Freshman Fifteens author Chandler Baker  chatted with fellow Freshman Charlotte Huang to find out more about her forthcoming debut, FOR THE RECORD (Delacorte, Fall 2015).


“The curtain dropped and I went on autopilot. It was still light enough that I could make out every person in the audience.

They were so very close. Barricades created a moat between us and them, where security stood, screaming fans draped over with their phones. It stressed me out so much that I backpedaled and bumped right into Beckett. I would have stayed there, frozen, but Pem scowled and I knew I had to work more of the stage.

I sang the verse, stalking to the front, and held my mike out for the crowd to sing the chorus, which they actually did. It was like one of those trust exercises, like I’d fallen backward off a chair and they were actually there to catch me.

I knew then that I’d never get enough.”

It’s no secret how excited I am for FOR THE RECORD to be out into the world. And I love to hear writers’ origin stories. Can you tell us a bit about your inspiration behind the book?

FOR THE RECORD is a book I’ve been wanting to write for a long time. My husband works in the music business, as do many of our close friends, so often times I’ll be at a dinner or something with them, just absorbing stories about the industry. When you get music people together, it can be all they want to talk about. It actually used to annoy me but I finally surrendered and I’m thrilled that I’ve been able to put all those hours of listening to good use.

Also, I see a lot of shows with my husband and get to be a fly on the wall in the backstage areas. What goes on there is still completely fascinating to me. The best part is watching the fans. Music fans are seriously dedicated. They will wait in interminable lines, until all hours, to be able to meet the artists and maybe give them a present. It’s pretty amazing. I thought it might be fun for them to get a closer peek behind the scenes.

I know you are fortunate enough to have an awesome agent (Adriann Ranta) and an equally awesome editor (Wendy Loggia at Delacorte). Can you tell us how you connected and wound up getting your “yes” from each of them?

Upon the advice of someone really brilliant and wonderful [note: it was Chandler] I entered an online pitch contest last summer run by Michelle Krys and Ruth Lauren Steven. Michelle picked my entry (which was for a different book) to feature on her blog. Adriann was one of the agents in the contest. She requested the full manuscript and eventually offered me representation! When we had our first conversation, she asked me what I was working on at the time. I told her about FOR THE RECORD. That ended up being the book we went on submission with first and Wendy was one of the first editors Adriann submitted to! I’ve had such a great experience working with these two ladies and I feel very lucky to have landed where I did.

Like me, you’ve been living in your revision cave as you work on fine-tuning your novel with your editor. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned through that process so far?

Well, through you and some of the other Freshman Fifteens, I learned about breaking the editorial letter down into manageable tasks and assigning due dates to each. Just the process of organizing the work in that way made it feel less overwhelming.

Something I learned even before the process started really helped me as well. Eoin Colfer spoke on a panel at the LA Times Festival of Books this year. He said that we should trust our editors and that if we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll see that it’s a much better book post-editing. I’m paraphrasing and there are probably exceptions but it stuck with me and helped me not give into temptations to hold onto any darlings (well, mostly). In my case, I can attest that what he said holds true!

You have so many great characters in FOR THE RECORD. Who was your favorite to write and why?

Chelsea, the main character, is an obvious choice but since she was the newbie in the band and on tour, it was really fun to write everything from her POV. I enjoyed writing all the characters to be honest. I love writing boys so writing this world full of boys, was a treat.

Finally, what is your writing process like? Which parts do you enjoy most of the process and which do you dread?

For me the most challenging part is getting down an idea that’s really enough to carry a whole book. Which is not to say that I dread it, but just… it’s difficult. At this point, I’m fairly sure that everything else can be accomplished with hard work. Don’t remind me I said this the next time I’m swearing at my revisions. The idea stage is hard work too but not so much in a way that you can control, and it doesn’t always feel active. You have to be patient, which I’m not great at. I love the freedom of drafting. That’s when I feel the most lost in the world of the book.


Charlotte Huang is a graduate of Smith College and received an MBA from Columbia Business School, which is clearly something every aspiring writer should do.

Charlotte lives in Los Angeles and when not glued to her computer, she cheers her two sons on at sporting events and sometimes manages to stay up late enough to check out bands with her music agent husband. Charlotte is represented by Adriann Ranta of Wolf Literary.

You can find Charlotte online: Website | Twitter | Instragram | Goodreads


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Freshman Fifteens author Jasmine Warga  chatted with fellow Freshman Lori Goldstein to find out more about her forthcoming debut, BECOMING JINN (Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan, Spring 2015).

Lori Goldstein AuthorWishing doesn’t make it so, Azra does. When the silver bangle snaps around her wrist on her sixteenth birthday, Azra becomes the latest in the long line of Jinn from which she descends. But as she begins to grant wishes, she uncovers the darker world of becoming Jinn and realizes when genies and wishes are involved, there’s always a trick.

“A chisel, a hammer, a wrench. A sander, a drill, a power saw. A laser, a heat gun, a flaming torch. Nothing cuts through the bangle. Nothing I conjure even makes a scratch.

I had to try, just to be sure. But the silver bangle encircling my wrist can’t be removed. It was smart of my mother to secure it in the middle of the night while I was asleep, unable to protest.

Though my Jinn ancestry means magic has always been inside me, the rules don’t allow me to begin drawing upon it until the day I turn sixteen. The day I receive my silver bangle. The day I officially become a genie.


BECOMING JINN has such a spot-on YA voice. Did you specifically set out to write YA novels?

Yes, but I didn’t know it. My first manuscript was an “adult” manuscript about a man-boy, almost 30-year-old who, after getting carjacked at a fast-food drive-thru, is forced to reconsider his meandering life. Though Max was 29, he acted 16. So I guess I was writing YA masked as adult. When I began to consider my next project, it was a conscious decision to try my hand at YA. Considering my addiction to reading YA books and watching “teen” shows (flag-flying, card-carrying, die-hard Vampire Diaries addict here), I should have known from the start that YA was what I was meant to be writing. But I guess sometimes it takes a bit of time before the wand chooses you . . .

How did you come up with the concept for BECOMING JINN? Jinn, I know, have a really storied mythology in the Middle East, but you don’t see their occurrence too much in YA, or even in American literature.

I was sitting here, trying to figure out how I knew what a Jinn was; I feel like I always did. I’d say “Jinn,” surprised other people didn’t know the term. (Why I would have been talking about Jinn years before I started writing this book, I have no idea, but I digress . . . ) Anyway, I just looked it up, and indeed there was a Jinn episode of the X-Files so maybe that’s where it came from. Or Charmed? Was there a Jinn on Charmed?

Clearly, this is not the highbrow answer you were looking for, but it’s the truth. Anyway, when I started thinking about a new concept for a book, I realized that, at the time, there were no modern-day tellings, aside from Aladdin, of genies. Certainly not in books. My genie book would be a Jinn book and my Jinn book would be a genie book, because, to me, they went hand-in-hand. My brother-in-law is an avid traveler, and his photographs of Morocco and Jordan and Turkey inspired me. The second I hit on my Jinn story, I knew I would tell it with those places as inspiration, being true to the Middle Eastern origin of the Jinn. And I knew exactly who my main character would be: Azra. It was a name just waiting to come alive in my pages.

I had been waiting to use it since 2011. That year, there was a horrible earthquake in Turkey. Two days after the quake, a mother and baby were found trapped under the rubble, both miraculously alive. That baby was named Azra. From the moment I heard the name, I knew it was going to be my main character — one day.

I had saved the article, but the name was always in the back of my mind, waiting for the story to go with it.

I loved diving into the Middle Eastern mythology surrounding Jinn, and it forms the backbone of my Jinn world. While the book is set in the contemporary New England world, the Jinn and their lives, from their clothes to their furnishings to the terms they use, are drawn from the Middle East, and I love the richness it gives to the characters and their ancestry. And I hope it encourages readers to want to read about, learn about, and visit these places the same way it does for me.

I know humor is something you really enjoy in books and strive for in your own writing. Can you talk more about why you think it’s important and how you go about giving your writing those humorous touches?

One thing I’ve learned about myself as a writer is that I’m incapable of writing without humor. For me, humor flows naturally onto the page. So much so that even in the most heartbreaking moments in my original draft, my main character would find some way to make a joke. While humor in these types of moments is a perfect way to show a character’s defense mechanisms, what I learned through my editor’s extremely diplomatic version of “hmm…would she really be doing standup right now?” is restraint.

The books I like to write are the ones I like to read, and humor is a core element of that. It doesn’t have to be a laugh-a-minute, but I think infusing writing with some degree of lightness adds another layer to your work. If your book is very dark, and then you hit the reader with some humor, you let them breathe, you highlight the torture you are putting your characters through by showing the barest glimpse of what life would be like if things weren’t so dire. And the opposite is just as true: if there’s an overall lightness and sense of fun and humor and then you whack someone (metaphorically and literally), the severity and the heartache is felt that much more strongly. Contrast is key, and humor is a great way to achieve that.

Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process? Your books have a lot of layers, so I’m guessing plotting can be an ordeal. How do you keep it all straight? Do you plan ahead of time?

Do I plan? Does a Jinn like sweets? (They do.) I’m an over-the-top, 70+ page outline plotter. It takes me anywhere from two weeks to six weeks to plot. I learned this the hard way. My first novel was a complete pantsing disaster. That book ultimately ended up being a manuscript I still adore, but it took me three, long, hard, painful years to get there. I essentially wrote three novels to get to the last one. While it was also due to my inexperience as a writer, the majority of the problems stemmed from my inability to plot. Apparently characters need to do more than just sit in a room and talk. Who knew? I wasn’t going to make that mistake again. When I wrote Becoming Jinn I plotted every which way, and I wrote the initial draft in two months, did one month of revision, and then signed with my agent. We worked together for a couple of months, and the book sold in less than two weeks. Superstition or not, I am a plotter for life.

And strangely, though I often think of character development as being my strong suit as a writer, my books do seem to have a lot more plot than I like to admit/realize. Despite all the time plotting, keeping everything straight is no easy feat. When one thread changes, it unravels the entire thing, and I have to build it all back up, one painful stitch as a time. An interwoven, intricately plotted book is not what I set out to write, but it is what my Jinn books have become. Even though things change from outline to page, without plotting, I’d still be writing book one—my twentieth version of book one.

If you could give one piece of advice to other writers, what would it be?

Find an honest cheerleader—someone who will raise their pom-poms to celebrate with you on your best days and hoist you on their back and lift you to the top of the pyramid on your worst. Notice I said “honest.” Because a constant “yes-man” (or yes-woman as the case may be) will not help you get better. And we all need to get better. Writing is a continuing-education profession. If we aren’t improving, we aren’t writing. After your cheerleader dries your tears, he or she better be ready to tell it like it is. Tell you if that scene needs fixing, if that story idea stinks, if that line of dialogue is as stiff as a politician’s. Because if everything you put on the page is perfect, than why aren’t you selling books like J.K. Rowling?

Then, when everything you put on the page is perfect, and your cheerleader tells you, you can believe them. And when you still aren’t selling books like J.K. Rowling and your cheerleader promises that you will, one day, you can believe that too.

For me, that person is and always has been my husband (and yes, we are a few years into this writing gig and style wearing our wedding rings). If it weren’t for his criticism and encouragement, I’d be back to editing technology journals. And there isn’t a lotta humor in those, let me tell ya.

What’s next for you? What are you working on now?

Jinn, Jinn, and more Jinn! I’m in the middle of revisions on the sequel to Becoming Jinn, which will be released in Spring 2016, one year after Becoming Jinn debuts. I’ve been in the Jinn world for more than two years, and though I still can’t levitate worth a damn, I’ve had many wishes granted in that time (okay, come on, you knew that was coming). I’d love to return to my adult manuscript, perhaps even turning in into an upper YA, and I have at least three other ideas whose characters keep speaking to me. I have to get at least one of them out of my head and soon—it’s getting crowded up there.


Lori Goldstein Author 2_small Lori Goldstein is the author of BECOMING JINN. Born into an Italian-Irish family (hence the short temper and the freckles), Lori grew up on the Jersey Shore and now makes her makes her home in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a place close enough to the ocean that on the right day, she can smell the sea from her back deck, and yet it still takes an hour to get to the beach.


You can find Lori online: Twitter | Goodreads  | Tumblr | Facebook



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Calling All Teen Writers!

It’s July! It’s hot! It’s the middle of summer! That means there’s a sizzling good chance you’ve got time to check out some awesome creative writing-related opportunities. If you’re a young writer, or know one, here are a few:

For teen writers who live in the Dallas-Fort Worth area

DFW Writers’ Workshop, a professional non-profit authors organization, will host a free workshop for young writers, in grades 9-12. The workshop will be offered Saturdays, July 12 through August 16th. Each registered participant will receive free resources materials, critique and advice from professionally published authors (Including A. Lee Martinez, Rosemary Clement-Moore, Tex Thompson, Jenny Martin and more!) And…not only do teens get a t-shirt, but they also have the opportunity to have a piece of their workshopped work published in a special DFW Teen Anthology (plus one free copy!)

For teen writers who live on Tumblr/Wattpad/Instagram/Twitter

Check out the Freshman Fifteens Teen Mentoring contest! This summer, Freshman Fifteens are partnering up with Wattpad to deliver an amazing, one-on-one mentoring experience for teen writers. Interesting in working with a debut YA author? Excited about having the opportunity to get feedback and have your short story published in a special watt pad anthology? Check out the details here.

Also, The Gotham Writers’ Workshop offers ongoing, online, tuition based TeenInk classes, for young fiction and non-fiction writers. Each class is taught by a professional writer, and best of all, there are “no grades, no exams, no wrong answers—just creative writing.”

For teen writers who live in Minneapolis (or anywhere else)

The Loft Literacy Center, one of the nation’s leading literary arts centers, offers DOZENS of writing classes for teens. Many are ongoing, and there are new offerings all the time! Some classes meet at the Loft, but many are offered online, too. Most classes have a tuition fee, but fear not, scholarships are available.

For teen writers who live in outer space/Middle Earth (Or perhaps even Pittsburgh?)

The Alpha Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror Workshop for Young Writers is an intensive, once-in-a-lifetime ten-day teen writing workshop held annually at the University of Pittsburgh, Greensburg. Teens, ages 14-19 years old, who are interested in sci fi, fantasy, and/or horror may apply. Each year, stellar authors (such as Tamora Pierce, Bruce Coville, Tobias Buckell) run the workshop and each young writer will work on writing, researching, critiquing, listening to presentations by authors, and giving public readings of their own work.The tuition covers the workshop, housing, meals, and transportation during (not to and from) the workshop. There are scholarships available each year.

For teen writers who live in the Boston area

Boston’s Grub Street Creative Writing Center offers a TON of opportunities for young writers! These include free Saturday workshop classes, tuition-based teen writing camps, and even some pretty awesome fellowships, in which teens work one-on-one with real authors, meet editors and agents, and go on publishing field trips.

BONUS: Forty of the Best Web Sites for Young Writers!

BOOM. Happy July and Happy Scribbling!

 Jenny MartinJenny Martin is the author of TRACKED, coming May 5, 2015 from Dial/Penguin.

Jenny is a librarian, a book monster, and a certified electric-guitar-rawking Beatle-maniac. She lives in Dallas with her husband and son, where she hoards books and regularly blisses out over all kinds of live and recorded rock.

You can find Jenny online: Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Tumblr | Pinterest

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FF_logo_bookAnnouncing the Freshman Fifteens-Wattpad Teen Mentoring Contest

Are you a teen who loves to write? Do you know a teen who loves to write? You’ve come to the right place!

The Freshman Fifteens are partnering with Wattpad, a community of more than 25 million readers and writers, to give teens the unique experience of what it’s like to be a debut author.

In the contest, dubbed COMMON ROOM, the winning teen writers will experience the process of having a book published, from the “query” stage where they pitch us their short story idea, to getting their “deal” when a Freshman Fifteens author selects them as their mentee, to working with their author as they would a book editor, going through two rounds of revisions, through the copy edit stage, cover reveal, release date, and—finally!—book launch.

Common Room CoverThe finished collection of fictional short stories will be published as an anthology, titled COMMON ROOM, on Wattpad, debuting in January 2015. Winners will also receive signed books, swag, and more!

The contest is open to writers between the ages of 13 and 19 who have a fictional short story of under 3,000 words. The entry period runs from June 30 through July 25, 2014, with winners announced in August to the entire 25 million-plus Wattpad community! We’ll feature the winners on our Wattpad page as well as our Web site and other social media outlets. The participating Freshman Fifteen authors will be working with our teen writers through the fall of 2014.

Want to enter but not a current Wattpadder? Signing up is easy! Just visit and set up a profile. The community will welcome you like none other, we promise.

We are lucky to have the amazing community of Wattpad to work with on this contest. The depth of the talent of the writers on Wattpad inspires us, and we can’t wait to dive into what we know will be some amazing pitches.

Full details on the contest including all the dates and how to enter can be found here. Or just swing by Wattpad and type “Freshman Fifteens COMMON ROOM Teen Mentoring Contest” into the search field and you’ll be there!

Help us spread the word to all the teen writers you know and love! And be sure to follow the Freshman Fifteens on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, or right here on our blog to find out more about the winners and read their stories in the COMMON ROOM anthology!

Freshman Fifteens

Web site:
Twitter: @Freshman15s



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I’m lucky in a lot of ways. 1) I got my hair ombré-d last September and haven’t had to touch it up since and 2) I can pinpoint the exact moment when I discovered my great love of creating stories. I was eight years old, flipping through a Legend of Zelda guidebook while my brother navigated through that god-awful Water Temple. Even back then, I was obsessed with maps, but I’d only had atlases to look at. Now I had an actual fictional map, and it was like setting off a firecracker. I immediately forgot it was my turn to play and got to work with my crayons. A few scribbles later, I had a map of my own. It was a terrible Zelda knockoff, but I didn’t care. My mind was racing. I was already thinking about the people who lived in the little dot cities and what monsters ruled the oceans and mountains. So begins my obsession with world-building, which is easily my favorite part of writing, and one I don’t think any story can be without.

Naturally, some stories require more world-building than others. A fantasy is going to have a lot more intense work than a contemporary, but world-building is equally important to both. In my opinion, world-building isn’t just a way to create the bones of your world. It’s a way to completely envelope yourself in its skin. You might not need to know the layout of your protagonist’s high school, but once you do, it’s that much easier imagine your characters in it. You basically remove one more barrier between yourself and the story, to the point where you’re not even writing it at all. You’re living it, and just happen to be jotting down what’s happening.

I’m a big believer in copying what works, so I’m going to outline what works for me when I start a new project. My own stories err on the side of the fantastical, with expansive worlds and back-story. Summary: I go pretty hard on world-building. My method is probably bit of overkill for a lot of genres, but applies very well to historical, fantasy, sci-fi, and paranormal.

Of course, you’ve gotta kick things off with the kernel of an idea. What kind of story do you want to tell? It can be as simple as one sentence. The rest will come in the world-building, I promise you. Let’s take an example: a boy decides to masquerade as a long lost prince.

I personally like to start with a map. It’s what got me into writing, and it’s just a hobby of mine. Again, not all stories require a map, but anyone can use one. Do it for neighborhoods or star systems, whatever. My favorite tools for mapmaking are graph paper, pens, and Photoshop or its equivalent. Computer programs are particularly helpful for using layers to denote things like geographical formations, roads, political borders etc. My very best advice regarding making maps is to read maps. Atlases are great, and I personally use Google maps on a daily basis. Just have fun and tool around. Look at how rivers interact with coastlines, where lowlands are, how mountains affect nation-building etc. Fictional maps are a must as well. My favorites are, of course, Middle-Earth, Westeros, and Narnia.

After the maps, I like to have a brief history leading up to my story time. Just the basics. Why this place is a monarchy, where the people migrated from, etc. Emphasis on the word brief. This is not the world of your story, but it is a bit of the foundation. Where would Lord of the Rings be without the Second Age? Or Westeros without Aegon’s Conquest? I’ll stop.

Maps and intense histories don’t have to be necessary to the reader (i.e. Harry Potter), but I think they’re essential to the writer. I personally would go nuts if I didn’t have a map of the Red Queen world at hand, even though it’s not something a reader needs to refer to every five seconds.

Back to the example. Now that your basic map and history is set, you know the boy pretending to be a prince grew up in those cool islands you drew. He was raised a pirate. Now he’s got to hide that rough and tumble upbringing to pass himself off as the heir to the throne. See where I’m going? Every step of world-building adds another layer. Bones, then muscle, then skin. Metaphors!

After maps, I usually start my info doc. If you don’t have them already, get down the basics about mountains, rivers, countries, cities, peoples, cultures, languages etc. Basically take your map and fill in the blanks. Go wild. As you do, you’ll naturally want to expand out. Oh, that’s called Whitetooth Mountain? Why? Giant wolves live there? Cool! Write it down! Use it! Go through Wikipedia and random history articles for inspiration. Pretty much all of A Song of Ice and Fire (minus the magic stuff) comes straight from historical events. Remember the Red Wedding? Look up the Black Dinner! I also advise going wild with family trees. I certainly do. Each piece of this will get your story muscles working, and it will be so easy to leap into characters and plot. You’ve pretty much built the mold, and now it’s just a question of pouring a person in. You’ve laid all the groundwork, so the character will pretty much shape themselves.

Now pirate boy has parents, friends, maybe a religion or educational background. You know him. You know what he sees when he wakes up, and why he wants to get so far away from it. This is where plot comes in. Just like character, you’ve got a mold, and you have all you need to fill it up. Pirate boy turned prince. Build from that. Outline, bullet point, index card. This is always the hard part for me (I hate outlining), but it pays off in the long run. By the time you’ve got your outline ready, you not only have a great story, but you’ve got a deep one at that. You know what city pirate boy is going to sail to, and who lives there. It will be second nature to describe, because you already understand it. You built it. This is your world, and it’s that much easier to control.

A word of caution: I am a chronic over world-builder. I get hamstrung by this all the time. I go too deep and I burn out. Red Queen is the project I did the least amount of building on (and it was still a lot), and it was also the first novel I finished. That’s me. I’ve got a limit as to how far I can build before I crap out and get bored. So whenever you feel that twinge and think of greener pastures, sit back. Even if you don’t have outlines, write down some prose. I’m a big believer in quote docs. I have one for every project, where I basically write lines, dialogue, and descriptive prose about stuff I know will happen, or stuff I just think would be cool to include. My favorite lines from my books usually come from these docs, and they’re a nice little carrot to keep you going. “I know this awesome comeback happens in two chapters! I need to get there!”

I can go on forever about world-building (and my Middle-Earth atlas), but I’m going to take my own advice and reel it in. At the end of the day, the point is to feel comfortable in the world you’ve made. You’ll know when you get to that point, because you’ll close your eyes and see what your characters see. Beyond that, you’ll see what came before, what’s beyond that hill, who lives in that house, etc. It’s like shooting practice before a basketball game. Eventually you’ll get to the point where you don’t have to think, and it’s all just feel. That’s my favorite way to write, although it makes me look a bit crazed (according to my roommates).

What are your favorite world-building methods? Better yet, favorite maps and fictional worlds? I won’t lie to you, I am thirsty as hell for an official map of Panem. WHY DO YOU TORMENT ME SO, SUZANNE COLLINS?




Victoria Aveyard is the author of RED QUEEN coming Winter 2015 from HarperTeen.

Victoria graduated from the University of Southern California with a BFA in Screenwriting. She is an avid film fan, and lets movies and television take up way too much of her time. Currently, she is hard at work on the second book in the RED QUEEN series, her next film project, and keeping up with her voracious tweeting appetite.

You can find Victoria online: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Tumblr

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Freshman 15er Lee Kelly interviewed author Michelle Krys about her YA debut, HEXED, coming June 10th from Delacorte/Random House!


Michelle Krys

Writing Thesis: HEXED

Abstract: A popular, snarky cheerleader is forced into a centuries-old war between witches and sorcerers only to uncover the first of many dark truths about her life.

Department: Delacorte Press, a division of Random House Children’s Books

Faculty Advisor: Wendy Loggia

Release Date: June 10th, 2014

Hometown: Thunder Bay, Ontario

 Minor(s): Useless Celebrity Facts; Worrying Needlessly; Dramatic Sighing

Most Likely To: Abuse an exclamation mark, make an inappropriate joke

 Friday Night Whereabouts:

_X_ Library

___ Party

___ Cafeteria

___ Missing in Action

# Books Queried Before HEXED: 1

Quote from Thesis: “The more I think about it, the more it seems like a fantastic idea. Sure, some people might say I’m “using” her, but those people just don’t have the complex understanding of human behavior that I do.”

What inspired HEXED?

I got the idea for HEXED from my sister. A few years ago, she told me about an adult historical novel she wanted to write, which she’d planned to call ‘The Witch Hunter’s Bible’. When she later ditched the book, I asked her if I could steal the title for a YA novel that had been unfolding in my head ever since she first mentioned it to me. She agreed, and I got to work writing about a popular cheerleader whose hunt for a stolen family heirloom gets her caught up in a war between witches and sorcerers.

Funnily enough, ‘The Witch Hunter’s Bible’ ended up not being the best fit for the finished product, and we changed the title in the editorial process.

What part of release are you most looking forward to?

I’m looking forward to a lot of things, but I’m probably most looking forward to getting feedback from people who aren’t related to me or are otherwise biased.

If you could give one piece of advice to upcoming 2014 and 2015 debuts, what would it be?

The publishing process has been compared to a roller coaster ride, and as cliché as it sounds, it couldn’t be truer: there are thrilling highs and nauseating lows, and it’s very easy to focus on those lows when you’re experiencing them. So my advice is to try your best to enjoy the ride, focus on the positive, and remember that you’re doing something truly amazing and worth celebrating.

Do you have a favorite book from your teen years?

The Sweet Valley High series by Francine Pascal are collectively my favorites. Part of the appeal could have been that I’m an identical twin myself, but I devoured every single Sweet Valley book I got my hands on. I couldn’t get enough of Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield’s adventures.

What is your advice to teens who have dreams of being published?

I would give teens the same advice I give adults, which is to be persistent. Whether you’re writing your first novel or a New York Times Bestseller, there will always be some form of rejection in your life. What matters most is what you do about it. As hard as it may sometimes be, it’s important to keep working at your craft, keep learning, keep reading, and not let someone’s “No” be what makes you decide to give up on your dream.


HexedMichelle Krys lives in Northwestern Ontario with her husband and son and works  part-time as a NICU nurse. She loves reading, belly laughing, baby-breath, rainy days, and driving with the windows down (except on rainy days). She’s represented by Adriann Ranta at Wolf Literary.

You can find Michelle online: Website | Twitter | Goodreads | Tumblr



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Freshman Fifteen author Stacey H. Lee  chatted with fellow Freshman Kelly Loy Gilbert to find out more about her forthcoming debut, CONVICTION (Disney-Hyperion, Summer 2015).


When baseball phenom Braden’s celebrity father stands trial for murder, Braden’s testimony could save or end his father’s life.

“There’s a lot that’s magic about baseball, but this is the thing that’s most magic of all: that you can go watch a game with your dad and your brother and have a night together that’s maybe as close to perfect as anything in your life has ever come. That it can give you those memories to hold onto when you need them most, like when for reasons you’ve never understood your brother takes off and stops talking to your dad altogether, or like when the night after the accident your dad, the best man you know and the person who taught  you right from wrong, is arrested at gunpoint on the street outside your house and accused of the aggravated first degree murder of a cop.”

What inspired you to write this story?

I wanted to write a story about characters seeking redemption, characters who didn’t like themselves, characters who’d done things they couldn’t forgive themselves for and didn’t know where to go from there.  The first draft of the story was wildly different–it’s taken on such different forms, but some of the underlying questions I was exploring were still pulsing through the whole process.

You write realistic contemporary YA. What are your favorite genres to read, and why?

I love character-driven contemporary literary fiction (both adult and YA–and I like short stories, too), because it gives me insight into and intimacy with people I’d never know otherwise.  In college I fell in love with CROSSING TO SAFETY, by Wallace Stegner, about four friends through decades of their lives.  The narrator is an English professor, so in my real life he’s someone I’d know only on a very surface level (probably from class!), but in the novel I could enter into his inner life.  I love stories that help me see another person clearly.

What’s your favorite scene in CONVICTION?

I wrote about my favorite scenes at YA Reads.  It involves a guitar!

What’s your method for developing ideas into a story?

Terrible first drafts.  And nearly-as-terrible second drafts.  It gives you something to work with, at least, and then you can find the moments in the story that are worth building another, better draft around.

What keeps you sane during the writing/publishing process?

Talking with other writers and comparing notes has been a lifesaver; the YA community is incredible.  And I’m lucky to have great, supportive friends and family, and a nine-month-old daughter who brightens every day.  Chocolate solves a lot of problems, too.  I’d recommend that.  And when I’m nervous or stressed about something writing-related, it helps to keep an eye on the horizon and work on a next project–something about that sense of promise and possibility makes everything feel calmer.

How important is it to ‘get a real job’ if you want to be a writer?

Don’t do it–it’ll really cut into all that time you can spend procrastinating on Twitter.  (Just kidding.  Probably 95 percent of writers I know have day jobs of some sort; writing can be an unpredictable and unstable career.)

What’s been the most challenging part of the publishing process, and what is the most rewarding?

It’s been challenging learning to step out of my private writing world and think about things like marketing and deadlines–all the things that go into making a story a book–and my insecurity levels have skyrocketed now that the story is actually becoming a book people will actually read.  When you publish a book it takes on a life of its own outside of you, and that’s so hard to wrap my mind around!  The most rewarding has been, by far, the YA community–such incredible, generous, supportive, talented people who are eager to connect and swap stories.  Plus, I’ve gotten to read some ridiculously amazing books that will be out next year!

Is there any particular author who has shaped your writing?

Authors whose work I keep coming back to are Curtis Sittenfeld, Julie Otsuka, Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum, Paul Yoon, Wallace Stegner, Caroline Cooney.


 15s kellyKelly Loy Gilbert is the author of CONVICTION and an overly-active Twitter feed. She serves on the NaNoWriMo Associate Board, is a fan of diverse books, and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.


You can find Kelly online: Twitter | Goodreads



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In celebration of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month, I’m sharing some of my favorite YA novels by Asian-Pacific American authors, and a bunch that I’m looking forward to reading. For those unfamiliar with APHM, this is a celebration of Asians and Pacific Islanders brought about by the joint efforts of U.S. Representatives Frank Horton and Norm Mineta, and Senators Daniel Inouye and Spark Matsunaga back in the seventies.

In no particular order, here are a few of my favorite YA stories written by Asian American authors.

single shardA SINGLE SHARD, Linda Sue Park

Set in 12th century Korea, an orphan is determined to prove his worthiness to make pottery by delivering his master’s bowls to the Korean court. The MC, Tree-Ear is one of the best heroes I’ve read in a long time – his tenacity and good heart make it impossible for the reader not to love him, and to root for him even when all goes to pot.

KirakiraKIRA-KIRA, Cynthia Kadohata

A young Japanese American girl living in 1950′s Georgia struggles to find her way in a family torn by her sister’s illness and her parents’ horrible work conditions. One of the best things about this novel was the bond between sisters through the MC’s attempts to understand her sister’s illness, even as she doesn’t always understand what’s happening.

Hotel_on_the_Corner_of_Bitter_and_Sweet_coverHOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET, by Jamie Ford

Though this book is shelved as literary fiction, I’m including it because of this book’s appeal to young adults. It’s about a forbidden friendship between a Chinese American boy and a Japanese American girl during World War II. As an Asian American historical fiction writer myself, I love books that give us a glimpse into our past, and in doing so, a glimpse into ourselves.


This was the first Asian American YA novel I ever read. It’s a memoir of a Chinese girl growing up in San Francisco in the mid-20th century, who must reconcile her traditional Chinese upbringing to the American way of life. What I loved about this book is that beyond the rich cultural detail is how universal Jade’s story is – she’s the every day girl struggling find her way in the world, even if that means rebelling a little against what her parents expect.

51zCS5BMbyL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_AMERICAN BORN CHINESE, Gene Luen Yang

In this graphic novel, a Chinese American boy navigates his way through bullies and American culture. This book speaks to anyone born into a family or circumstance they wish they could escape. I loved the gentle humor, not to mention the precise illustrations that make even the most reluctant readers (my husband) want to read.

Marie-lu-legendLEGEND trilogy, Marie Lu

Set in the flooded Republic of Los Angeles 2130 A.D., about a boy who is the Republic’s most wanted criminal and a girl who is the Republic’s most beloved government prodigy whose paths cross when her brother is murdered and she is hired to hunt down the boy responsible — but the truth they uncover will become legend. If you don’t know this series yet, it’s time. The action is fast and the boy meets girl on the wrong side of the tracks is classic.

Here are a few books by Asian American authors who are on my TBR list:

10129062PROPHECY, Ellen Oh

Kira’s the only female in the king’s army, and the prince’s bodyguard. She’s a demon slayer and an outcast, hated by nearly everyone in her home city of Hansong. And, she’s their only hope…


A_Step_From_Heaven_(An_Na_novel)_cover_artA STEP FROM HEAVEN, An Na

Korean-American girl tells the story of her acculturation into American life beginning from the day she leaves Korea as a young child and ending when she is a young woman.




Three 12-year-old guys discover that the new alter ego of their hometown superhero, Captain Stupendous, is a 12-year-old girl.



And here are a few books by Asian American authors debuting in 2015.

FOR THE RECORD by the Freshman Fifteen’s own Charlotte Huang, an all-access glimpse into the modern music scene in which a girl unexpectedly becomes the lead singer of an indie darling band and captures the attention of a Hollywood it-boy.

AN EMBER IN THE ASHES by Sabaa Tahir, the story of two teenagers fighting to survive under the Empire’s brutal, militaristic regime, which has outlawed reading among the once-powerful “Scholar” class; the “Scholars” live under the oppression of the “Martials,” who silently assassinate insurgents.

CONVICTION by the Freshman Fifteen’s own Kelly Loy Gilbert, about a high school baseball star, whose conservative Christian father has just been arrested for a possible hate crime of which the boy is the only witness, in a timely contemporary novel about truth, justice, and baseball

THE WRATH OF THE DAWN by Renée Ahdieh, a YA reimagining of The Arabian Nights, where the wits of one girl are the only thing standing between a vulnerable kingdom and its ruthless boy-king.

TINY PRETTY THINGS, a YA mystery by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton, which follows three students at a competitive Manhattan ballet academy, all vying for the prima ballerina spot.

ZEROBOXER by Fonda Lee, about a young man battling to make it to the top in the world of zero gravity prizefighting amid brewing interplanetary conflict.

WRITTEN IN THE STARS by Aisha Saeed, in which a Pakistani-American girl falls in love with a boy in her community against her parents’ wishes.

NONE OF THE ABOVE by I.W. Gregorio, about a girl who discovers she is intersex and must brave the fallout when her whole high school finds out.

BLACKBIRD FLY, by Erin Entrada Kelly, about a bullied seventh-grade music prodigy who loves the Beatles and dreams of owning a certain Fender Starcaster acoustic guitar.

Editor’s note: Stacey is far too modest to recommend her own book, the gorgeously written, moving, un-put-downable UNDER A PAINTED SKY, so we shall do it for her.

UNDER A PAINTED SKY, by Stacey Lee. When a 15-year-old Chinese girl kills a Missouri landowner in self-defense, she and a runaway slave disguise themselves as young men and seek their freedom in the frontier with a band of cowboys.

Do you have a favorite book by an Asian American author? Please share in the comments below!

*The term “Asian-Pacific” encompasses all of the Asian continent and the Pacific islands of Melanesia (New Guinea, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Fiji and the Solomon Islands), Micronesia (Marianas, Guam, Wake Island, Palau, Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Nauru and the Federated States of Micronesia) and Polynesia (New Zealand, Hawaiian Islands, Rotuma, Midway Islands, Samoa, American Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Cook Islands, French Polynesia and Easter Island).

Stacey Stacey Lee is the author of UNDER A PAINTED SKY coming Winter 2015 from G.P. Putnam’s Sons.

Stacey loves papayas, baubles, chocolate peanut butter anything, taking walks, nature shows, Spanish guitar, funky dancing. And if you ever wrote her a letter with pen and paper, she probably still has it.

You can find Stacey online: Website | Twitter |Goodreads | Pinterest

Posted in Reading, Writing, Young Adult | Tagged , Comment

Freshman 15er Kim Savage interviewed author Annie Cardi about her YA debut, THE CHANCE YOU WON’T RETURN (available now from Candlewick Press!)

Annie Cardi BWAnnie Cardi


Abstract: Between drivers’ ed and a new crush, high school junior Alex Winchester already has enough to deal with when her mother begins to believe she is Amelia Earhart. Now, as her mother’s delusions become more intense, Alex is increasingly worried that her mom is planning Amelia’s final flight – the flight from which she never returns. What could possibly be driving Mom’s delusions, and how far will they take her?

Department: Candlewick Press

Faculty Advisor: Hilary Van Dusen

Released: April 22, 2014

Hometown: East Greenwich, RI

Minor(s): Baking, Running, Colorful Nail Polish-Wearing

Most Likely To: Share the Perfect Gif Response

Friday Night Whereabouts:

_X_ Library

___ Party

___ Cafeteria

___ Missing in Action

# Books Queried Before THE CHANCE YOU WON’T RETURN: THE CHANCE YOU WON’T RETURN was my first, actually. Of course there are lots of other stories and a few novels from my own teen years that will never see the light of day.

Quote from Thesis:  “No one knows when or how rescue could come.”


One day the line ‘My mother thinks she’s Amelia Earhart’ popped into my head. I was so intrigued by this idea and what this narrator and this family’s life was like.

Outside of the general idea, I was really inspired by moving, thoughtful, introspective contemporary novels like Sara Zarr’s STORY OF A GIRL and Laurie Halse Anderson’s SPEAK. I was coming from you a general literary MFA program, and I wanted to write something that, like Zarr and Anderson’s works, were well-crafted and literary while still being very much YA.

I know THE CHANCE YOU WON’T RETURN was just released, but is /was there a part of the launch “process” that surprised you?

That other people are super excited for you. When the book was released, friends started sharing pictures of THE CHANCE YOU WON’T RETURN in bookstores or libraries or having been delivered to their house. It was so cool getting to see the book really out in the world, in the hands of people I loved. It was a great moment of it going from being “my book” to “their book.”

Alex’s mother (along with all of your characters, actually) is so layered and fascinating. I imagine readers will come down on all sides regarding their feelings for her. Was she hard to write?

Thank you so much! That was probably one of the hardest parts of the book to write. Kind of like Alex, it took me a while to figure out what was going on with her mom. Why would someone think they’re Amelia Earhart? What was she trying to escape? And why Earhart in particular? The first several drafts were way more vague about what Alex’s mom was going through, but I really wanted her to come across as a fully realized character whose dealing with some real pain. I know so many people who either experience mental illness or whose loved ones have dealt with mental illness—it was really important for me to make Alex’s mom’s experience and emotions feel true, even if the situation itself is outside the ordinary.

If you could give one piece of advice to upcoming 2014 and 2015 debuts, what would it be?

It’s always going to feel like someone’s doing better marketing or has a better second book or has their writing career more together, but we’re all dealing with stress and anxiety and jealousy and self-doubt. Don’t be afraid to grab your closest fellow debut authors and vent/rant/sob—they’re probably feeling the exact same way. We’re all in this crazy ride together and the more we can support each other, the better.

Do you have a favorite book from your teen years?

It’s hard to pick just one! HARRY POTTER started to get big when I was in high school, and (of course) I loved those. Also the HIS DARK MATERIALS series and Francesca Lia Block’s books. I read FEELING SORRY FOR CELIA by Jaclyn Moriarty toward the end of high school and felt like it was one of the funniest, most honest and touching books I’d ever read. It’s still a YA favorite.

What is your advice to teens who have dreams of being published?

Keep writing! I was totally that teen who wanted to be a writer someday, and it’s still baffling that I have a book on the shelves. Just because you’re young doesn’t mean you don’t have a passion and a voice—write up a storm.

And write for you. Forget about being published right now; just write because you love it and you need to make stories. That love and passion is something that’ll keep you going for the rest of your life. Cherish it.


Be the first person to answer our Amelia Earhart trivia question in the “Comments” section below and win a free autographed copy of THE CHANCE YOU WON’T RETURN!

Question: Amelia Earhart was given a nickname because her slim build and facial features represented another famous American aviator. What was it?


Annie Cardi holds an MFA in creative writing from Emerson College and a BA from the University of Virginia. Her short stories have appeared in The Georgetown ReviewVestal ReviewJuked, and other publications

In 2011, PEN New England selected her as a winner of the Susan P. Bloom Children’s Book Discovery Award for the manuscript that would become her debut young adult novel, The Chance You Won’t Return. Annie lives near Boston with her husband and a portrait of a sea captain.

You can find Annie online: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Tumblr | YouTube


Posted in 2014 Debut Author Yearbook Profile, Writing, Young Adult | Tagged , , , 6 Comments

A few weeks ago I was invited to speak at El-Sewedy International Academy of Cincinnati’s Girl’s Ball. The event, organized by the school’s fantastic and hardworking teachers, was focused on celebrating female creativity, strength, and community.

JSchoolAs someone who gets very nervous, I was a bit anxious about speaking, but I was immediately put at ease by the positive energy in the room. I’d been asked to briefly talk about my writing and path to publication, and to focus on all of this through the lens of being a woman, specifically a Middle Eastern American woman.

I began brainstorming my talk by thinking about the extra challenges that I believe girls, especially girls of color, face when it comes to pursuing a creative career. I know that when I was younger, I doubted if I could become a writer because none of the visiting authors that came to my school looked like me. I actually don’t ever remember reading a book about a girl who ethnically resembled me until I was over the age of eighteen.

Beyond the lack of representation, I also suffered from a crippling fear of failure. I’m embarrassed to admit this, but when I was drafting MY HEART AND OTHER BLACK HOLES, I considered leaving out any mentions of Aysel’s ethnicity. I even toyed with the idea of changing her name so she would seem more “universal”. I was so worried that this story was going to fail and I didn’t want to add anything to the narrative that would make it less “accessible”. But my brave friend Sara Farizan urged me to tell the story I WANTED to tell, and while Aysel’s ethnicity is not the central focus of the story, it is integral to it. Sara’s encouragement gave me the confidence to finish writing the novel, and I was lucky enough to find an agent (the lovely Brenda Bowen) and an editor (the fabulous Alessandra Balzer) who are beyond supportive of diverse titles.

While I feel more confident now, in no small part thanks to the support of my agent and editor, I do think this fear is a pervasive one in our community. The more I talk with other female writers, especially those writing about diverse characters, the more I begin to realize that I am not alone in my fear, and so I chose to center my talk at El-Sewedy International Academy around this issue.

While I’m sure fear of failure applies to boys, too, as this recent Atlantic Monthly article demonstrates, there is an alarming gender confidence gap. The study concludes that when it comes to success, confidence matters even more than competence. And it theorizes that girls tend to struggle with confidence much more often than their male counterparts. With this in mind, I urged the young women in the room to not be afraid of failure and to understand that there is no such thing as instant success. Very often I think young girls are afraid of seeming less than perfect and this means that they too quickly give up on their dreams. Or even worse, are too afraid to ever try. As Beyonce famously states:


It seems to me that the best thing we can do to support young diverse female voices is reach out to them, mentor them. Help them get over the paralysis that comes from wanting (or expecting!) to churn out a perfect first draft. Work with them to nurture their confidence. Dispel this notion of instant success while at the same time being encouraging that there are people out there who want to hear their voices–much like my wonderful friend Sara Farizan did for me.

I was so inspired by the young women who came up and chatted with me after my talk. They voiced concerns and fears that I was very familiar with, but at their age, would have been too afraid to confess to anyone. It made me realize how important it is for all of us to talk openly and honestly about our fears and help one another to overcome them, to help one another build confidence.

And that’s why I’m so excited about being a member of the Freshman Fifteens and helping to spearhead our Freshman Voices initiative. As the push for diverse books becomes louder, I believe the best thing we can do is help nurture, mentor, and support the future writers of those titles.

JWYearbookJasmine Warga is the author of MY HEART AND OTHER BLACK HOLES coming from Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins in Winter 2015. She likes surrealist sketches, old swing sets, and the night sky.

You can find Jasmine online: Website | Twitter | Goodreads


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