Our Masterpieces...Err, Our Novels

Monday, January 31, 2011

We Haz Winners!!

Celebrating Song of the Day: "The Winner" by Drake

Sooo, remember when we threw this contest? You know, where we celebrated the fact that we finally had 100 followers? Well, ever since then, you guys REALLY stepped up to the plate. We're at 174 followers and counting!!

As promised, we have some awesome prizes to give away. Let's have a recap, shall we?

1. A 10 page critique from both Quita and myself.

2. Across the Universe by Beth Revis, and preorders of Kirsten Hubbard's Like Mandarin and Veronica Roth's Divergent.

3. A $25 gift card to Amazon.

4. A query critique from the Simon Pulse author, KM Walton (her YA novel, Everything's Not Lost, will be released in Spring 2012!)

Okay, have we stalled enough? What's that? You don't want to see these random, cute pics of shameful animals??

Okay, okay....without further ado (and with the help of Random.org), the FOUR WINNERS are:

Amparo Ortiz
Nicole Zoltack
Elizabeth Tan
Congrats winners!! Here's what to do next:
  • Send an email to: marquitahockaday@gmail.com with "CONTEST WINNER" in the subject line.
  • Rank the above prizes from 1-4 (1 being the prize you REALLY want).
  • Whoever gets in touch with Quita first will get first dibs on the prizes.
  • You all have until midnight EST on Wednesday, February 2nd to respond. If we don't hear from you, we'll have to choose another winner. *sad face*

Thank you all SO MUCH for participating. Who knows? Maybe when we reach another milestone we'll celebrate again. Hmm, 250 doesn't seem THAT far off...

Friday, January 28, 2011

99th Page Blogfest!!

Reading Song of the Day: "99 Problems" by Jay Z

This is IT you guys. Quita and I are joining some of our writer buddies in the 99th Page Blogfest. Basically, we show you all page 99 of one of our WIPs, and you all let us know if you'd continue reading or not. Cool, right? Right? Oh, and be sure to click here for other Page 99 madness!

Here we go...

Pam's Excerpt

This is an excerpt from my baby, Wants. As some of you may know, this is told from 4 POVs. All you need to know for this scene is that Alicia is insecure and having doubts about her relationship with her boyfriend, Austin:

My heart leaps to my ears and pounds right against my skull. I fold my arms across my chest, but my breasts get that swollen feeling again. “Um, what?”

“You're breaking up with me, right? I could hear it in your voice over the phone.” He lights up and takes a hit. “I'm used to it. Just didn't think it would be this soon.”

His voice shakes, but I can't tell if it's from sadness or the weed. The room seems to sway and I have to spread my legs to keep steady. My eyes land on the Rebel Without a Cause poster hanging right above Austin's headboard. Great, I forgot how much he liked James Dean. “Why do you like me?”

I expect him to flinch or do something else comical, but he just puffs on his joint. “Really?”

“Really.” I spread my arms, revealing me in my size fourteen glory. “I don't look like everyone else.”

“Neither do I.”

“You know what I mean.” I try tucking a strand of hair behind my ear but it just bounces back. “You could have anyone.”

He nods. “Probably.”

I remember in ninth grade, Sarah Bishop slapped him in the auditorium right in the middle of freshman orientation. I never knew what happened, but I really wish she was here right now.

Quita's Excerpt

This is an excerpt from my yet to be titled (b/c you know I suck at titles) contemporary YA mystery. Blake Farmer is trying to figure out what's happened to his best friend who he hasn't spoken with in over four days. He is speaking with the school's heartthrob football star who was rumored to have seen Blake's friend at a party two nights before.

I roll my eyes and huff. “Can we skip all the bullsh**? When did Kyle get there?”

“Oh, yeah. He came around midnight. David had just decided that he would sell to us, though. Kyle walked in when David had his goodies all laid out on the table. I mean, you should have seen Kyle’s face.”

I could imagine. One thing that Kyle hated more than people in general, were people who went back on a deal. David was never supposed to sell to the high school kids, that was their truce.

“When Kyle saw that, he just went off. He started going in on David—I mean, hard. Calling him a lying sack of sh** and saying that he would ruin him. It was ugly.”

“Let me guess...you got in the fight.”

Jaron shakes his head. “Not at first. I mean, I like Kyle and all…” Jaron coughs a little. “But when he started going at my girl, I had to say something.”

“He went off on Kendall?”

Jaron nods. “Big time. Said she was a slut and asked what she has to do to get her brother to buy her all those nice things. Kendall almost slapped him. Like I said, Kyle’s a good dude. I didn’t want to do anything, but he accused my girl of like, incest or whatever. I couldn’t let that fly.”

“What did you do?”

“Nothing. I just pushed him a little,” he answers, avoiding eye contact.

Omigod! We did it!!!! : ) So, what'd you think???

Thursday, January 27, 2011

It's Not Too Late!!

Writing Song of the Day: "Never Too Late" by Three Days Grace

So tomorrow, Quita and I will share our souls with you all. Okay, that's a tad dramatic, but we will be hosting the 99th Page Blogfest along with Alicia, Holly, and Erinn. Basically, we're going to post page 99 of one of our WIPs and see if you all would like to read more. Sure, it's scary, but the writing community is SOOO supportive. Won't you join us? Click here for more deets.

Also, Quita and I are still celebrating the fact that we've reached over 100 followers. We're AMAZED at how that number keeps growing!! Thank you all so much, and please be sure that we'll have plenty of amusing (yet informative--we hope) posts and maybe a few goodies every now and then for you all. Have you entered yet? Then what are you waiting for??

That's our news break for you all. Do you have any news to share? Any contest of blogfests you're participating in? Please spread the word in the comments!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

RTW: Living in a YA World

Reading Song of the Day: "Dream World" by Robin Thicke

Guess what time it is, lovelies? It's road trip time! And yet again the ladies at YA Highway are asking us a unique and thought-provoking question. This week they want to know: If you could live in the story world of one book what would it be?

Our reaction to this question???



*Got it!*

A bunch of dystopian worlds came to mind right away, but seriously--who wants to be a part of the Hunger Games?? So, here are a few areas we wouldn't mind living in:

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare--A world where supernatural creatures exist but only a select few are aware of them. We probably never really want to come across a werewolf or a vampire, but the underground world Ms. Clare creates is both fun and gritty. Not to mention Jace would be there. *swoon*

Sookie Stackhouse Series by Charlaine Harris-- Bon Temps, LA doesn't exactly sound like the best place to live, but if you can chill with people like strong-willed Sookie and her boss/friend Sam, wouldn't you move there in a heartbeat? Not to mention that vampires are recognized members of the normal society and if you wanted to, you could get to know Bill and Eric. Oh, and don't forget the werewolf with the heart of gold, we love you Alcide!

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins--Ummmm, it takes place in Paris. Need we say more?? We have been DYING to tour Europe one day. A few days in Italy, Spain, and France would pretty much complete our lives. We went to England for our MFA program and practically had to be dragged kicking and screaming back home. If only we could have taken more days from work while we were already in Europe. *sigh*

Hey, that was kinda fun :) We'd love for you to join in--what story world would you want to live in?

BTW- The YA Highway ladies that mentioned above? The ones we stalk? Yes, them. They're hosting a contest full of ALA ARCS- it'll blow your mind. Check it out here!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Debut Author Challenge # 1: XVI by Julia Karr

Reading Song of the Day: "Uprising" by Muse

A month ago we posted here that we are participating in the 2011 Debut Author Challenge hosted by the magnificent Story Siren. We could hardly wait to get started reading the books on our list!

So, I'm kicking off the DAC with a review of Julia Karr's XVI (released January 6th, 2011).

First, here is part of what Goodreads has to say:

Nina Oberon's life is pretty normal: she hangs out with her best friend, Sandy, and their crew, goes to school, plays with her little sister, Dee. But Nina is 15. And like all girls she'll receive a Governing Council-ordered tattoo on her 16th birthday. XVI. Those three letters will be branded on her wrist, announcing to all the world—even the most predatory of men—that she is ready for sex. Considered easy prey by some, portrayed by the Media as sluts who ask for attacks, becoming a "sex-teen" is Nina's worst fear...

Second, me and Pam realize that book reviews are sometimes a lil' taxing to read. So, we want to make this quick, easy, and hopefully fun for you all.

*Top Four Things You Need to Know About XVI:
1. The protag, Nina, is relatable, strong, and you will feel/root for her.

2. The world building is not the center of the novel. Karr weaves terms, new technology, and setting throughout the story without pulling away from the character development and conflict.

3. The pacing is spot on--you won't be left with with rambling passages of description; the action keeps going and going...

4. Sal, Nina's love interest, is pretty much swoon-worthy. He protects Nina, doesn't compromise what he believes in, and he's dark but not brooding.
* If you like...

Books: If you like The Hunger Games trilogy, Matched by Ally Condie, and 1984 by George Orwell, then you will like XVI.

Movies: If you like Minority Report, Gattaca, and V forVendetta, then you will like XVI.

There you have it. Review # 1- woo hoo! If you read XVI, please share with us what you thought.
***Don't forget- our 100 Follower Celebration is still alive and kicking. Click here to enter--you have until January 28th, 2011!!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Agent Interview: Sarah LaPolla!!

Querying Song of the Day: "She Got Her Own" by Ne-Yo ftg. Jamie Foxx and Fabolous

Today, we have the pleasure of chatting with my Agent of Awesome, Sarah LaPolla of Curtis Brown, LTD! Sarah has worked with Curtis Brown since 2008, and officially started picking up her own clients last year. She also mans the terrific blog, Glass Cases, in which she gives her insightful thoughts of the publishing biz and even features submissions from up-and-coming writers! You can find a brief bio of Sarah here, and follow her on Twitter here.

The Agent-y Questions:

You received your MFA in creative writing. What types of stories/novels do you write?

My MFA is in creative nonfiction. I wrote mostly personal essays, some political stuff that was pretty terrible, and dabbled in memoir. My nonfiction tends to come out only in blog form now and I recently started writing fiction just to see if I could. I’m about ¾ done with a contemporary YA and have a rough outline for an adult literary fiction project. So far it’s fun, but I’m not taking it too seriously.

How do you feel your MFA helps you with your career as an agent?

MFAs are useful in becoming a better writer and a better judge of what “good” writing, which is not always the equivalent of “what I like to read” or “what will compete within a given market.” So, there’s that. More than anything though, my MFA program made me a better editor, which is a skill I use constantly as an agent, whether with my own clients’ work or in deciding whether to take on a new project.

When you’re reading a query/submission, what makes you know that you’ve found “the one”?

If the book has interesting and dynamic characters AND the premise sounds amazing, then it’s golden. There has to be both.

You recently tweeted that you were over vampires, angels, werewolves, and zombies. Should writers with these characters steer clear from querying you, or are you willing to have a look if the concept is unique enough?

Yikes. I guess just steer clear. I appreciate a good vamp story when I see one (and I still love me some True Blood and Vampire Diaries), but I’m just over them in books. I’d like to add gods and other forms of shapeshifters to the list of non-humans I don’t want to see anymore too. I just have no interest.

I do still like witches, aliens, ghosts, and (if you follow me on Twitter, you know this) centaurs! (Seriously, it doesn’t have to be the main character; just plop one in your next fantasy submission.) Of course, you need a solid plot to back up these characters, no matter what.
(Bloggers Note: Pam has a RIDICULOUS fear of centaurs--only to be matched by Quita's phobia of mermaids. Quita has never been able to watch the Tom Hanks classic, Splash)

Is there a genre that you wish you saw more of in your slush pile?

I get a lot of queries for “magical realism,” but they always turn out to be fantasy. So, I wish I got more magical realism. I’d also like to see more horror and mystery, both on the literary side, for YA and adult. A great YA or MG ghost story that’s scary instead of romantic would be fabulous.

Including a synopsis is part of the submissions process for Curtis Brown LTD. Is the synopsis ever a deal breaker, or would you still request more if you enjoyed the query and/or sample pages?

Honestly, I gloss over a synopsis. It is never a deciding factor for me. If I’m hooked by the query, I’ll go straight to the sample pages and decide whether to request the manuscript from there.

I was lucky enough to receive an offer from you after a revise and resubmit request. What’s the number one tip you’d give a writer in the same position?

I can’t really answer this for all writers. In your case, we were on the same page with the revisions and you understood what I was asking in a way that still allowed you to make it your own. In this way, I guess my #1 piece of advice for writers would be to only revise if YOU agree with the revision suggestions. What one agent says could be different from another, and if you’re only revising to make one agent happy, then what happens with your next project? And the one after that? The last thing I want is for a writer to say “whatever you want, I’ll do it!” That’s not where the best writing comes from.
(Pam's Note: I couldn't agree more! Sarah brought up suggestions that I was already pondering with my critique partner. We were so in sync--only thing missing was Justin Timberlake!)

Are you attending any upcoming conferences?

January 22: Writer’s Digest Writer’s Conference/Pitch Slam (NY)

March 25-26: Write Stuff 2011 Conference (PA)

Just For Fun:

We’re avid Joseph Gordon-Levitt fans here at the blog, and we know you are, too! What’s your fave JGL movie?

Oh JGL… I’ve always thought he was adorable, but I didn’t fall IN LOVE with him until I saw him in Brick.
(Bloggers Note: Brick=One of the Best Movies Ever! Truly, we'd love to read or write a YA novel that's just as clever)

We’re also lovers of music here. Is there any song that automatically puts you in a better mood, even if you’re having a crum-tastic day?

"Poison" by Bell Biv Devoe will pretty much brighten any day. If I need an entire album’s worth of happiness, I’ll throw on The Pipettes or some vintage They Might Be Giants.

Okay, we have to ask a food question. Is there any food out there that’s so delicious that you’d commit a crime to taste it again (it’s sad, but I’d have to say my mom’s lasagna…or Wendy’s new sea salt fries)?

Every time my sister visits me in New York we go to this Moroccan place called Zerza and get their saganaki (fried feta covered in honey). So simple, yet it’s the most amazing thing in the world. Luckily I don’t have to commit any crimes to eat it again. That with a toasted marshmallow milkshake would probably be my choice for a last meal (speaking of committing crimes).

What’s the last book that made you cry?

I definitely cried twice while reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Not sure if that was the last book to do it, but it was the most memorable.

Is there any book character that you’d run off with to elope?

Mr. Knightley from Emma is my idea of the perfect man. Just as smart and snarky as Mr. Darcy, but he’s actually a nice guy. Then again, if Oliver Wood asked me to run away with him, I’d do it. (Sure he’s not as smart, but you know he’s going pro, and who wouldn’t want to be a Quidditch player’s wife?)
(Bloggers Note: We're both totally crushing on Kent from Before I Fall. So different with his bowler hat but SO sweet. Where was this guy when we were in high school??)

Major thanks to Sarah for completing this interview! She's definitely worth your query, so get those babies critiqued and send them off...unless you're writing about vampires. :)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

RTW: Book Blurbs

Reading Song of the Day: "I Like It" by Enrique Iglesias

In a world where two cuzzes collide...they participate each week in a rawk hard blogging carnival: Road Trip Wednesday. RTW is brought to us by the talented girls at YA Highway and they always have something clever up their sleeves. This week, they want blurbs. Blurbs of either our favorite books or our own work. This one was a lil' hard, and we couldn't get cheesy movie announcer voices out of our head while doing this, so...don't take us too seriously.

Blurbs for some of our fave books:

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

"A chilltastic tale of a love square that can rival the crazy antics on the Bachelor, yo. Oh yeah, and zombies are in there, too. People, we got ourselves a situation."
MIKE "THE SITUATION" SORRENTINO-the Lothario of the Jersey Shore Boardwalk

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

"With mean girls, b-b-b-bowler hats, and The Country's Best Yogurt, Lauren Oliver will have you falling with Sam Kingston over, and over, and over, and over...Oh, sorry."

*KING GEORGE VI OF BRITAIN-from the history books...but you probably just know him from The King's Speech

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

"Katniss turns from ugly duckling to a beautiful swan in this thrilling novel that responds to my touch. Attack it! Attack it!"
THOMAS LEROY, AKA- the crazed, perverted choreographer of Black Swan

*Note: We are not making fun of speech impediments--just the movie itself. 'Cause we don't get it.

So can you think of any blurbs for these books above. Which celeb/character would you want pimpin' out your book?

BTW- We are participating in the 99th Page Blogfest on Friday, January 28th. Won't you join us??

Monday, January 17, 2011

Contest: 100 Followers CELEBRATION!!!

Partying Song of the Day: "Get the Party Started" by Pink

Aaaahhh! We did it, we FINALLY did it!!!! We reached the 100 followers mark. We've been waiting for this moment for all of our lives...okay, maybe not all our lives but you know what we mean.

Anyway, this is cause for a celebration! Which means, it's contest tiiiiiiiiime!

*fist pump*

So, here's how it's gonna go people. You all can fill out the form below--make sure you include your first and last name before you click "submit"--by January 28th, 2011 12am EST. Then we will announce (Update!) FOUR winners January 31st, 2011. These FOUR winners will need to contact us at marquitahockaday@gmail.com. The first person to contact us will get first dibs on the prizes.

What are the prizes you ask????

We answer:

1.) A 10 page critique from BOTH of us on anything that you are writing or have written. (And don't forget that Pam is agented and that means something...so we hope!)

2.) A 3 book prize pack of some of the most anticipated books of 2011: Across the Universe by Beth Revis, a pre-order of Kirsten Hubbard's Like Mandarin, and a pre-order of Veronica Roth's Divergent

3.) A $25.00 gift card to amazon.com

4.) UPDATE: A query critique from KM Walton! She's also represented by the lovely Sarah LaPolla of Curtis Brown LTD, and her debut novel, Everything's Not Lost, will be published in Spring 2012 by Simon Pulse! You can check out her awesome query that nabbed Sarah here.

So, what are you waiting for??? Join in with our party and fill out the form below. Happy Contest Entering!!!

BTW- Tune in to the blog on Thursday for an awesometastic interview with Pam's super agent, Sarah LaPolla of Curtis Brown LTD.

BTW #2-Check out an interview with us on the FAB blog, Jest Kept Secret, here!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Psst...Super Cool Contest

Okay, I know that we've been promising a contest once we reach 100 followers...which we FINALLY HAVE! Woo hoo! Thank you all so much! We will aspire to be as informative and entertaining as possible.

But we're not talking about our contest yet. Be sure to stop by Monday for deets on that. Instead, we're talking about a chance to win Delirium by Lauren Oliver!

That's right, Lauren Oliver herself is giving away 5 SIGNED COPIES of Delirium! All you have to do is comment on her blog, but there's also chances to get extra entries.

What are you waiting for? Click here now! Then swing by Monday to see what Quita and I have in store for you all. :)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The End? Now Roll the Credits!

Revising Song of the Day: "Waiting For the End" by Linkin Park
So this month I've been delving into another round of revisions for Wants based off suggestions from my super agent. She provided input for a few minor changes throughout the manuscript; however, our biggest concern is the ending.

Beginning and endings of novels are always tricky. For beginnings, you want to give readers just enough to pull them into the story (click here for my post on a Finger Lickin' Chapter 1--but make sure you're not hungry!). But endings are different--you want to make sure you wrap up the major conflict and show that your protagonist has changed since the beginning. Some people like happily ever afters--where the heroine rides off into the sunset with her love interest on a horse (or a lawn mower if you're a fan of Easy A). Others prefer a little intrigue, where they can make their own conclusions of what the characters may do next (in my head, Breaking Dawn never happened. It was just a feverish dream Bella had after getting food poisoning).

Writers have to understand that not every reader is going to be satisfied with their endings, but I think it's good to take a look at some common ones in many novels. And since I'm currently trying to eat a little better, I won't torture myself with another food analogy. Instead, I'll choose another love: movies.

WARNING: The rest of this post contains spoilers--but I hope you read it anyway. :)

The Never-Ending Story
You know this type of movie. It's where you start packing up your things to leave the theater only to discover (gasp!) that there's still another half hour or so left in the movie! What happened? The main character made amends with his mom/lover/mortal enemy, so what else do we need to know? I heard a few people grumble about how The Social Network could've ended much sooner. After we saw how Mark Zuckerberg "betrayed" his friends and classmates, what else was there to see? We knew they all ended up in court.

Pro: If you choose to go this route, readers may get a chance to see more character development...

Con: ...but then they may start hating your character. To the point where they're bellowing to the sky: "For the love of God! When will this thing end?!" Confession: this is my problem. Hopefully, I didn't make my agent and beta readers pull out too much of their hairs before they reached the last page.

And They Lived Happily Ev...
Fan of the abrupt ending? Well, this is the conclusion for you. This is where you're leaning forward in your seat to see what may happen next...and then the screen goes black. Fans of Inception know what I'm talking about. Dom finally returns from dream purgatory and gets to see his kids. He spins his lucky token--then blackness. Both times I saw this in the theater, the audience let out a collective groan and then laughed.

Pro: The laughter meant most of the audience was impressed. By choosing this ending for your novel, you're not spoon-feeding your readers. You're allowing them to interpret what may or may not have happened. Which leads to interesting debates. Which leads to more people wanting to read what you may have next up your sleeve.

Con: Or you could just really piss them off. If you don't set up enough foreshadowing or clues throughout your novel to indicate what could happen, you might just come off as a little lazy.

Ha! Joke's On You!
Ah, so this is the famous twist-ending--director M. Night Shyamalan is a huge fan. If you've ever seen The Village, you'll know that the audience was led to believe the characters lived in this tiny, well, village...set some time in the past. But as the protagonist ventures through the big, bad, scary woods, we find out that they actually live just outside of an urban city...set in the present day. Ha ha! Funny, right?

Pro: As long as you're free from other twist cliches, you have the potential to do something really groundbreaking here. Just make sure the seeds of a possible twist are present somewhere in your manuscript or...

Con: ...again, you may piss readers off. It's absolutely cool to keep readers guessing, but you don't want to come up with a completely far-fetched ending. If it seems to come out of left field, then readers may wish bad things upon you and your first-born child.

I'm not saying one of these endings are better than the others. Again, you have to decide what feels authentic to your story. So what type of endings do you prefer? Do you have trouble deciding your ending?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

RTW: In Which We are Pretentious!

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

Of course, it's that time again--Road Trip Wednesday! It seems as if YA Highway wants us to love on ourselves today. :) This week, we've been challenged with the task of picking out our favorite lines from either a book or our own writing. We have plenty of faves from books, but alas, we can't bring the stacks to our day jobs. Therefore, we will go with option B. Neither of us are too stoked by this as we are our own worst critics...but here goes!

Quita's Fave Lines from Untitled WIP (Possible YA Mystery):

This is about a boy who's best friend is murdered. He wants to find out who did it, b/c his father was also murdered and the cops never found his killer. This is the opening:

Thursday Morning 6:45 AM
Henry Knight was found bludgeoned to death early this morning.
I’m pretty sure I was whacking off to one of those phone sex commercials at the same moment that someone was bashing his head in. I don’t know if anyone is going to miss him. Hell, I don’t know if anyone even remembers him. Maybe David Warren does. Especially since he’s our friendly neighborhood drug dealer. I know I remember Henry. He’s my best friend’s number one customer at school. Henry’s the main reason Kyle was able to buy me that bad ass skateboard for my birthday.

Pam's Fave Lines from Wants:

Okay, Wants is told from 4 different POVs, and this is the opening from "bad boy" Austin's first chapter:

In tenth grade, my geometry teacher said I meandered. Yeah, I didn’t know what the f-- he meant either. But I looked it up. To wander slowly and aimlessly. Hell yeah. I started saying it all the time. I like how my lips have to squeeze together to form the first sound. How my cheeks have to stretch into a smile to complete it. Hell, I love “meandering” so much that I wrote a song about it. But I never finished it. The lyrics wandered a bit.

What about you? What are some of your fave lines from books or your own work??? Feel free to leave comments about the writing--we welcome criticism. We might cry a lil' on the inside, but really we welcome it ;)

Monday, January 10, 2011

That's Soooo Been Done Before!

**Editors' Note: Well, Anonymous tooooold us :) Yes, I mistakingly left out the author's name. It was written by Joelle Anthony and it was a GREAT article. Again, as stated in the post, this was from the SCBWI Nov/Dec 2010 issue...and there is an actual link for the article in the post.**

Writing Song of the Day: "Heard it All Before" by Sunshine Anderson

There are so many perks to being a member of SCBWI if you are a children's writer (Young Adult, Middle Grade, Picture Books etc.). You get to go to conferences--both the regional and awesomeriffic national conferences-- you get insider information, a group of peers who understand exactly what you are trying to write, and a really cool bi-monthly bulletin that helps you stay sharp with your writing.

Because we love our readers so much we wanted to go deeper into a topic that was brought up in the November/December 2010 issue of the SCBWI Bulletin. This one page article briefly discussed the fifteen most overused things in YA writing. We are sure that just like us, as you read this list, a great YA book will pop up in your head...but since we REFUSE to talk about books b/c we love them all so much, we won't list examples...but I'm sure we'll all be thinking of the same ones. ;)

So, take out your pen and paper and write a check mark for each of the following that you have done in your WIP or manuscript...If you find that you have checks next to five or more, then you might want to go and fix it, STAT!

15-Stories with irresponsible parents (leaving the kid to do the cleaning/cooking)
14-The MC likes retro music (usually b/c it's the music YOU liked in high school)
13-Hot, young moms who are the MC's best friend
12-Female MC who is obsessed with Jane Eyre
11-Lab partners where one person is the dork that does all the work...then they are the love interest later
10-A MC with only one best friend...then they get in a fight and the MC is all alone for awhile
9-A poor scholarship student in a private school
8-First POV and the MC describes themselves by looking in the mirror
7-MC that is a tomboy who doesn't know how to do anything "girly"
6-Younger sis. that is the popular, gorgeous one
5-Big vocab. words put in by the author and then passed off as an SAT word
4-MC who happens to be the only one in their group of friends without a cell phone
3-Clumsy characters who couldn't dance or play sports if someone had a gun pressed into their backs
2-Guys with striking, beautiful, gorgeous green eyes- this is used so much that green eyes are becoming as common as blue eyes. They no longer pack the same punch, so to speak.

Annnd the # 1 most overused thing done in YA novels is.....

Having your MC hate math

BTW- In Limbo had little traces of two of these cliches and has another one big time, so if you found a few, don't be ashamed!

Now that you have this list handy, there are two things we'd like you to do for us (and for yourself):

1.) Do a quick writing exercise (this will be graded tomorrow--sorry, that's the educators creeping out of us). Write for ten minutes straight using this beginning sentence: Mandy/Marc always hated his/her first day at a new school. Just write freely, then go back and see if you included any of the above cliches. If so, change them around and see how your free writing sounds now!

2.) Can you think of anything else that has been overused in YA that should be added to this list?

Really...you can come back and tell us later how the free writing went :)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

What did they say??

Revising Song of the Day: "Try Again" by Aaliyah (Check it out on our Rock With Us tab)

I'm revising the mess out of my historical YA, trying to make it pretty for querying...but I'm in that level (pun intended--my manuscript is called In Limbo, tee hee!) that kinda sucks. The fact checking level.

I have to make sure I'm not using present day slang and phrases. For example, I wanted to talk about music and I automatically wrote CD player, then record player...then I looked it up and realized that in 1918 they called them phonographs. Which then leads to what did they call the records they played on them? Records, Vinyls, Albums? It all gets really, really shaky. So I tried to look up slang/English language in 1918. I didn't find anything that different but there were a few key phrases that I made sure to throw in...

Rotary dialing = Dialing on a (Home) telephone (so archaic, right!)
Fooling = joking around
Neat/Cool/Swell = well...neat, or cool, awesome etc. :)
Sweetheart = Girlfriend/Boyfriend ie going steady
Colored = African American
Soda pop = obviously, soda
Denims = jeans

And it goes on and on...

The words weren't all that different--some of them we even use today. I guess the point is to make sure that I don't have one of my characters say/do anything that is too 21st century and also watch out for making the material too dated. I am hoping to have a book that is obviously historical but that can be relatable for every generation. Is that too much to ask???

What about you, lovely readers? If you write historical how do you get past the fact checking slump? If you read it, what are some great books that you can think of that are timeless?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

RTW: Best Books of 2010...and The Longest Title in History!

Reading Song of the Day: "The Humpty Dance" by Digital Underground

It's Hump Day again--but instead of doing the Humpty Dance, we're joining the awesome ladies of YA Highway for another Road Trip Wednesday. This week they want to know: what are the 5 best books in 2010 and/or how would you sum up your 2010 in a book title?

We struggled more than usual with this one. Asking us to pick our favorite book is like asking us to pick our favorite cupcake! Then there was the whole confusion if we could include books that we read in 2010, but weren't published in 2010. To make our lives easier, we decided to just go for novels published in 2010--and these "six" made the cut:

5. Tie: Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan and Linger by Maggie Stiefvater
Quita and I were about to thumb wrestle to determine what would take this spot, but since her thumb is freakishly larger than mine--I settled on a tie. Why WG,WG? Can you think of a better YA dream team than Green and Levithan? Not to mention that it predominantly features gay characters--whom I plan on including in every single one of my novels in some capacity. Quita chose Linger because the writing was basic but beautiful, and just as I (Quita) think Pam does in Wants, Stiefvater was able to successfully balance out four, count them, four main characters. Also, the ending had me yearning for the release of Forever.

4. Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers
I cannot get more fan girly over Ms. Summers. Her prose is direct and to the point, and she seems to understand the high school world better than most authors (which is odd, because I think she has admitted that she didn't attend one for long). The girls in this novel are brutal, but as a school counselor, authentic to the whole teen experience. I'm sure Fall For Anything would have been ranked on this list had I had a chance to read it. :(

3. The Absolute Value of -1 by Steve Brezenoff
When I mention this book to people I have a huge smile on my face--which is weird because the story is kind of tragic. It follows the point-of-views of 4 different teens (just like my baby, Wants) as they grow apart. Each voice is distinctive, and the subject matter doesn't shy away from grit. I cannot wait to see what Brezenoff has next up his sleeve.

2. Room by Emma Donoghue
This is the only adult fiction title to make it on our list. Why? Because, sadly, these types of stories are featured on the evening news frequently--but we've never heard it told like this. We both fell in love with Jack, the 5 year-old narrator. What's scary to everyone else is home to him, and his innocence will just break your heart.

Now drum roll please....

1. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
Wow. Just...wow. Quita and I had the pleasure of meeting Ms. Oliver at a conference before either of us finished reading this novel, and she's so lovely that we wish her years and years of success. However, she won't need luck if she continues writing like this. It's nice to read a story in which the "mean girl" is the protagonist. We get to see Sam Kingston redeem herself, and we laughed and cried along with her as she went through her personal journey. Can you see why we're giggly over Oliver's next book, Delirium?

With our best books out of the way, it's time to sum everything up with a title: Before I fall into a lingering state where some girls are the absolute value of -1, I hope I still have room for Will Grayson.

Okay, that was terrible. But we're awful with titles, that's why we asked you all for help before. :) Do you all have any faves from 2010?

Monday, January 3, 2011

Our 2011 Writing Resolutions!!

Writing Song of the Day: "We Need a Resolution" by Aaliyah featuring Timbaland

Oh. My. Goodness. We've made it--2011, peeps! It just looks weird typing it. I have to say, I'm a little disappointed. Where are the flying cars?

Besides that, Quita and I are uber-excited. This is the first time in a while that I've truly been optimistic about the New Year. Good things are on the horizon, I can feel it. We have our standard resolutions: eat right, exercise more, yadda yadda yadda. But for today's post, we really wanted to focus on our writing resolutions for 2011. So, without further ado...

Pam's Writing Resolutions

1. To revise the ending of Wants by the end of January and submit it to my super agent.

2. To complete my second contemporary YA manuscript and send to beta readers by March/April.

3. To revise my supernatural YA that I wrote for NaNo and see if it has any kind of potential (it's weird, but I've actually missed the characters. Maybe I do have something there...)

4. To settle on an idea for my third contemporary YA manuscript and outline it by this summer.

5. To try to write at least 500 words each day. If I can't reach that goal, then to NOT go more than three days without writing anything.

6. To continue to support the YA community by reading TONS of books. I'm shooting for at least 2 each month. Work and school will get in the way, but I'm determined to keep up with my reading.

7. To read more adult fiction. Reading Room was a revelation. I've been ignoring too much awesome writing outside YA, and I really miss Jodi Picoult, Stephen King, and Brett Easton Ellis. I would love to read at least six adult titles this year--one every other month.

8. Finally, wishful thinking, to get a BOOK DEAL. I know, I know--this isn't the most important thing, but it's been my dream since I could hold a crayon in my hand to see my name on the spine of my own published book. 11 has always been my favorite number, so maybe 2011 will be my year. :)

Quita's Writing Resolutions:

1. To complete my first contemporary YA manuscript by the end of January/early February.

2. To nab an agent with my historical YA manuscript, In Limbo.

3. To revise my NaNo supernatural YA manuscript by the end of March/early April--it's so lame, but maybe I can make something happen from it.

4. To complete our shiny YA idea inspired by Inception.

5. To read as much as possible so that I can continue to learn (especially more historical YA--The Book Thief, Fever:1793, and What I Saw and How I Lied, here I come!)

6. Ditto to Pam's adult fiction comment. I'm working on John Grisham's The Confession now.

7. To plot a new contemporary (or historical) YA by early June so that I can write it over the summer.

8. Again, ditto to Pam's comment about writing at least 500 words a day, or just writing SOMETHING each day.

9. Oh...and this might be complete wishful thinking since I don't even have an agent yet, but I wants me a book deal, too :)

Tell us, have you set your writing goals yet??