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One YA writer's journey through the publishing process; also includes children's writing news, events, competitions for the Carolina region.
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1.



It's True. Writermorphosis is still here for you!


With Great Tips on Craft 
from Well-Published Authors!




Though Writermorphosis is
 going on Haitus for 6 months
with no new interviews or posts
 from 
January-July 2014 
(so I, Janelle, can get work done on my own books)

I still hope you'll come by to...

Find the Great Tips On Craft from 
Best-Selling YA/Children's Authors 
Linked on the Right Side of this blog.  


 

 

They're here to help YOU!

 ...With Tips and Examples from their own writing!





    
So if you're looking for help on:

Plot
Character
Setting
Voice 
Action Scenes
Picture Books
Historical Novels
Research

or any number of other hot writing topics, you will still find tips from today's Best Selling Children's and YA Authors here to help you -- even over the next 6 months.

PLEASE FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER (JanelleYALit) to keep tabs on when the blog posts will begin again in 2014 and to hear any special Writermorphosis announcements! 

  For those who aren't yet in the loop, yet, find out why we're going on Haitus -- Here : )  




From January 1st - July 2014  we'll be taking "a break from interviews and posts."  

 But all past interviews are linked on the right by Category!





And below are a couple of great RECENT AUTHOR TIPS INTERVIEWS you may have missed!  

Until July 2014 
- Happy Writing, Revising, Submitting, and Publishing!

See you again soon!  - Janelle


 Click the link below each photo to go to the Interview







                                YA Author Kathleen Duey on WORLD-BUILDING/SETTING

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2. YA Author Megan Miranda talks "VOICE" in Novels


YA Author Megan Miranda 's first 3 books have excited the publishing world and teen readers alike.

Her books Fracture and Hysteria are being published in multiple countries and gobbled up by readers around the world.  Teen and Adult readers are excitedly awaiting Vengence, the sequel to Fracture, which they've pre-ordered on Amazon and which will arrive in their mailboxes in February 2014!  And what is it that keeps these readers and the publishing industry so interested? In addition to the plot -- I think it might be her main characters' VOICE.




VOICE is such a tricky concept for many of us.  

Luckily, Megan is here in an Expert Author Interview today to share with us her thoughts and tips on how to create strong VOICE in our novels.

Welcome Megan!!

Let's jump right in!


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Question 1.)  Megan, in reading Fracture (read it here) one thing that really struck me was how consistent and strong the "voice" of your main character – the teen narrator Delaney -- is throughout the book.  "Voice" is a rather scary concept for many new writers because we hear from editors that that's what they're looking for and many authors don’t feel like we know what “voice” really means, or how to make our characters and our books have a non-generic “voice.”



In your opinion what is “voice” and can you suggest some techniques that writers can use to keep the “voice” consistent throughout their books?



First of all, thank you! I know there are plenty of definitions out there of what “voice” is—ranging from style to tone to the way the narrator speaks—and I think it’s a combination of all those things. It’s you. It’s distinct. It’s the feel of the story—the sentence structure and dialogue and word choice. The way you choose to tell the story. It all goes together. But, if you write first person, there’s the added layer of the way the narrator “speaks” to the reader. It’s the way they think, and how they phrase those thoughts. It’s a product of what type of person they are, how they see the world, and how they see themselves.



So the key to “voice” for me is knowing my character/narrator inside and out, and filtering everything—the story, every description, all conversations (spoken or overheard)—through their state of mind.



One thing I sometimes do to make sure I’m keeping a distinct voice is to try writing a scene from several different characters’ perspectives. Each should sound different. Each character should see different things, and interpret and convey the scene in a distinct way, based on who they are. If the scene sounds the same from a different character, I know I don’t have their voice down yet.



That’s a great answer, Megan! I think you chiseled the definition of voice down to a much more understandable concept for us.  I love that exercise of writing the same scene from several different characters’ perspectives to make sure we really know how they think and speak and see the world.




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Here’s another question:

Question 2.) In Fracture the first book in your series by the same name, you do a great job of keeping the voice of your main character, Delaney, consistent and unique to her throughout the book.  What are some things that you intentionally did in your writing of Delaney and the book to make sure that she sounded like a unique individual throughout the story, and not a cardboard cut-out?

Thank you! Like I mentioned above, I had to get to know the character before I could tell her story effectively. I think if you have a strong handle on the character, the voice stays consistent. Which is also why I don’t always nail it in the first draft J It’s not until I know the character that I can give the plot over to them and let them tell the story. 

In Fracture, I tried to tap into the emotions she felt in the opening chapters during the near-death experience that changed her significantly, and in that way, I felt like I could understand her. I also tried to remember who she was in terms of the people around her. Her place in her family, and in her circle of friends, and to remember there’s 17 years of history that’s happened off the page, between the lines. She’s a particular person. She has a particular world-view, particular fears and hopes and desires. I consciously remind myself as I write: who is this person telling the story?

I reminded myself that my reactions might not be the same as Delaney’s reactions, and her thoughts can and should differ from my own.

Delaney is a girl who almost died, who is drawn to death, and who is, I think, very uncomfortable with the concept of death. She’s never made any sort of peace with it. And so she sees it everywhere, at first.

She knows there’s something not right. And her world is filtered through this understanding. When she’s sent home—before she thinks she’s ready—she sees icicles hanging from her roof and thinks the house looks like it’s ready to consume her. The details of her room, which were once a comfort, all feel a little off. Everything is unsettling to her, at first.

She also senses that people are losing their trust in her, and slowly, I think, she loses trust in herself. I tried to hold on to these emotions while writing from her perspective. The feelings, along with knowing who she is in her world, and all her history that doesn’t make it onto the page, is something that ties me to her, that makes me able to see her as a unique person, with a unique voice, and tell the story through her.


Thanks Megan.  It's obvious that you know Delaney well and that that has made her (and her VOICE) come to life on your pages!  Note to self: Know your characters. Know your characters. Know your characters! 





(Remember, readers, if the font appears small on this blog-page, press "ctrl" and the "plus sign" together to make it the size you want :))!

 Ok, here's one final question, Megan:

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Question 3.) Though we know that the holidays are upon us and our schedules are filling up with parties, family gatherings, and time spent giving our time and gifts to others, I suspect you are still also spending a lot of time writing. How do you find time to write during the busy holiday season, and what project that you are working on now are you most excited about – and why?



Ha, well, I try to deal with the things I need to do each day, and take it one day at a time. Some days are more successful than others. I prioritize. I make time to write by keeping off the internet, and I become embarrassingly horrible at both laundry and email. Some days, honestly, the writing doesn’t come first—especially this time of year. We have school parties and conferences and Holiday Stuff. But I keep “writing” high up on the priority list. I set working hours, and I stick to them as much as possible. 


I still try to write every weekday, but I don’t always write for as much time as I usually do. But I find that as long as I open the document and actively write something, I stay connected to the story.



As for what I’m writing, I recently turned in a draft to my 2015 book, currently called Afterlife(about a reality in which we can screen our souls, much like a DNA fingerprint, and know who our souls had once belonged to—and a girl, kept on an island for her own protection, who chooses to escape). I’m also working on something new (new in the way that I’m scared to jinx it by talking too much about it). I’m very excited about both, though they’re at completely different stages right now.



Thanks so much for having me!

Thanks for being here and sharing your tips, Megan!  

It sounds like you've been very busy, and we're excited to read those new books when they come out! You have me hooked with "a girl kept on an island for her own protection, who chooses to escape!"  What a great premise!

Thanks too for the tip about not spending too much time on email and the internet -- constant sources of distraction for many of us!

This has been a wonderful interview, with great, implementable tips on VOICE to help us end 2013 with a bang!  Now it's off to finish our novels, friends!

 
Thanks Megan for a great interview!  And to the readers, I leave you with this great blurb from Amazon about Megan's book Vengence (sequel to Fracture) coming out in February 2014!

Vengence:
Nobody really believes in a curse. Until you know the people who disappear. Too much coincidence, you look for reason. Too much death, you grasp for something to blame. Carson pulled Delaney out and he died on the side of the road with her mouth pressed to his. Her air in his body. Troy. She told the cops it was suicide. Didn't matter. The lake released her and grabbed another. But when Decker's father dies in a pool of spilled water on their kitchen floor, all Decker can feel is a slow burning rage. Because he knows that Delaney knew that his dad was going to die. She knew and backed out of his house and never said a word. Falcon Lake still has a hold on them both, and Decker can't forgive Delaney until he knows why.

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3. An Important Update from Writermorphosis!

Dear Writermorphosis Readers,

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

First of all, thank you to the readers from Moldova and Bahrain, two new countries reading Writermorphosis as of this week. WELCOME!




This week you joined readers from the U.S., Canada, Russia, China, The U.K, and Germany in reading this blog.  So thanks to all those of you who show up here each Saturday to check out the weekly post.  I see you there in the stats, and I'm so glad to have you coming by!

HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO ALL!

Today Writermorphosis has news:

After more than 2 years of

1.)  Fabulous YA and children's authors sharing their tips on the craft with us here on the blog via   the "Each One Teach One" interviews

2.) Updates on Contests & Opportunities for Writers and Illustrators

         &

3.)   Info on which agents and Publishers might be seeking your type of book...

Writermorphosis is going on a 6 month Haitus.



1.) It's not because I don't love you. :) 

2.) It's not because there aren't more well-published, fabulous children's and YA authors still willing to give their wonderful tips on this blog. (Thanks guys!) 

3.) It's simply because I (Janelle) need time to finish up some work on my own books, and with posts and interviews it's hard to keep up.
So, beginning January 1st we'll be taking "a break from interviews and posts" until July 2014. 

BUT don't worry!  The final post which will go up the first week in January (2014), will show you how to easily find the great author tips shared here over the past two years -- they're linked by category. So if you're looking for help on Plot, Character, Setting, Voice, Picture Books, Historical Novels, Research, or any number of other hot writing topics, you will still find tips from Best Selling Children's and YA authors here to help you -- even over the next 6 months.

PLEASE FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER (JanelleYALit) to keep tabs on when the blog posts will begin again in 2014 and to hear any special Writermorphosis announcements!

BUT WAIT! 
Don't take a break from your weekly Saturday visits here just yet!  Our final interview of this season will send us off with a BANG tomorrow!

We'll have a great interview with tips on VOICE from fabulous YA paranormal author, the great Megan Miranda (author of Fracture)!

Don't miss it!

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4. Holiday Story Writing Contest at "Midlife Collage"

Feeling inspired to write a short story this holiday season?

Wanting to get published online and make a little extra winter cash?

This is a Writing Contest Alert!

Consider submitting your story to the

Midlife Collage Weekly contest!  (click here)

They're seeking Holiday Themed Stories --- CHRISTMAS STORIES ....NEW YEARS STORIES...

This is a weekly contest year round and each week the winning writer wins $50.00

So if you're 40 y.o. or older put your elf caps on and enter your holiday stories in the MIDLIFE COLLAGE contest this month!

May the best elf win!



Need Tips on How to Write that Short Story?


Here Fiction Author John Dufresne gives tips in just 2 1/2 minutes!
Thanks John!

HAPPY HOLIDAY WRITING TO ALL!

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5. A Book Project with IMPACT for Teens during this Holiday Season 2013!

If teens you know are looking for a great, easy yet important project to help others this Christmas Season, here's one that can put desperately needed kids' books into the hands of needy children around the world!

 Thanks to Room to Read for the use of this photos to share their story on Writermorphosis this Christmas!


ROOM TO READ is a non-profit organization that builds libraries in needy communities around the world and publishes children's books in languages and countries where there aren't many children's books!  

(When I went to Haiti this past year I didn't find any children's books.  There were no book stores with Story books in the area of the country where we were -- a couple of 3rd grade textbooks were all I found.  Room to Read creates and publishes books and supplies libraries around the world in areas like this! - Janelle from Writermorphosis)

THIS HOLIDAY SEASON Encourage teens you know to  
check out the ROOM TO READ Holiday giving page.

They and their friends or families can give books to children around the world this Christmas with just a small cookie-baking fundraiser, 


or by not drinking their normal Starbucks coffee for 1 week straight


or by choosing to donate some of the money their families would have spent on them

 -- to help children in Africa or Asia in need of books and an education. 
Education eradicates poverty.  Books and Education can change the world!

So encourage teens and pre-teens you know to change the world this Christmas!

Give a Book.

Give a Library!



And stay tuned to Writermorphosis for another great Author-Tips Interview coming up between now and Christmas!  Who is it? That's a secret!  You'll have to wait and see! :)




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6. BOOKS WITH IMPACT for Holiday Season 2013!

If you're planning to give books to children or teens this Holiday Season there are a few new releases and new options this year that will allow you to give a great book to a child or teen while also letting that book be a jump start for Holiday activities that involve socially conscious giving or sharing of their skills with others in fun holiday ways this Season:

If you happen to also be a teacher and you plan to read Holiday-related books to the kids in your classes, you can use these world-changing options below as well.


Here's week 1 of this year's 2-week Writermorphosis list of 

BOOKS WITH IMPACT
for HOLIDAY SEASON 2013

Group 1:
 These are Books that can be used by Families or Educators to get elementary school children, early middle graders, and even teens involved in helping others this Christmas. Combine the book with a related activity and you've got a gift that keeps on giving:



  1.  Wangari's Trees of peace shares the world-changing story of Wangari Maathai.
As a young girl growing up in Kenya, Wangari was surrounded by trees. But years later when she returns home, she is shocked to see whole forests being cut down, and she knows that soon all the trees will be destroyed. So Wangari decides to do something—and starts by planting nine seedlings in her own backyard. And as they grow, so do her plans. . . .
         This true story of Wangari Maathai, environmentalist and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, is a shining example of how one woman’s passion, vision, and determination inspired great change and is a wonderful story of women and children taking the lead in solving a problem in their country.

For Elementary and Middle Schoolers: 
Pair this book with a hands-on activity about how trees help the environment and plant seedlings with your kids that they can care for all Winter, then plant outside in the Spring.  Stick this book in a box with a gardening shovel, a pair of gardner's gloves, a tree seeds or a few small saplings.  You can even grow your own Christmas tree, or decorate a potted Christmas tree this year and then plant it back outside

For Teens: Though this book is a picture book it opens the door to exciting projects involving environmental and political awareness, and grass-roots community organizing, and can be the beginning of a project of service that teens and their friends or family decide to take on this Christmas.  Wangari's nation needed trees.  What kind of an impact do you want to have this year in your own town?  What is the need there?  Teens love the opportunity to go out and be elves 
and make a difference.




2.)  Another great "Make a Difference this Holiday Season" book is The Mitten Tree, in which an old woman in the town knits mittens for others in need and places them on a Christmas tree.  In the end others begin to help her by secretly donating yarn to her as a way to keep the project going.

For Elementary and Middle Schoolers/even Teens: 

Combine this book with a book or lessons on knitting, go out together and buy the colors of yarn and needles that the kids like best, and spend time with your child or pre-teen knitting scarves for local homeless families.  There are kids and families staying down at the homeless shelter this season.  

Crafty Teens: can learn to knit scarves or hats this winter season.  It's a great opportunity to spend quality time chatting while knitting, with family members and/or peers.



3.) Christmas Feels Like Home is a 2013 New Release  
by Author Gretchen Griffith.

Accompanied by warmly, rich illustrations by Carolina Farias this book shares the story of a boy from Latin America who moved to the United States to live with relatives and how he waits and waits and hopes that someday this new town will feel like home.  And finally on Christmas day -- it does.

This is a great book for children of any ethnic background who have moved this year, as well as for children who want to learn more about the lives of recent immigrants, or who are recent immigrants themselves and trying to find reminders of Home while making new friends in a new place.


For Elementary and Middle Schoolers/even Teens: 

For Kids who've moved, this book will resonate and can be paired with the family creating a special new family tradition in a new place.

For non-immigrant children or even teens who live in an area where there are lots of new people or people different from them moving in, this book can be the beginning of a fun new Christmas tradition of welcoming those new families and new kids who've arrived this year with a visit to their front door bearing a plate of home-made cookies that makes them feel more a part of the neighborhood this Christmas.





Is a 2013 New Release by Patricia Polacco
In this book Hanukkah was coming, and Trisha's family was busy getting ready. But many of their Christian neighbors had scarlet fever and wouldn't be having Christmas that year.  In a sweet gesture of service Trisha's family brings Christmas to them, including Christmas trees adn food baskets.  A story of true friendship and giving during the holidays.

 For Elementary and Middle Schoolers

This is another great book to pair with a fun inter-cultural Christmas sharing outing, cookie baking extravaganza for the neighbors, or other intercultural Holiday activities -- wherever you live this holiday season!



As Holiday Shopping, Celebrating, and Giving begins this holiday season may you and the children and teens in your life be surrounded by great books, great projects, great neighbors and friends, and may you find great opportunities to use 
your hearts 
and
 your hands 
to share with those in  need.

- Janelle
 

 

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7. YA Author ALLY CARTER on "Combining Characterization & Action scenes"

 This week is the second and half or our interview with wonderful teen spy & thief novel writer Ally Carter! Thanks Ally for being with us today!

(If you missed last week's interview with this NY Times YA Best-seller, it's definitely worth sneaking back to last Saturday's interview to read it!)
 
 


Let's jump right back in with today's interview!

(First, here is a sample snippet from Ally's Gallagher Girls’ book # 4: Only the Good Spy Young

This section of text relates to our first question for Ally today. Spoiler: For those who haven't yet read this great book, teen Main Character Cammie is narrating the passage. Zach is another teen main character from a spy school):

"Zach was so focused on Mr. Solomon, so anxious to come to our teacher’s aid, that he didn’t see when one of the men on the ground pulled out a gun and took aim at Zach’s back.
    “No!” someone screamed, and only when the man stopped did I realize that it hadn’t been me. There was only one person in that cave with the power to save Zach – one person with the power to stop those dominoes from falling, and she was the person who turned from me and started toward her son.
    I watched Zach’s mother slam into the gunman – heard the weapon clatter across the floor.  Even without turning, I knew that no one was behind me then – that there was absolutely nothing between me and one of the tunnels that spiraled off the main floor. And yet I couldn’t move.
    Everything seemed to freeze for that one second, as Zach picked up the gun and yelled, “Now! Run!”
    But I couldn’t leave him, couldn’t run, couldn’t do anything but shout “No!” as Zach took aim at the metal box marked Warning: explosives, and mouthed the word, “Good-bye.”

Wow...

1.) Ally, one thing I’ve noticed about your books is that you do a great job of balancing the character development we talked about last week, (AKA friendships, family relationships, school stuff, and teen love interests) with the life or death spy and thief action scenes that keep us all up reading late into the night. You keep both our hearts and our minds engaged!

Maintaining this equal balance between character development and action scenes is extremely difficult for many authors. What tips can you give for those of us who want to learn how to write scenes, chapters, and books that are strong in both action and character growth?  How do we maintain that important balance -- so that it's not all character and it's not all action?
 
Ally:
Thank you! Many books ago I was working at my desk and I had this little white board propped right next to me. I was making a timeline of the novel with your usual straight line going across and the events of the book going up at an angle right over the line—you know, like we all used to make in junior high history class.
 
But for some reason I started writing below the line too—filling in where the character was emotionally at each step of the book. I found that REALLY helpful. I started calling this “below the line” conflict, and now it is a huge part of the way I write and think about my characters/books.  Every scene needs to take place either “above or below the line”. And the great scenes take place in both.

 
 
 2.) One final question.  Your Gallagher Girls Series about teen spies in training, and your Heist Society Novels about a group of brilliantly ethical teen thieves, are all best-sellers in the YA world.  With those two series’ you recently did what many other authors have probably wanted to try sometime but have rarely done – you wrote a story that combined characters from both series’ and made them begrudgingly work together to solve a crime!

Double Crossed is brilliant! (Read it here for free, readers!) It shows that strong characters can be moved into a new type of environment and yet we as readers still totally believe that they are still the same “people” who they were in the other books. These characters are real – they live outside of the pages.  Can you tell us what made you decide to write Double Crossed and whether you have thoughts of writing any more stories that combine both sets of characters? What other new books do you have coming out this year?

Double-Crossed was the most fun I’ve had in a long, long time. It came about because I was touring for the fifth Gallagher Girls book, Out of Sight, Out of Time, and at almost every stop someone would ask “will the Gallagher Girls and the crew from Heist Society ever meet”? I got this question so frequently that I eventually realized that there was no reason they couldn’t meet!
 
I knew I didn’t have time to do a full-fledged novel on the subject, but ePublishing has made it so easy to put up short stories that I thought it would be worth exploring. I pitched the idea to my publisher, Disney-Hyperion, and fortunately they were 100% behind the idea. My good friend, Jennifer Lynn Barnes (whose new book THE NATURALS just launched and is fantastic) made the comment that she had always just assumed that Macey (from GG) and Hale (from Heist Society) ran in similar circles in their “real lives”, so that was really the launching point for the story. That was the obvious place for the characters and worlds to intersect.
 
I would dearly love to do another crossover novella (or maybe even novel someday) if and when the time is right. 
 
Up next for me is EMBASSY ROW, the first novel in my brand new series that I’m doing with Scholastic. This is actually an idea that I had way back in 2007 but couldn’t write at the time because I had two other series under contract. It is about a girl who witnessed her mother’s murder and yet no one believes what she saw. Things get really complicated when she goes to live with her grandfather, a powerful, ambassador, and realizes her mother’s murderer is not only a very powerful man in his own right, but also has diplomatic immunity. It should be out in spring 2015

 
Embassy Row sounds like it will be another "stay up all night to read it" kind of series Ally! We look forward to checking it out! 

Thanks so much for sharing your clear and logical, very implementable suggestions with us these past two weeks!  We love them! Once we implement these suggestions our own stories will surely be stronger as a result!

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8. YA Author ALLY CARTER talks "Building Strong Characters & Action scenes"

Ally Carter is the NY Times Best-Selling Author of two brilliant YA series' -- the Gallagher Girls series and the Heist Society Series, as well as two adult novels, and an action packed novella called Double Crossed. (Click here and scroll down to read Double Crossed for free!)



It would not be an un-truth to say that many of the teen spy books being published today reflect the authors' own experience reading Ally Carter's books and learning from her techniques.  Both the Gallagher Girls Series & the Heist Society Series are full of strong, believable characters and packed with action.
   

Luckily for us, Ally will be here sharing tips on Writermorphosis for the next couple of weeks.   Thanks so much, Ally, for being with us today! We have a lot to learn from you! Let's jump right in with our first question:





Let’s talk about building strong characters and creating strong character interactions in our stories.   I love the scene  in the first two pages of Double Crossed. In this passage (linked below), we meet Macey McHenry, and W.W. Hale the 5th.


By the end of just the first two pages of Double Crossed (read them here) we have learned so much about who other people expect Macey and Hale to be – and who they really are instead.  Many writers have trouble writing characters who are truly individuals with their own voices and their own complicated lives.  How do you do it? Can you give us some specific tips or strategies on how to create and describe such strong characters in our own novels? Thanks!

Ally: 
Thank you! I try first and foremost to think of all characters as people. The more people I meet and get to know in real life, the easier this is, of course. No one is exactly who they appear to be. Everyone has secrets and lies and hopes and fears and traumas. We are all the main characters of our own stories. And I really strive to have every single supporting character be someone who could spin off into their own series quite easily—there is that much to them.
Another nice thing about writing about teenagers is that they—even more than adults—are still figuring out who they are. They have so many doubts and questions about their own personalities! It is a fun thing to play with if you get the chance.

That's really great advice, Ally!  I am sure all of our books will be much stronger if we all start writing each character in the book, no matter how seemingly insignificant, as a character who is strong enough and unique enough, with their own clear voice, to become the main character in another series.  That's wonderful advice!



Here's our second question for today:
You write teen novels about very human yet completely brilliant teen spies and teen thieves-with-a-twist.  Your books are full of bank heists, high-speed chases, secret meetings on trains in Eastern Europe, brilliant disguises, teen girls rapelling expertly out of 80 story high office buildings, teens breaking into highly guarded museums, and even a few near-catastrophes involving helicopters and  submarines!  Are there any tips or strategies you can suggest for those of us wanting to write strong action scenes in our own novels?  Are there specific components that you always try to include?

Ally:
On one hand, I love writing action scenes! On the other…I hate writing action scenes. There is a lot of logistics to them.  Who is where? What hand did he just use and where did that knife fall? So much to keep track of. But they do get the blood flowing, and I know that is part of what readers expect when they pick up one of my books, so I know it is important to deliver. 
For me, what really sets an action scene apart is location. Punches and kicks are always the same. But if you have it happening on a moving train then it feels very different—and has a different set of stakes—than something happening in a bank vault or a church or a submarine. There are new things in the background that you can play with and a much fresher take on what may be, in many ways, a scene most of us have read in dozens of books and seen in hundreds of movies.



Good point! You definitely do have some very powerful "places" in the action scenes in your books, Ally, and I love your suggestion that we use "place" as a way to increase the tension and create more reader interest in our action scenes.  Just off the top it's easy to see how locations like the roof of the school, the hidden basements of both academies, the adventurous locations of Mr. Solomon's class, and the secret tunnels Cammie always seems to find in the Gallagher Girls books, really do set the stage for perilous action!



For anyone who hasn't yet read Ally's books, I definitely recommend picking one up and sitting down somewhere comfy to read it ASAP.  In the both the Gallagher Girls series and the Heist Society novels you'll find many evocative "places" that add to the suspense and complexity of the action scenes.  Of course, the problematic location and situation taking place in Double Crossed (linked above,) is nothing to be trifled with either!

Thanks for this tip, Ally, and for the great examples that your books give us!

Now off we all go to look at our own scenes.  Is the sense of place we're portraying strong enough to increase the drama of our scenes? Is each character -- no matter how small - strong enough and unique enough to stand alone?

Next week we'll be back here again with Ally Carter, learning from examples of great writing in her books and hearing her suggestions on how to balance character development with action in our novels -- something Ally does better than most!

Thanks Ally!

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9. Creating Your 3 ACT STRUCTURE - A video tutorial by Katytastic

Yesterday was the first day of Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) 2013 - Hooray!

So do you need a brief refresher on how to plot?

Whether you're writing your first ever novel via Nano this year, or you're starting your 7th new novel with the plan to send it off soon to your publisher who has already published your first 6 books, you might still find yourself at times a bit lost in your plot.

Most novels are written using the 3 Act Structure. 

So today we have a great video (-- a bit slow to start, but really good once she gets going) from 
Katytastic, who gives a wonderful and concise description of how to outline your book in 9 sections using the 3 act structure.

Katy does a great job of breaking the often complex job of plotting, into very concrete and understandable steps.  (Thanks Katy!)

So, with only 11 minutes of time here's a great, step-by-step refresher on how to create a strong plot for your novel:   



Side-Note.
The awesome author-tips interviews are coming in November!
Check out the October 19th Post on Writermorphosis to know which books to read to be prepared for the guest-speaker authors coming up!

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10. Author Judy Reeves - How to be a Writer who Writes

I stumbled upon this video of Author Judy Reeves speaking on YouTube this week. She talks about making time for writing, about not being afraid to share our stories, and about overcoming other barriers that get in the way of our writing lives.  In this first video segment of three Judy gives great suggestions and encouragement to keep us all moving forward.

Enjoy the Video.


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11. Foreshadowing & Flashbacks -- some BIG THINGS ARE COMING!

I recently heard one writer asking another writer: "Why is your book so unusually linear?  Everything happens in order. Why don't you used flashbacks or foreshadowing?  Your book just goes from one day to the next to the next to the next." Hmmm....

Now moving from one day to the next to the next may not be a bad thing in your book.  But using FLASHBACKS  and FORESHADOWING can often strengthen our plots and increase what we know about our characters as our story is progressing! 

Here is a computer animated conversation between a teacher and a student discussing foreshadowing in the book Hatchet - by Gary Paulson.  Perhaps it will help us think about how to use foreshadowing or flashback more effectively in our own novels.



And here's a little scene that gives some not-so subtle foreshadowing about some of the upcoming amazing authors who will be sharing their writing tips on Writermorphosis over the next few months (we're very excited!):

SCENE:

"Batman, you really might want to consider reading a few of the books on this secret underground bookshelf I've just discovered. I think they will make our future more, uh, enlightening. Based on what I'm seeing here big things are coming our way on Writermorphosis. REALLY BIG things."

"Really?" Batman squinted through his new video-com device as the feed from Robin's camera panned over the books that Robin had discovered in a tunnel off the main sewer line 300 feet below Gotham City. The drip, drip, drip of water from the sewer pipes near Robin's head echoed in the deafening darkness and reminded Batman of Chinese water torture. But the books looked like good ones. A food of the titles caught his attention: Fracture.  Immortal Beloved.  And a very shiny new one called United We Spy... 

"But I don't understand what these novels have to do with our future or Writermophosis, Robin."

Robin grabbed the books off the dripping bookshelf and shoved them into his backpack as the sound of running feet and shouts of "stop him," and "He's found them!" resounded in the corridor to his right.

"You gotta trust me on this one, Batman," he said, shining the flashlight into his face so that Batman could see his excited expression for just one second before he ducked into the dark dripping corridor to his left and disappeared into the night. "Just trust me, man. Some big things are coming! And these are the books that we want!"

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12. The Cybils Awards: Nominate Your Favorite book of 2013 today!

October 15th is the last day to nominate your favorite YA/MG books of 2013 for this year's Cybils Award! 


Has your own book, published in 2013, 
already been nominated by someone?
 
If not, there's still time!
 
 
 If you don't know what the Cybils are about, here's info. straight from the award organizers!

Contest FAQs


What's a Cybil?
The Cybils awards are given each year by literary bloggers for the year's best children's and young adult titles. Nominations open to the public on October 1st. This year's nominations end October 15th!

Can anyone nominate?
Yes, anyone may nominate one book per genre during the public nomination period. We ask authors, publishers and publicists to wait until the public nomination period ends to submit their own books.

The Genre's include:
 



How do I nominate?
We post an online form for public nominations from Oct. 1-15 every year. The form will be live at www.cybils.com at 12:00 a.m. PST on October 1. We’ve tried to make the form mobile-friendly, so you can use your phone to nominate if you prefer. Authors and publishers may use the public form to nominate books other than their own, but should contact [email protected] for information on submitting their own books.

What's great about the Cybils?
The judges are all bloggers.  They blog about the books as they read them - during the judging process! So authors whose books reach the final judging group in their genre usually get their books written about (and thus advertised and given more press and often reviewed) by the judges!  The Cybils get info on your book out to the masses.



So, if you're not sure if the book you love from 2013 has been nominated, go to the Cybils Website and Nominate it Today!

There are only a few days left to Nominate books and then the judging and blogging will begin!

Here's a link to the list of Last Year's Winners:
http://www.cybils.com/2013/02/the-2012-cybils-awards.html 

Here's the link to Nominate Books: http://www.cybils.com/

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13. SCBWI CAROLINAS CONFERENCE REPORT 2013

 In case you missed the
sold out
SCBWI Carolina's Annual Fall Conference
last weekend,
here are a few of the highlights!


Picture book and YA Author Cynthia Liu walked us through how to create the plots of a picture book and a YA novel, and discussed the various plot twists of her own life, as well, in her
keynote address. 
You know that when the speaker starts out by laying down on the floor 
-- the speech is going to be great! Go, Cynthia!

 
YA Author Alan Gratz served as MC for the annual 1st pages and 1st Impressions (illustrations) session on Saturday afternoon. 



 
As usual, everyone learned a lot from "first pages" and "first impressions,"and it was one of the most beloved events of the conference!
 
 
The Carolina's Region of SCBWI turned out again this year to be a very active branch of the writer's and illustrators' organization (SCBWI), with many new attenders coming to learn, and many well-published fabulous authors and illustrators present and participating!
 
Above, YA Author Kate Tiernan reads aloud a great short setting description
penned by YA Author Alan Gratz during the session on "Treating your story's setting as a main character" taught by Agent Stephen Barr of Writer's House.
 



And I was delighted to add to my book collection a signed copy of this wonderful new  Christmas story written by Author Gretchen Griffith!
 
For any Children's/YA authors or illustrators who are not a part of the SCBWI and who want to know more about that organization

-- or to find out where the next children's/YA writing & illustrating conference is near YOU
click here:
 

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14. Encouragement for Writers: from the SCBWI Carolina's Conference 2013

This weekend I'm at the SCBWI Carolina's Conference in Charlotte, NC.  So I'm signing in with just a brief  note of encouragement for all those Children's/YA writers who are still submitting, and waiting, submitting -- getting rejections or perhaps a request for more pages or a full -- but still waiting, still writing, still submitting...still waiting...

This great honest poem about the writing life written by Marge Piercy was shared by Author JJ Johnson yesterday evening as she told her story of submitting, waiting, submitting, and waiting...and finally getting published.

We'll look forward to an author-tips interview with JJ Johnson this fall. Check out her books at the link above.


 
But today without futher adoo...

FOR THE YOUNG WHO WANT TO - By Marge Piercy

May it encourage you.


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15. Story-Boarding for Writers -- with Author Mary Carroll Moore

Having trouble with plotting?  Consider using a story-board as a visual outline of the ups and downs of your book's story and plot.

Here author Mary Carroll Moore explains the technique.  (The video takes about 5 minutes to load.)

Happy Plotting!


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16. Winners Announced - Writermorphosis Summer Comments Contest!



It's Official!  After a summer of commenting, the winners of the Writermorphosis Comments Contest are being announced today!

As per the rules of the contest, each time you wrote a comment on the blog this summer your name was entered into the Comments Contest Jar.  The more comments you made, the more chances you had to win!

After all comments were collected the names of the commenters were mixed together (your name was entered once for every comment you made,) and then they were somewhat "re-shuffled" by our panel of expert Contests Assistants as seen in the brief video below:




After a thorough shuffling of the names, Contest Assistant One-Dot-Black-Nose chose the winning names.




Of course Linda A was our first winner!  Linda you have been a huge supporter of Writermorphosis throughout the summer, commenting on every post! And it has paid off!

CONGRATULATIONS LINDA! 

You win the wonderful book Ron's Big Mission Illustrated by Expert Author/Illustrator Don Tate!



Our second winner is Carol Baldwin! 

CONGRATULATIONS CAROL! Thanks for commenting!

You win a copy of Non-fiction Expert Author Steve Sheinkin's recently released YA book Lincoln's Grave Robbers!



Each book will contain a writing tip from that author on the inside cover!

CONGRATS TO ALL WHO PARTICIPATED!

And THANKS TO the 1400 writers who continue to read this blog every month! 

Stay tuned for more expert Author Interviews coming up this fall!

- Janelle

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17. Kurt Vonnegut on How to Write a Short Story

Today we have some advice from one of the Masters!  If you're thinking of writing a short story, this minute and 1/2 long video is a great starting point!

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18. Final Week to Enter : Win a Book and a Tip by one of our Expert Children's/YA Authors



This is it! It's the LAST week to enter the "Comments Contest" for your chance to win a book by one of our Expert Authors or Illustrators who gave tips on the blog this summer!

Each Book comes with a writing tip from the author inside!

Linda A is the clear front-runner in the Comments Contest at this point -- GO LINDA!

But there will be 2 winners, so your chances are still good!

How to win? 
Place a relevant comment on any posts that were written on this blog from June through the end of August of this year (2013).   Every time you comment your name will be entered into the jar for the drawing. 
2 lucky winners will each win a book by one of our expert authors, 
with a writing tip from that author inside!

Winners' names will be posted the 2nd Saturday in September!

There have been lots of diverse posts this summer -- comment on any of them!  Each one will enter your name in the jar! The more comments, the more chances to win.

So, to help you, here are links to some of the posts you may have missed this summer:












9.) Live Streaming of Book Expo America Publishing Industry Presentations

And though these last 2 are actually from May, and not June-August, I'll throw them in as a bonus and count comments made on them for the contest as well -- because Don Tate's thoughts are definitely worth reading! :)

10.) Author/Illustrator Don Tate - On Writing Multicultural Picture Books/Biographies

11.) Author/Illustrator Don Tate - On why Multicultural Children's Books are Important.




So, have fun reading and commenting this week!  

Good luck to all who are entering the 
WRITERMORPHOSIS COMMENTS CONTEST 
this summer!

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19. 4 Literary Agents Tell You What They're Looking For!

Today on Write-On-Con we're featuring two literary agencies and listening to what they are and are not looking for in MG, YA, and New Adult Book submissions this Fall!

These are pitch videos from last week's Write On Con to 4 agents from 3 literary agencies. The agents explain at the beginning of each video what types of manuscript submissions they are looking for, and after that they each listen to pitch after pitch from write on can and say why they think it's a good pitch or not, and why - based on that pitch and their submission interests - they would request more info. on that manuscript or not.  

Click the links in blue to find info. and submissions guidelines for the 3 agencies.

The agents in the second video are particularly hilarious.

Enjoy!

1.) New Leaf Literary - Agents Susie Townsend and Liz Ortiz




2.) Charlotte Sheedy Literary Agency - Agent MacKenzie Brady

3.) Aragi Inc - Agent Duvall Osteen


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20. Pitches & Queries -- Professional Presentations at Write On Con!

 
In case you missed this year's WriteOnCon Free Online Writer's Conference, here are a few of the great Presentations on the industry and the craft that you missed! Enjoy! - Janelle
 
 
Here's one on how to write a Great Query Letter:
 
 
 
 
See where these pitches to Editors at Spencer Hill Contemporary (YA) and Spencer Hill Press either won the editor's interest or fell flat and needed revision:
 
 
 
Enjoy!
 
 

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21. Online Writing Conference and Critiques - August 13th & 14th, 2013!

Have you attended Write On Con?  If not, it's a great opportunity for YA and Children's Writers1

Write On Con is a FREE ONLINE WRITERS CONFERENCE. 




I attended last year and was very impressed by the quality and broad list of topics for the  presentations given by well-published authors and industry professionals at the event.  You can also get your query letter and your manuscript synopsis critiqued, and the various agents and editors who sneak in can see your query letter there and give tips or express interest in your book!

Plus you'll find new writer friends in the online chat-rooms.

It's well worth the time to attend!

The next Write On Con is AUGUST 13th-14th (and you want to sign up early if you plan to attend.)

 
Information can be found here:
 

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22. New Small Publishers are looking for your book!


Competition is fierce if you're trying to get your book published by one of the few giant book publishing houses still publishing Children's Books in the U.S. -- mostly in New York -- today.
But don't dispair!  If you've written/illustrated a special book that just hasn't fit in with what the large publishing houses are looking for right now, smaller and newer traditional publishing houses might be another great option for your manuscript!  Here are two examples:



1.) CRESTON BOOKS


New California children's book Publisher CRESTON BOOKS focuses on picture books.

Their first books are being released this year!

According to the agency's website "Creston Books fills the void left behind by the major New York publishers who no longer put out a broad range of quality picture books. The golden age of picture books, when fine books were edited and published despite not being blockbusters, does not have to be over. Creston Books is author/illustrator driven, with talented, award-winning creators given more editorial freedom and control that a typical New York house."

Read an article here from Publisher's Weekly about author Marissa Moss and How she started Creston Books



2.) CHICKEN HOUSE 

CHICKEN HOUSE PUBLISHES FICTION BOOKS FOR CHILDREN AND TEENS


Per their website:  "The Chicken House is a small, highly individual children’s book publishing company with an enthusiasm for new fiction. Chicken House books have found huge popularity with children, parents, teachers and librarians around the world."

Comments on the publisher from the following great names in Publishing tell us a bit more about them:

‘ ... a publisher with a growing reputation for ingenuity, not least in finding new talent.’SUNDAY TIMES

‘Chicken House has garnered itself a reputation for finding the quirky and original.’BOOKSELLER
‘Enterprising and interesting publishing of the best sort.’PHILIP PULLMAN, AUTHOR OF HIS DARK MATERIALS

‘In a very short period of time the Chicken House list has produced groundbreaking books that have left their mark on the field of children’s literature.’ELLIE BERGER, PRESIDENT OF TRADE PUBLISHING, SCHOLASTIC INC. NEW YORK

So if your book seems like a match, check out the CHICKEN HOUSE Submission Guidelines and website to see if this publisher is right for your manuscript!  Note that they're not currently accepting picture books, nor "officially" unsolicited manuscripts, but they have a contest for novels for ages 7-18, and the winner of the contest gets published by Chicken House.  So, you can submit your manuscript there.



There are a number of other small new publishers publishing Children's Books in the U.S. and around the world today.  Just look them up online by searching "Children's Book Publisher." :)

Happy submitting!



Don't forget your chance to win great books by our featured interviewed authors by entering the
"Comments Contest' (writing a relevant comment on as many Writermorphosis blog posts as you can this summer.)  Good Luck To All! - Janelle

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23. "The Writermorphosis Comments Contest" ends in 1 month!

A CHANCE TO WIN GREAT BOOKS AND GREAT TIPS! 



Just a reminder that the "Comments Contest" on Writermorphosis runs from June 1st -August 1st this Summer!  Any relevant to the post comment that you write in any (aka every) post enters your name in the contest to win one of 3 great books written by this summer's featured author interviewees!  Each book will contain a writing tip from that book's author.

So, the more posts that you make comments on the more times your name will be in the jar, which will increase your chances of winning in the drawing.  

Yes - it's ok to go back and read the June and July ones and comment on those too. We won't count up the comments and select winners until the last day of August, 2013!

Huge thanks to those who are continuing to enter as the summer goes along!  Good luck to all!

- Janelle


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24. Artist Valentin Acosta's (MWVA) Art School - Training up Kids in Art and Life




In the Dominican Republic something wonderful is happening -- it's bringing the world of kids together with the world of art -- and it's something we can all be a part of!

Today we share this story in honor of all our artist/illustrator friends who make such beautiful art and art-covers for children's and YA books today. In particular we want to high-light an artist and art teacher from the Dominican Republic named Valentin Acosta.


This is one of Valentin's Great Paintings! Click the link to see more.

I met Valentin accidentally a few weeks ago when I stumbled across an art show that he and a group of young people were setting up in the yard and driveway of a building labelled "art school" in a little town called Jarabacoa way out in the countryside of the Dominican Republic.

Valentin is a member of a group of world-class visual artists who live, paint, and sell their works  around the world, and also in a little Gallery in the tiny town of Jarabacoa.  They have congregated there for red wine and coffee, and artistic camaraderie.  And in that little town in the middle of no-where art that is catching attention of art collectors all over the world is being made. 

But these artists, and Valentin in particular, are not simply thinking about themselves -- about how they can use their talents in art to make a living, or a statement, or even to make the Fine Art that they are making that is worthy of Galleries and Museums and Fine Art Magazines around the world.  Of course they are doing all of those things, like all other great artists do. 

But in addition to that they've started an art school for impoverished children in the Dominican Republic -- low-income Dominican kids who need mentors, who need opportunities, and who now because of being part of Valentin's school, after school, are finding safe outlets, self-respect, and a future 
-- in life and in Art.  


 Like many Children's Book Illustrators who we personally know and love, these world-class painters are spending their own time, and their own money, to run this school, to raise up these young people with lessons in art and lessons of Life.  One of their students has already grown up and gone on to art college in the big city.  Others are still kids, learning about art, and self-esteem, and friendship, and enjoying having a place of learning, and color, and beauty and creativity to call their own.  

But art supplies are expensive and the school is a non-profit.  
VALENTIN and the other artists WOULD LOVE YOUR HELP to keep it going!











HOW CAN YOU HELP? 
Here are photos of some of their students (below) who need sponsoring for the cost of supplies in order to keep attending the classes. 

The school also is always willing to accept donations of general funds -- big or small donations -- to help cover the costs of paints, easels, and other art supplies to keep the school running as the artists donate their time. 






So if you're interested in ways that art is making a difference in the lives of kids around the world today check out Valentin's work with the kids at The non-profit MWVA Art School (AKA MWVA Centro de Arte) 

You can email Valentin Acosta and the leaders of MWVA in Spanish or English if you'd like to donate funds or supplies, to sponsor a student, or to help this effort in some other way. (Their website says Email: [email protected])

Thanks Valentin and MWVA for letting us share your story, as well as the photos of your art, and the art and faces of your students today on Writermorphosis! (All photos on this post are the property of MWVA).

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25. Non-Fiction Author Steve Sheinkin -- on Writing 'Interesting" Non-fiction for Teens

YA Non-fiction author Steve Sheinkin has won a Newberry Honor Award, two Yalsa Awards, and he's been a National Book Award Finalist -- all for his great non-fiction books that bring U.S. history full of spies, complicated crimials, and notirious politicians to life for young readers today.  Some of his recent, award-winning books include Bomb - the race to build - and steal- the worlds most dangerous weapon, Lincoln's Grave-Robbers, and The Notorious Benedict Arnold: A True Story of Adventure, Heroism & Treachery.   


If you haven't had a chance to read Steve's fascinating true accounts of the making (and attempt to steal) the atomic bomb, or of the money-launderers turned grave-robbers who tried to dig up and steal Abraham Lincoln's body, click the links to hear the audio versions of the beginning of each book on last writermorphosis post!  They're brilliant!




Steve used to write textbooks but he now writes "interesting" non-fiction because he says "textbooks don't work."  it's "interesting non-fiction" that makes young people want to read and learn.  

So thanks, Steve, for being here with us today to share your thoughts and tips on how other authors can write "interesting nonfiction" for young people too!




Let's jump right in with our first question:


Steve, you talk about the need for "Interesting Non-fiction" for kids and teens.  Why do you believe it's important for young people to have interesting non-fiction books to read that are not simply text books? 

First of all, textbooks simply don't work. They're so boring that they're not effective teaching tools. I think engaging, exciting nonfiction is not just fun to read, but a great way to impart information and get conversations going.

That definitely makes sense, Steve!

So, what, in your opinion, makes a non-fiction book interesting to middle graders or teens. (In other words, in your experience with the children's market, what differentiates an "interesting" and successful middle grade or teen non-fiction book from a "boring" or less successful one? Does it relate to theme or topic, book format - sidebars and visuals, other things?) Can you give specific tips?


To me, it's all about telling a great story in language that is clear and direct. Sidebars can work in nonfiction, but I don't like to use them. I try to weave all the information into the story. Basically, I try to set up an interesting story, and then keep the action moving, just as you'd want to do if you were writing a novel or a screenplay.


So, just like all those non-fiction books for adults (Eat, Pray, Love/Stories about War Heroes/etc) that hold our attention and get made into block-buster movies later, your books Steve are bringing true stories from history to life in an action-packednovel format that teen readers seem to love. 
One great excellent example of this is the intro to your book "BOMB."  So readers, If you haven't done so yet, check the audio version of it out on last week's post!
It's worth the read!
I also love what Kirkus had to say about Steve's Benedict Arnold book below:
"A brilliant, fast-paced biography that reads like an adventure novel... one of the most exciting biographies young readers will find."  - Kirkus, starred review

So Steve, what do you recommend for writers who want to write an interesting non-fiction book for children or teens but who are not sure how to come up with interesting topics, themes, or people to write about?  How did you come up with the Characters/topics for your recent books like The Notorious Benedict Arnold, The Bomb, and your newest book Lincoln's Grave Robbers? (I find there's often a story behind how authors come up with topics for their books.)

Pretty much every day that I spend reading, I find amazing stories, not because I’m so good at finding them, but because there are so many incredible stories out there! Magazines are a great place to learn about little known stories - I've found great stuff in Smithsonian, for instance, including a story about a really obscure spy in the Manhattan Project. I didn't end up writing about the guy, but researching him led to the idea for Bomb. I'm also an obsessive reader of source notes. Find a good nonfiction book on a topic you find interesting, and the source notes will probably have dozens of leads on places to look for related stories/characters. I think of each source as a clue, and follow it to find more clues. I never know where the search will lead, but that's part of the fun.


Do you think it's important to keep national or state school curriculums in mind when writing non-fiction for youth -- or is that only when writing for the "school market"? 

No, I don't think about specific standards or curriculum issues anymore - that's all I did back when I was a textbook writer. Now I just try to tell important and exciting stories, and hope that students and teachers will find them useful and fun to read.

Steve, I'm tacking one more fun question on the end. One thing I've noticed is that you have creative ways of marketing your books (like taking a guy dressed up as Benedict Arnold with you to your book signing for that book!)  Can you share a brief example or two about how you creatively market your non-fiction books so that other writers can learn from you? 
Yes, doing the book signing with Benedict Arnold was a real treat. I can't always arrange anything that cool, but I've done other fun stuff, like comics in which I interview other writers, and, recently, an online interview with my six year old daughter:

https://upallnightreading.squarespace.com/new-blog/2013/6/6/1971-3

Basically, I try to do fun stuff, and then throw in a bio mentioning my work. I'm not that good at using Twitter or other social media - but I'm trying to figure it out!



Thanks for a wonderful interview Steve!  These are some great and specific tips for those of us who want to consider writing non-fiction for teens!  

Readers, don't forget that the Writermorphosis "Comments Contest" is ongoing through-out this summer too!

See you all next week for more great writing and illustrating tips and opportunities on Writermorphosis!


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