Monday, December 31, 2007

Celebrating Success!

Hana Calvez, a WriTeen who has written for us in the past, has been published two additional times now! The reprint of her original Innovative piece will appear in in January, and a poem she wrote ("The Moon") is currently published in Stories for Children (

Congratulations, Hana! Keep going!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Getting Started

I recently wrote this to someone who asked for advice on getting started with story publication. Thought it might be of interest!


1. Stop writing. No, not "stop writing forever." Just pause for a week so that you can spend your writing time learning about publication, so that when you *do* write you can write with publishers in mind.

2. Think about what you love to write. It sounds like you enjoy short stories-- but maybe articles can be interesting too? Nonfiction is much easier to get published, although fiction is by no means impossible. For now, I would write out 3 things that you love to write: say, "Girl stories" "Mysteries" "Articles about dogs."

3. Next, find magazines and/or contests. If you're writing a book, put that on hold because it's a whole different ballgame for short-term publication. In response to your original question, you can do BOTH. Publication is kind of like soccer, or any sport. You don't just learn one trick, you learn loads. The best way to find magazines is to a) go to the library and read some, or b) spend some time on Google, searching for "Young Writer's Guidelines." Innovative often spotlights different markets (a word for places that publish you) that publish young writers' work. I have some books to recommend that are "market guides", places that are literally lists of magazines that publish young wriers.

4. READ THE GUIDELINES. The worst mistake I see teen writers make (and one I've made myself) is just being SO excited about getting publish that they send just about any old story to any old magazine, without being smart. Would you submit your science project to your history teacher? Nope (or you'll get an F.) Treat publishing like a "match" card game: match a story or article to a publication. This might seem abstract, but it's not. If you've written a girl mystery, and you find a magazine that says: "We love mysteries with girls," then that's a match.

5. FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES. Again, big mistake if you don't. Magazines will tell you what information to send (your age, email address, things like that) or whether to email it or mail it, etc. READ THEM AND FOLLOW THEM.

6. Make a plan for the long run. This last tip is something I'll be covering in the new year for Innovative so I'm not going to write much about it now. I've been published about twenty times, in both really small magazines and big ones that have paid me almost $200 for an article-- and I'm still in high school. You *can* do it, just be patient and be smart about it. If you have any more questions, please feel free to email me.

Off the top of my head, here are some zines to look at (that publish young writers' fiction):

Stories for Children ( publishes stories *for* kids age 3-12 but accept pieces *by* kids up to age 17. They don't pay but are always looking for young writers to write (better chance of getting published.)

New Moon: Magazine for Girls and their Dreams ( publishes fiction and articles by girls up to age 14. They pay .06-.12 cents a word, but it's competitive.

ChixLIT ( I would *REALLY* encourage you to submit a piece to them. It's a very small magazine, and you don't get paid, but then you will be PUBLISHED and that always helps when you submit to bigger magazines. They publish loads of stories and articles by girls ages 7-17.


Saturday, December 29, 2007

The WD Market Guides

The Writer's Digest "Market Guides" are those big heavy books that are lists of places that publish certain kinds of writers. Writer's Market Deluxe costs about $50.00, last I checked, and is a comprehensive collection of more than a thousand markets. There are other market guides, like Children's Writers and Illustrators' Markets that are about $25 and worth getting. If you have the spare change and are looking to really get serious about publication, I would aim for the WM Deluxe or see if your local library has a copy.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Best Buys for WriTeens

If you have holiday cash and are looking for ways to spend it, I recommend...

BOOKS! Treat yourself to the Writer's Section of your local bookstore. There are loads of great writing books on every subject from Freelancing 101 to the finer nuances of queries. Enjoy!

PENS AND NOTEBOOKS! Really nice ones. Buy beautiful pens.

DOMAIN SPACE. If you're serious about freelancing, your own webspace (preferably is a must.

CHOCOLATE or OTHER SWEET FOOD. Books and chocolate (sweet food) just go together. Writers were never meant to watch their weight, otherwise we could burn calories by sitting on our bums all day, typing.

SAVE FOR INSPIRATIONAL TRIP. Planning to go to Italy next year? Start saving!

More later, folks, and happy hols!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

If You Want to Write...

More! More! More! in our weekly blog series on what to do if you want to write...

Suggestions for Holiday Reading

I am still amazed at the power of stories. My two friends and I ganged up on a fourth friend and gave her the complete Twilight series for her birthday, forcing to read them. Much to our delight, she has fallen completely in love with Edward and Bella before reaching page 150. Books can just do that to you.

Here are some of my recommendations.

Lemonade Mouth by Mark Peter Hughes (Lyrical, beautiful, fantastic.)
The Cinderella Pact by Sarah Strohmeyer (I read this book three times in a week.)
Teen Angst? Naah... by Ned Vizzini (Hilarious, sarcastic essays by a teen author.)
Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer (... Edward...)
Hacking Harvard by Robin Wasserman (Fun, point-making, more fun...)
Queen Geeks in Love by Laura Preble (Quirky, awkward, lovable)
This is What I Did: by Ann Dee Clark (Brief and heartbreaking)
The Overachievers by Alexandra Robbins (Life-changingly true)
Queen Bees and Wannabes by Rosalind Wiseman (Ditto)
In Her Shoes by Jennifer Weiner (Fabulous, wonderful story for PG13 readers. Movie's good too.)
The Guy Not Taken by Jennifer Weiner (I'm a huge Weiner fan)
Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale (Beautiful, simple story for any girl, with an Asian twist)

And a list of some books I'm attempting to buy this season:

The Cinderella Pact by Sarah Strohmeyer
What I Meant... by Marie Lamba
Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George

I'm pledging that in 2008, I will buy 25 books. For a booklover of my magnitude, I buy embarrasingly few books. I am pledging to support the book industry and the wonderful authors who write these wonderful books, by purchasing 25 over the next year. I hope to vamp it up each year.

We will be zooming in on books during our "If You Want to Writes" this holidays. Future topics may include bestsellers I don't understand, debut authors I'd love to interview, books I've bought... think personal and literary.

Happy Hols!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Innovative: A Word for the WriTeen

An E-Zine for Teens who Write, and Those who Support Them
Edited by Gabrielle Linnell


How to Use those Holiday Hours

by Gabrielle Linnell

For me, Christmas break is already here (YES!) and for many of us school-bound WriTeens, the evil of daily education will cease shortly, for a short period of time. What are you going to do with your free days? Lounge around watching A Christmas Story three times? No, you are going to read and write your little merry heart out. Here are some excellent ideas.

Make a daily goal. This is a fantastic time to force yourself to finish THAT BIG PROJECT. If you're only 25 pages into your 365-page fantasy epic, then perhaps don't finish it. But maybe you set a goal that by the time you return to school, you will have written 125 pages, or 10 pages a day, etc. Finishing smaller, short-term projects is also a great idea. I'm dedicating three hours a day until I leave on vacation, and after that probably more like 1.5 hours.

Read, read, read. This is a great time to max out your library card and discover authors you haven't read before. I would recommend finding one or two classic authors (brush up on Jane Austen and Shakespeare!), some books by authors you know, and at least one YA book by an unknown author.

Punish yourself if you don't meet your goal. Whether you ask a friend to make you accountable, or tell yourself you won't be able to spend any gift cards unless you finish a first draft, FORCE YOURSELF TO DO IT. If you do, you will look back at a fun, relaxing holiday that also helped you in your writing career.

Reward yourself for finishing! Need I say more?

Use your gift cards or holiday-earned cash. The best uses of your money will be for writing magazines (email me for suggestions), two or three notebooks, some pens, and books. Buy lots of books. Authors and your imagination will thank you.

Make this a holiday to remember: by watching A Christmas Story AND finishing your project.*


Interview with Laura Preble, author of The Queen Geek Social Club, Lica's Angel and most recently Queen Geeks in Love

Laura Preble, who does not own a robot of her own, grew up in Lima,Ohio and attended the Ohio State University, the only college with a poisonous nut as a mascot. She is the author of Queen Geek Social Club, Queen Geeks in Love, Lica's Angel (self-published), and Prom Queen Geeks, to be released in 2008. She was the winner of a Kurt Vonnegut Fiction Prize in 2005, and is also an award-winning journalist and teacher.

INN: Can you tell us about Queen Geeks in Love?

LP: It's basically the continuation of QUEEN GEEK SOCIAL CLUB, but with a fewmore layers and complications. In this book, the girls have to learn to balance their friendships with increasingly serious interactions with guys, something that I think is a real challenge to girls in high school. Plus, there is a Halloween party, a festival of geekiness, and karaoke.

INN: What's been the most surprising thing about the Queen Geek adventure?

LP: Well, to me, the most surprising thing was that I finally got to see a book with my name on it in the bookstore. I've been trying to do that since I was 16. As far as the characters go, the most surprising thing to me was how they sort of take over their own stories and even if I have a plan, they sometimes change it.

INN: How and where do you like to write?

LP: I'd love to write in Hawaii, in a romantic beachside apartment, but I don't. I write in my office, which used to be my son's nursery, and which is also our family's storage closet. We are remodeling, though, and I'm getting an office on the second floor, where I can barricade myself in with stacks of comic books.

INN: Do you like bad sci-fi as much as Shelby and Becca do, and if so, what's your favorite sci-fi movie?

LP: I love bad sci fi. I grew up on it. My dad and I used to watch old Star Trek reruns, and he took me to all the PLANET OF THE APES movies when I was a kid. My favorite bad sci fi movies are the same ones the Queen Geeks like, actually; Plan 9 from Outer Space for sheer badness, The Day the Earth Stood Still for a really good movie, and the Gila Monster for the worst special effects and misuse of an unwilling amphibian. I am also a huge fan of the old Mystery Science Theatre 3000, and some of the best bad sci fi was aired on that show.

INN: What's your favorite book (published in the last five years)?

LP: I love Christopher Moore's LAMB and also his A DIRTY JOB. He is a hilarious writer (although not young adult), and is both irreverent and spiritual. Iam also a huge fan of Jim Butchers' THE DRESDEN FILES.

INN: Any advice for teen writers?

LP: KEEP WRITING. I wrote for years and years and had stacks of rejection letters before I got a contract. I think you have to write because you need to or want to, not because you're looking to get published. That's definitely a nice bonus, of course, but I wrote even when I didn't think anyone would see it except my friends. The other thing is to read other writers you admire and try to see why they're good, and also to write things that you'd like to read.

Thank you, Laura!

You can buy Queen Geeks in Love on by clicking . This makes a great present for a lovable geek in your life! And don't forget to visit Laura at *

NEXT TIME: On January 6th, we'll talk fashion AND publishing with Melissa Walker, debut author of Violet on the Runway.

innovative housekeeping

As always, if you have a question or comment, feel free to email me at We're still looking for a male interviewer/reviewer.
Our next issue will be on January 6th, although If You Want to Write... will continue to be posted.
Thanks to Laura Preble for being a wonderful interviewee!
Logo designed by Katie Beth Groover.

Friday, December 14, 2007

WOW! Update

This is a few days late, but the fabulous female e-zine WOW! Women-on-Writing ( has published their December issue. Men: if you close your eyes and just click on the fantastic articles they have there, you might be OK.

AND just as a reminder, we will be publishing an interview with the marvelous author of the geeky but wonderful series, The Queen Geek Social Club, Laura Preble herself-- on Sunday.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

If You Want to Write...

The latest post in our weekly on-writing series, about small tasks to accomplish big things.

Serving the Editor

A mistake I see a lot of teenage writers is that they write a certain story, and are thrilled with it. They then find a magazine that publishes their kind of story, submit it and wait with high expectations. The story is rejected. They are heartbroken and angry.

Their mistake, obvious or not, is that they don't understand how a magazine works. A magazine must sell subscriptions and keep current subscribers happy. They do so by delivering a quality product. Vogue, for example, publishes the latest on fashion, socialites, etc. If Vogue fails to publish the *latest and best* stories or styles, their subscription rates will fall and so do the editors' salaries. Nobody wants that.

The way Vogue and other magazines accomplish the goal of delivering a fine product is paying fine writers to make the product for them. We want to be that writer.

So, in order to be the kind of writer magazines love to hire, we must understand that we are serving the editor. Teen writers (and some adult ones) carry around the idea that publishing serves writing, that editors almost "owe" us and need to publish us. Naievete, my friends, is rampant. Publishing is a business that allows writers to do what they love to do. If you don't understand publishing, you don't understand a lot about being a writer.

Next time you're considering a submission, think about the zine you're submitting to. What do they need? How can you give them what they need in the most professional manner? Think like that, and you're on your way.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Innovative: A Word for the WriTeen

December 9th, 2007
Edited by Gabrielle Linnell


The Art of the Bio

by Gabrielle Linnell

For those who don’t know, a query is made up of three parts. There is the “lead” or “hook”: where you interest an editor in the piece you are writing. There is the “detailed pitch,” where you outline exactly what is going to be said in your article. And then there is a “bio,” where you describe why you are the best person to write this article.

Paragraph-long bios are used almost anytime you have a byline—that is, when you are credited with your work. Bios can be both a connection to your audience and a promotion of yourself to the editor you want to work for. To write the best possible bio, there are three main questions to ask yourself.

Who is my audience? If this is a bio for a published article, you want to make a reader follow your work, maybe buy magazines that have your name in them. Think about who is reading this, and what information about yourself that is relevant to them. If you’re writing about dog shampoo for I Heart Dogs, then mention your six Golden Retrievers.

If this is for an editor, you want to make yourself sound professional, polite and personable.

Why am I the best person to write this? This doesn’t always apply to fiction, unless the inspiration for your story is some unique circumstance you found yourself in. If you have credentials (like being an expert in XYZ) list them. If you don’t have them, don’t list fake ones or cutesy ones.

What will make them like me? Maybe the magazine you write for is known for a sarcastic tone; put in a witty joke. If the e-zine is particularly stuffy, make sure you are just as formal as they are. If you’re writing to teen girls, make yourself chic. Develop a sense of taste and an understanding of what is appropriate where.

Writing bios is like fashion for “real women.” You want to dress your flaws so that nobody notices them. You want to dress your better parts with pizzazz and elegant style, so that people will look at you as a whole person, and love what they see.*

NEXTWEEK: Have a week off for Christmas break? Gabrielle Linnell talks about how to use those holiday hours.


Beauty by Robin McKinley

Even guys can enjoy this funny, detached retelling of Beauty and the Beast, the debut novel of the now-legendary fantasy author. Beauty is actually quite plain, and uses her time reading Greek and riding her horse Greatheart. When her father returns, cursed by an evil monster, she decides it’s probably best to go in his place. Original and witty, this is not the Broadway musical version.

NEXTWEEK: Innovative finds out what’s happening with Laura Preble, author of the Queen Geek series.

Spread the WORD! Contest Results

First Place: Ella Regan
Second Place: Hana Calvez
Over Five Points:
Katie Beth Groover

Interview with Ella Regan:

What do you like to write?
I like to write action-adventure.
Number One favorite author?
Gail Carson Levine (though she did not write my favorite book)
Favorite flavor of milkshake?
Umm… Max and Erma's Special Oreo-cream Milkshake. I don’t know if they make them anymore though :-(.
What was entering the Spread the WORD! contest like?
You put in a lot of work! It was really fun! All of my friends thought it was really cool that one of my friends actually started (and kept up with) an e-zine!
If you could be the host of a reality show, what would the show be about and what would the contest be about?
Honestly? I have Nooooo idea. I’d probably have it be a cliff-hanger though.

Hana Calvez says…

Favorite author: C. S. Lewis
Favorite genre: Fantasy
Song that describes you: Amazing Grace
Website you visit the most: Neopets
Project you're working on right now: My first novel called Obwanthia.

Innovative Housekeeping

We have been added to Maria Schneider’s (the editor of Writer’s Digest) blogroll, as part of her Project 20/20. This is a huge honor and we’re all quite thrilled! Visit Maria’s blog at to learn more.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Innovative Joins Maria Schneider's Blogroll!!

Maria Schneider, editor of Writer's Digest, has added our blog to her blogroll! Needless to say, I'm freaking out in the most embarrassing way (my little sister walked in to tell me she could hear me from outside) and am so thrilled/honored/flabbergasted that Innovative has been chosen. If you haven't read Maria's blog, you can find it at . There are some wonderful blogs on her blogroll, including J.A. Konrath's "The Newbie's Guide to Publishing," Susan Johnston's "The Urban Muse", Christina Katz's "Writer Mama"... the list goes on and now Innovative's there too!

Still freaking out.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

If You Want to Write...

The latest in our weekly blog series about all sorts of writing, reading and being obsessed with words.

Updates: Our Spread the WORD! contest is neck-and-neck right now, with still half a day before the midnight deadline. NECK AND NECK! And we've also just about tripled our e-list. Oustanding job, everyone.

Also: after trying the online-format with this past week, I think Innovative will be moving to a mostly online form. The weekly emails will still happen, but they will just list the different sections and their topics to tease your love of Innovative.

And as always, welcome to our new WriTeens and WriTeen supporters! If you have a question, my email address is in the profile or you can use the comment section below.

The Belief in the Impossible Deadline

I promised an optimistic, fun, happy, delightful topic today, and so I'm going to talk about... impossible deadlines!

I love impossible deadlines. I've set the date of January 21st, 2008 to complete my young adult novel and there's no way it will be done... but the very impossibility of it drives me to succeed. Chris Baty talks about impossible deadlines in his book, No Plot? No Problem! and in the phenomenon of National Novel Writing Month. Nobody can write a 50,000-word draft in 30 days. Nobody. Of course, thousands of people do it every year. There's no way that Andy Sachs will get the Harry Potter books to Miranda's evil twins on time (and save her job) in The Devil Wears Prada. No way. Of course, she does.

How does this apply to writing?

Contests have deadlines. Themed magazines have deadlines. Editors set deadlines for solicited articles (and boy, do they love these impossible deadlines.) You need a deadline to write, whether you're writing a 200-word flash fiction snippet or a 3,000-word essay on your love of Nana's apple pies. Even if you have absolutely nowhere to send the short story you're writing (... not a great idea...), you should still enforce a deadline if you want to finish it.

I don't have a doctorate in psychology, but it seems that deadlines work. If your mother tells you to cook dinner before six pm or the XBox will be dead to you, then dinner is usually cooked. Teachers, coaches, directors all use deadlines and more often than not, they are impossible ones. You need to use these in writing.

The impossibility will make it more exciting. Set yourself impossible deadlines. You don't want the quality of your writing to suffer, of course, but who cares about the quality if there is never a finished product? Buy yourself a planner or a calendar, sit under an inspirational tree with your laptop, and meet those impossible deadlines.

Monday, December 3, 2007 Reminder has published their December issue, and if you look around you'll find an article by yours truly on the five most common mistakes in teen writing. Also check their "Inside Markets", there are listings are worthing looking for as teen writers.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Innovative: A Word for the WriTeen

Edited by Gabrielle Linnell

As a Man Thinketh
by Geary Smith, Guest Writer

"For as he thinketh in his heart..."

This proverb is very old, yet very true. I remember when I wrote my first published story, and the news got out in the city. Several weeks later, a young student, "out of the sky blue", called me at work. After I first inquired about who she was and how she found my number at work, I welcomed and was thrilled that she was so interested and had the initiative to call and want to know more about becoming a writer..

"How do you become a writer," inquired the young student. "What do I need to do to be like you? Are there any classes that I need take right now? How do I get published?"

Well, after several minutes, and thinking about what my answer should be, I gave the traditional response, in that I explained the fundamentals of writing, and developing a plot, characters, scenes, details, action, tension, climax, resolution, editing, preparing the cover and query letters, submission guidelines, etc. However, several months after that conversation, I realized that I had failed to tell the young girl a very important and essential element to becoming a writer or pursuing any other profession for that matter, and something that I had to work on myself, which was truly thinking and believing in my heart like a writer. Even after I had sold and actually gotten paid and published numerous short stories, articles and puzzles for children and teens in acclaimed magazines, I had a hard and difficult time truly believing, thinking, acting and seeing myself like a "real" writer.

"Are you the writer that I read about in the paper?" asked a person one day while I was in the local hardware store. "That is great. I always wanted to be a writer."

"I guess I am," I replied.

I was still holding on to experiences, thoughts, ideas and doubts. It took me several years to really grow and mature as a writer. I called, wrote and e-mailed many of the country's top children's writers, and asked them what they do and think everyday, and what it was like to be a good writer. At first, I got almost no response, but I kept trying and asking the right questions. And, to my surprise, I got several responses back, and found that I was not acting, nor thinking like a professional writer. Therefore, I began to make time for writing, getting up in front of my computer thinking of ideas, joining national writing organizations, and taking some additional writing courses to sharpen my skills. And, it was not very long that I was not only selling more and more of my stories, but also actually thinking and becoming a true writer. So, if you were to ask me today, whether I am a writer or not, the response would be a sharp and immediate,

"Yes, I am a writer."

Therefore, what is my advice for young students who wish to become writers? Work hard and study all aspects of writing, find your particular writing style, and most importantly, think and believe in your heart, that you are and will become a good writer. *

Geary Smith has a B.S. Psychology from Morehouse College, M.Ed. from Stephen F. Austin State University. He is married to Tonnette, and has two daughters, Jessica and Somer. He loves to read, write, run and play golf. Geary has been writing for children and teens for about 21 years, with published stories, articles, quizzes for Highlights for Children, Child Life, McGraw-Hill, ECS Learning Systems and many other publications. Currently, he is working as a Qualified Mental Retardation Professional (QMRP) Coordinator, at Mexia State School. He is also an associate pastor and spiritual/motivational speaker.

Interview with Robin Wasserman, author of Hacking Harvard and other books

Robin Wasserman is the author of several books for children and young adults, including the popular Seven Deadly Sins series, the Chasing Yesterday trilogy, and the novel Hacking Harvard. She grew up in Philadelphia where, as a bored only child, she had ample opportunity to make up stories and dream about a day when she would write them down and other people might actually want to read them. She still has a bit of trouble believing that day has finally arrived. Robin graduated from Harvard University with a degree in the history of science, then worked as an editor at Scholastic Inc, where she became an expert on Pokemon, LEGO, DragonBall Z, and all things Scooby-Doo. Her most recent book, Hacking Harvard, was inspired by her adolescent obsession with college admissions. Now that she's been out of college for as long as she was in it, she remembers the applications period with fondness. Fondness, that is, mixed with white-knuckled terror.

Robin lives in New York City, where she spends her days writing, reading, bike riding through the park, and trying to track down the world's most perfect cupcake.

INN: What was your inspiration for "Hacking Harvard"-- your own Ivy League experience, the fierce competition to get in these schools, love of hacking...?

RW: When I was in high school, I was totally and completely obsessed with getting into college. Partly because I found the process fascinating . . . mostly because I was terrified I wouldn't get accepted anywhere. (I had pretty much one mission in high school: getting out of high school.) I've been watching in horror these last several years as the admissions process has gotten more and more nerve-wracking. So the idea of writing about tearing down the system really appealed to me.

As for the hacking side of things, while I do have a serious love of caper movies (especially Sneakers, Oceans 11, and Dead Man on Campus), I have to admit that I've never done much caper-ing of my own. I've certainly never pulled off the kind of hack my characters would appreciate. I'll always be more of a Lex than a Max. I suppose that was also one of the reasons I wanted to tell this story. Like Lex, I was a very stressed, very nervous, very well-behaved high school student, who was always a little curious about the people who seemed more concerned with enjoying the present than plotting for the future. I never really strayed from my path in high school, so it was fun for me to imagine what might have happened if, like Lex, I had.

INN: What was your favorite part about writing this book?

RW: There's a lot to choose from, but I would say the part I enjoyed the most was being able to stuff the book with details, anecdotes, and unabashedly geeky musings from my own life. I can't imagine sliding that Star Trek vs Battlestar Galactica debate, or a long rant on the wonders of Descartes and the Navier-Stokes equation, into any other book. I also had a lot of fun setting scenes at my college – there's a pivotal moment up on the roof of the Science Center, for example, where I had many pivotal moments of my own.

INN: Favorite prank of all time?

RW: I suppose I should probably pick one of the famous MIT pranks on Harvard (and there are plenty to choose from), but if you want to know the truth, my favorite prank of all time is one that got pulled on me and my freshman roommates. My suite of five girls had become pretty good friends with the suite of five boys who lived below us, and at some point, we'd decided it would be a good idea to play a little prank on them. So we sneaked into their room, stole their favorite clothes, and then—after a lot of arguing about which of us would get to play which of them—spent the day dressed (and acting) like them. (You may or may not find this amusing, but I promise you that as giddy college freshmen, we found it hilarious.) The guys decided to pay us back.

So a week or two later, after one of the first big snowfalls of the season, we girls went outside to have a snowball fight. The boys grabbed a couple screwdrivers, sneaked into our suite . . . and stole our bathroom door. Somehow they managed to get it out of the dorm and across the campus without us noticing—and, no matter how much we begged and pleaded, it was weeks before they gave it back. Which meant that for a while, at any given moment in our suite, you could hear someone shouting, "I'm going to the bathroom— don't look!"

It may not be the greatest prank of all time, but it was one of those freshman year moments when I sat back, looked at my life, and realized, "It's finally happened. I'm in college." A thought which never failed to blow my mind.

INN: How did you break into publishing?

RW: I did an internship at Scholastic Inc. (home of Harry Potter) the summer before my senior year in college – and loved it so much that as soon as I graduated, I got a job there as an editorial assistant. In the back of my mind, I had always wanted to be a writer, but I wasn't sure how to make that happen—and was afraid it never would—so I decided to give editing a shot. It turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made.

It's not just that I made a lot of valuable contacts in the publishing industry, although I did. It's not just that I learned a lot about what kinds of books are most likely to sell, although I did. It's that I learned to see writing a manuscript as the first step in a very long process—a process that includes editing, designing, manufacturing, marketing, selling, etc. Obviously writers have a pretty fundamental role in the publishing industry, but it was immensely helpful to get an understanding of everyone else's roles, too. Making a book is really a team process, and because writing is such an isolating endeavor, that's sometimes easy to forget.

I left Scholastic after a few years and finally felt like I was ready to take the chance and write something. So I pitched an idea for a series about a bunch of teens living in the California desert with nothing to do but get into trouble – and, much to my shock, Simon & Schuster bought it. A year later the first Seven Deadly Sins book was on the shelves, and I was officially an author!

INN: What projects are you working on right now?

RW: I've just started writing a new (untitled) science fiction trilogy that will come out from Simon & Schuster in the fall of 2008. I'm pretty nervous, since it's the first thing I've written in this genre. (I did a trilogy called Chasing Yesterday that features some sci-fi/fantasy elements, but this new project is set in the future, which offers a whole new set of challenges.) But I'm also really excited about it, because I think it's the kind of thing I would have loved to read when I was a teenager.

INN: Any advice for teen writers?

RW: Almost anyone will tell you that the best advice for aspiring writers is: "Just write." Certainly that's what everyone told me whenever I asked for suggestions. And it's great advice . . . for people who are able to do it. I, on the other hand, was one of those people who really wanted to be a writer, but could never think of anything to write. Coming up with new ideas was really hard for me—and following through on them was even harder. I really started to worry that this meant I would never be a writer. Because what kind of writer doesn't write?

So my advice is directed very specifically to aspiring writers who are afraid that they'll never have a good idea or never be able to finish a story. And that advice is: Don't worry. I think for some people, it just takes a little time to figure out what it is you most want to say. And there are plenty of things you can do in the meantime. I highly recommend taking writing classes – partly because that will give you a deadline and force you to write something (and finish something).

This is really important. But also because writing ability isn't just a talent you're born with—it's a skill you can, and should, learn. I took a ton of writing classes when I was younger, and I wish I could go back in time and take them all over again, because I learned so much about what to do and what not to do, how to critique my own work, how to revise—so much that I never would have figured out on my own.

That said, if taking classes isn't an option, there are other things you can do to give yourself a deadline and force yourself to sit down at the computer: Submit something to the school literary magazine. Find some friends who also want to be writers and start a writing group where you read and evaluate one another's work. Join the school newspaper. Anything you can think of. Because it's true: Writers write. Find something—anything—to write, just to teach yourself how to do it. So that when your story finally comes to you, you'll be ready.

And one more piece of advice, when it comes to finding the right story to tell. Write the story you want to read. It took me way too long to figure that out, but once I did, it was the key to everything.

Thanks, Robin!

Click on this link: to buy Hacking Harvard on

There is also a book trailer , made by NYU Film Students, that is quite entertaining and worth checking out! And don't forget to visit Robin at .

-Would you like to interview authors?

If you're a 15-19 year old guy WriTeen who has time to read and a working knowledge of email, join THE HUNT FOR A GUY INTER(e)VIEWER and send me an email at

-Spread the WORD! Contest Update
Wow! I've been swamped with emails from everyone, entering the Spread the WORD! contest. So many new WriTeens and WriTeen supporters have joined that we've just about doubled our subscription e-list! But don't stop now, whether you have 20 points or none at all. There's a chance for everyone to win the 5 Points Plus prize, or even First or Second Place. Go for it! The rules are further down on this page. The last day to enter is DECEMBER 5th, 2007!

-More Innovative Housekeeping
There are two remaining issues of 2007: December 9th and December 16th. I am no longer accepting submissions for 2007; but am open to queries for 2008.
There are rumors of a January/February Fiction contest to coincide with Innovative's 6-month birthday. Those rumors may be true.
This issue is posted online because of how much we have! Thanks to Geary Smith for contributing and Robin Wasserman for being a wonderful interviewee.
Logo designed by Katie Beth Groover.