Even before we Freshman Fifteens signed our book contracts and officially entered the KidLit writing world, we were floored by the generosity of this terrific community. We’ve each been helped beyond words by our agents, editors, fellow authors (published and not-yet-published), and each other. It’s made this crazy (and stressful!) journey a much more enjoyable ride. As a group, we wanted to work together on a project that would allow us to pay it forward and help the next generation of authors.

And so on June 26, we kicked off our COMMON ROOM short story teen mentoring contest. We were extremely lucky to find a terrific partner in this contest to mentor teen writers: the 25-million-plus online community of Wattpad.

Common Room CoverIn the contest, the winning teen writers 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.

The 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.

For the past month, our Freshman Fifteens have been reading the entries, and we’re astounded by the talent. The short story pitches submitted to us were so incredibly engaging and the writing so universally strong and vivid that it made choosing our final 15 an extremely difficult challenge. (Check out the entries here.)

Before we announce the winners, we want to congratulate each writer who submitted to us. It is a very brave thing to put your work forward for reading and critique. You should be proud of yourself for entering and, more than that, know how hard you—with your talent—made this decision for us. Please continue writing. Keep entering contests, keep honing your craft, and keep reading to learn and improve. That’s what we all did—and still do.

And now, here are the winners and their Freshman Fifteen mentors!

Rachel W., Wattpad username Chandelier, writer of SOULLESS, to be mentored by contest organizer Lori Goldstein

GracieWacie, Wattpad username Graciewacie73, writer of LOCKED OUT, to be co-mentored by contest organizer Lori Goldstein and Virginia Boecker

Anne Lutz, Wattpad user name AnneLutz, writer of VIOLET, to be mentored by contest coorganizer Jen Brooks

Make Me Swoon, Wattpad username MakeMeSwoon, writer of MIXED MESSAGES, to be mentored by contest co-organizer Jen Brooks

Arminius, Wattpad username Arminius, writer of POISONED PEAR, to be mentored by Chandler Baker

Antara, Wattpad username _coralsky_, writer of MARRIED TREE, to be mentored by Kelly Loy Gilbert

Julia, Wattpad username ceilingflower, writer of ATTACHMENT, to be mentored by Charlotte Huang

Aisha, Wattpad username, Metaphorphosis, writer of IMAGINE, to be mentored by Lee Kelly

Anne Brees, Wattpad username AnneBrees, writer of HONESTLY, to be mentored by Stacey Lee

Christina, Wattpad username wordshipwrecks, writer of DESTINATA, to be mentored by Kim Liggett

Ashley, Wattpad username AshJellison, writer of LEAVE THE LIGHT ON, to be mentored by Jenny Martin

Katie Spektor, Wattpad user name KatieSpektor, writer of VOICES IN MY HEAD, to be mentored by Kim Savage

Coralie, Wattpad username terryco, author of BABYSITTING GRANDMA, to be mentored by Jenn Marie Thorne

Britton, Wattpad user name CutieFlutie, writer of A THOUSAND STARS, to be mentored by Laura Tims

Shelly, Wattpad user name shellyzev, writer of LIBRARY OF OLD GHOST, to be mentored by Jasmine Warga

 

We will be working with our writers throughout Fall 2014 to revise their stories in anticipation of their January 2015 debut in the COMMON ROOM anthology.

Be sure to follow the Freshman Fifteens on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, or right here on our blog to find out more about the winners in the coming months and to read their stories in the COMMON ROOM anthology!

Freshman Fifteens
Wattpad: http://www.wattpad.com/user/Freshman15s

Web site: www.freshmanfifteens.com
Twitter: @Freshman15s
Tumblr: http://freshmanfifteens.tumblr.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/FreshmanFifteens

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Posted in Contests and Giveaways | Tagged , Comment

Freshman 15er Lori Goldstein interviewed author Jen Malone about her MG debut, AT YOUR SERVICE, coming August 26, 2014 from Simon & Schuster/Aladdin MIX!

JM BWJEN MALONE

Writing Thesis: AT YOUR SERVICE

Abstract: In this love letter to NYC, tween Chloe longs to follow in her concierge father’s footsteps, and when she’s awarded the role of Junior Concierge (tending to the needs of guests’ children) at the fancy hotel where she lives, she’s well on her way. Right up until the point she loses a visiting royal. She’ll have to race through NYC’s tourist spots in search, but can she find the young princess before the incident becomes international news and dashes both her reputation and her dreams?

Department: Simon & Schuster/Aladdin MIX

Faculty Advisors: Annie Berger and Amy Cloud

Release Date: August 26, 2014

Hometown: Boston, MA

Minor(s): overusing the word “just”, overbooking Future Jen, and (over)pining for a hedgehog.

Most Likely To: fall while walking down (or up) stairs.

Friday Night Whereabouts:

_X_ Library (except why isn’t dueling piano bar an option?)

___ Party

___ Cafeteria

___ Missing in Action

# Books Queried Before AT YOUR SERVICE: #1

Quote from Thesis: “I’m sorry, but does she not have the slightest clue how special this city is? Does she think Frank Sinatra would “start spreading the news” about the worst place ever? Has she not seen all the t-shirts? They don’t say “I FROWNY-FACE NY”. No. They say “I HEART NY”. And anyone who doesn’t heart it themselves must not have a heart to begin with.

AT YOUR SERVICE is a mini love letter to NYC. Whats your connection to the city and what made you set the book there?

As a child, I completely adored every trip we made to NYC and every book I read set there. Still do. I think it really helped to “know” the city as a tourist and write from that perspective, because I can still describe the sights and sounds (and smells!) from a… let’s call it “less jaded”… perspective, which might not be the case if I’d lived in the city for years and years. That said, it was exceedingly helpful to have an editor and critique partner who DO live there and could steer me straight if I got something wrong!

If you were a concierge in a fancy hotel like Chloes dad, what would you be great at recommending and what would be out of your comfort zone?

While I’ve never been a hotel concierge, I have been both a youth hostel manager and a publicist for some major Hollywood celebrities and both came with their fair share of weird requests, trust me. After that, there’s not all that much that’s out of my comfort zone, sadly, but I probably would have to do some major consulting before I could recommend a hopping nightspot these days. :)

You recently sold not one, not two, but FOUR additional books: a two-book MG series, co-authored with Gail Nall, called RSVP (Aladdin, Spring 2015 and Winter 2016), and a two-book deal for your YA debut WANDERLOST (HarperTeen Summer 2016) and a second YA novel. First, congratulations, and second, youve been busy! How does it feel to have the next couple of years planned out, at least in your writing life?

Well, now I’m blushing (in between sending balloons and chocolate to my ninja agent). A few months before I got offers on those books, I remember wailing to that ninja agent about how everyone else in the 2014 debut group was already in copyedits on their second book and I hadn’t sold anything and what if I never, ever did again (of course, her answer was to stop it, stop it, STOP IT with the comparisons!) Be careful what you wish for, right? (Wait, did I just reference wishes to the girl with the jinn book?) It feels great, of course, but also a little strange because until now I’ve had the freedom to work on whichever project I wanted and now I find myself tucking away shiny ideas versus jumping straight into them. Not complaining though, of course!

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

I can’t claim this for my own, but someone recently posted in the 2014 message boards and I found her advice to be brilliant amidst all the topsy-turviness of a debut year. I’ll paraphrase: Once a week or so, take out your book (or ARC), slap it on the desk next to you, admire it for a moment, and say, “Hot damn, I wrote a book. Hell yeah, I did!” I also keep reminding myself (though not necessary, so far!) to savor all these first and try hard to never get jaded about any of it.

Do you have a favorite book from your younger years?  

I really, really loved From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. I wanted to be Claudia sooo badly.

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

While publishing isn’t for the faint of heart, if it’s your dream, it’s your dream, and you should honor that. However, being published is not the only finish line and plenty of people are writers without getting published. You’re a writer the minute you call yourself a writer, so give yourself that respect. However, my advice would also be: for every hour you spend writing, spend at least two reading. There is no better way to learn both the craft and the market!

Enter to win a signed copy of AT YOUR SERVICE, releasing August 26, 2014!

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Jen Malone At Your ServiceJen Malone is a middle grade and young adult author. Her debut AT YOUR SERVICE published with Simon & Schuster/Aladdin MIX in August 2014 and her new series, RSVP (Simon & Schuster), co-written with Gail Nall, launches with Book #1 in 2015. Her YA debut WANDERLOST is forthcoming with HarperCollins in 2016.

Jen lives north of Boston with her husband and three children, teaches at Boston University, loves school visits, and has a “thing” for cute hedgehog pictures.

You can find Jen online: Website | Twitter | Pinterest | Facebook

Posted in 2014 Debut Author Yearbook Profile, Contests and Giveaways, Debut Authors, Middle Grade | Tagged , , , , , Comment

Freshman Fifteens author Kelly Loy Gilbert  chatted with fellow Freshman Lee Kelly to find out more about her forthcoming debut, CITY OF SAVAGES (Simon & Schuster Children’s, February 3, 2015).

LeeWhen two sisters attempt to escape war-torn Manhattan, dark well-kept secrets about their family and the city begin to surface from the wreckage.

“I know I have two options.

I can tell her how much I hate the Park, this city, and her and all of the sorry excuses for human beings that do her bidding.

Or I can tell her the bigger truth.  The one that, regardless of how jealous I am, how insignificant I feel, is more a part of me than any limb or organ, whether I like it or not. It rumbles inside of me and bursts through my lips, armed with new ammunition from the whiskey.

‘I would never leave Phee,’ I say, but don’t look at my sister, as my answer is so fundamental I’m scared by it. ‘What she wants, I’ll live with.’”

How did CITY OF SAVAGES come to exist?

Right before I started writing CITY OF SAVAGES, I had moved back from Los Angeles to Manhattan, and was practicing law at a very “New York” firm – hard-to-please partners, long hours, floor-thirty-something offices with almost torturous views of Central Park. Anyway, my mind refused to focus on my morning commute, and I’d spend most subway rides daydreaming instead of reviewing documents. I found myself imagining a prison in Central Park (was I miserable as a lawyer? Nah), ruthless wardens, subway rides that were life and death… one thing led to another, and the construct for the dark world of CITY OF SAVAGES started to take shape.

Your book is set in (a haunting, deliciously terrifying re-imagining of) New York City. What inspired you to set your book here? Will readers recognize any landmarks or parts of the city?

I love that – “deliciously terrifying” – man, I hope so!

Honestly, I think New York serves as inspiration for many writers and artists and professionals who live and work there. It’s a city that’s loved, a city that’s hated – but any way you slice it, it’s a place that’s hard to ignore.

And the city really is, in many ways, a character in this novel. The Manhattan in CITY OF SAVAGES is the ruins of the Manhattan we know now – so current places and well-known locations feature prominently. Landmarks like Belvedere Castle and Sheep Meadow in Central Park are major settings, as are apartments on Wall Street and the Meatpacking District. Even certain hotels like The Carlyle and The Standard are, let’s just say, “re-purposed.”

How do you develop your characters? Do they draw from real-life experiences, or are they opposite of anyone you know, or … ?

Some of mine are definitely drawn from real-life experiences. I’m the oldest of three, and the main characters of CITY OF SAVAGES, Sky and Phee, are modeled after my own two sisters (though if I’m honest, there is a little bit of me in each of them). And as my day job was inspiration for the novel, one of the story’s antiheros is fittingly based on a partner at my firm, which I guess is kind of weird now that I think about it. Then there are others that are composites.

While not every character I write is based on someone from my life, it helps when I do have this real-life “personality compass” that I can check back with every once in a while. So when I get to a scene that I’m unsure about, I can see whether I’m remaining true to the character’s nature, or if I’ve sort of veered off into no man’s land.

What’s on your writing bucket list?

I LOVE this question. The book I’m currently working on is a historical fantasy, which was on my bucket list for a long time, so I’m pumped about finally diving in! But I’ve also been dying to write a ghost story that plays with the boundaries of “haunter” and “haunted”, and have been thinking for a while about a thriller set against the 1960s counterculture (all that Warhol Factory jazz? Just crazy). And if I ever get to the end of that list, I’d love to try a story told in second-person, just to do it.

What are you doing when you aren’t writing?

I have a 14-month old wild-man named Penn, who naturally keeps me very busy. When not hanging with Penn or writing/doing writerly things, my husband and I spend a lot of time with family, try our best to get outdoors (hiking, biking, etc – don’t do enough of it!) and try new restaurants. I read as much as I can, for pleasure and because I think it’s fundamental to good writing. I also have a slightly addictive personality when it comes to good TV (read: HBO and Showtime), but I try my best not to watch more than a couple hours a week.

What’s the most important part of every story for you?

I think the thing that I strive for in each of my stories is a big focus on the interior journey of the main character(s), with the exterior setting playing a prominent role, or even serving as a metaphor, for that interior journey. Naturally, I’m a sucker for these types of books as a reader (Bridge to Terabithia, Phantom Tollbooth, The Road, and the list goes on).

In CITY OF SAVAGES, I wanted the burned-out husk of Manhattan to serve as a backdrop for two sisters’ understanding of what love and sacrifice ultimately mean, and how far one will (and should) go for a second chance. In the current book I’m working on, I’m playing with the notions of identity versus family and loyalty, and wanted to set the story during the 1920s: that frenetic, tumultuous period of America redefining itself, and struggling with its own identity. So I think that interplay, of interior and exterior, is what keeps me writing and interested in my stories, and really sings to me as a reader. Unfortunately, it also results in many, many drafts to get the right balance between them… but at this point, I’ve kind of just accepted that I’m a writer that needs to work through many drafts!

 LeeLee Kelly has wanted to write since she was old enough to hold a pencil, but it wasn’t until she began studying for the California Bar Exam that she conveniently started putting pen to paper. An entertainment lawyer by trade, Lee has practiced law in Los Angeles and New York.

She lives with her husband and son in Millburn, New Jersey, though after a decade in Manhattan, she can’t help but still call herself a New Yorker. City of Savages is her first novel.

You can find Lee online: WebsiteTwitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram

Posted in Debut Authors, Writing, Young Adult | Tagged , , , , Comment

The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) hosted its 43rd Annual Summer Conference in Los Angeles this past weekend. It’s an amazing event with some of the biggest names in children’s publishing gathering for four days to inspire, advise and teach writers and illustrators at all stages of career development.

A few of the Freshman attended and we put together some of our favorite tips for you. We think these will be particularly helpful for those of you who are in the querying/submitting/just-about-to-debut stages. If you want more, there’s lots of great advice from the conference on Twitter under the hashtag #LA14SCBWI and also here: http://scbwiconference.blogspot.com/.

Charlotte Huang, Virginia Boecker, and Stacey Lee, having fun!

photo 3-2

INSPIRATION

1. Treasure your faults. Be bad, take risks, embrace what’s difficult. (Meg Rosoff)

2. Become a collector of experiences. (Judy Schachner)

3. Your individual voice is the biggest capital you have in this business. (Justin Chanda)

4. Being a writer is the greatest journey. Sometimes I feel like I died and went to heaven, sometimes I feel like I’m just dead. (Sharon G. Flake)

5. Your creativity is not a genie in a bottle that you can just pull up whenever you think you want to. Sometimes blood is required. (Sharon G. Flake)

6. You don’t have to get it right the first time. You just have to get something right. (Tim Federle)

7. Everyone is always starting over. All of us face the same blank page. (Tim Federle)

8. Have the courage to create. Modern society almost doesn’t appreciate the creative act but we have to have the courage to do it anyway. (Tomie dePaola)

9. I never have plots. I just wait for the reviewers to tell me what my book’s about. (Judy Blume)

10. I know a lot of people who are good writers but they stop because they don’t have that determination. (Judy Blume)

The incomparable Judy Blume.

photo 2

 

PROCESS AND CRAFT

  1. Try intuitive collaging: cut things out and put them together with no rhyme or reason and see what ideas it sparks. (Judy Schachner)
  1. There’s no such thing as writers’ block. It’s just you’re editing too early. (Stephen Chbosky)
  1. In writing other cultures, research has to be intensive and extensive. You have to spend months, years immersed in that culture. Spend time to get it right. (Linda Sue Park)
  1. You don’t create voice. Your characters reveal themselves through voice. (Sharon G. Flake)
  1. Don’t spend time on things that don’t matter. (Sharon G. Flake)
  1. Don’t bore the editor. (Linda Sue Park)
  1. Characters must want something. It’s never enough for them to not want something. (Maggie Stiefvater)
  1. Voice is about finding out who you are, about how your reaction to life is different. (Meg Rosoff)
  1. Don’t use subplots as a crutch. Don’t toss additional things into the story to give it an engine. If you take something out, will the book still stand? (Julie Strauss-Gabel)
  1. Craft equals making choices. What belongs in the story you’re trying to tell? (Dinah Stevenson)

Sharon G. Flake, who made us all cry.

photo 1

WORKING WITH PUBLISHING PROFESSIONALS

  1. Don’t be weird with your submissions. Don’t use gimmicks to get attention. (Allyn Johnson)
  1. Don’t submit a revision before an editor has a chance to evaluate your first submission. (Wendy Loggia)
  1. Pick up the phone. Don’t rely on email. (Allyn Johnson)
  1. If only submitting to one editor in a house, shows that agent believes in a strong fit between editor and project. These manuscripts get earlier reads. (Wendy Loggia)
  1. Bring your publishers good news. Only 15% of your communications should be requests. The other 85% should be gratitude and good news. (Tim Federle)
  1. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. (Mary Lee Donovan)
  1. Send handwritten cards to assistants, interns and blurbers. (Tim Federle)

The Golden Kite Luncheon

photo 1

MARKETING AND PUBLICITY

  1. Start your marketing blitz when your book has been published. (Erin Murphy)
  1. Include your book’s ISBN # on any printed promotional material. (Erin Murphy)
  1. Remember to write characters and story. Marketing doesn’t trump storytelling. (Justin Chanda)
  1. What’s your backstory? What inspired you to write this book? Knowing this helps publicity department to come up with the pitch for your book. (Shanta Newlin)
  1. Develop a good two-sentence pitch. (Shanta Newlin)
  1. Develop an email list and send a newsletter once or twice a year. (Erin Murphy)
  1. Book trailers can be used if part of a larger campaign, only if there’s a real way to distribute it. (Emily Romero)
  1. Write your next book. Nothing sells backlist like frontlist. (Everyone)

The amazing Tim Federle, making everyone laugh.

photo 2

Posted in Publishing, SCBWI, Writing Comment

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).

Charlotte

“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

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

 

Posted in Book Deal, Debut Authors, Writing, Young Adult | Tagged , , , Comment

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.

Today.”

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 www.wattpad.com 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
Wattpad: http://www.wattpad.com/user/Freshman15s

Web site: www.freshmanfifteens.com
Twitter: @Freshman15s
Tumblr: http://freshmanfifteens.tumblr.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/FreshmanFifteens

 

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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?

Cheers,

Victoria

Victoria

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!

MK BW

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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