Friday, December 28, 2007

What's Fresh with Wendy Toliver's The Secret Life of a Teenage Siren

Geeky to gorgeous in sixty seconds... Roxy's about to turn sixteen, but life isn't so sweet. As a band geek, Roxy can barely get the cute guys to notice her, much less go out with her. Then, on her birthday, Roxy is transformed into a siren: seductively beautiful with the power to control all men. She thought sirens were an ancient myth, but suddenly Roxy can get any guy she wants with just a few notes on her flute. There are only two rules: don't tell anyone about being a siren, and don't fall in love. When she starts dating Zach, the guy everybody's crushing on, Roxy realizes she could get used to this siren thing...but how can she keep herself from falling in love?

Hello Wendy, great to have here! Could you please tell us a little about your writing background and how you made your first sale?

Wendy: I have a liberal arts education but only dabbled in creative writing. It was several years after I graduated that I got the wild idea to write a book. I started writing chick lit and some people who read it suggested I try my hand at YA. My first YA manuscript, THE SECRET LIFE OF A TEENAGE SIREN, caught the attention of my agent, who sold it to Simon & Schuster (Simon Pulse). It's been a whilwind, to say the least!

I bet! 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.

Wendy: With three young sons and other commitments, it's difficult to carve out writing time. Luckily, I am a speedy writer, and I do a lot of my "writing" in my head so when I do get the opportunity to sit down at my computer (like when the baby's napping), I'm ready to go. I used to write in the wee hours of the night, but in a recent development, I've hired a Mommy's Helper who comes in twice a week for a couple of hours. It's my designated writing time, and I don't even answer the phone when she's here. Unless it's my husband, of course! :)

Please tell us about your novel, THE SECRET LIFE OF A TEENAGE SIREN, and what we can expect from your characters.

Wendy: My debut novel, THE SECRET LIFE OF A TEENAGE SIREN (Simon Pulse), comes out December 26, 2007. So by the time you read this, it might already be on bookshelves! (YAY!)

I've had people tell me they love Roxy Zimmerman, the main character. That she's funny and lively and someone they can totally relate to. I hope my characters, from the spunky Grandma Perkins to the huggable Alex McCoy, make people laugh, cry, and think. I had a blast creating each and every one of them for THE SECRET LIFE OF A TEENAGE SIREN, and it really means a lot when readers say they want a sequel so they don't have to say goodbye to the characters.

Looking forward to reading it, Wendy! What's up next? Do you have another project in the works? If so, please tell us about it.

Wendy: My next novel, which is also a Simon Pulse Romantic Comedy, is called MISS MATCH. It is scheduled to come out Spring 2009. It's the story of a teenage matchmaker who is hired by a new guy to fix him up with her sister, only to discover that she is crushing on him herself. It is full of conflict, surprises, and laughs, and I'm looking forward to seeing it in bookstores!

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

Wendy: Jot ideas down throughout the day. On a napkin, a notepad, in your cell phone. I've been known to call my voicemail and leave messages for myself when inspiration strikes. I also recommend having a pen and paper beside your bed in case you have a great idea when you're supposed to be sleeping.

Wendy Toliver earned a BA in Speech Communication/Broadcast from Colorado State University. Now she lives in the Utah mountains with her husband, three little boys, and other wildlife. You can visit her online at or catch her blogging on Teen Fiction Cafe and Simon Pulse Romantic Comedies.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007


So we know that Tina's next YA novel, HOW TO HOOK A HOTTIE, will be hitting shelves January 8th, right?!? (I'm so excited for Tina!!)

Well, guess what else?

Tina is holding a First Sighting contest on her myspace! Here are the deets...

I am announcing a new contest: the first person to send me a picture of HOW TO HOOK A HOTTIE on a store bookshelf (due out January 8) will win a free signed copy. You don't have to buy it, just photograph it. (Thank goodness for cell phone cameras, huh?)

So if you see it, snap it, and either post the picture here or send it to me at

Good luck!

So the next time you're at the book store, snap a pic of HOTTIE (yes, the book! hehe!), we can't wait to see them. :) :)

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

A Gift from Santa Random House...

Last week, nestled among the holiday packages that arrived at my house, was a box from the Random House warehouse: my author copies of How to Hook a Hottie.

Yay! What a feeling to hold my book in print!

Some of you might remember that last March, I posted a picture of my cat, Rascal (named after one of the characters in Top Ten Uses for an Unworn Prom Dress) sitting in the author copy box. There’s no new pets or namesakes from Hottie, so this time I simply present a wee bit of my couch and some of the books.

Look how bright the spine is and how clear the writing. I’m thinking it's going to jump out at readers, that I won't have to obsess so much about the book being turned out.

In any case, 13 more days ‘til its release. But who’s counting?

Friday, December 21, 2007

Happy Holidays!

Kelly and I would like to wish all of you a safe and warm holiday season, and to thank you for your camraderie and your time spent with us this year at YA FRESH. We have plenty of exciting things planned for 2008, and hope you keep dropping by to be part of the discussions and fun!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

What's Fresh with Jennifer Banash's The Elite

It’s the most exclusive luxury apartment building on New York’s Upper East Side. If you don’t live there—you don’t know how to live…

When Casey McCloy steps into The Bramford, she’s overwhelmed by the sophistication and elegance of it all. Fresh from the Midwest, she’s moved to NYC to live with her grandmother and attend the prestigious Meadowlark Academy. Here all that matters is who you know. The designer to know is Zac Posen. The girl to know is Madison Macallister: popular, pretty, platinum-blond. She’s not just Casey’s new classmate and neighbor; she’s an icon. So Casey aims to get in with Madison and her gorgeous gal-pals from the start. As the reigning queen of coolness, Madison is capable of destroying reputations with one well-timed whisper. Better to be on her good side.

But after a city-haute makeover from her new frenemy Madison, Casey is wearing the right clothes, saying the right things, and meeting the right people—including Drew, the boy-about-town who Madison thinks belongs to her and her alone…

Hi Jennifer, thanks for agreeing to visit us at YA Fresh! Could you please tell us a little about your writing background and how you made your first sale?

Jennifer: I started out as a poet about a million years ago, and then began to write adult literary fiction in the mid-nineties—my first novel HOLLYWOODLAND: AN AMERICAN FAIRY TALE was published last year by Impetus Press—where I am co-publisher. We’re a small literary press located in Iowa City, Iowa, and we’ve made it our personal crusade to publish serious works of literary fiction with a pop or urban sensibility. I got into writing YA kind of by accident—I needed to make a few bucks and I was offered a job ghostwriting a bestselling YA series for Alloy Entertainment (no, I can’t tell you which one!). It turned out to be a happy accident, as I totally bonded with the characters—even though they weren’t my own—and had a great time doing it. When that job was finished I thought, why not write my OWN series instead of working behind the scenes for someone else (never my strong suit—I’ve been fired from menial jobs more times than I can count for refusing to be a “team player”—whatever that means). So, I pitched my idea for THE ELITE to Kate Seaver over at Penguin, Berkley and she bought the series based on the thirty pages or so of spec material I’d written, so I guess its safe to say that she really fell in love with it! She’s continued to be my biggest cheerleader, and for that I feel really lucky. Only after I’d negotiated my own deal with Penguin and signed on the dotted line did I retain Jennifer Jackson of the Donald Maass Literary Agency as my agent. So, basically I did everything backwards, which is unfortunately pretty typical for me. Sigh.

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.

Jennifer: Wake up cranky with sunlight sticking in my eyes like tacks. Read D-Listed online and spit soy milk out through my nose as I laugh uncontrollably. Email my best friend in NY funny pictures of monkeys or lemurs I pull off the net (don’t ask). Read about Britney’s latest disaster and thank god I’m nobody’s mother yet. Eat cereal while staring at my manuscript on the glowing screen of my iBook. When I finally do start writing—usually around 10 AM—its pretty common for me to continue right through the day—stopping usually around five if I’m actively entrenched in a book. I tend to work very hard and very fast at breakneck speed, get the whole story out on the page, and THEN go back and edit once I’ve got a complete manuscript. Of course there are plenty of breaks in between to make coffee, dance around my kitchen to sixties soul music, or order a chocolate chip muffin if I happen to be working at my neighborhood coffee shop (Damn you, chocolate chip muffins!). My jeans do not thank me for such behavior.

haha! Yeah, muffins are addicting! Please tell us about your novel, THE ELITE, and what we can expect from your characters.

Jennifer: My series, THE ELITE, drops June 2008 from Penguin, Berkley. THE ELITE revolves around sixteen-year-old Casey McCloy—who has just moved from Normal, Illinois to The Bramford, a luxury apartment building on the Upper East Side of Manhattan to live with her grandmother. The series is all about Casey’s attempts to fit in with the most popular girls in her building—the Bram Clan, led by the indomitable, popular, pretty, platinum blond Madison Macallister—who is capable of ruining lives and destroying reputations with one well-timed whisper. She’s not just Casey’s new classmate and neighbor; she’s an icon. Better to be on her good side. But after a city-haute makeover from her new frenemy Madison, Casey is wearing the right clothes, saying the right things, and meeting the right people—including Drew, the boy-about-town who Madison thinks belongs to her and her alone…

I'm intrigued already!  What's up next? Do you have another project in the works? If so, please tell us about it.

Jennifer: I’m working on a couple of different ideas—of course what I’d REALLY love is for THE ELITE to take off and become so popular that it becomes a ten-book series instead of three, but I’ve also got two other books in the works. One is entitled BITTEN and is about two identical twins form Manhattan, Lucy and Mina Vanderbilt, whose parents buy Dracula’s castle in Romania in the midst of a mid-life crisis, forcing the family to move to Eastern Europe and live in a dilapidated, musty, stone castle. But before both girls begin attendance at a posh boarding school in Geneva, Switzerland, they’ll spend the summer at their new home sweet home—a castle situated in the heart of Romania, just off of Highway 73—better known as the intersection of creepy and get-me-the-hell-out-of-here—worlds away from their sophisticated Manhattan lifestyle. Upon their arrival, Mina quickly falls in with Jonathan Marlowe—the town’s resident hottie, who’s left London to visit his grandfather for the summer and spends his days attempting to pen the next great British novel at the local café. But after Mina suffers a “bite” from a mysterious apparition one evening while trolling the grounds of the castle, her love life will never be the same again. Expressions like “can I have a bite of that?” take on a WHOLE new meaning, and suddenly, the most notorious, identical, and inseparable twins in all of Manhattan have never been quite so different . . .

The other series I’m working on is about a seventeen-year-old girl named Belle who moves with her diplomat father to the Plaza Athanee hotel in Paris and begins to have a series of French fried adventures when she’s let loose on the city of lights. It’s kind of inspired by the Eloise books—which I adored as a kid (OK, who am I kidding? I love then NOW), except with lots of champagne and dating!

All sound like my kind of reads! Thanks again for chatting, Jennifer.  I wish you the best with all your projects.  Would you like to close with a writing tip?

Jennifer: Just keep writing—even if you think what you’re putting down on the page is crap. Writing is mostly about having the discipline to get up and do it every day—whether you feel like it or not. And all the frustration is definitely worth it in that moment when a book, character, or story really begins to come alive—it’s my favorite part of the writing process, and what makes me get up every day and want to sit down and write—the feeling of being utterly lost in a world I’ve created.

Jennifer Banash grew up on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and is the author of HOLLYWOODLAND: AN AMERICAN FAIRY TALE. Her Young Adult series THE ELITE drops June 2008 from Penguin Berkley. She divides her time between Paris and the Midwest—where she lives with her vast designer shoe collection and her beagle puppy, Sigmund.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Fresh from the oven...

When I lived on the east coast, December was not only holiday season, it was baking season. Entire families got together to make wide assortments of holiday cookies, to be presented in gift platters and tins to friends and family, served at parties and following meals--and left for Santa.

My family never much went in for this, however, and I admit, as an adult, I’ve let holiday baking slide almost completely from my life. But I have great admiration for those who collect and swap recipes, who shop for the best ingredients, and spend hours creating the perfect cookies. And I’m thrilled when I’m a platter recipient.

Tell us, do you come from a family that considers baking an important part of the holiday season? And if so, do you have a favorite cookie?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

What's Fresh with Laurie Faria Stolarz's Project 17

Hello Laurie, great to have you back on YA Fresh! Please share with us the blurb of your latest novel, PROJECT 17 (Hyperion Books, December 2007).

Laurie: Breaking in was easy. Getting out will be harder.

High atop Hathorne Hill, near Boston, sits Danvers State Hospital. Built in 1878 and closed in 1992, this abandoned mental institution is rumored to be the birthplace of the lobotomy. Locals have long believed the place to be haunted. They tell stories about the unmarked graves on the premises, of the cold spots felt throughout the underground tunnels, and of the treasures found inside: patients' personal items like journals, hair combs, and bars of soap, or even their old medical records, left behind by the state for trespassers to view.

On the eve of the hospital's demolition, six teens break in to spend the night and film a movie about their adventures. For Derik, it's an opportunity to win a filmmaking contest and save himself from a future of flipping burgers at his parents' diner. For the others, it's a chance to be on TV, or a night with no parents. But what starts as a playful dare quickly escalates into a frenzy of nightmarish action. Behind the crumbling walls, down every dark passageway, and in each deserted room, they will unravel the mysteries of those who once lived there and the spirits who still might.
Could you share a bit about the main character of your book and what makes him unique?

Laurie: Derik LaPointe is just about to graduate high school and go straight to work at his parents’ diner. He hates the idea. All he really wants to do is make his own films. So, when he hears about a reality TV contest where he has the opportunity to have his indie film shown on national television, he gets to work, hoping it’ll save him from flipping burgers for the rest of his life. Derik, commonly known by characters in the novel as Derik “LaPlaya” LaPointe because of his seedy reputation, seems to be lacking in ambition and depth, but what he learns from his experience at Danvers State, is that he’s so small in the grand scheme of things. His goals start to shift when he realizes it’s no longer just about the contest.

How did the idea for this novel come about?

Laurie: I wanted to do a companion book to Bleed, using one of my Bleed characters. Around the time I was thinking up ideas for a new project, the newspapers in my area were flooded with stories surrounding the controversial teardown of Danvers State Hospital, an abandoned mental hospital 30 minutes north of Boston. Many people were against tearing it down because it is considered an historical landmark, built in 1878. But, still, developers wanted to use the land to build luxury apartments and condos. In the end, the developers won, and two-thirds of the hospital was torn down. People are now living in the new developments.

Growing up, the hospital, which was finally shut down in 1992 due to budget cuts and overcrowding, was rumored to be haunted and became a notorious hot spot for break-ins and dares. Coincidentally, in Bleed, one of my characters, Derik LaPointe, breaks in to the hospital to go exploring. This is how the initial idea for Project 17 sparked. I thought, why not have Derik break in with a group of teens, on the eve of the demolition to spend the night and film a movie? There are six teens who break in in total, all with their own motivations and agendas, but what they end up finding is far beyond anything they could ever imagine.

Wow, sounds intense! What do you hope readers will gain from reading this novel?

Laurie: A thrill ride. It’d also be nice if they saw that even though we’re all so different on surface, we’re connected in so many other ways. We all want the same basic things.

Thanks for sharing, Laurie. Best of luck with PROJECT 17. Would you like to close with a novel you highly recommend and why?

Laurie: I highly recommend Breaking Up by Aimee Friedman. It’s so fun!

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 Deadly Little Secret, the first book in the Touch series, also for young adults. To learn more about Laurie, please visit her website:

Monday, December 10, 2007

Gotta Share!

Publishers Weekly ran an article last week called “’Twas the Day After Christmas,” talking about how post-December 25 book sales are steadily rising as a result of holiday gift cards.

Quoted in this article is Random House’s Director of Sales for Children’s books, Joan de Mayo, saying the week after Christmas is now considered “a prime time to release big books.” And among the books listed in this article that Random House is releasing after Christmas?

Magic Tree House #36 by Mary Pope Osborne
The Sweet Far Thing by Libba Bray
Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson
Runemarks by Joanne Harris
Small Steps by Louis Sachar

And...(wait for it, wait for it)...

How to Hook a Hottie by Tina Ferraro

Wow, huh? I absolutely can’t believe my book appears on this prestigious list, and so you’ll forgive this blatant self-promotion as I shout it from the rooftops, huh?

And may I say I hope all of you get bookstore gift cards this year! =)

Anyone else get any early holiday "gifts"?

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Happy Holidays...and I Really Mean it!

Okay, truth time: I had trouble getting into the holiday spirit last year. For the most part I “phoned it in,” basically going through the motions of shopping and greetings, while idly wondering if it was over yet.

Because I had bigger fish to try. My first book was due out, my second was in the editing process, and I was racking my brain trying to come up with a decent proposal for a third one. A dream come true, and all-encompassing!

In fact, standing in the cold and watching our local Christmas parade, I was suddenly struck with a title (which is often how my book ideas present themselves). I remember saying to my husband, “How about The ABC’s of...of...well, Kissing Boys?” My husband nodded and told me I was probably finally on to something. He was right: that book comes out in Spring of 2009.

Well, we just watched that very same parade last weekend. And again, I am awaiting the release of a book, doing edits on another one, and brainstorming a new one.

But this time, I paid attention to the floats and marching bands and troops of Brownies. I made a point of stopping and speaking to people, of wishing them Happy Holidays. For I realized I really don’t remember much of last December. And I refuse to let this year’s season go by without me, too. I’m taking time to smell the pine scented candles, to try to enjoy shopping and finding “the right gifts” for friends and family, to be thankful for my blessings, and try to figure out how I can make the holidays of others just a little bit better, too.

In other words, I plan to be the main character of my own holiday season. Then, come January, it’ll be a full court press on promo for the new book. And just in case you're wondering when it comes out...

Monday, December 03, 2007

December is here!

And besides the decorations, the shopping, and the fun gift-giving, do you want to know what else I enjoy about this month?

The Holiday movies are back! Here are a few of my favorites that I love watching year after year…

Rudolph, The Red-nosed Reindeer

A Christmas Story

How The Grinch Stole Christmas

So tell me, which are your favorite Holiday shows that you love to see return each year?

Thursday, November 29, 2007


I have talked about my Spring, 2009 release, THE ABC’S OF KISSING BOYS, and how it’s in the revision process.

I’m having a great time fine-tuning some of the points--but I’ve hit a wall on one line, and can use some feedback. If you’re so inclined, please read the following and weigh in on what you think works best!

Book blurb:

16 year-old Parker Elizabeth Stanhope was the only one of her friends not to be advanced from JV soccer to Varsity. She’s humiliated--and worse, suddenly getting the cold shoulder from her friends. Desperate to somehow still make Varsity before the season begins, she concocts a crazy-but-just-might-work scheme that involves kissing the socks off the prom king at the school’s Sports Fair kissing booth. But between now and then, she has to learn everything she can about kissing. And that help comes in the unlikely form of a freshman. But if her status-conscious friends find out she’s locking lips with a younger guy, she might as well kiss off their friendship--whether or not she makes Varsity. It's a lose-lose! Or is it?

Scene Set-Up:

Parker has learned that her freshman neighbor, Tristan, spent his summer nights at camp playing kissing games with the other counselors. She’s intrigued and has asked one too many questions. Getting suspicious, he playfully suggests that even though she’s sixteen, she’s never been kissed. She charges back that of course she’s been kissed.

Then he responds with one of the following:

--“Spin the bottle does not count!”
--“The back of your hand does not count!”

Or...something else! Ideas? Thoughts?

Monday, November 26, 2007

It's All About a Fresh Read

Caroline Darcy wants to live a new, daring lifestyle when she heads to college for the summer. She’s actually a quarter Cuban, but wanting to follow in the exotic footsteps of her late Cuban great-grandmother, she takes on a Latina persona, starting a hot and fast relationship with a good-looking college guy.

The problem is, her new persona meets with a dangerous situation, and coming to her rescue is her friend and dorm-neighbor, Peter.

After some intense soul-searching Caroline is ready to tackle school with her true self and finds a way to reconnect with her great-grandmother through a research project. Caroline begins to see her friendship with Peter in a new perspective and discovers more of herself than she ever did, pretending to be someone she's not.

Recommended for mature teens, Caridad Ferrer writes with a fun and intelligent voice, mixing college life, Cuban family roots, and a memorable sweet romance in IT’S NOT ABOUT THE ACCENT.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Winner Is...

And the winner of an advanced reader copy of How to Hook a Hottie is:


who submitted the following sentence (and gave me permission to reprint it)...

I would like win to because I picked up your book, Top Ten Uses For an Unworn Prom Dress, because I also got dumped right before Junior Prom and it intrigued me, now I have read that book at least five times.

This decision was very hard to many of you sent really compelling comments, and I thank you for every one of them. And stayed tuned because I'm sure to give away copies of the book in the future!

Thanks to all who entered!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Win an Advanced Reader Copy of How to Hook a Hottie!

With only six weeks left until my next book hits the shelves, I decided to post a MySpace bulletin yesterday, offering one of my remaining ARCs to the commenter who gave me the best "one sentence" why they should win. I am extending that contest to this blog, if anyone is so inclined, leave a message here and I'll put it "into the hat."

The deadline is tomorrow night at midnight PST, and I will post the winner's first name here and on MySpace on Sunday morning.

Hope you play! :)

Thursday, November 22, 2007

YA Fresh is thankful for all the readers and authors who visit with us daily!

I hope all of our US friends have a wonderful Turkey Day with their families!

Best Wishes,

Kelly & Tina :)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

What's Fresh About Crissa-Jean Chappell's Total Constant Order

Fin can't stop counting. She's always heard a voice inside her head, ordering her to listen, but ever since she's moved to the Sunshine State and her parents split up, numbers thump like a metronome, rhythmically keeping things in control. When a new doctor introduces terms such as "clinical depression" and "OCD" and offers a prescription for medication, the chemical effects make Fin feel even more messed up. Until she meets Thayer, a doodling, rule-bending skater who buzzes to his own beat—and who might just understand Fin's hunger to belong, and her struggle for total constant order.

Crissa-Jean Chappell's candid and vividly told debut novel shares the story of a young teen's experience with obsessive compulsive disorder and her remarkable resolve to find her own inner strength.

Hi Crissa, it's great to have you on YA Fresh. Could you please tell us a little about your writing background and how you made your first sale?

Crissa: As a kid, I’d steal pens from my dad’s pocket and “draw” stories on notebook paper. I stapled the pages together: tales of talking lobsters and identical twins who lived in a treehouse.

I traded stories on cassette tapes with my cousin, Jonathan. Every month, we’d mail fat envelopes decorated with treasure maps. Together we developed epic stories in our own fantastical universe.

After writing and publishing short stories in college, I wasn’t sure if I could tackle a novel. It took nine months to write Total Constant Order (HarperCollins) and a year to find my agent. (read my 21 steps here. )

I met my agent in cyberspace. (To this day, we correspond primarily through email). A few months later, she sold my novel at auction.

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.

Crissa: I wake up and crawl to my computer, just a foot away from my bed, and begin dreaming with my eyes open. I spend a few hours eavesdropping on the people in my head (or plucking notes from one of the many Moleskines in my purse). Then it’s off to work at the Art Institute, where I teach creative writing and film studies.

While writing, I listen to music. It becomes the soundtrack to the movie in my mind. (my TCO music picks )

My friend, Adrian Michna (aka DJ Egg Foo Young of the band, Secret Frequency Crew) composed a mini-soundtrack for Total Constant Order (it’s the dreamy music that plays in the background of the book’s animated promo, designed by Marlon Morina).

I love the animation, it's very unique. Please tell us about your novel Total Constant Order (HarperCollins, Oct. 23, 2007) and what we can expect from your characters.

Crissa: In Total Constant Order, we meet Fin (short for Frances Isabelle Nash). Fin loves numbers more than most kids. She counts her breaths, the cars on the highway, the boys with unlaced shoes in the classroom. The clean order of numbers keeps her worries away.

When Fin meets a fellow outcast, Thayer Pinsky, an asthmatic, cartoon-quoting skateboarder with Attention Deficit Disorder, she must spill her secret. Both kids struggle with therapy, prescription medicine, and painful side effects. In a society that offers a pill for everything (including happiness), Fin worries that Paxil will destroy her personality or worse: transform her into an artificially joyful drone.

This is a story about swallowing the fear of insanity that we all share, and escaping the judgment of others. It’s a story about sawgrass and graffiti and palm trees strung with Christmas lights.

For the past two years, I wrote stories, drew pictures, and took photographs as Fin for a blog called Sunshine State). The experience reminded me of the interactive stories on tape that I created as a kid. Instead of sharing it with one person, I was able to share it with many different readers, all around the world.

Wow, TCO sounds awesome. I can't wait to pick up a copy. What's up next? Do you have another project in the works? If so, please tell us about it.

Crissa: At the moment, I am editing my second novel and finishing the rough draft of a third. (That’s all I can say for now!) I love writing about teenagers: especially those who feel like they’re on the outside, looking in.

Thanks so much for sharing with us, Crissa. Would you like to close with a writing tip?

Crissa: I’m sure you’ve heard the “show, don’t tell” rule before. What’s the best way to learn it? Write in active voice. Avoid adjectives and adverbs. Let verbs do the work for you. Verbs are your secret weapon!

Also: The publishing world can seem otherworldly at times (much like the Wizard of Oz, hiding behind a curtain). If you get a chance to attend one of the big SCBWI conferences, you can learn a lot about the business. And you never know who you’ll meet…just hanging by the hotel pool.

Crissa-Jean Chappell was born in Miami, Florida. She received her interdisciplinary PhD in literature, film theory, and philosophy from the University of Miami, as well as an MFA in screenwriting. For eight years she wrote a weekly film column for the Miami Sun Post. Her reviews, short stories, and poems have appeared in many magazines, including Confrontation, and the Southwest Review. She teaches creative writing and film studies at Miami International University of Art and Design. Visit her website,

Friday, November 16, 2007

Friday Fresh!

I finished up a first round of revisions this week on my next book, The ABC's of Kissing Boys.

As the title suggests, each of the 26 chapters offers an
alphabetical kissing tip, so when I logged onto MySpace the other
day and saw an ABC's Meme, I decided it might be fun to play with it--here.

I'd edited the questions down to a YA FRESH specific anagram, and hope you'll play, too:

Y is for yummy food you ate today?

cake with butter cream frosting

A is for age?
Uh, over 30

F is for favorite TV show at the moment?

R is for biggest regret?
that I don't stop eating when I'm full

E is for essential item you use everyday?
my car

S is for status?

H is for home town?
Well...I was born in a suburb of Boston, spent several
years in Los Angeles, and then in Westchester County, New York. So, you pick! :)

Who else wants to play? Answer all YA FRESH questions or just the ones of your choice!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Win an ARC!

The talented Cassandra Clare is holding a really creative contest on her blog, The Gray Book, for an ARC of her anticipated sequel to her Mortal Instruments trilogy, CITY OF ASHES.

Here are the deets:

"...there are five categories and one ARC for winning in each category. Each catgory requires you to do a funky, fun or creative thing. You can enter the contest more than once as long as you enter in different categories (so you can enter up to five times. You can, however, only win once.) The categories are as follows:


1) Writing: write a drabblette (a word I just made up) which is a story of 200 words or less set in the Mortal Instruments world. It can be about anything, set at any time, just keep it under a R rating, please. :D Alternately if you don't like writing fiction, you can write 200 words of a poem or an essay (like a short essay about which ship is your Mortal Instruments ship and why.)*

2) Art: Create a piece of fanart related to Mortal Instruments. Again, it can be anything you want, of any scene or character or location, in any medium. Drawing a comic or cartoon counts. Photography counts, too.

3) Video: Create a fanvid, a movie, or a book trailer. Book trailers look kind of like this. This category is more work, but that means less entries so you'll have a good chance of winning. :D

4) Book location: Take a picture of a copy of City of Bones in a weird location. On top of a school bus, in a fish tank, at the circus, whatever. You have a month to do this so feel free to wait for that trip to the Ice Hotel.

5) Miscellaneous: Make up your own entry.The only rule is that it has to be Mortal-Instruments-related. Bake a cake in the shape of Jace, be like Kinsey and make a shirt, create a lolcat cover (these may inspire you) for CoB, cosplay, do puppet theater - really, just go nuts."

Contest ends December 8th. Find out the entry specifics here.

Good luck!

Friday, November 09, 2007

The Nose Knows...
My mind is all around body sprays today, and how I can’t get enough of those cool blasts...

I drop by Bath & Body at least once a month to use whatever coupons I’ve collected. By the time I leave, I am a walking advertisement for all their scents, especially anything I can spray on.

Here at the computer, I always have a couple sprays on deck for a quick break-from-writing pick-me-up. I’m particularly fond of the lighter scents, like Coconut Lime Verbana, Sparkling Mountain Springs and Cool Citrus Basil. Although I’ve also indulged in the sweeter and stronger sprays, those seem to “stay with me” too long. I like to keep it light because what I really want is another excuse to push that trigger!

Any other body spray fans out there? And any favorite scents?

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

What's Fresh with Elizabeth Lenhard's Chicks with Sticks (KnitWise)

For Scottie, Amanda, Bella, and Tay, life in Chicago is all about seeking shelter. They've found it in the raggedy comfort of KnitWit, in their firelit stitch 'n bitch at Joe's, in the halls of their quirky private school, even in the arms of boyfriends.

But now the girls are staring down the end of high school. Fueled by the stresses of college applications and service projects, will it also mean the end of the Chicks? Or can this unlikely foursome bind off the happy ending that only true friendship can craft?

The Chicks return, along with four hip new projects.

Hi Elizabeth, thank you for agreeing to chat. Could you please tell us a little about your writing background and how you made your first sale?

Elizabeth: My path to writing fiction was a bit unorthodox. I was a reporter at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and knew a fellow reporter who was moonlighting as a book packager. He had to churn out a bunch of middle-grade horror books and was hiring his colleagues to ghost-write them for him. So I gave it a try with a goofy little book called "Beware the Bog Girl." I fell in love with writing fiction for kids and decided to take a stab at a second career. Soon afterward, I got a gig writing a TV-tie-in paperback for Simon & Schuster called "Clueless: Bettypalooza." That was the first book I wrote with my name on it. Many, many writing-for-hire gigs followed until I finally wrote a book that was all my own (and my first hardcover) for Dutton in 2004: "Chicks with Sticks (It's a purl thing)." "Chicks with Sticks (KnitWise)" is my third C w/ S book.

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.

Elizabeth: I used to write constantly, but now that I have a baby, I work three afternoons a week. On those days, I take care of my daughter from wake-up time (6:30ish) until my mother, aka "granny nanny," arrives (11:30ish). I go into the home office and shut the door. I then realize that I'm kinda TIRED from all that early a.m. momming, so I ease into things with some e-mailing, blogging, and blog-reading. I rarely get rolling before the clock strikes noon, but then I try to work until 5 or 6, with occasional breaks for cuddling with the baby and chatting with my mom. It's a longer, messier work day than it would be if I went somewhere "off-site" and just FOCUSED for several hours, but this have-my-writing-and-the-baby-too situation is working for all of us at the moment, so I keep my fingers crossed and press on!

Please tell us about your latest novel Chicks with Sticks (KnitWise) (Dutton, October 2007) and what we can expect from your characters.

Elizabeth: Chicks with Sticks (KnitWise) is the third and last book in the Chicks with Sticks trilogy. The main players are: Scottie, an angsty everygirl who's hit rock-bottom as the series begins; Amanda, a beautiful, trust fund princess and Scottie's former best friend (who will reconnect to Scottie through knitting); Bella, a kooky, beautiful yoga goddess; and the unlikeliest knitter of all, Tay, who's tattooed, surly, and tomboyish. Book #1, Chicks with Sticks (It's a purl thing) (2005) was all about establishing the four characters, their knitty passion and their unlikely but loving friendship. In Book #2, Chicks with Sticks (Knit two together) (2006), the girls all have dramas and traumas with BOYS. And finally, in KnitWise, the Chicks are getting ready to choose their colleges and say good-bye to each other, which prompts major freak-outs, especially for Scottie. In subplots, Amanda is forced by her parents to be a debutante, and hates it, but is surprised to meet a boy who hates it even more. Tay's divorced parents have a new custody arrangement, which means she actually had to DEAL with them. And Bella, who is generally her vegan yogi parents' dream daughter (given that she's a vegan yogi, too) worries that her life choices might disappoint them. Like the finale of a TV show, favorite characters from the first books resurface, and there a few tearjerker moments.

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

Elizabeth: I'm at the beginning of another YA novel. I'm very excited about it. I can't say what it's about, other than I've changed settings. (Settings are very important to me.) Chicks with Sticks was set in my former home, Chicago. This book is set in my current, very quirky, country/urban 'hood in downtown Atlanta. And there's no knitting--at least, that's the plan!

I wish you the best with your writing career, Elizabeth! Would you like to close with a writing tip?

Elizabeth: My standard tip is to read, read, read! Surprisingly, not all people who want to write do this! And don't just read -- read what you'd like to write. If you mostly read books for adults (because you are one) then maybe writing for teens isn't for you. I write YA because YA is what I prefer to read. In other words, write what you love, not what you think might help you get published or might sell.

Elizabeth Lenhard grew up in Atlanta and studied English and creative writing at the University of Michigan. She’s been a features reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, a contributing dining critic for Chicago magazine, and the author of more than thirty series books for teens and children. Elizabeth lives with her husband and daughter in Atlanta. Now that the Chicks are college-bound, she’s assuaging her empty nest syndrome with lots and lots of knitting. Visit her website,

Monday, November 05, 2007

Ever Dream About Being a Teenage Millionaire?

Okay, so if you frequent Myspace like I do--daily :)--you’ve probably heard of the totally fun myspace template website,

Before I totally pimped out my site, I dressed my space with the cool temps from whateverlife. So you can imagine my shock when I saw this article with Ashley Qualls, who took an $8 site and turned it into a money making empire. Not by selling her template designs, but by giving away free templates and renting ad space on her site that gets, like, a million hits a day and businesses are sending her huge checks.

“Thanks to Ashley's work ethic and savvy cultivation of her peer group as a target market, Whateverlife began pulling in more teenage girls than a Justin Timberlake concert - about a million a day. With a big audience, the site attracted advertisers. Ashley's first check was for $2,700. The next was for $5,000, the third for $10,000.”
She bought her family a four-bedroom house at 17. Wow! If you read the article, you'll find out it’s not all fun and games, and a lot of time and hard work, but I think we can all agree that Ashley Qualls is one savvy teen.

Go, Ashley!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Left Brain v. Right Brain

The Australian newspaper, the Herald Sun, is running a fascinating “left brain versus right brain” test on their website right now. Pop over there and check out the dancer, and see which way she is turning. Clock-wise? Counter-clockwise? Or...can you see her turn from one way to another?,21985,22556281-661,00.html

As the website states, counter-clockwise (or anti-clockwise, which I assume is the Australian term) means you are left-brained, which is your logical, detail-oriented type brain. Creative types (like YA writers!) often see her moving clockwise.

I’ve run this test on about ten people, and so far, everyone sees the dancer moving exclusively in one direction. Except for me. I see her changing, going one way for a while, then in the other. Which actually sums me up perfectly. I am ridiculously organized, with a sharp memory for details. But I’m also a major daydreamer whose book characters often seem more real than the people in my supermarket.

You can see from the 800+ comments it got that some people believe it to be a hoax. I can't vouch for its authenticity. But I can say that I sat for about 10 minutes with a math/science whiz and rarely saw the same movements in the dancer. I mean, to the point of arguing. That's all I know!

How about you? What do you see, and how does this explain you?

Friday, October 26, 2007

Friday Fresh!

Today we ask: If talent and gender were not a factor, which professional sport would you compete in?

My answer: I would be an Olympic driver.

When I was about 14, I competed on a diving team. While those first few months went well enough because I had some natural athletic ability, I went on to struggle on dives with higher degrees of difficulty. Standing on the board during meets, I found I could not block out the audience (and especially how badly they might think I looked in a wet Speed-o!) and was unable to give those dives the concentration they needed. And it was no fun to get low scores! So when that season ended, I “retired.”

However, years later, while working in a bustling office, I found I could block out everything and everyone to work on my stories. Must be because writing is my true passion, while diving was just a Friday Fresh fantasy? What do you think?

And okay, who’s next?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Judy's Blog

A quick 411 to share with you guys!

I spotted this on Meg Cabot's Diary...

In case you didn't know, Judy Blume has a blog! Cool or what? Looks like she's been blogging since August with Judy Blume adventures and pictures.

Stop by when you get a chance!

Monday, October 22, 2007

I heart Veronica Mars

Yes, sadly Veronica Mars is gone, but the DVDs are not!

I have soaked up each character and episode like you don’t even know. VM has been added as one of my favorite shows in history, Folks. And since I’ve been watching TV for a loooong time, that’s saying a lot. Hah.
And this week, Veronica Mars - Season 3 is releasing and I have already ordered my copy. *rubbing hands together* I just had to share my excitement with you all.

So here’s a little Veronica Mars quiz for you to take, if you are a VM fan like me. :) :) (Don't forget, Season 3, out Tuesday!)

Which Veronica Mars Character Are You?
created with'

You scored as Veronica Mars

You used to be really popular, but now you are the school outcast. You are really smart and somehow have all the answers... and you can snark like no other.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Twisted Metal

What do Prince Harry, Tom Cruise (and I) have in common?

We’re survivors of the orthodontist’s chair. Yep, we were metal mouths, had to endure the minty flavored molds and tightening of the wires at each visit (ouch!) as well as thoughtful comments from people like, “Don’t smile at me, you’ll blind me.”

All for tooth straightening and re-spacing, jaw realignment, and...I don’t know, better smiles?

Those of us who were really lucky (waving hand here) got the night gear, as well, that startlingly attractive metal brace you connected around the back of your head. I remember many a night, waking to my whole face throbbing, and chucking the thing across the room...only to dutifully put it on again the next night.

But hey, the braces paid off. I lost my enormous overbite by the age of fourteen, and never looked back. And I understand today’s orthodontia has gone “cool,” offering colored wires (like black and orange for Halloween) and neon rubber bands.

Plus, let us not forget the look of the current darling of Thursday night TV...

So...tell us, what’s your experience with braces? Had them or have them? Love them or hate them? Flap your gums and fill us in!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

LOL at Your Library, Part 2

Following Kelly’s lead in talking about YA books that make us LOL, here is one of my all-time favorites, Gordon Korman’s Son of the Mob.

Recommended for ninth grade and up, Son of the Mob is a smart, funny read that sometimes pulls at the heartstrings. 17 year-old Vince Luca is the son of a mob boss, and while he has no intention of going into the family’s “vending machine business,” certain aspects of the family’s notoriety constantly plague him. And things get even stickier when he falls in love--with the daughter of the FBI man working to convict his father. The result is a page turner for adults and teens alike, and for the most reluctant of readers.

The LOL book that I am currently reading (and loving):

How to Take the Ex Out of Ex-Boyfriend, Janette Rallison.

Next up in my To Be Read Pile:

Al Capone Does My Shirts, Gennifer Choldenko.

Who can recommend some more?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Teen Read Week!
October 14 – 20, 2007
LOL @ Your Library!

I mean, who doesn’t love to LOL, right?

To kick off the week at YA Fresh, here are a few LOL teen books…

I definitely have to mention our Tina Ferraro’s Top Ten Uses for an Unworn Prom Dress.

If you haven’t read Prom Dress, Tina gives some clever uses for Nic’s unworn prom dress, and many of them made me laugh and cheer!

Here’s one of my faves:


Run the silky pink fabric up the school flagpole
in solidarity with all girls who’ve been cruelly
ditched, dodged, and dumped.

Too fun! This is just a sample of Tina's originality and voice!

And here are two humorous books in my TBR pile that I'm eager to read:

>>Alex Richards’s Back Talk
>>Stephanie Hales’s Revenge of the Homecoming Queen

Read some LOL books recently or have a fave?

Friday, October 12, 2007

What's Fresh with Jo Knowles's Lessons from a Dead Girl

An unflinching story of a troubled friendship — and one girl’s struggle to come to terms with secrets and shame and find her own power to heal.

Leah Greene is dead. For Laine, knowing what really happened and the awful feeling that she is, in some way, responsible set her on a journey of painful self-discovery. Yes, she wished for this. She hated Leah that much. Hated her for all the times in the closet, when Leah made her do those things. They were just practicing, Leah said. But why did Leah choose her? Was she special, or just easy to control? And why didn’t Laine make it stop sooner? In the aftermath of the tragedy, Laine is left to explore the devastating lessons Leah taught her, find some meaning in them, and decide whether she can forgive Leah and, ultimately, herself.

Hello Jo, thank you for stopping by to chat! Could you please tell us a little about your writing background and how you made your first sale?

Jo: I have a master's degree in children's literature and fell in love with writing for children when I took a writing course in graduate school. For my master's thesis, I wrote my first YA novel. Sadly, this novel now resides in a drawer, never to be opened again. After I graduated, I moved, got a full time job as a technical writer, and worked on my fiction whenever I had time. In 2002, I won an SCBWI grant in the YA category for a new novel I was working on. During that time, Barry Goldblatt was building his client list, read about the grant and contacted me. I sent him my work and he signed me up. I definitely count this as one of the best things that ever could have happened to me on my path to publication. Barry believes in building a family of clients, and he gets us all together for annual retreats. We share information, encouragement and lots of laughs. I can't imagine not having that community. Anyway, all this time I was still working full time, and then I had a baby, and I was trying to squeeze in fiction writing whenever I could. Then in 2005 I submitted the first 10 pages of another YA novel, Lessons From A Dead Girl, to the PEN New England Discovery contest and won. Candlewick had agreed to look at the winning entry, so my work was submitted there and after a bit of revising, my editor (Joan Powers) made an offer!

Great story, Jo! 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.

Jo: How I work largely depends on how much freelance work I have piled up. Usually I reserve my fiction writing for the evening, after my son goes to bed. I have two close writer friends who meet me online every night. We use Skype to check in with one another and share our goals for the night, then check in every 15-30 minutes or so to share our progress and cheer each other on. I've really come to depend on them to write with me. Writing is such a solitary endeavor. It's wonderful to find people to write alongside you. I think that's one reason why so many writers find their way to cafes to write now. Well, that and the food of course. I also have a wonderful, supportive community on LiveJournal where I blog about the writing life, motherhood, and trying to survive in Vermont, where the closest cafe I could write in is... hmmm... too far.

Please tell us about your novel Lessons from a Dead Girl (Candlewick Press, October 2007) and what we can expect from your characters.

Jo: It's a YA novel for ages 14 and up. The book is about a complex and abusive friendship between two girls, Laine and Leah. At the opening of the book, Leah has been killed in an accident, leaving Laine to make sense of their complicated past. By revisiting childhood memories, Laine makes many discoveries about their relationship and why Leah treated her the way that she did, but ultimately she still must decide whether she can forgive Leah--and herself.

I really enjoyed Lessons from a Dead Girl, Jo. What's up next? Do you have another project in the works? If so, please tell us about it.

Jo: I recently sold my second YA novel to Candlewick Press. The title is Jumping Off Swings and it's about four teens (two girls and two boys) and how each of them is affected when one discovers she's pregnant.

Looking forward to your next one! Thank you again for sharing with us. I wish the best with your writing career. Would you like to close with a writing tip?

Jo: Keep writing! A lot of writers I meet finish one book and stop there, focusing all their time and effort into selling that book. But this process is so incredibly slow. It can take 6 months or longer for an editor or agent to consider your work. The best thing to do is to keep going. Start a new project, read as much as possible, and try new things that will help you grow as a writer. I also suggest finding a supportive writing community, such as an online group, or a face-to-face writing group.

Jo Knowles lives in Vermont with her husband and son. She is a freelance writer, writing instructor at The Center for the Study of Children's Literature at Simmons College, and a volunteer writing mentor at a Vermont women's prison. Her first novel, Lessons From A Dead Girl (Candlewick Press), will debut on October 9, 2007. Visit her on the Web at or read her blog at

(Read the YA Fresh review for Lessons from a Dead Girl here.)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

How to Hook a Hottie: Three Months and Counting...

How to Hook a Hottie will hit shelves on January 8, 2008, and to say I’m getting excited is like saying some people saw High School Musical...

I’ve changed the icon on my MySpace ( to the new cover. My web master is about to update my webpage ( I’m waiting to hear from my publicist about the details of the marketing plans. And I spent a couple weekends revamping my giveaway bookmarks.

But what’s most fun is the reactions I’m getting from teens about the title. I keep hearing, “Oh, I have to read that one!” And they want to know if I give them honest-to-goodness tips and tricks (answer: yes, but I can’t guarantee the success rate) and if the main character gets the hottie in the end (not saying, but that’s where I mention that I am first and foremost a romance writer).

And then I usually tell them about the Hexagon for Hooking Hotties on page 91 which offers a chance for the book’s characters (and for its readers) to see how compatible they would be with their own fill-in-the-blank hottie. This Hexagon was created for me by a NASA rocket scientist (no joke--I have one in the family), and tested out on a team of teens who are actively in pursuit of hotties (not too hard to find). So it’s got some real merit--but again I have to warn that “results may vary”.

In any case, 82 days seems so close and yet so far. I’ll just have to fill my time reading the great fall/winter YA releases. Anyone have any recommendations for me?

Monday, October 08, 2007

Giving Back

Before I sold my first book, my entire mindset was about reading and writing. I never thought about what would happen if I became a published writer. Then I sold and everything changed, I had so much more to think about. I had so much more to learn.

And as I geared up for GRAFFITI GIRL to hit bookshelves, and basically held my breath as feedback trickled in, something happened that I never thought would. Readers actually enjoyed my book. I felt honored and still do each time I hear from a reader. I really wished there was something I could do for each reader who took the time to tell me how she/he felt about GG. Of course, I’ve thanked everyone for their kind words, but could I do more?

Maybe I can’t reach through cyberspace and give each reader a hug (which is my first instinct when I open a thoughtful email), but as an author, I can giveback in small ways.


My hometown is holding a read week where they are looking for citizens to read to schools in our community. It’s to show the elementary kids how much we love to read by sharing a favorite book and explaining how important reading is. I’ve volunteered and looking forward to my reading day.

Book Club

I can take the time to read the thoughtful letters book clubs have taken the time to write to me about my story and characters, and give the readers a little more insight about the process of writing and the backstory behind the story. If readers are taking the time to write, why can’t I?

School Projects

I received a note from a student who is writing about me for her school project. I’m flattered and really blown away. Of course, I’m taking the time to answer the questions for her report because not only is she polite and courteous, but by her questions I can tell she she’s serious about becoming a writer. And that's a dream I only want to encourage.

These are just a few things I’ve tried to do to give back to readers. As time goes by, I hope to give more. Is there a writer you know of that has given back to readers in some small or big way? :)

Friday, October 05, 2007

What's Fresh with Jennifer Echols's The Boys Next Door

Lori lives for summertime on the lake. She spends all season wakeboarding, swimming, and hanging with her friends -- including the two hotties in the house next door. With the Vader brothers, Lori's always been one of the guys.

But while Lori and the "baby" brother, Adam, are inseparable friends, she can't deny a secret crush on Sean, the older Vader boy. This year Sean's been paying Lori a lot of attention, and not in a brotherly way.

But just as Lori decides to prove to Sean she's girlfriend material, she realizes that her role as girl friend to Adam may be even more important. And by trying so hard for the perfect summer romance, she could be going way overboard....

Hi Jennifer, thanks for agreeing to chat! Could you please tell us a little about your writing background and how you made your first sale?

Jennifer: I’ve worked as a newspaper writer and editor, a freelance writer and editor, and a writing instructor at three universities. I struggled for years to get a novel published and went through several agents, but finally Simon Pulse bought MAJOR CRUSH in 2005. It was published in 2006.

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.

Jennifer: I get up at 4:30 and write until I have 1350 words or whatever my quota is for that day. When the weather’s as nice as it is now, I do this on the screened porch off my kitchen. Then I wander into my home office and start my “real” job as a freelance copyeditor. Lots of coffee is involved.

Please tell us about your latest novel, THE BOYS NEXT DOOR, and what we can expect from your characters.

Jennifer: THE BOYS NEXT DOOR was released by Simon Pulse in June. Lori is a tomboy who’s had a crush on her next-door neighbor Sean forever, and she decides this is the summer she’ll make her move. But Sean’s swashbuckling younger brother Adam, who’s actually Lori’s age, seems like a better and better match for her every time he sets something on fire.

Great, Jennifer! What's up next? Do you have another project in the works? If so, please tell us about it.

Jennifer: My teen drama BOY IN BLUE will be published by MTV books in February 2009. It’s about a rebellious teenager who is sentenced to accompany a police officer on his night shift patrol--and winds up falling for him.

Yay, MTV! :) Thank you again for chatting, Jennifer, I wish you the best with your writing. Would you like to close with a writing tip?

Jennifer: Write the book you want to read!

Jennifer Echols is the author of the National Readers Choice Award-winning Major Crush, about a high school pageant queen turned band geek in a small southern town. Boy in Blue, about a rebellious teen who is sentence to accompany a police officer on his night shift patrol—and falls for him, will be published by MTV Books in February 2009. Growing up on beautiful Lake Martin in Alabama, Jennifer learned to water-ski when she was five (wakeboarding wasn't invented yet). She now lives high and dry with her husband and son in Birmingham. Visit her on the web at

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Austenland by Shannon Hale

Some weeks ago I posted a postcard from that Stephenie Meyer had given out at her mega Eclipse booksigning, endorsing some other books to her readers--including mine, Top Ten Uses for an Unworn Prom Dress. (Yay!)

From that list, I have mentioned reading Robin Brande’s Evolution, Me and Other Freaks of Nature, and marveling at its wit and deft handling of what could be considered a sensitive subject matter. Definitely a winner!

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of reading another from that postcard, Austenland by Shannon Hale...

The main character, 20-something Jane, seems to be on an ill- conceived and dead-ended quest for her own Mr. Darcy (especially as played by Colin Firth in BBC version of Pride and Prejudice). When her aunt bequeaths her a three-week stay at Austenland (a live recreation of the Regency/Jane Austen books period), she decides it might be healthy to try to “get real” and get the imaginary Mr. Darcy out of her system once and for all. So off she goes...

The storyline and characters are intriguing, and keep you guessing
as you try to decipher what is real and what is an act inside the
gates of Austenland. But if I had to choose one aspect as to why
this book sparkles, it is Shannon Hale’s narrative voice--so crisp
and funny, so “spot on,” as the British would say.

I recommend this book to all readers of romantic comedy, although for maximum enjoyment, you might want to rent the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice first...

Monday, October 01, 2007

The Cybils are here!

"Nominations Are Now Open

Welcome to the 2007 Cybils, the only literary awards by bloggers. We're seeking nominations from book lovers in eight genres:

Fantasy/Science Fiction
Fiction Picture Books
Graphic Novels
Middle Grade Fiction
Non-Fiction: Middle Grade and Young Adult
Non-Fiction Picture Books
Young Adult Fiction

Want to nominate your favorite books of the year? They must've been published in 2007:

Only one book per category
Click on a category and read the description
Click on "comments" and type in the author and title
Thanks for joining us. Nominations close Nov. 21, so take your time and come back often."

Go vote and have fun!

Friday, September 28, 2007


So Let’s talk about young adult author websites.

Whose sites are out there that you think are super cool?

Meg Cabot’s site is really awesome and one of my faves. It's hip, it's bright and fun, with loads of information on her books.

On a YA website, I like excerpts, basic book info, maybe a little behind the scenes and characters…

I want to know what you like--please share!

What do you like in an YA author’s website, and which are your faves?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

In Your Dreams!

In my March, 2007 release, Top Ten Uses for an Unworn Prom Dress, hero Jared McCreary uses one of my favorite phrases when main character Nicolette Antonovich tries to back out of delivering on a lost bet: “In your dreams!”

And it’s funny, ever since I sold that book, my subsequent writing projects have been altered by that very thing--my dreams.

While in the initial stages of writing How to Hook a Hottie (January, 8, 2008), I woke up with the name “Jason ‘Dal’ Dalrymple” in my head one morning, and the insistent feeling that I had to change the best friend’s name to that. I did--and the story suddenly took off.

When trying to find the right characters and tone for The ABC’s of Kissing Boys (Spring, 2009), I woke with the internal directive to change the main character’s name from Alicia to Parker, which to my mind, are completely different kinds of names and personalities, Alicia being soft, Parker having some edge. And besides, I wasn’t even sure I liked the name Parker for a girl. In any case, I obliged my subconscious--and bingo! I found myself moving through the scenes.

Last week, after having completed a list of first draft revisions on The ABC’s of Kissing Boys, I went to bed feeling "done". Only to wake up at 4:45 with the realization that one of the threads did not tie up. This was not something I had a considered a problem. In fact, I had been pleased with how easily and naturally it had resolved itself. Or so I’d thought...

All I can think is that the subconscious is a very powerful tool, and sometimes, my best friend!

Has anyone ever resolved a dilemma--either personal or professional--or gotten a fresher look at life through his or her dreams?

Monday, September 24, 2007

What's Fresh with Melissa Walker's Violet on the Runway

A wallflower in the spotlight can do one of two things: wilt, or blossom...

Violet Greenfield's life changes forever when a lady in giant Chanel shades tells her she could be IT, the next Kate Moss-but taller, and without the PR problems. That's how Violet winds up with a business card in the front pocket of her jeans on her first day as a senior in high school. Angela Blythe from Tryst Models in New York City wants to put Violet on a plane and whisk her into the world of high-heeled boots and oversized sunglasses. Tall, skinny Violet, who's been P-L-A-I-N practically forever.

And guess what? She's going.

Hello Melissa! Great to have you here. Could you please tell us a little about your writing background and how you made your first sale?

Melissa: I had been working in magazines for 5 years, and was Senior Features Editor at ELLEgirl when I decided I'd like to get into books. I love the teen audience, so YA was a natural fit. I decided to investigate.

I had no idea what I was doing, so I did things backwards. First I contacted a fantastic YA writer I know through magazines, Carolyn Mackler, to ask her advice on pitching a YA novel. She directed me to Kate Seaver, an editor at Penguin’s Berkley JAM, who was looking for new writers. Kate took a look at my magazine clips, and I sent her a one-page summary of what I imagined VIOLET ON THE RUNWAY would be about. She asked to see the first two chapters, so I sat down to write those and sent them in.

Shockingly, she came back with an offer. I was thrilled, but also scared, so I asked her to give me a week to find an agent. I asked friends, and YA author Kristen Kemp, whom I know through ed2010 and, was particularly helpful in my search--she gave me lots of solid advice, like how the right title could earn you thousands extra. (Mine didn’t, but I’m saving that gem for next time!)

Enter Doug Stewart of Sterling Lord Literistic, whom I had met at a book party five years earlier (my first book party in NYC!). I spoke with a few agents but really felt a connection with Doug. We talked, we signed.

Doug thought that we should shop the summary and chapters around, so we did, and FSG also made an offer. Then he asked both Penguin and FSG to have their very best offers in by Monday at noon (it was a total old west showdown! At least in my mind).

In the end, Berkley JAM was promising to put the book out faster, they wanted three books total (FSG wanted two and were going to wait a couple of years to publish), so we went with Penguin. The money was similar at both places. I was happy, because I had really liked Kate.

Great story, Melissa! 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.

Melissa: I still work at magazines sometimes during the year (filling in for someone on maternity leave or an extended vacation), so during those times, I hardly get to write at all. I do still have a third VIOLET book due, though, so my schedule right now goes like this:

I eat breakfast, then write. I don't allow myself to have lunch until I have 1000 words on the page. They don't have to be good words, but they have to be there. I try to do that that five days a week; afternoons are spent working on magazine stories, which I still need to write to maintain a good income. At that rate, you can get your 60,000 words in just 12 weeks. Of course, some days I play hooky in Prospect Park, some days I have lunch-and-beer dates in the city so just write 300 words, etc. I let myself enjoy the perks of being freelance sometimes! But in general, I am pretty consistent with the 1000-word rule.

Please tell us about your latest novel, VIOLET ON THE RUNWAY, (Penguin's Berkley JAM), out 9/4/07 and what we can expect from your characters.

Melissa: As soon as I started peeking behind the scenes of modeling and fashion as a magazine editor, I knew that I wanted to put a "real girl" in the middle of this crazy world, a girl who would see it from the outside and be like, "Holy crap!" It’s an insane environment, so there’s lots of fodder for adventure, humor and drama, especially from the point of view of a small town girl who’s not yet jaded.

In New York, Violet meets her type-A-nutcase agent and a vicious modeling competitor, Veronica Trask. She has the support of her often-stoned (but wise) Aunt Judy.

There are plenty of adventures with editors, photographers, a playboy club promoter, and of course, the sweet members of her family and two best friends from Carolina, who are never far from her mind.

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

Melissa: I’ve finished book 2, VIOLET BY DESIGN, and I’m almost done with book 3, VIOLET IN PRIVATE. I have another idea that’s in a nascent stage… I have to let the VIOLET stuff calm down a little before I start on another book, so I think I might take a slight break after turning in book 3 and just focus on magazine work. But we’ll see.

VIOLET BY DESIGN comes out in March 2008.

Thank you again for chatting with us, Melissa. I wish you the best with your VIOLET series! Would you like to close with a writing tip?

Melissa: My advice is to never focus on making it "good" when you're writing a first draft. Just focus on bringing the words and story into existence. The fine-tuning can come later... if you put too much pressure on yourself in the beginning, that first chapter may never come!

And one other idea: One thing I did that helped was that before I started writing, I interviewed my characters about their likes, dislikes, things that made them happy, things that pissed them off, etc. Coming from a non-fiction background, I wasn’t initially sure what my characters would say unless I interviewed them. Does that sound weird? Probably. Oh well. It totally worked.

Melissa Walker is a writer who has worked as ELLEgirl Features Editor and Seventeen Prom Editor. All in the name of journalism, she has spent 24 hours with male models and attended an elite finishing school for girls in New Zealand, among other hardships.

Melissa grew up in Chapel Hill, NC, and has a BA in English from Vassar College. She really believes in the motto "write what you know." Well, except for the whole supermodel thing. Swear! Visit Melissa's website,

Friday, September 21, 2007

Friday Fresh!

We are continuing our occasional Friday series of random questions of things we really want to know about you.

Tell us about your favorite pair of shoes--and why. (You’ll be surprised what it will reveal about you.)

What shoes do I love?

My low-heeled black sandals. At this point, they’re starting to show wear and tear in places, but I am ignoring it, and planning to wearing them forever.

Why do I love them?

They are comfortable, of course. And they are my “anything” shoes. They work with most any outfit, from a bathing suit to shorts to jeans to out-to-dinner wear.

What does this say about me?

Uh...I value flexibility? (Actually, I do!)

Okay, who is next?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A Nice Girl Strikes Back

Are you the nice girl? And sometimes wonder why the heck you’re being so nice when everyone else doesn’t appreciate it or even return the favor?

This is how Emily Abbott feels in Jenny O’Connell’s The Book of Luke.

Emily is a senior in high school--she’s got a great boyfriend, the shot at being valedictorian, and she’s a nice girl.

But when she finds out she has to move to her old hometown in midyear, and her boyfriend dumps her on moving day, and suddenly her dad, who is behind the family move in the first place, gets to stay behind, Emily discovers being so nice may not be all it’s cracked up to be.

When she hooks up with her former friends, they have their share of guy problems too. Together they devise a guide that teaches guys just how to be nice to a girl. And the girls have the perfect guy to teach...

O’Connell captures readers with her memorable characters, unique high school drama, and a love story to make you melt.

Definitely keep your eye out for The Book of Luke. This is one story you don't want to miss!

(Read Jenny's YA Fresh interview here!)

Monday, September 17, 2007

And the winner of JINX is Nate! :) Thank you to each of you who commented! Please email me, Nate, with your mailing address!

Are you prepared for the new TV season??

I don't know about everyone else, but I’ve already got a schedule noted down of dates I don’t want to miss. Haha!

Heroes is returning on 9|24.
NCIS on 9|25
Ghost Whisperer on 9|28.

And there are, of course, new shows I’m eager to see:

Gossip Girl on 9|19
Bionic Woman on 9|26
Moonlight on 9|28

Yes, my week will be filled! *rubbing hands together*

Any shows you’re eager to return to or new ones you’d like to check out?

Friday, September 14, 2007


Jinx is the nickname of Jean, a girl who totally has had bad luck follow her most of her life. And now because of a stalker, she’s moving to NYC with her aunt, and family.

The only problem is, her cousin Tory is not thrilled to have Jean around. Not when the guy she likes starts hanging with Jean, and Jean is so painfully innocent in Tory’s eyes.

The fun starts when both girls have secrets of their own stemming from a family myth. But which secret is real and which is false?

You’ll have to read the book to find out…

Jinx is fun and entertaining, with a refreshingly sweet romance!

If you’re a Meg Cabot fan, you’re in luck! I’m giving away a hardback copy of Jinx to one lucky visitor over the weekend. Leave a comment and check back on Monday for the winner.

Good luck and Happy Reading! :)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Bye-Bye Mr. Wrong Diet

As many of you know, the backstory to Top Ten Uses for an Unworn Prom Dress is that 16 year-old Nicolette got “dumped” shortly before the prom and is therefore unable to wear her perfectly magical prom dress. The book starts that fall when her mother jokingly proposes the idea for the Top Ten list.

In my single years, my friends and I went through our own romantic disappointments, and while talking and laughing together about them was indeed therapeutic, at one point, I developed the harder-edged "Bye-Bye Mr. Wrong Diet" to put us back on the right path.

Here it is for all who need it (or are simply curious):

--Replace junk food with all healthy choices.

--Step up your exercise plan.

That’s it! And here’s why it works:

--It gives you something to think about. (Besides him.)

--It feels empowering because your health is something you can totally control. (As opposed to him.)

--After a few days, your clothes fit a bit better, your complexion is a little clearer. (Blowing raspberries at him.)

--Finally, the toning up and the loss of a few pounds makes you feel better and therefore, come off confident and attractive. (TOO confident and attractive for him.)

And now you’re walking with a new bounce in your step and setting your sights on someone else. Who needed him, anyway?

As simple as it sounds, it's a good game that can work.

Has anyone else tried a form of this, or have other ideas on how to “move on” from Mr. Wrong?

Monday, September 10, 2007

What's Fresh with Bev Katz Rosenbaum's Beyond Cool

Apparently being frozen for ten years hasn't made me any cooler...

The next in the hot series about a girl whose life is really on the rocks.

Floe Ryan was frozen at sixteen because of a rare disease. Now she's been thawed back to her normal self-but everything else has changed: her little sister's older than her, her teachers are holograms, and she's learning to drive a hovercar. Plus, with her boyfriend acting distant and having to deal with all the cliques, high school is becoming an even colder place. She's also learned that those who were frozen are susceptible to illnesses, and the one doctor who can cure them has gone AWOL. Floe must find him. But she's learning that someone might be hunting for her too-and she could be iced for good this time.

Hello, Bev, great to have you here again! Please tell us about your latest novel Beyond Cool.

Bev: Beyond Cool is a Berkley Jam book that came out on August 7th--woohoo! It's the sequel to I Was a Teenage Popsicle, but can also be read as a standalone. It's as fun and action-packed as Popsicle! This time around, cryonically preserved and recently 'thawed' teen heroine Floe Ryan is in a race with the anti-cryonicists to find the one AWOL doctor who can cure the frozen zombies' immune system deficiencies--all while trying to hang onto her hot boyfriend and learn how to drive a hovercar!

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

Bev: Well, she died, was frozen, and then brought back to life ten years later, which makes her pretty unique! But seriously, Floe's the ultimate outcast. She's come back to a whole new world. Talk about feeling out of it! (So while she's unique, she's also just like every other teen in the world... Who among us didn't feel like a freak as a teen?)

Yeah, I had plenty of those moments. haha! How did the idea for this novel come about?

Bev: A few years back, my hubby was following the Ted Williams cryonics brouhaha, and he casually mentioned that a cryonically preserved teen would be a great YA protagonist. I agreed!

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

Bev: I hope they realize that every teen girl feels like a freak at one time or another--frozen or not!

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

Bev: Wow, that's a tough one. There are so many great ones. I love Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak, and any of Meg Cabot's books. And, of course, Kelly Parra's Graffiti Girl--no was great!

Thanks, Bev! You're so sweet! Best of luck with Beyond Cool!

Bev Katz Rosenbaum is a former fiction editor who turned to YA writing when she fell in love with the books her kids were reading. She lives in Toronto with her family. Bev also runs a popular manuscript critique service. Check out her website at

Friday, September 07, 2007

Friday Fresh!

We are continuing our occasional Friday series of random questions of things we really want to know about you. Here’s today’s question: Which “vintage” TV show would you like to see brought back (and why)?

My answer is going to reach back 13 years, so apologies to those of you who weren’t watching much TV then. But there was a show called “Christy” which starred Kellie Martin that I found warm and fuzzy (in a good way).

I first tuned into it because it was based one of my favorite novels from my teen years (Christy by Catherine Marshall) but soon found that the individual episodes had lives of their own, driven home by some strong acting performances.

The action centered around 19 year-old Christy who had come to this Appalachian town (that took two hours of walking in the woods to reach) in the early 20th century to teach school, and how she ends up learning as much from the “simple folks” as the kids do from her.

Although the show only lasted one season, certain episodes were sold as tie-in novels with Kellie Martin’s picture on the front. I admit that I bought and read every one of them.

You can also buy the whole series on DVD now.

So, yeah, if I could bring back and old show with new episodes, it would be the family, feel-good “Christy”.

Who else wants to play?

Thursday, September 06, 2007

You've Never Known Vampyres Like These

In Marked: A House of Night novel by P.C. & Kristin Cast, sixteen-year-old Zoey Redbird has just been marked as a vampyre.

Her already unhappy life becomes worst…or so it seems...when she must leave the home of her mother and annoying stepfather, her best friend from school, and her almost ex-boyfriend in order to go through the “change” from human to vampyre--if she survives it--in the mysterious House of Night.

Talk about stress!

The only problem is, Zoey doesn’t fit in there, either. As a new “fledgling” vampyre she already has powers beyond her dreams, as well as an uncomfortable and embarrassing bloodlust. She feels so alone and unsure who to trust.

The reader is taken into the House of Night with Zoey and is introduced to an array of fun characters and the inner workings of a distinguished school, while Zoey goes through a journey of self-discovery and learns to make new friends.

Marked is a unique tale of vampyres in training and the goddesses they honor. The Cast team know how to spin one cool vampyre story with a fresh voice!

(Check out the interview with P.C & Kristin Cast here!)

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

What's Fresh with Sara Hantz's The Second Virginity of Suzy Green

Suzy Green used to be one of the coolest nonconformist "almost—Goth" party girls in Australia. That was before her older sister Rosie died and her family moved to a new town. Not even her best friend would recognize her now. Gone are the Doc Martens and the attitude. All she wants is to be like Rosie—perfect. The new Suzy Green makes straight As, hangs with the in—crowd at her new school, and dates the hottest guy around. And since all her new friends belong to a virginity club, she joins, too. So what if she's not technically qualified? Nobody in town knows . . . until Ryan, Suzy's ex, turns up.

As the past and present collide, Suzy struggles to find her own place in a world without her sister.

Hello, Sara, good to have you here to chat! Could you please tell us a little about your writing background and how you made your first sale?

Sara: I spent many years in academia, so before writing fiction I wrote text books, academic papers and reports. About four years ago I decided to try writing fiction, and I realized this was what I wanted to do full time. I wish I’d done it sooner!

I started off writing chick-lit and hen-lit, then in November 2005 I decided to try a teen-lit. After writing 3 chapters I did what you’re not meant to do and started to send it to agents, to test the water. Ooops!!! That’ll teach me. The story seemed to hit the right nerve because straight away five agents asked for the full manuscript and six for partials. I sent the partials and said to those requesting the full that it still needed some tweaking (aka writing) and I’d send when ready. In only a few days one of the agents had read the partial and asked for the full.

I managed to finish the full by January and send to all those who requested it….. most of them asked for it by email which was an added bonus….. 10 days later the agent I mentioned above phoned and offered representation. I said yes pretty much straight away. By February I’d done some revisions for my agent and she sent it out to lots of publishers. Andrew, the editor from Flux, phoned asking if I’d be prepared to do some revisions. I said yes (obviously!!!) and he sent me a very detailed letter. I did them. He was happy and then asked me to do some more, saying if they were ok he’d take it to the Acquisitions Committee. He took it to the Committee and they offered me a contract. The title changed to The Second Virginity of Suzy Green.

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 follow the ‘little and often’ principle. I always have my current manuscript open on the PC and dip in and out of it all day long. I have a very short attention span and find myself getting distracted by other things, yet some how I manage to produce the work – I suspect there are fairies at the bottom of the garden who come out at night and do some for me.

Now why does that short attention trait sound familar to me?? *wink* Please tell us about your novel, The Second Virginity of Suzy Green, and what we can expect from your characters.

Sara: The Second Virginity of Suzy Green, released by Flux on September 1st 2007, is about a troubled teen who moves to a different town to make a fresh start. She even joins the virginity club, despite not technically qualifying. But that’s ok, because nobody in town knows the truth… until her ex shows up.

Can't wait to read it, Sara! What's up next? Do you have another project in the works? If so, please tell us about it.

Sara: My agent is currently selling my book about a kick boxing champion who acts as a stunt girl for a rebellious teen movie star.

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

Sara: Writers get rejected all the time, so when you receive one hang on in there. Very often rejections don’t mean you have no talent, just that your manuscript isn’t right for them at that particular time. I believe there’s an element of luck involved in all sales. Take The Second Virginity of Suzy Green as an example. It landed on the editor’s desk just as he was thinking about broadening their offering to include books set overseas. Right place, right time!

Sara Hantz started writing when she ran out of degrees to study and decided it was much more fun to make things up than to comment on dry academics. Born in England, she moved to New Zealand a few years ago. The Second Virginity of Suzy Green is Sara's first novel. Visit her website,