Welcome!


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!

Pages

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A NOVEL GIFT: First Book and readergirlz


BREAKING NEWS! readergirlz and First Book are partnering to give away more than 125,000 brand-new books to low-income teen readers.

They’re great books, too, donated by generous publishers. Among the three dozen choices are P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast’s HOUSE OF NIGHT series and Alyson Noël’s SHADOWLAND.

We need your help getting the word out about the A Novel Gift campaign. Right now! Right now! As in, now!

Let's get organizations serving these teens registered with First Book so they can be matched with inventory during the holidays.


Here’s what we need you to do: Post to Facebook and tweet your beak off about these books using the hashtag #novelgift.

Here’s a tinyurl link to their registration page: http://tinyurl.com/2a5mwpj.

Or you can link to this readergirlz blog post: http://readergirlz.blogspot.com/2010/11/novel-gift-over-125000-free-books-to.html

Then, get in touch with every group you can think of that works with young adults–schools, after-school programs, church youth groups, community centers, etc.—and let them know that these books are available now.

The five-minute online registration these groups can use is here:
http://booksforkids.firstbook.org/register/.

First Book is also eager to answer questions, either by email to help@firstbook.org, or by phone at 866-READ-NOW or 866-732-3669.

If you participate, please drop us a note at readergirlz@gmail.com to be included in our blog roll of thanks to run December 31.

Be a part of A Novel Gift! OK, go!
Thank you,
from First Book and the readergirlz teams.


Monday, October 18, 2010

readergirlz news



From the readergirlz blog:

Hey rgz,

As we get ready to celebrate Teen Read Week together, we also wanted to celebrate rgz upcoming new format.

This October is our last feature as you know it. So be sure to share the love with Laini in these remaining weeks.

So what's up? Well, how about the realization that we ALL read way more than one book a month, right? And the postergirlz pick such awesome recommends. How about this:

* the divas choose a theme a month
* you nominate songs for that theme, and Little Willow will build the playlist
* we'll have a community service spotlight for the theme
* the postergirlz'll nominate the very best YA books for the theme, new releases or old
* one book will be featured EVERY Monday

*squeeeeee* Our Author Liaison diva, Micol Ostow, will be outreaching to each weekly feature for a guest blog post and will invite them to hang with us in the comments. If the author is under deadline and can't make it over, we'll still have a post and be able to chat it up, share the love, leave questions, and so on.

The readergirlz website will continue to hang with a final issue, hence that playlist you all helped build. And the fabbity archives will remain available for your book clubs and libraries.

Feel free to spread the news and be ready for quick changing content of the very best in the children's lit industry. Of course we'll still have Cover Stories and Story Secrets and other posts of awesome that the divas bring to the table. The rgz SALON and Street Team will also continue with their posts, along with reports from our rgz HOSTS across the country.

You know we are always looking for great ways to further teen literacy and social service. Watch for this changeover on November 1. So, what do you think?

Enjoy Teen Read Week, and always, always, always: Read, Reflect, and Reach Out!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

readergirlz chat with Maureen Johnson tonight! 6pm PST/9pm EST

Fresh from readergirlz...

Join readergirlz and me for a Twitter chat tonight with Suite Scarlett and Scarlett Fever author Mareen Johnson!
***sounds of cheering***
It all starts at 6pm PST/9pm EST - search for the #rgz discussion and follow @readergirlz and @maureenjohnson.




Don't have a Twitter account? It's fast and easy to set one up!

At http://twitter.com/, just click on the yellow "Give it a try" button to get started. All you will need is your name, a unique user name, and an email address. Add a password, and you're now on Twitter!

Search for readergirlz to begin following us and our tweets.

If you want others to see your posts ("tweets") during the chat, make sure the "Protect my tweets" box is not checked on the Accounts tab. If you want to get fancy, you can add a picture and customize your page in the Design tab.

Protect your privacy! No one can see your email address on twitter, but it's a good idea to choose a user name that doesn't give away your real name or location (especially if you are not an adult).


To join the Maureen Johnson chat:

Click on the "Home" page and enter #rgz in the Search box. Our chat will come up, and you can jump right in! Be sure to include #rgz in your chat posts so that everyone else can see them and respond.

We'll see you there tonight!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

BREAKING WAVES ebook: 100% of Proceeds go to the Gulf Coast Oil Spill Fund

Kelly Fineman, one of my blogging/writing pals, shares some great news:
Guys! Guess what! It's September 15th, and that means that it's the release day for BREAKING WAVES: An Esoteric Collection to Benefit the Gulf Oil Spill Relief Fund, edited by Tiffany Trent and Phyllis Irene Radford, now available from Book View Café. The collection includes 34 stories, essays and poems, opening with "In England in the Fifties", a poem by Ursula K. Le Guin, and closing with "Troubled Water", a poem by Kelly Ramsdell Fineman.

Yes, you read that right. I can assure you that when I first learned that my poem would be the closing bookend to a collection of works that opens with a poem by Ursula Le Guin, I was torn between swooning and an desire to caper about with glee. (Capering eventually won out.)

The collection includes works by fabulous authors including noted scientists and award-winning fantasy authors, including Tiffany Trent, author of the Hallowmere series and forthcoming novels. Also in this book (just before my poem, in fact) is Patrick Samphire, who is married to my long-time LJ friend, Stephanie Burgis, author of A Most Improper Magick (aka Kat, Incorrigible). You can check out the full, fabulous Table of Contents online.

Congrats, Kelly!

BREAKING WAVES sells for $4.99 US from Book View Café. You can purchase the anthology as an epub, pdf, mobi or prc HERE. 100% of the proceeds go to the Gulf Coast Oil Spill Fund.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Holly Cupala, TELL ME A SECRET Blog Tour and Prizes!

I'm so happy to welcome readergirlz diva and debut author Holly Cupala (TELL ME A SECRET) to my blog. I've known Holly for a couple years now, through blogging and readergirlz, but didn't have a chance to meet her until the 2010 Midwinter ALA Tweetup.

Holly is such a bundle of energy, with true joy and enthusiasm. People gathered around her, wanting to find out more about TELL ME A SECRET. And there's good reason...Holly's book is raw emotion. It's haunting and beautiful. It's devastating knowing the place where Holly had to dig to write this novel, yet through it all, we see hope and a reason to go on.

Go and read TELL ME A SECRET. You won't be able to put it down.
-----------------------------------

HWM: When did you realize you wanted to write YA?
HOLLY: Quite possibly the day I began writing my first teen romance, Stolen Love. Of course, that was when I was 13 and had not yet experienced teen romance, but that did not matter. What mattered was the line of girls in my class who waited to read it page by page… But art sort of began imitating life. After I actually experienced teen romance, heartbroken poetry and short stories followed…then hopes of writing the Great American Novel (while secretly writing an epic 1600-word rhyming picture book saga). At some point I realized I was completely off track, finished my M.A. (I was studying world lit), and joined SCBWI. For several years I spent time learning the craft of writing, then a painful event in my life inspired the story.

HWM: You won the SCBWI Work-In-Progress Grant in 2006. How did this change your writing life?
HOLLY: It was a beacon of hope! As writers, we spend so much time trying to get the story out on the page and having no idea where it might lead. The grant helped me keep going, and it was terrific motivation to finish the story because suddenly everyone wanted to see it. I’m very grateful to SCBWI for opening so many doors.

HWM: How long did it take before you signed with your agent and how did you know he was the right one?
HOLLY: I’d sent the manuscript to a select few agents in the summer and fall, but I really began actively seeking an agent in January—something about everyone having clear desks! I ended up with five or six agents looking at the full, and I met my agent, Edward Necarsulmer, Children’s Director at McIntosh and Otis, at an SCBWI event. There was another agent offer on the table as well, but he was just so passionate about the manuscript, and I really felt he would go the extra mile. He’s turned out to be a fantastic agent!

HWM: Do you write full-time or do you have a real world job?
HOLLY: Right now I am full time, but I’ve been a freelance graphic designer and writer and volunteer with readergirlz! My work hours happen to coincide with preschool (and soon kindergarten) hours. :-)

HWM: When did you know you had the right ending for TELL ME A SECRET?
HOLLY: Oooh, good question. The ending was quite possibly the most difficult part to write. I knew the second-to-last chapter would have the final knock-down-drag-out with the primary antagonist, and that there would be some significant secrets revealed that would shed light on the entire story. The first draft, I skipped it! The second, I muddled through and kept peeling back the layers until I felt like I’d hit on something true. My writing group (the wonderful Janet Lee Carey, Justina Chen, Molly Blaisdell, Peggy King Anderson, Katherine Bond, and Judy Bodmer) were also a tremendous source of help

HWM: Which character is most like you?
HOLLY: Every one, at least a little bit! I used to identify the most with Miranda, but then I realized the character most like me, at heart, is probably Nik. At least, I hope.

HWM: Who was the toughest character to write about?
HOLLY: I think maybe Miranda’s mom. I didn’t really understand who she was until I realized she had a secret, too, one that was driving her in ways she doesn’t even realize. Once I understood her, I could see why her behavior could be so caustic, and yet she was dealing with a mountain of internal shame.

HWM: Do you outline or free form?
HOLLY: I have a rough movie trailer in my head, and a big, free-form, crazy document where I record notes for the novel. I write a lot of notes! But I’m far too lazy to outline.

HWM: What is your writing process or ritual?
HOLLY:
Procrastinate…tea, Earl Grey, hot…candy…Twitter…ack! Only two hours left! I’m trying to get better. A timer is great for this. I joke that TMAS took four years, the second took four months, and I hope the third takes four weeks….wait, I really do hope that!

HWM: What project(s) are you working on now?
HOLLY:
I’m about to start editor revisions on my second YA, STREET CREED (tentative title, slated for Fall 2011), about a suburban girl with secrets who runs away from home to live on the streets of Seattle, in search of a boy called Creed. It’s gritty and romantic, ultimately about what it means to love. And I’m avoiding writing that third novel. (Four weeks? Please, four weeks?)

HWM: Your husband creates awesome videos (check out the "Parent Trap style" video below) and designed your website. What were the challenging aspects of working together (if any) so both of your creative visions shone through?
HOLLY: He does do awesome work! And luckily, we work really well together. He’s totally my secret weapon.



HWM: What has been the biggest surprise of your writing career?
HOLLY: Writing YA. Before, I was writing nice stories to impress people and not reveal too much. It took a major life event to strip all of that away…and suddenly, there was the story. It was tantalizing and terrifying. I’m amazed and grateful at the reader response.

HWM: Are there any genres you'd like to try writing?
HOLLY: I have a couple of other projects on the backburner…a fantasy, and maybe even an end-of-the-world thriller. Who knows, anything could happen!

HWM: What was the best writing advice anyone ever gave you?
HOLLY: Write through the bad stuff, Randy Powell and Kirby Larson. Your first draft can be sixty pages, Karen Cushman. First drafts are like hacking through a jungle with a machete, Laini Taylor. Find the dozen or so emotional anchor scenes in a story and write from there, Nikki Grimes. What can I contribute? Mitali Perkins.

HWM: What makes you laugh?
HOLLY: Heartfelt silliness…as you may have noticed on this blog tour! :-)

Thank you so much, Holly!
-------------------------------

TELL ME A SECRET Tour Contest Entry Rules

• Leave comments at any official tour stop or Holly’s blog (www.hollycupala.com) throughout the tour! Each comment counts as an entry (one comment per post*).
• Tweet about the tour (@hollycupala) and tell us what you think!
• Post about the tour, then leave a comment at my blog with a link.

Each week's prizes will be announced at Holly’s blog the following week - check back to see if you've won and contact Holly at the contact link at www.hollycupala.com (prizes will be held for 2 weeks).


-------------------------------

Where You Can Find Holly:

Friday, July 2, 2010

July is All About Courage at readergirlz: The Gallagher Girls Series by Ally Carter


From the readergirlz blog:
We are thrilled to welcome Ally Carter to readergirlz. Her fantastic Gallagher Girls novels, specifically the newly released fourth, Only the Good Spy Young, is our July pick! Check out our interview with Ally, book party ideas themed around her book, and our Reach Out project idea--as well as the awesome soundtrack Ally has chosen for the book--on readergirlz.com.

Here's a little about Only the Good Spy Young:
When Cammie Morgan enrolled at the Gallagher Academy, she knew she was preparing for the dangerous life of a spy. What she didn't know was that the serious, real-life danger would start during her junior year of high school. Now the danger follows her everywhere and even Cammie "The Chameleon" can't hide. When a terrifying encounter in London reveals that one of her most-trusted allies is actually a rogue double-agent Cammie no longer knows if she can trust her classmates, her teachers - or even her own heart.

The Gallagher Girls must hack, spy, steal, and lie their way to the truth as they go searching for answers, recognizing that the key to Cammie's future may lie deep in the past...
And the buzz...
  • Inclusion on the ALA Teens Top 10
  • Georgia Peach Book Award
  • Texas Lone Star Reading List
  • Amelia Bloomer Book Award
  • Romance Writers of America Rita Award Finalist
We are super excited to have the amazing Ally Carter with us this month! Join us all month right here on the blog for discussions and mark your calendars a LIVE #rgz twitter chat on Wednesday, July 14th at 6pm PST/9pm EST.

Happy July, readergirlz!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Here's to the Crazy Ones: Think Different

Thought you'd appreciate this video. Yes, it's a marketing ad. It's simply genius.

Watch it and be inspired.


Sign Up for WriteOnCon!!

It's July 1st! Start of your month off right and go run...er...stay at your computer, click on a couple links and register for WriteOnCon, the FREE on-line writing conference that's making a splash this summer.

Remember, it's all about PAYING IT FORWARD.

Here are the blogs of the founding members:

You've got to check out their latest video. Very amusing:



Thank you, WriteOnCon, for paying it forward and making it possible for writers to attend a conference from the comfort of their own home.

And after you register, come and friend me on the WriteOnCon board! I figured I'd use my own name so people wouldn't get confused: vivianleemahoney

See you there!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Author Spotlight with Holly Cupala and TELL ME A SECRET

I'm so pleased to welcome Holly Cupala, one of the readergirlz, to my blog. Holly's debut novel, TELL ME A SECRET, will be out next Tuesday! TELL ME A SECRET "illuminates the dark struggle of a girl who must let go of her past to find a way into her future."

There's nothing like exploring the darkness within our characters and even ourselves. It can be downright scary and overwhelming. Holly shares a devastating loss to shed some light on how far writers can go when writing about dark topics.

Holly: When I started writing TELL ME A SECRET, I was way out of my depth.

Up to that point, I’d written a stackful of unpublishable picture books, some magazine articles, a Chicken Soup story, and I’d just begun a middle grade novel. Our first daughter would be born any minute, and life seemed good.

Then everything changed in one missed beat of the heart.

After our loss, I couldn’t see the point of writing anymore. There was no meaning in it, no solace. In the dark hours, a story would flutter across my mind, only to be engulfed in grief. Then a friend, Justina Chen, took me out to lunch at a writing conference and asked, “Are you thinking of writing about Ezri?”

Moments later, the story literally landed in my lap—like nothing I had ever imagined before. It would be oh so difficult, so real, so terrifying. And yet, I need to write it.

For months, I only wrote notes, terrified of putting words to the page. I had no idea how to do this, how to write from the heart, how to delve into sadness and difficult relationships and somehow break through to hope and even healing.

And yet, I needed to write it—one word at a time.

At first, I stopped myself at every sentence. Too trite, too cliché, too empty. There weren’t words to dig deeper. I recounted my own stories, trying to get at the truth of my character’s, and beat myself with doubt and unworthiness all along the way.

And somewhere—I’m not quite sure where—it transformed, from my story to her story. Perhaps it was when our second daughter was born, happy and ready for life. The characters came into their own. At the same time, I felt a lightness and a purpose—I’d needed to write the story to get through my own loss, and now I needed to let the characters go where they were supposed to go.

It meant the story taking a different turn than I’d first thought. And that became the road to hope that I’d envisioned from the start.

Looking back, I see the necessity of seeking truth over seeking darkness, of outrunning one’s own writing demons in order to be honest in storytelling. Of living life. There’s the layer of ourselves, and there’s the layer underneath.

Writers, dig deeper to find it.
------

Thank you so much, Holly, for sharing this with us.

Holly's book, TELL ME A SECRET, is out next week. Click here for a sample read from TELL ME A SECRET. You are going to want to read more.

In case you didn't know, Holly organized a virtual book tour celebrating her book. She is giving away lots of prizes, so follow her on the tour! Holly will be back on July 13th (will cross-post on my writing blog).

I'm putting together interview questions for Holly. If you'd like a chance to ask Holly a question, please go HERE and fill out the form at the end of the post.

How will you reach for the truth in your manuscripts?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

readergirlz chat TONIGHT! John Green, Paper Towns and Spontaneity



Tonight. June 16th. 6pm PST/9pm EST.


If you've never used Twitter before, here's how to do it in three easy steps:

1. First, create a Twitter account if you don’t have one already. It’s easy and free, and all you need is an e-mail address.

2. Log onto Twitter at 6 p.m. Pacific, 9 p.m. Eastern TODAY!!

3. Type @realjohngreen plus your question, followed by #rgz. This asks John your question and funnels it into the readergirlz chat stream.

To follow along the chat, go here (the #rgz Twitter stream).

Going forward, you’ll be able to follow rgz and lots of your favorite authors on Twitter. You can find us and everyone we follow here: @readergirlz

I'll be checking in the chat stream under @vleemahoney.

Please stop by! You know you want to.

See you there!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Come Visit My New Writing Blog

Well, it's official. I've decided to move my writing related posts over to www.vivianleemahoney.com. Please stop by for writing inspiration and tales of my writing progress.

I'll keep HipWriterMama for book discussions, author interviews and readergirlz related information.

Enjoy your day!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

June, readergirlz and Paper Towns by John Green!


We are thrilled to welcome John Green to readergirlz. His fantastic novel Paper Towns is our June pick! Check out our interview with John, book party ideas themed around his book, and our Reach Out project idea--as well as the awesome soundtrack John has chosen for the book--on readergirlz.com.

Here's a little about Paper Towns:
Quentin Jacobsen has spent a lifetime loving the magnificently adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. So when she cracks open a window and climbs back into his life -- dressed like a ninja and summoning him for an ingenious campaign of revenge -- he follows.

After their all-nighter ends and a new day breaks, Quentin arrives at school to discover that Margo, always an enigma, has now become a mystery. But Quentin soon learns that there are clues -- and they're for him. Urged down a disconnected path, the closer he gets, the less Quentin sees of the girl he thought he knew.
And the buzz...

2009 Edgar Award for Best Young Adult Novel
New York Times Bestseller

"Green's prose is astounding -- from hilarious, hyperintellectual trash talk and shtick, to complex philosophizing, to devastating observation and truths. He nails it -- exactly how a thing feels, looks, affects -- page after page." - School Library Journal, starred review

"Deliciously intelligent dialogue and plenty of mind-twisting insights." - VOYA

"[Green is] clever and wonderfully witty... he's a superb stylist, with a voice perfectly matched to his amusing, illuminating material." - Booklist, starred review

We are so excited to have the awesome John Green with us this month! Join us all month at the readergirlz blog for discussions and mark your calendars a LIVE chat on Wednesday, June 16th at 6pm PST/9pm EST.

Happy June, readergirlz!

Writing Confession: It's in the Details

Details are really important to me.

I've interrupted writing sprees to research the little things, all to construct realistic scenes of places I've never seen, traditions I've never practiced, clothing and accessories I've never worn. Some people may think it's a time waster, but I believe these details will help me create a believable setting for my manuscript. This may seem inconsequential in the big scheme of things, when we need to focus on dialogue, plot and character arc, not to mention writing a unique story that will appeal to agents, publishers and readers.

Oh, the pressure!

But, let us not forget the details. You will add life to your pages, you will set your story apart from the masses, if you remember to capture the details.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

June, Writing and Transitions

Today is June 1st and it's the first day of my new writing program. Thank you, Kaz Mahoney (no relation), for organizing this "writing group". School ends in 17 days. I need to implement structure right now, if I want to survive the summer fun and still get my writing done.

So, if any of you would like to join me, please come over to my new writing blog at www.vivianleemahoney.com. I'll be detailing my daily efforts and supplying inspiration. We can work through our challenges and cheer each other on.

Who is with me?

Friday, May 28, 2010

Writing Past Chaos

This pretty much sums up my writing these past couple weeks...

JUNK.

But, it's all coming together and I'm finally making progress.

How are you doing?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

LEMONADE MOUTH by Mark Peter Hughes: New Disney Channel Movie!

This is cool. Just found out The Disney Channel will be making a movie based on LEMONADE MOUTH by Mark Peter Hughes. Check out Mark's great video.



If you'd like to find out more about Mark and his books, check out his WBBT interview.

Congratulations, Mark!

Friday, May 21, 2010

SBBT: The Diverse Talents of Brother/Sister Duo Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm

Hope you've all been enjoying the SBBT interviews this week. Remember, to stop by Chasing Ray's Master Schedule for this week's links to author interviews and thoughtful quotes!
I am so pleased to have a couple of surprise guests today...

a brother-sister duo with enormous powers to channel the hearts of girls and create a special graphic novel series...

Here's to BABYMOUSE!!!

My girls LOVE the BABYMOUSE series. The girls in their school love the BABYMOUSE series. It's one the first books that girls try to grab during school library time, and sometimes, the kids try to bargain.

I remember when I first discovered the BABYMOUSE series a few years ago, and noticed one of the creators, Jennifer L. Holm, also wrote historical novels. Not just your plain Jane ordinary books, but distinctive books, books made of honored awards and wonderful reviews. Well-loved books like: Penny from Heaven, Our Only May Amelia, the Boston Jane books.

Talk about talent! To go from historical fiction to graphic novel in a blink of an eye! (Actually folks, you know it really took lots of hard work and many years of convincing publishers, right?)

And then to find out that the other half of the BABYMOUSE team, Matthew Holm, has talents above and beyond...we're talking THIS IS NOT FAIR strengths here, people...professional graphic designer, writer, web developer, former editor of Country Living Magazine. Matt has written about home-building, architecture, and science, not to mention a few books for adults: Beautiful Data: The Stories Behind Elegant Data Solutions, Gray Highway: An American UFO Journey, Suburbageddon. See? This much well-rounded brain power is not fair.

It is with great pleasure that I welcome Jenni Holm and Matt Holm to my blog today. I'm sure you will enjoy reading what they have to say.
-----------------------

QUESTIONS FOR JENNI & MATT

HWM: Jenni and Matt - Both of you have had such interesting careers. Why children’s books?
JENNI & MATT: Deep down, we’re really just 12 years old.

HWM: I understand Jenni came up with the idea of Babymouse and contacted Matt. What kinds of things, if any, did you have to “negotiate” to ensure you’d be able to work well together?
JENNI & MATT: We’d actually already worked together on some art for Jenni’s book, MIDDLE SCHOOL IS WORSE THAN MEATLOAF, so we knew how to collaborate. Also, we had shared an apartment in NYC (a studio apartment, no less) for a few months, and if we could survive that, we could survive anything. The biggest hurdle was actually getting a traditional publisher to buy into the idea of a graphic novel for children.

HWM: Babymouse was one of the first graphic novels out there for girls. What changes have you seen in the graphic novel industry? How do you see Babymouse growing for your fans?
JENNI & MATT: When Babymouse first came out, it was shelved next to MAGIC TREE HOUSE and other early reader series. Now there is a whole shelf in bookstores and libraries for graphic novels!

HWM: Do you have plans to write a graphic novel for boys?
JENNI & MATT: YES! Our new graphic novel series, SQUISH, comes out next spring. It’s about an amoeba—yes, an amoeba. And the ink will be GREEN, not pink.

HWM: What tip would you offer to a writer/illustrator interested in creating a graphic novel?
JENNI & MATT: Partner up. It’s an incredibly laborious process—a lot of writing and a lot of art. We’ve found it’s much more manageable because we share the duties. It’s less overwhelming (because it is seriously overwhelming to write and illustrate 96 pages on a regular deadline!)

HWM: Babymouse is in her fifth year! What are you doing to celebrate?
JENNI & MATT: OMG—we didn’t even realize it! This calls for cupcakes!


QUESTIONS FOR JENNI & MATT from Spy Girl & Ninja Girl (with enthusiastic comments from Wonder Girl):

SPY GIRL & NINJA GIRL: Babymouse is pretty in pink. There is one book, Monster Mash, that is orange. Why do you stick to one color?
JENNI & MATT: Many newspaper comic strips are just black and white, and Matt cut his teeth with strip drawing. We wanted some color, but didn’t want to be overwhelmed.

SPY GIRL & NINJA GIRL: How do you come up with the ideas for each book?
JENNI & MATT: We generally mine our childhood traumas.

SPY GIRL & NINJA GIRL: What do you do if you disagree with a story?
JENNI & MATT: Whomever feels the strongest about something wins. It happens pretty rarely, actually.

SPY GIRL & NINJA GIRL: We love Babymouse! How many more books will you write about her?
JENNI & MATT: As many as we can! (and thank-you!)

SPY GIRL & NINJA GIRL: Felicia Furrypaws is mean! We like it when she gets put in her place. Did you know someone like her when you were little?
JENNI & MATT: Oh, we think everyone has known someone like Felicia. But, yes, Jenni did have a Felicia person in her childhood.

SPY GIRL & NINJA GIRL: What is Babymouse’s favorite cupcake?
JENNI & MATT: Hmmm… vanilla cake with pink frosting and sprinkles!

SPY GIRL & NINJA GIRL: Thank you very much Ms. Holm and Mr. Holm!

QUESTIONS FOR JENNI

HWM: Your novels are wonderful. I understand you have a new novel, TURTLE IN PARADISE. What can you tell me about the book?
JENNI: It takes place in 1935 in Key West, Florida. It’s about a girl named Turtle who has a single mom who is a housekeeper. Turtle’s mom gets a live-in housekeeper gig, and the new employer doesn’t like kids, so Turtle is shipped off to Florida to live with family she’s never met before. There’s treasure, rumrunners, scorpions, and rowdy boy cousins who run a babysitting service called the Diaper Gang!

HWM: You’ve written wonderful books based on family history. How did your family react to your books?
JENNI: My family is very much into genealogy. My dad, especially, just loved it so much. He was such a history buff and really got me started on the road to writing.

HWM: It’s been said Lloyd Alexander is one of your favorite childhood authors. Will you ever try writing fantasy?
JENNI: Probably not. Although I am blown away by fantasy writers. World-building is intense!

HWM: What is your writing routine?
JENNI: I usually drop off my son at school, then do the dishes, fold some laundry (pretty glamorous stuff, huh?), hang out with my two-year old, Millie, then drop her off at daycare, come home, procrastinate by going to Facebook, answer some emails, and then get down to writing. I usually stop around four because I do the school/daycare pick-up run. No writing happens at night—I’m way too tired after the dinner/bath/bed routine.

HWM: What was the best writing advice anyone ever gave you?
JENNI: Revise. And revise. And revise some more. Oh, and get used to rejection.

QUESTIONS FOR MATT

HWM: It somehow doesn’t seem fair that you have a stockpile of talents--writer, artist, web developer. I would imagine all of these creative outlets require a large amount of time. How do you balance your time?
MATT: It gets difficult sometimes. There are a lot of projects I want to do. I generally "binge" on one project at a time, working on that to the exclusion of other projects. But I find that's also how I work best. For me, it takes time to wrap my mind around a project, so I usually need a bunch of hours in a row in order to do it. I'm not very good at working on something for only an hour a day (as many writers do)—I end up spending too much time just "getting in the zone," as it were.

HWM: Did you ever imagine BABYMOUSE would become so famous? What was the reaction of your friends and family?
MATT: Not really. But then, of course, there's famous and there's famous. "Famous in libraries and elementary schools," is how I would put BABYMOUSE right now. Fortunately, she doesn't have to worry about showing up on TMZ or anything! I think my friends who have known me since I was young are not surprised that I'm drawing cartoons for a living. As for, say, my Mom, she still wants me to have "something to fall back on after this is all over." (I'm not sure if she means "the Babymouse series," or "publishing," or possibly "Western Civilization.")

HWM: What projects are you working on now?
MATT: I'm cleaning up some last-minute things on SQUISH: SUPER AMOEBA (the first book in our new series), doing final art for BABYMOUSE: MAD SCIENTIST (#14, which comes out at the same time as Squish, Summer 2011), revising the manuscript for the second Squish book, and revising a chapter-book manuscript (and starting pencil sketches for the illustrations) that I've been working on for a few years now with another writing partner.

HWM: What is your writing/illustrating routine?
MATT: It totally depends on what "phase" of each book we're in. For early thumbnail sketching, I can briefly have the sort of writerly lifestyle that everyone dreams about: taking my little sketchbook out to a sidewalk cafe and doodling for several hours each day, while sipping a cool drink. Unfortunately, that doesn't last very long. For the other parts—marker sketches and finals—I pretty much lock myself in my office for 6 to 12 hours a day, trying to crank through as many pages as I can at once.

HWM: What was the best publishing advice anyone ever gave you?
MATT: That it takes a long time. And I don't just mean the process of getting your first book signed (that can take forever)—I mean the actual writing, editing, and production process. Be prepared for years of production time on any one book.

HWM CURIOSITIES

HWM: What is your most memorable fan moment?
JENNI & MATT: Jenni had a whole group of kids show up in Babymouse costumes at a book signing.

HWM: What makes you laugh?
JENNI & MATT: Some of the ideas that kids come up with for what Babymouse should be doing in her next daydream. A recent example: Babymouse as an Animal Musician (i.e., someone who uses live animals—rather than trumpets or violins—as musical instruments), playing a rattlesnake.

HWM: If you were a superhero, what powers would you want and why?
JENNI: the power to fold laundry instantly!
MATT: the ability to clone myself? Then I could work on multiple projects at the same time.

NOTE: BABYMOUSE Cupcake Tycoon is out this fall!
Thank you so much, Jenni and Matt!

Where to find Jenni and Matt:


Here are the rest of today's SBBT interviews:
Julia Hoban at Chasing Ray
Stacy Kramer at A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy
Nancy Bo Flood at Finding Wonderland
Paolo Bacigalupi at Shaken & Stirred
Sarah Kuhn at Bildungsroman

Thursday, May 20, 2010

SBBT: Day 4 and a Surprise Interview Announcement

Stop by Chasing Ray's Master Schedule for today's links to author interviews and thoughtful quotes! I'll post the linkage later this evening.

Please stop by tomorrow, I have a special surprise interview!

Enjoy your day.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

SBBT: Day Two of Author Interviews

Welcome to Day 2 of the SBBT! Here are your links (Thank you Tanita Davis!) to today's interviews...Enjoy!
Remember to check Chasing Ray's Master Schedule throughout the week, for links and thoughtful quotes!

Monday, May 17, 2010

SBBT: Day One of Author Interviews

It's time for the Summer Blog Blast Tour AKA SBBT! I won't be participating this time around, due to a pile of personal stuff, but I will be posting the schedule everyday this week with wonderful linkies, so you'll know where to go. Colleen of Chasing Ray will be hosting the Master Schedule, so stop on by!

Here's today's schedule:
Here is the rest of this week's schedule:

Tuesday, May 18

Mary Jane Beaufrand at The Ya, Ya, Yas
Rita Williams-Garcia at Fuse Number 8
Jennifer Hubbard at Writing & Ruminating
Charise Mericle Harper at Shelf Elf
Holly Schindler at Little Willow

Wednesday, May 19

Michael Trinklein at Chasing Ray
Nick Burd at Fuse Number 8
Sarah Darer Littman at A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy
Tom Siddell at Finding Wonderland
Paolo Bacigalupi at Shaken & Stirred

Thursday, May 20

Matthew Reinhart at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast
Jenny Boylan at Fuse Number 8
Lisa Mantchev at Writing & Ruminating
Jess Leader at Shaken & Stirred
Donna Freitas at Little Willow

Friday May 21

Julia Hoban at Chasing Ray
Stacy Kramer at A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy
Nancy Bo Flood at Finding Wonderland
Tara Kelly at Shaken & Stirred
Sarah Kuhn at Little Willow

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Writing Inspiration: The Best Motivation Video

If you do anything today, please watch this video (Thank you, DH, for sharing this with me!). It will take a little more than a minute of your time, and may make a huge difference to how you tackle your day.



Get over your failures. Continue to dream. Work hard.

Your time will come. Believe it. Your time WILL come.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

readergirlz Welcomes Lisa Yee and ABSOLUTELY MAYBE!!

We are thrilled to welcome Lisa Yee to readergirlz. Her new-in-paperback novel ABSOLUTELY MAYBE is our May pick! Check out the our interview with Lisa, book party ideas themed around her book, and our Reach Out project idea--as well as the awesome soundtrack Lisa has chosen for the book--on readergirlz.com.

Here's a little about ABSOLUTELY MAYBE:
Meet Maybelline "Maybe" Chestnut - Goth girl and daughter of Chessy Chestnut, owner of the No. 1 (and only) charm school in Kissimmee, Florida. When her mother refuses to protect Maybe from her latest scuzz-ball fiancé, Maybe heads to California to find her biological dad, who doesn't even know she exists.

Accompanied by her friends, budding filmmaker Hollywood, and the irrepressible Ted, Maybe is ready to get on with her life. However, Los Angeles is nothing like she thought it would be. Maybe hadn't counted on being homeless - and finding her father becomes nearly impossible.
And the buzz...

"Readers will absolutely enjoy the ride." - Horn Book

"A breezy read populated with friendly characters and sunny serendipity." - Booklist

"Cleverly conceived and executed . . . tragic, comic and heartwarming by turns." - Kirkus

". . . quirky and likable characters, the humor is topnotch." -Teenreads.com

"A funny, tender coming-of-age story." - Bulletin of the Center of Children's Books

We are so excited to have the lovely Lisa with us this month! Join us all month right here on the blog for discussions and mark your calendars a LIVE chat on Wednesday, May 19th at 6pm PST/9pm EST.


Happy May, readergirlz!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Winner Announced: The Writing & Critique Group Survival Guide by Becky Levine

Thank you to everyone who stopped by and shared their comments on critique groups.

The girls have chosen a winner for a copy of THE WRITING & CRITIQUE GROUP SURVIVAL GUIDE by Becky Levine.

RACHEL!!! You're the winner!!

E-mail your snail mail address to me at hipwritermama at comcast dot net.

Congrats!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Shining the Light on SPILLING INK by Anne Mazer and Ellen Potter

Have you had a chance to read SPILLING INK: A Young Writer's Handbook by Anne Mazer and Ellen Potter? If you haven't, you must check it out. It's a great resource for the young writer, a middle school teacher to use in a classroom setting, and I'll admit, even an older person (ahem) like me. Note: Thank you, MacMillan Children's Publishing Group for sending me a copy.

But, have no fear. This is NOT a boring writing manual. How could it be when the creative minds behind OLIVIA KIDNEY and ABBY HAYES are at work? No way. Kids are going to enjoy learning how to write when they read SPILLING INK.

The book cover and illustrations pop (thanks to illustrator Matt Phelan). Add in Anne's and Ellen's catchy titles, entertaining chapters, and I DARE YOU writing exercises, and you've got a great book young writers will want to use, over and over again. Anne and Ellen encourage their readers, offering them easy to understand examples and helpful tips. First drafts, voice, characters, plot, dialogue, writer's block, and even revisions won't seem impossible to handle. And that is HUGE.

Without further ado, I'm so pleased to welcome Anne and Ellen as guest bloggers today. I asked them to write about things to consider when working with someone else on a project and they put together this Q&A in a similar style of the book. Enjoy!

Q & A with Spilling Ink Authors Anne Mazer and Ellen Potter

Questions for Anne Mazer

What made you most nervous about collaborating at the beginning?
Anne: Creative collaborations are my idea of heaven on earth. What could be more fun than brainstorming, thinking up ideas, tossing concepts around with another person? (Well, that’s my idea of fun, anyway.) So I was really pleased about collaborating with Ellen, whose writing I admired. If I was nervous about anything, it was about whether this collaboration would work. I half-expected it to fall apart. Ellen and I barely knew each other. It was quite likely that we’d get on each other’s nerves, or one of us would feel committed and the other wouldn’t, or else we’d have a disagreement and the whole project would collapse. Then, every time I saw one of Ellen’s books in a bookstore, I’d get a queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach and would have to leave fast.

I had NO clue that I was embarking on a fabulous, life-changing writing partnership that was, by the way, one of the better experiences of my life.

Do you have any tips for potential collaborators on how to give each other feedback?
Anne: First of all, you need to be honest about what you like and dislike. If you can’t communicate openly, then your collaboration will fail.

Sometimes either Ellen or I saw things that weren’t in the spirit of our project – those were really important to point out. Our discussions about what didn’t work helped us to refine our vision and ultimately enriched the book.

It’s also very important to deliver your critique with respect and kindness. If you have a genuine liking and admiration for your collaborator, giving positive feedback comes naturally. Hint: If you don’t like or respect your collaborator, run for the hills!

One of the advantages of working with a collaborator is that you can help each other become better writers. I learned so much from Ellen – not only from her feedback, but also from working closely with her.

P.S. For specific ways to give feedback, see our “How To Give Fabulous Feedback” mini poster at our Spilling Ink Website http://www.spillinginkthebook.com/teachers-kit/

How did you decide who did which sections?
Anne: There was no master plan, no outline, and no strict division of labor. What Ellen and I did was think up all the questions that a young writer might want answered, and all the tips and wisdom about writing that we wanted to impart. This didn’t happen all at once; we did it throughout the course of the book, so that even when we thought the book was done, we were still adding new sections. To decide who wrote what, we just waved our hand, and said, “I want it!” Very strangely, we never had any conflict. The topics that gave me stomach cramps appealed to Ellen and vice versa.

Both of us had major things to say about plot and character, but I especially liked talking about “Writer’s Brain,” the psychological aspects of writing, while Ellen was brilliant on the nitty-gritty of “Craft.”

How has the collaboration changed your relationship with each other?
Anne: Ellen used to be a person who I admired and liked, but didn’t really know. Now she’s one of my closest friends and one of the most important people in my life. I am so used to communicating with her every day that if I don’t see her name light up my mailbox every morning (I’ve highlighted her emails with a my favorite color of yellow-orange), I feel bereft. It all adds up to a teensy Ellen Potter addiction.

Anne’s web site is http://www.annemazerbooks.com/

Questions for Ellen Potter

What was the most surprising thing to you about collaborating with another writer?
Ellen: The fact that it was possible. I never imagined I could write a book with someone else. I mean, how does one DO that?

Still, when Anne suggested that we write a fun and practical writing book for kids, I didn’t think twice about saying Yes. For one thing, I know a great idea when I hear it. But more importantly, I know a great writing partner when I meet her.

The biggest surprise, though, was that collaborating was immensely enjoyable. When I write solo, the process feels a lot like being in the violent throes of first love. There are hallucinogenic highs and rotten lows. By the time I finish a novel I am emotionally kaput.

When I collaborated with Anne, though, the writing process felt more like a very stable yet dynamic marriage. There was no drama. No angst. We helped each other through the rough patches and cheered each time we successfully finished a chapter. It was without a doubt the most fun I ever had writing a book.

Did collaboration with Anne bring you any new insights about writing?
Ellen: I learned something every time she sent me a new section. In fact, I was writing a novel at the same time we were working on Spilling Ink, and when I was having a problem with some writing issue—like writer’s block or finding ideas—I’d request that she write a section about it. What a luxury!

Also, she pointed out my overuse of the word really. She was right. Really, really right.

How do you and Anne work together? Did you find your way all at once, or did your partnership evolve?
Ellen: I could tell you some hair-raising stories of nasty arguments and bruised egos . . . but they’d all be lies to make this blog post a little splashier. In reality, the collaboration was silky smooth from beginning to end.

Still, I am a pretty stubborn person. At first, when Anne sent back her critiques of my chapters, a little voice in my head would occasionally grumble, “Hmph! I think it’s fine the way it is.” But once I got over myself, I found that Anne was generally right. She is a perceptive yet diplomatic editor. After a while, I changed my baseline: Instead of assuming I knew better, I assumed that she did.

As our partnership evolved, so did our friendship. Even though the book is finished we still talk almost every day. We’re itching to collaborate again, but we’re going to wait until the next perfect idea flags us down.

What qualities do you think are necessary for a successful collaboration?
Ellen: I think it all boils down to the same qualities that are necessary for a successful marriage:
1. You have to trust that the other person is watching your back.
2. You have to be genuinely gobsmacked by each other’s wonderfulness.

Take a peek at the Spilling Ink web site, which features a Creativity Blog, downloads for teachers and kids, and book giveaways http://www.spillinginkthebook.com/

Ellen’s web site is http://www.ellenpotter.com/

Monday, April 26, 2010

Shining the Light on THE WRITING & CRITIQUE GROUP SURVIVAL GUIDE by Becky Levine AND a Giveaway!!

I am so happy to have Becky Levine here today as my guest hostess. Becky offers great insight on the writing process. Did you know she wrote a book about the critique process? Enter THE WRITING & CRITIQUE GROUP SURVIVAL GUIDE: How to Give and Receive Feedback, Self-Edit, and Make Revisions. If you're looking for a book to help you get your writing to the next level, this is a GREAT choice. (In the interest of self-disclosure, I won Becky's book on the fabulous Shrinking Violet Promotions blog. Thank you to The Shrinking Violets and Becky! I should also mention, Becky is a friend and invaluable critiquer. I'm here to tell you, Becky talks the talk AND she walks the walk. Becky KNOWS critiques.)

THE WRITING & CRITIQUE GROUP SURVIVAL GUIDE is easy to read and filled with good examples. I'm telling you, this book will help you get more out of the critique process so you can improve your writing. This will get you beyond the fear of critiques to structuring and working on your entire manuscript--we're talking about plot, dialogue, pacing, setting, voice, POV--through the details and the big picture. Whether you're thinking of joining a critique group or have experience, you will find something that will get you thinking, developing your internal editor, and finish revisions. And isn't that what we want to do?

Becky was kind enough to offer a copy for a giveaway on my blog. Details below!

I bet you'd like to read Becky's post now, wouldn't you? Please welcome Becky Levine!
-------------------

What You Can Do for Your Critique Partners
When Vivian invited me to guest-blog at HipWriterMama, I knew right away that I wanted to write a post that would fit here. Vivian’s posts are continuously supportive and encouraging, and—since I believe that’s also true of the best critique groups—I decided that’s what I’d focus on today.

Support.

Support in a critique group might seem obvious. Yes, it’s about listening to each other whine discuss the latest problems in our manuscripts. Yes, it’s about leaning on each other when we get rejection letters. Yes, it’s about calling up our local bookstores and libraries and making sure they have our critique partner’s books on the shelves.

It’s about a lot of other things, too, though. And sometimes, we all need a little reminder about what those things are.

You are supporting your critique partner when you:
  • Take the time and energy to give detailed feedback about their project. Give them a clear explanation, point to examples in their manuscript, and make suggestions about specific changes they might want to make.
  • Don’t ignore that bland dialog or inconsistent characterization that is bothering you. It’s bothering them, too, believe me. They just don’t know what to do about it yet.
  • Help them brainstorm through a plot problem or two. Schedule time to bounce ideas back & forth about their hero’s character development.
  • Read multiple revisions of their manuscript. Who’s going to get it all right the first time through? Or the second?
  • Say “yes,” when they ask if you can read longer chunks of their book, even the full manuscript. Work out with them and the rest of the group how much time everyone will need, then schedule it out. When you read more pages at a time, you can provide a stronger critique in terms of consistency, plot tension, and character change.
  • Make your commitment to critiquing their work strong and steady. Put critiquing time on your calendar, put aside dedicated time for reading and thinking, and deliver your critiques on time and with as much clarity as possible.
Does all this sounds like a lot? It is. Take another look at the list, though, and switch around some pronouns. Put your critique partner in the place of the one doing the work, and drop yourself into the recipient’s chair. Look at everything you’re getting back.

This is the strength of a strong, supportive group. Everything you put into the group, every minute of critiquing you do, comes back full circle to help you. Not simply because your critique partners are doing the same for you, but because that commitment and energy build something powerful, something that lets us grow our writing community and our writing craft.

Bio
Becky Levine is the author of The Writing & Critique Group Survival Guide: How to Give and Receive Feedback, Self-Edit, and Make Revisions. Becky has participated in her own critique groups for fifteen years and has ten years experience as a freelance manuscript editor. She writes fiction and nonfiction for children and teens, as well as freelance articles and book reviews. Becky’s online class Mastering the Art of Group and Self-Critiquing starts at the new Writer’s Digest University on May 6, 2010. [HWM Note: There's still time to register for this six-week class!]

Giveaway
Becky was kind to offer one copy of her book for a Giveaway! If you'd like to be considered, comment away on what you find discouraging, fun, irritating, thought-provoking, etc. about the critique process. Please let me know if you sign up for Becky's class--I'll give you two entries! Deadline will be Friday, April 30th at 11pm EST. Comment away!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Shining the Light on THE TEXAS SWEETHEARTS

Hope all of you had a nice weekend! It's been busy in my neck of the woods with lots of decluttering, cleaning, and writing. The kids finally have spring vacation and there's little chance I'll be allowed to do anything productive this week. The girls are determined to have interesting adventures to talk about in school--especially since "all" of their friends are jet-setting to Mexico, Aruba, Bermuda and Disney. And, we're not. But, I think they'll be pleased with our activities. *crosses fingers* Spy Girl checks out my blog, so I can't divulge any information...yet.

The one thing I can share today is my guest bloggers! I'm pleased to welcome THE TEXAS SWEETHEARTS -- P.J. Hoover (one of my wonderful critique buddies), Jo Whittemore, and Jessica Lee Anderson -- as my guest bloggers today. I asked them for some writing tips and they delivered! Use these tips well, my friends.

Yay for The Texas Sweethearts! Here's a blurb from their website:
We're from the awesome state of Texas—Austin to be exact.
(For you non-Texans, that's the nice, shiny star in the center of the state.)
We're entertaining, engaging, and we want to make a difference.
We love talking to kids, teens, adults, librarians, teachers, and writers. Actually, we love talking to anyone who will listen. There's nothing like seeing the joy in the face of a child discovering a love of reading.
Our books target all ages, and our dreams go beyond the realm of imagination. We'd love to come share our experiences and creativity with your group!
Writing for Kids from the Heart of Texas...
P. J. Hoover:
First off, Vivian, thank you so much for letting The Texas Sweethearts guest post on your blog. Ever since I started blogging a few years back, I was in awe of the amazing HipWriterMama. She (you) was like this famous blogger [HWM: *snort* too kind], yet you made me feel so welcome to the kidlitosphere. And for that I will always be grateful!

So, my name is P. J. Hoover, and I write middle grade and YA fantasy. I have two books of a MG trilogy out so far. The first book, THE EMERALD TABLET, came out in 2008, and the second, THE NAVEL OF THE WORLD, came out in 2009. I’m totally looking forward to the third and final book in the series, THE NECROPOLIS, which comes out fall 2010. The books are aimed at the Harry Potter and Percy Jackson crowd and feature a boy named Benjamin Holt who finds out he’s from a continent hidden under the Pacific Ocean and he’s not even human. To top that off, he has to save the world.

If there’s one thing I learned while writing the trilogy, it’s to take as much time between your revisions as you possibly can. I was fortunate in that I wrote the entire trilogy before the first book came out, so I had plenty of time to let the manuscripts sit. For both NAVEL and NECROPOLIS, there was one point when I waited a year between revisions for each. Coming back to a novel after a year gives the most fresh, objective look at it one can possibly imagine. It’s like the things that need to be cut stand out in bold capital letters whether they are characters or plot lines or even the actual starting point of the novel. So, though waiting is painful at times, waiting is also our friend in revisions.

Jo Whittemore:
Hey guys! I’m Jo Whittemore, and my newest book, Front Page Face-Off, just came out March 9. It’s a change from my favorite genre (fantasy), as FPFO is a contemporary middle grade. In the story, twelve-year-old Delilah James goes from being star reporter for the school paper to second best after a rival journalist swoops in and steals her glory (and potential boyfriend). In order for Delilah to get what she wants, hilarious mayhem must ensue, and such silliness is what drove me to write this story in the first place.

Back in the day, I was all set to write another fantasy novel while my agent was shopping a demon story I’d written. The only problem was, I was stuck in a rut:

Me: How about if I write a demon book?
Agent: You just wrote a demon book.
Me: Yes, but in this one, the demon wears a hat!

Okay, so I didn’t REALLY mention a hat, but my agent had a point. She then went on to suggest that I try to write something contemporary, since I had a good sense of humor and grasp of my characters. I scoffed at first (“Fantasy is my life! I won’t betray the unicorns!”) but then I decided to give it a shot.

And you know what? She was right. I had so much fun writing contemporary and letting the jokes fly. Because cracking wise is what I do in real life. When things get tough, I spew one-liners like machine gun bullets. When people feel glum, I’m always there with a poop joke.

So my advice is to play to your strengths and always strive to write just like YOU. Your unique voice is what will win audiences over, not your imitation of someone else’s.

Jessica Lee Anderson:
PJ and Jo, what you both said resonates with me as I can be impatient when it comes to revising, and I strive to find my voice and play on my strengths. Howdy! I’m Jessica Lee Anderson, and my newest novel is Border Crossing, a story about a bi-racial teen named Manz who is on the border physically and mentally. He’s not sure who he can trust including himself as he’s schizophrenic. Border Crossing is a departure from my first novel, Trudy (2005 Milkweed Prize for Children's Literature winner), about a girl who must accept her father’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis. I spent a great deal of time developing and tweaking the characters in Border Crossing (about four years). The biggest challenge was to make sure Manz came across as believable, especially the way he perceives things psychologically. I spent a great deal of time researching schizophrenia so I could better understand him. Given my limited experiences as an Anglo female, I brought several readers on board to make sure he came across as authentic. Also, in the many drafts of this story, I worked on strengthening the secondary characters so they would seem more three-dimensional. Characters need to be as real as possible to the reader as well as to the writer.

Thanks again for letting us stop by!