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Viewing Blog: GOTTAWRITE GIRL, Most Recent at Top
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If you smell your books. If your soul settles in Barnes & Noble. If you obsess over similes. If you're a published oldtimer or aspiring author, like me…I'd like to be your friend. In that first-grade kind of way. Trudging the road to publication is easier with friends! Welcome to GOTTAWRITE GIRL, adventures in children's writing and the trudge to publication.
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1. Bittersweet Goodbye

My friends,

I am saying goodbye. Gottawrite Girl has been exquisite fun... but it's nudged my novel off the rails and molassessed my job - which is so imperative to my little family.

If gratitude's an action word, than I have to loyalize what means the most. My family, my job that sustains it, and my blossoming novel.

Thanks to all my writerly friends, especially Nicky at Absolute Vanilla, Beth at Writing it Out, PJ at Roots in Myth, Devon at Ink in My Coffee, Paul at Struggling Writer, Serena at Savvy Verse & Wit, Sonia at Gutsy Writer, Kyle at First Person Plural, Edie at One Potato... Ten, Christy at Christy's Creative Space, Shelby at the Shelby Show, Justus at Ambition, Rebecca at Rebecca's Writing Journey, Kelly at Cross Your T's, Lois at Lotus Rising, Tabitha at Writer Musings, Alice Pope, Cynthia Leitich-Smith, Becky Levine, Kelly Polark, Miriam Forster, CJ Harley, Suzanne Casamento, Sheri Oshins, Jill Wheeler, Keri Mikulski, Solvang Sherrie, and the whole of Lucy's staff.

I'll miss GwG dearly, but vow to return once published!

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2. Un-Dimming My North Star

Guys, I have a serious goal with a fierce deadline. There's no way to meet it, unless I pause blogging and hammer it out...

The critique deadline for my upcoming SCBWI day-long is imminent. Ten polished pages to overnight next Wednesday.

I can't allow GwG to nudge my novel off the rails. This kind of time-management-twisting is a common blogging result I'd not anticipated. And it dogs my every novel-writing step.

My true North Star's my novel. No excuses. Ten sparkling pages on short order, please... North Star, ahoy!

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3. I Can Be Mature

So, I've just been told my cubicle is permanent. Forevermore. No nose-picking privacy for me, ever...

I say? Cubicle schmoobicle. Why? Let me list away...

1) I like my neighbor, Lou. I like to toss small candies over the bathtub-like wall and startle her.
2) Better air ciculation.
3) I sit amidst a symphony of office-machines... the printer and copier make such sweet music.
4) I hear and smell everything. It's like having a faux super-powers.
5) I've jammed a curtain across the entrance. It gives me a childish yet very REAL satisfaction.
6) You'd be proud of my cubicle. It's shelacked with flowers, nymphs, and even a lamp. It's my pastel cocoon. So there.

Add to this list, and I'll be deeply indebted ~ in the name of grown women everywhere, toiling away in apulstered bathtubs.

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4. Washington, DC: Something Historic Is A-Foot

My city is humming. There's a carbonated, communal energy that's normally not present. It reminds me of the Sniper attacks, but in a reversely GOOD way.

More than two million people stuffed the National Mall, drawn to the spark of Obama's message of hope and change. Our regimented, turtlenecked city was a veritable Woodstock yesterday.

I don't believe Obama is a miracle worker, but I do believe he has an unexplainable ability to incite people to action, which our country desperately needs... the magic is more so in the response of the people to Obama, rather than Obama himself... is that ok to say? I mean that only in the most respectful, positive way.

Even if you live across the country, I hope you all but crawled into your television yesterday to feel a part of.

Those of us who work close to the Capital are back at work today, on day 2 of this 44th Presidential chapter.

I'm proud, excited, and grateful to witness this history-in-the-making... Can you feel it?

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5. Do It With Your Whole Heart

“Enthusiasm is one of the most powerful engineers of success. When you do a thing, do it with all your might. Put your whole soul into it. Stamp it with your own personality. Be active, be energetic, be enthusiastic and faithful, and you will accomplish your objective. Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

I love this quote. It's beautiful, and it outlines an ideal way of life.

I've just come off a week of being sick, and still feel a bit like I'm underwater. But I've got that stirring-to-action one feels following inactivity... I wanna get back to the gym, back to frequent blog posts, back to consistently completing bite-sized novel goals...

...and do it all with faith and enthusiasm ~ how 'bout you?

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6. Book Trumps Movie

Let me paint a picture for you... me, on the metro, quaking with laughter... shaking, crying, slurping for air. Shoulder to shoulder with metro-riding strangers. THAT'S what the book did for me. Hands down, Marley & Me is THE funniest book I've ever read.

John Grogan has a way of capturing the supposed thoughts of a dog... I uniformly dislike animal stories, minus picture books, but this was hysterically exquisite... pee-pantsingly funny!

Then I saw the movie. I was ready to like it, actually, as John Grogan's voice naturally lends itself to Owen Wilson's self-depreciating drawl. But, oh, what a dull, soft thud this film made.

The movie is boorish. Non-gritty... all the darkness and dimension of John and Jenny's vacillating marriage is glazed over to make for a digestible, Hollywoodish display.

Jenny's post-partum is reduced to a few irratable outbursts, skipping the one scene in which she desperately flogs the dog with her fists... Marley was far stronger than Jenny and took those beatings with a loyalty that made me cry. CRY! And I typically hate a book for exciting my waterworks, as I feel had.

Crying and riotous laughing-out-loud all in one book. But the movie? Nothing but two hours of Diet-coke sucking restlessness.

Your thoughts? Plop 'em on the table, and let's discuss!

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7. Live It

“Many people die with the music still in them.”
~ Oliver Wendell Holmes

My meditation teacher asked, "what would you do if you weren't in any pain, but only had minutes to live?"

I'd rip off my clothes, run outside, flap my arms, wriggle and writhe, shout 'Thank you, God, thank you for everything!' Then I'd grab my husband by the skull, kiss and thank him, too.

How 'bout you?

And Serena of Savvy Verse & Wit, many thanks for my Lemonade Award, honoring bloggers with gratitude...

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8. Tah Dah, it's 2009!

Happy New Year, everyone! Time to roll out a new year's worth of doable but stretch-worthy goals...

One thought to plop on the table...

Outlining is my favorite procrastination tool. But I'm compelled to stick with it. I don't want to submit a hot, wandering mess. You can't escape the story arc. No matter how artful your prose.

Currently, I'm stuck in limbo. Needing the structure. But wanting to wander off the plotted track, when inspiration nudges... author Jessica Anya Blau wrote The Summer of Naked Swim Parties as it moved her, and the arc was hammered out later with her agent. Click here for my interview. Stephen King also writes without a net...

How bout you? Do you map it, or do you wing it? And, mappers and wingers alike, here's to a next year of burstful imagination!

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9. Whistle While I Work

It's been a lovely holiday... alotta long talks, alotta red meat and pie, and alotta Ruby duty ~ protecting the kidlets from her piranha-like puppy teeth, and the rugs from her lightning-fast pee squats.

But my break was a wee longer than anticipated. So, it's back to work I go... back to blogging and my cubicle. In fact, I'm here today... with FOX news streaming and space heater sputtering.

Finally finished the Twlight saga, too. Coulda done without books 2-4... but appreciated their crack-like quality nevertheless. And purchasing all four certainly contributed to stimulating our economy, too ~ especially thanks to the frequent and strategic availability of hardbacks only. Harumph.

Next up? Marley and Me. The movie alerted me to its existence, and I'm smitten by the story... a newlywed couple navigating work, pregnancy and family stress, all under the duress of a psycho-lovely pup. Just like my Ruby. I can't wait to dive in... and am buying it at Borders during lunch today.

Ah me, it's good to be home again... [insert contented sigh].

What books has the holiday machine churned into your life lately?

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10. Woo Hoo Christmas!

I looove me some Christmas! Why?

* Deserted metro trains.

* Mariah Carey's holiday songs (I'm unexplainably helpless.)

* My ceramic tree (Like Grandma's.)

* Peeping other people's Christmas trees through living room windows.

* Elevator-muzak Christmas carols (Perfectly horrible.)

* The lights! Wonderous fairy-land lights!

* A tri-selection of pie for dessert. Boom.

* Scrutinizing reactions to my book-gifts... this year's line-up? The Audacity of Hope; A Bold Fresh Piece of Humanity; Around the Year with Emmet Fox.

* My favorite children's book, for which my piggly puppy was named, Ruby the Christmas Donkey! Old-school, golden-rule, soul-warming fun.

May you be holly-jolly, everyone! I love you, Moms and Dads! And if you're so moved, share a Holiday favorite or two!

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11. Newbery Knock-Down?

Say it Ain't So! Makes my blood boil, truth be told...

My Mom, a vigilant former librarian, alerted me to this article in the Washington Post, which references this article in October's School Library Journal.

Seems the "literary world" is debating Newbery's value and suggesting it deters kids from reading. The debate? Here's a snapshot.

* Award-winners are "inaccessible." Case noted, 2008's Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! by Laura Amy Schlitz, written in monologue.
* Award-winners are "complicated," dealing with tough social issues like death, non-traditional parenting, or mental and emotional challenges.
* Congenial, "popular" entries are best awarded.

* The Newbery award raises the profile of children's literature, and makes the entire landscape think harder about what we do.
* The Newbery award celebrates literary quality, not popularity.

My mom weaned me on books. I snuck reading, not TV watching. I stalked library isles for hours at a time. She lovingly read me through every Caldecott and Newbery winner, and my life's richer because of it.

My verdict: Bah humbug!

Can you imagine the film industry without the Academy Awards? Art deserves laudable measure. Period. People magazine's circulation is neck-and-neck with Time. But popularity doesn't mean quality.

That said, I love People magazine. I love the Twilight saga. I value my medaled book shelf, just like I value my fluff.

But let bloggers, critics and journalists praise pop-culture phenoms... and let Newbery alone. I want to know what superlative writing reads like... and need Newbery's measure to aim for!

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12. Confessions & Finish Lines

Christy, helmstress of the fabulous Christy's Creative Space, nominated me for the Honesty Scrap award ~ "Many times truth and honesty are discarded material, considered scraps and left over." I'm honored. And here's tagging Devon, Becky, Justus, Paul, Serena and Gutsy.

My uncomfortably-honest facts follow:

* I bloody my knuckles over honesty. It's really hard, but I keep trying.
* I didn't even TOUCH the writing goal I set last Monday, did you?
* I can't afford the SCBWI Winter conference after all, and fear you'll think I'm non-committed.
* Most facts I can't post. It'd be too much.
* I hate myself. I know. Gross. It comes and goes...
* I fear I'll never be a comfortable person. That I'll always be driven by certain insecurities to the point of madness.
* I worry my friends don't really like me.
* I believe "miracles" through prayer happen all the time, but are wrongly chalked up to chance or luck, or they don't happen as expected and are missed altogether.
* I wonder why my husband "picked me."
* I'm now obsessed with becoming a White House reporter...

And because I have no platform other than my husband's ear...

Shame on you, shoe-throwing Muntadhar al-Zeidi!
How dare you abuse your journalism post to dishonor our president. What are you, five years old? It's called an op-ed, and you should be de-credentialed. And shame on our fellows for mocking this. Our country needs healing right now, no matter our party affiliation!

Ok, I'm done. And thanks to my little blog for listening.

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13. Sandy's Cool Contributions

Meet Sandy Young, editor of the website and newsletter, Cool Stuff 4 Writers. Her site was named one of the “101 Best Web Sites for Writers” by Writer’s Digest in 2006, 2007 and 2008.

I know you’ll enjoy Sandy's fun and fabulous resources. And be sure to leave any questions or kind words for Sandy, as she'll be chatting with us today in comment-land!

GwG: Your inspiration for starting the newsletter?
Sandy: I purchased Cool Stuff 4 Writers in 2005. The woman I bought it from had sent it bi-weekly, but I changed it to once a month. I have a Cool Announcements section for news about contracts, contest wins, etc. Writers work hard and deserve kudos for their successes. This is one way I can support fellow writers.

GwG: The greatest challenge and benefit of the newsletter?
Sandy: The greatest challenge is getting it out on time. I try hard to send it out by the 15th of the month, but sometimes there’s drama in the house – I have 4 kids, 4 dogs, 5 cats and a job – and it doesn’t get done by the target date. It’s also a lot of work making sure all the links are active, the html codes are correct, finding articles, etc. That alone can take a few hours. I’m a bit neurotic – LOL

The greatest benefit is the friends I’ve made. I sometimes worry about an issue being good enough, but when I hear that readers enjoy it, I feel so appreciative for the feedback and support.

GwG: Tell us more about the website.
Sandy: The site has evolved since I purchased it in 2005. We’re always redesigning and improving, but time seems to be the enemy.

Over the past three years, we’ve added feature interviews with authors, editors and agents. I’ve added links, publishing announcements, and the “Ask The Book Doctor” column written by Bobbie Christmas of Zebra Communications. And of course there’s our Cool Stuff, like t-shirts, sweatshirts, mugs, books, bookmarks...

We’ve also been voted one of the “101 Best Web Sites for Writers” by Writer’s Digest magazine in the “Fun” category in 2006, 2007 and 2008. Every year that we make the list, I hold a raffle for our subscribers to win a one year subscription to Writer’s Digest. It’s a great way to celebrate and appreciate those who nominated us!

GwG: You also won first place in the Celtic Hearts Romance Writers annual Golden Claddaugh contest...
Sandy: Yes! I was thrilled that the agent who judged my entry asked for a query on my next book. I write humorous women’s fiction with a twist of romance and suspense, so I entered the “Novel with Strong Romantic Elements” category. I had stopped writing for a long time, but my best friend kept me going. Thanks, Deb!

Thanks, Sandy! Be sure to visit her site, or send an email to sandy@coolstuff4writers.com.

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14. Motivation-Monster Monday

Meet the Motivation Monster... Is it working? Are you startled into action?

Let's do it. Let's go on record. Name me one writing goal to conquer by the weekend.

Your best advice from last Friday's post packages up so nicely. This post is a tribute to your kind and practical words...

Breathe, make bite-size goals and, no matter what, keep writing.

I hereby vow to complete my novel's character exercise that I abandoned one long month ago.

What's yours? Name it. Make it doable AND a bit of a stretch. We'll haul each other along, and check in this Friday!

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15. The Road to Publishing Purgatory...

Is paved with writing intentions. I wanted to post yesterday, but ended up hiding instead. With a symbolic napkin over my head.

I've done that, you know. I was unemployed and my dad drilled into my unacceptable lack of health care. Fearful napkin-over-the-head is my instinctive posture in life.

I'm woosy just dabbling in this matter. But who better to air to?

I'm requesting help. We're all manic during this Holiday season. I get it. Friends, family, cooking, shopping, traveling, spending... the holidays exhaust our human resources.

But I'm worried for my one life-long goal. I've longed for this since I was a kidlette... see this first publication of mine? Wrapping paper and cardboard-bound, a la first grade.

I'm floundering. My novel writing's brushed to the side, suffering without enforced deadlines. Between blogging GwG and Lucy, and my actual job...

My friends, how are you noveling without compromising elsewhere?

Now a hopeful close, for lifers of this dream: There's always one moment in childhood when the door opens and lets the future in ~ Deepak Chopra.

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16. Trailmix Tuesday

Hello, everyone! I have fun morsels for us today...

Warmest thanks to YA novelist Deborah Kerbel for interviewing and frolicking in the comments! We wish her sweeping luck with Mackenzie, Lost and Found.

And a holly-jolly congratulations to our friend, Persistent Pen, winner of a signed copy of Deborah's break-away debut! Pop over to this inviting blog, and say hello!

Ever heard of
Bookswim? It's like Netflix for books. Online book rentals. No driving. No stress. Bookswim's cushy stock of new releases means avoiding your local library's wait list for your gotta-read-it-nows! (I mention this after suffering a three-week wait for one of David Baldacci's recent releases ~ I love spy novels. And can't afford first-run hardbacks. Which remains irksome. Consider this my plug and beg for first-run paperbacks, please!).

Click here for an interview with Annette Gordon-Reed, National Book Award winner for her sprawling historical novel, The Hemingses of Monticello. She touches on everything from fellow Harvard-grad Barack Obama to appreciating the dichotomy of Thomas Jefferson being both a slave owner and supporter of equality for all mankind. Which makes me love any character. Always, warts and all.

Finally, please enjoy my interview with shooting-star novelist Michael Kimball.

Just ask Stephen King. He loves him. The King short-listed one of his stories for Best American Short Stories, as did Dave Eggers for Best American Nonrequired Reading. Michael's third novel, Dear Everybody, is attracting wild praise...

Click here for my interview and photos, in Lucy magazine!

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17. Deborah's Destiny (and Cyber Book Party!)

Welcome, friends! We are celebrating the lovely and vivacious Deborah Kerbel, whose debut novel drops tomorrow... Welcome to her official cyber book party!

Fate graced this new author... Middle-grade author Hélène Boudreau calls Mackenzie, Lost and Found a "wonderful tale with believable characters and an imaginative premise. Utterly enjoyable.” And Deborah's just won a grant from the Ontario government for Sticks and Stones, her current work in progress.

Deborah's responding to comments today, so ask away! And b
est of all, those who leave comments will be entered to win a signed copy of Mackenzie, Lost and Found.

GwG: From story inspiration to print, tell us about your trudge to publication.
Deborah: Phew, what a question! It’s been a bit of a roller-coaster ride. I was first inspired to write this book in May 2005. I met a friend for lunch and mentioned that I was looking for ideas for a new book. She said, “why don’t you expand on what happened to me when I was a teenager? When I was 15, my parents picked up our lives and moved us to Israel.” The idea struck me as one with infinite possibilities. Archaeology, terrorism, interfaith romance.

Because of my ‘mom-duties’, the first draft of the book wasn’t completed until January of 2007. My then-agent submitted it to a few places and then gave up on the book, telling me that “there didn’t seem to be much interest out there”.

That was pretty heartbreaking! But I joined an online literary critique forum and revised the manuscript, and I severed ties with my agent. January 2008, I submitted it to Barry Jowett at Dundurn Press and twelve days later it was accepted for publication. I signed with my new agent just in time for her to negotiate the contract. Persistence pays off!

GwG: How did you research life in Israel?
Deborah: My friend (who had inspired the story) was more than generous with her memories of Israeli life. With the help of her old photo albums and detailed descriptions, I was able to conjure up the setting without ever visiting the country. When I finally got an opportunity to visit Israel in May 2007, my descriptions were so accurate that I barely changed a word of the manuscript!

GwG: How did you hear about the contract?
Deborah: I was sitting right in the same spot I’m in now, in my home office. The email from my editor arrived first thing in the morning. Although I cheered, I didn’t allow myself to really celebrate until the contract was signed, several months later. My husband and I indulged in one or two bottles of very nice champagne.

GwG: Tell us about your launch party.
Deborah: My launch party was a blast, with family, friends, my agent, editor, and a couple of people from Dundurn. It was held at a local country club, where my husband and I were married. We served wine and hors d’oeuvres, and I signed books all evening! I felt like a mini-celebrity. I have the best job in the world! How many people get that kind of a celebration just for plugging away on their computers?

GwG: Do you outline beforehand?
Deborah: I do like to outline – it’s my nature to know where I’m headed before I walk out the door. However, my outlines can never be too detailed or too rigid. The best part of writing has got to be the unexpected twists and turns the story and characters make along the way. That certainly happened with this book – a forbidden romance, new friendships, archaeological drama, and, yes, a chase scene. That’s truly the magic of writing!

GwG: Your revision process?
Deborah: Tear-your-hair out tedious, but necessary. Although I’m definitely not a patient person, I’ve come to understand the importance of walking away from a story for a while. There’s nothing more valuable than a pair of fresh eyes – especially your own.

GwG: Agent or fly solo?
Deborah: Yes, I have ‘literary representation’. Actually, I switched agents during the process of revising this book. It was scary, but a necessary step for me at the time. They handle all the nitty-gritty details for you like establishing contacts, querying, negotiating contracts, sending out manuscripts, and follow-up. The percentage I pay to my agent is totally worth it, in exchange for the opportunity to spend my time and energy on writing.

GwG: What are you working on now?
Deborah: I’ve got another novel ‘in the can’, which my publisher is reviewing. ‘Sticks and Stones’ is also YA and explores darker themes like bullying, neglect, and a critically ill parent. I’m also halfway finished with another YA, set in Greece and Canada that explores the superstition of the Evil Eye.

GwG: Best and most regretted writing-related decisions so far?
Deborah: My best writing decision – joining a critique group. Not only has this group helped me hone my writing skills by learning how to look at a story with a critical eye, it’s allowed me to commiserate with other writers, form some great friendships and make some invaluable contacts.

My worst decision – years ago when I was a brand new writer, I turned down a 4 book deal with a well-known Canadian publishing house because they wanted me to make some changes. I mulishly refused. Still kicking myself for that one! The books have since been offered publication deals in Europe, but never another English-language contract.

We're certainly lucky to learn from Deborah's persistent and fateful experience. Be sure to leave Deborah a comment, and chat her up on Facebook, too!

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18. Binge Reading

My Thanksgiving trip's over, and I'm obsessed. I started Twilight on the plane to Arizona. Had to buy New Moon while there. Ran to the bookstore last night for Eclipse.

Well done, Stephenie Meyer! I'm yours. Up 'til three for the last four nights...

It's not that the writing's magical. Or that Bella inspires. But the books won't be put down. I must know what's next.

I'm hooked. And though opinions abound, that's a serious measure of an author's success... from my limited, middle-seat viewpoint on the plane, I watched two women read Twilight.

I only hope readers of my-future-book will be brows-wrinkled in bed at two am with no thought of stopping. I elbowed my husband awake because his snoring disrupted my envisioning. I'm not proud. I'm just saying... well done!

What's the last read to shred your sleep?

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19. The Summer Sky's the Limit

So pleased to present author Jessica Anya Blau. I visited with Jessica during her book reading at Georgetown's Barnes & Noble this week. She's beautiful, vivacious, and a heckofa writer. Her debut YA novel, The Summer of Naked Swim Parties, blazed across the literary landscape. The Today Show named it a Top Ten Summer Book, and Cosmo a Sexy Beach Read. With ridiculous reason.

Friends, you've gotta read this. It's lyrical. It sings. And it's true enough to make you blush. It plays like a juicy movie in your head. Convinced yet? Hope so. Preview the trailor, too.

It was a wonderful event. Her husband was in tow. And her friend, critique buddy and fellow author,
Michael Kimball, who I'll be interviewing for Lucy. She answered questions, chatted afterwards, and emailed me like a longtime friend. So fun.

Jessica nests in Baltimore, Maryland, with her beloved dog, Pippa, and her beloved husband. Who drove hours through DC rush hour to support his sweetie. She spends her time revising her next novel, and teaching for the same MFA program that she graduated from, at John's Hopkins University.

Be sure to peek at Jessica's
website, and her Harper Collin's author page. Or friend her on Facebook and MySpace...

GwG: What was the inspiration for SNSP?
Jessica: The inspiration for the book came when I was at the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference in Vermont. I was asked to "go write one great sentence." I remembered when I was a kid at a naked swim party in the mid-seventies. One of my parents' friends was jumping naked on a diving board. I wrote something like, "Leon is naked on the diving board. He jumps up and down, up and down. His penis and balls fly in the air in unison like a long bird attached to its eggs." I thought my childhood might make an interesting novel. While at Bread Loaf, an editor said that no one publishes story collections for a first book, and that I needed to write a novel. I told her I had a novel (an idea for an novel, really). When she asked what the name was, I made it up right then. Then I had to actually follow through.

GwG: And your trudge to publication?
Jessica: I met one of the heads of Brandt & Hochman Literary Agency while I was at Sewanee. When the novel was ready, I sent it to her. I don't think she ever read it, but she did give it to Joanne Brownstein at Brandt and Hochman. Joanne sold it to HarperCollins.

GwG: Where were you when you heard about the contract?
Jessica: I was in "The Library," where the piano is, the bookshelves, and the computer that I was working on at the time. I was pacing the library, stunned. My husband, David, was up on the third floor where he has a film editing studio. He was working on a film at the time and the producer was with him, so I didn't want to bust in screaming. I paged him and he came downstairs, really thrilled. I also called my mother in Santa Barbara. My daughter Maddie was out there, too. I choked up when I told them, and I cried when I got off the phone. I'd been writing for years. I had about twenty-five short stories published, I'd finished graduate school in 1995 (The Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins) and had worked hard at it for years. So, it's not like I woke up one day and published a book.

GwG: How does your agent shape your writing life?
Jessica: I love my agent. I just sent her a draft of my new novel. She read it in three hours and called me immediately. There is no one else in my life who would get on my work so quickly and make it their priority. And I can't blame them. People are busy. Joanne, my agent, is interested in every update. She's also a great reader with a great eye. She knew exactly what the novel needed.

GwG: Author Stephen Dixon says you "get into the head of a young person like almost nobody since J.D. Salinger." Mercy! How'd you nail the voice?
Jessica: The voice was easy for me. When I'm writing I become the character. So the voice is just there, inside me. I can "feel" the character and don't really have to search for it. It's like acting: becoming the character instead of imitating the character.

GwG: What are you writing now?
Jessica: The novel I'm working on now is called Home for the Heart Attack. It starts when the mother of a family has a heart attack. Everyone comes home to her, and the novel goes back in time and covers the story of the family up until the heart attack. Also, the protagonist's husband just left her. So, maybe it's a story about love and loss. Does that sound too cliche?! I hope it's not cliche! It's a wacky family. There's drug addiction, affairs, even guns!

GwG: Tips for aspiring authors?
Jessica: Do it. Just write. Tune out the critics, naysayers and even yourself. Just do it and ignore everything else.

Thanks, Jessica, for visiting with GwG! And we hope you'll visit again when Home for the Heart Attack attacks at last!

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20. Ugh.

O my, I feel old. My back is on strike, and I'm typing this with my left hand! Please don't forget about me... I will be back, and relishing and commenting on your blogs, just as soon as I can!

I already miss our fun. Until then, my friends!

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21. Catch-Up Tidbits

Hello, everyone! I'm blogging again. Thankfully. And I'm so appreciative of your well wishes. After a week of appointments, I can report that my neck went on strike and, thanks to a nerve path, took my whole right side with it. Still can't type well with my right hand, but I'm too neurotic to rest more. I miss our merry band of bloggers!

Now a few tidbits for your enjoyment.

NaNo-ers, you are mid-way to the finish line. Treading murky waters. Do not despair! Rather, click here to read author Becky Levine's thoughtful post on navigating your way.

Economic skeptics, take heart! We may be teetering on the brink of a national depression, but noble Winnie the Pooh inspires in spite of.

A recent sale of the original pencil sketch "Tiggers Don't Like Honey," drawn by E. H. Shepard, who illustrated A. A. Milne's namesake books, fetched $50,100 at a Bonhams auction in London. Happily, the value of Pooh remains tried and true!

And hats off to two YA-ish authors who are enjoying wild success.

HBO's flamboyant new series, True Blood, is green-lit for a second season. Seen it? So good. And even better for author Charlaine Harris, who penned the best-selling series of Southern vampire novels from which the show was adapted.

And unless you've been trapped under a heavy object, you've surely heard about the riotous success of Stephenie Meyer's film-adapted novel, Twilight, which opens November 21. The novel sold an amazing 17 million copies, and appearances by cast members are mobbing malls across the country. And Wired magazine calls Twilight "the next Harry Potter-style goldmine." Glorious praise for any author!

Always love to see authors storming the pop culture landscape!

Will you chance Twilight's silver screen adaptaion, or are you a read-only loyalist? My curiosity always gets me. I relish comparing... but can't name any movie that trumps its paper counterpart.

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22. Reading Feeds...

In 2008, over 200 publishers submitted 1,258 books for the 2008 National Book Awards, which were finally announced this week. 274 were for Young People's lit. In fact, submissions for our genre kicked poetry and fiction's butt. Very satisfying. Very hopeful. Seems YA is still on a tear!

Young People's Literature Finalists & Winner

Young People’s Judges: Daniel Handler (chair), Holly Black, Angela Johnson, Carolyn Mackler, Cynthia Voigt ~ who I worship. Remember the Tillerman family series? Homecoming and the Newbery-winning Dicey's Song? So good...

My "wanna read list" is growing exponentially, and I've lollygagged in Scene & Structure. It's become my "bibnual"~ a bible / manual. But my Thanksgiving trip to Arizona will remedy. Next up? Twilight. And no seeing the movie 'til I finish.

Finally, as the guilt-cherry on top... Stephen King warns if you don't have time to read, you can never expect to be a good writer. Ya hear that, self? He snatches every snippet of spare time to read, from the toilet to the grocery line. Admirable, no?

What's your next read? And did the NBA's change your lineup?

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23. Serendipitous Susan Shreve

Local (yaye DC!) author Susan Shreve has published 26 children's books and thirteen novels, including non-fiction and poetry. I caught up with Susan at the Writer's Center, where she chatted about her career and read from her heart-warming novel, Warm Springs.

Her husband, Timothy Seldes, also attended. Who's also her agent. Who reps Annie Dillard, too. Fabulous.

Tim's a publishing giant, serving for 17 years as a Managing Editor at
Doubleday and now as President of Russell & Volkening, Inc.

Susan and Tim fielded questions from the floor, finished each other's sentences, and offered hard-won literary wisdom.

The gems of our afternoon follow... enjoy.

*Susan and Tim's first meet was quite serendipitous. Seems Susan submitted her third novel ms through the slushpile, without a return address. Though she never heard back, nearly two years later she overheard someone talking about her ms at a party! (repeat after me, 'if it can happen to Susan...') Of course, Susan jumped in. Introduced herself. Stated her need of an agent. Boom. She was introduced to Tim. A modern-day fairy tale, no?

*Susan's a childhood polio survivor. This inspired Warm Springs, her tribute to fellow sufferers.

*Susan's difficulty in writing truthfully? "Facing the fear about what's inside herself." "Telling the truth," Susan noted, "is not always fun".

*Susan says authors need to be moved by their books. If not, take a break and return to edit some heart back into the ms. Why? Because your future agent and editor needs to fall in love with your book! She actually scrapped the first 150 pages of her latest novel, just to get it right. (And Susan knows. Her chitlit editor Arthur A. Levine also edits J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series.)

*Tim cautioned against neglecting the story arc (click here for a wonderful explanation by author Anastasia Suen), stating that we "read for order." Writers should sprinkle real events into the arc, but never at the expense of losing it.

*Tim cited brevity as his most desired query quality. Page 1 counts most, and do include publishing credits if you have them.

*On the role of an agent: Tim notices agents becoming more involved in editing and marketing, but he prefers for the editor or publisher to request changes as they have the final say. Tim's picked up an unsolicited ms only once in 8 or 9 years. Ouch.

*They urge authors to write well. And take it upon yourself to sell them. No one knows and loves your book like you do.

So, been to any lectures lately? Any rowdy readings? And, thanks so much to my blogger friend Kyle Semmel of the Writer's Center, for sharing his photos!

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24. Twilight Nation

O my. Stephenie Meyer started a mania. Throngs-of-screaming fans-choking-malls-nationwide kind of mania.

I'm behind on reading, I admit. And due to peer pressure, I reneged my own order of things... I saw the movie before reading the book. But all friends were set on that movie last Saturday night.

My thoughts? The two teenaged leads annoyed. Bella more so than Edward. Please see below for my definition of "Bella."

Main Entry: Bella
Function: noun
Etymology: From Late Latin insipidus
1 : lacking in qualities that stimulate or challenge: DULL, FLAT

Bella aside, it's a super story. A racing tale, hinged on the timeless "we can't have each other." Great imagination. Vampires as you've never seen them. And I know. I did my thesis on them... Meyer's vampires are without fangs, have snake-like venomous bites, and the ability to day walk. Interesting, no?

Also. 1) The scene panned by every critic is my favorite. Turbo-vampire-baseball. Charming and ridiculous; and 2) Meyer doesn't get ample credit. The actors, director and screenwriter, even, are praised in mainstream reviews, while Meyer is given a paltry phrase. Absolutely incensing.

As for the future fate of Meyer's Twilight series? Summit Entertainment announced Meyer's second book, New Moon, would likewise be movie-fied.

Meyer recently stated, "I don't think any other author has had a more positive experience with the makers of her movie adaptation than I had." I'm calmed. If she's happy...

I'm reading Twilight over Thanksgiving, and will report back once finished. My guess? The book will be far more subtle and magical. The characters rich, the details divine.

Have you seen it? Have you read it? What are your plans and where do you stand in this craze?

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25. I am Thankful

Happy Turkey Day, everyone! I'm in the alien-beautiful Arizona mountains, just outside Scottsdale. Desert Mountain. Somewhere close by in neighboring Phoenix, author Stephenie Meyer is prepping her own stuffing and pie. My Mom said I should call her this morning, over breakfast. She was serious. I just kinda cocked my head, with a forkful of pancake halted halfway to my mouth. If only, Mom!

I am thankful for...

* My health and (relative) peace of mind.
* My patient and cranky husband, and my loyal parents.
* The unconditional love of my friends. Not just go-to-the-movie accomplices, but family-like, life-saving partners.
* The ability to pray without anyone knowing.
* Pancakes, pizza and Italian sausage.
* My love of writing, and all the ways I get to.
* My and my husband's jobs. That our little family unit is surviving these rocky times. And bonus, all I do at work is write.
* Our squirmy, wrinkly new starter-baby... Introducing Ruby, named after my favorite children's book, Ruby the Christmas Donkey.

What are you thankful for?

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