Posts Tagged ‘YA fiction’


Got querying faux pas? We do!

March 5, 2010

Putting glitter in snail mail queries.  Addressing Ginger Clark as Mr. Brown.  Querying your project before it’s finished.  Query/industry faux pas—we’ve all made them.  We  were all that wide-eyed, incredibly ignorant dense naïve newbie once.  And since the publishing industry seems to have its own set of rules, it’s almost impossible not to leap off the good querying etiquette mountain trip into the black pit of querying doom stumble along the way.

Today, we’re going to share the boo-boos we’ve made on our quest for publication, big and small.  If you’re feeling brave, join us and blog about your own, or just leave them in the comments. Visit our blogs to read about:

how Debra emailed a complete stranger for a critique.

how Krista queried before her manuscript was complete

how Annie jumped the querying gun

how Jenn sent out a first chapter where her MC woke up from a deep sleep

how Jamie queried an agent by the wrong name

how Sarah managed to fit SEVEN rhetorical questions into the first draft of her query

We figured after you read our blunders, you won’t feel half as bad about yours.  Unless you sent a Stripper-gram to your agent of choice, along with a sonnet about how your project will knock her socks off—and everyone else’s.  We can’t help you there.

Stay tuned for our next installment, when we get agents to share the worst querying offenses ever!


Shiver Contest Winner!

December 18, 2009

And our $25 gift card and book contest winner is…

Drumroll, please…….

JESSICA YOUNG!  Jessica, you get to choose from either Shiver, Thirteen Reasons Why, or Tricks, AND a $25 gift card to either Barnes and Noble or Amazon.

WOOT!  Thanks to everyone for entering and re-tweeting us!


Give the Gift of YA This Year

December 2, 2009

December is here and it’s time to do some writing… gift list writing, that is! No matter who’s on your list, chances are there’s a YA title they’ll love. Here’s a few suggestions, for kids from 1 to 92.

(Okay, 11 to 92, anyway.)

AlaskaFor the philosopher:

Looking For Alaska by Jon Green
Someday This Pain Will Be Useful To You by Peter Cameron

For the thrill-seeker:

Break by Hannan Moskowitz
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

WintergirlsFor the people who think their lives are bad:

Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott
or Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
Up To Be by Courtney Summers
How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

For the history nerd:

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly

PerksFor the literature lover:

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

Thanks to the YA forum on AW for their suggestions!
Kate (who hasn’t quite gotten this WordPress formatting thing down yet…)


Interview with author Cindy Pon

November 2, 2009

Silver Phoenix book cover

Silver Phoenix: Beyond the Kingdom of Xia, is a lush YA fantasy set in ancient China.  Silver Phoenix explores the journey of heroine Ai Ling to escape an arranged marriage and find her missing father in the Palace of Fragrant Dreams. Along the way, Ai Ling encounters some very mysterious creatures, taps into magical abilities she didn’t know she possessed, and meets handsome stranger Chen Yong and his cheeky brother, Li Rong.

The much anticipated sequel to Silver Phoenix is due out in Fall, 2010!  Below, author Cindy Pon was kind enough to answer a few questions about her books and writing in general.

1. Your debut novel, Silver Phoenix, has been out since April of this year. Were you surprised at how much critical acclaim it received, including your ALA starred review?

honestly, i was surprised. my personal motto is always expect nothing, be pleasantly surprised. i put out the best novel that i could with the help of my publisher–but you never know how it will be received. so it’s always a blessing to know that some critics enjoyed my debut. it’s even cooler when actual readers let you know how much they loved it as well. reading is such a *personal* experience.

2. Silver Phoenix is what many would call a traditional fantasy, following a hero’s (or in your case, heroine’s) journey. Is this the type of story you enjoy reading? What drew you to write this?

i love fantasy as a genre. and yes, traditional fantasy by authors such as tad williams and terry brooks were always a favorite. honestly, the idea of a straight heroine’s journey came to me as it was for ai ling. it seemed like something i *could* write for the first novel–as it was so familiar to me.

3. I know you’ve been working like crazy to finish up your sequel these past few weeks. Can you give us a sneak peek of what to expect? How is it different from Silver Phoenix?

it will be two storylines following ai ling and chen yong and the relationship between silver phoenix and zhong ye three centuries earlier within the palace of fragrant dreams. it’s definitely a more complicated set up than the straight heroine’s journey. in my mind, the sequel is the aftermath of what ai ling did and had to do in the debut. things don’t happen without consequences. and you get to find out about zhong ye and silver phoenix, it’s the prequel really, to my debut.
it’s different in that i think the story has turned much more *personal* in this second book.

4. I already know the denouement—the curse of many an author—is one of your favorite parts to write. Can you tell me which part of a novel is the hardest for you to write? Was there a specific scene in SP that stumped you for awhile?

oh. The Dreaded Middle for sure. 50k of words is pretty darned daunting. and i don’t do chapter outlines or even chapter when i rough draft. i just go. there weren’t specific scenes that stumped me, but i stopped writing for six months after ai ling goes to visit master tan with
chen yong and what happens to her subsequently. i was forty pages in the novel and then truly scared myself into immobility because i had no idea how to move forward. the idea of writing two hundred more pages
terrified me!

5. What would be your main words of advice to aspiring YA writers?

writers write. you may not sell your first novel, but know that you will improve with each novel that you do write. always challenge yourself with each new project. read widely–beyond the genre you are writing
and beyond your favorites.

6. What can’t you live without when you’re writing?

my laptop. classical music. a drink and good snacks / food! =)

7. Just for fun—because of your luscious descriptions of food, everyone says Silver Phoenix makes them hungry. How much of the food that you wrote about have you actually tasted?

some of the dishes are made up! but i’d say i’ve eaten at least 75% of what i listed. a personal favorite is beef tongue! i don’t eat pig ears, tho!

8. Finally, what’s in store for you next, writing-wise?

i do have a children’s picture book i need to work on with my editor featuring my chinese brush art. but i also have the inkling of a third novel–set also in xia, but not related to ai ling. it’s tickling the back of my mind, and i never acknowledge these puffs of story ideas. but from past experience, they do manifest into full novels in the end. =D

thanks so much for having me! i had a lot of fun with this

And thank you, Cindy, for taking the time to chat! Visit Cindy on her website, Paint and Prose or her blog. Her book is available online at amazon or at a major bookstore near you.

Debra Driza


Stranger Than Fiction?

October 24, 2009

Most writers agree that the basic tenet of fiction writing is simple:  take a lie and make it true for the reader.   Of course, controversy arises shortly afterwards.  The problem?  Not everyone agrees on just how close to fact that fiction must be.  As writers, do we have to follow some of the existing framework of real life in our stories?  Or can we invent everything from scratch?  In essence, I guess I’m talking about creative license, and if there’s such a thing as going “too far.” 

We all know that creative license means the alteration of reality or facts for the sake of a story.  And while it’s easy to see why some writers take issue with changing past events in a historical novel, the lines get blurred when considering the fantasy genre.  Take Stephenie Meyer, for example (yes, I just threw out the SM bomb).  Even though her Twilight series is millions of readers own personal brand of heroine, some writers challenge her tweaking of vampire mythology.  I mean, how dare her vamps not become human torches in the sun?  Nor are they susceptible to garlic or other typical maladies of the dentally-challenged—sacrilege!  But hold up, you say.  Aren’t vampires themselves fictional creatures—well, at least according to those of us who don’t indulge in hallucinogenic drugs?  So why on earth should SM—or any writer—be bound by rules for things that don’t even exist in the first place?

The conundrum of creative license was driven home even more after I read a query letter critique on a writers’ discussion board.  I found myself stunned by one of the crits on a Middle Grade fantasy story.  Why?  Because the critter was questioning if the author accurately portrayed the way curses are transferred.  Silly me.  And here I thought accurately portraying curses was an oxymoron.  Since, you know, curses are imaginary and all.  (And if they aren’t, I beg you—don’t curse me for spouting off, pretty please?)

I guess what it boils down to is this:  creative license means different things to different people.  What conclusions have I personally drawn?  Simple.  For me anyway, it all goes back to the basic tenet of fiction writing—making your lie feel true.  So long as a book sells the fiction as fact, and does it well, then I don’t care what reality or expectations get altered in the process.  I just need to believe.  And yes, for all you Twilight haters—this includes sparkly vamps. 

But enough about me and my unhealthy, albeit drug-free, obsession with all things vampire.  Where do you draw the line in terms of creative license in fiction writing?

Debra Driza


Oh Toto! I don’t think we’re in Sweet Valley anymore!

September 26, 2009

ReaderWhen I was thirteen, I had three options when it came to YA: Sweet Valley High, The Outsiders, and Judy Blume (but not Forever because that was the naughty Blume book you couldn’t find in the school library).

How seventeen years have changed things. Compared to some of the issues faced by protagonists in today’s YA, Forever looks downright quaint. A quick look at my bookcase reveals a book about a boy who wants to break every bone in his body to become stronger, a girl coping with the rape and disappearance of her best friend, a native kid who attempts to leave the reservation before it kills him, and a boy who’s trying to figure out if the girl he loved died in an accident or if she killed herself. (Yes, alright? I admit it. Twilight is on there too.)

One of the challenges for adults over a certain age—adults wishing to write YA—is just how much the market has changed and expanded over the last few years. It’s not all edgy and it’s not all dark, but you do have much more wiggle room than Judy had with Forever in 1975.

Every few months, a new author with an idea centered around a teenage character will stumble onto Absolute Write and ask if swearing or sex or drinking is okay in YA. The answer is on the shelves of your local bookstore. Before (and while) writing, take time to do your homework. Check out Shady Lane’s wonderful post about edgy YA on AW. Visit your local bookstore and library. Ask the bookstore staff what kids are buying. Pick up anything that takes your fancy. Every writer should be a reader. If you haven’t read YA since the days of Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield, what are you waiting for?

Image courtesy of the National Media Museum.

*Bonus points to those who can guess what four books I refer to in the second paragraph. Bonus points are not redeemable for cash or prizes.

— Kathleen