Friday, December 29, 2006

YA Fresh News!

Introducing a new member to YA Fresh: Debut Author, Tina Ferraro! Woo-hoo!!

Yes, Tina and I are critique partners. She also blogs over at Books, Boys & Buzz on Tuesdays and has graciously accepted to blog here on Fridays. (But we won't give her hard time if she blogs on another day. ;D)

She is the author of the novel, Top Ten Uses for an Unworn Prom Dress, Delacorte Press, March 2007 as well as How To Hook A Hottie, Delacorte, Spring 2008. She's talented, friendly, an all around great gal, and I'm happy to have her join YA Fresh!

YA Fresh will still have interviews with great YA authors, talk movies, books, and all that's fun, only with additional fresh voice. Tina willl kick off the New Year here with an introductory post. So stay-tuned and give Tina a big hello!

Thanks for joining with me, Tina. It's going to be a great year in 2007!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Graffiti Girl Sharefest

I hope those of you who celebrated Christmas had a great holiday! Okay, this is a total sharefest post on Graffiti Girl. Right before the holiday I received my book blurb from my editor and my illustration ads I had designed by Urban Envy. I am so jazzed!

Graffiti Girl
She's ready to make her mark.

Graffiti art. It's bold. It's thrilling. And it can get a girl into serious trouble...

Raised by her single mom (who's always dating the wrong kind of man) in a struggling California neighborhood, Angel Rodriguez is a headstrong, independent young woman who channels her hopes and dreams for the future into her painting. But when her entry for a community mural doesn't rate, she’s heartbroken. Even with winning artist Nathan Ramos--a senior track star and Angel's secret crush--taking a sudden interest in Angel and her art, she's angry and hurt. She's determined to find her own place in the art world, her own way.

That's when Miguel Badalin--from the notorious graffiti crew Reyes Del Norte--opens her eyes to an underground world of graf tags and turf wars. She's blown away by this bad boy's fantastic work and finds herself drawn to his dangerous charm. Soon she's running with Miguel's crew, pushing her skills to the limit and beginning to emerge as the artist she always dreamed she could be. But Nathan and Miguel are bitter enemies with a shared past, and choosing between them and their wildly different approaches to life and art means that Angel must decide what matters most before the artist inside of her can truly break free.

And stay tuned for some YA Fresh news!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

It's time to wish YA Fresh readers Happy Holidays!

Thanks so much for visiting these past few months and I hope you continue to do so! Be safe and enjoy your time with your families! :)

Friday, December 22, 2006

What's Fresh with Sara Zarr's Story of a Girl

In the three years since her father caught her in the back seat of a car with an older boy, sixteen-year-old Deanna’s life at home and school has been a nightmare, but while dreaming of escaping with her brother and his family, she discovers the power of forgiveness.

Hello Sara, thanks so much for taking the time to chat. Could you please tell us a little about your writing background and how you made your first sale?

Sara: I've been writing my whole life, but never got past the first few pages of a story until about ten years ago when I decided to sit down and write a whole novel. I'd never had any formal schooling in creative writing, so it was a sort of "learn by doing" process. Of course, I love books and reading so I had at least a clue as to how a book should read! I finished that novel, got an agent, wrote another novel which I hid in a drawer, wrote another novel, lost my agent, then wrote what would become STORY OF A GIRL. I got a new agent, and we made the sale to Little, Brown in May 2005. And STORY OF A GIRL is just coming out now! I thought the day would never come, honestly.

The process of writing and finding an agent all happened pretty much through persistence, trial and error, and more persistence. I didn't have an "in" or get any referral that paid off...just cold queries and lots and lots of patience!

Readers and writers often like to get a behind the scenes peek of an author's writing routine. It would be great if you could please share your typical writing day schedule.

Sara: I wish I had a typical schedule. I've been writing full-time for almost a year now, and I'm still figuring out what works. "Writing full-time" doesn't mean I write 40 hours a week, it just means I don't have another means of income at the moment. My ideal day looks like this: get up and have my shower, breakfast, coffee and e-mail done all by 9:30 or so. Write from 10 until lunch. After lunch, hopefully have another hour or so of productivity on the work in progress. After that, my mental capacities are quickly diminishing, so I take care of random items of business stuff with my agent or publicist, post to my blog, backup my work, and call it a day.

Please tell us about STORY OF A GIRL and what we can expect from your characters.

Sara: STORY OF A GIRL is my debut novel. It's a young adult title from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, and it's available now in some places (January 10 everywhere else). The story finds sixteen-year-old Deanna Lambert at the start of the summer before her junior year, but it's not a summer kind of story with sun and adventure and romance. It's more like a summer nightmare as she's stuck in foggy Pacifica, working at a strip mall and forced to deal with someone and something from her past she'd rather forget. It's about family and friendship and forgiveness.

Sounds wonderful, Sara. What's up next? Do you have another project in the works? If so, please tell us about it.

Sara: I'm working on a second book for Little, Brown, tentatively titled SWEETHEARTS. It's about childhood sweethearts who are reunited in high school. Drama ensues. It should be out mid-2008.

Thanks again for sharing with us, Sara. I wish you the best with your debut! Would you like to close with a writing tip?

Sara: Start with concrete details. Make sure the reader knows where your characters are in the time/space continuum, for example. Disembodied voices on an empty stage are great for experimental theater. Not so much for novels.

Sara Zarr is from San Francisco, but now lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. Find out more and read her blog at

Monday, December 18, 2006

Friday, December 15, 2006

Top Ten Uses For an Unworn Prom Dress

In case you don't know, my cool friend Tina Ferraro's debut novel, Top Ten Uses For an Unworn Prom Dress, is coming March, 2007 to a book store near you.

I mean, just look at the cover? Totally cute, right? Of course, I read this fab book and here's my quote...

"Tina Ferraro spins a story filled with laughter and tears as we follow the lengths one teen will go to keep her life from falling apart. Top Ten Uses For An Unworn Prom Dress is any girl's guide to best friends, hot guys, and one fabulous prom dress." Kelly Parra, author of Graffiti Girl.

And because Tina doesn't have a personal blog and I'm so excited for her, I just had to share her first print ad in American Cheerleader. Click the pic for a larger copy to read or check out the latest issue for yourself! :)

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Tanya Lee Stone Bookplate!

YA Author Tanya Lee Stone announces a signed bookplate and bookmark holiday promotion for her YA novel A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl.

Tanya's debut YA novel has been called "brave and beautiful" by Megan McCafferty, "Sure to be the new Forever" by Cynthia Leitich Smith, and "irresistible" by Libba Bray. School Library Journal gave it a starred review and said the book "will be passed from girl to girl to girl." Contact Tanya at with your name, snail mail address, and any personalization.

Sounds like good stuff!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Yes, I must talk movies again.

And in the spotlight today is She's The Man.

Amanda Bynes is hilarious. (I love her on "What I Like About You".) Amanda plays Viola, who loves to play soccer. When her team gets cut at her high school and not allowed to play on the guys team, her twin brother also takes off for a couple of weeks to play with his band. Viola takes his place--disguising herself as a guy--in order to prove a girl can play soccer with the guys too.

The plot is surrounded with a bunch of teen wannabe hook-ups as she falls for her cutie roommate Duke.

Totally funny LOL moments and fun to watch. Definitely check this teen flick out. :)

Friday, December 08, 2006

Yes, it's a fresh new look for YA Fresh!

I really liked the old template, but this one is very refreshing and inviting. All the cool free temp sites are like 200 links from the most popular on a google search--ugh--it took forever to find another that I could stare at everyday. haha!

Here are a few other cool and unique free template sites, you might want to check out...

Pink Design

I really loved the unique temps at Pink Design. Very pretty!

Laughing Lion Design

Not many here, but very clean. Also I had to tweak some of the coding for the links to work correctly. As you can tell I really liked the design.

Pannasmontata Templates

Cool temps here, too! Lots to choose from.

Isnaini Templates
Really great selection here. Some of it is hard to follow since the coding is in a foreign language, but still easy to use.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Monday, December 04, 2006

Take Ten...

Hey guys,

Come check out a new bi-monthly column with my critique partner, Tina Ferraro (Top Ten Uses For An Unworn Prom Dress 3/07) and myself titled, Take Ten with Tina and Kelly. You want to know the dish behind the books or even something weird about us? haha! Read the column, or maybe you'd like us to answer a question about writing--just email me and we'll do our best to answer in the next column.

Here's a little excerpt from our first installment...

Tell of a moment from your books that jumps to your mind, and why. Answer for both Top Ten Uses for an Unworn Prom Dress and Graffiti Girl.

Tina: From my book, it was in the first chapter, when Rascal--the guy who left Nicolette with the unworn prom dress--is chatting her up. My intention was for Nic to feel nervous and coy around the uber-popular senior. But she surprised me and dished it back to him as good as he gave it. I remember my heart suddenly pounding hard during the sparring, knowing these characters had come "alive".

In Graffiti Girl, my mind goes to Angel sitting in art class, waiting to present her work. After just seeing her super-confident, at times defiant behavior in the hallway, suddenly I got a glimpse inside her insecurities as she silently admits how desperately she wants to score well in this competition, and ultimately find her place in the art world. I see in her what I know is in myself, the showing one set of emotions while hiding another. And I knew this was a girl I wanted to follow, support and root for.

Kelly: A scene that pops out at me from Top Ten Uses for an Unworn Prom Dress is when Nic is meeting with her father after a lengthy separation. I admired her courage, since she was doing this in order to help her mom, even though Nic wanted to be anywhere but there! It was so emotional for her, she..s near tears when she leaves. My heart went out to her and Jared, who doesn..t really understand, but nonetheless tries to sweetly console her.

For Graffiti Girl, I think the moment that stays in my head most is when Angel performs her first graffiti tag in order to join Miguel..s crew. The scenario is sprung on her so quickly, and at the time she is balancing on a fine line between the beauty of art and the darker side of graffiti. With Miguel pushing her one way, she finally gives in to her secret desire to become a graffiti writer.

The other questions for this month involve: the stupidest thing we've ever done, big dreams, and how the idea for the books came about. Thanks!

Friday, December 01, 2006

What's Fresh with Mari Mancusi's Stake That!

All I want is to be a vampire. But nooo-I have to be Rayne MacDonald, Vampire Slayer...

Sisters. They'll swipe your clothes, your boyfriends, your destiny. But it wasn't exactly my twin Sunny's fault. Magnus, vampire hottie and coven leader, mistook her for me last month and bit her instead. Now they're doing the inter-species dating thing.

But back to me. Turns out that for every generation, there's a Vampire Slayer-and this time around, it just happens to be yours truly. My first mission: infiltrate a seedy vamp bar downtown and expose its vampire owner for purposely spreading a blood disease he created himself. A task almost harder than passing trig.

After going it alone once, I realize I need help. So Magnus sends his hot homey Jareth to go undercover with me. And let me just say I wouldn't mind going under the covers with him. Maybe fate doesn't bite after all...

Hello, Mari, thanks so much for taking the time to chat. Could you please tell us a little about your writing background and how you came to sell your first novel, A CONNECTICUT FASHIONISTA IN KING AUTHOR'S COURT to Dorchester?

Mari: I always wanted to be a writer, even when I was a little kid. My mother was very encouraging and would type the stories I dictated her. (I'd draw the pictures, too!) When I got older I realized I could entertain my friends in class by writing stories about them and the rocks stars who (amazingly enough) loved them. (Either that or snarky stories about various teachers.)

But it wasn't till I was in my mid twenties that I realized if I wanted to get published I'd have to finish a book. So I sat down and wrote a completely unpublishable novel and sent it out to agents. (Shockingly enough I had no luck scoring one!) Then I joined RWA and got a critique group and really learned the craft of writing and rewriting. In summer 2003 I wrote A CONNECTICUT FASHIONISTA IN KING AUTHOR'S COURT - a time travel chick lit tale about a 21st century fashion editor that relives the Arthurian legend. I sold the book to Dorchester in 2004. My editor, after buying the manuscript, decided that I had a "young voice" and asked that I write up a couple of teen book ideas. I'd never written a teen novel before, but figured what the heck. So I wrote up a few ideas and ended up selling four teen books to two different publishers in November. I realized I'd found my calling.

Readers and writers often like to get a behind the scenes peek of an author's writing routine. It would be great if you could please share your typical writing day schedule.

Mari: I work a full time job as a tv news producer for the Boston NBC station. So I have to squeeze writing in when I can. I wake up early and write for an hour before work and then sometimes (if I'm under deadline) I come home from work, brew a pot of coffee and continue writing then. It can be hard to balance the two jobs, but I like them both so I manage.

I usually write from home, though I've been known to go to a coffee house to edit. If I can, I love writing on the train - especially the one from Boston to New York City. It allows me a solid four hours of writing time without internet access and I'm stuck in my seat with nothing else to do! Also they serve food and drinks. If it wasn't so expensive I'd go back and forth every weekend, just to get some non-distracted writing time.

Please tell us about STAKE THAT! and what we can expect from your characters.

Mari: STAKE THAT! is book two in the Boys that Bite vampire series. It's narrated in blog format by Rayne, Sunny's sister. (Sunny was the main character in the first book.) Rayne's not having a good week. First, through a case of mistaken identity Sunny, not Rayne, gets transformed into a vampire, sending Rayne to the back of the waiting list. And to make matters worse, now Rayne is told that she's destined to become the next vampire slayer, even though she wants nothing more in life than to become a vampire herself. Now she must team up with Jareth, a hot vampire general, to infiltrate a blood bar and stop the evil owner Maverick from poisoning the entire vampire race.

It's published by Berkley JAM and is a December release.

Sounds like a fresh read! What's up next, Mari? Do you have another project in the works? If so, please tell us about it.

Mari: Lots of stuff coming up in the next year both in my teen and adult writing worlds. In February, the sequel to CT Fashionista A HOBOKEN HIPSTER IN SHERWOOD FOREST will be out. It's a time travel to Robin Hood days. In August, I'm one of the launch books for Dorchester's new SHOMI line - speculative fiction romances. My book is sort of a post apocalyptic Alice in Wonderland called MOONGAZER. Really excited about that! And in October book 3 of the Boys that Bite series, GIRLS THAT GROWL, will be released.

A wonderful busy time for you, Mari. Thanks so much for taking the time with me. I wish you the best with your writing career! Would you like to close with a writing tip?

Mari: Work hard and don't give up. The only secret to publication is perseverence. Make lots of writer friends and don't be jealous of other peoples' successes. In the writing biz there's always going to be someone who's more and less successful than you. Just put blinders on and plug away. It's worth it.

When not exposing scams and righting wrongs, Emmy award-winning television news producer Marianne Mancusi writes paranormal romantic comedies and a vampire series and other books for the YA market. She is a graduate of Boston University's College of Communications and has worked for TV stations in Orlando, San Diego and Boston. In her spare time she enjoys shopping, bar hopping, snowboarding, and her favorite guilty pleasure--videogames. She lives in Boston's historic North End. Check out her website,

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Frank Portman, author of KING DORK, is officially cool.

He's probably been a pretty cool guy for a long time, but I've never met him. The only contact I had with him was months ago when I found him on myspace and I was friending a bunch of YA authors.

Frank Portman commented on my page: "Yo, Kelly! Ain't it crazy how we're all married. Happy writing and stuff/F"

The comment made me laugh. So I started reading his blog.

Now, onto why Frank Portman is cool. He founded the band the Mr. T Experience.

When he does guest appearances for his novel, he also plays his guitar and sings to the audience.

The movie rights to his book were bought by Will Ferrell's film company.

And now he's been written about in TIME magazine. You can't get any cooler than that.

Go, Frank Portman!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Friday, November 17, 2006

Graffiti Girl: My Character, Angel

I've written my first post on Amazon Connect, where authors can post messages to interested readers. I hope to post a blog every couple of months until the release date of Graffiti Girl. This entry shares a little about my character, Angel...

The idea for Graffiti Girl came about while I wrote my first novel. In high school, art was a major part of my life and I thought a story about a girl struggling with acceptance in this vast creative society, combined with the underground art of graffiti, would result in an interesting story. Enter two boys into the mix with different artistic strengths and things could really spice up. Luckily, MTV Books felt the same.

In six months, Graffiti Girl will be released. I can't tell you how pleased and excited I am to have this story come alive.

Angel Rodriguez, my main character, is a headstrong sixteen-year-old girl, tough on the outside with a more vulnerable side she tries hard to conceal. She lives with her single mother and Nana, on a side of town she feels has been ignored by the city, and hopes to win a competition in order to be part of a community mural project. Unfortunately, her plan backfires and that's when a boy offers her a pass inside an artistic world she knows nothing about. A world where she might find recognition and freedom.

The deeper Angel finds herself in the graffiti lifestyle of tagging, piecing, and battles, the more she learns she is paying too high of a price for the acceptance she craves.

In May of 2007, please check out Graffiti Girl and meet Angel. She's one character I hope will stay with you long after you've read the last page.

Thanks for reading,
Kelly Parra

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

What's Fresh with Lola Douglas's More Confessions of a Hollywood Starlet

Hello, Lola, please tell us about your latest novel.

Lola: It's called MORE CONFESSIONS OF A HOLLYWOOD STARLET (Razorbill, 2006). Here's the blurb:

Just when Morgan Carter was falling in love with the simple life she'd built in Fort Wayne, Indiana, her true identity as an infamous Hollywood starlet was exposed. Now Morgan has a choice to make: return to her glamorous movie star existence--or stick with the wholesome life, and the new love, she's found in the Midwest.

The first book in the series, TRUE CONFESSIONS OF A HOLLYWOOD STARLET (Razorbill, 2005), has also just come out in paperback.

Could you share a bit about the main character of your book and what makes her unique?

Lola: Morgan's so much fun to write. On the one hand, she's a rich, beautiful young woman who used to be considered America's Favorite Daughter. On the other, she's a has-been teen actress who almost died of a drug overdose and is now completely un-hirable. To complicate matters further, she's got this fiery restlessness that burns inside of her. She doesn't know what she wants - to be an actress? to be a normal teen? - and so she makes a lot of mistakes, a lot missteps. But she's also very kind and very loving - you root for her even when she's screwing things up in a big way.

How did the idea for this novel come about?

Lola: I wanted to write a diary-format novel, and I'd always had this fascination with Drew Barrymore. So, I put two and two together and voila!

What do you hope readers will gain from reading this novel?

Lola: I don't like to force messages through my fiction, but there are definitely themes in the book about perception versus reality - how people have this preconceived notion about who Morgan is, but how that's usually wrong - and also about finding inner strength.

Thanks for sharing, Lola! Would you like to close with a novel you highly recommend and why?

Lola: Thanks for having me! I recommend Alex Flinn's DIVA, which is about a girl who's chasing her dream of becoming an opera singer at a performing arts high school in Miami. Caitlin, the singer, is dealing with some demons from her past - an abusive ex-boyfriend, an overly critical mother, and her biggest enemy: herself. Such a good read!

When she was five, Lola Douglas wanted to be an actress like her then-hero, Drew Barrymore. Instead, she became a supermarket checkout girl, a video store clerk, an administrative assistant, a features reporter and a textbook development editor before deciding that writing teen novels was her real forte. Lola has lived in seven of our great United States, including Indiana, and says that during her five-and-a-half month stint in Fort Wayne no one ever forced her to see the movie Hoosiers. She was, however, coaxed into auditioning for a part as an extra in a Neil LaBute film (Your Friends and Neighbors, to be exact), but was rejected during the first round. When not watching too much reality television, reading Gawker, or obsessing over all things Marc Jacobs, Lola can be found working on her next super secret project, which will be published in 2008.

To this day, she remains fascinated with Drew Barrymore. Visit her website,

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Ten Reasons Why I Love Heroes...

Heroes is a serial saga about people all over the world discovering that they have superpowers and trying to deal with how this change affects their lives. The relatable superheroes include Peter Petrelli, a 30-year-old male nurse who believes can fly, Isaac Mendez, a 28-year-old junkie who has the ability to paint images of the future when he is high, Niki Sanders, a 33-year-old Las Vegas showgirl who can do incredible things with mirrors, Hiro Makamura, a 24-year-old Japanese comic-book geek who literally makes time stand still, D.L. Hawkins, a 31-year-old inmate who can transport himself through walls, Matt Parkman, a beat cop who can hears other people's thoughts, and Claire Bennet, 17-year-old cheerleader who defies death at every turn. Not only are they discovering what having superpowers means to them but also the larger picture of where their superpowers come from. Eventually their superpowers draw them together when they try to evade the series' antagonist who wants to harness their super-DNA for himself. Their ultimate destiny is nothing less than saving the world.

1) Interesting premise. Ordinary people, suddenly discovering extraordinary powers...

2) There are villains who you are not sure are villains.

3) There are villains that are so far off the evil scale, it's creepy!

4) You can't help feeling for the main heroes. They are changing and they don't understand it, while each of them have personal demons to overcome. They love, they care, they hurt. Viewers can relate!

5) More questions, more theories keep popping up. There's never a dull moment.

6) The scenes are brief with each character. Every few minutes counts.

7) Suspense and tension are right on, the stakes always high.

8) Special effects are super cool. Did you see that flying scene with Nathan Petrelli? Zoom! Straight into the air to escape capture, so fast he breaks the sound barrier.

9) New powers are popping up with more characters. The possibility of unique gifts are endless.

10) "Save the cheerleader, save the world." It's so freaking catchy!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Monday, November 06, 2006

What's Fresh with Caridad Ferrer's Adiós To My Old Life

Does a seventeen-year-old from Miami have what it takes to be the next big Latin superstar? And does she really want it?

As a talented singer-guitarist with a dream of going pro, Alegría Montero is getting fed up with the endless, boring parade of quinces and other family party gigs. She's longing for something bigger. And Oye Mi Canto--a new reality TV show that's searching for the next Latin superstar--is definitely that. Ali figures she'll never make the cut, but auditioning seems like a good way to get her overprotective father to take her ambitions seriously.

To Ali's complete shock, she passes her audition. Next thing she knows, she's dealing with wardrobe fittings, cameras, reporters, vocal coaches, and websites designed by lovestruck fanboys. She's also dealing with jealousy, malice, and sabotage among the contestants, all of which has her wondering: Is it really time to shoot for the stars and try to win the whole competition, or is it time to say "Cut!" and become a normal teenager again?

Hello, Caridad, thanks so much for taking the time to chat. Could you please tell us a little about your writing background and how you came to sell your novel, ADIÓS TO MY OLD LIFE to MTV Books?

Caridad: Basically, I've been a storyteller my whole life and one of those lucky people for whom writing came pretty effortlessly. (I was hated when it came time to produce five paragraph essays in elementary school.) I've kept journals and entertained myself by creating stories in my head as far back as I can remember. However, I didn't give much thought to writing as a profession since it was music that was my true callin--or so I thought. But writing's never been too far behind in importance and these days, the two are so inextricably linked for me, I can't imagine doing one without the other.

As far as how I made my first sale--well, the thing there is that I never had really given much thought to writing in the Young Adult genre. My first love with writing had always been women's fiction with a good dose of romance and underscored by my Cuban-American background. However, in summer 2005, my agent had just begun submitting one of my women's fiction manuscripts and while I was working on another, I think I was still a little too twitchy for her taste, so she said to me, "Listen, I have an editor who's looking for a Latina-flavored YA. Do you have any ideas?" To which I responded, "I might." So I sat down, pounded out the first couple of chapters and a basic storyline and sent it to her. She asked me for a synopsis and she submitted them to the editor. A few weeks later, we had the offer--and I got the Call on the casino floor in Reno at RWA National! How's that for an unforgettable moment? Thank goodness my agent is so alert and keeps an eye on who wants what. :-)

A little less than a year later, July, 2006, ADIÓS TO MY OLD LIFE was released by MTV Books.

Great call story, Caridad! Readers and writers often like to get a behind the scenes peek of an author's writing routine. It would be great if you could please share your typical writing day schedule.

Caridad: Uh... there's no such thing as typical? Actually, I do treat writing very much like I would any other job. I'm fortunate enough to be able to write full-time, so after my kids are out of the house and off to school, I sit down with my coffee (the coffee's very important... must have coffee) and check email and websites, etc. Then generally, I pull up whatever I worked on the day before and reread it to get back into the flow and make sure that it's as I remembered. Then, depending on where I'm at in the story, I'll either do some editing or it might be a research day or a little of both. I'm a very linear writer, crafting the story from beginning to end, rather than writing in chunks that I rearrange, so if I'm at a point where I'm stuck, I'll treat the day as a research day--allow my subconscious to work on the problem at hand.

And always, always, I have music playing. That's my biggest source of both comfort and inspiration. Sometimes, that's exactly what will help me through a rough spot: creating a new playlist for the work-in-progress or for a specific character. It's a way to allow a different part of my brain to work on story issues.

I'm actually a fairly nocturnal writer, too. The day time is usually full of so many distractions-- the phone, the kids, the dogs, the door, etc. that if I really want uninterrupted time, I wait until after nine in the evening, when the house is reasonably quiet and mentally, I know there are less likely to be distractions. That's when I can allow myself to really sink thoroughly into the story. Often, I can write for four or five hours straight at those times.

Please tell us about ADIÓS TO MY OLD LIFE and what we can expect from your characters.

Caridad: Adiós is the story of Alegría Montera, a seventeen year-old musician from Miami who decides to audition for Latin music reality show called "Oye Mi Canto." She does it mostly as "practice" because she doesn't think she has a chance of making it to the finals, but she also wants to work on breaking away from the expectations her somewhat traditional and overprotective Cuban-American dad has placed on her. Of course, she does make the finals and her first hurdle is revealing to her father what she did and seeing if he'll allow her to compete--after that, it's very much a story of the challenges inherent not just in performing professionally, but dealing with the issues that come with wanting to be a part of that world.

As far as my characters go, I like to think that they're very relatable, no matter what the reader's age or background might be, but with a bit of a surprise to them as well. Ali is at heart a good girl--yes, she wants to explore the world beyond that of the Nice Cuban Girl, but she has a strong sense of who she is and that ultimately helps her get through the tougher issues.

And I'll just add, I enjoyed ADIÓS very much. It was a great read and I highly recommend it! What's up next, Caridad? Do you have another project in the works? If so, please tell us about it.

Caridad: I just turned in my second project for MTV Books, a novel called IT'S NOT ABOUT THE ACCENT. This one is very different from ADIÓS in that it's not centered around the music world, but it does involve performing, in a sense. It's about Caroline, a sixth generation, born-and-bred small town Ohio girl, who, when she goes off to college, decides to reinvent herself as a Cuban girl. Why? Because she discovered that her great-grandmother, who was the only person she knew of in her family who hadn't been born-and-bred in Ohio, wasn't American, as she'd thought her entire life, but Cuban-born. And to Caroline, her Nana was the only person she knew of who'd actually had adventures--who'd traveled the world and seen and done things that Caroline can only begin to imagine. In her mind, that has to be because she wasn't from Ohio, because she was Cuban, and Caroline wants to experience at least a little of that for herself. And while it's fun, there are unexpected repercussions that she has to deal with.

It takes the concept of reinventing yourself when you go off to college and ups the ante just a bit more. Currently, it's scheduled for release in August of 2007.

Thanks so much for taking the time, Caridad. I wish you the best with your writing career! Would you like to close with a writing tip?

Caridad: Oh... wow. This is hard, because I'd never presume that what works for me would be an effective technique for anyone else. I suppose that's my tip, actually. To be true to your voice and your story. The running joke is that there are no original stories out there--but the thing is, there are a million unique different ways to tell a story. No one can tell you story quite the way you can.

The other thing I'd have to say is to keep practicing and working at the craft. Like any other artistic endeavor, your own style emerges once you have the basics down and then, only continues to develop the more you work at it.

CARIDAD FERRER is a first generation, bilingual Cuban-American, born in Manhattan and raised in Miami, all of which she realizes makes her a walking cliche. However, it also means she speaks Spanish reasonably fluently, at least enough to be able to employ some of the more colorful expressions in her writing. Her novel, ADIÓS TO MY OLD LIFE was released by MTV Books in 2006, garnering praise such as "A page-turning must-read," and "…an intelligent debut novel about the world of music and reality television." Her second novel for MTV Books, IT'S NOT ABOUT THE ACCENT will be released in August 2007. Visit her website,

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

What's Fresh with Laurie Stolarz's Bleed

Ten teens, one unforgettable day.

Over the course of a single day, the lives of ten teenagers will intersect in powerful and unexpected ways.

Among them are Nicole, whose decision to betray her best friend will shock everyone, most of all herself; Kelly, who meets the convicted felon she's been writing to for years; and Maria, whose definition of a true friend is someone who will cut her. Derik discovers his usual good looks and charm won't help him get the girl he really wants, while Joy, a fifteen year old waitress, hoping for true intimacy, narrowly escapes a very dark fate.

Seamlessly woven together, this collection of interconnected short stories paints an authentic portrait of today's teen experience that is at once funny, moving, and often very haunting.

Hello Laurie, thanks for taking the time to share. Could you please tell us a little about your writing background and how you made your first sale?

I've been writing since before I could even hold a pen. As a small child, I was constantly telling stories to whomever would listen to me. When I'd exhausted my family with my endless babbling, I'd go out and tell my tales to the neighborhood kids -passing the stories off as truth. I'd tell of going into the meadows at night and wrestling with a mountain lion or the time I found a boa constrictor in my mom's garden and had to grapple for my life, winding the snake from around my neck just in the knick of time. Telling stories is just something I've always done. I used to write plays and scripts for my Barbie dolls and make people watch the performances. My love of creating stories continued into school when I'd have to write a paragraph or short essay about what I did during Christmas vacation or summer break. I never thought my own life was exciting enough, so I was forever inventing stories.

People along the way, including some teachers, would tell me that I should pursue writing as a career but, at the time, it wasn't a possibility. We didn't have a lot of money growing up and majoring in something like English wasn't really an option. It was more like a luxury. I ended up going to business school, following in my older brothers' footsteps. It wasn't until after I got my B.S. in marketing that I pursued my graduate degree in creative writing. I'm thankful for my marketing degree now, however, because it really helps me with my books.

After getting my MFA in creative writing, I started trying to sell my first novel (Blue is for Nightmares, Llewellyn Publications, fall 2003). I have a folder filled with rejection letters. My favorite one is from an editor who said: "While this is an interesting project, I do not feel it is strong enough to compete in today's competitive young adult market." That same young adult novel has sold well over 100,000 copies, was named a Reluctant Reader Quick Pick, and was nominated for YALSA's Top Ten Teen pick list. And that same editor has since expressed interest in my future work. When I speak to young people and aspiring writers, I always tell them this story, that if I had stopped persevering, like many of my former classmates, after I received my first - or my 40th rejection letter - I may never have been able to enjoy the success of my series. Perseverance is key - and so is believing in yourself and being open to learning and getting better in your craft.

Wonderful, Laurie! Readers and writers often like to get a behind the scenes peek of an author's writing routine. It would be great if you could please share your typical writing day schedule.

Since I have a toddler, I don't really have a typical writing day. I write when I can - when he's in pre-school or napping or sleeping. I'm pretty good about being able to work on demand. When I'm working in the morning, I love a good cup of coffee (black) and I need to shut off my e-mail to resist the urge to procrastinate.

Please tell us about your latest novel Bleed, (Hyperion Books for Children, Sept. 2006) and what we can expect from your characters.

I really wanted to explore how the decisions we make everyday - even the smaller ones - can affect others in ways we may never even consider. The decision whether or not to pick up the phone or let the machine get it; the decision of walking to someone's house versus taking the bus; or of taking a walk by a cemetery rather than at the beach - how the outcome of those decisions can have a domino effect, affecting other people's lives...even the lives of people we may not even know. The book takes place over the course of a single day. During that day, the lives of ten teenagers intersect in powerful and unexpected ways. Among them are Nicole, whose decision to betray her best friend will shock everyone, most of all herself; Kelly, who meets the convicted felon she's been writing to for years; and Maria, whose definition of a true friend is someone who will cut her. Derik discovers his usual good looks and charm won't help him get the girl he really wants, while Joy, a fifteen-year-old waitress, hoping for true intimacy, narrowly escapes a very dark fate.

Sounds like an intriguing read. I'll certainly pick it up. What's up next? Do you have another project in the works? If so, please tell us about it.

I have a companion book to Bleed coming out in the fall of 2007. It's a really scary novel called Project 17.

Thank you again, Laurie. I wish you the best with this latest release. Would you like to close with a writing tip?

I would recommend reading what it is you love. Ask yourself why you love it, why you feel it works. What technique does the writer use that works for you? What point-of-view? What do you like about the dialogue? The characters? Do the same for books that don't appeal to you. Become a better reader. By answering some of these questions, you'll become one. You’ll be able to identify what works for you as a reader. Then, apply those elements to your writing. Also, consider joining a writers group. I rely heavily on mine. They're there for inspiration as well as critiques. We support each other through every step of the process - from that first idea to the finished book. And lastly, of course, it goes without saying that before you send anything out, know the market. Know which editors are looking for your type of book, what their policy is on reading unsolicited manuscripts, if you'll need an agent, and which agents are accepting new clients in your genre. Also, be sure to ask your agent for a client list, check that they're a member of AAR (, and never pay reading fees.


Laurie Faria Stolarz grew up in Salem, MA, attended Merrimack College, and received an MFA in Creative Writing from Emerson College in Boston. She is currently working on a companion novel to Bleed, also for young adults. Visit her website,

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween!!

Have fun, be safe!

Your Unique Costume is a Rasta Mon

Where's da party mon?

Monday, October 30, 2006

So I Told You About My Favorite TV Heroes...

Now it's time for my favorite TV heroine--Max on Dark Angel. Yes, I know the show has come and gone, but I watched this show from the beginning and just loved it.

Max was tough, beautiful, and genetically enhanced. ;) She rode a hot motorcycle like there was no tomorrow. The action was non-stop, as well as the special effects. The second season had gotten really gritty and I was totally bummed when they cancelled the show, but while shopping the other day I can across the complete two seasons on DVD. Totally made my day. I know what to ask Santa for Christmas now. haha!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

My Top Two Favorite TV Heroes (at the moment)...

Skeet Ulrich is one of my new favorites as Jake Green--good looking and intense acting on the new show Jericho. I have to admit I never thought Ulrich as great when he was younger in other films like Scream, and The Craft, but now that he's older, I love how he plays Jake Green. I like those heroes who always want to do what is right, risk their life, and have that mysterious shady past that keeps creeping up on them. =D

Good looking = CHECK
Intense = CHECK
Rebel = CHECK
Heroic tendencies = CHECK

Michael Weatherly is one hero I fell for in Dark Angel and I was thrilled when he reappeared in NCIS with his character Tony DiNozzo, where he plays a cocky, casanova, film lover and NCIS agent. Now NCIS is one of my fave, fave shows. (When are they going to bring these shows out on DVD, is what I want to know?) Okay, so DiNozzo doesn't have a shady past, but he has a serious side he only lets out in intense situations, such as when his teammates are in danger, then he gets all heroic and will do whatever it takes to save lives. And at the moment, there have been hints he's deep undercover and only he and the Director know what's going on. Very mysterious, indeed.

Good looking = CHECK
Intense (when it counts) = CHECK
Rebel (when it counts) = CHECK
Heroic tendencies = CHECK

Good looking television heroes that risk their lives to save I ask for too much? Nah. ;)

Monday, October 23, 2006

What's Fresh with Ally Carter's I'd Tell You I Love You But Then I'd Have To Kill You

The Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women is a fairly typical all-girls school--that is, if every school teaches advanced martial arts in PE, chemistry always consists of the latest in chemical warfare, and everyone breaks CIA codes for extra credit in computer class. So in truth, while the Gallagher Academy might say it's a school for geniuses what they really mean is spies. But what happens when a Gallagher Girl falls for a boy who doesn't have a code name?

Cammie Morgan may be fluent in fourteen languages and capable of killing a man in seven different ways (three of which involve a piece of uncooked spaghetti), but the Gallagher Academy hasn't prepared her for what to do when she meets an ordinary boy who thinks she's an ordinary girl. Sure, she can tap his phone, hack into his computer, and track him through a mall without him ever being the wiser, but can she have a regular relationship with a regular boy who can never know the truth about her? Cammie may be an elite spy in training, but in her sophomore year, she's doing something riskier than ever--she's falling in love.

Read on to learn what's fresh about Ally's novel...

Hey, Ally, please tell us about your debut into YA fiction with I'D TELL YOU I LOVE YOU BUT THEN I'D HAVE TO KILL YOU (Hyperion, May 2006).

Ally: I'D TELL YOU I LOVE YOU BUT THEN I'D HAVE TO KILL YOU is about a girl who goes to an elite boarding school for girl spies but risks everything by falling for a normal boy who can never know the truth about her.

Could you share a bit about the main character of your book and what makes her unique?

Ally: Cammie is a very ordinary girl--or as ordinary as the daughter of two CIA agents can possibly be. In fact, she's so ordinary that her friends call her "The Chameleon" because she's incredibly good at blending into crowds--something every spy can appreciate. But one night Cammie is on a mission and a boy sees her--really sees her--for the first time. That, of course, is where the trouble starts.

Very fresh! Do tell, how did the idea for this novel come about?

Ally: My agent emailed me one day asking if I'd ever been interested in writing for teenagers. Honestly, I hadn't given it much thought, but that night I was home watching Alias on TV and suddenly the idea was just there. The whole story came together in about five seconds. It was pretty scary. And fun.

What do you hope readers will gain from reading this novel?

Ally: I think the most important message that this story conveys is that, whether you realize it or not, everyone has free will. Just because people expect certain things of you, and you expect certain things of yourself, doesn't mean your whole life is mapped out. You always have a say in how your life turns out, so make good choices.

Oh, and also people will learn many covert skills that can be quite helpful in spying on the crushes in their lives (some of which are more legal than others).

Sounds great! Thanks for sharing, Ally. Would you like to close with a novel you highly recommend and why?

Ally: One of my absolute favorite books of the last year has been Amazing Grace by Megan Shull. It's a fun and brilliantly written novel about a teenage tennis superstar who walks away from the game in her prime and moves to Alaska to reinvent herself. Everyone should check it out!

Ally Carter is the author of CHEATING AT SOLITAIRE, LEARNING TO PLAY GIN, and I'D TELL YOU I LOVE YOU BUT THEN I'D HAVE TO KILL YOU. She's currently at work on her fourth novel. She'd tell you about it, but know. Check out an excerpt at her website,

Friday, October 20, 2006

It's finally here. My very first cover.

(drumroll) Introducing the GRAFFITI GIRL cover...

It's fresh, it's hip, and it's purple.

And it's mine. ;)


Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Monday, October 16, 2006

What's Fresh with E. Lockhart's The Boy Book: A Study of Habits and Behaviors, Plus Techniques for Taming Them

The Boy Book: A Study of Habits and Behaviors, Plus Techniques for Taming Them is the sequel to The Boyfriend List, which is just out in paperback. The Boy Book is about Ruby, who in the first book plummeted from social butterfly to leper, rebuilding her life junior year of high school -- with the help of a guide to understanding the male sex that she wrote with her ex-friends.

The new, cheaper edition of the first Ruby Oliver book (The Boyfriend List) has a fun author Q&A at the back, plus provocative questions for your book club or reading group.

In The Boy Book, Rub confronts the secret about Noel,
mysterious notes from Jackson,
the interpretation of boy-speak,
the villainy of Cricket,
the horrors of the school retreat,
and the exploitation of hooters everywhere.

There are fruit roll-ups.

There is upper-regioning.
There are so many boys to choose from!
And there are penguins.
Preview it here.

Now read on for some fresh questions, E. was so kind to answer...

Hello E, please tell us about your latest novel, The Boy Book: A Study of Habits and Behaviors, Plus Techniques for Taming Them.

E: The Boy Book: A Study of Habits and Behaviors, Plus Techniques for Taming Them is the sequel to my earlier book, The Boyfriend List, which is spanking new in paperback this month as well. I'm interested in the social stratifications and attendant mortifications of high school -- and in heartbreak. I wanted to write about the aftermath of heartbreak in a suffocatingly small community.

And I wanted it to be funny.

And have footnotes.

Both are published by Delacorte, and the PB (Boyfriend List) and hardcover (Boy Book) released simultaneously Sept 26. Here's a nice quote: "Lockhart achieves the perfect balance of self-deprecating humor and self-pity in Ruby, and thus imbues her with such realism she seems to fly off the page." -- VOYA

Could you share a bit about the main character of your book and what makes her unique?

E: Roo is a scholarship student at a wealthy Seattle prep school. She lives on houseboat with two neurotic parents and in the first book goes from social butterfly to leper. Everyone pretty much hates her, thanks to countless debacles and misunderstandings and heartbreak. She sees a shrink twice a week for panic attacks, and has an encyclopedic memory for movies, both trashy and highbrow.

She's certainly interesting! How did the idea for this novel come about?

E: When I was writing The Boyfriend List, I got this idea that Roo and her friends (now ex-friends) kept a notebook in which they (wrote) all their musings on the male animal. Kind of a pseudo-scientific analysis of wolverine behavior -- only about boys. And suddenly, although at the time I was only halfway through writing the first story, I knew there should be a a second novel that was structured around that notebook.

What do you hope readers gain from reading The Boy Book?

E: I would like them to laugh so hard they feel slightly worried they won't catch their breath again, and maybe feel a little weepy at the end.

Oh, I have to read this book! Thanks for sharing, E. Let's close with a novel you highly recommend and why?

E: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos. That book has some of the most idiosyncratic and wonderful first-person narration I've ever read, and it is flat-out hilarious.

To learn more about E. Lockhart and her latest release, The Boy Book: A Study of Habits and Behaviors, Plus Techniques for Taming Them visit her website, Also check out her ultra cool quiz, Find your dating destiny!