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,