Thursday, February 28, 2008

What's Fresh with Jennifer Lynn Barnes's The Squad Series

From the author of GOLDEN and TATTOO comes a new series about high school cheerleaders who are more than what they seem, and an outsider who must become one of them- to save the world. Part Charlie’s Angels, part Bring It On, THE SQUAD focuses on a group of government operatives who double as high school cheerleaders. Already optioned for television by The N, The Squad takes you behind the perfect smiles and too-short skirts to prove that there’s nothing more dangerous than underestimating a cheerleader… especially if she’s on The Squad.

Hello Jennifer! It's awesome to have you back on YA Fresh to chat about your new Squad series! Please tell us about your latest novels: The Squad: Perfect Cover and The Squad: Killer Spirit.

Jennifer: I have both books out on the same day (February 12th!), an experience that I think is probably a little bit like having twins. The books are published by an imprint of Random House, and they're the first two books in a series that follows the adventures of a loner with an "attitude problem" who finds herself suddenly and inexplicably being recruited as a varsity cheerleader. She soon discovers that the squad is a cover for a group of teen secret agents who have the perfect cover, because, as the squad captain says, "who's going to suspect the cheerleaders?"

So fun! Could you share a bit about the main character of the books and what makes her unique?

Jennifer: Toby is very different from any other character I've written. In some ways, she has a stronger sense of self than any of my other narrators- she knows who she is, and she isn't about to apologize for it, and she has no desire whatsoever to be anyone else. At the same time, though, she can be less self-aware than a lot of characters- she knows she's tough, but she has a blind spot when it comes to the ways in which she's a softie.

How did the idea for this series come about?

Jennifer: I have a mental list of books that I'd like to write some day. A couple of years ago, two entries on that list were "book about secret agents" and "book set against the backdrop of competitive cheerleading." Then one night, out of the blue, I realized that I could combine those into one book about cheerleading secret agents, and that's how the idea for THE SQUAD was born.

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

Jennifer: First and foremost, I hope they have a really, really good time reading it. I'd be disappointed if I didn't make them laugh out loud at least a few times, and I'd hope that they go away with the same kind of affection for the other girls on the Squad that Toby develops. Beyond that, though, I do hope that people walk away with the idea that a person can be more than one thing- you can be a cheerleader AND technological wiz, or a fashion guru AND love studying languages. In the world of The Squad, everyone is more than they appear to be, and I hope people walk away from the books and look at the world expecting that there's more to their peers than what they see on the surface.

Wonderful, Jennifer! Best of luck with The Squad Series and thanks for sharing. Would you like to close with a novel you highly recommend and why?

Jennifer: I just finished "Why I Let My Hair Grow Out" by Maryrose Wood, and it was fabulous. I'm a big fan of humor, and it made me laugh out loud several times. Plus, how could you not like a book with a snarky main character, a faery romance, guys with accents, and a bike tour through Ireland?

Jennifer Lynn Barnes is a Fulbright Scholar and a recent graduate of both Yale University and Cambridge University. A former competitive cheerleader, she was named an All-American Cheerleader by the National Cheerleaders Association in 1997. She can neither confirm nor deny any experience she may or may not have had as a secret agent, but she can tell you that in addition to the Squad series, she’s the author of three other teen novels: Golden, Tattoo, and Platinum. Jennifer wrote her first book when she was still a teenager and she is currently hard at work on her next. Visit her online at

Monday, February 25, 2008

Favorite Oscar Moment?

Most everyone watched The Academy Awards last night, right? Even if you had your algebra book, your sewing or your book revisions in your lap?

My favorite moment came in Jon Stewart’s opener about the Vanity Fair party, and how it had been canceled in honor of the writer’s strike. He joked that better yet, have it and invite writers. And then he added something like, “Don’t worry, they won’t mingle.” That gave me a LOL. For not only do I agree that many writers are introverts, but the screenwriters I’ve met totally fit that bill.

However, I’d like to add--for the record--that Vanity Fair can invite ME next year, and I’ll break the stereotype. (Just contact me here through YA FRESH, people. I’ve already got a perfectly pink unworn prom dress, ready to wear...haha.) you have a favorite moment from last night’s telecast?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

California Dreamin’

Those who know me, know I dream big. Of lofty goals and why-not-me’s? But I also dream, well, small. In particular, a couple summers ago, while I was waiting for my editor to let me know what she thought of the first draft of HOW TO HOOK A HOTTIE, I woke up in a cold sweat that she had said we had to change every word, including the title, my name, and its target audience! I mean, she thought it that bad.

In truth, she ended up really liking it, and we did considerably less revising on it than we did on TOP TEN USES FOR AN UNWORN PROM DRESS, which just goes to show that sometimes dreams are just...well, dreams.

Last night, while I was still awake, I had one of my “lofty” type dreams come true. When the Spring 2008 Children’s Book Sense Picks were posted on the American Booksellers Association website:


(For those who don’t know, this list represents “recommended” new reads to their members--the owners and managers of independent bookstores--and are nominated by them as well). Nestled inside the seven YA picks was this:

HOW TO HOOK A HOTTIE: A Novel, by Tina Ferraro (Delacorte Books for Young Readers, $8.99, 9780385734387 / 0385734387) "Ferraro captures the high school voice perfectly with this enjoyable romp about a smart young girl's desire to make money, only to come up with a slightly harebrained plan that is not what she bargained for. A good, fun read for girls 14 and older." --Maureen Palacios, Once Upon a Time, Montrose, CA

Definitely a surreal experience to discover that my little book about hotties and a six point plan has gone on to literary recognition and recommendation! But hey, part of being a big dreamer is knowing when to shut up and just say thanks. So thanks to my editor for her support and input, to Kelly for her good ideas and holding my hand when I got insecure, and to everyone who reads it and thinks it’s not half-bad!

And keep dreaming, everyone...

Friday, February 15, 2008

What's Fresh with Paula Chase Hyman's Don't Get It Twisted

Desperate times called for sneaky measures.

Mina Mooney's parents are killing her social life. It's time to fight back.

Mina's fantasy has finally come true. Craig Simpson-the hottest guy at Del Rio Bay High-has just invited her to the biggest bash of the year. There's just one hitch: her parents aren't down with letting Mina date a boy they know nothing about. Now she has thirteen days to give her parents a crash course in Craig, or else figure out how to get her fine self to the soiree-without alerting mom and pops. Whatever she decides, she's going to need reinforcements.

Unfortunately, her peeps are caught up in their own twists and turns. Jacinta's boyfriend has been getting on her nerves about spending so much time in `burbville, while rich and sheltered Kelly just might kick it with Angel, a cute, slick-talking hustler from the projects. And ever since JZ made varsity basketball, his mind has been glued to the game instead of schoolwork, which means his dad might make him drop all sports. As for Mina, if she doesn't succeed in enlisting the help of her friends-and fast-her social life just might hit skid row.

A fast-paced novel about loyalty, love, and friendship, Don't Get It Twisted shows what it takes to have a blast while breaking all the rules.

Hello Paula, thanks for joining us again to chat about the second book in your Del Rio Bay Clique series! Please tell us about your latest novel.

Paula: Don’t Get It Twisted (Dafina for Young Readers, December 2007) is the second in my Del Rio Bay Clique series. It gives readers a peek into the clique's foray into dating. And I dip my toe into the issue of student athletics and cheating. We find the MC, Mina, scheming to go on a date with her crush, Craig, to a coveted party thrown by the school's football team. She draws her friends into the plans only to have a monkey wrench thrown into her romantic endeavors by a newcomer. That same newcomer has her friend JZ, sweating over his spot on the Varsity basketball team. In the end, both JZ and Mina find themselves on the 'by any means necessary' road to trouble.

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

Paula: Although there are six friends whose stories are told within my books, Mina Mooney is definitely the main character. Mina’s a cock-eyed optimist, a true teen idealist who often finds herself in situations where realism is hit home over and over. Yet, every book she emerges unscathed, still optimistic. It’s what I love about her. It’s not that she’s remaining “innocent” and oblivious. Quite the opposite. The lessons she learns help her grow, yet she truly believes that there’s no reason a bad situation can’t be turned around in her favor.

How did the idea for this novel come about?

Paula: The characters were still speaking to me once I finished So Not The Drama in 2003, so I kept on writing. Don’t Get It Twisted was the result. However, once the book was acquired by Kensington Books/Dafina for Young Readers I did heavy re-writes because the characters had changed from the original story. Still, the essence of the story is the same.

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

Paula: I write books for readers to escape into. I want readers to get lost in Del Rio Bay and feel as if they’ve been walking beside my characters. The situations my characters face are real, yet turned up a notch for the fun of drama. So I never set out with the thought of having the reader gain anything other than satisfaction that they’ve read a good story.

Great, Paula! Thanks for sharing. Best of luck with Don't Get It Twisted. Would you like to close with a novel you highly recommend and why?

Paula: Recently, I read Thirteen Reasons Why, By Jay Asher. I recommend it because it’s the sort of book that will evoke emotion and discussion. For me, it evoked frustration with the MC. But I’ve been a part of several online threads about it and the discussions have been so enlightening. It’s so powerful when a book can springboard discussion – especially about a topic as sensitive as teen suicide.

Author, Paula Chase has written for Girls Life, Sweet 16 and Baltimore Magazine, among others. In addition to her background in corporate communications and public relations, she founded the Committed Black Women, a youth mentoring program for 14-17 year old girls. Her Del Rio Bay Clique series helped launch Kensington Books YA line and joins a burgeoning number of YA books targeted to multi-culti suburbanite teens. Chase calls her brand of teen literature, Hip Lit, a nod to the diversity spawned by the MTV-watching, 106 & Park-ing, pop culture hungry hip hop generation. The author lives in Maryland with her husband and two daughters. Learn more about the series and author at

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy V-Day Friends!!

You know, it's never been about having someone be my Valentine on Valentine's Day, and I guess that's a little silly. But what I enjoy about V-day are the hearts, the red and the pink!

So here's my splash of V-day to share with YA Fresh visitors today!

Flash Comments at

Monday, February 11, 2008

What's Fresh with Meg Cabot's Princess Mia!

A princess on her own . . .

Mia has been invited to speak at a gala for Domina Rei, an elite society of powerful businesswomen. But what could she possibly have to say? Now that Michael has broken things off, Mia can barely get out of bed, and her parents are making her see a therapist. School, where Lilly still refuses to speak to her and Lana suddenly wants to be bff, is a total nightmare. Even J.P.'s efforts to cheer Mia up (he's being really sweet!) aren't helping. What's a royal to do?

Just when things couldn't get worse, Mia uncovers an old family secret, a long-forgotten diary of a teenage princess of Genovia. It could be just the thing to help Mia write her speech—but it might also change the fate of the Renaldos forever.

Hello Meg, thank you for agreeing to chat with us at YA Fresh!

Meg: Thanks for having me!

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.

Meg: Well, I usually open my laptop until around 9:30 or 10AM...although most of the first part of the morning is spent answering emails! I carry on until lunch, which I have with my husband downstairs (I write in my bedroom, in bed, usually). And then I go back to bed and keep writing or do publicity stuff until 5 or 6 o'clock, when I quit to see what's for dinner (my husband's a chef. Lucky me!!!).

That is lucky! Please tell us about your latest young adult title, THE PRINCESS DIARIES, Vol. IX: PRINCESS MIA, and what we can expect from your characters.

Meg: Well, in Princess Diaries IX, Mia is coping with a painful break up, betrayal by her best friend...and the discovery of a 400 year old document that may change the fate of her beloved country of Genovia forever!

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

Meg: Right now my first middle grade book (for readers 8 and up) is in stores! I wrote "ALLIE FINKLE'S RULE FOR GIRLS; Moving Day" especially for readers who've always wanted to read my books for tween and teen readers but were always told they were too young. And in May, teen readers can look for AIRHEAD, the first book in a new romantic thriller series I'm writing, and in June, the last book in a trilogy for adult readers comes out, QUEEN OF BABBLE GETS HITCHED!

A very cool line-up, Meg! Thank you again for taking the time share with us. I wish you the best with all your books. Would you like to close with a writing tip?

Meg: Sure! If you want to be a writer, it helps if you...create a character who WANTS something. And I don't just mean a boyfriend. Give your character something to strive for, a goal beyond her romantic interest. This will allow your readers to root for her.

Meg Cabot is the bestselling author of over fifty books for tweens, teens, and adults. She lives in Key West with her husband and two cats. Visit her at

Friday, February 08, 2008

Friday Fresh: What's Your Ringtone?

I was reading a website about my favorite TV show, LOST, the other day, when I spotted an ad asking if I wanted to download the LOST theme as my cell phone ringtone.

Okay...those of you who watch LOST. Can you hum the theme song for me? Uh...isn't that wah/wah/wah/door slam noise? Not to be rude or anything, but how am I supposed to hear and recognize that as the ringing of my phone? Especially in a crowd, or when my cell phone ring is muffled inside my purse? I did a little research and found out there's two versions of the LOST ringtone--the wah/wah/wah/slam noise and then the end credits music. And as much as I want to be the ultimate LOST groupie, I just don't see either working for me.

Anyway, it got me thinking about ringtones and how they can tell a lot about people. I, for instance, have a 1940's swing song and this is why: my parents were swing band musicians, it's loud, and no one else in my life has it, so I know it's my phone ringing.

One of my friends changes her ringtone to fit the season. Another goes with her favorite songs of the moment. Some people go with the default ring just because it's easier.

So now it's your turn: share with us what your ringtone is and why?

And have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

What's Fresh with Micol Ostow! (Actually, there is a lot of fresh going on!)

Hi Micol, thanks so much for joining us! Could you please tell us a little about your writing background and how you made your first sale?

Micol: Sure! I started out working as an editor, first at Simon & Schuster, and later, at Penguin, working mostly on commercial teen and tween fiction. It was at S&S that I rediscovered my LOVE for YA, though at the time, I no designs on being a writer. Luckily I had some fantastic bosses and mentors who recognized my passion for writing and encouraged me. When I left S&S, I was immediately hired to write a work for hire for them for a media tie-in program (remember the show AMERICAN DREAMS?). That was a crash course in hitting a deadline, and from there I was off! I basically spent the next three years editing by day and writing by night, alternating between ghostwriting for various series and writing my own original material.

My real big break was the chance to write a romantic comedy for the Simon Pulse line, which became 30 GUYS IN 30 DAYS. You may have seen the ro coms in the bookstore--they get great placement and are really popular. It was a fabulous opportunity for me, since I had the security of the line's success, but the freedom to write a standalone story. To this day I get lots of fan mail about that book and have written two more for the line (GETTIN' LUCKY, CRUSH DU JOUR).

Wow, Micol, great! I'm a big fan of S&S *grin* And yes, I love the Simon Pulse Romantic Comedies. 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.

Micol: I'm still working on it!

Honestly, there isn't a whole lot of "typical" in my schedule, especially since I'm still in school (Vermont College, MFA in writing for Children and Young Adults). My program is low-residency, but about once a month I have a week where I hunker down and do nothing but schoolwork.

Tuesday nights I teach through media bistro (, so Mondays and Tuesdays are basically spent editing my student's work and polishing up my lectures. Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays are my days for my own writing or schoolwork. Generally speaking, I'm up early-ish and off to the gym, then I spend an hour or so on emails and other boring administrative stuff. On a good day, I get in about four hours or so of writing or revising. Then with any luck there's time to take the dog to the park and still cook something for dinner (though I'd be lying if I didn't admit to having the local sushi place on speed dial!)

That is an incredible schedule! Please tell us about your latest novel and what we can expect from your characters.

My current work in progress is a hybrid graphic novel tentatively titled I'M WITH THE TRIBE: A GUY, A GUITAR, AND A DATE WITH (NON-DENOMINATIONAL) DESTINY (July '09). It's the story of a yeshiva (Jewish day-school) boy who decides to start up a garage band to amp up his "cool quotient," only to discover in the process that he's actually a budding artist. It's also about religious and moral identity, independence, and, of course, the angst of unrequited crushing. Oh, and the quintessential divide between pop and indie music.

My brother is the illustrator and we have had a blast working together. His drawings are FAB. And Flux, our publisher, always does such a great job with buzz--and such brilliant editing, so this project has us really excited!

I've become a big fan of graphic novels, so looking forward to it! What's up next? Do you have another project in the works? If so, please tell us about it.

Micol: My next book out is called POPULAR VOTE. It's coming from Scholastic Point in November '08 (natch), to tie in loosely with the election. It's the story of an overachieving girl who becomes fed up with both her father, the Mayor, and her boyfriend, the perpetual class president. Ultimately she decides to run *against* her (ex)boyfriend for student government, and to challenge her father's platform. Obviously wackiness ensues. It should be some fun and timely chick lit. Keep an eye out!

Will do, Micol! Thanks for a great interview, and I wish you the best with everything--your novels and school. Would you like to close with a writing tip?

Micol: Hmm...Being in school, and in New York City and surrounded by brilliant writers, I feel very tipped-out. I think what's been most helpful to me in the last year has been READING so much of what's out there--as an editor, I didn't have the time, but it's required for my MFA program. I'm constantly inspired and impressed by other writing, and I honestly believe that reading other people's material is the best way to keep your own creative juices flowing.

Micol Ostow is the author of dozens of books for children, tweens, and teens. She has written and/or ghostwritten several media tie-in and series novels for Penguin, Scholastic, and Simon & Schuster.

Her first hardcover novel, EMILY GOLDBERG LEARNS TO SALSA, was released by Penguin Razorbill in November 2006, and was named a New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age.

Currently, Micol is pursuing an MFA in writing for children and young adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts. She lives a caffeine-addled existence in New York City.

She also has a French Bulldog named Bridget Jones who is her biggest fan.

Visit Micol (and Miss Jones) at:

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Little surprises can make you smile...Teen Mag

Yesterday was like any other Monday, so I thought. Until I saw a quick congrats post on the MTV blog by Jennifer Echols regarding Teen magazine. In "The Last Word" Column V.I.T (Very Important Teens) were asked to list books they couldn't put down--minus Harry Potter and Gossip Girl!

I was shocked and very happily surprised to read that Graffiti Girl, along with my friend, Jenny O'Connell's Plan B had made the list. I took off to the store and got my Winter 2008 copy to see with my own eyes.

Yep, Graffiti Girl is listed by Hannah in CA. (Hannah, big hugs!)

Teen read it!There are two really great aspects that just thrill me to pieces about this column. This is my first mention of Graffiti Girl in a print magazine. And second, this was chosen by a teen reader who took the time to name my book because she thought GG was worthy of a mention.

Here's the full list. It's a honor to be listed with such awesome talent!

I Am David by Anne Holm
Sula by Toni Morrison
Graffiti Girl by Kelly Parra
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
Evil Genius by Catherine Jinks
TTFN by Lauren Myracle
Plan B by Jenny O'Connell
Gingerbread by Rachel Cohn
Keeping the Moon by Sarah Dessen
My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult
Native Son by Richard Wright
Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume

Friday, February 01, 2008

The Real Skinny on the Real Junk

Want to know what kinda junk food high school guys really want to eat? I have the inside report!

In the name of involving myself in new and interesting endeavors,
this winter I am running a snack shop for a high school team that
caters to about fifty kids (almost all guys). It’s great fun to drop by and chat with them about different things, including what they like and don't like in their snack food. (And yes, I talk about my books, too...)

Here are the winners and the losers from the snack shack shelves:

Chips sell. Especially anything with “Doritos” in the label.

Packages of cookies just sit there, so do the cereal type bars.

Moon Pies are a go.

Soda moves quickly--the darker, the more caffeinated, the better.

Bottled water is a slow but steady sale.

The big winner? Candy. Of which I initially made a mistake. I
was thinking chunky bars for big appetites. Nope, not so much. Acknowledging I needed help, I asked the guys, and got a resounding response which I quickly filled. So here are the top candy sellers:

Any surprises on this list? And anyone have any other good ideas for stocking the shelves in future weeks?