Friday, November 28, 2008


When you live in a desert--like I do--you learn to appreciate rain. I mean, in a big way. Like taking walks in it, splashing in puddles, drinking from the sky. So I was on pins-and-needles when the weatherman called for rain in Los Angeles this week, waiting and waiting for the big event.

And planning accordingly. Because part of the fun of rain is pulling out the sweaters and jeans and sweatsuits and boots and umbrellas and jackets.

And deciding on which warm, hearty meal to make for dinner.

And which DVD’s and books you have on hand for the after-rain snuggle-in?

So tell us, am I the only one who gets all excited at the prospect of rain? Or have you had enough already this fall?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

What I'm looking forward to this Thursday...

I know not everyone celebrates Thanksgiving, but I must tell you what has me all excited...

There's the getting together with family and friends. Lots of hugs, lots of laughs. Lots of catching up with each other.

And you know what else there is a lot of that I'm looking forward to??


Yes, dishes and dishes of glorious food. Am I like a punk or what??

Not only is there turkey and yummy gravy and mashed potatoes but there is comfort food. Food from my childhood that always makes me feel, well, comfy! =D

My aunt has been making this brown gravy with tiny bits of turkey in it all my life. Yes. It's FABULOUS. Then there is this wonderful potato salad she makes. I've made potato salad before but it never comes out as good as hers. Its just sooo good. And because we are part Filipino, she never fails to have sticky rice.

And oh my gosh, there is this broccoli and rice casserole. I know, it doesn't sound appealing even to me, but the taste is wonderfully home.

So that's what I'm gearing up for on Thursday. Lots of visiting and lots of comfort food!!

Is there something you're looking forward to eating with your family or friends??

Let's prepare ourselves. Yum!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

A Copy of MacKenzie, Lost and Found...

is going to find a home with...


So, Sarahbear, please contact me at at your earliest convenience, so we can get it on its way to you.

Thanks to everyone who entered and we hope we see you back for our next contest!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Mackenzie, Lost and Found GIVEAWAY

Everyone please welcome Deborah Kerbel here to YA Fresh. Born in London, she grew up in Toronto, where she still lives today. When not running around after her husband and two little kids, she escapes to her home office to write.

Hello, Deborah! Could you please tell us about your first sale?

My first sale was huge! I was just starting out as a writer and my agent sold my (as yet un-written) series of four middle-grade novels to a European book-club publisher with plans to translate the series into three different languages. Exciting, huh? Well, as it turned out, not so much. By the time I finished writing the final book in the series, the publisher had begun to encounter financial difficulties and was shutting down their book clubs. In the end, only the first book in the series saw publication (in Germany). The other three books never saw the light of day. When I can clear some time in my schedule, I plan to revise the series (titled Kendra’s Chronicles) and try shopping it around again.

What's your writing routine like?

Routine? What routine? I’m the mother of a 6 year old son and a 3 year old daughter so all of my writing happens during tiny creative bursts that inevitably coincide with their naptime, cartoon time, bedtime, or school. Basically, I write any time of day when I get a few minutes of silence in the house. It’s a rather chaotic system, but it seems to work so far. Needless to say, the day my daughter gives up her afternoon nap is the day I might have to find a new career!

Please tell us about your latest novel.

With pleasure! Mackenzie, Lost and Found is my debut YA. I like to think of it as part modern-day Romeo and Juliet, part archaeological thriller. The story, set in Jerusalem, follows the adventures of 15 year-old Mackenzie Hill as she relocates to Israel with her father (an archaeology professor) for the school year. A forbidden romance ensues (don’t we all love those?) The book also touches lightly on some of the intricacies of the Arab-Israeli conflict. This subject matter was quite tricky to handle at times and the manuscript took more than a few drafts to get right. Hopefully my readers will let me know if I’ve succeeded.

I’m looking forward to reading it. What's up next for you?

My next manuscript is also YA and it’s a story I’m really excited about telling. The working title is Sticks and Stones and it’s about two girls who exist on the opposite ends of their school’s social ladder. Through a series of strange events, their lives come crashing together in a way neither could ever have imagined.

Sounds terrific! Would you like to close with a writing tip?

Absolutely! If you want to be a writer, keep reading, reading, reading! It’s the best way possible to zero-in on your personal style and hone your own distinct writer’s ‘voice’.

Thanks, Deborah! And I wanted to add that Deborah’s characters and stories are inspired by everyday people and events. If you ever meet her -- watch out, you might show up as a character in one of her books!

You can learn more about Deborah at her brand new Website.

And Deborah has been generous enough to offer up a copy to one lucky reader. So please, leave a comment to be entered. The contest will close on Sunday night, November 23rd at 6:00 PM PST, with the winner’s name posted thereafter. Good luck to you all!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Real Life Furby?

Last week we talked about those electronic furby toys that were all the rage about ten years ago, and got some great comments about reactions and personal experiences.

And as it turns out, our timing on that subject was spot-on because yesterday CNN ran a story called, “Scientists Discover Long-Lost Furby-Look-Alike." (Thanks to our Golfing Librarian Chuck for that heads-up). Here’s the picture:

Pretty amazing, huh? Check it out and tell us what you think!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

My First Class Visit...


You know, I wasn't all that nervous heading to my first class visit to talk about writing and my books with an 8th grade class. I admit, I didn't have any notes since Ms. Kelly said the chat would basically be about my books, how I got into writing, and likely an excerpt.

I'd already decided I'd chat mostly about Graffiti Girl since it was being used in the "BookUpNYC" program to help promote middle graders to read in NY and GG has been added to high school reading lists. I packed up Graffiti Girl and Invisible Touch, Graffiti Girl stickers, Invisible Touch bookmarks, and candy--a big fat variety bag of mini Willy Wonka candies.

I went into the office, got a visitor's pass and was pointed in the direction of the class. Unfortunately, the class numbers were on the inside of the closed doors. haha. I finally made my way to the correct class and that's when the nerves hit!

The class was scattered in groups and it was a fairly large class, around 30 students, with some college tutors helping out. And the students were bigger than I expected. *grin* I usually hang out with grade schoolers so it was like I could hear myself swallow with an audible "click". All eyes were on me as I maneuvered my way to Ms. Kelly, who gave me a warm welcome. I was a few minutes early so the class finished up their groups as Ms. Kelly told them she had a special guest visiting.

There weren't many interested expressions. These students wouldn't be won over easily, and gees, would they really care what I had to say?? BTW, what would I say??

A student had a copy of a newspaper article on me and introduced me. I went to the front of the class and told them who I was.

"Hi Everybody, my name's Kelly Parra and I write books for teens." I showed them my two books and propped them against the white board. I started with how I was from our town and based aspects of the town in the book as well as my high school in Graffiti Girl. How I'd been a teen artist--but not a graffiti artist. I talked about how I got into writing, and went into an GG excerpt.

I finally calmed down as I read the excerpt. Reading is calming. :)

I read the back copy of Invisible Touch and started answering questions from Ms. Kelly. I talked about how MTV actually publishes books, and how I love stories and loved movies as I kid. I'd ask the kids, "Anyone hear of MTV?" "Anybody love movies?" I finally got a lot of hands up and things started picking up.

Ms. Kelly asked if anybody else had a question. One boy raised his hand and asked, "How long did it take to write the book?" I threw him a candy while I answered the question and the class came alive.

About 15 hands went up just like that and the questions rolled in with candies being tossed in different directions. I had to thank my Economics teacher for that little tip (Yeah, that was also written into Graffiti Girl). Then there was a break, and more kids came up and asked more questions. Yes, to get a candy, but who cares. They were interacting and it was fun!

Soon the class came back from break and I answered more questions...Did I design the covers of the books, why did I start writing, how do you publish a book...?? It was a great interaction. Next, I gave the rest of the class a candy and a sticker.

I thanked the class for having me, and students came up to me and I signed a bunch of bookmarks. They were really great, and they'd all had candy, but still wanted a signed bookmark and to chat with me. We took a couple of pictures and I have to say it was great success for a first class visit. I really had a great time with the students.



Ms. Kelly asked if this was my first class visit and I said yes, and she seemed surprised because I really got the kids interacting. I think that's a big thing about getting kids exciting about learning and reading.

And maybe next time I won't be as nervous. :)

Friday, November 14, 2008

What's Fresh with Leslie Margolis's Boys Are Dogs

Middle-school boys act like wild animals.

That’s what Annabelle discovers on her first day in her brand-new life. Birchwood Middle School is totally different from her old all-girls elementary. In fact, lots of things in Annabelle’s life are totally different now that she’s back from summer camp. There’s mom’s new boyfriend, a new house, new friends—even a new puppy that likes to chew on Annabelle’s clothes. Well, at least the puppy comes with a leash and a training manual! If only she could say the same for the boys . . .

Featuring Annabelle’s hilarious take on friendship, boys, and her all-new life, this novel / survival guide perfectly captures the joy—and agony—of junior high school. And it might just teach you how to tame the wildest beast of all, the teenage boy.

Hello Leslie, thank you for sharing on YA Fresh! Could you please tell us a little about your writing background and how you made your first sale?

Leslie: Before I sold my first novel, I wrote freelance. I did a bit of magazine writing, and ghost wrote for a couple of popular mystery series. (I'm not allowed to reveal which ones.) I also wrote a bunch of movie novelizations, under a pen name. Eventually, I sold two young adult novels to Simon & Schuster.

FIX came out in October, 2006. It's about two teenage sisters, in Los Angeles, dealing with issues related to plastic surgery.

Price of Admission is about Jasmine Green, a seventeen-year-old, who writes a screenplay about her dysfunctional family, which accidentally gets sold to her movie-producer father. He's no idea that Jasmine wrote the screenplay, or that it's all about their life.

They sound great! 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.

Leslie: My typical schedule is extremely unglamorous. I work at a writer's space in Brooklyn. Most days, I write first thing in the morning, until I'm exhausted. Often, I spend afternoons or evenings editing whatever it is I wrote. And when I get stuck, I take my dog for a walk. (I walk her when I don't get stuck, as well.)

Please tell us about your latest novel Boys Are Dogs and what we can expect from your characters.

Leslie: BOYS ARE DOGS was published by Bloomsbury in September. It's about a sixth grader, named Annabelle Stevens, who uses puppy-training techniques to tame the troublesome boys in her life.

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

Leslie: Yes. I'm currently revising GIRLS ACTING CATTY, the second novel in the Annabelle Stevens series. In it, Annabelle has a hard time with some mean girls at school, and finds that her new problems are too complex for simple puppy-training techniques.

Thanks for sharing with us, Leslie! Would you like to close with a writing tip?

Leslie: Write what you love, not what you think will sell. And read as much as possible.

Leslie Margolis is the author of Fix, Price of Admission and Boys Are Dogs. She grew up in Los Angeles, California and now live in Brooklyn, New York. Visit her website,

Monday, November 10, 2008

Furbys: The Must-Have Holiday Toy of 1998!

Do you remember Furbys? Those slightly adorable/slightly creepy (personal opinion) electronic pets that were all the rage 10 years ago? That started out speaking “Furbish,” but the more English they “learned,” they more they “grew?”

Kids love them for a year or so--then dropped off the market. I understand a newer version was released in 2005, but did not take off the same way.

In The ABC’s of Kissing Boys (now available for pre-sale), main character Parker still has a battery-less Furby on her bedroom shelf. She’d wanted it more than anything back then, and worked tirelessly around the house to earn the money to buy it. Comparing that young passion to what she’s so sure she wants right now, she wonders if in the end, it won’t be the memory of the chase that is sweetest, too...

Does anyone else still have a Furby around the house? Or have a memory of one?

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Class Visits...

This is my second year as a published author and I have not participated in a school visit as of yet. Public speaking and oral interviews are a couple of those tough issues I've had to face as a published author for teens. Don't get me wrong, young readers are great to talk to you! It just took some time to realize that readers were actually interested in what I had to say that I had to get used to. haha.

Book signings are getting a little easier. Oral interviews still make me nervous. :)

Recently, I've been asked to visit a middle school class for the first time. I've asked the teacher to suggest a couple of topics that she would be interested in me speaking about.

Writing in general?
How I got into writing?
Graffiti Girl or Invisible Touch?

And I'll probably bring some candy.
I have to have something to break the ice, right?

Any suggestions for my class visit? I need all the help I can get! :)

Monday, November 03, 2008

R. L. Stine 'N Me

R.L. Stine is announcing a new line of books for young readers through Scholastic Books called "Goosebumps HorrorLand."

I don't know this because I follow his career closely, but because of an interview on National Public Radio.

And I don't know that because I listen to NPR with great regularity, but because a family member heard the program and called me, and told me to find the transcript on the Internet, because there was something in it that would really interest me. So I did. And immediately, I understood why. Here is a paragraph from that transcript:

Stine's writing process is a little different from most authors; he says he begins with the title and figures out the rest from there. If he can't think of a title for a story he has in mind, he says,"I just throw away the idea."

OMG--that's me! That's how I work!

As Kelly can vouch, for me, the title comes first. Then I try to create the story that the title "tells me." For instance, I came up with the title, The ABC's of Kissing Boys, while watching a local Christmas parade.

Later, I e-mailed her. She thought it would fly, and then I had to try to figure out WHY a girl needed to learn about kissing, what she had to gain, and just as importantly, what she had to lose. I went through many plot variations, characters and opening chapters until it finally felt "right." (That book sold and hits shelves on January 13th.)

Conversely, like Mr. Stine, I have had sudden scenarios strike me that I simply couldn't bring to life without a good title.

So yeah...huh...R. L. Stine and me!

I couldn't be more thrilled to be in the esteemed company of one of the Young Adult world's most prolific and successful authors. Now if only I had as many ideas and could write as fast...