starring Jeff and Jordan from Big Brother!)

I just realized it is pretty embarrassing that I watch all these shows. But at least I DVR them so that I can watch whenever. But still. How did I have time to write five books last year?

Maybe the TV is motivating me?

More later,
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31 Dec 2009 @ 11:15 AM
What I Know Now
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*This is something I originally posted in 2008, and I was going to add to the list, but I realized I still feel the same way about many of these things. I’ve edited it here and there (and marked those places), but it’s essentially the same.*

The other day, while I was out checking out FOUR TRUTHS AND A LIE in bookstores (ETA: FOUR TRUTHS came out September 2008, so of course I don’t still bookstore stalk it, la la la), I started thinking about what it was like when REALITY CHICK first came out, and how much has changed for me since then. I thought about my old self, the mistakes I made, the things I didn't know, how much I'm still learning about this whole crazy business. I thought about what my future self would tell my past self if I could. I thought about all of you who have books coming out soon...And so I came up with this list:

1. FORGET YOUR EXPECTATIONS. Everything is about to change. But not in the way you may think. Being published is amazing, but nothing can really prepare you for it. You might not even believe me as you're reading this, but things are going to get harder. When you're not published, you're going for this seemingly (at times) unattainable goal. But you don't really have anything to lose. Once you're published, that changes. This might not make much sense, but in some ways, I think it's much harder to get rejections AFTER you've been published. Because you know what you're missing out on. It's kind of like if you ask out a guy, and he turns you down. Big deal, right? It might sting for a while, but you find a new guy. But if you've been dating that guy for a year and suddenly he breaks up with you, it's kind of devastating. Being published does not make things easier, it makes things harder. Because of…

2. NEW PROBLEMS. You won't be worried about finding an agent, you'll be worried about sales numbers. And how your book looks in the publisher's catalog. And why Barnes and Noble hasn't ordered any copies. And how all this is going to effect your career. It's hard, because unlike sending out a new batch of queries, you can't control any of this stuff. So you have to learn to let go. Which leads me to number three...

3. ON PROMOTION. All we hear about as writers is "You have to promote!" and "You better get out there and promote!" and "What do you mean you don't have a blog, a podcast, a video series, a joint blog, and a giveaway?" The weird thing is, no one even knows for sure what works.

The book I did the most promotion for (REALITY CHICK), has sold the least amount of copies of all my books. The book I did the LEAST for, (THE SECRET IDENTITY OF DEVON DELANEY), has sold the most. (My theory, and from what I've heard from my publisher, is that college books just aren't really doing well in YA. Kids pick them up, see they're about college kids, and put them down. But like everything else in this business, this is just a guess. It could be three million different things.) (ETA: TWO-WAY STREET had now passed Devon Delaney in sales, and I think it’s because of the word of mouth talked about in number four. Also, REALITY CHICK will be rereleased this summer under the title of WATCH ME, so yay!)

So when it comes to promotion, I say, do what you want. Do you like blogging? Do you want to update your facebook a thousand times a day? I happen to really enjoy blogging (ETA: I do still blog, but I’m more into twitter these days – again, everything changes so fast! I didn’t even mention twitter when I first posted this! One of my New Year’s Resolutions is to blog more, though.), so I do it. It's not a chore for me.

The one thing I think is important is to have some kind of web presence, because kids who read your book will come looking for you on the web, to write to you and to find out what else you've written. This is one of the best parts of being an author -- getting to hear from people who have read your books. And teens and tweens are the best audiences if you want to hear from your fans. They LOVE to write emails. Right now I'm still answering fan emails from two months ago -- and I know this is because I have a website where people can find out how to get to me.

So what do I think is even more important than promotion for good sales, especially in the teen market?

4. WORD OF MOUTH. Teens tell their friends what they like to read, and teens pass around books. I get tons of emails that say, "I read your book and I made all my friends read it, too!" TWO-WAY STREET didn't get a huge amount of orders from bookstores at first, and now it's gone into a seventh printing. (ETA: It’s in a thirteenth printing that I know about now, with over 100,000 copies in print!! After being [I think] skipped by Barnes and Noble at first. Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who has bought it and/or told their friends about it. Seriously. Thank you.) I really believe this is due to word of mouth. People read the book, liked it, and told their friends about it. And then those people told more people about it. Which means…

5. IGNORE REVIEWS. If you get a good one, awesome! Definitely celebrate. But I get sad when someone gets a bad review and worries about what their publisher is going to think, or how it's going to affect (ETA: Originally this said “effect” but I changed it to “affect” -- which is right?? Obviously this is one thing I haven’t learned.) them. Some of the best selling books (THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA, anyone?) have gotten the worst reviews. Your publisher cares about SALES. And besides, when was the last time you heard a teen say, "Oooh, I really have to pick that one up, it got a great review in Kirkus!" (ETA: RIP, Kirkus.) Yeah, maybe librarians and certain bookstores read reviews to take into account what to buy, but honestly? If kids are coming into a library requesting a book, that holds more weight. Which means…

6. WRITE, WRITE, WRITE. The most important thing you can do for your career is focus on your writing. Making it better, making it tighter, working to write the very best books you can, so that you can start that all-important word of mouth. And if the time you're spending promoting is taking away from this, I think something's out of whack.

7. ENJOY EVERY SINGLE THING. Celebrate it. Every single tiny little moment. I really think that, for your first book, you should have a party. Not to sell books, but to celebrate with your family and your friends. Have a cake! Enjoy seeing your name on a Borders sign, with all your books on display. It is an amazing, amazing moment to have your first book out, and it should be celebrated in a big way.

The smaller moments should be celebrated, too. Did you get great placement in your publisher's catalog? Did your editor love your revisions? Is your agent excited about your new proposal? Has your book gone into another printing? Did you get a gorgeous new cover? So much of this business can be waiting and disappointment, so when you get these good moments, cherish them.

8. BE SMART. Now, more than ever, you should keep yourself abreast of your career. Make sure you are making smart choices. Ask yourself if you're staying with an agent who's maybe not the best fit for you, just because you're afraid. Make sure you're pushing yourself with your writing, and doing what you can to make sure you're improving. Don't be afraid to ask questions, to inform yourself, so that you can be sure you're making the best choices for yourself and for your career.

9. SAY THANK YOU. Editors and agents are ridiculously overworked. Editors don't really make that much money -- they do this because they love books. Agents sometimes work for years before even seeing a penny of money. Saying thank you to people who are in your corner is extremely important. And a gift never hurts either :) These are the people who helped to make your biggest dream come true, and they should get credit for their work and determination.

10. BE GRATEFUL. It's amazing to have a passion like this. To know what you want to do, to get such joy out of something, to have a goal to work for. Some people go their whole lives and never find the thing they know they were meant to do, to be excited about it. You found it. You have it. So do it. Write. Don't get discouraged by the business side of things. Keep writing, keep learning, keep growing. Treat it like the gift that it is. And never forget how cool it is that you found such a rewarding, frustrating, insane, wonderful, horrible, fabulous, crazy, thing to work toward.

This list is definitely not all inclusive, and I'd love to hear from those of you who have books out on what you wish you knew -- and if anyone has questions, I'd love to hear those, too!

More later,
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16 Dec 2009 @ 6:21 PM
Paid Account?
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Hello! I have coupons where you can get a paid lj account for 9.95 for a whole year..

You can't already have a paid account, you have to be a free account user wanting to upgrade..

Anyway, if you want one, please comment here or email me lauren (at) laurenbarnholdt (dot) (com) ...
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11 Dec 2009 @ 11:20 AM
Happy Agent Appreciation Day!
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Happy Agent Appreciation Day!

I definitely could not let this day go by without blogging about my fab agent, Alyssa Eisner Henkin of Trident Media Group.

Here are the reasons I love Alyssa:

1. She is so on top of things, it’s almost scary. Seriously. I will send her a project, and it comes back to me almost immediately with notes. I ask her a question, and she sends me a thoughtful reply with tons of helpful information. She follows up with editors, she keeps track of checks, she pays attention to what’s going on in publishing, and she makes it all seem easy.

2. Alyssa never freaks out. Even when I say things like, “So I’m thinking I want to write a chapter book series, and a middle grade, and two YAs, oh, and I have a great idea for an adult romance..” She just talks me through it and finds a way to make it work.

3. One time, after a particularly hard rejection, one where the book had gotten so so SO close to being bought, she sent me an email that said, “Don’t worry, we WILL find X a home soon.” For some reason, I believed her. And you know what? We had two offers on that book within a month.

4. She gives me great feedback. She’s extremely smart and she pushes me to make any new submission the best it can be before it goes out. She wants my books to have the very best chance, and I love her for that.

5. She’s always looking out for me. She will think of things I never even thought to ask about, and make sure they’re all taken care of.

6. She answers my emails usually within, like, an hour. Seriously. An hour! One time she took five hours to email and apologized for the long response time because her email was down. Ha!

7. I trust her. Completely, totally, one hundred percent.

8. She’s sold eight books for me in the two years that we’ve been together. But it’s not about the sales, since I know a lot of that is out of our control. What I love is that I know some of those books wouldn’t have sold if not for her editorial advice, and her willingness to keep at it.

Even reading this list back, I realize I haven’t really done her justice. She believes in me, she believes in my work, and I am just so lucky to have her on my side.

Happy Agent Appreciation Day, Alyssa! I hope you have a great one!

P.S. The idea of Agent Appreciation Day came from Kody Keplinger – check out her blog here . And if you want to read more agent appreciation stories, go here.
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5 Dec 2009 @ 12:00 PM
Weekend Contest :)
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Happy weekend!! Last night The Boy and I went to see Brothers, with Jake Gyllenhaal and Tobey Maguire and Natalie Portman. I LOVED IT. So good, you should all go see it.

Now I am drinking coffee (decaf – I know, what’s the point, but I am trying to cut back on my caffeine and at least it’s French vanilla flavored) and waiting for The Boy to wake up so I can make him take me out to breakfast.

Things are usually dead around here on the weekends (by here I mean internet world), so I decided to do a contest for those of you who ARE around. Maybe you are procrastinating on your Christmas shopping like me? We were supposed to get up early and start ours today, but since I’m posting this and The Boy is still sleeping, you can kind of guess how well that turned out.

I am kind of (read: very) bad with procrastinating. Like with new bookshelves. I really, REALLY need some. Right now, for example, we have a stack of books over in the corner of our LIVING ROOM just waiting to be shelved. This is a pic of them:

I know, right?! Totally ridiculous.

Anyway! My procrastination is your gain (just read that back and it doesn’t really make that much sense, but just go with it – I’m drinking decaf), because I’m doing a contest!

Email me with the titles and authors of as many books as you can spot in the picture, and whoever gets the most right, will get a book of their choice from the pile. (I will send you a brand new copy, because why would I send you mine? As you can tell, I have a hard time parting with books.)

The person who has the highest number correct will win, and if there’s a tie, whoever emailed first wins. I will give you five extra points if you link to this contest on your blog or twitter, just please let me know where you linked in your email.

Email your lists of books to Lauren (at) laurenbarnholdt (dot) (Com) Contest will end at midnight EST December 8th. But like I said, if there’s a tie, the first person wins. I’ll only ship to the US.

Here are some hints:

*Some of the books I got at BEA.

*A lot of them may be Simon and Schuster books because the fab Editor K is VERY generous with books, which is one of the many reasons I love her so much.

*Click on the picture to make it bigger.

Good luck!

More later,
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4 Dec 2009 @ 10:08 AM
Spring Books (Or I Want Them NOW!)
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It was seventy degrees here yesterday. Seventy! That’s crazy. Today it’s going to be fifty.

It feels like spring. Do you think we will just skip winter and go right into spring? I am probably just wishing because a) cold is no fun and b) it seems like there are tons of good books coming out in the spring.


Could you just DIE? I mean, hello! The tagline alone is just enough to sell the book. I heard about this when it first sold, and then I kind of forgot about it, and assumed it wouldn’t be out for forever. But now it’s on my radar again, and even though now it’s only a few months until it comes out, it still seems like further away than before!

What do you think Carrie was like in high school???? Was she dorky? Cool? Did she dress the same? Did she have all sorts of man problems even back then? We will have to wait to find out. Sigh. The good news is I have the whole series of Sex and the City on DVD, so I can just watch those while I wait.

I saw this one on Meg Cabot’s website under her upcoming adult books, although she hadn’t listed a description until a couple of days ago. This one is about vampires. Gasp! I don’t like vampires. Bella and I will just have to agree to disagree. But…I might be tempted to change my mind on my vampire stance since it’s Meg Cabot. Really looking forward to this one!

I love Sarah, and the concept of this one is adorable – a seventeen-year-old girl’s cell phone breaks, and she finds out she can only call her fourteen-year-old self. Can’t wait!

Chasing Harry Winston has already been out for a while, obviously, but if you are an amazon stalker like I am, you will know that LAUREN WEISBERGER UNTITLED BOOK NUMBER ONE is coming out on May 25th. I loved The Devil Wears Prada when I read it, and I loved Everyone Worth Knowing, and I loved Chasing Harry Winston. I am not afraid to admit it! How can you not love a book where the cover shows a high heel with diamond rings????? Anyway, not sure what Untitled Lauren Weisberger Book Number One is about (anyone?), but looking forward to finding out.

What books are YOU looking forward to (this spring or anytime)? Also, all this talk of books has reminded me I need to try and revive my book club. It never quite took off, hmm…

Anyway! Back soon with my promised entry about nanowrimo…

More later,
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2 Dec 2009 @ 10:29 AM
On Agent Responses
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So agent Rachelle Gardner put a post up on her blog the other day about writers griping about agent response times. It’s definitely worth a read, especially the comments. You can find it the post here.

Here’s the thing.

I’m not going to talk about how busy agents are, or if they should be responding to every query, or if two months is way too long to hold on to someone’s full manuscript. Really, it’s kind of not important. And when I say kind of, I mean, you know, not at all, if we’re talking about importance as it relates to the end goal of getting published.

I mean, I don’t understand why we’re wasting our time worrying about some agent we probably have never met, who’s never promised us anything, who’s not responding to an email we sent. It’s like sending your profile out to someone on a dating site, and then being like, WHY IS THAT PERSON NOT RESPONDING? THAT PERSON IS THE REASON I WILL NEVER BE MARRIED, THEY COULD AT LEAST RESPOND!!!! ALL MEN ARE HORRIBLE AND NOW I WILL THROW MYSELF OFF THIS CLIFF!

Newsflash: Agents not responding to your email is not the reason you are not getting published.

Also? Honestly, you might need to get a thicker skin.

If you’re going to get upset about an agent not responding to your query letter, if that is going to ruin your day, your life, your week, then ohhhh boyyy are you not ready to deal with the realities of being a working writer.

How are you going to deal with it when you finally do get an agent, and you spend months revising with said agent only to have that agent leave the agency the day before your book is about to go out on submission? What are you going to do when you finally sell a book, spend months and months revising it, only then it doesn’t sell so well, and so your publisher doesn’t push the second book on your contract, and doesn’t pick up your option, leaving you in the same boat you were BEFORE you sold, only now with bad sales numbers? What if your editor leaves, and your new editor convinces you everything will be fine, but then she leaves too, and your book gets cancelled? What if you sell a new multi-book deal to your long time publisher, only to have it cancelled? What if you’re told by a publisher that an offer is forthcoming, only to wait months to have it fall through?

All of these things have happened to me or someone I know. And I haven’t even been around that long.

Look, this is a hard business. Hard, hard, hard.

And honestly, there are really only two things you can do to make it easier.

Number one, (this is something I’ve heard Jenny Crusie say, and it’s helped me a lot) is to SEPARATE THE WRITING FROM THE PUBLISHING. Writing is so personal to us. We spend months, sometimes years, countless hours away from our families and friends, early mornings and late nights writing and pouring our hearts and souls into our books. But once you make the decision to try to make money from your writing, once you start querying agents, you’re talking about publishing. Which is a business. A business that will break your heart five million trillion times for five million trillion different reasons.

If you’re not ready for this kind of heartbreak, don’t send your stuff out. Keep it on your hard drive, or sell it on lulu.com.

Number two, if you want to get the best chance of getting a response from agents, the best chance of getting your book published?

Write a great book. Write a great query. Keep sending stuff out. And keep working on the next thing while you’re doing it. Agents not responding is NOT the thing that is keeping you from getting published.

YOU are, by spending your time worrying about agents and not focusing on the thing you CAN control. Which is the writing.

Write, write, write, write, write. Keep writing. Get better. Make every book you write better than the last. That is the only thing you can control about the business. And that goes for when you’re published, unpublished, any time. Focus on the writing, and try to let go of the things you can’t control. (Like, um, agent response times.)

This doesn’t mean don’t vent. Publishing is FRUSTRATING. It will make you cry. A lot sometimes. But vent to your friends. Drink a hot chocolate and eat a cupcake. And then brush yourself off and KEEP WRITING.

I know what you’re thinking. Easy for YOU to say, don’t you have a bunch of books coming out next year? Don’t you love your agent? Well, yes and yes. BUT. Once, I was querying. Once, I was getting no responses. Even AFTER I was published and looking for a new agent, some agents didn’t respond to my query.

Once, I had an agent in NYC leave my requested full IN A HAIR SALON. You know how I know? Not because I ever heard from her again, but because the hair salon called me to tell me they had my manuscript. It had my contact info on the title page, and they assumed that I was the one who had left it. Upsetting? Yes. (Especially since she seemed really excited to read the full and also because when that 212 area code from the hair salon popped up, I got kind of excited.)

But that agent leaving my book there was not the reason that book didn’t get published. The reason that book didn’t get published is because it wasn’t ready.

I wrote another book. One that WAS ready.

Please, focus on what you can REALLY do to give yourself the best chance. And that is not blaming agents, or debating whether it’s wrong that they don’t respond to every query or if they should be at home answering emails instead of twittering about how they went out for pizza.

Keep writing. Keep sending your stuff out. Revise. Write a new, better book. Learn. Don’t give up.

Focus on what you can control, and do your best to let go of the rest…

Happy writing!

More later,
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1 Dec 2009 @ 11:29 AM
Thanksgiving and Chillin' With Dylan
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I cannot believe it’s December 1st! That’s crazy. December is officially winter and coldness, although it hasn’t’ really snowed here yet. Just once, and only for about an hour or so, and then it was gone. Not that I’m complaining – we’ll get it soon enough, and then I’ll really want it to go away. (My thoughts on snow is that it should be over after the holidays – it should be just swept away after the new year, taken out with the Christmas trees and put away with the holiday lights, not to be seen or heard from again until next year.)

My Thanksgiving was fun – we went down to the Cape to visit with the in-laws. My sister-in-law just got engaged, so it was fun to ooh and ahh over her shiny new ring.

We also played Pictionary. Probably none of you have ever seen me draw, but if you did, you would know that I’m not so good at this game. (One time someone asked me if I was doing the illustrations for my chapter book series, and I was thinking, “Um, no, not unless they want them to be stick figures.” But the truth is, I’m not even that good at stick figures.)

But somehow, this year I wasn’t that bad. My ten-year-old niece was on my team, and I swear it was like we had mind-meld. I drew this blob on the paper and then circled something in the middle, and she was like, ‘BRAZIL!” which was totally right! Do you think that’s why I like writing tween books so much? Because I am deep down ten years old?

But the best part was that we got home to find that while we were gone, SoapNet had DVR’d the Beverly Hills, 90201 Chillin’ With Dylan marathon. Hello, how lucky! (The Boy didn’t think so. But whatever. The DVR also has lots of UFC and boxing on it, which is unlucky for me, so it all works out.)

I turned in a book yesterday, so I’ve been catching up on the episodes. Some of them are really good. Um, the first episode where Dylan and Brenda meet? And the whole Brenda/Kelly/Dylan love triangle? When she yells, “I hate you both, never talk to me again!” Love it!

Some of them are not so good. Like, for example right now Dylan is in some kind of coma, and the whole episode is this really weird dream sequence where he’s making out with Kelly and then getting operated on by his high school principal. Creepy. And confusing.

Anyway. I hope you all had a wonderful holiday!

Happy December! I’ll blog tomorrow about my nanowrimo being pretty much an epic fail…

ETA: Now the high school principal has a gun for some reason, and Dylan is chasing a little girl down some railroad tracks. This one might need to be deleted…

More later,
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1 Dec 2009 @ 9:40 AM
Query Letter Clinic!
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So a couple of days ago I put a call out on twitter, saying that the first three people who emailed their query letter to me would get it critiqued on my blog. It was the holiday weekend, and The Boy had friends over, so I was tucked away in our bedroom trying not to get in the way of male bonding time :) Anyway, I turned a book in yesterday, so this morning I sat down to critique.

(Disclaimer: These are JUST my opinions. Feel free to take what helps you and ignore the rest. Also, I haven't read the books these queries are for, so when I needed plot stuff, I just made it up or did an kind of thing. These are also rough, as I wrote them off the top of my head, and would definitely need a little smoothing before they were sent.)

Query Number One:

Dear Ms. X,

The monsters who lurk in the shadows might think Elle is a kindred spirit -- they're wrong.

Elle hates being a werewolf, hates that the blood of the beast who killed her family also runs through her veins. But now she has a new home and family, including Cass, her dhamphir foster-sister. The girls join forces to keep the local supernaturals in line and make their town as normal as possible.

It's a job they treat like a hobby, until the night something attacks the high school quarterback, leaving him like a living zombie. As friends, enemies, and strangers alike fall prey to the soul-stealing demon spawn, Elle and Cass are forced to up their game. Rather than pinpointing a suspect though, Elle's werewolf senses have her chasing her tail -- and her cute new tutor, who smells a little too much like the demon spawn.

When her foster-mom is attacked, Elle's home life is shattered. Armed with more attitude than experience, and running out of suspects, Elle must embrace her inner beast if she wants to stop the demon spawn from destroying her new family -- or at least their souls.

PRETTY SOULS, a young adult urban fantasy, is complete at 85,000 words. It will appeal to readers of Kelley Armstrong's Darkest Powers series, Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy series, and Melissa Marr's Wicked Lovely series.

I would be thrilled to send sample chapters or the full manuscript at your request. Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.


Writer Number One

My Thoughts:

Paragragh #1 - I think you need to cut the first paragraph. I get that maybe you’re going for something that will get attention right off the bat, but I think the next paragraph does it.

Paragragh #2 -- There’s an intriguing set-up here. Unfortunately, I think it’s a little bit confusing. I like that Elle’s a werewolf, and that werewolves also killed her family. But I want to know how she came to live with a half-vampire foster-sister, and also how/why the two girls join forces. And to do what exactly? What kind of creatures are in their town and how do they keep it normal? Also, did she just move in with the foster family or has she lived there since she was born? I need a little more info.

Paragraph #3 -- The third paragraph is good, but I think it needs to be streamlined and include just a touch more info.

Paragraph #4 --The last paragraph, I like -- it’s like the last straw is her foster mom being attacked, the catalyst for her embracing who she really is. But I don’t know if the whole “home life shattered” line needs to be there. Obviously her home life would be shattered. Also, I like that she has now decided to “embrace” her inner beast, but I’d like to know a little more about HOW or WHY she decided to do this. Is there some power she has that she hasn’t used yet for some reason? Or maybe she has to infiltrate the group of wolves that killed her biological family? Also I think the “or at least their souls” can be cut.

Maybe Try Something Like:

“When sixteen-year-old Elle’s family is killed in a vicious werewolf attack, Elle is sent to x to live with x. Elle hates being a werewolf, hates that that blood of the beast that killed her family runs through her veins. But Elle has a new family now, including Cass, her damphir foster sister.

Once Elle is settled in to her new home, the two girls join forces, spending their days and nights keeping the local (specific supernaturals?) in line by (whatever they do that shows they are keeping the town as normal as possible, but that’s it’s still only a hobby).

But when the high school quarterback is found on the football field, brutally attacked and left as a living zombie, Elle and Cass are forced to up their game. Suddenly, the town is reeling, and as friends, enemies and strangers alike fall prey to the soul-stealing predator, Elle’s werewolf instincts have her chasing her tail. Her only suspect? Max, her cute new tutor, who’s setting off her senses with his weird behavior.

When Elle’s foster mom is attacked, Elle realizes the threat may be closer than she thought – and she wonders if she’s the real target. Armed with more attitude than experience, and running out of suspects, Elle must finally find a way to embrace her inner beast if she wants to stop the demon from destroying her family.

Query Letter Number Two:

Dear Ms. X:

Madeline, "Maddie" McGee hates cleaning. Always has – always will. Her motto? "I solve your mystery...you clean my room."

But when her messy room becomes an obstacle in her vacation plans, she needs a case…in a hurry! In the nic of time, a nerdy fellow student, Victor, comes to Maddie for help in finding Sylvia (his boa constrictor). Unfortunately, Maddie hates snakes almost as much as she hates cleaning. But since her room is even scarier than the boa constrictor – the search is on!

As the mystery deepens, Maddie learns that snakes aren’t always hidden in the grass…sometimes they are in plain view, wearing a suit and tie.

SEEKING SYLVIA: A Maddie McGee Mystery is a completed chapter book written in first person. I hope you will allow me to send you the entire manuscript. Thank you for your time.

Joy and peace,

Writer #2

My Thoughts:

Paragraph #1 -- I like the concept of this! A girl sleuth, what’s not to like? The problem is, when you start with Maddie McGee hates cleaning, it makes it seem like it’s a book about cleaning. Also, it’s a little unclear -- she solves mysteries, and every time she does, the person has to clean her room? If so, I think you need to make the fact that she solves mysteries front and center. Also, I didn’t get a real sense of Maddie’s age from the beginning, which was confusing. I was picturing this book as a middle grade, but later you say it’s a chapter book. So I’d put her age in here somewhere.

Paragraph #2 I like the set up for the mystery. I just think you need more info, and I think you need to make it more clear that Maddie

Paragraph #3 The suit and tie part is great – I love thinking that maybe there’s a mysterious man who has something to do with it! But the mystery, which is such a huge part of the book, is kind of buried here. How does the mystery deepen? We need a few more details, especially since otherwise there’s no real mystery – it’s just a search for a snake.

Side note: This is a minor thing, but I wonder if you need a snappier title. I don’t know if “Seeking Sylvia” is catchy enough for a chapter book. Something with the word “snake” in it, like SNAKE ON THE LOOSE! Or something that would appeal to kids more and is a little catchier might be better.

Maybe Try Something Like:

Eight-year-old Madeline “Maddie” McGee is a super sleuth. Whether it’s figuring out x or x, Maddie can do it. Her only request? You clean her room in return.

When Maddie’s parents lay down the law – clean her room or risk missing the family vacation -- Maddie realizes she needs a case…and fast. So when Maddie’s classmate Victor asks Maddie to for help finding Sylvia, his boa constrictor, Maddie signs on. The only problem? Maddie hates snakes almost as much as she hates cleaning. Almost. Besides, how hard can it possibly be?

But soon a simple chase for Sylvia turns into a bunch of weird happenings as Maddie starts uncovering x, x, and x. And when a mysterious man shows up, one might know more about the case than he’s letting on, Maddie starts to realize that snakes aren’t always hidden in the grass..sometimes they’re in plain view, wearing a suit and tie.

Query Letter Number Three:

Dear Ms. X:

I am seeking representation for my 60,000 word YA novel Through Her Eyes

Leila Lefley is awkward. While the rest of the students in Eastbay High are panicking over prom and college applications, Leila struggles to come to terms with the real meaning of idioms, her peer’s lack of interest in van Gogh’s disfigured ear, and the need to wear heels. Why would someone willingly risk a bunion the size of a golf ball? Leila resigns herself to drooling over her crush Neil from a distance. What would the insightful, fashion savvy heartthrob want with Loony Leila? Especially since Leila has Asperger’s syndrome.

Then she bumps into the crude Thor, literally. He tells her that he is a nymph and she is his charge. His mission is simple-- make Neil fall in love with Leila. Welcome to Dating 101. As a nymph, Thor is a master of seduction. A simple look from Thor and the school’s ancient Latin teacher is ready to drop her pants. But this nymph has his work cut out for him since Leila is different. Cue uncomfortable silences, unnecessary rambling and cringe-worthy situations.

The rules are straightforward. Follow Thor’s instruction, don’t like an idiot and most importantly, don’t fall in love with the nymph. Some things are easier said than done. The closer Leila gets to Neil, the more she finds herself longing for Thor. But Thor's mission comes with a timestamp, and with it, his own expiration. Leila has to make Neil fall in love with her fast, or she'll lose Thor forever.

Thank you,

Amna Mohdin

My Thoughts:

Paragraph #1 -- Okay. I like that this girl has Asperger’s syndrome. I think that there’s a real lack of strong YA heroines with disabilities in YA fiction. However, this paragraph has two main problems. One, it’s missing a really great opportunity to set up exactly who this girl is, and two, the voice is a little bit off for YA.

I did some googling, and found out that people with Asperger’s have trouble with idioms, and that Van Gogh is thought to have maybe had Asperger’s. But I wouldn’t know that unless I knew something about Asperger’s. So right now it just reads that those are the things she’s into. I think you should change it up just a little, so that agents/editors who are familiar with Asperger’s would get some of the references, but that if they don’t have that much background in Asperger’s, they would still think, “Wow, Leila sounds like a really cool character.” Also, we can cut the first sentence, since it becomes obvious that Leila is awkward. I also think the words “looney” and “heartthrob” are dated, so they should be replaced.

Paragraph #2 -- I like this set up, but I want to know a little more. Instead of saying “Welcome to Dating 101” can we see some examples of how Thor teaches Leila? Also, I didn’t really care for the school’s ancient Latin teacher dropping her pants. I think it would be more impressive if it were the hottest girl in school swooning ☺

Paragraph #3 – Like it! Good as is!

Maybe Try Somethingg Like:

While the rest of the students at Eastbay High are panicking over their facebook statuses and making sure the height of their stilettos is worthy of prom, seventeen-year-old Leila Leifley is researching the long-term implications of social networking sites, and debating whether or not Van Gogh’s early work showed signs of his depression.

Unfortunately, Leila’s differences haven’t left her immune to the torture that is high school crushes. Leila’s been watching Neil (last name) from a distance for what seems like forever. And she intends to keep it that way. Her Asperger’s Syndrome makes normal social interaction hard enough – forget about talking to the most sought-after guy at Eastbay.

Then Leila bumps into Thor. Literally. Thor’s a nymph, and his mission is simple. Make Neil fall in love with Leila. Thor is a master of seduction (one grin can make the hottest cheerleader swoon), but with Leila, he has his work cut out for him. She can’t flirt to save her life, she really does not get the point of short skirts, and she almost singes her hair off in an unfortunate incident involving hot rollers. Add her uncomfortable silences, unnecessary rambling, and tendency to take everything literally and Leilia wonders if she’ll ever get Neil to even look at her, much less fall in love.

But Leila’s determined to follow the rules. Do what Thor says, don’t act like an idiot and most importantly, don’t fall in love with the nymph. But some things are easier said than done. The closer Leila gets to Neil, the more she finds herself longing for Thor. But Thor's mission comes with a timestamp, and with it, his own expiration. Leila has to make Neil fall in love with her fast, or risk losing Thor forever.


Thanks to all who sent their query letters! This was fun, and now that my book is done, I might do it again this week...

More later,

Hit Me Up!

24 Nov 2009 @ 10:07 AM
My First Teaser Tuesday!
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My first Teaser Tuesday! I was writing this entry and then I realized I don't know the rules.. Am I allowed to post something from a book that's already done? Or do I have to post something from what I'm working on now? Hmmm...

This is from my YA novel ACES UP, which will be out in August...


“This is you, right?” he asks. He pulls a crumpled-up piece of paper out of his pocket. He’s still a few feet away, but I can tell what it is. An internet printout of an article from our local newspaper, The Whitinsville Eagle. ‘HIGH SCHOOL JUNIOR WINS BIG AT MATH DECATHLON,’ it says. It’s accompanied by a picture of me, smiling into the camera and looking a little cross-eyed. Also, I’m wearing a white shirt, which has the unfortunate effect of making it look like my head is floating in midair.

Uh-oh. Is this some kind of trick? Is Cole actually casino security, trying to fool me into admitting I’m only seventeen? I square my shoulders and pretend I have no idea what he’s talking about.

“No,” I say, squinting at the picture and hoping I look super-confused. “I’ve never seen that girl in my life.”

“It says your name underneath it,” Cole points out. Damn.

“What do you want?” I ask again, letting the door go. It closes behind me. “If you’re trying to blackmail me, good luck. I have seventeen dollars to my name, so if you want to go through all this trouble for that, then be my guest!” I pull open my purse and shake my money onto the ground in a pathetic storm of fives and ones. I was trying to sound haughty, but it didn’t come out that well. “And where did you get that printout, anyway?”

“Googled you,” he says.

“Why were you googling me?” I ask suspiciously.

“We do a standard background on all the new employees.”


“Aces Up.”

“What’s ay says up?” I ask again. Definitely sounds shady.

“It’s a poker society,” he says. “And we want you to join.”

I frown. “A poker society? I don’t know anything about poker.”

“We want to teach you.” He looks at me intently, his dark eyes serious. “We think with your math skills, you might be able to win a lot of money.”

“How much?” I ask in spite of myself. I mean, I would never gamble for money. A) I can’t risk losing everything B) Gambling is shady and C) I’m totally underage. Lying to get a job is one thing. Lying to gamble is another thing completely. But still. Now that Cole doesn’t seem as dangerous, and my path to the door is clear, I’m slightly intrigued.

“Lots.” In this light, he looks a little bit like Casey Affleck. But I will not be swayed by mopsy hair and dimples. Especially when I’m smart enough to know that nothing comes for free, especially money.

“Yeah, well assaulting me outside the elevator? Not the way to get me to join your stupid society,” I say.

“I told you, it’s secret,” he says, waving his hand like it’s nothing. “We have to be careful who sees us together.”

“I don’t want to be a poker player,” I say. I open the door again, and my feet sink into the soft carpet of the hallway. “I don’t want to be a gambler of any kind. And so I’m leaving.” I take one step outside, waiting for him to call after me. “Aren’t you going to try to stop me?” I ask, turning back around.

“Nope,” he says. And then looks me up and down, like he’s sizing me up. But not the way guys usually do, like they’re trying to figure out if they want to hook up with you. It’s more like he’s giving me a tryout of some sort. In fact it’s kind of ….sexy. Way sexier than the other kind of sizing up. But then I remember there’s nothing sexy about accosting me in an elevator and trapping me in a hotel room.

And then I figure it out. He’s pretending he doesn’t need me, so that I’ll be all, “I want to be a famous poker player, oh, please please please!” Ha! He obviously doesn’t know who he’s messing with. “I’m leaving,” I say again, forcefully this time.

“Okay.” He shrugs again. Annoying.

“Well,” I say. “Bye.” I step all the way into the hallway then.

“Bye, Shannon,” he calls as the door shuts behind me. But something about the way he says it implies he thinks I’m going to be back.....
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17 Nov 2009 @ 12:25 PM
St. Martin's New Adult Contest
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Attention writers! Have you heard about St. Martin’s “New Adult” contest? Probably you have, since I am a little late on this one. But just in case, here is the info:

“We are actively looking for great, new, cutting edge fiction with protagonists who are slightly older than YA and can appeal to an adult audience. Since twenty-somethings are devouring YA, St. Martin’s Press is seeking fiction similar to YA that can be published and marketed as adult—a sort of an ‘older YA’ or ‘new adult.’”

You can read the rest of the info here.

I love that they’re doing this! And yeah, people have pointed out this whole “new adult” thing isn’t really new, that there are many books that already fall into this category, but I think branding it as its own line is a great idea. I love thinking that these kind of books (which I personally love reading) will be easier to find and spot.

What I’ve been hearing lately is that books set in college or after high school don't really do that well when published as YA. The consensus seems to be that a large portion of YA readers just aren’t interested in reading about college. (This seems to happen with TV shows, too – once the characters go to college, the ratings seem to drop off.) And even though a lot of adults read YA, they might not be into reading about the whole college thing either. But I wonder if those readers that ARE into it, say maybe the 18-22-year-olds would be even more into it if they knew exactly where to find it.

I also love that it gives hope to writers who have manuscripts that may have had trouble finding an agent or publisher because they feature protagonists deemed “too old” for YA and yet “too young” for adult.

Good luck to everyone entering the contest – I can’t wait to see the debut of the new line!

And now I am getting back to finishing up HAILEY TWITCH SAVES THE PLAY (this close, this close, this close!) which is about a seven-year-old, and definitely not a teen or adult book.

More later,
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15 Nov 2009 @ 11:35 AM
Pink and Sparkly and Christmas
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Happy Sunday!

I cannot believe it is already November 15th. There’s, like, only a little over a month left until Christmas.

Yesterday when The Boy and I went to Borders, they were selling sparkly pink Christmas trees (fake, of course.) They looked like this:

The Boy looked at me and said, “Do you want to get it?” That is why I love him. What other guy would actually SUGGEST getting a sparkly pink tree just because he knows you love all things pink and sparkly? But that tree was a little too much even for me. Trees might be the only things that are better off green than pink, IMO.

So we left it. I think they also had purple and yellow and other colors, too, but they were all in boxes. The pink was the only one on display.

Also, if you are looking for a fab Christmas gift, I recommend this:

Okay, so .. confession time. I never really GOT the whole Twilight thing. I read the first one, and I liked it, and then I started the second and ..well, I’ll finish it someday. It wasn’t that I didn’t like the books, I just didn’t know why everyone was all, OMG, EDWARD, OMG, I’M GOING TO DIE I LOVE YOU SO MUCH OMG.

But Hush, Hush. OMG, PATCH, OMG, I’M GOING TO DIE I LOVE YOU SO MUCH OMG. I mean, not really, of course. Because, haha, people my age don’t talk that way. They also don’t buy pink sparkly trees. (But seriously, Patch, OMG.)

You MUST buy this book. It is suspenseful. It is sexy. It has one of the best teen romances I’ve read…well, ever. It is dark and chilling and carefully plotted with amazing pacing and the chemistry between Patch and Nora is just… yeah. The thing is, there is no sex anywhere in the book. And yet it is VERY HOT somehow. Becca Fitzpatrick, how did you do this?

Anyway, I loved it. You should all read it. And buy it as a Christmas gift for someone.

You should do it now, because I just looked it up and there are only 40 days, 12 hours, 31 minutes, and 8 seconds left to do Christmas shopping. Yikes! That doesn’t seem long at all.

More later,
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