Thanks so much for visiting HipWriterMama, my blog about children's books, authors and readergirlz!

It's time for a change. I've decided to focus my attention on my writing blog, www.vivianleemahoney.com. Hope to see you there!


Sunday, November 30, 2008

rgz:A Popularity Discussion

This month, readergirlz is featuring the book, How to Be Popular by Meg Cabot.  In light of this new topic of the month, Little Willow  gathered the readergirlz divas, advisors and postergirlz to share our thoughts on popularity.

Here's my contribution to the discussion:

I will never forget my brushes with popularity during my high school years -- from the time one of the wrestling jocks had a major crush on me (!) in my freshman year, to when one of the most popular girls in my junior year became a true friend, to when a group of senior girls looked at me with a whole new set of eyes. All fascinating experiences for a girl who was not popular, who didn't always fit in.

I was one of those fortunate teens who could mingle with almost any group, but only in the fringes. To be in the core center of a group required an effort, a true belief that one belonged. I was a consummate rebel and unwilling to jump through hoops. Perhaps I was scared, or maybe I just didn't want to commit. It's funny, I'm really not sure now.

But I do know, looking back, that I always wanted to be accepted for who I was, not for what I represented. I hated being pigeon-holed as the Asian, the smart kid, the first chair violinist. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the people who were most likely to see me for who I was, were the teens I thought were the least likely to.

This knowledge has been invaluable over the years and has shaped how I interact with people. There are people who will defy the definition of what it means to be popular, what it means to be beautiful, or exceptional. Yes, there are those who will always play the popularity card to the hilt, and be the epitome of every teen angst movie out there, but there are also the people out there who yearn to be seen for themselves, who believe in letting others shine, of letting people have their moment, and being true.

What are your observations about high school popularity?

Friday, November 28, 2008

Poetry Friday: Colors Passing Through Us by Marge Piercy

Colors passing through us
By Marge Piercy

Purple as tulips in May, mauve
into lush velvet, purple
as the stain blackberries leave
on the lips, on the hands,
the purple of ripe grapes
sunlit and warm as flesh.

Every day I will give you a color,
like a new flower in a bud vase
on your desk. Every day
I will paint you, as women
color each other with henna
on hands and on feet.

Red as henna, as cinnamon,
as coals after the fire is banked,
the cardinal in the feeder,
the roses tumbling on the arbor
their weight bending the wood
the red of the syrup I make from petals.

Orange as the perfumed fruit
hanging their globes on the glossy tree,
orange as pumpkins in the field,
orange as butterflyweed and the monarchs
who come to eat it, orange as my
cat running lithe through the high grass.

Click here to read the rest of the poem

Lisa Chellman is hosting this week's Poetry Friday roundup

rgz Blog-o-Hunt for Native American Heritage Month!

It's time for another rgz blog-o-hunt for Native American Heritage month!

The rules: Find the answers to the questions below and email your responses to readergirlz@gmail.com with the subject line "rgz blog-o-hunt" by November 30th. The first 25 correct entries will win rgz buttons and bookmarks!

Cynthia Leitich Smith sent these questions:

1. Sherman Alexie wrote the screenplay for a movie that was a huge hit at the 1998 Sundance festival. What was it called?

2. What is Sherman's recent award-winning YA novel that shares the life of a Native American male teen?

3. Where does Joseph Bruchac live?

4. Joy Harjo and Cynthia Leitich Smith are enrolled members of the same Nation. What is the name of the tribe?

5. What will Richard Van Camp's next novel be called?

6. In addition to Moccasin Thunder, featuring Native authors, Lori M. Carlson also edited a YA anthology highlighting Latino voices. What was it called?

Hint: These great blogs will help you find some answers:


Good luck, readergirlz!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Blessings

Wishing you and yours a wonderful Thanksgiving, filled with plenty of good laughs, thoughtful conversation, mouth-watering food, and mutual appreciation.

I am grateful for all of you, for taking the time to read my posts, for revealing your kindnesses and acute observations over the past year.  

Thank you, everyone!  See you Friday!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Inspiration Monday: Crankin' Out the Words, the 5K Way

No time for slouching today.  It's Maniacal Monday!  I only have today and tomorrow to write since the kids will be home from school for the Thanksgiving holiday.  So, 5k words today, it is.  

Anyone else in?  Keep checking in the comments here or over at Holly's for some encouragement!  

Wahoo!  Here are some of the people who are in!
M. Thompson

Good luck!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Every Soul a Star Book Giveaway Winner

Thank you, everyone, for sharing your special star-gazing memories.  They are special, and it was a privilege to read them.

Well, it's time to draw the name to see who'll win a copy of Every Soul a Star by Wendy Mass.  Drumroll.......

Meggy!  You're the winner!  Send me your snail mail address to my e-mail: hipwritermama @ comcast dot net, and I will be sure to forward it on.

Thank you to Little, Brown and Company (Hachette Book Group) for giving away a copy of Every Soul a Star.

WBBT Interviews: A Recap

I love finding out about talented authors and their books, and the WBBT is a great way to do so.  I have been honored to participate in this tour, and thank my guests and their publishers, for donating books for the book giveaways:

If you haven't had a chance to read all the interviews, please find the schedule below, so you can catch up at your leisure.  Chasing Ray's Master List, details wonderful quotes from each interview.

Monday, November 17th

Lewis Buzbee at Chasing Ray
Louis Sachar at Fuse Number 8
Laurel Snyder at Miss Erin
Courtney Summers at Bildungsroman
Elizabeth Wein at Finding Wonderland
Susan Kuklin at The YA YA YAs

Tuesday, November 18th
Ellen Dalow at Chasing Ray
Tony DiTerlizzi at Miss Erin
Melissa Walker at HipWriterMama
Luisa Plaja at Bildungsroman
DM Cornish at Finding Wonderland
LJ Smith at The YA YA YAs
Kathleen Duey at Bookshelves of Doom

Wednesday, November 19th
Ellen Klages at Fuse Number 8
Emily Jenkins at Writing and Ruminating
Ally Carter at Miss Erin
Mark Peter Hughes at HipWriterMama
Sarah Darer Littman at Bildungsroman
MT Anderson at Finding Wonderland
Mitali Perkins at Mother Reader
Christine Marciniak with A Chair, a Fireplace & a Tea Cozy

Thursday, November 20th
Martin Millar at Chasing Ray
John Green at Writing and Ruminating
Beth Kephart at HipWriterMama
Emily Ecton at Bildungsroman
John David Anderson at Finding Wonderland
Brandon Mull at The YA YA YAs
Lisa Papademetriou at Mother Reader

Friday, November 21st
Mayra Lazara Dole at Chasing Ray
Francis O'Roark Dowell at Fuse Number 8
J. Patrick Lewis at Writing and Ruminating
Wendy Mass at HipWriterMama
Lisa Ann Sandell at Bildungsroman
Caroline Hickey/Sara Lewis Holmes at Mother Reader
A.S. King at Bookshelves of Doom
Emily Wing Smith at Interactive Reader

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Undercover Book Giveaway Winner!

Thank you, everyone, for your sharing your most gratifying plot twists.  It's always fun to see what people like reading.

I wanted to let you know who the winner is for Undercover by Beth Kephart.  Drumroll, please.  

Kelly Fineman!  You're the winner!  Send me your snail mail address to my e-mail: hipwritermama @ comcast dot net, and I will be sure you receive the book.

Thank you to Harper Teen for giving away a copy of Undercover.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Poetry Friday: Poppies by Mary Oliver

You know it's cold when the water bottle in your car is practically frozen by morning.  Shiver. 

Here's a poem to bring in some spring, hope and happiness.  Stay warm and have a great weekend!

by Mary Oliver

The poppies send up their
orange flares; swaying
in the wind, their congregations
are a levitation

of bright dust, of thin
and lacy leaves.
There isn't a place
in this world that doesn't

sooner or later drown
in the indigos of darkness,
but now, for a while,
the roughage

shines like a miracle
as it floats above everything
with its yellow hair.

But I also say this: that light
is an invitation
to happiness,
and that happiness,

when it's done right,
is a kind of holiness,
palpable and redemptive.

WBBT: Self-Discovery with Wendy Mass and a Book Giveaway

I am pleased to welcome Wendy Mass to my blog. I've been a fan of her work, particularly of Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life. If you haven't read it yet, you really need to. It is perhaps one of my favorite MG books that I've read this year. My husband did and couldn't wait to discuss it. And that is saying something.

Wendy has written both fiction and non-fiction for children. Her first fiction book, A Mango Shaped Space, won the ALA Schneider Family Book Award, New York Public Library Best Books for the Teen Age designation, Peoples' Choice Award, Great Lakes Book Award and Michigan State award.

Wendy has taken her love of research from the non-fiction world, and used it to create some wonderful fiction for young readers. Check out this educational guide that can be used for some of her books.

Every Soul a Star, Wendy's most recent book, combines three unique voices, self-discovery, unexpected friendships with the life-changing power of the solar eclipse.


Hachette Book Group has donated a copy of Wendy's most recent book, Every Soul a Star, for a Book Giveaway Contest! Details are at the end of the interview.

Without further ado, I give you Wendy Mass...

HWM: You’ve had what some people would consider a “glamorous” career in the entertainment industry. What made you want to write books for teens? How did you get your “break” into getting published?
Wendy Mass: LOL at glamorous. Although there was that one time I was an extra in Nightmare on Elm Street Part 5. That was pretty glam. I got to wear a sweaty Freddy Krugar mask, stick my head out of a plastic tree, and moan. Now every time I’m hiking I’m sure a face is going to pop out of a tree. I did have some fun Hollywood jobs though—working for a casting agent, literary agents, film producers, and getting story credit for an episode of the TV show Monk. I was told by one big mover and shaker that I was “too nice” for the entertainment biz. I think the bottom line is that to make it out there, you have to really, really want it more than anything in the world. And what I really wanted more than anything was to write books for kids and teenagers. It’s my small way of paying homage to the books that were so important to me when I was growing up.

As for breaking into publishing, it took a decade of trying. I pitched and sold my first short story with a huge piece of spinach in my teeth, so I’m convinced the editor just said yes so she wouldn’t have to keep staring at it. At least when Little Brown & Company bought my first book—A Mango-Shaped Space—I didn’t have to worry about their motives!

HWM: I never realized until I did some research, that you’ve written a number of non-fiction books for children/teens. What do you consider makes a successful non-fiction book? Do you miss writing non-fiction?
Wendy Mass: I loved writing the nonfiction books, and for a while I would alternate fiction and non. Basically I chose topics that I was eager to learn more about, since I knew I’d be researching the topic for months. Writing about Stonehenge got me a pass inside the inner circle of rocks, and writing a book about Halloween got me, well, lots of candy! Writing a biography of children’s book authors led to my first meeting with Judy Blume. Some kids want to meet rock stars or movie stars, but to an aspiring children’s book writer, she’s the person you want to meet. It took years until I got up the nerve to approach her, and of course she’s wonderful and lovely and encouraging.

I think what makes a good nonfiction book is one that doesn’t feel dry--where the author’s passion for the topic shows through and excites the reader, too. I’ve stopped writing the nonfiction books for now, but have kept up the practice of writing about topics that I’m curious to learn more about. With A Mango-Shaped Space it was synesthesia, and with Every Soul a Star it’s astronomy.

HWM:Your fiction books are wonderful. If you had to choose, which ones are your favorites and why?
Wendy Mass: Writing each book was such a different experience, depending on what was going on in my life at the time, or how crazy the deadline was, or how freaked out I got halfway through because the characters were taking the book somewhere I didn’t expect. A Mango-Shaped Space is the closest to my heart because it was my first. Leap Day was the most fun to write and spilled out onto the page very quickly. I learned the most while writing Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life, and it was also the hardest because the topic was so, well, meaning of life-ish. With Heaven Looks a Lot Like the Mall, I wrote it while so sleep deprived after the twins were born that I look at it now and don’t even remember writing huge parts of it. It’s kinda fun to pick up your own book and get to experience it almost the same way a reader would.

HWM: I loved Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life. Did you have difficulty writing from a boy’s POV? What did you do to keep Jeremy’s voice authentic?
Wendy Mass: I started Jeremy Fink soon after finishing Leap Day, where I had experimented with a lot of different character’s points of view. I found that I really enjoyed writing from the male POV, and that’s why I chose to do it for Jeremy. I also liked the idea of writing something that might attract boys as well as girls. I was lucky enough to have a chatty 12-year-old boy as a neighbor. He used to take these long walks through the neighborhood, alone, just thinking about life. I gave him the first few chapters and asked him if it felt like a real boy’s voice. His only response was, “What’s in the box?” so I figured I didn’t need to worry. :o)

HWM: You have a wonderful ability to bring your characters to life through emotion and humor. Which is easier for you to write--the humor or the emotion?
Wendy Mass: I think if I’ve done my job by plotting the book well enough, then that stuff will just grow naturally out of what the character needs to feel at that moment. If I have to concentrate on being funny then it doesn’t work. And for the more emotional scenes, if it doesn’t make me cry while I’m writing it, I start over!

HWM: Every Soul a Star was just released this month. What did you do to celebrate?
Wendy Mass: Yikes! I forgot to celebrate! Is it too late?

HWM: Every Soul a Star is written from three points of view. This must have been a challenge! How did you decide on these three characters? Did you know right away you were going to write the book from 3 POV’s?
Wendy Mass: When I first proposed the book to my editor, the whole story was in only one voice—the character who became Jack. But when I sat down to write it, I just kept thinking that there were so many different ways to tell this story. So I basically started at the end—with the solar eclipse—and thought about what would bring different people to be standing in this remote spot at this unique point in history? Then I came up with three characters—the one who lived there, the one who didn’t want to be there, and the one who found himself there at the last minute. It was definitely a challenge, but I kept a big chart that showed what each character was doing in each chapter, making sure their stories kept pace with each other, and that their storylines could each stand on its own.

HWM: Who was the hardest POV to write? Easiest POV?
Wendy Mass: Honestly I enjoyed writing all of them equally. I would look forward to returning to each one in turn, like a friend I hadn’t seen in 20 pages. They were all so different, so none really felt harder than another.

HWM: One of the minor characters in the book has food allergies. What inspired this?
Wendy Mass: I knew I wanted a scene where one of the main characters—Jack—would at first mess up, but would wind up coming through in the end. I thought for a while that the character who Jack has to help would have an allergic reaction to a bee, but wound up doing the food since it’s so prevalent these days and having the right medicine at arms’ reach is so important.

HWM: Your books are empowering for teens. How long do you research different topics to create your characters and their areas of expertise?
Wendy Mass: I love researching things, so I spend a ton of time doing that before the actual writing. Probably too much time! Once I’ve exhausted written material, I go out in the world to experience the topic as much as I can. With A Mango-Shaped Space I traveled the country attending meetings and lectures about synesthesia, and for Every Soul a Star I visited planetariums, took a class in stargazing, bought a telescope I can’t figure out how to use, and saw Saturn at a nearby observatory. Even after all that, I still give sections of each book to experts in the different fields before I hand it in.

HWM: I love the plotting in your books. On your website, you kindly share an essay on your outlining strategies. Have you ever veered from this method and just written on the fly?
Wendy Mass: For some reason when I was writing Jeremy Fink I used it only loosely, to do the main outline. As a result, I definitely had a harder time writing the book. I think for some people having the book mapped out ahead of time sounds like it takes the creativity out of it, but for me it’s the opposite. Not worrying about the plotting frees me up to focus on the writing itself.

HWM: I understand from your blog that you’re writing a new book called The Candymaker’s Son. Are you able to tell us anything about it? Are you enjoying the research of candy?
Wendy Mass: I’m a huge candy person. My editor, Alvina Ling, is too. But she has it under control by only eating candy once a year on her birthday. I aspire to once a day! The Candymaker’s Son is about a boy whose parents own and run a candy factory, so I learned a lot about how all to make all different kinds of candy—where the ingredients come from, how the machines work, all that. The book, while not a fantasy, is sort of fantastical, if that makes any sense. And any book that sends me to Hershey Park in the name of research is one worth writing!

HWM: What do you like writing the most: the beginning, middle or end of the story? How long does it take for you to figure out the end?
Wendy Mass: The end. I always write the last scene before I start the book, and that helps keep me on track in terms of where my character has to go. It’s the beginning that I struggle with. Where’s the best place to start a story? The day that’s different? The day before the day that’s different? Ugh. I must write that first chapter 100 times before settling on one.

HWM: What is your writing routine?
Wendy Mass: I’ve heard that word “routine” before, but it seems to have fallen out of my dictionary when the babies were born. Sigh. Now I’m lucky if I can get in a few hours a day. I used to wear a special writing hat and I’d spread small objects around my computer that related to each book. Now I’m lucky if I can find my desk at all. As each deadline approaches, my house gets messier and messier. But in a way, having less time forces me to focus so hard when I do get to write, that I wind up doing fewer drafts.

HWM: What was the best writing advice anyone ever gave you?
Wendy Mass: “Write the books you’d want to read.” – Ray Bradbury. Although I’d do anything Ray Bradbury told me to. The worst advice probably came from my dad. He expended a lot of energy over the years trying to convince me to get a “real job,” you know, one with dental and a retirement plan and a weekly paycheck. It took till my sixth book was published for him to stop. Although I may prefer it to his new crusade, which is to storm into bookstores demanding they stock my books. When I begged him not to do this, he said, and I quote, “Look, the only way anyone is going to know about your books is if they stumble across them on the shelves. You’re not James Patterson.” He means well. I think.

HipWriterMama's Curiosities

HWM: What is your most memorable fan moment?
Wendy Mass: Well, one of the top ones didn’t even happen directly to me. My dad was on an airplane once next to a 13-year-old girl reading one of my books. She didn’t believe him when he told her he was my father. I know that experience made him really happy. I’d say the really special moments keep coming—starting almost six years ago with my first letter from a girl with synesthesia who found A Mango-Shaped Space and how she finally felt understood, to just yesterday, when a teacher told me his class had done an assignment where the parents handed in a special object for their child to be put in the child’s “box”, like in Jeremy Fink. Then when they finished reading the book they all opened their boxes and found the objects and the explanations. The teacher said how it brought them all to tears. Being a part of something like that, even indirectly, is such an incredible blessing.

HWM: If you found a way to go back to your teen years as one of your characters, who would it be and why?
Wendy Mass: That’s a tough one! It would be fun to be Bree (from Every Soul a Star) just for a day, because it would be a kick to be totally beautiful and popular and confident. Otherwise, I’d say Ally, from the same book. I’d love to feel as at home in nature as she does. And she’s just so open and easy-going and curious about the world.

HWM: What makes you laugh?
Wendy Mass: Here’s what made me laugh today: When my two year old announced, upon eating his snack, “It’s not edamame, it’s edadaddy.” The Thanksgiving episode of Friends with Brad Pitt on it. Reminiscing with an old high school friend about climbing out the first floor window of our history class and bringing back a pizza without the teacher noticing. Good times, good times.

HWM: If you were a superhero, what powers would you want and why?
Wendy Mass: I’d like the power to turn back time one hour. It would be enough time to undo something really bad happening, but not too long that it would mess up too many other things. I actually think about this a lot! I’m a big time travel geek. Do let me know if you can arrange this. :o)

HWM: Thank you, Wendy!
Wendy: Thank you!


Other Places to Find Wendy:


Hachette Book Group has donated a copy of Every Soul a Star for a Book Giveaway Contest! Listen to this podcast of Wendy reading a selection from Every Soul a Star.

If you'd like a chance to win the book, write about your favorite memory having to do with stars in the comments section.

The deadline for this contest is Saturday, November 22nd at 11pm, EST. The winner will be announced on Sunday, November 23rd.

Good luck!

Lemonade Mouth Book Giveaway Winner!

Thank you, everyone, for your favorite bands and songs. I've learned about some new bands, and have to say, you all have great taste in music.

So, I wanted to let you know who the winner is for Lemonade Mouth by Mark Peter Hughes. The winner is Kelly!

Send me your snail mail address to my e-mail: hipwritermama @ comcast dot net, and I will be sure to forward it on.

Thank you to Random House for giving away a copy of Lemonade Mouth.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A 5K Challenge

Uh-oh. Guess what I committed to and kind of forgot because of the WBBT? 

Writing 5,000 words.  Today.  Gulp.

Thankfully, I've been writing this afternoon.  

I'm at a little over 1,400 words.  It's 3:25pm. Wish me luck.

WBBT: Through the Eyes of Beth Kephart and a Book Giveaway

I am honored to have Beth Kephart here with me today. Simply honored.  Beth is a 1998 National Book Award finalist in non-fiction (for her beautiful book about her son! A Slant of Sun: One Child's Courage), a National Endowment for the Arts grant winner, and a Pew Fellowships in the Arts recipient,  And this is just a shortlist of her awards.  Wait until you read her interview and see what else she has done!

Beth has an incredible gift of seeing the little things that matter. I've decided she is a writer with a pure artisanal mindset -- she hand selects each word before painting layers of meaning and imagery onto paper.  

Beth has written non-fiction for adults, memoir, and even co-authored a business fable.  She entered the world of YA in 2007...check out her awards.

HOUSE OF DANCE was nominated for the ALA Best Books for Young Readers List and a Cybils award.

UNDERCOVER is a New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age list, Capitol Choices for Children and Teens list, Bank Street College of Education's Best Children's Books of the Year list, Top Book of 2007 by Amazon.com, Top Book of 2007 by Kirkus Reviews, Best Book of the Year by School Library Journal, October 2007, and Tween Pick at Family Circle Magazine. Undercover has been nominated for an ALA Best books for Young Adults Award and a Cybils Award.  

Important Note: We're having a Book Giveaway Contest for a copy of Undercover (courtesy of Harper Teen).  Details at the end of the interview.

I have been so fortunate to get to know Beth over these past few weeks, and I can only say her kindness and generosity of spirit emanate through her words.  If you have a chance, stop by her blog and say hello.  I know she'll welcome you.  

Without further ado, I'd like to introduce you to Beth Kephart...

HWM: Beth, you’ve written non-fiction/memoir books for adults and have transitioned into books for teens. How did you get your “break” into YA books?
Beth Kephart: I’ve always written the story that has felt most urgently in need of telling. Early in my career I was wrestling with questions about mothering, about being a friend, about being a wife, about the imagination, about veering toward middle age. I wanted to better understand, and I wrote toward understanding. With my sixth book, FLOW, I was still keen to explore the personal in a book, but I wanted to give that first-person pronoun to a river, and so I did, writing a history-infused autobiography of Philadelphia’s Schuylkill River.

All along, of course, I was raising a son who loves to write and teaching other young writers the craft. In 2001 I was asked to chair the Young People’s Literature jury for the National Book Awards and so read, at that time, some 160 books created for that market. In my remarks on the evening of the awards, I spoke about what mattered in literature for the younger reader.

A few years later, Laura Geringer, then with her own imprint at HarperTeen, wrote me a long, beautiful letter, asking me if I’d consider writing a novel for teen readers. She’d read some of my books; she knew that I taught children writing. It took me a long time to figure out what I might actually write about; I was helped in this by Laura, who asked me the question, Who were you, Beth, as a teen? Once I had the story in mind, I couldn’t stop writing, and once I finished UNDERCOVER, I wanted desperately to write a next book and a next one. It’s been an extraordinary journey with these four books for teen readers.

HWM: What do you consider makes a successful memoir? How did writing memoirs help you transition into writing fiction?
Beth Kephart: Hmmm. I am never good at judging what makes any book commercially successful, but I do have very clear ideas about what makes a book successful as art. The memoirs that I believe should live forever come from an authentic place; that is, the story is real and alive and absolutely essential (as opposed to being endowed with a glittery marketing hook). That’s number one. Number two is craft. Memoirs, especially, turn on craft. Structure, flow, language: Those matter tremendously in memoir.

Every book, truthfully, is its own creation, its own challenge. I never feel as if I “know” how to write any book I’m writing. I struggle through. I’m not sure that anything I might have learned in writing memoir helped me to write fiction. In fact, I spent a lot of time trying to make sure that my fiction didn’t sound like my memoirs. I needed a very different voice, and a very different kind of pacing.

HWM: I'm impressed that you also run a marketing communications firm. How do you keep the balance with all the writing you do (for both business and YA)?
Beth Kephart: Most of the time, the business rules. There will be stretches (as there was these past five weeks) where I am juggling eight or so different clients, all with very different projects and needs. I don’t write during those times, and I read far less than I want to read. I owe my clients my full attention, and I owe my household as well, as this business of mine employs just one other, who happens to be my husband.

Then there are times when the business slows down a bit, and when that happens, I typically use the 4 AM to 8 AM timeframe to attend to the literary projects I wish to work on. Sometimes I’ll win a grant, and then I can work full time on a writing project for a spell—get down to the libraries that I need to get to, take trips I need to take. Many of my books require enormous research, and if I can’t get into the libraries, the books have to wait. Often I’m brokenhearted while I’m waiting.

The one literary thing I make sure to do every day is my blog. I spend at least an hour each day planning it, writing it. It keeps my mind sharp for the times when I can return to books. And it keeps me connected to people like you, who love books and writing as much as I do.

HWM: You have two published YA books out: Undercover and House of Dance. I loved your story (via the HarperCollins site) on what inspired Undercover. What has surprised you about this book?
Beth Kephart: I was, I am happily surprised by the response. I knew going in that I wasn’t writing a “commercial” book, that there was nothing the least bit Gossip Girl about this, nothing scandalous that would titillate mass audiences. I felt, I feel, so enormously graced that UNDERCOVER found a home with so many readers and was named to so many best of the year lists.

HWM: What inspired House of Dance?
Beth Kephart: Again, many things. HOUSE was born of my own passion for ballroom dance and my sense that dance can heal. It was born of memories of my grandmother dancing, of the sudden death of a dear friend, of the protracted dying of my own mother. I wanted to write my way toward an understanding of who we must be in the company of those whose lives are fading. HOUSE was an enormously difficult book to write, emotionally.

HWM: Which protagonist is most like you? Who was the hardest character to write about?
Beth Kephart: Wow, well. I am there, in all of my narrators. I am the outsider-poet-skater of UNDERCOVER (who learned to skate, by the way, on a pond). I am the caretaker Rosie of HOUSE. I am the heartbroken daughter of NOTHING BUT GHOSTS. I am the anxiety-ridden, but seemingly solid Georgia of THE HEART IS NOT A SIZE. Characters are only difficult when you don’t truly know them. I try to know my characters. I live with them. I am them.

HWM: Your writing captures the poignancy of the moment beautifully. When are you happy with the emotion conveyed in a scene?
Beth Kephart: Thank you, Vivian. I write every scene at least two dozen times. I am only happy when it feels true and when it reads lyrically. I read the passage aloud toward the end of the drafting. I listen for any off rhythm, any redundancy, any flatness. And then I ask myself: Does it mean what it is meant to mean?

And when I am done with all that, an editor will take a look. And sometimes the passage can be made better.

HWM: Language, in the form of lyrical prose, dances through your books for adults and teens. Did you find you needed to change your writing style to write for teens?
Beth Kephart: Yes, I did. While poetry remains embedded in the YA novels, it moves at a different pace. I let things linger longer in the memoirs. There isn’t room for that in the fiction that I write for teens.

HWM: Do you have other people read your manuscript before sending it on to your editor?
Beth Kephart: Sometimes my agent will take a look. Sometimes I’ll send a chapter to a friend. A long time ago I sent whole manuscripts to a few friends like Susan Straight, Alyson Hagy, Kate Moses, and Rahna Reiko Rizzuto. I don’t do that anymore. I haven’t for a long time. I want to respect my friends’ time, their own pressures.

HWM: A new book will be released in June 2009 called Nothing But Ghosts. What is the book about?
Beth Kephart: NOTHING BUT GHOSTS is a mystery and a love story, a tale about a rising high school senior who is dealing with the death of her mother as well as the apparent disappearance of a recluse at a nearby garden. At its heart likes a rather fabulous, fashionable librarian who helps the heroine piece together fragments of the past.

HWM: I understand Harper Teen bought your fourth book, The Heart is Not a Size (February 2010). What is the inspiration behind this book?
Beth Kephart: The inspiration for HEART is a mission trip that I took with my family to a squatter’s village in Juarez. Here the story is about two best friends, Georgia and Riley. Georgia secretly suffers from anxiety attacks. Riley is hiding her anorexia. Their week in Juarez changes them both and threatens to destroy their friendship.

HWM: What new projects are you working on that you can share with your fans?
Beth Kephart: I have been working on a novel that takes place on a single day in Philadelphia in 1876. I love this novel, but it needs another draft. I need to find the time to write that draft.

HWM: Do you outline or free form?
Beth Kephart: Never an outline! Always free form.

HWM: Where do you do your best writing?
Beth Kephart: Usually when I’m curled up on the couch, under a blanket, at four in the morning, with a pen and paper. Of course, the next day I’ll hate what I wrote during that precious hour and start all over again.

HWM: What is your writing process or ritual?
Beth Kephart: Hmmm. I’m not sure. I think about the song I want to sing, if that makes sense, and the story I want to tell. And then I work to fit the two together.

HWM: What was the best writing advice anyone ever gave you?
Beth Kephart: To remember that your book is your book. That in the end you must be most true to yourself.

HWM's Curiosities

HWM: What is your most memorable fan moment?
Beth Kephart: My goodness. I’m not sure that I have fans. I have very generous readers, though. Okay, I will reveal this. When FLOW came out, no one thought anyone would pay a speck of attention to such an unusual, lyrical book. But then the Philadelphia Inquirer called and ran a story on the Sunday before I was to give two talks. The first talk was at an interpretive museum and I figured on maybe five people, but so many people came that many had to be turned back. The next talk was at the Philadelphia Free Library, in a big upstairs room that held perhaps 200 people. It was the hottest day of the year, and I expected absolutely no one to come. No one. Well, the room was wall to wall, standing room only, and indeed there were people holding open the doors of the elevator that led to that room, so that they might hear. I have never in my life had such low expectations for an event and had those expectations turned so completely upside down. Afterward many of us went for an evening boat ride down the Schuylkill. It was an extraordinary night. And after that I went on to give at least three dozen talks on behalf of that little book.

HWM: If you found a way to go back to your teen years as one of your characters, who would it be and why?
Beth Kephart: I’d return to Elisa. I’d help her believe in herself, find her own beauty, far sooner than she was able to.

HWM: What makes you laugh?
Beth Kephart: My son’s text messages. My husband’s commentary on Dancing With the Stars.

HWM: If you were a superhero, what powers would you want and why?
Beth Kephart: I would like to be endowed with the power to eliminate the hurt we do to one another.

Thank you, Beth!


Upcoming Event:
Monday November 24, 1:30 PM
Marriott Rivercenter, Salon E, Third Floor
101 Bowie Street, San Antonio, TX
Sport Stories = Life Stories with Beth Kephart, Matt de la Pena, Justina Chen Headley, Catherine Gilbert Murdock, and Lea Clifton

If you plan on attending this event, please stop by and say hello to Beth.  (And to readergirlz diva Justina Chen Headley.) 

Harper Teen has donated a hardcover copy of Undercover for a Book Giveaway Contest!  Click here to read an excerpt.  

All you have to do is answer the following question in the comments section: What is the most gratifying plot twist you've encountered in a novel this year?  Edited to Add: No spoilers, please!

The deadline for this contest is Friday, November 21st at 11pm EST.  The winner will be announced on Saturday, November 22nd.

Good luck!

Violet in Private Book Giveaway Winner

Thank you, everyone, for your fantastic fashion tips.  Hopefully, you all learned something that will be helpful.

We had a lot of entries for Melissa Walker's book, Violet in Private.  I put everyone's name in a hat, and the winner is Sarahbear!  

Send me your snail mail address to my e-mail: hipwritermama @ comcast dot net, and I will be sure to forward it on.

Thank you to Penguin Berkley JAM for giving away a copy of Violet in Private!  

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

WBBT: On the Road with Mark Peter Hughes and a Book Giveaway!

I am pleased to welcome Mark Peter Hughes to my blog.  I read Mark's book, I am the Wallpaper, earlier this year.  It's a coming-of-age story where the voice is spot on and I knew I wanted to interview the author.  Here is my review of I am the Wallpaper.

I am the Wallpaper, is Mark's first published book.  It was a New York Public Library’s 2006 Best Book for the Teen Age, a Booksense Summer Pick, and a finalist in the Delacorte Press Young Adult Novel Competition.

Mark Peter Hughes’ second novel, Lemonade Mouth, is a Top 10 Booksense Pick, a 2008 ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, a Bank Street College of Education Best Childrens Book of the Year (Outstanding Merit), and 2008 Boston Authors Club Award Finalist.  Might I add how cool it was to see Floey's crush (Wen) from I am the Wallpaper as a high schooler in Lemonade Mouth.

You are going to love this interview.  Talk about dedication and pure creativity!  But there's more!  There's a Book Giveaway in celebration of Lemonade Mouth's recent release into paperback (courtesy of Random House).  Details are at the end of this interview.

Without further ado, I give you Mark Peter Hughes...

HWM: What did you do before you started writing books for teens?
Mark Peter Hughes: I was a healthcare administrator.

HWM: I understand you entered I am the Wallpaper in the Delacorte Contest. Do you have a good story to share about what happened when you found out you were a finalist?
Mark Peter Hughes: I was thrilled, especially because my editor, Stephanie Lane, told me they were interested in seeing the next draft of the book. I realized it was a wonderful opportunity.

HWM: What inspired you to write I am the Wallpaper? Why did you decide to write from the POV of a girl and how difficult was it for you to get into character?
Mark Peter Hughes: I wanted to write a story about a girl who discovers her own diary has been posted online. I wanted it to be a funny novel, but at the same time I also wanted it to suggest some the of icky, scary sides of the Internet.

As far as writing from the POV of a girl, I was just writing a story and a thirteen-year-old girl happened to be the main character. It wasn’t until I’d written a couple of drafts that someone pointed out to me that it was unusual for a man to write from this perspective. I suppose it is, but it didn’t feel that way at the time. I was just doing what authors do--writing a story about a character.

HWM: I was impressed with how you were able to inject both poignant and amusing scenes in your book. Which do you find harder to write and why?
Mark Peter Hughes: Great question—I only wish I had a good answer. I don’t really think about scenes in terms of funny vs. poignant, I just write what feels right. Sometimes they’re hard to write and sometimes not, and for me it doesn’t seem to depend on whether it’s comic or not.

HWM: What inspired Lemonade Mouth?
Mark Peter Hughes: When I was in my twenties I spent a lot of time playing in bands. I play the guitar. The idea for Lemonade Mouth came from being in bands and knowing what being in a band feels like. It seems to me that a band takes on a personality of its own, apart from that of the individual members. Bands also have their own story arch, with a beginning, middle and ending.

Lemonade Mouth was inspired, in part, by a book called The Beatles Anthology, where somebody took separate interviews of each of the Beatles and pieced them together to make one continuous story told by four different voices. I wanted to write in that style, more or less. I added my own flavor to it, but I thought (and still think) that it’s a marvelous way to get a feel for each of the people, their individual stories and motivations and feelings, while also following the story they all share—the band’s wild, creative ride.

HWM: This story is told in five different voices. What was your writing process for this?
Mark Peter Hughes: First I wrote out the story the best I could from beginning to end. Then I went back and grouped the sections for each character and rewrote them, one character at a time, fine-tuning the voice until I felt I had it right.

HWM: Who was the hardest character for you to write and why?
Mark Peter Hughes: It took me a while to figure out Stella’s voice because I wanted her to have something unusual. In the end I stumbled across some fiction writings of John Lennon and was intrigued by his style. Stella’s voice was inspired by his.

HWM: Lemonade Mouth Across America was a great idea (photo: check out the car)!
Mark Peter Hughes: I quit my day-job and my family and I decided it was a good time to take the summer off, drive all around America, and visit bookstores along the way. We had a blast. We did 12,592 miles, covering 38 states in 57 days on the barest of shoestring budgets. All five of us, including my wife and our three young children (ages 9, 8 and 5), all crammed into our rusty minivan. We camped and stayed with friends as we discovered America and had a terrific adventure! We kept a blog of the whole trip. You can access it by going to my website at: www.markpeterhughes.com and then clicking on Lemonade Mouth Across America.

HWM: What is your favorite fan story?
Mark Peter Hughes: Hmmm. One of the most fun moments for me was when the students of Bain Middle School in Cranston, Rhode Island (where Lemonade Mouth is set) recreated the climactic scene of the novel as a surprise for me, including all the music, frozen lemonade, and screaming fans. It was quite a moment for me.

HWM: Do you have any writing news to share with your fans?
Mark Peter Hughes: I’m working hard on my next novel, which is tentatively titled The Wild Orange Yonder.

HWM: What is your writing process or ritual?
Mark Peter Hughes: I’m the stay-at-home dad of three kids so I fit writing in whenever I can. After I get them on the bus I usually get a tall cup of coffee and start typing.

HWM: If you could share any unique writing tip to aspiring writers, what would it be?
Mark Peter Hughes: Unique? That’s a tall order since so much has been said and written about writing. I’m afraid my writing tip would be something tried and true: If you really want to write, then you have to sit down and write. Don’t be one of those who say they’re going to write someday. Today is that day. If you write today then you’re a writer.

HipWriterMama's Curiosities

HWM: If you found a way to go back to your teen years, what would you do differently?
Mark Peter Hughes: Oh god! So, so much! If I could re-do those years while knowing what I know now. . .well, boy-oh! How different it would be! For starters, I’d be a lot less afraid of sticking my neck out. I would have had a lot more fun. I would have worried less about stupid things. I could go on and on but I won’t.

HWM: What makes you laugh?
Mark Peter Hughes: Funny people. My wife. My kids. John Cleese. My uncle John.

HWM: If you were a superhero, what powers would you want and why?
Mark Peter Hughes: Is this a trick question? Boy, whatever super powers you’re dishing out, I’ll take ‘em. Invisibitity? Fine. Flight? Super. Shape-shifting ability? Heck yeah. Listen, I’m happy if all I get is shiny mask and a nice looking cape. All good!

Thank you, Mark!


Other Places to Find Mark:


Now, drumroll please!  I'm pleased to offer you a Book Giveaway Contest to celebrate the recent release of Lemonade Mouth in paperback (Thank you, Random House!).  Click here to read an excerpt.  All you need to do is write in the comments about what you love about your favorite band or song in haiku (for haiku tips, check out Mark's haiku me, baby! webpage.).  I figure Floey would approve.

Here's my haiku for one of my favorite songs, Make It Mine by Jason Mraz:

writing can be hard
when life stuff gets in the way
until i hear this

[Edited to Add: Since a few people asked so nicely via e-mail, I'll waive the haiku rule.

Just let me know your favorite band/song and why.

But, if you'd like to answer in haiku, go for it! Otherwise, no worries.]

to enter this Book Giveaway Contest is Thursday, November 20th at 11pm, EST.  The winner will be announced on Friday, November 21st.  Good luck!