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!