Saturday, September 29, 2012

Five Misconeptions about writers by Jen Cervantes

Writers are born:

Writers evolve from many sources—a love of books is a good start, but we are not all born from the womb wanting to be writers.

Writers are rich

Read what some of my writer friends here on this blog have to say about that. Their reality check is spot on.

Writers sit at the computer an compose a book easily

Erm…NO! Some days the words flow and everything falls into place and other days I stare out the window trying to come up with a single good paragraph! One of my favorite Hemingway quotes sums it up nicely: “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

Writers are brilliant! Yes! Okay, okay—some are—but most are ordinary folks who happen to have a great story inside of them and the talent to create a page turning book.

Wrtiers are introverts

I think we all have one preferred way of being, but that doesn’t mean if you’re an introvert most of the time, you don’t have the ability to be an extrovert at other times. Go to a writing conference and trust me, you’ll hear all kinds of talk and laughter going on. And remember, many published authors spend a lot of time giving presentations to big groups of people, doing book signings, etc. So knowing how to let your extrovert shine will go a long way!

Friday, September 28, 2012

September Theme: Misconceptions People Have About Writers

            A lot of great observations have been made in this month’s SMACK DAB posts about ‘misconceptions others have about writers’ and now I am going to add a few more. (My list is very specific to me)
Misconception #1-
*All my friends assume that all writers are Grammarian Kings and Queens...
False- although this is probably usually true, it doesn’t apply to me. I worked very hard when I was in middle school to ignore all the basics of grammar that were being taught. Why? Because I knew that as a future professional Stuntmen I would not need to know how to properly form or punctuate a sentence. I would just need to work on pulling my punches and falling off tall buildings. Of course, I am not a professional stuntman now and my grammar is atrocious. The good news is I recently started to relearn all that I ignored but it’s a hard and slow process. Me is working on it.
Misconception #2-
*My Friends and Family all assume that, even though I am working, I won’t mind a quick interruption...
False- KNOCK. KNOCK. “Hey Mike, I’m going out for a bit. I just wanted to let you know.” I hate this. Would you interrupt a surgeon with some trivial information while he is doing surgery stuff in an operating room? No you wouldn’t. When I am working I am thinking of a zillion things at once and when I hear a knock at the door all those things disappear from my brain. I then get angry, if the interruption is not important, and proceed to kill all the cute kittens near me. “Please don’t interrupt him,” said the cute kitten sitting at my feet. (I have recently come to the conclusion that the creative minds behind the ‘Oogieloves’ kids movie must have been interrupted a lot.)
Misconception #3-
* My wonderful friends and family almost always assume that I know what I’m doing...
False- Sometimes I know what I’m doing but it’s not really that often that I do. For instance, just over a year ago I began a fun project about Presidents and since my friends know that I love American History they were very confident that I would produce something fun and educational but I wasn’t so sure (actually, I was pretty scared.) I had never done anything quite like it and it also came with a fast approaching deadline. There were many times while I was working on it that I came to the conclusion that I didn’t know what I was doing but in the end it all came together (in time for the deadline) and I am super happy with the results!!!
Anyway, that is all I can think of for now concerning the misconception topic but I do want to mention that (a few weeks ago) on September 13th My newest book (a 160 page comic book) about Presidential stuff came out. I will write about it more in another post but I would like to put one copy up for raffle for now!
So, sign up, and I will sign and draw a picture in it for whoever wins!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Michael Townsend

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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

September Theme: Misconceptions others have about writing.

By Lucy Jones
(Scroll down for a competition to win The Nightmare Factory plus the new sequel, Rise of The Shadowmares!)
All careers have misconceptions attached to them and writing is no exception. I'm sure a lot of authors will be very familiar with this kind of conversation (when meeting someone new):
So you’re an author? *suspicious face* Are you actually published?
Yep, although it took a very long time and a lot of rejections to get to this place.
*Impressed face* Wow, so your books are like, in book stores and everything? And people actually buy them? What kind of books do you write?
Children’s books.
Are you as rich as J K Rowling?
I wish!!! :P
Are you friends with J K Rowling?
Can I have your autograph so that when you become as big as J K Rowling I can sell it on ebay?
Errmmm, sure...
I wish I could sleep in all day and then just write when I feel like it.
That’s not all I do. Half my day is spent emailing people and then I have school visits to plan, bookstore events, blogging, twittering, updating my website...
Yeah, but come on, you write children’s books. It’s not exactly hard is it?
*bangs head against table and sighs...*
So tell me, what is the biggest misconceptions you've come across when telling others that you write?
Don't forget to enter my competition to win a signed copy of The Nightmare Factory plus the sequel, Rise Of The Shadowmares (Out October 4th). Fill in the Raffelcopter form below to be in with a chance of winning. Competition ends October 6th. Entries accepted internationally. Good luck! :)

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Monday, September 24, 2012

September Theme: Five Lies I have Told Myself

Stephanie J. Blake

There are five lies that I have told myself about publishing. I'm going to share them with you. Call it a public service announcement.

5. Once your book comes out, you'll start riding in limos, going on multi-city book tours, signing autographs, and stashing your cash in Switzerland.

My advance is long gone. I'm pretty sure I'll be drinking coffee in my pajamas on the day of my book release. Well, perhaps we'll go out to dinner--at Applebee's. Not everyone gets to be JK Rowling or even John Green. And that is OKAY! A book deal is like a winning lottery ticket. You might hit the Powerball or you might have a $6,000 scratch ticket. Either way, let's party.

4. You need an agent to get noticed. Hurry up and get that manuscript out the door.

Wrong. I am living proof that you can make connections and get published without an agent, over several years of trying. There are all kinds of ways to meet editors. I do not recommend stalking. If you act normal and have a good story, someone will notice. Take the time it takes to make connections--you can't rush excellence. Attend a conference, tweet, participate in contests, etc., but, above all: WRITE AN AWESOME BOOK. Then, be patient.

3. Once you sell the first book, writing the second book is easy.

There are days when I sit at my computer, play two hours worth of Bejeweled Blitz, and write one sentence. On other days, I'll force myself to open a Word doc. and . . .squirrel! I end up at the mall. It seems I would rather be trapped in a tiled locker room cleaning with a toothbrush than get that second book written. The story will come out when it comes out. Same goes with revision.

2. No one cares about my tweets, Facebook posts, or my opinion on Verla Kay's Blueboard.

I have virtual writing friends who mean the world to me. (You know who you are.) I love Twitter. In 140 characters I can connect with another writer, whether I am tweeting someone their good news or keeping in touch. That is powerful. You don't have to keep talking about your own book, there are tons of subjects to tweet about. Pass on a writing tip or contest, talk about books you are reading, etc. It's nice to be nice. On the Internet, ALWAYS BE NICE!

1.  I should write everyday.

Nope. Wrong, again. If you don't get out in the world, interact with others, smell the roses, eat the chocolate, drink the Yoohoo, you'll have nothing to say on paper. See a movie, go to a museum, and listen to your kids. Inspiration is everywhere. Writing is a job for which you may never be paid. Don't trade living life for writing about it.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Dear Miss Conception: September Theme

Dear Miss Conception,

Please stop plaguing me! You want what you want, you think you know everything. Well here’s some news for you—you are wrong all the time.

You think I will get this chapter written by the end of the week? Wrong!

You think if I plot out my novel in advance,  the rest of the work will flow smoothly? Nope!

You think my characters will do what I expect them to? Think again!

You think all writers earn big advances and go on tour? Ha!

You think if I only get organized I can build Rome in a day? Good luck!

Where do you get these ideas, Miss Conception? No, I won’t calm down! What did you say—you get ideas . . . from ideas? What do you mean you have to at least get an idea before you can find out if it is right or wrong? You say Conception is the most important part of your name? And that at least you give me ideas to try out? A place to start? And people can’t know everything about everything?
Hmn. Maybe you have a point.

Um. Well. Er . . . my apologies, Miss Conception.

Now, I idea for a new novel about a witch who writes an advice column for reformed black cats that I’m sure will be a blockbuster…..

Saturday, September 22, 2012


As other bloggers have said here at Smack Dab, creative work is really tough to measure.  Sure, when you finish a book—or better yet, when a book is on the shelves of a library or B&N—and you’ve got something physical to point to as you say, “This is what I’ve been doing for the past two [or four or—ahem—ten] years,” people respond positively.  They’re impressed.  During that decade when you’re sitting in a pair of ripped jeans, ponytail hanging crookedly from the top of your head as you stare for hours into a computer screen, people who don’t know better tend to treat you as though you’re not doing much.  Or—as often happens when you’ve nixed the idea of any kind of employment in order to pursue writing full-time—they tend to look at you the same way Kevin Costner’s neighbors did in FIELD OF DREAMS when he plowed up his corn.  Like they can’t believe you’ve just thrown away something so incredibly valuable.

I’ve heard it all in the eleven years since I became a full-time writer—all sorts of unthinking reactions to what I do with my days, especially during periods when I didn’t have something physical to point to as I said, “This is what I’ve been working on.”

The thing is, though, some of the harshest words a writer can hear about how hard they’re working can often come from his (or her) self.  I’ve certainly gone through periods when I put myself through the wringer, especially when my rejections were piling up, or when I didn’t quite meet my own self-imposed deadlines or word count goals.

Not too long ago—maybe a year or so—I freed myself from my own internal nagger.  And I did it by counting everything.

For example: It’s so easy for me to get tied up in my daily word count (especially when drafting).  But I no longer count simply the number of new words I put in my manuscript.  I count everything.  Notes to self down margins.  Post-it scribbles.  Emails to my editors or agent. 

Ditto for time limits: After eleven years of full-time writing, I’ve got a pretty high endurance level.  I can work for eight to as many as twelve hours a day on my current project.  But when I say that, am I only pounding out chapter after chapter on my computer?  No.  I’m writing outlines in longhand.  I’m researching.  I’m bouncing new ideas off on my mom—who has always been my first reader on any new project.  And, when a book is nearing release, I count time spent on my promo work—whether that’s putting together a new print ad, scheduling a video chat, or writing up a new guest post for a blog tour. 

It’s become my new mantra: It all counts.

The thing is, there are always going to be people who fail to recognize just how much work goes into a creative job.  (And creative jobs really are some of the toughest around…I always say that writing a novel is every bit as exhausting as building a house.)  But I’ve learned that you can’t go looking for happiness outside of yourself.  Happiness is internal.  And if I take the time to recognize and respect the strides I’m making (even if those strides are internal and not measurable by a word counter or an impressive new advance), if I’m taking the time to be satisfied with and proud of my own progress, the voices of those who might try to talk about how I “plowed up my corn” always tend to fade right into the background.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

September Theme: Misconceptions About Writing (Writing, Writing...)

There are many misconceptions about what it's like to be a writer, as my fellow Smack-Dabbers have illustrated. But I think one of the biggest ones I personally had, before I began writing full-time about two years ago, was that a writer spends most of her time, well, writing. I honestly had visions of being able to sit down at my computer at nine in the morning, and write write write until lunch, take a mini-break, and then write write write until my fingers gave out completely or it was time for dinner, whichever one came first. I did not, by any stretch of the imagination, believe that everything I typed during this daily writing marathon would be good, or even usable. But I did, quite seriously, believe that the majority of my work day would be spent writing. After all, I was a "writer." That's what writers do

And perhaps that is what some writers do. But for me, at least, that hasn't been the case at all. The most surprising thing to me about being a full-time writer is how much my schedule varies from day to day. Some days I'll write for two hours in the morning, some days I'll write for thirteen (it's happened! more than once!). Sometimes I'll go for week-long stretches without writing a single word. This used to bother me, that I didn't have a set time to write, or a set amount of time I could set aside every day, but now I accept it as part of my process. If a book gets done in the end (and almost always by my deadline--I swear, just ask my editor!), then I guess it doesn't really matter if I'm writing writing writing every single day, all day long.

So what do I do when I'm not writing? That's a good question. I spend a fair amount of time doing school visits, or scheduling school visits (which can take almost as long!). I do Skype visits too. I outline. I read proofs of my books that are in the works. I read other people's books, for inspiration. I do research, online or at the library. I update my website (I am horrible at this, so it takes me forever). I fuss over promo materials. Occasionally I write blog posts or articles. I do interviews. I talk to my agent about ideas. I send LOTS of emails about everything from book jackets to meetings with my editor. I sit and stare at my computer screen and think. I talk over ideas with my fellow writers. I (yes, of course) goof off and take breaks. And sometimes, like for my upcoming middle-grade novel A TANGLE OF KNOTS (hitting a bookstore near you in February 2013!), I do things that might strike other people as bizzare, like bake over two-dozen cakes in a six month period. (The book has several cake recipes in it, so I had to do a lot of experimenting.) Here I am enjoying the fruits of my labor, an avocado chocolate cake. While the cake recipe, sadly, did not make it into the finished book, the cake itself was AMAZING.

And speaking of things that writers do besides write . . . I'm hosting a giveaway! To celebrate the release of the paperback edition of SOPHIE SIMON SOLVES THEM ALL, which just came out this Tuesday, I'd like to give away one copy each to two lucky readers. To enter, simply fill out the form below. Winners will be selected at random on October 5th.

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Now, fellow writers, please tell me: What do you do with your work day besides write??

Monday, September 17, 2012

September Theme: Misconceptions (Sarah Dooley)

"So, when do you think you'll start writing for grown-ups?"

I've gotten this question a few times from well-meaning friends and fellow writers. The implication is that authoring middle grade novels is preparation for some other type of writing, just like I suppose reading picture books is meant to prepare you for chapter books, and chapter books prepare you for middle grade, and middle grade for young adult, until you've left the realm of kid lit entirely.

As a kid, I read up. I was the youngest of three girls, and I read what my sisters read, so the books I chose were often meant for older kids. Time and again, I had to pester my sisters for help: "What's that word?" and "What's that mean?" and "Will you read it to me?"

At some point, though, I became stuck -- and happily so. I lingered in the world of novels for people younger than myself. Not that I never read books meant for grown-ups. I did, and do. But early on, I realized that my heart belonged to kid lit.

It's a good thing, too. Had I turned my back on books for youth after reaching a certain age, I would still have met Shiloh -- after all, I was young enough then. But I would have missed out on meeting Winn-Dixie, who came along after I was grown. I'd have met Harry Cat, but not Crookshanks. I'd have gotten to know Dicey Tillerman but never met Katniss Everdeen.

This isn't to say there's anything wrong with fiction for grown-ups, or even that I'll never write a book for a different age group. It is only in answer to the misconception that writing for children is nothing more than a place to start. I am quite happy remaining here indefinitely. It's an exciting world, and the company is excellent.

"So, when do you think you'll start writing for grown-ups?"

Probably about the same time I start reading primarily for grown-ups: Not any time soon.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

September Theme: (Type-)Writing Misconceptions (Stephanie Burgis)

This month's theme is "Misconceptions about the writing life", and having watched multiple movies lately about writers, I just have to ask...

...What is up with all the typewriters?????

I just watched the rom-com The Decoy Bride, where David Tennant plays a blocked novelist. He's incredibly artistic and literary about his own work, while the heroine (Kelly Macdonald), a former online copywriter who now writes tour guides, is incredibly pragmatic about her own books. They flirt, they spar, they engage in a lot of battle-of-the-sexes banter about whose books are best, and then they each sit down to work...and guess what? There's one thing about both of them that's exactly the same:

They're both working on typewriters!


OK, I thought maybe the filmmakers might be trying to make a point about Tennant's character's artiness, but what about the heroine? Didn't she buy herself a laptop back when she was writing online copy fulltime?

Well, never mind. I shrugged, moved on...and then watched the trailer for the upcoming movie Ruby Sparks, about another writer:

All you have to do is watch the first five seconds to see a scene of the hero writing...on a typewriter!

Do all Hollywood scriptwriters use typewriters instead of laptops? Or do Hollywood directors not actually realize that we've moved on?

I get that typewriters have a certain nostalgia value nowadays...but really. I grew up using a typewriter until I was in my mid-teens. I was in HEAVEN the day I switched to a computer word processor.

Suddenly I could save my work, whole novels' worth! I could make changes without having to use white-out or retype the whole page! If I lost my whole printed-out manuscript, I would still have my novel waiting for me on-screen, ready to be printed out again!

An awful lot of people in Hollywood apparently think that writers still use typewriters, though. Hmm. I wonder why?

What do you guys think?

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Things I Tell Students About Writing: A Special Kind of Work (September Theme) by Bob Krech

Writing is a special kind of work. You do not have to have a license or a special degree to do it. You don't have to have any special equipment. It is not expensive to get started. It doesn't matter where you live. You can do it anywhere. You can do it anytime day or night. It doesn't matter if your parents did it or not, you can still do it. You can do it alone or with other people. You don't have to tell anyone you are doing it unless you want to. You can do it for long periods of time or short. You can be any age. It is doesn't matter what race, sex, creed, or nationality you are, you can still do it. You do not need anyone's permission to do it. You can do it any way you want to. You can eat while doing it or listen to music. You can do it standing up or sitting down. You can take a nap and then get up and keep doing it. It doesn't matter what the weather is like, you can still do it. You can do it in a car, train, or plane. You can stop doing it whenever you want. You can be right-handed or left-handed. You can do it for money or for fun or both. You can learn a lot about the world from it. You can learn a lot about yourself from it. You do not have to comb your hair or take a shower before you do it. You can read a book, watch a movie, take a walk, or talk to a person, and all of those things might help you do it even better. You can do it just for yourself or share it with others. You can do it no matter what mood you are in. It doesn't matter what you wear when you do it. You could be rich or poor or middle class, you can still do it. Your ability to do it, doesn't fade as you get older. The more you do it the better you will probably get at it.  You can do it happily ever after. Writing is a special kind of work.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Yes, It's Work! (September theme) Tracy Barrett

It feels almost silly to have to say this, but writing really is work.

My last day at the day job!
I quit my day job four glorious months ago. I'd been at the same job for 28 years, and a lot of my identity was tied up in it. So was a lot of my social life. So, obviously, was a lot of my income! But it had gotten to the point where I couldn’t do either of my jobs at the level I wanted, and one had to go. I can’t imagine not writing, so good-bye day job.

In the four months (and two days) since, I’ve been surprised at the number of times people have asked me what it’s like not to work. They often go on to say that they wish they didn’t have to work either. When I hesitate, wondering how to answer, they sometimes realize their mistake and hastily correct themselves. Usually they don’t.

When I remind them that I'm still working, and that by resigning from my day job I went from two and a half jobs to one and a half, they look mystified. Even after I explain that the half is being Regional Advisor Coordinator at the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators—a hefty volunteer position—some of them still don’t figure out that writing is the one of the one and a half,” that I’m still working, only now at a job without a guaranteed income and with no benefits.

I asked my brother-in-law, a composer who works from home, how he deals with people thinking he didn’t work. He said that it hasnt been an issue for him. He thinks this is because people assume that men are working, even when they’re at home. But I know men who write who deal with this, so I’m not sure he’s right. I think it must be something else in his case—how he talks about his work, or how he manages his work day, or some other secret—that keeps at bay the assumption that he’s not working.

Ah well. I’ll continue to remind myself that people who say this don’t mean any harm, that it’s not their fault that our society doesn’t see creative activity as labor. And I’ll work to change this misconception, one person at a time!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Yes, I'm Working (September Theme from Jody Feldman)

It may not look like I’m working now ...
Or while I'm doing this ...
Or watching this ...
 Or straightening these ...
 But if I’d been on webcam the past couple weeks, you would have seen me do all that (a lot of all that) plus this ...
 And this ...
 And playing with these ...
 And watching stuff like this ...
 In reality, I was writing. I met ten new characters. And named them. I’m beginning to understand how they interact. I’m learning what their roles will be in the story and how the action will affect them as people. I’ve imagined where events will play out. I’ve imagined events. I’ve imagined.

If you’re a writer or illustrator or other creative type, I don’t need to tell you this. You understand exactly what I’ve been doing. Perfectly. So why did I document this? There will be days when I pretty much just play solitaire, and I will want to remember how productive that can be. Now, let’s put the black queen on the red king, shall we?

Saturday, September 8, 2012

September Theme: MAKING THE WORK WORK by John Claude Bemis

When writers are searching for an agent or editor, they often think that getting published is the big hurdle to get over.  Once you get your book published, you can quit your day job and begin a new career as a professional author, right? 

As an author who has released four books with Random House, I have left my day job as an elementary school teacher, but I’ve had to approach the job of being a writer creatively.  As any writer knows, it’s hard to find time to complete your current novel when you’ve got so many other demands—family and day jobs not the least of them.  I wasn’t able to continue teaching and to have the time to keep up with writing and publicizing my novels.

Unless you have several New York Times best-selling novels, a writer needs to look at other ways to draw income.  This is the reality of being a working artist.  It might mean keeping your day job and carving out regular time to work on your writing career.  I know writers who work in software companies or in bookstores, others who teach in schools or at universities.  One author I know is the CEO of a multi-million dollar technology assessment company.

I’ve worked hard to build a career out of doing school visits and manuscript/creativity consultations.  It isn’t easy.  I had to give up the security of a regular paycheck.  But it does help to pay the bills, which my wife appreciates.  And I get to have time to work on my next novel, which my soul appreciates.

We often assume those writers whose books fill the shelves in our local bookstores are full-time writers.  The surprising truth is that most of those authors continue to support their art by working some sort of other job.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Having other jobs and a wide-variety of hobbies and interests makes writers more creative.  They provide rich crosspollination for the imaginative process.

Often my advice to new authors is to consider how you are going to continue to financially support your art after you’ve gotten over that first hurdle of getting published.  It’s a thrilling job getting to be a writer, and if you want to be a working artist for the long-term, you’ve got to learn how to make the work work.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Publishing News and Book Giveaway: From Sadie's Sketchbook (Naomi Kinsman)

Here's a giveaway you won't want to miss! Brilliant Hues, the fourth book in the From Sadie's Sketchbook series, completes the four-book set, and I'm giving away one set of all four books, signed. The details of how to enter are below.

But first, since Sadie's a list girl, and we're talking about misconceptions this month at Smack Dab, I'll give you the low down on the top five things I had all wrong when I pictured my publishing journey. (I think you'll be surprised).

1. I thought I had to have everything prepared ahead of time.

You know, the important stuff such as my website and my social media platform and my fine-tuned marketing plans. But it turns out that the timing, even when it felt stressful and too-late, and like an utter disaster, has been full of happy surprises.

2. I thought there was one right path to publication: the perfect first book, the perfect way to approach an agent, an editor, the market.

Yet, when the big yes came through for me, it was because an editor looked at a book I never meant to publish and asked me to propose a series. And after I had my offer, only then did I find my wonderful agent. Who'd have guessed that all the planning (and worrying) didn't matter one bit. Real life is a twisty-turny, unpredictable, uncontrollable adventure.

3. I didn't know how much it would mean when my writer friends took time out to tell me they'd read my book.

Hands down, this might have been the biggest surprise of all. I'm now totally committed to writing fan letters to my fellow authors. I thought this kind of feedback, coming from beyond the target audience, might seem strange. But no, it's some of the most meaningful feedback of all.

4. I thought being published would be the best part of being a writer.

Actually... (surprise, surprise) writing is the best part of being a writer. In fact, what I love most now is the freedom to curl up in my writing chair with no expectations and no deadline, just me and the characters whispering in my ear. A starred review or book-spotting on the B&N shelves pales in comparison.

5.  I thought I'd give myself more room and space to be creative once I was published. After all, being published makes all that play and exploration legitimate, right?

The fact of the matter is: I am myself through and through. I fight the same battles to carve out creative time now that I fought before I had an Amazon author page. In some ways, now it might be even more difficult to allow myself unproductive, free time. And yet, that's what all artists need, no matter where they are on their professional journey.

I'm so grateful, after this incredible year of releasing four books out into the market, that I'm finally making such important discoveries. Publishing is wonderful, truly. Having a book out in the world, and hearing from readers is so affirming. Still, give me my writing chair, my computer, and my imagination any day. Give me freedom to explore and challenge myself and try something I've never tried before, something I'm not sure will even work. Playing with words, finding the thread of a plot, meeting a new character... these are all the grand adventure I crave. And what a joy, as this adventure requires no strategizing, no planning or worrying. All I have to do is let go, and follow the story where it leads.

To enter for the set of four Sadie books, email your name and address to And if you already have the books, why not enter on behalf of your local library or school? To enter, you must live in the continental united states and be 18 or older (or have someone who is 18 or older enter for you). A winner will be drawn on September 25, 2012.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


In celebration of this week’s release of my new tween novel, Stealing Popular 
(Simon and Schuster/Aladdin MIX) I’m giving away a signed copy of the book! Hang on for complete details on how you can enter to win. 

This month, we are chatting about misconceptions people have about writers, which is a perfect tie-in to my new release. It amuses me when students assume a book spills out of my head onto the page in blissful, perfect form. Uh, no. This may happen for some writers, though I have yet to meet such a supremely talented being and if I did I am sure he/she would confess of having sold their soul to Satan for said gift. No. For me, there are months of wrangling, revising, second-guessing, carpet-pacing, more revising, and an ever-present supply of medicinal chocolate involved in my journey from first page to last. I do a bare bones outline when I am working on a book because, like taking a cross-country trip, I need to know where I am going in order to arrive at my destination. For the most part, though, when I sit down at the computer each morning I let my head and heart guide me. I never quite know what a character will say or do, which is what makes writing so exhilarating. My style can be summed up by a quote attributed to Ragtime author, E.L. Doctorow: “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” Writing ‘with the flow’ may mean there's a good chance the idea I planned on executing blossoms in a different way than I had anticipated. That was definitely the case with my new novel.

Stealing Popular is told by twelve-year-old Coco Sherwood, a budding artist and on-the-move Navy brat, who is tired of seeing the same social injustices occur at every school she attends. When Coco, finally, makes some friends at a new school and that old, familiar demon ‘popularity’ rears its snarling head, she decides to take action. Coco turns the tables on the popular clique, taking from the "Somebodies" and giving to the "Nobodies." Suddenly, girls who’d barely been noticed in the past are making cheer staff and morphing into prom royalty. But when Coco dares go up against Dijon Randle, the most popular girl in school, it could mean sacrificing the artistic opportunity of a lifetime as well as one of her best friends. 

I had originally planned for the book to be a light-hearted look at the tug-of-war that goes on as we jostle for position in middle school; sort of a twist on the legend of Robin Hood. Naturally, when you’re writing for this age group, you can’t help but re-visit your own childhood experiences. I wasn’t at the top of the middle school food chain, that’s for sure. I had unruly hair and big glasses. I was also an ‘early developer,’ as my mom used to say, which meant height and curves and a little extra weight. A voracious reader and budding musician, I lugged my mammoth supply of library books, clarinet, and saxophone around on a luggage cart (seriously). I remember that many of the digs from other kids stung me, even those that were tossed out as a joke. As I was working on my ‘light-hearted’ manuscript, some of that old pain surfaced. I knew I had to honestly deal with the way little insults can slowly erode a young person’s fragile self-esteem or the book would suffer. Fortunately, when I was Coco's age, I had a core group of friends that supported me and kept me smiling through the tough times. For the first time in her life, Coco has that, too, and she comes to realize just how powerful the bond of friendship can be.

Here’s the book trailer, produced by high school film student, Adam McArthur.

So to the outside world, who sees my book only when it is as shiny and pretty as I can possibly make it, it may seem as if the story comes so easily. But you know the truth. Some of the time, okay, most of the time, the book I write is the result of a chain of little, delightful, daily surprises. And a whole lot of chocolate.

To read an excerpt from the book, click HERE to go to the Simon and Schuster website (if you make a purchase through S&S, you'll receive 20% off the retail price).
 *  *  *  BOOK GIVE-AWAY  *  *  *
The book give-away officially ended on Sept. 18, 2012.
And the winner is: Leane G.
Congratulations, Leane, and thanks to everyone who entered!