Wednesday, December 31, 2008

How to Use a Writing Book

I'm currently digging through Travel Writing by L. Peat Neil, a fabulous explanation of how to get into the exotic field of, well, travel writing. Here are some tips I have for getting the most out of your writing books.

1. Take lots of notes. Underline passages that you like, and rewrite the main points in a notebook. Don't forget to mark inspirational passages as well as technical how-tos.

2. Write down your ideas. As I read writing books, I usually think of new articles I could sell or techniques to try. Write these down! Don't hesitate to stop reading for 10 or 15 minutes to flesh out the next big idea.

3. Review the book. If you have a book reviewing blog, review the writing textbook. It's nice to formalize your opinion of a wri-book, it will boost your site hits and you can help the author out by spreading the word. (Yet, if it's a crappy book, say so.)

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Another Reason My Parents Rock Socks

In addition to Travel Writing by L. Peat Neil, which promises to be the best textbook on travel writing ever, they bought me The Complete Poetical Works of Elizabeth Barrett Browning. However, was this a normal store copy? Nope. My copy is over 100 years old, published circa 1890.

How does it get better than this?

(My sister bought me an Edward poster, but that's different.)

Pictures and blogging to flood the site in the next few days.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Holiday Bookshelf: A Conversation with Courtney Summers, Part 3

Courtney Summers lives and writes in Canada where she divides her time between a piano, a camera, and word-processing program when she’s not planning for the impending zombie apocalypse. She enjoys Archie comics, Trailer Park Boys, and other fine art. Pierre Trudeau is her hero and if you are a volcano, she would like to know you. -

INN: Have you ever read Judy Blume, and if you have, what's your favorite title by her?

CS: Judy Blume is an inspiration and an icon. So many of her books have resonated with me at different points in my life. From Superfudge to Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret--I honestly don't think I could pick a clear favorite!

INN: Any advice for teen writers?

CS: So often I see teen writers subtly discouraged from writing towards publication--they're told to wait until they're older and I hate that! So my advice to teen writers is this: don't let anyone tell you that you can't or shouldn't write right now. Just go straight at it!

Thank you so much, Courtney! Readers, run over to to learn more about Courtney and her books, and visit her awesome blog.

And sorry this was later! I've had a few techie issues and conflicts with Christmas meals. Regular posting will resume Tuesday. Meanwhile, enjoy the break!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Holiday Bookshelf: A Conversation with Courtney Summers, Part Two

- Happy Christmas Eve, everyone! Here's Part Two of our interview with Courtney Summers, debut author of Cracked Up to Be. -

INN: I absolutely love your title. How did you choose it?

CS: Thank you! My sister came up with it. I had a bad title that I knew wasn't going to fly, so we brainstormed over IMs. I sent her a really, REALLY not-so-great summary of the book and she started slinging potential titles at me and I kept rejecting them until she suggested "Not All It's Cracked Up to Be." I stared at it for a minute, chopped off the first three words, thanked her profusely and promised her if it got published, the world would know she thought it up (thanks, Megan!).

INN: What are your thoughts about perfectionism in teen life?

CS: That need for order and control, to be the best, can be so emotionally taxing, especially when you're a teenager because being a teenager is one of the most crazy, fantastically imperfect times in life. And so much personal growth comes from making mistakes and NOT being perfect. It's distressing to think of teens-- or anyone, really-- holding themselves to impossibly high standards and punishing themselves when they don't meet them.

Thanks to Courtney for participating! Part Three will come on Boxing Day. If you don't know what that is, look it up and guess what part of the world I'm in!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Bookshelf: Welcome to Courtney Summers! Part One

- We'll be doing this in segments over the holiday! Thanks so much to Courtney for participating. -

Courtney Summers is the debut author of Cracked Up to Be (St. Martin's Press.)

INN: How did you break into publishing?

CS: It took a lot of time, a lot of writing, a lot of querying and a lot of rejections before I broke in (I'd call it chipping in, really!). Cracked Up to Be was my fourth completed novel. As with my other novels, I researched agents, made up a list of those I thought would be interested in it and queried them. My agent responded within a couple of days of my querying her, requested the full, and shortly thereafter, made an offer of representation. We worked together to clean up the manuscript and she sent it out to editors as the end of August, 2007. By the end of September, we got an offer and my agent sold my book to St. Martin's Press. It was very exciting and amazing to me at the time (it still is!)-- but fairly straightforward typed out like this.

INN: Your novel is about "perfect" Parker Fadley whose "perfect" life disintegrates for a mysterious reason. Where did you find the idea for this story?

CS: The idea for Cracked Up to Be came from the question, "What's the worst thing you've ever done?" Parker's voice came to me loud and clear, but I wasn't sure what her deal was so I built her story around that question. I'm really fascinated by how easy it is for people-- whether they do so intentionally or not-- make the kind of mistakes you can't easily recover from. If you can recover from them at all...

Part Two comes later this week! 

Update from the Travelling Applicant

Hello, all!

Posting will be scarce during the holidays as I'm celebrating Christmas and the end to applying to college with a trip to London, and don't have a laptop on me. Enjoy the coming-up interview with Courtney Summers, author of the just-about-to-be released Cracked Up to Be.

Tarry ho!

Your Austen-Loving Blogger

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

We Interrupt Our Regularly Scheduled Programming to Announce

Gabrielle Has Finished Her Last College Application!

Monday, December 15, 2008

______ of the Week

The Best Book Trailers of the Week
For writers with cinematic inclinations towards literature
The Simone Elkeles "Perfect Chemistry" Book Trailer
Which Rocks My Socks Off
(Even though I didn't like Leaving Paradise, the writing was decent and this book looks hot!)
The Courtney Summers "Cracked Up to Be" Book Trailer
(Because Courtney's visiting this Saturday! and I love this.)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Bookshelf: Danika's Totally Terrible Toss

It was fun to dip into middle grade after so much George Eliot and teenfic this week, with Danika's Totally Terrible Toss by Dannah Gresh. This is part of the Secret Keeper Girls series, where four different authors take four different stories about four middle school girls (the fourness!) who have different problems in school, and are united in a desire to be good friends and keep trust between each other.

The book was cute. Danika's life is ruled by the belief that your lunch table partners are the most important thing in the cafeteria, and her anger at the situation is directed towards a Flurp-throwing incident with the lunchlady. Through the book, Danika learns the importance of holding on to friends and of giving to others. It's nice to read this after the ridiculous Clique series tries to convince the world that all 12-year-olds date.

I would have enjoyed the book more if Danika had learned how to deal with anger, because that's a lesson that's never taught to young teen girls. We're not supposed to be angry, remember? Throwing Flurp across the caf won't solve much, but being honest and forthright does. The ending reminded me of Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen (the movie), but overall the author did a good job of relating the self-consciousness that is the H2O of middle school. Thank God that's over, right?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Three Things to Do Right Now

To get published:

1. Subscribe to "The Writing Kid," "Funds for Writers" and "Funds for Writers: Small Markets" over at They're free newsletters with weekly advice on getting published and appropriate markets. If you're already a subscriber, go through the past 3 issues and outline 5 magazines or anthologies you could write for.

2. Spend ten minutes brainstorming article and short story ideas. Brainstorming: don't rule anything out, have fun being ridiculous, go to every extreme. The coolest ideas come out of the weirdest ideating sessions.

3. Start writing your bio. Write a summary of everything you've done so far; write a bio that you want to come true in a year; write a bio focusing on everything weird and wonderful about you; write a bio that makes you sound like the Rhodes Scholar of all Rhodes Scholars. Start creating the brand that is your name.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Science of Being a Weird Teen

I was at an NHS eligibility meeting at my high school and like every normal kid between the ages of 13 and 19, raised my hand and asked what we should do if we want to write about an activity that had no adult sponsor.

"What kind of activity?" asked the teacher.

"Um, like an independent project."

"What kind of independent project?"

"Like... well, it's a blog, for teen writ-- I'm sure the [200 people] here don't want to hear about it."

Sure enough, the [colloquial phrase] peanut gallery enjoyed repeating my question ("Does blogging count?") but somehow I doubt I will see them at the induction ceremony. You gotta love high school.

The vignette illustrates the reality we live in, being part of a writing universe online and the real world we can touch without a mousepad. I keep writing and life separate; it's easier than explaining to my lunch table the difficulties of query openers. Compartmentalized? Sure. But the differences between my so-called "night life" as a blogger and writer and "day job" as a fashionable and nerdy high school student make writing- real writing- more interesting.

Later I'll be posting some Top Publishing Tips, but in the meanwhile I need to work on my (last) college application and (too many) scholarship applications and then this thing called homework. This is after I've done a happy dance because of all the author emails I've gotten this week AND the crazy, wonderful people who like to follow my blog.

Moi? Quasi-popular? Never, I'm too weird.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Who Do You Want to Hang Out With (Author Interviews)

We have another December interview and one in January lined up, but otherwise I'm looking for suggestions for bookshelf interviews. I'm game for every YA author and willing to look at adult authors too, if they're translatable into a YA genre. If you are an author, please nominate yourself! or email me at If you're a reader, feel free to comment with as many authors as you want. Author website addresses are helpful.

January will also feature our Career Week, which I'm still putting together. School! Go away!

Monday, December 8, 2008

______ of the Week

Edith Wharton Quote of the Week
For improving the writer's mind with great literature
The air of ideas is the only air worth breathing.
- Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Bookshelf: Hello to Janette Rallison!

Janette lives in Chandler, Arizona with her husband, five children and enough cats to classify her as "an eccentric cat lady." She did not do this on purpose. (The cats, that is; she had the children on purpose.) Her books have sold over 650,000 copies, including It's a Mall World After All, All's Fair in Love, War and High School and How to Take the Ex Out of Ex-Boyfriend. Her 2009 releases are My Fair Godmother and Just One Wish.
INN: Why did you start writing?
JR: Partially I admit, to avoid housework. When standing in my kitchen and I think, "Hmmm, I could clean the fridge or I could write something," writing generally wins out. But I also write because I have characters and stories that constantly run through my head, and I want to write them down so I don't forget them. I'm sure in some times and places in history this was cause for heavy medication, but luckily nowadays you can just call yourself a writer and actually get paid for this malady. This is pretty cool and much better than, say, being burned at the stake.
INN: Several of your books (All's Fair in Love and War, Revenge of the Cheerleaders) feature cheerleaders. Were you a cheerleader, and if not, what did you think of cheerleaders when you were in high school?
JR: I was a cheerleader for my freshman year of high school. I liked cheerleading better than playing the sports because I'm not a competitive person. I just don't want to fight with anybody over who gets a ball. Howeve, it became apparent really fast that I wasn't cut out to be a cheerleader. I have double-jointed elbows and it isn't a pretty sight when you're doing cheers.
Cheerleaders carry a serious stigma in our society. Just the word 'cheerleader' is enough to evoke hate and disdain (or envy and approval) from certain groups of people. Really, cheerleaders are like anybody else--only wearing short, tacky skirts. Some are wonderful people and some should be banished to an island with Paris Hilton and ignored for the rest of their lives. -
INN: What can you tell us about your new 2009 releases, Just One Wish and My Fair Godmother?
JR: They are both fabulous books!!!! And I'm not just saying that because I wrote them. If I hadn't written them I would still love them and probably carry them around forcing them on strangers, saying, "Have you read these incredibly brilliant books?" This, by the way, is why I get invited to very few dinner parties. My Fair Godmother (January 2009) is romantic comedy about a girl who wishes for the perfect prom date (her boyfriend just dumped her for her older sister) and her less than competent fairy godmother sends her back to the Middle Ages, where she ends up being both Cinderella and Snow White. In order to get back to the present day she has to help a friend kill an ogre, slay a dragon, and defeat a mysterious and hunky black knight.
In Just One Wish Annika is trying to give her little brother (who is about to go into surgery for a brain tumor) his favorite wish--to meet the actor who plays Teen Robin Hood in a popular T.V. series. She sets off for Hollywood to find and convince him to come back with her to visit her brother. Although this book has a serious and thought-provoking undertone, it is still a romantic comedy too.
Have you ever taken a funny scenario from real life (a prank, joke or awkward situation) and written it into one of your books?
JR: I use real events from my life and my friends’ lives all the time. Once I even went as far as taking the dialogue from my teenage daughter's cell phone and using it in a scene. That psychotic cat scene from All's Fair in Love, War, and High School--yeah, that actually happened to me, but I was by myself at the time and not on a date. There aren't a lot of advantages to driving through traffic wearing a psychotic on your head, but if you're a writer you can always use this kind of stuff in your novels.

INN: What's the craziest thing that's happened since you've been published?
JR: Crazy is just a way of life for me, although I don't think it has anything to do with being published. It's more about having five children. Seriously, you take your one-year-old twins and their three-year-old brother to a store and things get crazy real fast. (I'm so glad they’re all older now.) As far as writing goes . . . I still find it weird if people recognize me. It doesn't happen very often though. Mostly I'm just your average person, except that instead of dressing up to go to work somewhere every day, I stay in my pajamas and work on my laptop.
INN: Any advice for teen writers?
JR: Keep reading, keep writing, but go to college and get a degree in something that makes money because generally it takes a long time (if ever) for writers to be able to support themselves on a writing income. But trust me, it's still worth it!
Thank you, Janette!
Visit Janette Rallison at her website ( and blog (

And the Winner Is...

Christy's won a copy of Chicken Soup: Teens Talk Relationships. This was done in the traditional Innovative manner with a kitchen bowl, paper and miniscule scissors. I photographed the process and had my sister pick the winner (Yay Christy!) blindly. I would post the photos now, except I've had an epic day (which I will blog about later) and last time I tried to connect our camera to the computer, the screen literally went AWOL. Fuzzy lines and noises and everything.
Christy, send me your mailing address (hopefully you live in the US or Canada, but if not, we can work it out.) My email is in the profile. If Christy doesn't claim the prize by Saturday, the 13th, there will be a new winner.
Thanks to everyone who commented and followed! We'll be running more giveaways and fabulousness next year.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Help Teens Run a Magazine

Run over to and see a contest called Best Buy @ 15, with 30 teen finalists competing for $10,000 to fund their project. The Chen siblings (Jenny is a New Moon reader!) are trying to get increased funding for their start-up magazine, JJ Express, which sounds like an awesome idea and opportunity for teens. Take a minute and vote for them.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Writing Wisdom from Tiger-Loving Pantheist Authors

In spite of the obvious, shining promise of it, there comes a moment when you realize that he whisper that has been pestering you all along from the back of your mind is speaking the flat, awful truth: it won't work. An element is missing, that spark that brings to life a real story, regardless of whether the history or the food is right. Your story is emotionally dead, that's the crux of it...

Along the way, I got the response, "A writer? Is that so? I have a story for you...

The elderly man said, "I have a story that will make you believe in God."

- Yann Martel, Life of Pi

Monday, December 1, 2008

______ of the Week

Brand New YA Blog of the Week
Ivy from emailed me this week to tell me about her site. is a blog/site/forum dedicated to reviewing books, and they have a positively spiffy background. They've reviewed some cool books like Cycler and have started their forum with book swaps and the like. Have a happy Monday.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Recycling the Assigned Calendar of Life and Stress (WORD)

That sounds very Zen of me, doesn't it? Weird.

Many of you know I have been working on a novel since last February, entitled The Destruction of an Honor Student. I love this book, I've loved writing it and I'm very positive about its future. Using tips from Kelly L. Stone's Time to Write, I set out a master goal to have the book written by September 1, rewritten by October 15 and finished by December 1. I met the first two deadlines with ferocity. I haven't edited my book since October.

What happened?

In a word: school. I'm taking four AP classes, two instruments with a performing ensemble and honors orchestra, applying to seven colleges (which takes MUCH longer than you'd think), going to see Twilight, participating in a thousand different clubs... I'm not complaining, and as hectic as life is, I love what I'm doing. But when I'm writing and re-writing essays every night, I don't have time to be working on a book.

At least in November I didn't.

So, I changed my schedule from Gabrielle-whining to Gabrielle-being-deliberate. I chose to take November off from novel-writing (and freelancing, but that's another story.) When I go back to my book on December 1 (and finish by midnight on New Years'), I will look at it with googly eyes and a fair amount of disgust. December will see the end of college applications and my life-in-bondage to College Board.* December will see Destruction finished.

Recycle the calendar that you have been given. Life will never stoop to accomodate writing, and sometimes writing can't happen because other things are more important. Just don't forget you're a writer. Look at the world with a writer's eyes. Journal every night. Check out books from your school library and read them in between classes. Then, when you go back to work with a sigh and a skip and a little tear, you will be a better writer for it.

*After December 6th, I will no longer be taking College Board tests. I have promised to burn my big blue book. If I can find a safe place to do so, I will burn the $%@! thing and take pictures to prove it.

Friday, November 28, 2008

That Sarah Dessen Mood

I have resisted Sarah Dessen for about three years. My friend Rachel once said that authors who write a lot of the same kind of books are not very good, and said this while looking at Sarah Dessen's newest release. I agreed with her.

Yet one weekend this fall, I was exhausted and frustrated and low. This happens when my normal schedule (creature of habit, what can I say?) is thwonked and I have too much or too little going on. I needed a book that wouldn't require too much higher thought, that was well-written enough not to annoy me and that would convince me that true love and fulfillment are possible. I picked up Keeping the Moon, since I mistakenly thought this was her best one (it's not.)

I liked it.

I'm in the middle of This Lullaby right now (which I adore.) That's the thing about her books, I'm predicting: they're adorable. They won't rock your worldview or make you cry too hard or persuade you to join the Peace Corps, but they rock you to sleep when you're tired and change your mood from I am Cranky and Disillusioned to Maybe The World Can Be Beautiful.

To a Sarah Dessen mood.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Quick Thoughts on College Essay Editing

- At this point, I'm thrilled if my parents tell me that a part of it is "good."
- At this point, I'm not emotionally attached to my essays (which is really good.)
- I've edited several of my friends' essays and learn more about my own writing in the process.
- Always use active verbs.
- Always put the focus on YOU and not the college/hero/school/toy in question.
- Don't be trite.
- Write like you talk to grown-ups and you'll be fine.
- It's a little unnerving to write an essay that may be worth more than $50,000 for merit scholarships.
- If I edited my freelance stuff as intensely as these college essays, I'd be the Writer of the Year. They don't even have that award but I'd win it.
- You learn a lot.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Peace and E. Lockhart

It's strange.

After figuring out the college deadline I (almost) missed, after handing in a trillion assignments, after preparing for an all-day field trip and then Thanksgiving, after writing multiple college essays and re-writing and re-writing (about which I'll write more later), after surviving cold temperatures, after worrying and worrying and worrying and fixing a Physics lab, I'm feeling like there's not a heck of a lot to worry about right now.


Oh. And the fact that the title of E. Lockhart's third Ruby novel is The Treasure Map of Boys. She is writing. The third. Ruby Oliver. Novel. By the time I read it, I'll almost be at college.


______ of the Week

Gabriellism of the Week
For writers in the college application process
Applying to college is like cheating on your boyfriend. You spend 500 words telling College X that they're the love of your life and press "submit." Then you write another 500 words naughtily describing to a second college how good it's going to be when you get together, while tearfully explaining to number three that their existence prevented you from committing suicide. Like all cheating, it's stressful.
- Gabrielle Linnell

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Bookshelf: Hello to Jay Asher!!

13 Reasons Why was one of those books everyone kept recommending and I never could find the time to read. I finally did this summer, and was blown away. If I had done a 2007 Best Books of the Year list, Jay Asher's debut would be on it. This book is so appealing to both super-readers and non-readers and so accurate about teen life and struggle with depression. I could go on for hours and hours, but instead I am so happy to present Mr. Jay Asher.
INN: Why did you start writing?
JA: I've enjoyed writing ever since I learned how to write. I was never great at drawing or music, so writing was the one creative outlet where I felt somewhat confident. After I took a college class on the history of children's literature, I finally discovered the type of writing I wanted to pursue. But I was only writing on humorous books for younger children until I began working on Thirteen Reasons Why.
INN: Thirteen Reasons Why combines the tapes of Hannah's narration with Clay's "real time" thoughts and actions. When you wrote, what was it like combining the two?
JA: It was fairly easy once I got going. At first, I tried writing their stories exactly as they are now, with Hannah saying something and then Clay reacting. But it became difficult to keep their voices distinct. So I spent about a year-and-a-half writing Hannah's story all the way through. And then I went back and added Clay's story. By the time I began writing from Clay's perspective, I'd forgotten many of the things that happened to Hannah, which actually helped me capture some of Clay's tension while he listened to the tapes...because I felt tense, too!
INN: Which character resembles you the most? The least?
JA: Clay resembles me the most, especially when I was in high school. He's a good guy overall, but sometimes he has trouble standing up for what's right. And I hope I'm the least like Bryce. From what we know about him in the story, he completely lacks any concern for others.
INN: Your book has received universally outstanding reviews, by everyone from aged librarians to teens to critics. What has it been like to receive such recognition?
JA: When they praise the writing itself, I feel very satisfied because I worked hard at that. But when someone tells me the stories of Clay and Hannah meant so much to them and made them a better person, I definitely glow inside, but I also get a little shy. This was a very personal story for me, and when someone really understands and appreciates what I was trying to say, there's an odd sense of being emotionally exposed.
INN: What's up next in your writing career?
JA: I'm working on my next book for teens, which you'll hopefully also enjoy. And then I'll write another one. And another. But someday I'd love to see those humorous books for younger children I've written sitting on bookshelves rather than just in my computer.
INN: Any advice for teen writers?
JA: The best thing anyone can do to improve their writing is join a critique group. It's one thing to write for yourself, but it's something else to write with the goal of having other people read your words. And the only way to make sure your words reflect exactly what you meant to say is to have someone else give you an honest critique.
I've been in groups where about ten writers met every-other-week to discuss what each other was working on, and I'm now in a group with only two other writers. As long as your group is honest and tells you your strengths and weaknesses...and as long as you're willing to honestly consider their suggestions...your writing will improve dramatically.
Thank you so much, Jay! Visit Jay at and

Thursday, November 20, 2008

One of Them

I finished the essay about 1 hour and 20 minutes after starting, with several interruptions, so I think that's pretty good. I'll let you know how I do. Meanwhile, anyone up for a fabulous Chicken Soup: Teens Talk Relationships? Look on the sidebar. And, um, yeah. The most amazing debut author of 2007 is coming. To this. Blog. On. Saturday.
I'm a little psyched, and not just because I wrote 720 words in about an hour.

One of Those

To write a 700-word essay in 1 hour (not entirely from scratch, mind you, but the original copy was left at school with several original thoughts) it is best to follow to schedule below.

0-15mins: Write 250 words
15-30mins: Write 250 words
30-45mins: Write 250 words
45-58mins: Edit
58-60mins: Polish format and submit

Let's see if I can do it. Will report in approximately 1.1 hours.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Save Yourself Freelance Worries

I recently submitted an article and after I sent it, realized I had failed to check whether a magazine was still in print. Checked it out and, sure enough, they had gone out of print several months ago. This was a classic example of a blonde moment (err- a dumb moment, anyway) that does no good for anybody. I've done this a few times throughout my 3+ years of freelancing and it's always embarrassing, though editors are very kind about it.

How can you save yourself from this?

Check and cite even the most well-known facts. Check to make sure pi is 3.14. That the world is round. That Columbus sailed it in 1492. That the ocean is blue. Worst case scenario, you lose fifteen minutes to confirming your own knowledge. Best case, you save yourself a lot of time and trouble.

Do the whole read-aloud thing. I'm much more of a fan of reading aloud short pieces because I don't get laryngitis as a result. Reading aloud can help you catch silly errors that otherwise your tired eyes glaze over.

Make a checklist of submission guidelines. Sometimes bloopers come in the form of forgetting to include your address, or formatting, or something that's a forgettable quick-fix. When you find magazine guidelines, make a brief Word checklist of how to submit the article so you don't get rejected on a stupid little thing like email attachments.

Any other tips for preventing silly preventable mistakes? Dying your hair brown might work, but then again, I've had auburn hair for my whole life.

______ of the Week

Lyrics of the Week

Relient K: In Love with the 80s

...When you're the president of the breakfast club

And you're not hesitant to fall in love

To fall in love with the eighties, to fall away

To fall in love with the eighties.

I am going to wear a pink tux to the prom

Live without a care, what can possibly go wrong

I am going to wear a pink tux to the prom

Live without a care cause you threw it away to fall in love,

with the eighties

Sunday, November 16, 2008

WORD: Impetus

This is brief because I've got an impetus of my own and need to master it.

1. a force that moves something along [syn: drift]
2. the act of applying force suddenly; "the impulse knocked him over"

Impetus is what propels you, when you get that feeling that blows you away, when the plot problem finally makes sense and makes great art, the song that brings dance back, the ambition bright in the early morning when the world is possible.

Don't wait for the impetus to write, because you won't write much. But when you get it-- some way, some how-- take it and run.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Bookshelf: This Book Isn't Fat, It's Fabulous

by Nina Beck
I picked this one up because I'm interested in books about weight, especially non-diet books about such topics. Riley sounded awesome and she was: this snarky, mean size 14/16 who gets around and doesn't let anybody tell her what to do. The last line doesn't work with Dad, though, so she gets shipped off to fat camp... though not before making out with her BFF's crush and lying to the other BFF about where she's going.
The book was fun and there were some awesome one-liners. I appreciated how Beck pointed out the obvious problems in any Riley-D romance and Eric can pretty much take me to prom right now. Howevah, darlings, I was disappointed by the ending. Why, you ask? Wasn't it a super happy ending?
Exactly. I'm becoming a miser, ever since Breaking Dawn unleashed its venom on the world. I hate perfectly happy endings and This Book Isn't Fat, It's Fabulous had a perfectly happy ending. I wish Riley had had some serious consequences, or choices or decisions to make. The ending also felt badly plotted, and for me-who-hates-plot-in-all-its-forms to say this, it was badly plotted.
Overall, characterization brilliant but I wish the characters had made difficult decisions, and that the ending was a tad more bittersweet than ultra milk chocolate. I want to see Riley play a butt-kicking plus-size Ophelia.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Some Notes on Selling Books

I want to sell books in a bookstore. Not somebody else's; mine. I want to have the throngs of bubbling fans, gasping with love for their idol, swooning over the magnificence of literary prose and the author's extreme good looks and oh-how-much-they-think-she-rocks and maybe nominate her for the Entertainer of the Year award just like Stephenie Meyer...
I'm not completely clueless, but I will sell my books one day. I met one author selling her books at B&N this week who got me thinking about the Dos and Don'ts of hand-selling in person. I'm a millenial, perpetually frightened of human-human interaction and much more comfortable on the Internet, so authors and will-be authors, pay attention.
Big shiny things help. Author X had two great blow-up billboard things of her covers that were professional and bling-like. It drew attention to her books and reinforced that she was a Published Author.
Push back a little. This author talked us the moment we walked in from the cold outside because she was right there. I didn't know what she was talking about till I put two and two together. Authors, please put yourself in the Correct Section or at least a little more into the store. In-your-face, not digging it.
Be hip, cool, attractive. The "young" thing is hard to pull off when you're 65. But if you're selling to teens, I'll be honest: it helps to be a twenty or thirtysomething. I have serious ageism problems when it comes to trusting a fifty-six-year-old in a knitted vest with $8.99 about a rocker/model/Judy Blume deal.
If you are an older author marketing to teen readers, dress well and age-appropriate, and bring along a team of drama kids. I'm not kidding. Find a group of drama nerds, pay them $20 to stand with you for two hours and do skits, hand out fliers, prank the bookstore people and act like monkeys because then I will believe you know something about teen life.
Don't love your book. I know your book is the next Big Thing, but book-love comes off as excessive narcissism. Be friendly, ask about me and my interests, tease me about my ugly sweater, flirt with me if it's legal, find appropriate jokes or inappropriate ones that you can pan off as "so dumb," be interesting. If you are, then your book will be.
I'm resisting the temptation that Facebook is, calling my name, promising me that it's so easy to sign up and that it's a social utility that connects you to the people around you... must not click, must not click, must not click or those Ivy League applications might as well be kerfluffel. And the fact that I'm on page 167 of Saving Zoe by Alyson Noel and the whole internet social thing isn't looking good. Nor is Marc, though I can't figure out whether I like him or not. (WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Teens Talk Relationships, Gabrielle Talks Reviews

Sibling #2 is screaming, "Thief! Thief! Sock thief!" at Sibling #3 who is conveniently deaf (and didn't know about the socks' origins.) Relationships are funny things, and all the funny, sad and romantic parts of our human-human connections are explored in Chicken Soup's compilation, Teens Talk Relationships.
I haven't read as many Chicken Soup books as I'd like, but I love this one. If anything, the franchise is incredible because it lives up to its name: the stories are comforting, often sweet, sometimes sad. I love the story of Michelle and the rose, the stories of first love and almost love and love lost. I'm not a huge fan of the poetry bits and some of the stories are not well-written. Overall, I'm impressed with the honesty of people sharing their stories, with the challenge to risk everything to gain a good relationship, with Chicken Soup for delivering another winner.
Look at the thingie on the right sidebar to win a copy of Chicken Soup.

Monday, November 10, 2008

______ of the Week

Welcome the weekly feature, _____ of the Week, where Gabrielle spotlights a random WriTeenlike thing of the week. If you want to nominate a book/blog/barette for ____ of the Week, leave a comment.
Disney Product of the Week:
The Little Mermaid Broadway Pen
For writing your way out of the sea

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Bookshelf: Hello to Blake Snyder!

In his 20-year career as a screenwriter and producer, Blake Snyder has sold dozens of scripts, including co-writing Blank Check, which became a hit for Disney, and Nuclear Family for Steven Spielberg -- both million-dollar sales. Named "one of Hollywood's most successful spec screenwriters," Blake continues to write and sell screenplays, most recently a 2006 sale of a horror-comedy. His book, Save the Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You'll Ever Need was published in May 2005, and is now in its thirteenth printing, having sold over 50,000 copies. Blake has a B.A. in English from Georgetown University and lives in Beverly Hills, California. He is a member of the Writers Guild of America, west.

INN: When you were a teen, did you know you wanted to be a screenwriter?
BS: Yes! My father was a TV producer. I was in "the business" from a very early age. He put me to work doing voices for his cartoon series like "Roger Ramjet" and "The Big Blue Marble." When I visited my Dad at his office, he always parked me in the "writers room." I got to hang out with the guys who wrote Roger Ramjet -- Jim Thurman and Gene Moss -- and I thought they had the greatest job ever! So when it came time to sit down and write anything, "Fade In" was the first thing I ever wrote.
My first script was a comedy and I wrote it when I was 17 or I should say, I almost wrote it. I did not finish that script! I didn't finish it primarily because I did not know anything about how to structure a story. At the time it was very frustrating! I wanted to write a screenplay, I had read a few screenplays so I knew the secret meaning of what "INT." and "EXT." mean (these stand for INTERIOR and EXTERIOR the indiciation of whether a scene being shot is outdoors or indoors).
I had a lot of wonderful ideas and pictures and characters in my head, but I could not finish that script because I did not know what was expected of me. It's one of the reasons I wrote Save the Cat! Now as a successful screenwriter for many years, with million dollar sales to the likes of Steven Spielberg, and getting to write fun movies like Blank Check for Disney, I want everyone with a "great idea" to not have that frustrating experience of "running out of gas" and only being able to write "half a script."
INN: Save the Cat! Goes to the Movies, your second book to Save the Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need is a guide for all writers to the basic nature of stories. Why do you think that, as people, we still like to hear the same stories over and over again?
BS: Well, I agree we like to hear the same story.... only different! Here's an example of a type of movie I talk about in that book called "Monster in the House" that we've all seen a million versions of, but it goes back to a very primal, very old story type we've been telling for centuries. I can tell you the Greek myth of the Minotaur and the Maze. It's scary! There's this really cool monster -- a half man/half bull! And there's this really scary place our hero is sent to do battle with this monster -- a maze. I can see it in my mind, it's dark and spooky in there, with lots of twists and turns, maybe a few survivors trapped in its dark corners, waiting for our hero to come free them and kill the monster. Great story.
Now flash forward to the movie “Alien.” You have the same elements: a very scary monster -- a space creature that keeps morphing into a bigger and scarier creature; you have the twists and turns of the spaceship The Nostromo where the "monster" is running amok killing all on board. And you have a new kind of hero for our age -- a woman -- Sigourney Weaver. We love this story! And the lesson, the moral of the story is the same as the Minotaur in the Maze: don't... get... EATEN! And yet “Alien” resonates with us and this era -- relatively speaking -- because to us it's a slightly different version.
Now flash forward a little more. The movie “Saw.” Same set up. Same lesson. You may think it's brand new -- but it's not. It's just the same story told for a new age. The trick for writers is to learn why certain stories, and certain elements in them, will always attract us, and learn how to tweak any story to make it relevant to a new generation. To me, this is the coolest aspect of being a writer, learning a craft that has a long and honorable tradition.
INN: You've been involved with a project in the LA school system, helping seniors write an industry-standard screenplay as their final paper. Why did you get involved, and what was that experience like? (,0,3848254.story )
BS: I love writers. I love working with writers to help them formulate their ideas into stories that resonate. I love making it as simple as possible to jump in and play with these very powerful storytelling tools. Save the Cat! is the book that does this and has broken open the seemingly impossible to break into movie industry. This book fell into the hands of Peter Cook, a veteran high school teaacher who thought he could use it to teach screenwriting to his senior class. Peter contacted me, and I was thrilled to particpate along with our software partners Final Draft (the only screenwriting formatting software to use in my opinion). Well, would you believe it -- every one of the students in that class wrote a full, perfectly structured screenplay.
But we had even greater success there! One of those projects, a zombie movie called “Dead Halls,” was actually optioned by a major Hollywood producer. I am now working with Peter and with Final Draft to bring out a version of Save the Cat! specifically designed for a high school curriculum and I couldn't be more exicted. Again, my goal is to help everyone who want to write, do so.
INN: Apart from being all dialogue, what makes screenwriting different from other writing genres?
BS: I don't know if it is. Story is story. That's my favorite motto. In my book, I have something called the Blake Snyder Beat Sheet (named after someone we all know and love!) It has 15 key plot points that occur in EVERY story. No, it's not a "formula" and no, it's not a strait jacket to make you feel confined into having to tell a story with certain beats happening at certain times, but it IS a guide, a map, a loose organization to help anyone who wants to tell a story. You will find these 15 beats in a 30 second commmercial on TV, you will find them in a novel, a musical, even in a speech by a politician.
Why? For the same reason we like to hear similar stories over and over again -- because it works. The only real difference I see in screenwriting is that the finished product -- an actual script -- is not a finished product. Unlike a a book that is in itself complete, a screenplay is only a blueprint for further action. Someone must take it, invest in the possibility that it will be a successful final product, and use it to do something else -- use it for the basis of a film.
This is why it's so important for screenwriters to ask key questions that other writers don't have to ask, namely, who is this for? Will anyone else be interested in seeing this besides me? And is this easy to understand and attractive on its face? Can I get you interested in my script just based on its concept? All these considerations are talked about in my books, and I think it's what makes Save the Cat! readers the smartest and best prepared writers out there -- no matter what type of story they are telling!
INN: What's the coolest thing about writing in Hollywood?
BS: I had an office in Santa Barbara, (California) across the street from a movie theater. I wrote a script. Sold it. And a year or so later it was playing across the street from me. I kept thinking to myself: "I write it here, it comes out there!" (a paraphrase of Albert Brooks’ line in the movie, “Broadcast News”) but that was maybe the coolest thing about being a Hollywood writer. When your work actually shows up on screen for others to enjoy, it's an extremely rewarding feeling.
INN: Any advice for teen writers?
BS: Try every kind of writing there is. In my career I have been the editor of my high school and college newspapers, been a rock critic, a movie critic, written ads for a real estate magazine, been the poetry editor of my college literary journal and also worked in theater, radio and TV as an actor, editor and producer. Every experience in communication is valuable, and there really is no such thing as a small job, or a small part, they are all helping form your skills and your experience. Do it all! And mostly, have FUN doing it!
Thank you so much, Blake! Visit Blake's website at and buy Save the Cat! Goes to the Movies here

WORD: Read to a Friend

I am not the biggest fan of reading work aloud. I hate reading out loud, I don't have time to do it and have said so. But a late-night experience proved disastrous for my ego and fabulous for my novel, and I should eat my humble pie before it gets cold.
My best friend was over and we were eating candy at 2 or 3 in the morning when I had the brilliant idea to read sections of my novel out to her. She was somewhat familiar with the story and I filled in whatever plot points we missed. And learned a few things.
1. Stark writing, anyone? I'm a huge fan of both stark, to-the-point writing and writing a la E. Lockhart and John Green, full of witty repartee. Reading my novel out loud, I realized it failed to do either. There were so many distracting comments that served to make me feel smarter and the reader more confused.
2. Funny bits are strange. She laughed at the parts I didn't think were especially funny. As in: my grand opinion of my own humor was way off. One of Jessica's authors recently posted about humor and voice ( and I recommend reading it.
3. Don't think so much of yourself. I realized how much of my novel was pretentious, more like a girl writing for The New York Times rather than a girl writing a good book. Don't write for critics. Write for yourself, and then your friends, who don't put up with any bull and deserve a story as straightforward as a phone call.
I have a lot of revising to do before my December 1st deadline, and I'm submitting three college applications today (eek!). But reading my novel aloud to a live human being helps a lot. If I read to myself, I'm not thinking as deeply as I should about what's wrong. So find a friend and subject them to some novel reading and promise to acknowledge them in the back of your book. I will.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Write Your Butts Off

I never blog about politics. Ever. I feel I don't know enough to make an intelligent contribution, and too much of political discussion is people getting mad without making points. I'm making an exception.
I can't pretend that I've always been on the Obama bandwagon. I've had my doubts about economic and foreign policy, about experience, and about the validity of my own views. But I was excited by his acceptance speech; I'm excited about the potential new direction of the country. And, in an opportunistic way, thrilled because if you're not writing about being a teenager in this kind of history, you're stupid. I'll get to it this weekend.
Write for your newspapers, for big magazines, little magazines, for anyone and everyone. Your thoughts right now matter so much- share them.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Giveaway! Giveaway! Give-a-What?!

Thanks to all who have become followers of the blog; the less I blog, the more people read me... is this a sign?
A publicist for Chicken Soup has generously donated a copy of Chicken Soup: Teens Talk Relationships for an Innovative giveaway. I picked this one because a) I'm a huge romantic and b) relationships interest me more than any other category or topic. I'll be reviewing the book in a few days, but we can start the giveaway process right here.
RULES (Very Simple)

1. Comment on this post with a 2-3 sentence anecdote about a relationship you have. Whether with S.O. or parent or puppy, I do not care. Do you have a relationship? Then you can comment!

2. All comments are counted equally toward an out-of-the-hat drawing on December 1.
Extra Points! (Very Simple)

Extra credit has saved my butt so many times, I'll lend you some.

1. If you commented on Susan Johnston's "Comment for a Cure," you get 3 chances to win.

2. If you become a follower of this blog or have been a follower of this blog, you get 3 chances to win.

3. If you did both, you get 4 chances to win. Don't yell at me, I'm bad at math.
You have till December 1 to win a brand spanking new copy of this anticipated anthology that promises to be the perfect book for when you feel like escaping your own relationships and learning about someone else's.

Monday, November 3, 2008


I have survived the first marking period of my senior year and the Week of Horrors ended, leaving me with straight As and an 80 in Physics (sigh.) This means, apart from a few odds and ends, an election project, the actual election, college applications and orchestra and CD deadlines, I have loads of free time. At least enough for Innovative.
Thanks for putting up with the dearth of posts. It's my time for penance to the WriTeen community, so what do I have planned?
Of the Weeks: I'm starting a regular feature every Monday called Of the Week. This will be a word/post/book/toothbrush/random object of the week that will relate to WriTeenism.
Blake Snyder This Saturday! Blake Snyder is a screenwriter and author of books about screenwriting, including Save the Cat! The Last Book On Screenwriting You'll Ever Need. He'll be chatting with us about his involvement with inner city schools in LA, how he got started as a screenwriter and his advice for y'all.
Writing Career Week I'd hope to have done this earlier, but I am beginning to put together a Career Week. This will be done in a similar format to Behind the Blog, but focusing on different careers available for teens interested in publishing. No date as yet. If you're a writing professional who's interested in being interviewed, send me an email at with "Career Week" in the subject line.
We're back in Kansas, people.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Wonderful Wednesday with Megan Kelley Hall

Megan Kelley Hall is the debut author of Sisters in Misery, a successful freelance writer and a founding partner in Kelley & Hall Book Publicity and Promotion. She studied creative writing at Skidmore College under Steven Millhauser. Megan lives in Salem, Massachusetts (near the setting of her novel!)
INN: Sisters of Misery is set in Hawthorne, Massachusetts, a place wherewitch-hunting was almost as common (and scary!) as it was in Salem. Why did you choose to set your novel there?
MKH: I live right next to Salem, Massachusetts and I’ve always wanted to write something that captured the essence of the gothic undertones of growing up in a place that had such a dark history. Plus, I wanted to show how people really haven’t changed all that much—that persecution and ostracism are still alive and well in today’s society. Plus, what better place to set a modern-day version of the Salem witch hunts than a fictional town right next to Salem, Mass?
INN: Your book has been called "stunning," "amazing," "unforgettable" and "superb" by readers and reviewers alike. What's it like to read reviews of your own work?
MKH: Completely surreal. Before your book gets published, you have no idea whether or not people will like it or connect with the characters or enjoy the story. The feedback that I’ve gotten from readers has been amazing and has gotten me through some tough days. I don’t think that readers realize the impact they have on writers. Their opinion means more than any review or magazine mention, at least in my opinion.
I love hearing directly from readers (and I always try to respond) because that is why I started writing in the first place: to connect with others. What makes me happiest about writing is entertaining people with my stories and giving them a little escape from their own lives. That’s what reading has always been for me. An escape.
INN: How did you break into publication?
MKH: Hmm… Let’s see, the book started off as an adult fiction. Then I had a preemie (2.5 pounds at birth) who stayed at Mass General for 60 days (I was there 8 hours a day for sixty days with her). Then a few years later, I had series of mini-strokes, lost partial vision in one eye, had a carotid stent, discovered that my carotid arteries were aged from radiation therapy I received when I had childhood cancer and had to undergo open heart surgery and a sternotomy. It was a nine hour procedure where they basically flatlined me for 96 minutes.
It was during my recovery period that I dusted off my manuscript, turned it into a YA, got and agent and sold it in a two book deal all within the same year. So….just a typical first book story, I guess. But seriously, I’ve been freelance writing for years for major mags like Glamour, Elle, Boston Magazine, etc. I’ve had a lot of jobs—advertising, radio, public relations, event planning. And I’ve found a way to incorporate writing into all of them. I am also a founding partner in Kelley & Hall Book Publicity, an independent literary publicity company ( that I started with my mother and sister a few years ago.
While I was at Skidmore College, I studied under Steven Millhauser for a few semesters in his fiction and creative writing courses. This was before he won the Pulitzer Prize for Martin Dressler. He was pretty inspiring and very supportive, but I didn’t realize at the time that I was studying under such an incredible writer. Writing has always been a huge part of my life. I like having control in a world that at times feels completely out of control. I enjoy creating characters and places and relationships. Writing has always been a form of therapy for me as well. When I was recovering from my recent open-heart surgery, the only way that I got through those difficult and painful months was to work on my novel and to write on my blog (as well as in my personal journals). Writing has gotten me through many difficult times in my life.
INN: If Alfred Hitchcock made a movie out of *Sisters of Misery,* who would play Kate, Maddie and Cordelia (either contemporary or old Hollywood
MKH: My dream cast (although they are too old to play teens now), would have been Jennifer Connelly as Maddie, Gwyneth Paltrow as Kate, and Angelina Jolie as Cordelia. And for the boys, I’d pick Josh Holloway as Reed and Johnny Depp as Finn. Again, they are about twenty years too old to play those parts.But if I were to cast it using age-appropriate actresses/actors, here’s my picks:
Cordelia: Blake Lively (though she’d have to dye her hair red)
Maddie: Rachel Bilson or Kristen Stewart (even though she’s already Bella in Twilight)
Kate Endicott: Katie Cassidy (Supernatural) or Kate Bosworth
Finn: Jared Padalecki (Supernatural)
Trevor: Chace Crawford (Gossip Girls)
Reed: Henry Cavill (The Tudors)
Rebecca: Julianne Moore
Abigail: Laura Linney or Sandra Bullock
Tess: Shirley MacLaine
INN: Who's your favorite Gothic author?
MKH: I’m inspired by “gothic” writers like Edgar Allan Poe, Shirley Jackson, and William Faulkner. Today’s gothic writers that provide inspiration would be Stephen King, Donna Tartt, and Alice Hoffman. I’ve always loved suspense novels, especially as a teen. So many YA suspense novelists like Lois Duncan, Christopher Pike and V.C. Andrews inspired my writing.
INN: Any advice for teen writers?
MKH: Three tips: First, if you want to be a writer, stop talking about it and just do it. The more you talk about it, the less writing you actually get done. Believe me, I know from first-hand experience!I’ve heard people say again and again that they don’t have the time to write. NOBODY has the time to write (unless you’re James Patterson or JK Rowling). You have to be like Nike and JUST DO IT!
Second tip—an important one—develop a thick skin and expect rejection—it happens a lot in the publishing industry. The third, and you’d think this is strange, but READ. I’ve been to so many houses of people who want to write or be an author and there isn’t a book to be found. If you want to be a writer, you have to read endlessly, in different genres, in different time periods. If you’re not writing, you should be reading.
Thank you, Megan!
As I write this, the Phillies have just won the World Series and our beloved city of Philadelphia is going bananas. I'm going pretty bananas myself because my *#$%ing mousetrap car has just travelled the 3m required for an Acceptable Grade and it appears I will enter postsecondary education. It is a Wonderful Wednesday.

Monday, October 27, 2008

On Hiatus (Except for Megan Kelley Hall)

I'm going to have to put Innovative on hold for a week while the marking period ends. Teachers have created new definitions for the phrase, "cruel and unusual punishment," and I do have to go to college. However, Megan Kelley Hall will be joining us on Wednesday to talk about her fab debut, Sisters of Misery.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Thing About Contests

I don't enter contests much, unless they're scholarship-based. There are many different opinions about contests- they're fab, they're fly, they're flat- but I stay away from them for a couple reasons.
There's likely to be an entry fee, and I'm in a perpetual state of being broke. Unless I've published something. Contests also have specific guidelines (stories about mad cats celebrating Kwaanza) and I find it hard to go that specific (mad cat celebrations in general are OK.) Contests have concrete deadlines and that's a good thing, but in the long run, contests are harder to put on query bios. I prefer straight-out working with an editor.
What do you think?

NEXT WEEK: Megan Kelley Hall will be joining us for Wednesday Wonderfulness to talk about her spooky-and-acclaimed debut, Sisters of Misery

Monday, October 20, 2008

I Wanna Write a Teen Life Novel

Which begs the question because I'm writing a book about high school academia.
But still.
The guy who read Crime and Punishment at age 7. The girl with the awesome blonde streak in her dark Asian hair. The friend who's already been accepted to college and lords it over us all, charitably. The debate team captain who's quiet and brilliant. The SCA president straight out of Mark Twain. The newspaper editor in love with her boyfriend.
These people make up the mosaic of my Monday-Friday life, and sometimes weekends, when writing allows. They get cranky and fussy and mean and lovely, all the time, without reason. They are the ones that I want to write about, to explain the mystery of teenness to the outside world. Their dramas and stories, and whining and laughing are what feeds writers. They make my day. They will make my book.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Bookshelf: Hello to Kent Healy!

Kent Healy wrote his first book, "Cool Stuff" They Don't Teach You In School, when he was 17. He's now the author of the "Cool Stuff" Coaching Course, The One Minute Student and co-author with Jack Canfield of The Success Principles for Teens. He's appeared on TV and radio shows more than 100 times, writes columns for several newspapers, and was the youngest contestant on The Messengers, a search for America's next great inspirational speaker.

INN: What prompted The Success Principles for Teens?
KH: It all began over six years ago when I was 17 years old. While my brother and I were writing our first book, “Cool Stuff” They Should Teach in School, we were faced with some “doubtful opposition” (to be politically correct). Many of our friends didn’t believe we could actually write a book and many adults thought it was a “nice idea” that would never come into fruition. Part of us began to believe some of the feedback. After all, neither one of us had a strong writing background. We didn’t have any connections in the publishing industry and our business experience was minimal.
Fortunately, we met somebody whose opinion put a new gust of inspiration in our sails. Six months earlier I had set a goal to meet Jack Canfield. Miraculously, a family friend mentioned he had two tickets to an entrepreneur’s conference in which Jack Canfield would be the key note speaker. It was a combination of déjà-vu and astonishment. To say the least, we were excited.
After waiting in line for twenty minutes, we finally had our chance to speak with Jack. Upon sharing our “Cool Stuff” book idea with him, he was extremely supportive and helpful. Of course, we then had a newfound motivation to see the project through. Jack and I spoke a on a few different occasions over the next few years and slowly, he became a mentor and coach for me.
When the original Success Principles was released, Jack sent me a signed copy. I read it and not surprisingly, I was inspired. I just knew that this information needed to be packaged for my generation as well. After speaking with Jack about it, he asked me to co-author The Success Principles for Teens with him.
The information was important and powerful and I was thrilled to begin writing The Success Principles for Teens which took over two years to complete. I also couldn’t help but take the lead on personally managing the design process of the cover and the interior (I know how important those parts are). Now that the book is written and distributed through bookstores I can honestly say (with a sigh of relief and contentment) that I am very pleased with the way it’s turned out.
INN: In your opinion, what principle do you think is most important?
KH: Well, all 20 principles are designed to work together. Jack and I were very careful when we chose these top 20 principles from the original 64. But the one principle that comes to mind immediately for me is the very first chapter titled, Take 100% Responsibility for Your Life—and it is first for a good reason.
In order to make any positive changes in our lives we must take full responsibility for the results we are currently getting. We must give up all of our complaining and blaming if we want experience the level of success we deserve. Like we always say, the only way to a better life is a better you. And the only way to a better involves taking 100% responsibility for our actions.
Although it’s a very simple concept, this can be a difficult lesson to learn. That’s why Jack and I have dedicated an entire chapter to address this topic.
There are of course other topics in the book that are perhaps a little more interesting and unique, but this principle is the foundation that allows all other success principles to work. If you don’t FULLY understand this concept inside and out, then you won’t have the quality of life you deserve. It’s that simple.
INN: What's the craziest thing that has happened to you since getting published?

KH: So many things have happened in the past few years its hard to chose just one. However, one area that has changed my life completely is how I have befriended an entirely different peer group—people who are young, driven, and very successful. I love being around other young people who are optimistic, talented, and motivated—and those are the people I have been able to meet as a result of writing books and starting a company. It’s just proof that following your passion attracts more like-minded people into your life.
I’ve also been invited on TV shows, radio shows, exclusive events, and yes, even private yachts! To think how my life has changed in the last 5 years is difficult to fathom.
INN: What was it like working with Jack Canfield?
KH: I always love working with people who are creative, hard-working, and those who walk-their-talk. It’s difficult not to like Jack! He is charismatic, wise, and he genuinely cares about others. He also happens to be one of the busiest people I know, so as a result, much of the time I was taking the lead on the project. But like any good coach, Jack challenged me to think—and I really liked the challenge of expanding my knowledge and awareness about behavioral science and success psychology. We also just enjoy each other’s company and share a common goal, which is energizing in itself!
INN: Any advice for teen writers?
KH: Yes, be persistent, creative, and proactive. Those traits have enabled me to write five books, become a columnist, and enjoy many other successes in life. Here’s how it works:
Be Persistent: Jack and I both agree that persistence is probably the single most common quality of high achievers (not natural ability like we’re often lead to believe). It’s really a simple concept: The longer you hang in there, the greater the chance that something will happen in your favor. Since we cannot expect success to come overnight we must be prepared to persevere through challenges, fear, doubt and discomfort. Like Norman Vincent Peale says, “It’s always too soon to quit.”
Be creative: In school we are sometimes trained to believe that there is only one answer to a problem. In reality, this is not always true. Sometimes we must challenge ourselves to try to look at life from a completely different perspective.
Sometimes thinking different makes all the difference. Since questions direct our thinking and our focus, we can begin to change our outlook by changing the questions we ask ourselves. I’ve made a habit of asking myself two primary questions, “Is there a better way to do this?” and “What’s unique about this that I haven’t noticed yet?” These questions can help you recognize a new way to promote your writing, approach a mentor, and achieve your goals. Don’t get sucked into the train of thought that says, “This is the only way it can be done because this is only way it has been done.” That mentality will instantly limit your creativity and potential.
Think outside the box, question everything, and develop a deep sense of curiosity. Long ago, the Greek philosopher Socrates said it best, “Wisdom begins with wonder.” Curiosity urges us to explore the unknown, step out of our comfort zone, and tap into the magnificent power of passion.
Be Proactive: It’s possible that someone in the right position will “discover” you and offer you your dream job, but it is not likely. Gabrielle, you are a perfect example of a writer “putting herself out there.” You saw an opportunity to use the internet to hone your craft and market yourself as a professional writer. That is being proactive!
Never be afraid to ask for help and support. The power of Asking is one of the Success Principles in our book—and I think it is one of the most powerful. When I was writing my first book, I was constantly asking everyone I met, “Who do you know in the publishing industry?” and “What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were my age?” Eventually, the right connections and advice began to shape my writing career.
I even sold my book door-to-door when it came out to make sure as many people as possible knew about it. One of my favorite quotes is: Some people want it to happen. Some people wish it would happen. Successful people make it happen! Bottom line: Success requires action and that means being creative and persistent. It’s all related. Much success to all of you writers!
Thank you so much, Kent!
You can visit his awesome websites at and

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Art of Amendable Deadlines

I wanted to have a big query done tomorrow, but it will not happen.
I wanted to finish my novel's 2nd draft by 8am on Wednesday, but it was 9:30.
If you're super goal-oriented, channel this into your writing. Read Time to Write and get those WAP plans started. But, my dear little perfectionists, you will get published a total of three times (give or take .2) if you don't learn the art of amendable deadlines. What? Amendability? Is that even a word?
Artistic Principle #1: Know the difference between amendability and procrastination. If you keep putting something off, it will not get done. However, if your original deadline was earlier than a contest deadline, you still have a little time.
Artistic Principle #2: Work around your life. If you know that you have 5 tests this Monday, don't count on finishing three chapters of your novel. Homecoming, SATs, volunteering, massive parties: these are fabulous things that must be worked into our writing schedule.
Artistic Principle #3: Amend by little amounts. I can't finish that Big Query Friday, but I can have a good chunk of it done tomorrow. I can have a complete draft by Monday, and send it off by Wednesday. Later than I'd hoped? Yes, but still submitted.
And you will never get published if you don't submit, remember? Speaking of deadlines, Kent Healy's coming by tomorrow... yes, he is the co-author of my favorite 2008 nonfiction release, The Success Principles for Teens, along with a bunch of other books. Yes, he worked with Jack Canfield. Yes, he pretty much blows the mind and is very nice to interview. Look out for him tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Bombs of the Alphabetical Variety

I'm trashing any normal schedule for this week as PSATs have screwed up school and even though I'm exempt (seniors!) they're bugging me.

Bad Language
*%$$ is how it normally appears in cartoons. In one horrible 80s mystery, the girl's mother said h--- all the time. No, really. H---. With dashes.
For the responsible teenager (and many of us are that), the whole writing-bad-language-in-your-fiction can be a bit of a dilemma. Adults have an even bigger problem with it. I was at one writers' group meeting when the mom-aged writers were complaining about the crudeness of YA fiction and how shocked they were to see the f-bomb in a novel for teens. I didn't say anything but I was thinking You are shocked because...?
Look. I don't condone cursing; it's a bad habit that I and my friends pick up (and try to control) because of culture, because we're pissed off, because we're immature, for whatever reason. But for me, swear words in literature and swear words in real life are different.
You are a writer. Writers imagine worlds and write their stories true to that world. The most mild-mannered British grandmother will unleash the coarsest of words, if she's writing about the Boston drug world, because that is what her characters will do. Do your characters make mistakes? (I hope they do, or your book will be really boring; see Elsie Dinsmore) Are there murderers in your books? Are there villains? Sure. Does that make you a villain? No. Though you might be.
I try to talk clean. My book opens with a beep-out word. How is this? I'm writing about the overachieving American high school crowd, the same group of people I see five days a week. And part of writing about them is being true to the way they speak, and they speak badly. If I had all my characters say Goshdarnit! every time they got stabbed in the back, this would be an unrealistic and boring book.
Banned Book Week (last week!) celebrates the fact that fiction often expresses an ugly side of life, scenarios or characters or words that are not age-appropriate and will never be age-appropriate, yet life is many times inappropriate. If you want to clean up the world, clean it: but let the writers-- and yourself-- depict the world as they hear it.
Goshdarnit, we are totally off track.

We Interrupt Our Regularly Scheduled Programming to Announce

That E. Lockhart has been Selected as a Finalist*
For the National Book Award
For her March 2008 release
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks
- Publisher's Lunch and Media Bistro
* Originally said Semi-Finalist, but no! It's a FREAKING FINALIST! THERE IS JUSTICE IN THIS WORLD!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

WORD: Making It as a Teen Writer

by Gabrielle Linnell

I've noticed a disturbing trend in my publishing efforts. More and more markets, leads, sources and opportunities are coming not from my magazine subscriptions but from... my Google Reader.
Yet, this is not surprising. The only way you will learn to swim is if you jump into a pool. The only way you will be published, and be published again and be published with pizazz, is if you immerse yourself in the publishing world. Because teens have problems with abstract thinking, here are 3 concrete ways to do so.
1. Call your local writing organization and offer to speak. Sound intimidating? Probably is. If you've been published at least a few times, find out who runs the writing shows in your town and volunteer yourself as a teen panelist. I'm doing writing workshops at my library this year, which I am very excited about. It gives me credibility and something new to add to my query bios.
2. Read writing blogs. I cannot stress this enough. Freelancers' blogs are best for market opportunities, agents' blogs for biz updates and querying advice, and fellow teen blogs for teen-specific markets and inspiration. If you need help getting started, check out the Best of the Blogs panel on the right. The internet has changed the isolation of the writing world into a constant networking opportunity. Use it!
3. Get published everywhere (kind of.) Authors are always advised to get their name out any way they can. WriTeens need to identify (1) what kind of writing they want to do and (2) who will publish it. If you love short fiction, make a list of 3 nonpaying-but-reputable e-zines (with editors and domain names!) that publish short fiction and submit. After two months, make a new list of paying e-zines and work your way up. I review books for one teen magazine without compensation, but it's a way for me to break into book reviewing and to get free books.
Swim with them fishies. The water is a very cool place.