Thursday, July 28, 2011

Some things

For those of you who didn't get the last post, there's a glaring grammatical error on the carpet. Zoe and I found it quite amusing.

Also, the deadline for the full manuscript critique contest has been extended to August 6! Go enter, all of you! It's a great opportunity to get the opinion of an experienced writer who also happens to be in your target demographic. Click here.

Today marks my last day at Scholastic. The timing was absolutely perfect (I'll be done with a brand new draft by tomorrow) and I'm really ready to work on a different project, but I'm still sad to leave! The other interns - Zoe, Marisa, and Emily - were awesome, as was my editor Jody who is just so much fun to be around. We had lots of laughter and ate large quantities of white life savers (my apologies to Lisa Sandell, who will return from maternity leave in a few months to find her candy supply greatly diminished). Along with giving me some excellent editorial notes, Jody wears converse every day with her work clothes (you gotta love people who can pull off converse with long skirts).

Anyways, I'm getting ready to enjoy my last days in NYC with one of my best friends, who flew out from Washington. I'll do a more informative post tomorrow.


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Scholastic Carpet Fail

Scholastic's mission statement written on the carpet:


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

First Page Critique - Max

Today's first page submission comes from Max. Thanks so much for the entry!


'Lily Watterson is dead, but she has a plan: she’s going to find Death and ask for her life back. However it’s a dangerous world Lily’s found herself in, where monstrous creatures feast off spirits and the ghosts of children are used as streetlamps. It’s going to take all of her courage to get the second chance she so desperately wants.’



Further down and further in

Lily Watterson died in her school-clothes. She had been dead for over three hours, though it felt like longer to her.


The air was crisp and the roads were icy. There was little to suggest the world would break.

“Lily, up. Up for school.”

“But I don’t like school...”

Mum yanked away the pillow and said: “You don’t want to be late, Lily-pad.”

This was true. In a perfect world Lily wouldn’t be late because she wouldn’t even go, for she would be too busy exploring the park, uncovering treasures hidden in the trees, in bushes, and buried under snow. When she brushed her teeth in the mornings, an adventurer stared back from behind the bathroom mirror (the thought never failed in making her feel warm).

When others looked at Lily, though, they saw a girl far too small for ten years old. Dirty blond hair, blue eyes, a quiet sort of face. Lily vanished under your nose. If you were silent enough people’s gazes slipped over you.

She was secret.

In the car Mum said: “Amy’s mother rung. Why didn’t you tell me about the party this Friday?”

“I, I forgot.”

Lily stared out of the window. She’d never been a good liar.

As the car pulled up beside school, Mum brushed her daughter’s face a last time. And there, creeping up Lily’s back like a spider, a chilling sensation as though something huge had just happened, something enormous; yet goodness knew what.

What I liked: I have to start out by saying that I love the synopsis. I think having the spirits of children as streetlamps is a fun and incredibly creepy idea (my critique partners know that I'm a sucker for creepy stories, especially MG). Very Neil Gaiman-esque. Your writing is strong in terms of grammar/sentence structure, and within a page you've managed to create a protagonist who I'm rooting for. This is of the utmost importance - your audience needs to connect with your main character, or else they won't continue reading. I also get a real sense of Lily's age (even without you mentioning the fact that she's ten years old). Again, capturing the "voice" of a protagonist in the 10-13 age range is very difficult, and although Lily and her mother only have a few lines of dialogue I can already imagine her as a fifth grader.

My overall critique: In my opinion (and I'm aware that others may disagree with me), I think you're starting the story in the wrong place. Although your first line is intriguing, you've still broken one of the top unofficial editor rules for first pages: never begin with your main character waking up in bed on a seemingly normal day. It's cliche, it's been done a million times, and it annoys the hell out of editors/agents no matter how good your writing is. Since we've already established that Lily is dead, the rest of this page reads as some sort of flashback. I would therefore suggest one of two options (keeping in mind that I don't know anything about the rest of the story):

a. Start your book off with Lily in the afterlife. Don't just give us two sentences, then switch back to when she was alive...I'm honestly more interested in what it's like now that she's dead. Save the flashback with her mom for later when your readers are invested in Lily's character.

b. If you want to keep the flashback, I'd suggest choosing a different scene....again, the whole waking up thing is a turnoff for editors.

As someone who has written a book set entirely in the afterlife, one issue you're going to run across in the novel as a whole is stakes. If your character can't die or get injured, what's at stake? Keep this in mind when you're writing, because it's difficult to keep up the tension if the reader isn't honestly worried about what will happen to Lily.

Little things:

~"The air was crisp and the roads were icy. There was little to suggest the world would break." In these two sentences you have three "to be" verbs: was, were, and was. You're a stronger writer than that. "To be" verbs are weak and passive, and if at all possible you should try to replace them with stronger words. For instance, "The air was crisp and ice slicked the roads" gets rid of one "to be" verb without changing the meaning of the sentence.

~'Mum yanked away the pillow and said: “You don’t want to be late, Lily-pad.”' Replace the colon with a comma.

~'In a perfect world Lily wouldn’t be late because she wouldn’t even go, for she would be too busy exploring the park, uncovering treasures hidden in the trees, in bushes, and buried under snow.' You used the word "would" three times in this sentence. It might be fine here, but just be conscientious of word repetition, as it disrupts the flow of your story.

~'The thought never failed in making her feel warm.' I'd change 'in making' to 'to make,' as it sounds less awkward.

~'Lily vanished under your nose. If you were silent enough people’s gazes slipped over you.' You utilize the second person in these two sentences, but you seem to refer to two different "you's." 'Lily vanished from under your nose' indicates someone in Lily's presence, while 'If you were silent enough people's gazes slipped over you' refers to Lily herself, but through a generalized statement. Linking these two sentences together is rather confusing. If you don't need to use second person (which you don't here), I'd suggest taking it out.

~'In the car Mum said: “Amy’s mother rung. Why didn’t you tell me about the party this Friday?”' Again, change the colon to a comma.

~“I, I forgot.” Change the comma to an ellipsis to convey stuttering.

~'As the car pulled up beside school, Mum brushed her daughter’s face a last time.' I'd change it to "one last time."

~'And there, creeping up Lily’s back like a spider, a chilling sensation as though something huge had just happened, something enormous...' You need a word between the comma after "spider" and the word "a". I'd suggest "came".

~'Yet goodness knew what' sounds awkward.

Overall I really enjoyed this sample, and once again, I love the premise! Can't wait to see where you take this. If anyone else wants to add to/dispute my critique, feel free to do so!

Monday, July 25, 2011

ARC Review: Icefall by Matthew Kirby

So on Friday I met my wonderful agent Edward for the first time in person. It was awesome, and he was awesome, but the weather fell somewhat short of my expectations....with a heat index of 114 degrees, it was the second hottest day in NYC history. And as someone who's living in a room with no air conditioning, it pretty much sucked.

Anyways, I'm hard at work revising two books (one for Scholastic, one for Edward) but I just had to do a quick review post on the ARC of Matt Kirby's ICEFALL I snagged from my editor at Scholastic. I read and loved THE CLOCKWORK THREE, Matt's first book, so I was super excited to dive into this one.

Name: Icefall
Author: Matthew Kirby
Publication date: October 1, 2011
Description: Matthew J. Kirby, author of THE CLOCKWORK THREE, deftly weaves a brand-new tale with chilling cleverness and subtle suspense that will leave readers racing breathlessly to the end.

Trapped in a hidden fortress tucked between towering mountains and a frozen sea, Solveig, along with her brother the crown prince, their older sister, and an army of restless warriors, anxiously awaits news of her father's victory at battle. But as winter stretches on, and the unending ice refuses to break, terrible acts of treachery soon make it clear that a traitor lurks in their midst. A malevolent air begins to seep through the fortress walls, and a smothering claustrophobia slowly turns these prisoners of winter against one another.

Those charged with protecting the king's children are all suspect, and the siblings must choose their allies wisely. But who can be trusted so far from their father's watchful eye? Can Solveig and her siblings survive the long winter months and expose the traitor before he succeeds in destroying a kingdom?

I'd like to start off this review by saying that ICEFALL is very, very different from THE CLOCKWORK THREE. They're both MG with crossover appeal into YA, but the similarities end there; whereas THE CLOCKWORK THREE takes place in a fictional city reminiscent of NYC in the 1800s, with elements of steampunk and fantasy, ICEFALL centers on a Norse/Viking-era princess trapped in a small fort during a long and grueling winter.

I'd say the thing I loved most about this book was Kirby's prose. It's gorgeous and lyrical without overwhelming the story, and I found myself rereading certain passages enviously (I mean it, people, this guy can write). His characters are well-drawn, and as a reader I became fully immersed in the world he created, from the rich Norse myths of gods and trolls to the personification of the glacier as a lurking, groaning beast. As someone who writes historical fantasy I really appreciate when authors do their research, and in this sense ICEFALL is nothing short of perfection. Kirby obviously learned a great deal about historical Norsemen before writing this book. While the historical facts and tidbits are accurate, he manages to insert them into the story without it seeming like a history lesson, which is of the utmost importance when writing for children.

ICEFALL is a very unique story; I've never read anything remotely like it, especially not in the MG genre. Although the book's pacing relies (for the most part) upon subtle intrigue and tension rather than full-on action, it never gets boring, and the building suspense around a possible traitor within the fort will keep younger readers hooked. Rich details and Norse myths bring the setting to life, and it hits a surprising number of emotional chords (the goat Hilda in particular...when you read the book you'll know what I mean). The only parts that bothered me were the young characters' ages (Solveig and her siblings)...although you get a vague sense of how old they are based on their interactions, I really wanted to know their exact ages so I could better picture them. Other than that, I found ICEFALL to be a wonderful and refreshing read.

Matthew Kirby's done it again. There are many authors who can write well in a single genre, but who struggle to produce work outside that limited sphere. Few can slide between genres with such ease while still maintaining high quality work. As someone who loves books in all genres, I truly can't wait to see what Kirby comes up with next!

Stars: 10/10

Friday, July 22, 2011

A poem

I really hate analyzing
poetry, because sometimes it just
seems like
the poet is
utilizing random line


just to piss me off.

And then my English teacher
"What does
that colon mean? That
one, right there?"


And I say,
"I don't know,
maybe it's just a
Did you ever think
of that?"

But no,
teacher thinks the
colon must have some

If I were a famous

I would put
random colons


so that: high school
English classes
trying to figure out: what
all those colons


The End.

Okay so I had an obscenely fun time writing that just now, and it's probably clear to most of you that I'm not a poet. Not even a little bit. I know lots of writers have journals where they jot down poetry, especially as teenagers, but I always hated reading/writing poetry with a fiery passion. I'm a novel gal through and through.

Anyway, after thinking for several minutes about how I could possibly make this a useful post (unlike my post from yesterday), I've decided to talk a little bit about symbolism in books. English class at school always annoyed the hell out of me, because our teachers would have us analyze books down to the smallest of details. I also hated the fact that there were "right" and "wrong" answers. I mean seriously, how can you possibly know what Shakespeare meant when he wrote about Ariel in The Tempest? The guy's been dead for hundreds of years.

As a writer, I don't purposely try to insert symbolism into my stories. A book should be about the characters and the plot. When writers try to convey a message rather than simply write a good story, it can often feel heavy-handed and preachy to the audience. I think symbolism and themes need to grow naturally, stemming from the main character's personal growth, rather than forcefully through the writer's own personal beliefs. Literary analysis in general gets on my nerves, because I think there's something intangible and beautiful about a good book or poem. Stripping it down and trying to rationalize each detail takes away from the overall meaning.

This is just one opinion, of course, so I'd love to hear you guys' thoughts. What do you think of literary analysis, symbolism, and themes?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Why I'm not posting today

So I planned on doing another first page critique today, but I have a feeling that anything I try to write will come out as senseless babble.

The other night, Taryn and I were texting about murdering people (murdering me, to be specific). She asked me if she should send her manuscript to a certain (female) editor. I responded with this:

"What's wrong with him?"

I don't remember sending this text. In fact, I was fully unconscious at the time it was sent, which means I pulled a pretty awesome stunt by texting in my sleep. Judging by the nature of the message, I'm pretty sure my subconscious is currently pissed off at the entire male species.

That, or my brain is just fried. The latter seems more likely. Which is why, dear readers, I'm not going to burden you with a post of incoherent fry-brained nonsense.

It's been a crazy week. I love you all. Especially Liesl.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

First Page -

Here's the first page of a dystopian novel submitted by R. Lewis. Thanks so much for the entry!


“I’ll kill him, I swear I will,” Pacem said threateningly while she had a man with glasses in a headlock. She was only sixteen, but she looked like a determined assassin.

A woman with a bun pointed the gun at Pacem. “Let him go now,” she snarled. “He gave me this baby in the month of December. The coldest winter I ever had to sleep in,” Pacem said with anguish before she yanked the man’s hair, tugging his head back. “You liar,” the woman said harshly while she kept her finger on the trigger. Pacem walked backwards luring the man outside the camp. “One day, he will die. But not by me,” Pacem said quietly while she threw him aside, and made a run for it. She looked to the woods in the distance. “I’m free,”Pacem thought. The woman cursed before she shot. The bullet flew through the air with a crack. It whistled while it passed through Pacem’s ribcage. She fell slowly, and landed on the ground. She turned over onto her back.

Pacem lay there. Blood stained her black shirt. The wound to her rib seeped more, spreading blood on the gray field. The Somnium camp was behind her. It was a massive machine spurting ash to the sky while she lay there in her black uniform. Her eyes looked up, while her hands clutched the grass. A trail of blood fell from her lips down the side of her face.

What I liked: You've thrown us directly into an action scene, which is a good way to get the reader hooked so long as we care about the main character (which I'll address later on...while the scene is interesting, I don't think we know enough about Pacem to care). This excerpt is fast-paced and I definitely want to know more about Pacem. Also, it's nice to immediately find out who the character is...from this excerpt we know she's a sixteen-year-old girl with a bit of a wild side (probably an understatement). Too often we read submissions (especially first person) where the character's age and even gender aren't identified for several chapters.

My overall critique:
First off, you've marked this section as a prologue. Why? In my experience (especially having spoken to editors and agents), prologues aren't usually necessary, as they're often a copout way for the writer to introduce background information or a flashback of sorts. I'm not saying prologues never work, but they're difficult to execute and they can be a turnoff for editors. Secondly, it's very hard to tell who's speaking in the second paragraph. As a general rule of thumb you should start a new paragraph every time you switch from one person's dialogue to another person's dialogue. Thirdly, watch you dialogue tags. You tend to add adverbs after every tag (threateningly, harshly, quietly, etc). 95% of the time these aren't necessary...for instance, the reader can already tell by the context of the scene that Pacem's words are a threat. It's best to eliminate dialogue tags whenever possible, i.e. rely on context to tell the reader who's speaking, or to use the generic "he said, she said" approach so the tags don't detract from what the character's actually saying.

Paragraph 1: You wrote "She was only sixteen, but she looked like a determined assassin." This feels she an assassin? If so, you might as well just say "she was a determined assassin" to resolve the ambiguity of this statement. If she's not actually an assassin, then it's a weird phrase to describe her.

Paragraph 2: I'm confused as to what's going on here...I think you're trying to drop too much information on your audience before they get the chance to orient themselves within the story. Pacem's threatening someone, then she's talking about a baby (?), then suddenly she's all happens very quickly and I (as a reader) am still not sure what's going on. I think it's all right to have some measure of ambiguity in your first page, but if your audience is lost then they won't continue reading.

Paragraph 3: Considering your main character (or what the audience assumes is your main character at this point) just got shot, I would expect a far more intense reaction. Remember to utilize all five this paragraph you employ mostly visual imagery, whereas I would expect someone who just had a bullet tear through their insides to be screaming in pain/focused on tactile sensations. In fact, you make no mention of pain whatsoever, which causes your narrator to seem completely and utterly detached from your main character. This is bad, since your readers cannot identify with a main character if they are cut off from her train of thought. I would revisit this section and do some research on gunshot wounds. How does it actually feel to get shot? You want to make the experience real for your audience, and at this point Pacem's injury seems very superficial - delve deeper into your main character's mind.

In conclusion: You're off to a good start here, and I'm excited to see where you go with this! An exciting and intriguing first page.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Teen Eyes

First page critiques start Tuesday! I'm very excited to read the submissions I've received, and I hope my comments are helpful to those who have sent in their pages.

Anyways, I'm posting today with an announcement: Taryn Albright and I have formed an editorial company called Teen Eyes. For those of you who don't know, Taryn is an incredibly talented 18-year-old writer who has completed nine manuscripts and works as an intern at a literary agency. I am an agented writer, my first novel is undergoing revisions at Scholastic Press, and I read submissions for several Scholastic imprints. Both of us have experience with freelance editing. Apart from having writing credentials, Taryn and I are within the age demographic for YA - we can provide the dual perspectives of being teenagers as well as experienced writers. We offer a number of services, all for a relatively low price. For more information you can check out the tab at the top of this page marked "Manuscript Critiques."

Taryn and I are super excited about this! I've had a number of regular clients who I critique for, but until now I haven't done a great deal to promote my freelance editing. Our service will also provide cheap deals for those who want both of us to critique a manuscript. So if you write YA and are looking for a teenage perspective, as well as a reader who knows the business/craft, then send us an email and we'll see if we can work something out:

And to kick-start our little company, Taryn and I are giving away two free critiques! We'll be doing a reader report (again, see the tab titled Manuscript Critiques). To enter, simply comment on this post with your name, email, MS title, MS genre, and a short (1-3 sentence) pitch. Extra entries for those people who tweet/blog (leave a link) and Taryn and I will draw names to select the winners.

Hope y'all enter!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Developing main characters

Developing a main character can be one of the most difficult aspects of writing a novel, particularly when working in first person. How can you make your character stand out? What part of their voice is unique?

As a writer I’ve struggled a great deal with character development, and up until last year I didn’t have a very good grasp of how to create compelling protagonists. I’ve improved a lot since then but I’m always looking for opportunities to get better. I think, as writers, it’s helpful to talk about the areas in which we struggle, so I thought I’d do a post with some tips on creating main characters.

1. Focus on reaction, not action. Sometimes I find it helpful to mentally insert my character into a hypothetical situation. For instance, let’s say your main character’s best friend is giving them the cold shoulder. Does your main character get sad? Angry? Resentful? Do they ask what’s wrong, or do they respond by ignoring their friend in return? Figure out how your character reacts and what basic emotions drive them, and then base their actions upon events.

    2. Figure out your main character’s driving emotional force. Usually it’s easy to identify a driving physical force - this is the plot, or the goal your character is trying to attain. In Harry Potter, Harry is trying to defeat Lord Voldemort so he can save himself and his friends. But what’s his driving emotional force? For Harry, I’d say it all goes back to the death of his parents and his desire to have a family. This emotional force permeates all seven books and drastically influences Harry’s actions (think of all his pseudo-father-figures, such as Sirius and Dumbledore). The driving emotional force should probably be even more prevalent in your story than the driving physical force.

      3. It’s not what your character thinks, it’s HOW they think it (I feel like I’ve done a post on this before...have I? If so, sorry for the redundancy). This one sentence completely altered my view on developing protagonists. Everybody thinks differently, and if you can discover how your character thinks/what they focus on, you can integrate it into your story. When I wrote The Color of Yin, I decided that my main character would have synesthesia - when other people speak, she sees their words as different colors in the air (her mother has orange words, her sister has purple words, etc). Yin comes to associate different colors with different emotions, and whenever she thinks she thinks in terms of color. Knowing this about my main character really helped me develop her story. There are so many different ways to do this...if your character is methodical, maybe they make lists in their head. Maybe they count things when they get nervous. Identify how your character thinks, and use it as a basis to determine what they think.

      4. Map out your character's deepest fears and desires. What do they have nightmares about? Do they have any phobias? How do they deal with fear? In a life threatening situation, do they run or fight? If they had three wishes, what would they be?

        So there you have it....some tips for developing unique protagonists. If you have tips of your own, don’t hesitate to share them in the comments! We’re all writers here (mostly) and we can all learn from each other.

        Friday, July 15, 2011

        What Harry Potter means to me

        I don't usually post twice in one day (or, you know, in one week) but I really feel like I need to say something about Harry Potter. I saw the movie yesterday at Scholastic's early screening, and again this morning because I already had the tickets and I couldn't return them. There are millions and millions of Harry Potter fans out there, and most everyone is sad that the series is drawing to a close. But I think, for my particular age group, it's more than just a love for the books and movies.

        Harry Potter is all about growing up. Not only do JK Rowling's characters grow up, but the books grow up as well...her writing, plotting, and tone become more and more sophisticated with each novel. Same with the movies - compare the original Chris Columbus film with Deathly Hallows II, and it's astounding how far this story has come.

        I picked up Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone at age six. It was the first novel-length book I ever read on my own, and I was in Kindergarten at the time. I remember sitting in the living room with my little sister. My dad came home from work, held up the copy of Harry Potter he had just purchased, and said, "You girls need to read this, I hear it's fantastic." At the time we blew him off...after all, what did a grownup know about kids books? But a few weeks later, when I found myself in need of something to do, I picked up Harry Potter and began to read. The book was more advanced than what I was used to (after all, most six-year-olds are just starting to read) so it took me a long time to finish, but from the beginning I was hooked.

        My aunt Kathy and uncle Steve gave me Harry Potter books two and three for my seventh birthday (along with a hedgehog Beanie Baby). By the time book four came out I was a huge fan, and I participated in a summer reading program at my local library in order to win a copy of the book since my mom wouldn't purchase it. At my cousin Allie's fifth grade birthday party (we're the same age) we attended the release party for Order of the Phoenix, where we dressed up in costumes and got Sorted and engaged in all sorts of nerd-licious activities. One summer, my dad, who's a wood worker, used his lathe to create specialized wands for me and my little sister. I still have an old notebook from first or second grade in which I designed lesson plans for Defense Against the Dark Arts, Potions, and Transfiguration so my sister and I could play school - Hogwarts style school, that is. And one of the very first stories I wrote was a Harry Potter rip-off in which students attend a magical school called Hogsmeade.

        When the first movie came out, my mother picked me up from school along with my sister and two of our friends. She wouldn't tell us where we were going; turns out she had secured tickets to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, during which I remember marveling at how old and mature Harry, Ron, and Hermione looked (I was eight at the time). So began my obsession with the movies. My sister and I purchased Harry Potter Scene It, and we would have epic battles over who could answer the largest number of trivia questions. I've gone to many midnight showings and I stood in line at midnight for the sixth and seventh books. By that time I was fourteen, on the cusp of entering high school.

        Harry Potter defined my generation, and it defined my childhood. I remember running around at recess in elementary school with scars painted on our foreheads. When I first read the Sorcerer's Stone all those years ago, I never would've imagined that I would end up here, in NYC, at Scholastic's premiere for the eighth and final film. I'm 18. I just graduated high school, and this is my first summer on my own. I have, in short, grown up, which is both terrifying and exhilarating and depressing.

        For me, Harry Potter is more than just a story; it's a representation of my childhood. It started as the first book I ever read on my own, and now, twelve years later, the final chapter comes to a close just before I enter my first year in college. The books grew up and I grew up with them.

        A bittersweet end. And now would be the appropriate time for me to say, "mischief managed."

        Instead, I'd like to think the mischief has only just begun.

        Wednesday, July 13, 2011

        Beginnings via Scholastic

        So continuing on with the theme of first pages, I thought I'd share some of the most common beginnings I've seen while interning at Scholastic Press. I'm a writing intern, so I don't technically have to read submissions, but my office partner Zoe has been sharing her work with me :).

        1. The info dump. This one's a no-brainer, but we still get it quite a lot...the author wants us to know all about the character and his/her world before the story gets started.

        2. Action scene. I know what you're action scene is good, right? Sometimes. But if you've got a rip-roaring (spelling?) sword fight that lasts five pages, and the reader still doesn't have any idea who the character is, then they aren't going to care.

        3. Lamentations about a dystopian government-gone-wrong.

        4. Conversation between a character and his/her mother. No idea why this one is popular...

        5. "It was a normal day." We don't care about normal days, we care about the abnormal ones.

        6. A confusing, "mysterious" conversation between two characters that's supposed to draw the reader in and leave them with questions....however, many of these beginnings are so ambiguous the reader can't ground himself or herself in the story.

        7. Evocative, detailed descriptions. They're great, but not as a first paragraph.

        8. Girl sees hot guy from across the room/school yard/lawn/space station. Not necessarily a bad beginning, but it's one we see quite often.

        9. Character in the midst of getting beat up. Most writers seem to use this in an attempt to establish their MC as an outcast or "different."

        10. Stereotypical high school settings. I have to admit, this one a recent high school graduate I can attest to the fact that modern high school is so not what it's like in the movies. In my experience, and in the experience of my friends, high school is much more fluid than "popular" kids and "non-popular" kids. Also, us teenagers aren't as mean to one another as people seem to think we are.

        So there you have it....some common beginnings. I picked up several ARCs today (Matt Kirby's ICEFALL, Jennifer Nielsen's THE FALSE PRINCE (Scholastic's leading title for their Spring 2012 list)(I just did parentheses inside that even allowed?)) because my editor Jody came up to me and said, "Do you want any Scholastic books? Because there are a bunch lying around and I could probably get you any of the ones you ask for." How awesome is that? I also discovered a set of huge bins marked "free books," so I've been going crazy ever since yesterday. It's pretty awesome.

        Anyway, I'll post tomorrow with more Scholastic news....including a chance for all of you to ask questions, which I in turn will pose to some of the Scholastic editors. Have you been wondering about publishing? Marketing? Acquisitions meetings? Let me know in the comments and I'll try to get y'all some answers!


        P.S. First page critiques are open! I know it's hard to put work out there, but having an extra pair or two (or ten) of eyes never hurts! Email

        Monday, July 11, 2011

        First page critiques

        Ah, the dreaded first page. I know many writers who struggle with creating the perfect beginning for their story, especially knowing that agents, and many editors, won't read past the first 250 words if they aren't drawn in immediately. Personally I like writing first pages. Beginnings have always been my strong point, so to speak (the WIFYR first page contest was the first adult writing contest I ever won). Mostly I struggle with the middle of the story rather than the beginning or end.

        Working at Scholastic has given me a whole new perspective on first pages. I've read submissions, both from agented and unagented writers, and I've seen how editors react to different first pages. I've started to see what does and doesn't work and I've been jotting down trends in terms of how writers begin their stories. Armed with this knowledge, I've decided to start a new tradition of first page critiques on this blog. Here's how it works:

        ~Anyone (that means you) who wants a first page critique can email me with 250 (or so) words of a manuscript pasted into the email (

        ~I will critique the page and post it on my blog (you may remain anonymous if you so choose).

        ~Other people can comment with suggestions.

        ~There may be an agent/editor critique involved if I can get ten people to submit first pages.

        I really hope somebody wants a critique, because I love reading other writers' work! Happy July 11, and I'll be back in a couple days with more exciting news from Scholastic!

        P.S. Since Scholastic publishes Harry Potter, everyone who works there gets to attend an early screening of the last movie :).

        Wednesday, July 6, 2011

        MATCHED winner....and I'm now a publishing insider!

        Congratulations to Linda M, winner of a signed copy of Ally Condie's book MATCHED! I'll be contacting you shortly to get your address. And thanks to everyone who entered!

        So I arrived in New York City yesterday at 3:30. After dropping my stuff off at the Webster, I decided to take a trip just to make sure I knew how to find the Scholastic building. Well, I didn't. Not one bit. I wandered around for three hours, nearly died of starvation, and spent the last thirty minutes trying desperately to find a bathroom so I wouldn't pee myself. Eventually, however, a crisis was averted, and I found the Scholastic building right smack in the middle of Broadway.

        This morning marked my first day as an intern at Scholastic Press. I met three other reading interns (I'm a writing intern) and as soon as I arrived my editor set me up in her boss's office to work. Jody (my editor) is pretty awesome, and I got to speak briefly with David Levithan as he flew by on the way to a meeting. Otherwise, Zoe (another intern) and I had the room to ourselves, where we distracted one another for a while before finally getting down to business. I edited several chapters, and many of the Scholastic editors were kind enough to answer my questions about publishing and the like. Here are just a few of the things I learned:

        ~Interns are ALWAYS the first readers. Even if the manuscript comes from an agent or an established author, an intern will read it and write up a report before the editor even glances at it.

        ~Editors will often read no more than twenty pages of a submission.

        ~Scholastic has a rooftop garden and a nice little coffee shop inside the building.

        ~You don't want to be stuck in the slush. Trust me, if you're going for a major publisher, you should definitely try to get an agent.

        ~Unsolicited submissions get read (albeit by interns) because the editors don't want to miss out on anything brilliant. Still, the interns will always read agented manuscripts first, so if you're in the slushpile it can take months to get to your manuscript.

        ~SLUSH!!!!!!!!!!!!! TANGIBLE SLUSH!!!!!!!!!!!!

        ~Also, guess who found an ARC of the next book by Matthew Kirby lying on a table? That's right. You're jealous. THE CLOCKWORK THREE was awesome, and I'm sure this one is even awesome-er!!!

        On a different note, I bought a super cute hat and a pair of shorts at H&M. Yes, the shopping has officially begun. Pure madness.

        That's all for today, but I'll be back soon with more tidbits of information learned at Scholastic Press!