Take a Workshop with me at the NESCBWI 2013 Conference

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If you’re a YA or middle-grade writer planning to go to the New England SCBWI conference in Springfield, Massachusetts, May 3–5, I wanted to tell you two things:

Thing One: Registration opens today! You can register for the conference starting at 11am EST today (February 6).

Thing Two: And if you register, you’ll have a chance to sign up for a craft workshop with me. I’ll be teaching two workshops…

On Saturday afternoon, I’ll be teaching a two-hour workshop for novelists focusing on sculpting gripping, promising opening chapters:

F6 ~ Killer First Chapters with Nova Ren Suma (Pro-Track)

The first chapter of your novel can make or break you: The way you open your story will work to keep a reader (or agent, or editor!) feverishly turning your pages… or not. In this studio class, we will read all the first chapters ahead of time and discuss each student’s opening pages. We will ask questions such as: Did you start at the true start of your story? Is there a stronger way to hook your reader? What does this opening make you want and expect from the story? We will focus on the hook of a brilliant first paragraph, pacing and when to reveal information, and how to close out your first chapter leaving the reader gasping for more. We will also experiment with a writing exercise for first paragraphs, to see how shifting and re-imagining the opening lines can reveal new and exciting possibilities. For YA and middle-grade writers with novels in-progress.

Focus: Writing, Category: MG, YA, Audience: Int/Experienced (Pro-Track)

And on Sunday afternoon, I’ll be teaching another two-hour intensive focusing on setting and place in fiction:

L2 Place as Character with Nova Ren Suma

A strong sense of place in your YA or middle-grade novel can work to bring your novel to vivid life. This intensive will feature examples of memorable settings in published YA and middle-grade books as points of inspiration and reveal how the story for my own novel, IMAGINARY GIRLS, came from the real-life place where it was set. This workshop will also feature hands-on writing exercises and prompts to strengthen the place of your story and lead you to experiment with building setting description into scenes that can be seen and heard and felt with all the senses—setting that works in perfect balance against dialogue and action. Setting can be a strength even in contemporary realistic novels set in everyday places such as high schools and cities and towns we know. This intensive will inspire you to treat your setting with as much care and attention as your central characters.

Focus: Writing, Category: MG, YA, Audience: Intermediate

When you register, you choose which intensives you want—space is limited.

If you’re headed to NESCBWI this spring, I hope you’ll consider taking a workshop with me! I’ll be at the conference Friday through Sunday, and there will be two book signings, too.

REGISTER HERE.

p.s. And if you still want to take a class with me but can’t make it to Massachusetts in May, there are still spaces in my online YA Novel Writing: Master Class that begins in early April! More info here.

Anticipated YA Debut Interview: THE REECE MALCOLM LIST (+Giveaway)

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Today I have an interview with another February 2013 Anticipated YA Debut Author! Our featured author is Amy Spalding—and her first novel, The Reece Malcolm List, is on sale today, February 5, from Entangled Teen! Read on to see how Amy answered my Q&A…

Scroll down to see who won the giveaway!


The Reece Malcolm ListNova: I’ll start with the dreaded question you may be hearing already from strangers on elevators, long-lost family members, and your doctor while you’re sitting on the examination table in the paper gown during your next checkup: “So what’s your book about?” Surely you don’t carry around a copy so you can recite the description off the flaps, so how do you answer this question when asked?

Amy: First of all, I absolutely WILL read my flap copy to people because I am terrible at pitching my own book. But when forced to improvise, The Reece Malcolm List is about sixteen-year-old Devan, who moves to L.A. to live with her mother, the New York Times bestselling author Reece Malcolm, who she’s never met before. She enrolls in performing arts school, meets friends, deals with boys, and has to figure out how to build a relationship with the enigmatic mother she’s never known. And I promise that even though Devan’s father has died, this isn’t a grief book!

NRS: In my experience, novels transform themselves, sometimes unrecognizably, during the course of being written. Were there any shocking transformations that occurred between rough draft and final bound book?

AS: Well. I originally got the idea for The Reece Malcolm List many, many years ago. MANY. I had the vague idea about writing a long-lost mother book, and even though fairly quickly I honed in on Devan and Reece’s characters…the rest was a mess. I had no idea how to actually write a book. I just wrote a bunch of things happening. Honestly it’s still a struggle for me to write a book. I tend to just want to write a bunch of people hanging out, people parlaying witty banter, and people making out. You may think this is enough for a book but apparently it’s not.

I also used to really think if I was going to bother writing, I should only write A Serious Novel. I didn’t even read that many serious novels, but I thought no one should set out to write anything less. So I really tried to push it in that direction for a long time, but I didn’t even like what I was writing. Luckily I realized I didn’t have to write A Serious Novel. I could just write what I wanted.

So ultimately The Reece Malcolm List isn’t that different from the initial vague idea I cooked up in my head, but it still took a long time getting there.

NRS: So you’re here with me gossiping about your main characters behind their backs. What’s something they wouldn’t want anyone to know that might make them blush? 

AS: It’s definitely interesting writing a character who keeps a lot of her emotions to and even from herself.

NRS: Tell us about the place—as in the physical location: a messy office, a comfy couch, a certain corner table at the café—where you spent most of your time writing this book. Now imagine the writing spot of your fantasies where you wish you’d been able to write this book… tell us all about it. 

AS: I have no one main location. I definitely spent a lot of time writing not only on my old ugly floral print couch, but the beautiful (and non-floral) new one I replaced it with. I spent some Serious Time revising at my desk, but it’s rare for me to sit so upright. And I must give props to Starbucks and Kaldi in Atwater Village, where lots and lots of this novel was churned out or revised.

Coffeeshop writing is actually my favorite, but my dream would be for there to always magically be a table with an outlet available for me, and eggnog lattes all year long.

NRS: To go along with the theme of this blog (and my life), what is the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book? 

AS: Just one? If forced to name only one distraction when I’m an incredibly distracted person, I guess I have to say the internet. If you want more specificity, let’s blame Twitter specifically. Sorry, Twitter. You’re just so great!

NRS: Imagine you’re on the subway, or bus, or sitting in a park somewhere minding your own business… and you look up and see the most perfect person you could imagine devouring your book. This is your ideal reader. Set the scene and describe this person to us.

AS: Any person reading my book is my ideal reader!! I would have to force myself not to run over and ask how far they are and what do they think about boys with good hair.

NRS: If you could go back in time to whisper a few words of advice into your own ear before you leaped into this writing career, what would you tell your young, impressionable self? 

AS: STOP FREAKING OUT, SPALDING.

NRS: Dream question: If you could go on book tour anywhere in the world, with any two authors (living or dead), and serve any item of food at your book signing… where would you go, who with, and what delicious treat would you serve your fans?

AS: I would want to book tour with some author pals who already were invested in our friendship and wouldn’t care that I get cranky without coffee and snore in hotel rooms. I don’t want to tour with literary heroes and learn their gross habits.

If magic was possible, I’d want to serve all the L.A. food referenced in the book! One of my friends called The Reece Malcolm List “food porn” which is not the kind of blurb you put on the cover, but true nonetheless. Burgers from In-N-Out and Umami, sushi from Teru, enchiladas and chile rellenos from Mexicali, and a big stack of pancakes from Dupar’s.

NRS: How do you plan to celebrate your book’s birthday today?

AS: The life of an author with a dayjob means I’ll be spending it like I spend all my weekdays: looking at Twitter whenever I have the time.

The Reece Malcolm List is on sale today, February 5, from Entangled Teen. Read on for a chance to win a signed copy of the book plus bookmarks!


amy-spalding-headshot

Amy Spalding grew up outside of St. Louis. She now lives in Los Angeles with two cats and a dog. She works in marketing and does a lot of improv. The Reece Malcolm List is her first novel, and Merrily We Roll Along is her favorite Stephen Sondheim musical.

Visit Amy online at www.theamyspalding.com.

Follow @theames on Twitter and like her on Facebook.


ANNOUNCING THE GIVEAWAY WINNER…

Someone won a signed finished copy of The Reece Malcolm List plus bookmarks!

The Reece Malcolm ListAnd the winner is…

Rachel!

Congrats, Rachel! I will email for your mailing address. And thank you to everyone who entered!

Anticipated YA Debut Interview: PANTOMIME (+Giveaway)

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Today I have an interview with one of the February 2013 Anticipated YA Debut Authors! Today’s featured author is Laura Lam—and her first novel, Pantomime, is out in stores tomorrow, February 5, from Strange Chemistry! Read on to see how Laura answered my Q&A…

Scroll down to see who won the giveaway!


Pantomime Nova: I’ll start with the dreaded question you may be hearing already from strangers on elevators, long-lost family members, and your doctor while you’re sitting on the examination table in the paper gown during your next checkup: “So what’s your book about?” Surely you don’t carry around a copy so you can recite the description off the flaps, so how do you answer this question when asked?

Laura: Pantomime is set in a circus, R.H. Ragona’s Circus of Magic, set in Ellada, a pseudo-Victorian secondary world, where magic is long-gone…or so they think.

Pantomime follows Iphigenia Laurus, or Gene, the daughter of a noble family who doesn’t fit into the world of corsets, crinolines, and cotillions. It also follows Micah Grey, the newest aerialist of the circus. Their stories intertwine and they learn they might be the key to unlocking the secrets of Ellada.

NRS: In my experience, novels transform themselves, sometimes unrecognizably, during the course of being written. Were there any shocking transformations that occurred between rough draft and final bound book?

LL: This book changed a lot. I originally submitted an early draft to Angry Robot’s Open Door Month. It was shorter, in chronological order, and while it was a pretty good draft, it wasn’t there yet. I had a rewrite request and ended up gutting and rearranging the story, developing it, and adding more magic. The book is so much stronger now, and I have so many people to thank for that, especially Amanda Rutter & Strange Chemistry for offering me the second chance and one of my beta readers, author Anne Lyle, who recommended the structure change.

Additionally, in that rewrite, I added in what I thought was a small, throwaway sort of character, but she has since become very prominent in the sequel. It’s amazing how certain characters can take you by surprise.

NRS: So you’re here with me gossiping about your main characters behind their backs. What’s something they wouldn’t want anyone to know that might make them blush? 

LL: Many things make Micah blush! He has a very obvious crush pretty early on in Pantomime, and having someone point it out would turn him beet red in no time. Also, Micah has many secrets he wouldn’t want divulged to the circus, which would mortify him to no end…

NRS: Tell us about the place—as in the physical location: a messy office, a comfy couch, a certain corner table at the café—where you spent most of your time writing this book. Now imagine the writing spot of your fantasies where you wish you’d been able to write this book… tell us all about it. 

LL: I write a lot in cafes. I can write at home, but I become easily distracted, mainly by my cats. During the weeks I write at Starbucks, and most Saturdays I write in my favourite local café. That said, I’d love to have a proper writing cave and office. I live in a very tiny flat, so when I write at home, my desk is a TV stand in front of my sofa! Or, you know, writing on a tropical beach or various places as I travel around the world would be all right too, I suppose.

NRS: To go along with the theme of this blog (and my life), what is the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book? 

LL: Many! Cats & Twitter are the key suspects.

NRS: Imagine you’re on the subway, or bus, or sitting in a park somewhere minding your own business… and you look up and see the most perfect person you could imagine devouring your book. This is your ideal reader. Set the scene and describe this person to us.

LL: I must admit, I do fantasize about being on a train and seeing someone reading my book. It’d be a teen boy or girl, someone who maybe feels awkward in his or her own skin and is still figuring themselves out. They’d be reading, their nose close to the page. That would be incredible to see.

NRS: If you could go back in time to whisper a few words of advice into your own ear before you leaped into this writing career, what would you tell your young, impressionable self? 

LL: Stop faffing about and write the damn thing. Also: don’t be so hard on yourself. You are not the worst writer in the world. You’re not the best, either, but you’re not the worst!

NRS: Dream question: If you could go on book tour anywhere in the world, with any two authors (living or dead), and serve any item of food at your book signing… where would you go, who with, and what delicious treat would you serve your fans?

LL: I’d love to do a tour around the US. I grew up in California, but I’ve only really been to coastal states, so being able to see it from coast to coast would be incredible. I’d like to go with authors I admire who seem like they’d be fun to travel with, so I’ll choose Laini Taylor and Gail Carriger, though they might outshine me between the awesome pink hair and the amazing steampunk outfits, so I’ll have to up my game.

I’d love to serve afternoon tea to my fans! There’s an afternoon tea scene in Pantomime and I might have gotten a little carried away with describing the food. So sandwiches and cakes and tea for everyone!

NRS: How do you plan to celebrate your book’s birthday tomorrow?

LL: When it comes out in the States, it’ll be a pretty normal day for me and I’ll be at work trying to concentrate. On the 7th, which is the UK release, I’ll be down in London for my Forbidden Planet launch and being super excited because my mom is flying out from California to be there.

Pantomime is on sale in the U.S. tomorrow, February 5, from Strange Chemistry. Read on for a chance to win a copy of the book!


laura lam

Laura Lam was raised near San Francisco, California, by two former Haight-Ashbury hippies. Both of them encouraged her to finger-paint to her heart’s desire, colour outside of the lines, and consider the library a second home. This led to an overabundance of daydreams.

She relocated to Scotland to be with her husband, whom she met on the internet when he insulted her taste in books. She almost blocked him but is glad she didn’t. At times she misses the sunshine.

Visit her at www.lauralam.co.uk to find out more. 

Follow @LR_Lam on Twitter and like her on Facebook.


ANNOUNCING THE GIVEAWAY WINNER…

SOMEONE won a finished copy of Pantomime!

Pantomime And the winner is…

Suz of A Soul Unsung

Congrats, Suz! I will email for your mailing address.

Thank you to everyone who entered the giveaway!

The February 2013 Anticipated YA Debuts

Happy first day of February! I’m excited to share the two February 2013 Anticipated YA Debuts I’ll be featuring here on distraction no. 99 this month…

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Coming February 5…

PANTOMIME

Pantomime cover 300The story:

R.H. Ragona’s Circus of Magic is the greatest circus of Ellada. Nestled among the glowing blue Penglass—remnants of a mysterious civilization long gone—are wonders beyond the wildest imagination. It’s a place where anything seems possible, where if you close your eyes you can believe that the magic and knowledge of the vanished Chimeras is still there. It’s a place where anyone can hide.

Iphigenia Laurus, or Gene, the daughter of a noble family, is uncomfortable in corsets and crinoline, and prefers climbing trees to debutante balls. Micah Grey, a runaway living on the streets, joins the circus as an aerialist’s apprentice and soon becomes the circus’s rising star. But Gene and Micah have balancing acts of their own to perform, and a secret in their blood that could unlock the mysteries of Ellada.

The opening lines:

“Well, boy,” the ringmaster said. “What can you do?”

I swallowed. The clown who had found me eavesdropping tightened his grip on my shirt. 

“Pardon?” I asked.

He chuckled. “Don’t tell me you’re simple. What can you do? Are you a fire-eater? An acrobat? A freak?”

I was a freak, but I could not tell him so. I took a breath, smelling hay and sand. “I…I’m good at climbing, sir. Like a squirrel.”

What people are saying:

“Set in a vividly imagined world with wonderful steampunk touches, Pantomime is a fable-like story as beautifully unique as its main character.”—Malinda Lo

“Welcome to a world of shills and showmen, fading tech and circus freaks, where nothing and no-one is what it appears. An absorbing, accomplished debut.”—Elspeth Cooper

“A lyrical, stunningly written debut novel, which set my heart racing with every lift of the trapeze. In Micah we have one of the most original—and likeable—protagonists I’ve read in a long time. An author to watch, without a doubt.”—Amy McCulloch

The author:

Laura Lam @LR_Lam

Visit her online at www.lauralam.co.uk.

Pantomime comes out on February 5 from Strange Chemistry! Pre-order or add to your shelf on Goodreads.


Coming February 5…

THE REECE MALCOLM LIST

The Reece Malcolm ListThe story:

Devan knows very little about Reece Malcolm, until the day her father dies and she’s shipped off to live with the mother she’s never met. All she has is a list of notebook entries that doesn’t add up to much.

L.A. offers a whole new world to Devan—a performing arts school allows her to pursue her passion for show choir and musicals, a new circle of friends helps to draw her out of her shell, and an intriguing boy opens up possibilities for her first love.

But then the Reece Malcolm list gets a surprising new entry. Now that Devan is so close to having it all, can she handle the possibility of losing everything?

The opening lines:

Things I know about Reece Malcolm:

  1. She graduated from New York University.
  2. She lives in or near Los Angeles.
  3. Since her first novel was released, she’s been on the New York Times bestseller list every week.
  4. She likes strong coffee and bourbon.
  5. She’s my mother.

What people are saying:

“Moving and funny—a terrifically satisfying read.”—Sara Zarr

“Charming, heart-warming, and thoughtful…The Reece Malcolm List sings!”—Courtney Summers

“Just the right mix of humor and emotion…heartbreaking in the best way, The Reece Malcolm List is excellent YA contemporary.”—Miranda Kenneally

The author:

Amy Spalding @theames

Visit her online at www.theamyspalding.com.

The Reece Malcolm List comes out on February 5 from Entangled Teen! Pre-order or add to your shelf on Goodreads.


There you have it: The 2013 YA Anticipated Debuts for February. Stay tuned this month for more from the authors and chances to win these books!