Monday, November 29, 2010


This week I'm delighted to feature the amazing author, Ally Condie, and her novel Matched - which hits stores TOMORROW (Tuesday, November 30!)

If you haven't already heard fabulous things about this novel, I'd be surprised. I'm here to offer yet more praise.

The novel opens to Cassia's evening at her matching ceremony. At this event she'll be told by the Society who her ideal mate is. The Society knows everything about her and everyone else in her life: who she'll marry, what her work we'll be, where she should live - everything.

Matched is a dystopian YA unlike any other I've read. It's quiet. Unlike the noise and blood of Hunger Games (and don't get me wrong - I adore the noise and blood of that series), Matched carries its readers along with lyrical prose but you soon realize the lullaby being sung to you is a bittersweet one at best and at worst will kill you as soon as your eyes fall shut.

It's this surprising mixture of beauty and danger that steals your breath through Matched at moments when you least expect it. Ally Condie has created an extraordinary world both fascinating and horrifying.

Go pick it up tomorrow!

Ally will be on the blog later this week to talk about Matched and to answer the zany questions I threw at her. Stop back to say hello :)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Sunday, November 21, 2010

I'm in Florida!

At the National Council for Teachers of English annual meeting. Teachers and librarians are amazing! I'm having a wonderful time and every time I turn around I run into another of my favorite YA authors :)

And bonus: it's at Walt Disney World. Today I'm headed into the Magic Kingdom and I feel like I'm ten years old again!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


I'm not posting as often as usual - apologies - but it's because I've entered the wonderful, all-consuming world of THE FIRST DRAFT.

As I've discussed before, my brain gets hijacked by my novels, making life for me and those around me rather difficult. I knew I'd truly entered the writing zone when I drove 30 minutes west on Hwy 94 when I needed to be going east.

I was late for my appointment and I know there's more shenanigans where that came from.

It's worth it though, for the sake of the story.

What am I writing?

The fourth book in the Nightshade universe. Same world, different characters and VERY different time and place. This book is set in the 1400s, mostly in Scotland and uncovers the origins of the Witches War. I am loving it.

Lost in the book as I am, you may not see me as often as usual.

In the mean time, here's a teaser song from the Bloodrose playlist:

Friday, November 12, 2010

Know Your Worth

There’s quite angry (and occasionally bewildered) buzz afoot in the publishing realm due to one James Frey. For those of you asking “Who’s James Frey?” He gained notoriety a few years back because of his memoir, parts of which were fiction, and over which he got into a big kerfuffle with Oprah and the publishing industry at large. The feud created enough noise to generate a South Park parody.

Frey has, however, has cannon-balled back into the writing world with his new book packaging scheme Full Fathom Five. The first book created by this machine is I Am Number Four, a YA book that will soon be a film.

Today’s articles, however, are less about the book and film and more about the model Frey has created as a vehicle for his book/film/merchandise factory. He’s recruiting young authors to write for him under a profit sharing model. The writers sign on for a $250 payment and then receive 30 – 40 % of the overall profits (if there are profits).

At this point I start to squirm, there’s a lot to rant about but I don’t really want to go there. You can read the articles in the Wall Street Journal and New York and make your own judgments about Mr. Frey’s attitude and motivations. What I do want to say is this:

One of the most amazing things I’ve experienced as an author is meeting aspiring writers. Young, talented, creative people are so wonderful and full of enthusiasm. I am always honored to meet aspiring authors and to hear about their unique journeys.

The dream of being an author leads to a tough road full of waiting, rejection, and dejection. The part of Full Fathom Five that rankles me the most is that this publishing model targets hopeful young writers at their most vulnerable. Before you’re published that goal is the most elusive, shining thing in the world. And most writers would consider selling their souls to reach that goal. It’s hard to keep a reasonable perspective in that scenario. What Mr. Frey is doing is akin to offering moldy bread to a starving person. M.F.A. students want more than anything to be published, know that the scales are tipped against them, and they are likely drowning in debt. As one writer said, “It’s a crappy deal but it’s a great opportunity.”

I wonder if it is (an opportunity, that is, because the contract terms are heinous). The hard climb from unpublished to published with awesome agent author is so difficult because it takes time to find the right place for yourself as an author – both in the case of finding the best agent to represent you and the best house to publish your work. I am grateful each and every day that I have incredible agents at InkWell working for me and I know that they care about my well-being as an author and as a human being. They are concerned about my craft and my development as a writer, not just how commercial a book I can produce. My publisher, Penguin, treats me with respect and are equally invested in my journey as an author. You can’t put a price on those relationships; they are simply invaluable.

The book packaging model that Frey is touting as radical (I’m sorry, but since when is Fordism radical?) makes sense for someone who wants to become a juggernaut in publishing which is subject to the free market. That’s fair enough. Mr. Frey wants to build an empire - that's literally his business.

What I want to say to young and aspiring writers (of all ages) is know your worth. I will honestly admit there was a time when an offer like Mr. Frey’s would have seemed like a good bet to me because I was so hungry to be published. Now I know better, don’t let your talent be exploited. Find agents and publishers who are invested in you and who don’t just sell your ideas, but instead support your dreams.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

You Guys are the Best!

I've had an amazing time in Chicago. Yesterday was a full day of school visits (thank you so much Lake Park and Pleasantdale!!) and a wonderful signing at Anderson's Bookshop in Naperville.

Thank you so much to everyone who came.

I had a wonderful time meeting you!
Thanks especially to Katie who came in her Team Shay shirt (it even has the Elemental Cross on it - woot!)

Today: more school visits and the Tree YA Lit Cafe at Buzz in Oak Park. Can't wait!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Where I'll Be

If you happen to live in Chicago-land I'd love to see you at one of my book signings this week!

Tuesday, November 9 I'll be at Anderson's Bookshop in Naperville at 7 p.m.

Wednesday, November 10 I'm in Oak Park at the Tree YA Lit Cafe (Magic Tree Bookshop) hosted at the Buzz Cafe. This event starts at 4:30 p.m.

Friday, November 5, 2010


Nightshade has barely been on the shelves but folks are already clamoring for book 2, Wolfsbane (hurrah!)

I'm thrilled that today is a big day for Wolfsbane: cover reveal day!!!
I can't begin to describe how much I am in love with this cover. Green is my favorite color. I love the way that Calla is in the wild, yet still caged by the vines. AND it is a perfect rendering of one of my favorite scenes in the book!!

And soon, very soon, there will be ARCs. And as soon as there are ARCs there will be contests. I'm thinking that the first Wolfsbane giveaway will reprise my favorite contest, so get your haiku skills sharpened up.

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


I am at an utter loss of what to write. All there is to say is THANK YOU!!!!! for making Nightshade a New York Times Bestseller!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I really am overwhelmed with gratitude so I'll let music do the talking for me. You guys are the best. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

How I Revise

I'm in a slump after last night's election results and am still waiting for some more pictures from the release party to come in, so I thought I'd post a less celebratory, more musing piece about revision.

One of the most frequent questions I get is "How long did it take you to write Nightshade?"

Seems like an easy question, right? It's actually pretty complicated. You don't just write a book. The process of going from idea to finished book is much more like baking bread (something else I love to do during the cold Minnesota winters).

The first draft is throwing together ingredients and mixing up a fabulous dough. Then you have to let the dough rest and rise. In writing terms, this is akin to taking a break from your first draft before you begin to revise. Trying to go in for revision right away will ruin the process - you need to take a little space from your work.

After the break, you need to go back in ruthlessly. I find bread-baking a great stress reliever because of this step: you get to punch down the dough! That's right - after letting it rise you smash your first into and start all over again. You have to approach your manuscript with the same determination. It's not ready yet, you're still in the middle of the process. Writers often speak of "killing their darlings," and it's accurate to view revision as a brutal process. It's hard to let go of the words and scenes you put all that labor into. But like with the bread, you also need to know that it's a lot of excess air that you need to get out of there.

Then it's time to shape the loaf. Instead of just punching out the unnecessary bits, it's time to refine and get the manuscript to where you want it. Then you let the loaf rise again - and this time, if you've done your work, it's rising into the shape you want it to be.

I'm at this stage with Bloodrose - in the final revisions. Woo hoo!

From there it's onto to baking getting all the finishing touches in. (For me this is copy edits - meaning the manuscript is pretty much out of my hands and the work has gone to the oven. Hi copy editors, I hope it's okay that I just compared you to my oven).

Baking a great loaf of bread takes time and a lot of steps. As much as I can drill through a first draft, that's only the beginning. Time and refining get the novel where it needs to be.