Our Masterpieces...Err, Our Novels

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

RTW: Best Books of August!

Reading Song of the Day: "What It Is to Burn" by Finch

It's Wednesday, so let's hit the road with the lovely ladies of YA Highway for another Road Trip Wednesday. This week they want to know:

What's the best book you've read in August?

Well, since you're asking...

Pam's Choice:

So, I didn't get to read nearly as much as I wanted to this summer, let alone August. But I have a sneaking suspicion that my answer would still be this book right here:

If you've been following this site for a while, you may know how much I gawked over Steve Brezenoff's The Absolute Value of -1. So much so, in fact, that I kind of stalked his life at the LA SCBWI conference so that I could nab an early copy of this book. He was really awesome about it--he signed it for me and everything. :)

Now, Brooklyn, Burning. Wow. I'm utterly speechless about what I can say about it. I was nervous to read it since I loved his first YA novel so much, but Brezenoff does not disappoint. I've never been a fan of imagery (guess because it's my weakness), but he uses this incredible cocktail of naturalness and poetry to describe Brooklyn; the city was painted before my eyes even though I've never been there before (shame, since that's my dad's hometown). And as some of you may have heard, neither the narrator, Kid, nor Kid's love interest' genders were revealed. I LOVED this--I was able to imagine these two characters the way I wanted to, and I ended up becoming very protective over them.

I'll end with: read this book. Now. It's not for everyone, but if you enjoy beautiful writing and breaking rules, then this is the book for you.

Quita's Choice:

I sooooo wish I could say I met the author of the novel that I chose as the best book I read in August. I did e-mail Blake Nelson once and HE RESPONDED! That's almost as good as meeting him, right?? Anyway, you loyal followers have heard me love all over Mr. Nelson before (Paranoid Park, The New Rules of High School, etc.) but Recovery Road is by far THE BEST book I've read of his!

This is the first book of Nelson's that I have read from a girl's POV and the man is just as much as master at capturing the female's teen voice as he is at capturing the male's. The book goes on a roller coaster with the MC, Maddie as she battles her addictions, and struggles to keep her first true love...who, by the way, she fell in love with at rehab.


What about you all...what's the best book you read in August??

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

How That Bee-yatch Irene Did Some Good

Writing Song of the Day: "Hurricane" by 30 Seconds to Mars

REJOICE! Me and Pam finally have our power back and we can get back to blogging. This is the order of things that we missed during our 48 + hours of no power:

1.) Lights
2.) TV and Internet
3.) Hot food
4.) Air conditioning
5.) TV and Internet

Did we mention TV and Internet??

During that time of no power due to the evil wench, Irene, we were able to come up with some positives. Without having the distraction of aforementioned TV and Internet, me and Pam were able to accomplish some writerly things. And because of that we present to you....

The Writer's Survival Kit During a Power Outage:
(The kit that all writers must have when a big storm or other natural disasters are headed their way)

At least TWO fully charged laptops: If you don't have them charged then go to the nearest relative/Starbucks/book store that has working electricity and charge them up! You need two just in case you can't find another charging source...oh and keep the power turned OFF while you're not using them!

Your smart phone--charged: This way you can stay in touch with what's going on with the writing world through Twitter and e-mail. You car goes with this one. If you're like me and Pam and you have a car charger then that will definitely come in handy :)

Your jump drive: Hopefully you already have one with all of your ideas, WIPs etc. saved on it. Make sure you keep saving to it just in case your battery dies on laptops one and two.

Reading material: Whether it is fiction or nonfiction. Both Pam and myself got in a lot of reading using our e-readers and candle light. Pam started reading Boy Toy by Barry Lyga and I began the Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead . Also Pam read more of Wants before she sends it back to her super agent,and I read some of Writing and Selling the YA Novel by K.L. Going. You MUST have at least two books on hand and if you have an e-reader, make sure that's fully charged, too.

Notebook(s): When those bright ideas hit you (hopefully when it's bright outside, or else write by flashlight) and you run out of battery.

Snacks: Hopefully power snacks like granola and fruit...but more realistically Cookies and Cream Ice Cream (you have to eat it before it melts), Famous Amos Chocolate Chip cookies, Lays Baked Barbecue Chips, Pretzels, Peanut Butter Crackers, etc.

And of course batteries, flash lights, candles, and ice: Keep the lights shining for reading and writing, and the ice to keep that ice cream good and frozen--at least for two nights!

That's it! Go ahead and start creating that kit. Oh and just like always, we're open to suggestions, so, what would you add to this list?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Class Is In Session: YA Wish List

Reading Song of the Day: "School" by Nirvana

So, me and Pam's career goals as of late have consisted of two things:

1.) Teach Creative Writing (on a post-secondary level)
2.) Teach a YA Literature course

With it being so close to back to school time *crying on the inside*, we thought we'd have a little fun with our career option # 2.

What would we do if we could create the perfect YA reading list for a course all about young adult literature?

You wanna know the answer????

Good! 'Cause we wanna tell you!!! If we could choose the best books to represent all of the major YA sub genres, here is what our syllabus would consist of:


Looking for Alaska by John Green


Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Face it, you can't have a YA literature course without including these two masters of young adult novels. Both books represent real raw, teen emotion. The stories last with the reader and the voices are distinct and believable. That's the key to a great contemporary realistic novel.


Judy Blundell's historical is set after World War Two, but that's not the focus. This novel could resonate with anyone during any time period. A good historical should put you in the time period, which Blundell does with her slang, her settings, her character's mannerisms etc. but the story itself should be timeless.


City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

This novel takes any idea you have about paranormal books and turns it on its head! It has non stop action, a believable romance, and the characters, both human and supernatural, are relatable. Perfecto!


Leviathan by Scott Westerfield

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare was thisclose to being on the list, but we have heard so many people rave about Leviathan and how it is possibly the quintessential steampunk YA novel. Alas, we have yet to read it (it's in my bookshelf, waiting to be read...) but after hearing so many people rave about how great it is, we kinda can't wait.


Divergent by Veronica Roth

Most readers expect a dystopian to excite them and take them to a world so unlike their own. Divergent does this and more. The dystopian element is unique, with teens having to choose where they will grow up and get jobs based on a simulated test, but the dystopian element is not what keeps the reader interested in the story. The vivid characters and relationships do. A MUST read!

Magical Realism:

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Magical realism is basically when you have a contemporary and realistic setting, but something unrealistic occurs in this world, yet the reader doesn't feel like it's magic. Lauren Oliver does this perfectly with this novel. The main character re-lives one day over and over, but we still feel like everything that happens to her is so real.


Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Obviously we all know what makes a good romance novel. Believable romance. And Perkins creates just that with this novel. Not only do we get to see the relationship build over time, but we are rewarded for our wait in the end!

Post Apocalyptic:

These novels are fun because we hope they never happen in real life. Especially Ryan's novel about a zombie apocalypse! Ryan hooks the reader with an interesting love square, conflict and turmoil at every turn, and of course hope. The perfect formula for perfect post apocalyptic.

Novel in Verse:

Crank by Ellen Hopkins

The mother of verse novels! There's not much to be said, except how in the world did this woman create a story using poetry?

Science Fiction:

Feed by M.T. Anderson

This is a novel about the future where people have a feed of technology into their heads. How much more science fiction-y can you get? Plus, this book is just full of pure genius. Wouldn't we all love to know what he was thinking when he wrote it?


The Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith

This is the new "thing" in YA. Most agents are itching for some horror and thriller, and Smith's novel really delivers. The story of a kidnapped boy going through hurdles to get away from his captor is enticing, nail biting, and gut wrenching. Classic horror/thriller.

Okay, who wouldn't LOVE to be in this class??? Of course, we are mere mortals (or so you all think) with humble opinions. We would love to hear what you think should be added (or replaced) on our YA Literature course wish list. Best answer gets an "A"!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

RTW: Chipping The Block

Writing Song of the Day: "Writer's Block" By Royce Da 5'9 ft. Eminem

It's Wednesday and guess what happens for us tomorrow?? We go back to work *cries, kicks, screams*.

But in the mean time, we're hanging out with the ladies of YA Highway for another Road Trip Wednesday. This week's topic is:

How do you beat writer's block?

We have two major steps that we go through in order to kick writer's block a**. They go a lil' something like this:

1.) Leave it be. You know the saying: a watched pot doesn't boil? Well a mulled over, stared at, stalked manuscript will also not write itself. If we're stuck, we leave that idea alone. Whether it's writing something else (a poem, a short story, plotting a new idea), exercising, or our favorite past times, eating, and watching TV :)

2.) Talk it out. Just like when you're joints are achy and you have to shake them out...when a story is blocked, just talk it out. Preferably with your amazing writing partner/cousin. Don't have one? You can hire me or Pam for the job :) Really, this works wonders. Pam worked out a major revision point for Wants just by talking about it out loud to me.

We're always looking for more advice, peeps. What do you all do to beat writer's block?

Monday, August 22, 2011

MFA = Mutha Bleepin' Awesome!!

Writing Song of the Day: "Lesson Learned" by Ray LaMontagne

Sorry we've been MIA this past week again. You see, Quita and I just "graduated" with our MFAs in creative writing. So why "graduate" and not graduate? Because even though we presented our theses and marched across the stage, we still have to defend our theses to a panel. Yikes. And that's an understatement.

There's been a lot of buzz lately over whether or not an MFA is really worth it. My lovely agent, Sarah LaPolla, recently wrote an awesome blog post that gives other suggestions in case you're not willing to shell out the dough for an MFA degree. Hmm, where was this list 2 years ago? But I digress...

Quita and I have been through so much with this program, but we wanted to narrow it down to the TOP 5 THINGS WE'VE LEARNED THROUGH MFA-DOM:


This program truly, TRULY taught us the importance of revision. As an undergraduate, my idea of revising was to change a verb to an action verb ("He STRODE to the door" is much better than "He walked to the door"). But I have to admit, submitting the first few chapters of Wants to my modules probably helped me nab my agent. I understood why it worked better in 1st person POV, and why the voices needed to be more distinctive.


There's an inside gag between Quita, Racquel, and me involving the movie, Karate Kid. It's all based on a critique I received from one of my classmates. At the time, I was highly insulted, but once I allowed his feedback to marinate, I understood what he meant: avoid cliches. There's no point of getting defensive during a group critique. Everyone's in the program to become better writers, not to bash your creative mojo.


At first, Quita and I thought we were SO misunderstood because only a handful of our classmates wrote YA. "They just don't get it," we'd cry out to each other, wiping our tears with Five Guys fries. But you know what? Good writing is good writing--it doesn't matter if you're writing a coming of age story, or about a 77-year-old widower reentering the dating scene. We were there to improve our craft. Period.


I've read a few books during the MFA program that I would have NEVER read on my own. Some of them I ended up loving, others I wanted to hurl out of a window. Overall, I loved the challenge. I've been reading so much YA lately, which I love--but I also enjoy trying new things. This is a habit I'll be sure to continue.


We've all heard that writing is solitary work, so I wasn't expecting to actually make friends with anyone in the program (plus, I had Quita. I guess she's my friend even though we're related). But I actually got a bit weepy on graduation night knowing it would be the last time I may actually see some of my classmates. What I loved most about my 10-day residencies was just talking books and writing to people that loved them as much as I do. I did make some lifelong friends, too--including our lovely adopted sis, Racquel, who we started Black Fox Literary Magazine with!

So yeah. The money was totally worth it to us--not to mention we'd love to someday get the opportunity to teach writing to others, and the MFA degree can aid in that (of course, you also need a solid publication history, but that's just logistics, darling).

Any of you in an MFA program or considering applying to one? What are you most looking forward to learn?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Friday Fives: OMG, I LOVE You!

Greeting Song of the Day: "Hello, I Love You" by The Doors

It's Friday. Quita and I are usually WAY happier about that, but this weekend...we have to present our MFA theses. Gulp. On the plus side, we also get to graduate and party--woo hoo!!

Another plus? That we get to share Friday Fives with you! This week, Paper Hangover wants to know:

Which FIVE authors are YOU dying to meet?

We got to meet so many ah-may-zing authors last weekend at the SCBWI Conference--many who would've made this list, such as Ellen Hopkins, Steve Brezenoff, and Laurie Halse Anderson (who we found out actually mentioned us to other people at the conference. Say what?!!!). However, there are still five--okay, we cheated--SEVEN more authors we'd love to rub elbows with:

1. John Green: So yeah, I almost cried when I found out he couldn't make it to the conference last weekend due to gallbladder removal surgery. However, having had this procedure myself, I'm aware of how much it can suck--so I hope he recuperates well so that I can stalk...I mean, MEET him some time in the near future.

2. Cormac McCarthy/Joyce Carol Oates: Quita loves these two. I mean, really LOVES them. She couldn't stop raving about Zombie after reading it, and her fan-girl moments over McCarthy inspired me to make one of my characters in Wants be a huge fan of his work, as well.

3. Courtney Summers: What can I say about Ms. Summers that I already haven't said on this blog? That I think she's awesome? Yep, already went there. That I want to be her when I grow up (despite the fact that I'm older)? Yeah, check that off too. Every page she's ever written just leaves me in complete awe.

4. Blake Nelson: Another favorite of Quita's. She says that he NAILS (yes, she was that enthused) the teen voice, and even when it seems like he's writing about nothing, she can't peel her eyes away. Hmm, I think it's about time I pick up one of his books...

5. Jodi Picoult/Stephen King: I couldn't choose between my two favorite adult writers! King is the Master of Suspense--if I ever have a problem with tension or pacing, I like to refer to one of his works. And Jodi? A few years ago, when I was bombarded with reading things that I did NOT want to read for my English classes, Jodi reminded me what it was that I loved about stories in the first place. Her characters are so real and heartfelt.

So, I know we left a few of our faves out, so maybe we'll update this list in the future. What about you all? What authors are you loving up on?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Time is on Your Side (SCBWI:Take Two)

Informing Song of the Day: "Time is Running Out" by Muse

Yesterday we showed you what we did at the SCBWI LA Conference through some very professional cell phone photographs. And we promised we would share some of the highlights today. There were sooooo many major moments that we witnessed, keynotes from Libba Bray, Gary Paulsen, and Richard Peck. Sessions with editors Jennifer Hunt from Dial, Alessandra Balzar , and authors Sarah Stewart, Bruce Coville, and Laurie Halse Anderson. And although EVERYTHING we did this past weekend was full of awesome, perhaps the most awesome was Laurie Halse Anderson's session on making time for writing.

I must admit, I'm a little biased. I went into the session KNOWING I was going to adore whatever came out of her mouth--she is one of my fave writers after all. But when me and Pam entered that room and became engrossed with the talk, (just like the other people squeezed in the tiny room with us) I knew Ms. Anderson was giving us some truly GREAT advice. Okay, I'll stop teasing and get to the deets.

Before that session, we were quick to say things like:

"But, we don't have any tiiiime to write!"
"We can write after So You Think You Can Dance goes off."
"Who can maintain a full time job, a family, and writing? Only a super hero!"

Now, after listening to her speak (no pun intended) we understand that using all of those excuses was our way of masking the fear that we have about writing. Ms. Anderson said that when we write about teen emotions we're usually revisiting those times in our lives, leaving us vulnerable. That vulnerability leads to fear.

How do you get rid of that fear and stop making excuses then? Ms. Anderson had us do two quick activities where we list our "Top Five Time Consumers" --we had to put the top five things that take up our time on a daily basis. TV showed up on both mine and Pam's list. Then we had to write the five most important things to us...TV showed up on my list again. I had to be honest. This made Pam and me realize that we spend WAY too much time watching TV. So, as soon as the session ended, me and Pam scurried to our room and did this:

**If you look real closely,you can make out the titles...what do you see that you're guilty of watching, too :)**

That is the list of every TV show we watch during a given week. We went through and scratched off the shows we were willing to give up, made a note of "maybes" --the shows we would give a trial run, and then checked off the gems we knew we couldn't stop watching (Supernatural, Boardwalk Empire, anyone??).

And then we felt a weight lift off of our shoulders. Now, we won't fall back on those old excuses and we will do what Laurie Halse Anderson quoted from William Faulkner: "Don't be a writer, be writing."

Tell us, what are some of your time wasters? And what are you willing to give up???

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

SCBWI International Conference--Summer 2011 in Pictures!

Remembering Song of the Day: "This Photograph is Proof" by Taking Back Sunday

So, we promised you some info and highlights from the magnificent SCBWI 40th International Conference. Instead of trying to write everything that we did, we decided to demonstrate the weekend through pictures.

First of all, we arrived to LAX on Thursday, August 4th, 2011...after midnight :( We were some sleepy mofos!

Friday August 5th, 2011:

Right away, we find out John Green (who was one of the major reasons why we had to attend the conference this year) wasn't coming...waaah!

BUT, it gets leaked that in his place JUDY BLUME...wait, did you catch that? JUDY FREAKING BLUME would be in attendance!!!!

Picture courtesy of Lisa Yee (Twit Pic)

Talk about an awesome first day! Not only do we hear Bruce Coville give a great opening keynote, but we also got to meet Laurie Halse Anderson!!!!! She gave a great session on making time for writing and also signed our books!!!

Me and Pam with THE Laurie Halse Anderson...the pinnacle of YA!!!

Saturday August 6th, 2011:

Pam meeting her idol, Ellen Hopkins! She even bought a book that she already had at home because she HAD to get Ellen's signature.

Pam and her agent sister, Shana Silver (they met for the first time IRL!!).

The 40 Winks Pajama Party:

Pam sporting the nightgown look

Quita, always choosing pants :)

Sunday August 7th, 2011-- Last Day :(

Dessert at the Golden Kite Luncheon. So creative!

One of the many AWESOME surprises was legendary Richard Peck! He gave a speech at the Golden Kite luncheon on August 7th that was one of the many highlights of the weekend :)

We got books signed by the hilarious and incomparable Libba Bray (far right and she's talking to me!!!!) and she pretty much rawks!

Bruce Coville demonstrated how to make plot and character meet...by jumping on a table.

And the magnificent Laurie Halse Andeson gave a motivational, informational, and all around engaging final keynote speech to close things out on Sunday August 7th.

Of course there was much, much more...but we didn't bring our camera and was limited to taking pics with a BlackBerry :( However, tomorrow if you come back, we'll have some more goodies to share with you from the Summer SCBWI conference. See ya then :)

Monday, August 8, 2011

An Exclusive Interview with Debut Author Jaime Reed!

Writing Song of the Day: "You Make My Dreams" by Hall and Oates

Side note: Before we begin with the awesomeness, we just wanted to let you know that we will have an INCREDIBLE recap of all things SCBWI LA Conference this Wednesday and Thursday. We need time to wrap our heads around things, but we can't wait to share all of the goodies.

With that said, we have something very cool for you today. If you don't know Jaime Reed already, then you need to fix this. Like now. Living Violet, the first book in her paranormal YA series, The Cambion Chronicles, releases January 2012 through Dafina Books (Kensington). Now before you roll your eyes at the thought of another paranormal tale, answer this question: When's the last time you read a paranormal with a minority protagonist AND that features a succubus?

Jaime's blog posts and tweets are both hilarious and informative--and she's represented by Kortizzle herself, Kathleen Ortiz. It now brings us great pleasure to give you Jaime's VERY FIRST interview as a debut author. :)

1. Do you remember the first story you’ve ever written? What was it about?

I wrote a lot of stories, but very few I’ve completed. But my very first finished piece was a short story about two powerful families that hated each other. Imagine Romeo and Juliet with record labels and mafia ties. Enough said. I think I was about 17 when I wrote that. Good idea, BAD execution. (Side note: We think Jaime needs to revisit this idea!)

2. Who were some of your favorite authors growing up? Who are your favorite current authors?

I was a bit of a closet Goth, back when it wasn’t cool to be so. I had a real soft spot for Anne Rice and Stephen King. But I also liked the wacky teen books, R.L. Stine, Christopher Pike, Beverly Cleary, and I was a HUGE fan of the Vampire Diaries. Like I said, I was kind of a dark kid.

I read everything now. Strangely enough, I read mostly men authors: James Patterson, Cormac McCarthy, and Chuck Palahniuk to name a few. I just like how gritty they are-- no flowery adjective and excruciating details about every single feeling. Bleh. Just get to the point! Lately I’m focusing more on YA and it’s been an amusing and reflective shift. At the moment, I’m in love with Libba Bray, and Melissa Marr, and John Green.

3. You originally majored in art. What drew you back to pursuing writing?

Sheer boredom and soul searching. I always wrote as a kid—little short stories I let my friends read. I was a good artist, so I would illustrate my stories and everything. But not much came to it, but collecting dust in the back of my closet. When I didn’t get into my major in college, I kinda went into a slump. You know the kind where you’re standing out in the rain and screaming “What does it all mean?” So I went back home, and out of nowhere, I dug up my old notebooks. Some of them were actually good and I decided to add to it. The rest is history.

4. You first started querying for a different book series before veering into a different direction. Could you tell us anything about it? Have you considered going back to this series?

Well, it’s an urban fantasy set in somewhat modern times. This guy with special abilities and his crazy quest to find his missing girlfriend. It was kinda like Heroes, where the characters stories are intertwined in a very cool way, but with a more consistent storyline. Tons of violence, melodrama, and a Lot of people die. It’s a 5- book series where each book centers on a specific character. I only finished book three before I decided to take a break. Eventually I’ll go back to my series and finish it. It’s my baby, after all. The ideas are still there in the back of my head and they’re not fading away anytime soon. Right now, I’m waiting to see where The Cambion Chronicles takes me.

5. How many rejections and/or close calls did you receive? What kept you going?

Paper rejections: about 30 and I kept them all. I lost count on the number of email rejections—maybe somewhere in the high 20 range. Some of those rejections were rough. I mean, I-need-an-ice-pack-for-my-sore-groin rough. There was one letter I got that was So rude, it broke my heart. But, I can’t let setbacks bother me for too long. I give it 24hrs to stew then move on. The best revenge is success, and I’m very vindictive. *evil grin*

6. The manuscript that nabbed your fab agent, Kathleen Ortiz (as well as your book deal), is a YA paranormal romance. Have you written in this field before? How did you know that this manuscript was THE ONE?

I didn’t. Actually, I wrote it as a type of spoof, something to take my mind off my series that was driving me up the wall. I’ve always been a fan of YA, but never thought I would venture into that genre for myself. My humor is just too sick and twisted for kids, I guess. But anyway, after finishing the manuscript and realizing it wasn’t half bad and I decided to submit it.

I know a lot of people are gonna hate this, but it was all a whim. I didn’t really grit my teeth and break a sweat trying to write or submit THIS particular piece to an agent. (The other manuscripts are another story.) In fact, I found my agent by accident, or fate, whatever you want to call it. *swoon* KOrtizzle

7. How did you go about researching agents? Did you alter your queries for each one?

Usually Internet, library, writer sites, and bookstores, anywhere I could get a hold of a reference book full of agents. I wrote a basic query, a brief summary of the story and a quick bio of myself—nothing too fancy. I didn’t need to change too much per query; although, some agents look for a specific thing, like multicultural characters, a strong female lead, etc. Most agents have a webpage that tell what they’re looking for specifically and whether they are taking on new clients so you don’t waste your time.

8. Would you be able to share a small portion of the query that hooked Kathleen?

I need to find it first. LOL. It’s been so long, I completely forgot. That’s how outstanding it was. *eye roll* I will say this, it was the most basic query letter format. I followed the guidelines to the letter; gave all the needed information: genre, target audience, word count, two-paragraph synopsis, short bio, and why I thought the specific agency would work.

The key is to be as gracious and professional as possible. And FOLLOW DIRECTIONS. Most of all, have a really good hook and a premise that very few have heard of, which honestly, is what caught Kathleen’s eye. Agents have seen and heard it all, a few dozen times, and they want something that pops.

9. So now you’re agented. Are the challenges the same, easier, or more difficult than when you were an un-agented writer? How so?

It’s a little bit of both. While un-agented, I could sort of work at my own pace and do whatever. But once the ink dries on the contract you’re breaking your neck to get to the computer. I wouldn’t call it performance anxiety; it’s just a feeling of “Oh crap, this is real! I have to try now!”

It’s like a video game: new level, different challenges. It’s exciting, the deadlines, the meetings, and submissions. It all sounds glamorous, but it’s nerve-wracking at times. One major challenge is admitting your faults and recognizing flaws in the manuscript. There is a great deal of trust and waiting involved and revisions, revisions, oh and did I mention revisions?

10. Random question alert! If you had to relate your stories to music, which genre/musical act would it be?

Pretty much anything from Placebo and a whole lot of Radiohead--The Bends album in particular. That was what I wrote and edited my manuscript to, so yeah. But my musical tastes vary from story to story.

Isn't she awesome, you guys? As we get closer to her release date, start looking for some giveaways from our blog. Jaime is definitely one to watch! Anyone want to share about where they are in their writing journey?

Friday, August 5, 2011

Another Contest: Micro Synopsis with John Cusick

Paying it Forward Song of the Day: "The Contest" -From Sweeney Todd.

We are HERE! Finally, we've made it to LA for SCBWI 2011-- woo hoo!!!! And to top things off, there's an awesome contest going on :)

YAtopia is so, so generous. They are having yet another contest with an agent at their blog. You can click here for the real deets, but I'll give you a quick overview.

The contest is for writers to submit a Micro Synopsis of their work to John Cusick of Scott Treimel NY. What exactly does that mean? Well, you have to summarize your completed manuscript in three sentences. In the three sentences include the set-up, the story, and the ending. And guess what? You can enter more than one manuscript! Yep, if you have two or three, or more completed manuscripts you can submit them all! All you have to do is be a follower of YAtopia's blog and pass the word along about the contest.

Soooo...what ya waiting for? You have until August 11th to enter. GO!

OH! And we have a winner to announce :) The lucky person receiving their own copy of Ashes, Ashes by Jo Treggiari is.....

Aimee Renee!!!!

Look out for an e-mail from us lata, Aimee :)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

We're Goin' Back to Cali!

Traveling Song of the Day: "Going Back to Cali" by Sevendust

By the time you read this, we'll be on a plane heading to LA for the SCBWI 2011 Summer Conference. We got to attend this conference last summer, and it was one of the BEST times we've ever had. Everyone was so friendly and inviting, and we learned so much. When we found out that this year was the 40th anniversary, we had to hop on the chance to attend again (our wallets still haven't forgiven us for that). We can't wait to give you all a recap next week, but until then we give you...

The Top 5 Reasons We're Stoked for the SCBWI Summer Conference!!!

5. That West Coast Weather! Here in VA, we've had a MISERABLE summer. Heat indexes have reached over 100 degrees. Humidity like that does not do great things for African-American hair. I checked weather.com for the temperatures in LA and saw nothing above the lower 80s. Woo to the hoo!!

4. The 40 Winks Anniversary Poolside Gala! That's right--we'll be attending a pool party with some of the publishing elite...in our pajamas! At last year's extravaganza, we saw an accountant-type man rocking the mic to old school hip-hop--not to mention seeing Jay Asher prance around in a cupid costume. What will be in store this year?

3. Manuscript Consultation! This year, Quita signed up to have the first 10 pages of her manuscript critiqued. By whom, you ask (or is that "who"? I could use a critique myself). Who knows? It could be an agent; it could be an editor...it could even be an award-winning author. Either way, we're sure the feedback and the one-on-one time will be valuable.

2. Networking, Baby! Last year, we collected so many business cards from fellow writers. I even rode an elevator with Ellen Hopkins (of course, I was too paranoid to say anything to her). I can't wait to rub elbows with more authors--both aspiring and established. It's so refreshing to be surrounded by others who know both the pains and joys of writing.

1. Um, Can You Say John Green and Laurie Halse Anderson?! That's right. Two of our absolute, favorite authors will be attending the conference--and we think they're signing books! Words can't even express how much they've influenced our writing--and to think we'll soon see them in person just boggles our mind. But there are a TON more awesome folks that'll be attending this year as well. Just check out this list of the faculty.

It was hard narrowing it down to just 5 reasons, but we did the best we could. Can't make it to the summer conference this year? Never fear! You can catch the action on the SCBWI Conference Blog! Also, if you're on Twitter, just follow the #LA11SCBWI hash tag (Quita and I will also be tweeting live--just click on our tweets on the sidebar).

Any of you able to attend? Drop us a line--maybe we could meet up! :)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

RTW: The Taste of Ink

Reading Song of the Day: "The Taste of Ink" by The Used

It's time for some Road Trip Wednesday with the uber cool chicks from YA Highway.

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This week's topic:

The Five Senses (how do you use them in your work, what books have used them well etc.)

So, when me and Pam saw this topic on Twitter last night, we were a little lost. We could go on and on about what we do wrong in our own writing concerning the five senses, but that would take more than one post...and it would be boring. So, after some thinking, we both looked at each other and said, "We know a book that didn't use the sense of taste very well!" After jinxing one another, Pam said: "Oh, but there is a book that DID use the sense of taste REALLY well."

And from there our blog post was born. We decided to compare two books that both used the sense of taste and tell why we thought one book did it well and the other, not so much. What are the books you ask?

Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games

As much as we love the franchise, we have to say Ms. Collins did not utilize the sense of taste very well. She goes on and on about food in the Hunger Games and it's counterparts, but the reader is left wanting Ms. Collins to continue with the fantastic plot line instead of spending pages upon pages describing the food that Katniss eats.


Stephanie Perkins' Anna and the French Kiss

We have NOTHING bad to say about this book. It was pure genius and that didn't change with the way that Mrs. Perkins described French delicacies and cuisines. We both thought we weren't fans of French cooking...until we read this book.

Can you all think of a book that did a fantastic job with one (or more) of the Five Senses? Which sense do you excel at in your own writing?

Monday, August 1, 2011

Baby WIPs: Quita's Edition!

Reminiscing Song of the Day: "Teenage Dirtbag" by Wheatus

As Pam mentioned here last Monday, we just moved into a house that she bought. During that process, we came across some of our old stories and "novels". Now, I can't go back as far as Pam did with "Never Say Never". I wish I would've kept the cute stories I wrote when I was a kid, but instead I kept mountains of notebooks from my teenage years. One of those notebooks (this one was actually a folder) is a book I wrote at age 15, called: Milton High: Volume 1, Book 1: Lover's Quarrel. I was ambitious, huh? I thought I was gonna have volumes of this book!

Okay, I know you're dying to read a piece of this epic novel (if not, please feed my ego and pretend that you are). So, without any more delaying, here is page one of Chapter 1.

Chapter 1: A Look In the Lives... (typed verbatim--typos, grammatical errors on purpose)

"Good Morning Milton High. Amanda's arrived so all conversation may begin." Amanda Donaldson said walking into the school. Her deep blue eyes glistening. Austin Donaldson's eyes were doing the same as he laughed at his fraternal twin sister.

"A-dog!" Kevin Bowlen said jogging up to Austin.

"What's up, Kev?" Austin asked as they dapped each other up.

"Let's walk and talk...what's up Lila?" He asked as him and Kevin walked past her.

"Eat me." She said holding up her middle finger.

"Ooooh!" Austin said as he and Kevin walked away.

"Well, I see someone has expanded their vocabulary." Amanda said opening her locker.

"What? Why the hell are you talking to me, Barbie?" Lila Fargo asked as she put her combination in.

"Hey, Mandy! Guess what!" Live Fargo exclaimed. She threw a disgusted look at her identical twin sister then continued on smiling at Amanda.

"Well...what? Don't leave me in suspense!" Amanda said.

And with that, I will leave YOU in suspense! Anybody else have a piece of early fiction they want to share? Oh, and feel free to critique. Who knows? I might take a crack at Volume 1, Book 2 ;)