Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween

New Voice: Kiersten White on Paranormalcy

Kiersten White is the first-time author of Paranormalcy (HarperTeen, 2010)(author blog). From the promotional copy:

Evie’s always thought of herself as a normal teenager, even though she works for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, her ex-boyfriend is a faerie, she’s falling for a shape-shifter, and she’s the only person who can see through paranormals’ glamours.

But Evie’s about to realize that she may very well be at the center of a dark faerie prophecy promising destruction to all paranormal creatures.

So much for normal.


As a paranormal writer, going in, did you have a sense of how events/themes in your fantasy might parallel or speak to events/issues in our real world? Or did this evolve over the course of many drafts?

I never set out to write with themes in mind, but somehow they always seep into my writing so that, by the time I have a finished draft, it’s very obvious what was on my mind.

Since I write for teens, I slip into my teen mindset, which leaves my main characters grappling with the big questions I had as a teenager. How could I fit in and be special at the same time? Was everyone else as lonely and confused as me? Who was I, and who did I want to become? How do I deal with this rampaging gremlin without getting its acid saliva on myself?

Wait. Scratch that last one.

Isolation also tends to be a big recurring element in my novels, because for me being a teenager was an intensely lonely time. I had friends—great friends—but that didn’t stop me from worrying that no one really knew me and that, if they did, they might not like me anymore.

In Paranormalcy, I pumped this up even more. Not only does Evie not have any teenage friends because she lives in an inaccessible government center, but even more isolating, she doesn’t know much about herself. It’s hard enough figuring out who you are in life even when you know where you came from (and what, exactly, you are, although I doubt many of us grapple with that particular question!).

My favorite thing about writing paranormal/urban fantasy is that so many of the different things I employ function as perfect metaphors for teenagers. A shapeshifter worries that if people saw the real him they would reject him, so he doesn’t let anyone get close. His friends like him, girls like him, but he can’t ever accept it as true because they don’t see who he really is. Evie, who can see through anything, can’t see herself for what she really is, and doesn’t want to. She’s so desperate to be normal, to conform to this idea she has in her head of what normal is, she stops seeing the complexities of the world around her and where she fits in it. And that, really, it’s okay not to know quite where you fit, as long as you’re happy where you are.

I think this is vital, because you can write the coolest creatures/world setup/fantasy elements possible, but if people don’t relate to the characters there’s no point. I hope that what makes my characters unusual makes them even more accessible and relatable.

In the end, I think it’s important to note that I never set out to make my characters metaphors. Can you imagine? “And now for the love interest, who will be a metaphor for man’s search for meaning in a cold universe!”

Heavens no. I write my characters as people. They supply the issues themselves. It’s a great system! And that’s what’s important—themes and ideas and issues are fabulous, as long as they supplement and enrich the story instead of taking away or distracting from it.

What is it like, to be a debut author in 2010? What do you love about it? What are the challenges? What came as the biggest surprise? In each case, why?

If you are at all aware of my book or me, you may have noticed something.

You can find me online.

Really! In fact, I think you’d be harder pressed not to find me online. I am everywhere… (Please imagine that sentence said in a creepy whisper with a slightly maniacal grin.)

And somehow this public persona--this issue of an author or aspiring writer needing to have a platform and be a networking genius and have a blog and a website and twitter and Facebook and Goodreads and whatever else is the next absolute must have online social media--has become the norm. So much so that the other day when I searched for a debut author online and found nothing I thought, What’s wrong with her?

Umm, nothing. Nothing is wrong with her. She’s just opted out of having an online presence. And honestly? I think that’s okay. We have a lot of pressure coming from all ends. I can’t tell you how many times panicked writers have asked me how they can get people to read their blogs, how they can build readership, because don’t editors and agents look for that?

Well, they don’t hate it, it’s true. And if you do manage to have a large readership, awesome! But I think that unless you genuinely enjoy it and can manage to have an appealing or entertaining online presence (like this little blog you may have heard of, I think it’s called Cynsations?), there’s really no point.

Have an attractive, professional website and call it good. Blogging and twitter can be a huge time-suck, so if you can’t balance it with your writing time, don’t bother. Your writing is what will get you a book deal, not how many followers your blog has.

Sometimes I like to imagine which historical authors I think would have been active in social media. I can see Jane Austen with a thoughtful, clever, and incredibly verbose blog, but she would post infrequently. Charles Dickens would have been all over twitter. J.D. Salinger would have…still been a slightly crazy recluse.

But here’s what’s different about publishing in 2010. That stuff is out there, and yes, there’s an expectation that you are going to be doing it. I obviously haven’t struggled with it, but that’s because I’ve been blogging daily for three years now. (And let’s face it, I enjoy being an idiot on Twitter. I’m bored. It’s funny. See how it all comes back to me and what I like doing?)

Has my online presence been a boon to my career? I’m going to say, yes. But I suppose only time will tell for sure. But more importantly: do I enjoy doing it? Yes, absolutely.

Because being an author in 2010 is not that much different than being an author in 1910 or 1810. You still choose how much of yourself to put out there, how accessible you want to make yourself to your readers.

Will I always be as accessible as I’ve been until now? Probably not. The more readers paying attention to my blog, the more I shy away from exposing certain aspects of myself on it. The more emails I get taking time away from writing, the more I lean toward declining requests I would have accepted even a couple of months ago.

This is the reality of now. Communication is so easy, so instant, that it’s easy to get overwhelmed with it. I’m still trying to find the balance, but I suspect it will always be changing. And that’s okay.

Check out the book trailer for Paranormalcy:



and a video interview with Kiersten:

Friday, October 29, 2010

Guest Post: Clare B. Dunkle on Of Humans and Other Monsters

By Clare B. Dunkle

A seventh-grader once asked why I wrote about monsters. Didn’t I find it too scary?

“I can write about goblins, witches, werewolves, demons, and ghosts without losing sleep,” I told her. “But I can’t write about this.” My vague gesture took in the students, the classroom, final exams, wars, famines, and all the rest of it. “Because this is much more terrifying.”

But in spite of my best efforts to escape from real life into tales of magic, “this” has managed to sneak into my writing anyway: the plain old nastiness of one unhappy human being’s behavior towards another.

Really, without knowing it, I’ve invited that nastiness in. It goes hand in hand with writing about monsters. That’s because monsters are unusual—disturbingly different—not like us. And if history teaches us one thing, it’s that we human beings reserve our harshest, most barbaric behavior for the people who we think are not like us.

Heathcliff is a magnificent monster. His passion and brutality, his uncanny origin, his obsessive longing to reunite with his sweetheart in death—all these things make him larger than life, one of the traditional definitions of the word “monster.”

Moreover, the people he meets in Wuthering Heights (1847) immediately begin to treat him like a monster. He enters the book as a dirty, hungry little boy, a child of no more than seven. But how does his new family welcome him? By fighting over him. By threatening to throw him out into the night. By refusing him a bed. By spitting on him.


If Emily Brontë’s story were nothing more than a “poor boy does well” tale, it wouldn’t be a classic. But the fascinating fact is that Heathcliff begins at once to justify his new family’s suspicions. He doesn’t become a monster because of the family’s ill treatment. He already is a monster. He exploits his foster father’s fondness of him. He blackmails his foster brother. And, in one of the book’s most chilling moments, young Cathy watches him construct a trap over a bird nest so that the parents will have to let the baby birds starve. This breathtakingly sadistic behavior passes for play in young Heathcliff’s mind. We can only wonder what else he teaches his new playmate.

I have pondered for decades what could have happened to Heathcliff before the beginning of Emily Brontë’s classic to make him the monster he is. And when authors ponder, they write books. My new novel, The House of Dead Maids (Henry Holt, 2010), posits an entertaining explanation for Heathcliff’s behavior in Wuthering Heights. When he enters my book, he is still a little boy—a savage, dangerous, badly abused, horribly traumatized little boy. But when he leaves my book, his character has hardened. He has become a monster.

The question of what has happened to Heathcliff is not the only one my prequel attempts to solve. It tackles a number of Wuthering Heights puzzles. Among other things, it proposes answers to these questions: Why does Earnshaw take Heathcliff in? Where does Heathcliff go when he leaves Wuthering Heights for three years? How does he become wealthy? Why does he feel he should be master of the house even though Hindley is older? Why does he feel compelled to gather his household around the dinner table with him even though he hates the sight of them? Why does he claim to know ghosts walk the earth? Why does he dislike books? Why does he hate to hear women laugh? Why do Cathy and he wish to be buried together? What causes Cathy’s episodes of delirium? Why does Cathy believe she will be “on that hillside” of Wuthering Heights rather than in heaven after she dies? And of course, the greatest puzzle of all: Where does Heathcliff get his name?

I’ve come to feel that I specialize in monsters. I started my writing career dealing with unsightly goblins. Then I moved on to werewolves and killer bots. But the most frightening monster is the one who can hide in a crowd—the monster who looks like us.

The most dreadful monster is the one who lurks within our hearts—the monster who, unchecked, has produced such horrors in our history as witch-burnings, slavery, and the Holocaust.

These are the monsters who people Wuthering Heights, and you’ll find them in The House of Dead Maids too. I made the ghosts in that book as scary as I could, God knows; but in the end, it’s the regular human beings who will keep you awake at night.

Spooky News & Giveaways

Young Adult Novel Discovery Contest 2010 from Gotham Writers' Workshop.

No query? No pitch? No problem!

Submit the first 250 words of your novel, and you can win both exposure to editors and a reading of your manuscript from literary agent Regina Brooks.

Regina is the founder of Serendipity Literary Agency and the author of Writing Great Books for Young Adults. Brooks has been instrumental at establishing and building the careers of many YA writers, including three-time National Book Award Honoree and Michael Printz Honoree Marilyn Nelson, as well as Sundee T. Frazier—a Coretta Scott King Award winner, an Oprah Book Pick and an Al Roker book club selection.

The first 100 submissions will receive free autographed copies of Writing Great Books for Young Adults by Regina Brooks.

So will the top 20 submissions. The top 20 submissions also will be read by a panel of five judges comprised of top YA editors at Macmillan (Nancy Mercado, executive editor at Roaring Brook Press), Scholastic (Cheryl Klein, senior editor at Arthur Levine Books), Candlewick (Nicole Raymond, editor at Candlewick), Harlequin (Evette Porter, editor at Harlequin), Sourcebooks (Leah Hultenschmidt, executive editor at Sourcebooks) and Penguin (Leila Sales, editor at Viking). Of the 20, they will pick the top five submissions and provide each author with commentary.

These five winners will also receive a free one year subscription to The Writer magazine.

One Grand Prize Winner will win a full manuscript reading and editorial consultation from Regina Brooks and a free 10-week writing course courtesy of the Gotham Writer’s Workshop.

Please submit all entries via the contest website. One entry per person; anyone age 13+ can apply. Open to the U.S. & Canada (void where prohibited). See details.

More News & Giveaways

Track Changes Coming Back to Bite You? by Kristin from Pub Rants. Peek: "Lately we’ve received a slew of sample page submissions that have all the writer’s revisions clearly outlined in track changes." Note: see related insights from QueryTracker.

JacketFlap: "a comprehensive resource for information on the children's book industry. Thousands of published authors, illustrators, librarians, agents, editors, publicists, and publishers visit JacketFlap every day." Note: to reach a wider audience, register your children's-YA literature/writing-related blog at JacketFlap.

Not Writing, or Why Your Brain Is An Ice-Cream Maker by Veronica Roth. Peek: "...if the information I know and the thought patterns I've developed remain constant, I will never come up with anything new, different, interesting, intriguing, or enlightening."

Happy 90th Anniversary, Scholastic! from On Our Minds @Scholastic. Peek: "Ninety years ago, Robbie Robinson created the first issue of a magazine called The Western Pennsylvania Scholastic. Fast forward to today - Scholastic is now the world's largest publisher and distributor of children's books. Time flies when you're reading!"

Finding the Right Agent by Verla Kay. Peek: "Before you can find the right match for you, it's important that you know what you want from your agent. Here's a checklist to help you determine what you would like to get from your agent. Answering these questions will help you to define your wants and needs from an agent."

Barnes & Noble Divides Out Teen Fiction Genres by Judith Rosen from Publishers Weekly. Peek: "In a sign of just how popular teen fiction has become, Barnes & Noble is in the midst of rearranging its teen fiction section chain-wide this week in an effort to improve the shopping experience and boost sales."

Beginnings by Brian Yansky from Brian's Blog: Writer Talk. Peek: "Beware the false beginning. It’s easy to start in the wrong place. A lot of times we authors even need to start in the wrong place. We need to get out some ideas or ground ourselves in the story or think to the tap tap tap of our fingers hitting the keyboard." Read a Cynsations guest post by Brian on Being Unreasonable.

Tu Books Adds Mystery to Its Focal Genres by Tu editor Stacy Whitman from Stacy Whitman's Grimoire. Note: along with fantasy and science fiction, all featuring diverse characters.

How to Make a Monster by Maurissa Guibord from The Enchanted Inkpot. Note: several Inkies chime in.

Tuning Up Your Mechanics by Carolyn Kaufman from QueryTracker. Peek: "You’d never take your car on the road if the tires were full of holes. So don’t send out your manuscript without perfect mechanics: grammar, punctuation, and spelling."

Should You Mention Using Freelance Editors? by Mary Kole from Kidlit.com. Peek: "...a few thoughts that spring to mind for me when I read in a query that a manuscript has been freelance edited."

Three Reasons an Agent Rejects Your Pages by Chuck Sambuchino from Mary Kole at Kidlit.com. Peek: "If you think your work has a problem, then it more than likely does—and any manuscript with a problem is not ready for agent eyes."

Perspiration: Professional Critiques: a listing of writing teacher, book doctors, private editors, etc. with an expertise in children's-YA literature.

Spooky Screening Room

Save the date: Cynthia Leitich Smith will launch Blessed (Candlewick, 2011) and Mari Mancusi will launch Night School (Berkley Trade, 2011) at 2 p.m. Jan. 29 at BookPeople in Austin. Check out Mari's book trailer for Night School.



From Bookmans in Phoenix. Source: Nathan Bransford - Literary Agent.



Good luck to all of you National Novel Writing Month warriors! I'm rooting for you! Cheers to Errol Elumir. Source: Debbi Ridpath Ohio from Inkygirl: Daily Diversions for Writers.



More Personally

Congratulations to my agent, Ginger Knowlton of Curtis Brown Ltd. (NY), on the 24th anniversary of joining the agency! Learn more about Ginger at Publishers Marketplace.

Cynthia Leitich Smith - Author Profile: a Q&A interview by Steven R. McEvoy from Book Reviews and More. Interview focuses on my Native writing, the Tantalize series, writing with Greg, my early supporters, favorite reads, favorite movies, and advice to both teens and aspiring authors/artists. Peek: "Adopt a Han Solo ('never tell me the odds') attitude when it comes to pursuing your dreams. You'll never have to wonder, what if?"

Reminder: want to leave a comment at Spookycyn? You can do so at the LiveJournal or MySpace versions of this blog as well as at my facebook author page. I'm also online at Twitter and YouTube.

Spooky Giveaways -- Last Call

Enter to win a copy of Another Pan by Daniel and Dina Nayeri (Candlewick, 2010)! To enter, email me (scroll and click envelope) and type "Another Pan" in the subject line. LiveJournal, Facebook, JacketFlap, MySpace, and Twitter readers are welcome to just privately message or comment me with the title in the header/post. I'll write you for contact information, if you win. Deadline: Oct. 31. Sponsored by Candlewick Press; U.S. entries only. Read a Cynsations interview with Daniel and Dina.

Enter to win a copy of The Wish Stealers by Tracy Trivas (Aladdin, 2010)! To enter, email me (scroll and click envelope) with your name and type "The Wish Stealers" in the subject line LiveJournal, Facebook, JacketFlap, MySpace, and Twitter readers are also welcome to just privately message or comment me with the name in the header/post. I'll write you for contact information, if you win. Deadline: Oct. 31. Sponsored by Simon & Schuster; U.S. entries only. Read a Cynsations interview with Tracy.

Blessed by Cynthia Leitich Smith Review and ARC Giveaway by Insert Book Title Here. Peek: "The world of Tantalize and Eternal combine in Blessed (PDF) to create an amazing story that is captivating. I loved both of the previous novels, but Blessed has blown them both out of the water. This is Cynthia at her best." Note: U.S. and Canadian citizens are eligible to win. Deadline: midnight Oct. 31. Enter here.

Spooky Events

"Beyond Feathers and Fangs: Crossing Borders in Realistic and Fantasy Fiction, with Cynthia Leitich Smith" at
The 33rd Annual Mary Calletto Rife Youth Literature Seminar - Kalamazoo Public Library. The seminar costs $40 (lower student rates are available) and is scheduled for 8 a.m. to 4 p.m Nov. 5. Note: Maria Perez-Stable and Beth Amidon will also present a book talk, and additional speakers are Gillian Engberg, Booklist editor, and Debbie Reese, UIUC professor. See more on the speakers. Note: I'll also be speaking on Nov. 4 in a public event at the Kalamazoo Public Library!


Authors Bethany Hegedus, Brian Yansky and Cynthia Leitich Smith will celebrate their latest books at 2 p.m. Nov. 14 at BookPeople in Austin, Texas. This joint author party will feature refreshments, alien tattoos, readings, a Q&A, and signing. Bethany's new release is Truth with a Capital T (Delacorte, 2010)(ages 9-up), Cynthia's latest release is Holler Loudly, illustrated by Barry Gott (Dutton, 2010)(ages 4-up), and Brian's latest release is Alien Invasions and Other Inconveniences (Candlewick, 2010)(ages 12-up).

“Give Yourself a Longer Shelf Life: Marketing for the Long-Term" panel discussion at 7 p.m. Nov. 18 at BookPeople. Panelists: Cynthia Leitich Smith, Jay Ehret and Dana Lynn Smith. Jay is a book marketing expert, and Dana is a book marketing coach and author of The Savvy Book Marketer Guides. Sponsored by the Writers’ League of Texas.

"Fangs vs. Fur" event will include Cynthia Leitich Smith Nov. 19 at the University Hills Branch of the Austin Public Library.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

New Voice: Daniel & Dina Nayeri on Another Pan & Another Faust

Daniel and Dina Nayeri are the debut co-authors of the Another series (Candlewick, 2009-2010). From the promotional copy of Another Pan (2010):

An ancient Egyptian spell is turning the tony Marlowe School into a sinister underworld. Will all hell break loose?

A darkness continues to haunt the Marlowe School, and this time, someone is plotting payback.

Wendy Darling, a headstrong junior, and her brother, John, a thirteen-year-old genius with a chip on his shoulder, struggle with being from the poorest family at the posh New York academy, where their father is a professor of ancient civilizations.

Wendy’s new boyfriend, socialite golden-boy Connor Wirth, offers a solid step up in popularity, yet ambitious Wendy and John still find themselves longing for something more.

When the Book of Gates, a mysterious tome of fabled origins, appears at Marlowe along with Peter, a dashing new resident adviser with a murky past, the Darlings are swept into a captivating world of “Lost Boys,” old-world secrets, and forbidden places.

The book opens the door to a hidden labyrinthine underworld where Egyptian myths long thought impossible become frighteningly real. Suddenly, Peter, Wendy, and John find themselves captive in the lair of an age-old darkness, trying to escape the clutches of an ancient and beautiful child-thief who refuses to let go.


Could you describe both your pre-and-post contract revision process? What did you learn along the way? How did you feel at each stage? What advice do you have for other writers on the subject of revision?


Dina: I’ve only been writing professionally for a few years, but during that time I’ve worked on novels both alone and with my brother. In both contexts, I had to learn how very important it is not to be attached to any of your writing. The number of times we have edited our own work, or each other’s--both before and after the contract--has been staggering.

At first, of course, I was daunted by the sheer volume of edits from so many different sources (my co-author, readers, editors, my agent). But now it’s reassuring to know how many chances you get to make your novel better.

With each novel, the revision process has been different. With Another Faust (Candlewick, 2009), we sold the novel after a certain number of private revisions (just between Daniel and I) and then our editor gave us a list of very high-level changes, followed by two-three rounds of smaller changes.

But the editing process for Another Pan was completely different. Because we had sold the novel to Candlewick before a word of it was written, our editor didn’t really know that she would like it at all before we submitted something to her. With Another Faust, at least she had read it before deciding to become involved. Not so with our second book, which was contracted in advance.

I’m sure this was even more nerve-wracking for our editor given that our series is not one ongoing story consisting of several sequels. So each story can be completely different!

Candlewick showed a lot of faith in signing us in advance to do a series of retellings, each of which might be in a completely different voice and structure, and might center on a whole slew of new characters.

Naturally, editing Another Pan took a few more rounds for this very reason. In the first draft, it was a lot more action-adventure oriented, with huge Anubite warriors attacking the school and little scorpions pouring out of the underworld into the classrooms. It was darn cool stuff, but we cut it because we wanted more of the mystery and suspense of a villain that was harder to see or identify. Our editor suggested that for older audiences, this is more sophisticated and fun! We agreed, so we rewrote a big portion of the novel. Then, after that first round, the editing process progressed pretty much the same as before.

Since there are two of us, it’s also often a struggle to figure out how to divide edits. Dividing up the writing (as opposed to editing) is easier, because we can just make a detailed outline over several weeks and then assign chapters, then edit each other’s to smooth the voice.

But at some point we need to go through the entire book with a fine-toothed comb and make it really cohesive. That means we need to take turns with the manuscript, which can be touchy because it means one of us has full control over it for several weeks while the other is completely out of the loop. For me, this is a good way to deal with my control issues and a good excuse to get on with the rest of my life!

The best piece of advice I’d give to other writers about revisions actually comes from my own individual writing. Before selling a book, you should give it to at least ten readers across two-to-three rounds. You should make sure the readers are in your target audience, but vary within that demographic (e.g., both male and female).

In the first round, they will all likely respond with the same questions and complaints so that you know exactly what edits need to be done. By the third round, there might be less overlap.

When you get to a round of edits when all your readers are nitpicking about small stuff, disagreeing with each other, and discussing themes instead of giving you edits, you know you’re done and ready to submit (to your editor, who will then edit it again)!

How have you approached the task of promoting your debut book? What online or real-space efforts are you making? Where did you get your ideas? To whom did you turn for support? Are you enjoying the process, or does it feel like a chore? What advice do you have on this front for your fellow debut authors and for those in the years to come?

Dina: I came to writing from the business world, so I know a bit about marketing, but I have to say that I was still shocked by how much of an online presence some authors have these days. Some authors are just so good at this aspect of a writer’s life, keeping up amazing blogs, tweeting every day and keeping in touch with fans online. But I’m just not that good at all that. I left the business world because I wanted to avoid the business stuff.

One day, I was talking to an amazing fellow YA author who keeps a really excellent blog, and she started complaining that “I became a writer so that I could write novels, not tweet about them!” And I finally understood that every author has complaints about being pulled away from their main work.

Yes, Daniel and I found ourselves having a lot of fun on Facebook, Twitter and all the usual online places where we could chat with our audience and joke around with them (that was the best: talking to individual readers). But after some time, we had to get back to our lives offline. We both had our own novels in progress, plus the series, and at some point you have to shut off the Internet and work!

So in the end, we did a lot of things online (we have a kick-butt website, where we hosted a very successful writing contest last year!), but my advice to a new author would be not to beat yourself up trying to do everything! Everyone has a different style in that regard.

I think my favorite part of the Another Faust promotion process was the book tour. Daniel and I did a monumental tour: a full 30 days, four-to-five events a day, sometimes including two packed auditoriums a day!

In total, we spoke to 4,000 students across seven states that month, which was amazing (we have a blog post on our site about it).

We met students from so many different backgrounds, different types of schools, interests, future plans. It was enormous fun.

And we got to do a crazy road trip together, which led to a lot of sibling spats, but was fun and something I had always wanted to do with my brother.

Let me tell you, Daniel is one larger than life personality, so when you’re on a road trip, sometimes you find yourself having the funniest day of your life, laughing uncontrollably from the pit of your gut for hours, and sometimes, you find yourself pulling the emergency breaks in the middle of I-95, hoping to get out of the car!

Respect to Daniel for putting up with me, too, by the way. But I loved the moments when, after bickering for a while, something would happen that would demonstrate all the DNA we share.

My favorite “we are so related” story was a conversation we had at 6 a.m. one morning before a long drive to a school visit. Daniel had just knocked on the door of my room to pick me up for the day’s trip. He was groggy and sleepy and a little grumpy.

I was holding a cup of coffee I had just bought from the café around the corner, so I offered him some.

He said, “No thanks.”

So I said, “Why not? You need coffee.”

Daniel: “I won’t like it.”

Dina: “How do you know?”

Daniel: “I just know, okay? Leave me alone!”

Dina (now becoming stubborn): “You’re just going to say no without trying it? Just try it!”

Daniel: “Dina. I promise you that I will not like your coffee. Geez!”

Dina: “Why not?”

Daniel (irate now): “Because I like my coffee sickening sweet. So sweet, any normal person will want to spit it out. So sweet it will taste like a cup full of liquid aspartame. So sweet you’ll want to puke. Okay? Got it?

Dina (crosses arms and smiles knowingly): “Taste it.”

Daniel (sighs): “Fine.” and he takes the cup.

He tastes the coffee, looks up with a giant smile and says, “Okay.... That’s pretty sweet.”

This year, we decided to do a shorter tour to save our sanity (and because we actually both got ill after the last one). It will be two weeks across three states (New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut), and we will be visiting mostly schools.

After the large variety of events we did last year, we discovered that we absolutely love offering free talks to schools. Sometimes we visit schools that have never been able to afford an author visit before, and it’s so gratifying to be a first for them.

We’re both psyched about getting back on the road this year, meeting our readers, and telling them a bit about the life of an author: which at least for me, includes a lot less Twitter this year.

When and where do you write? Why does that time and space work for you?

Daniel: Well, my typical day has writing happening at various times. I work full time, so my own writing happens around that.

I usually wake up at 7 a.m. and stumble to the coffee machine. I highly recommend a coffee machine that you can program like an alarm clock. Once I’ve poured tons of white sugar, some flavored syrup, a little cocoa mix and cream, I’m good to go.

I live in Astoria, so my apartment could fit in most people’s entryway. I walk the fifteen feet to my “office,” and plop down. I write for two hours at my desk.

There are framed comic books on the walls, tons of books threatening to topple on my head, and our cat, Kitten-Bear, sleeping in my In box. She helps manage my work.

That’s pretty much it. I work to music, but I have one song play on repeat. So over the course of a project, I’ll hear the same song hundreds of times (novels usually get three songs). For me, it helps get to the same place tonally. I stop hearing it after a while. And I’m terrible at finding good music, so it could just be laziness.

For Another Pan, I think I was listening to “That’s What You Get,” by Paramore.

When I’m done writing, I have 12 minutes to get ready and jump on the subway to get to work. As you can tell, my grooming situation is minimalist (to be generous). It helps that I have short hair and zero sense of shame.

On Saturdays, I have the full day dedicated to writing in a café. I usually work around for five-to-six hours, then adjourn to my place for burritos and video gaming. Sunday afternoons, I put in another three hours of writing.

That’s the ideal week for me. In reality, I miss some mornings (for example, this morning), when I have a late night.

As someone with a full-time day job, how do you manage to also carve out time to write and build a publishing career? What advice do you have for other writers trying to do the same?

Daniel: Well, I think for someone with a full-time gig, writing and building a career in publishing has to become even more of a focus. The simple truth is that no one is going to help you carve out the time. If you don’t prioritize it, then it won’t work.

Nobody is saying that you can write “on the side.” It’s a full-time job. If you have a different job, then consider yourself one of those lucky individuals holding down two jobs, and make sacrifices accordingly. I don’t do cocaine or Redbull, so I end up sending out my laundry, order out more than I’d like to, and cutting back on activities (like exercise or shaving).

For the Another series, of course, it’s not just me. Sometimes, I’ll miss a deadline because things are crazy, and Dina will send a nice email: “Helloooo? Bueller? Bueller?”

I know I’m in trouble when the Buellers come out. Obviously, I try to get my butt in gear. It’s great to have those internal deadlines, and if you’re lucky, someone to enforce them.

My full-time job is as an editor for Clarion Books an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. I acquire picture books, middle grade fiction, and YA novels as well as graphic novels.

Some people say they prefer not to have creative jobs, because they’ll sit down to write and they’ll be mentally drained. I can understand that. I wouldn’t get a single page written if I tried to do it after work. But then, I’ve also worked construction and in restaurants…being exhausted physically is just as prohibitive to writing. So, it was about the same for me.

My evenings are usually reserved for grabbing drinks with colleagues, and most often, nachos and Netflix night.

Cynsational Giveaway


Enter to win a copy of Another Pan by Daniel and Dina Nayeri (Candlewick, 2010)! To enter, email me (scroll and click envelope) and type "Another Pan" in the subject line. LiveJournal, Facebook, JacketFlap, MySpace, and Twitter readers are welcome to just privately message or comment me with the title in the header/post. Twitter readers may also RT the announcement tweet for this interview. I'll write you for contact information, if you win. Deadline: Oct. 31. Sponsored by Candlewick Press; U.S. entries only.

Cynsational Screening Room

"Another Faust" Writing Session (Dina and Daniel Nayeri):



Another Faust book trailer from Candlewick Press:

Friday, October 22, 2010

Spooky News & The Wish Stealers Giveaway

Congratulations to P.J. Hoover on the release of The Forgotten Worlds Book 3: The Necropolis (CBAY/Blooming Tree, 2010)! From the promotional copy: "The situation in Lemuria is rapidly deteriorating. In fact teleportation between the hidden continent and the outside world has become so dangerous, all agents and their families have been recalled. Although Benjamin is pleased to be living in Lemuria full time, he knows he needs to find his last sibling soon. However, between classes, a murderous half-brother, and complications with his friend Heidi, Benjamin can barely focus. Besides, there's only one place left they haven't searched - the hidden continent of Atlantis." See a guest blog by P.J. and Jessica Lee Anderson on Sophomore Novels.

What's an Imprint? by Stacy Whitman from Stacy Whitman's Grimoire. Peek: "First off, let's distinguish between a smaller company and an imprint. Big and small publishers will both have imprints. You may have an advantage getting published with a smaller press because they'll often be able to give more personalized attention from the editorial stage on through production and promotion---though that can depend, too." Read a Cynsations interview with Stacy.

Children's Writer-in-Residence: Thurber House invites authors to apply for the 2011 residency in children's literature. Peek: "The Thurber House Residency in Children’s Literature offers talented, emerging writers a month-long retreat in a lovely, quiet living and working environment in James Thurber’s home in Columbus, Ohio. Besides having time to focus on his/her own writing project, the resident will teach writing-based activities to middle-grade children in a variety of community settings, including the Thurber Summer Writing Camp."

Walking the Edge by Sarah Bromley from The Slanted Mirror. Peek: "In my opinion, edgy is more ground-breaking than gritty. Gritty is more often a dark tone and a pervasive seediness, a moral ambiguity, that flows throughout the story. But edgy is the subject matter at the heart of the book."

The Shrinking Violet Online Personal Workshop Week One, Week Two: The Many Layers of You, Week Three: Connecting the Dots from R.L. La Fevers. Peek: "...helping you create an internet presence that you are comfortable with, that makes you accessible, and doesn’t feel like shilling. The workshop isn’t only about creating a new presence, but can also be used to refine, tweak, or revamp an existing one."

Oh Boy, Books: Helping Parents Find Perfect Books and Encourage Their Kids Love of Reading: a new blog in the kidlitosphere.

Inspiration vs. Writing Every Day by Tabitha Olson from Writer Musings. Peek: "I write on the days that I can, and don't write on the days I can't. For this reason alone, I don't have the luxury of waiting around for inspiration to strike because I can't sit down to write anytime I want."

Trends in Children's Publishing: A Panel: a report by Mary Kole from Kidlit.com. Peek: "Rosemary [Stimola] made sure to point out — and some writers disagree with this, but I completely enforce this idea — that publishers aren’t printers. They’re purveyors of content. And no matter the platform, whether ebook or printed book or app, people will always need stories, art, and content." Read a Cynsations interview with Mary.

Writers Links: Promotion: resources for connecting a book to young readers from Cynthia Leitich Smith Children's-YA Literature Resources.

A Graphic Take on Homer: Gareth Hinds' The Odyssey by Kate Culkin from Publishers Weekly. Peek: "With The Odyssey, published on October 12 by Candlewick, Gareth Hinds continues his project of reinterpreting classic texts in the graphic novel format. With this 256-page work, in watercolor and pastel, he hopes to find a wide audience in schools and libraries, while still appealing to adults."

The Temptation of Thinking Someone Has Made It by Nathan Bransford - Literary Agent. Peek: "We keep striving no matter how high we've climbed, even those who have climbed the highest. Pressure can cut into satisfaction, and the spotlight can be uncomfortable." Read a Cynsations interview with Nathan.

Writers Digest "Dear Lucky Agent" Contest: Young Adult Division from Chuck Sambuchino from Guide to Literary Agents. Judge: Tamar Rydzinski of Laura Dail Literary Agency in NYC. Note: "...online contest with agent judges and super-cool prizes."

10 Rules for Writing About Cops by Joe McKinney from Stet! Peek: "If I could give you one metaphor for police work, it would be this. Imagine standing in the middle of a huge river and being told you have to drink every drop of water that comes by. Every drop that does get by is a case that goes unsolved." Source: April Henry.

Spooky Screening Room

Happy Teen Read Week, Oct. 17 to Oct 23, celebrating Books with Beat! Teens are invited to vote for the 2011 Teen Read Week theme. Check out the 2010 Teens Top Ten. Share how you celebrated at the Teen Read Week wiki. Watch this video of Niki Grimes talking about reading, writing, and how libraries began a refuge and inspiration to her as a teen!



Check out the book trailer for The Lost Children by Carolyn Cohagan (Simon & Schuster, 2010).



Check out the book trailer for The Mermaid's Mirror by L.K. Madigan (Houghton Mifflin, 2010):



More Personally

In 2010, I'm celebrating my tenth anniversary as an author for young readers! If you would like to ask me a question about my past decade in youth literature, please feel free to write me at my website or comment/message me on any of my blogs/networks. Note: Blogger readers may comment at Cynsations at LiveJournal. I'll choose several to answer next month.

Thank you to Jama Rattigan for the bookstore shelf shot of Tantalize (Candlewick, 2008) and Eternal (Candlewick, 2010) paperback on in her recent post Hawai'i Book Sightings.

Look for Blessed (PDF) on pages 24 and 25 of the Candlewick Press spring-summer 2011 catalog.


Blessed by Cynthia Leitich Smith Review and ARC Giveaway by Insert Book Title Here. Peek: "The world of Tantalize and Eternal combine in Blessed (PDF) to create an amazing story that is captivating. I loved both of the previous novels, but Blessed has blown them both out of the water. This is Cynthia at her best." Note: U.S. and Canadian citizens are eligible to win. Deadline: midnight Oct. 31. Enter here.

Spooky Giveaway
Reminders

Enter to win a copy of The Wish Stealers by Tracy Trivas (Aladdin, 2010)! To enter, email me (scroll and click envelope) with your name and type "The Wish Stealers" in the subject line LiveJournal, Facebook, JacketFlap, MySpace, and Twitter readers are also welcome to just privately message or comment me with the name in the header/post. I'll write you for contact information, if you win. Deadline: Oct. 31. Sponsored by Simon & Schuster; U.S. entries only. Read a Cynsations interview with Tracy. Note: the email link was broken on previous announcements of this giveaway. It should work now. Please try again. My apologies for the inconvenience.

Spooky Events

"Beyond Feathers and Fangs: Crossing Borders in Realistic and Fantasy Fiction, with Cynthia Leitich Smith" at The 33rd Annual Mary Calletto Rife Youth Literature Seminar - Kalamazoo Public Library. The seminar costs $40 (lower student rates are available) and is scheduled for 8 a.m. to 4 p.m Nov. 5. Note: Maria Perez-Stable and Beth Amidon will also present a book talk, and additional speakers are Gillian Engberg, Booklist editor, and Debbie Reese, UIUC professor. See more on the speakers. Note: I'll also be speaking on Nov. 4 in a public event at the Kalamazoo Public Library!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Guest Post: Brian Yansky on Being Unreasonable

By Brian Yansky

I’ve written elsewhere that my first short-story, “Santa Claus and the Twenty-seven Bad Boys,” which was written in the first grade, neatly outlined my material for a lifetime of fiction writing: it had a stubborn fascination in the mythological and supernatural creatures that haunt and enliven our culture, an affection for odd and strange characters, and a desire to be both comic and serious.

While this is surely true, I don’t think I found the complete expression of it until I wrote Alien Invasions and Other Inconveniences (Candlewick, 2010)(chapter one PDF).

What I mean is this: though writing quirky novels was nothing new to me, the fantastical elements in those novels was never central to them. The novels were rooted in realism and the fantastical events were appendages added to them in various ways for various purposes. I’d published two of these novels. Both of them had received mostly good reviews and one had won a prestigious award, but neither had sold particularly well.

After those, I’d written my next novel, and that novel had been rejected by my editor and several other editors. After those rejections I have to admit, rightly or wrongly, to a feeling that I was doing something wrong. And I have to admit I had no reason to believe there would be a line of publishers interested in my next manuscript if it were like the others. So what I thought at that point was I needed to try writing a more conventional novel. I needed to reel in my quirky characters and mute the fantasy element. I needed to try something different.

With this in mind, I started a novel. It died after twenty or thirty pages. I started another and same thing happened. This went on for a while. I did what writers in a bad place must do, I kept writing. Eventually I started one that began, “It takes less time for them to conquer the world than it takes me to brush my teeth.” Okay, I thought. Kind of funny. Kind of weird.

But not more conventional.

Not following the plan.

I was about to erase the line when another came. “That’s pretty disappointing.”

I had a voice. I couldn’t deny I had a voice. Every writer loves when they feel they have a voice, a narrator who speaks distinctly. But this was still not the novel I had planned. This was definitely not that novel. My finger hovered over the DELETE key.

But, come on, I had a voice.

I remember thinking to myself, “Really? You’re really going to write this novel? This totally unsellable even-weirder-than-usual novel? Really?”

Be reasonable, I thought. A novel takes a year. Maybe more. No on gets that many of those.

But I had a voice. I had a character. What could I do?

(Let me interject here that there are many wonderful conventional novels, but that, for me, writing a conventional novel is like trying to write in a strait jacket. I couldn’t do it if I tried. I did try. I couldn’t.)

This novel that I wrote thinking no one would buy is the novel that sold to one of the best publishers around, Candlewick. If I’d listened to the voice of reason, I wouldn’t have written it.

Sometimes we writers have to be unreasonable. Sometimes, even though there are many good reasons not to, we have to write what we have to write. And, for me, the writing of Alien Invasions and Other Inconveniences taught me a lot about what I want to write and how to write it. So that leap in the dark, that to “hell with it,” that unreasonable act, made, as Mr. Frost once said about a certain less-traveled road, all the difference.

Spooky News & Giveaways

I'm not involved as a blogger or author, but I look forward to reading the Crossroads Blog Tour.


In It for the Long Haul by Rachelle Gardner from Rants & Ramblings on Life as a Literary Agent. Peek: "...what helps a writer accomplish this goal – and what can sabotage their efforts."

When You Discover Your Agent's Not That Into You by Brodi Ashton from Nathan Bransford - Literary Agent. Peek: "I’m still friends with my first agent, and I admit I learned so much from him. But I would rather be in the query pool, collecting a thousand rejections, than be with an agent whose reaction to my book was, 'Meh.'" See also The All-Important First Chapter by Valerie Kemp from Nathan.

Writing Fight Scenes by Leah Cypress, featuring insights from Jenny Moss, Ellen Oh, Malinda Lo, Dawn Metcalf, Lia Keyes, and Caroline Hooton, from The Enchanted Inkpot. Peek from Ellen: "We have to know that in a fight, the brain doesn't completely go blank. Capturing the heightened intensity of the character's emotions is what makes a fight scene really come alive."

Cobwebs Got Your Story? by Carolyn Kaufman from QueryTracker. Peek: "Unsettled, I peer around the corners into the nooks and crannies of the story only to find sheets of lacy cobwebs and the mummified remains of plot bunnies that didn't quiet make it out to the green pasture before I tucked the story away. Dust coats nearly everything, giving my story a surreal, fuzzy feeling."

Master List of YA Literary Magazines and Journals by S.E. Sinkhorn from maybe genius. Peek: "These are mostly magazines that are on a paying scale, which means they're pro or semi-pro. Some of them don't pay, but are still of a high quality. I'm going to list the magazine/journal along with a link, the age group it's aimed at, and a short description." Source: Alice Pope's SCBWI Market Guide.

New Agent Interview: John Rudolph, Dystel & Goderich Literary Management by Alice Pope from Alice Pope's SCBWI Market Guide. Peek: "Right now, I’m open to pretty much anything and everything, though I will say that I’m not actively looking for picture book manuscripts unless they’re by author/illustrators."

Spooky Screening Room

Nightshade by Andrea Cremer (Philomel, Oct. 19, 2010) ARC giveaway from P.J. Hoover at Roots in Myth. Deadline: midnight Oct. 22. Check out the book trailer below.




Spooky Giveaway
Reminder

Enter to win a copy of The Wish Stealers by Tracy Trivas (Aladdin, 2010)! To enter, email me (scroll and click envelope) with your name and type "The Wish Stealers" in the subject line LiveJournal, Facebook, JacketFlap, MySpace, and Twitter readers are also welcome to just privately message or comment me with the name in the header/post. I'll write you for contact information, if you win. Deadline: Oct. 31. Sponsored by Simon & Schuster; U.S. entries only. Read a Cynsations interview with Tracy.

Note: the email link was broken on previous announcements of this giveaway. It should work now. Please try again. My apologies for the inconvenience.

More Personally

Hooray! One of my stories is featured in Girl Meets Boy, a YA anthology, edited by Kelly Milner Halls, which literary agent Jill Cocoran sold this week to Chronicle for spring 2012 release! My story is a companion to one by Joseph Bruchac! I'm especially jazzed because this will be my next piece of Native-themed fiction to reach young readers.

Here's the full scoop from Jill! Additional contributing authors: Chris Cruther, Terry Davis, Rebecca Fjelland Davis, Kelly Milner Halls, James Howe, Randy Powell, Sara Ryan, Terry Trueman, Rita Williams-Garcia, and Ellen Wittlinger.

Cynthia Leitich Smith -- Team Werewolf from David and Kelly at YA Book Reads. Peek: "Did it all start with that little girl in the red hood? I can’t say for sure. But werewolves get a bum rap. Ditto werecats and other werepredators. When I decided to write shape shifters, they first thing I did was my homework." Note: check out the worldwide giveaway and the whole line-up for Book Wars: Vampires Versus Werewolves. "

Reminder: want to leave a comment at spookycyn? You can do so at the LiveJournal or MySpace versions of this blog as well as at my facebook author page. I'm also online at Twitter and YouTube.

Two Chances to Win Blessed ARC

Blessed by Cynthia Leitich Smith Review and ARC Giveaway by Insert Book Title Here. Peek: "The world of Tantalize and Eternal combine in Blessed (PDF) to create an amazing story that is captivating. I loved both of the previous novels, but Blessed has blown them both out of the water. This is Cynthia at her best." Note: U.S. and Canadian citizens are eligible to win. Deadline: midnight Oct. 31. Enter here.

Blessed by Cynthia Leitich Smith ARC Giveaway by P.J. Hoover from Roots in Myth. Deadline: midnight Oct. 15. Note: P.J. is also giving away an ARC of her upcoming novel, The Necropolis (CBAY, 2010). Click titles for details!

On a related note, I was honored to see the cover art for Blessed featured by Amy from A Simple Love of Reading.

Spooky Events

"Beyond Feathers and Fangs: Crossing Borders in Realistic and Fantasy Fiction, with Cynthia Leitich Smith" at The 33rd Annual Mary Calletto Rife Youth Literature Seminar - Kalamazoo Public Library. The seminar costs $40 (lower student rates are available) and is scheduled for 8 a.m. to 4 p.m Nov. 5. Note: Maria Perez-Stable and Beth Amidon will also present a book talk, and additional speakers are Gillian Engberg, Booklist editor, and Debbie Reese, UIUC professor. See more on the speakers. Note: I'll also be speaking on Nov. 4 in a public event at the Kalamazoo Public Library!

Monday, October 11, 2010

New Voice: Sara Beitia on The Last Good Place of Lily Odilon

Sara Beitia is the first-time author of The Last Good Place of Lily Odilon (Flux, 2010)(author blog). From the promotional copy:

We've been over this, he says. We have to get to her first.

I know! Olivia snaps. I'm keeping company with a suspected murderer and I've probably become an accessory at this point, and a runaway besides. So don't tell me what I need to do. I'm doing it.


Lily Odilon--local wild child from a small Idaho town--has vanished after spending the night with her sometimes boyfriend, new kid Albert Morales. Suspected in her disappearance, Albert sets out to discover what happened to her. Kidnapped? Runaway? Murder victim?


Joining Albert is Lily's prickly younger sister, Olivia. Their distress is mirrored in a fast-paced narrative that jumps through three timelines. Each thread adds a new level to the mystery and reveals clues that paint a startling picture of all three teens. Their intertwined destinies come to a head in an unconventional climax.


Are you a plotter or a plunger? Do you outline first, write to explore first, or engage some combination of the two? Then where do you go from there? What about this approach appeals to you? What advice do you have for beginning writers struggling with plot?

I am a plotter, and firmly so. I look at this way: A coherent book needs a plot and a structure to serve the plot, and figuring all that out beforehand is like having a rough road map. Rough, because there will always be surprises as you progress, no matter how much you’ve worked out in advance—blind alleys and unexpected turns that keep the process exciting.

I love stories, and I love the mechanics of crafting them. What keeps me from throwing my computer through the window when things aren’t working is taking a step back, going back to that plot touchstone, and then returning with a renewed confidence that I can get the story out and get it right.

We all know that the plot is what happens in the book, but it’s more difficult to spot what makes a good one.

To a beginning writer struggling with this, I would say: Identify the story you want to tell—what does your protagonist want, what stands between her and her goal, and how does she get it? In other words, what is the conflict? And even more, is it a conflict your readers are going to care about? Will it be a satisfying journey? This is a good place to start the work, anyway.

I do a lot of the plot exploration as I work my way through an initial outline, and it can take me weeks and several revisions to work out and get down on paper what I want to do before I begin chapter one. Once I’m down to the actual writing, I will find all sorts of ways in which I need to tweak my outline, but it keeps me sane to have a narrative reference point.

The plot of The Last Good Place of Lily Odilon turns heavily on its structure. There are three separate time threads (color coded in the original outline to keep them straight)—a timeline of events leading up to a "present tense" timeline (told in regular past tense); italicized past-tense flashbacks, and a "present tense" timeline marked with time-stamps at the top of the chapters into which the separate threads all flow.

With invaluable input from my editor, these mechanics ended up helping to keep a rather complex plot structure working—a structure that (hopefully) serves the plot by piecing out certain information at certain times, to balance suspense with coherence and propel the story to the end.

As a contemporary fiction writer, how did you find the voice of your protagonist? Did you do character exercises? Did you make an effort to listen to how young people talk? Did you simply free your inner kid or adolescent? And, if it seemed to come by magic, how would you suggest others tap into that power in their own writing?

I find people interesting, so I listen to strangers’ conversations in the line at the grocery store, or at the bank, or in restaurants. I listen to children, teens and adults talking with one another, and I talk with strangers, too. It’s all this sort of inductive research that goes into some internal file marked "characterization."

The world is different from when I was a teen, technologically speaking, but fundamentally, in the things that matter, it’s not so different. The particular problems of adolescence change rapidly, but the essential challenges of growing up are the same.

We were all teens once; for me, this makes the more superficial differences between myself as a teen and teens now—particulars of taste and mode of expression—easier to navigate.

I’m banking a lot on the hope that an authentic teen voice can come from digging into that uniquely painful and exciting interval between childhood and dependence, adulthood and autonomy and responsibility.

Every one of us has or will go through it, and I’m suspicious of adults who have forgotten that trial by fire.

In that spirit, I’m not aiming to write a teen type per se, but individuals. Some of my characters will tend to be more savvy and cool, and some will not. There isn’t just one voice for any stage in life, but many, and they’re unique.

I would not want the best thing about my books to be a sense of timeliness—deft working into the story of Twitter or MGMT or what have you.

Even as I write this, those things are already growing rapidly dated (after all, timeliness is ephemeral—Aristophanes may have kept his audiences in stitches, but now we have to refer to footnotes to even get many of the jokes); so I have to look elsewhere for a longer shelf life, for relevance and a more lasting, authentic voice. Of course, I’m still working on that.

As for Albert Morales, the protagonist of The Last Good Place of Lily Odilon—I’m not really sure how I came to understand him, only that I did. It can’t hurt that I don’t feel so far removed from my adolescent self. I got caught up in Albert’s story, and he became very real to me; maybe that was what freed that tricky thing called "voice." I remember vividly the way I felt as a teenager—the good the bad and the ugly—and I can only hope that this carries through in my writing to cover a multitude of the squarer sins. (Do the kids still say "square"?)

My advice to other writers pondering voice is stupidly simple (and to be taken with a grain of salt from this newbie): Pay attention—not only to what people say, but to the thoughts, feelings and context behind it; pay attention to how writers more skilled than you capture voice, and when you’re doing your own writing, get caught up.

Cynsational Notes

From Flux: "Sara Beitia (Caldwell, ID) has worked as a staff writer and arts editor for the Boise Weekly, an independent alternative newspaper."

Photo of Sara by Paul Marshall.