Sunday, August 31, 2008

And the Winner Is...


Congratulations, Kristy! Please send me your mailing address via the email in the profile and I'll mail you a copy of Fringe Benefits by Valerie Frankel. Just so everybody knows, Kristy's ideal summer job is working at an ice cream store. Amen, sister... except I wouldn't be able to fit into any of my clothes at the end of it. Hmm.

Thanks to everyone who entered; we will be hosting another giveaway later this month. Stay tuned for deetz!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Comment for a Cure

We comment to sound witty, we comment to increase blog traffic, we comment to feel important, but for once, we need to comment to make change happen.

Susan Johnston, the acclaimed blogger of The Urban Muse (, recently lost her father to Multiple System Atrophy. To honor her dad and raise awareness about this disease, she's donating $1 to MSA research for every comment on the below post.

Please join me in commenting. If you do, let me know and your entry will count three times in the next Innovative giveaway.

WORD: My Mantra, My Mission, My Super-Sized Daisy Dollop of Success

by Gabrielle Linnell

As I write this, I'm 2380 words from finishing a 50K first draft, due on September 1. YAY! You know what's even cooler? On or around July 18, I had 25,000 words that had taken six months to write. Long way, short time.

The reason this has worked is a combination of a realistic deadline, a mantra and a long-term vision into one place. I made this using principles from books like The Success Principles for Teens and Time to Write with help from The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens and a little knowledge of reality TV.


I have a three-point mission statement when it comes to writing my books: I wrote a sentence about how I want to write, how I want to sell, and a promise to myself. If you're building a freelance career, this still applies. Make it cheesy, make it serious, make it personal.

I put my mantra on top of my goal/deadline list, so that I know why and how I am going there. Becoming successful means nothing to me if I don't enjoy and learn from the ride. I know this. So looking at my mantra every time I check my long term schedule is vital.


Everything is in high def now, as is your goal list. Since I'm working on a book, this list is made up of goals like: On September 1, I will finish a 50,000 word first draft. On October 15, I will revise, etc. I go on all the way to querying fifty agents about my book next winter and Spring.

Each step of the way, I have and will continue to identify my daily little steps. For my first draft, I had to write 550 words a day to keep up. When I start revising, I'll probably use a page-per-day goal. I know when I start to query agents, I'll be working on two or three queries a week.

I need tunnel vision. I'm a product of the GPS culture, but it can help me get where I want to go without getting lost. Adapt this to suit your own needs, and check out Kelly Stone's chapter on WAPs if you want more help.

WHAT GOES INTO IT: Facing Insecurity and Embracing Success

Doesn't that sound cheesy?

Insecurity is almost inescapable, especially as a collegebound teen. I hate it, but I look at other teen writers and automatically double-check: Am I doing more than s/he is? Am I a better writer? Have I been published more? I look at potential friends as potential competition, and it's a horrible thing.

Do not worry that you only write 200 words a day. Do not feel bad because you've been published twice in smallville. Do not compare, unless you are attempting to learn from your peers. It will get you nowhere, and it will cheat you of enjoying the success you've found. That isn't cheesy at all.

Gabrielle Linnell has been published more than thirty times in national and international magazines. She cites Donald Trump in her artist's mantra, has seen Mamma Mia twice and is known to be an absolute dunce at anything involving circular objects in motion. She guest blogs every two weeks at

Bookshelf: Review of The Debs

Disclaimer: I am picky with serieses (what's the plural?) about overprivileged girls. I hate Gossip Girl. Private I loved until about the fourth book, when it became a soap opera on paper. I've never touched The A-List, Clique or any of those. It's just hard to convince me to care about people with everything, since they seem to always have the same problems.

The Debs, however, are different.

Susan McBride's new series is told in the voices of four potential debutantes in Houston, Texas. Laura's plus-size and gorgeous, Ginger's friendly to the planet and planet-lovers, Mac's dealing with debu-fears and stepmothers and Jo-Lynn is planning her way to the top.

The setting, first of all, is so cool. I live in the South and as much as I jibe it, it doesn't get written about enough. The characters are great. Each girl brings her own problems and frustrations to the table; it's not simply I want to wear the pretty dress. They're rich, but they're also lonely, Southern and confused, dealing with parental and peer expectations as best they can. With these kinds of people populating the novel, things happen soon and suddenly.

Overall, The Debs is a new series for readers who like guilty pleasures and intelligent conversation. Pick up your skirts and run to the bookstore, because it's the perfect antidote to start-of-school stress.

NEXT WEEK: Susan McBride comes to talk about The Debs, herself and everything in between.

A Word from Your Local Sponsor

Our 300th Post! Oh my goodness! This is not a very auspicious post, but still!

Life in my life (life in my life?) is insane right now what with The Schoolness starting and it being my senior year of high school, which I'm both psyched and freaked about. I have also not done half of my summer work nor started my college essays. Ahem.

I will be working this weekend to schedule posts so nobody has to go two days without updates... coughcough, like this week. My apologies. So...

The contest winner of Fringe Benefits will be announced on Sunday.
The He-Man and YA will be posted Monday.

All is well in the world. Until school starts.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Chatting with Brittany and Brianna Winner

Today's Wednesday Wonderfulness interview is with Brittany and Brianna Winner, two 13-year-old twins who have written (with their dad) a sci-fi/fantasy novel called The Strand Prophecy ( Brittany and Brianna stop by today to talk about their favorite sci-fi authors, their inspirations and advice for fellow teen writers. Thanks, girls!

INN: Where did you find the idea for The Strand Prophecy?

Brianna: We made up the ideas by combining everything we wanted in a story and putting it into a book.

Brittany: As long as we can remember we’ve loved adventures stories and sci-fi. There was nothing better than our dad taking us to see a sci-fi movie and to the comic book store afterwards. We have been creating worlds with thousands and thousands of characters since we were young. So creating was nothing new to us.

INN: How did you balance writing the book with school?

Brittany: When we started to write the first book we would go to school, come home, get our homework done then write with our dad until it was time to go to sleep.
Brianna: After the book was published, the public school system put us on a special independent study program, so we could tour schools and inspire other kids to read and write. We do our school work at night.
INN: Who are some of your favorite sci-fi authors?
Brittany: Isaac Asimov and Jules Verne

Brianna: Stephanie Meyer and Jules Verne

INN: What has it been like, seeing your book receive such great reviews and prestigious awards?

Brittany: When we started to write the book it was a father, daughter, daughter project and we really didn’t have any idea that people would like it. But now… well I am overwhelmed with the responses and overjoyed that so many people enjoy our book.

Brianna: We are really happy that people like our book! We are excited about our second book coming out soon and we are now writing screen plays. We love sci-fi but all our books and screenplays are really about people and trying to make things better.

INN: What can readers look forward to in the next Strand book?

Brittany: There are five books plus a prequel so six books total. We have finished the second book and it is in edit and 20,000 words into the third book. In the first book, Strand has to warn the world and in the second book, well… let me put it this way… he was more right than even he knew.

Brianna: That’s right, millions of people start to evolve and mysteriously migrate north. They just stop what they are doing, and start walking, they could be cooking or driving or in their pajama’s. Meanwhile the Strand Team must also evolve to become something more than they are to try and solve the mysterious migration and find a solution to help humanity survive.

INN: Any advice for teen writers?

Brittany: I was born 11 weeks early and suffer from dyslexia, dysgraphia and more. In school I felt very bad about myself, I could not catch up with the classroom work no matter how hard I tried.

Then my dad had a radical idea, to write a book… I mean, I had the vocabulary and the ideas but getting them down into a novel was unfathomable. Together we focused on our strengths instead of our weaknesses and look at what we have been able to achieve.
So my advice is for everyone to keep in mind that we all have strengths and weaknesses, don’t conclude that you are less than anyone else just because it appears that people are writing faster or seem smarter or better then you at school. Focus on what you CAN do, not what you CAN’T do. Get your ideas down on paper one page at a time, one day at a time and soon you will have written a novel.
Brianna: Yes, write chapter at a time and don’t worry about how long the book will be when it is done. Think about your character and the situation, then write and keep writing.
Brittany: Brianna is right. Don’t stop, just keep writing. We never edit, rewrite or change the story until the whole book is done.

Brianna: When the book is done and we edit, we may delete entire scenes or rewrite them a different way.

Brianna: Just get it done. Write, write, write until it is done. Then go back and edit.
Thanks, Brittany and Brianna!

Win a Copy of Fringe Benefits

Enter to win a copy of Fringe Benefits!
Comment here:
The odds are really good that you'll win the perfect beach read*
*For boys afraid of emasculating themselves by reading this book, consider: if you give it to your girlfriend, you're telling her she's intelligent; if you give it to your mother, you're saying she's young at heart; if you give it to your sister, you're the bestest big bro ever.
Deadline is tomorrow night.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Milking Politics (Or How Obama Can Get You Published)

Political magazines, websites and newspapers are prime markets for the educated young writer. Why? Because no teens ever write for them.
If you're an out-and-out Obama supporter, if you're a diehard McCainnite, if you worship a third-party candidate or think politics is skewed permanently, write about it. Write about living through this election. Write about your predictions for what will happen. Follow a basic five point essay format if you're a beginner, or do more stream-of-consciousness if you can.

In a world saturated with politics, teens alone have the fresh perspective (I'm not saying it's the right one, but still.) I know I've said this before, but write about politics now.

It will help if you have outside credentials like being active in your school's political groups, volunteering for campaigns and lots of clips because you've been published before. Again, not necessary, but it will help.
Go at it, young farmer, and milk that Bessie.

Psst! A Sneak Peek

I'm working on a project so deep dark and scary secret that I may mysteriously disappear for mentioning it... but I can't hold my tongue when it comes to Behind the Blog: Reviewer Speak Week.


In a calendar week soon to arrive, I'll be hosting interviews with seven of the blogosphere's greatest YA bloggers. These people review books, give away books and interview authors with perserverance, with great panache, and without reward.

During Behind the Blog, we'll meet them, find out their secrets to success, their favorite books and share the love with the people who read bad books so we don't have to. The start date will be announced soon.

4 more posts until 300...

Monday, August 25, 2008

Notes & Reminders

Enter to win a copy of Fringe Benefits!
The odds are really good that you'll win the perfect beach read
or gift for the girl in your life

I feel like such a housekeeper.

- How did you use your summer? I would love to do some profiles on WriTeens who have been published or done some neat writing things this summer.
- I'm more than 90% done with my rough draft, due on September 1. So psyched! I love completing deadlines.
-Brittany & Brianna Winner are visiting us on Wednesday. Our first teen interviewees who have actually been published and have done so successfully!
- Contest for Fringe Benefits ends Thursday night, so comment and tell me about your ideal summer job! I am opening it up to Canadian residents, so Monties can read Valerie Frankel too.
- Speaking of Valerie Frankel (, she has a memoir coming out next month called Thin is the New Happy. I am so excited about this book.
- I'm putting up a new sidebar for The Best Books of 2008 (So Far.) These are books that, regardless of who you are, are worth your time. Lots of your time.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Bookshelf: Interview with Wendy Toliver

Wendy Toliver lives in the Utah mountains with her husband, three little boys, and a variety of pets. When she's not writing, she enjoys skiing, snowboarding, hiking, and reading. Visit her online at,,, and

INN: What inspired you to write The Secret Life of a Teenage Siren?

WT: I was reading about Greek mythology, and became intrigued by the sirens. They're so mysterious, tragic, and memorable--I just had to learn more! So I hit the library and researched online, knowing that somehow, I was going to work this into a book.

I did discover that in one take on the myth, the body of one of the three sirens was found washed up on a southern Italian shore. It got me thinking: What if at least one of the other sirens somehow survived, and 2,800 years later, a band girl from the Denver suburbs becomes a siren on her 16th birthday?

INN: If Roxy was in the classics section of the library, which classic author or book would make her shudder?

WT: Where the Red Fern Grows ... Roxy loves dogs but this one is way too sad

INN: What's the oddest thing that's happened to you since you became a writer?
WT: My friend and I started a nonprofit organization, Eden Writers, Inc ( and put on a writers' conference. We had a lot of help, financially and from our friends and families, but essentially, it was just two ladies with a crazy idea to bring a big city-quality conference to our small, picturesque town.

It was amazing, and we're hoping to have another one next fall. So I guess this isn't something odd that HAPPENED to me, but something odd I did to myself, haha.

INN: How did you break into publication?
WT: I've always loved reading, and one day I just decided to sit down a write a chick lit novel. Though that first book earned the attention of a literary agent, none of the publishing houses he sent it to loved it. Then I got the idea about the teenage siren (See question 1 above) and tried my hand at writing a YA novel. I partnered up with a new agent and an editor at Simon Pulse loved The Secret Life of a Teenage Siren.

Then I wrote another YA novel, and entered it in the Romance Writers of America's Golden Heart contest and to my delight, it was a 2007 finalist. Simon Pulse liked that book too, and Miss Match is coming out in February 2009. I feel very lucky to not only have a book published, but to be working with such a great agent and publishing house.

INN: What's your favorite modern invention (iPod, cell phone, toaster,electric flyswatter, etc.) and why?
WT: Though this answer isn't nearly as creative as the question, I love my laptop. Because I'm a stay-at-home mom, I can bring it with me and get some writing done while the kids are playing sports, at the park, etc.

INN: Any advice for teen writers?

WT: Yes! In fact, I just thought of this this weekend. Not to sound pessimistic, but most published authors are beyond their teen years. My advice, especially if you see yourself writing teen fiction, is to keep a diary or journal.

Record your experiences, how they made you feel, etc., so you can look back someday and remember. That way, you can combine the wisdom you've accumulated through the years with the raw emotions of being a teen, and viola!, a YA masterpiece!
Thank you so much, Wendy!

You can buy The Secret Life of a Teenage Siren here

WORD: Writing in School When You're Not Supposed To

by Gabrielle Linnell

This can become an ethical debate. Before you start throwing things, o morally faultless ones, consider this: is it better to write during school or play tic-tac-toe with the Gorgeous Person Over There? Shame on you!

Study Halls are legal. If you have a study hall, either get all your homework done so you can write later, or write. Consider it not Study Hall but Writing Period. Maximize all legal time zones.

Combine assignments. Were you assigned a historical research paper? Find a magazine accepting submissions on the same topic, and do the same research for both papers. Again, not really illegal.

Lunch and bus time. Both are perfect writing opportunities for the anti-social. If you never talk with anybody at lunch anyway, you must be writing.

The teacher is droning. If you're in a class that you absolutely do not need to pay attention in, because you've done all the homework or better yet, the sub is talking... pull up your folder. The great part about sneaking in freelance stuff is that it looks like homework. If the teacher drones on a regular basis, another writing period just became available.

You're a freshman and don't care about grades. I can't convince you otherwise. If you're really going to fail, must as well write some while you do it. Perhaps you could convert it to academic credit.

Tests are out. Tests are not a time to be thinking about writing. At all.

School is also a fantastic opportunity to find writing ideas, but that's another [legal] story.

Gabrielle Linnell has written for Cobblestone, ByLine, Library Sparks, New Moon and other magazines.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Gabrielle at FFW

Check your Funds for Writers: Small Markets edition this week, and you'll see my article about dealing with editors (even the finicky ones.) Welcome to FFW readers! There's a lot going on with a Fringe Benefits contest (fantastic present for your teen if you don't read YA) and author Wendy Toliver (The Secret Life of a Teenage Siren) stopping by tomorrow for an interview.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Writing Supplies: The Desires

Ah, summer mornings. I'm eating a leftover Triple Chocolate Chunk Cookie from B&N, my absolute favorite thing to get there. It is The Perfect Cookie. Even for breakfast.

These are writing supplies one wants but not technically needs. Ask any teenage girl, and she'll tell you there's no difference between the words.

1. The Steno Pad. My baby sister bought three for her school supplies, and I'm so jealous. Steno pads evoke secretaries and classic shorthand. They're also useful for idea jotting and they make you feel like a real writer.

2. The Pens with Character. You already have everyday pens and pencils, because those are needed. Now, again from Putting Your Passion Into Print, you need a special pen. A pen with personality, or maybe five personalities. My mom gave me a Belle pen one year with bright yellow feathers and a picture of Belle that lit up when you wrote. Yes, it was awesome.

3. The Clip Binder. As you start getting published, it's a good idea to keep records and copies of what was published where. Get a high-quality, fascinating binder that screams Keep Me Up to Date! And keep it. Up to date.

4. The Ergonomic Keyboard. Haha. But, guys, carpal tunnel and tendonitis are serious, especially if you have a family history of the two. Take care of your hands, because they are the one body part (apart from your brain) that you need in order to write. Check out a book on proper typing position. If you play an instrument, like I do, double-check with your teachers on the best ways to relieve stress on your hands.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Win a Copy of Fringe Benefits!

Summer is not quite over. To celebrate the not-quite-overness, we're giving away a copy of Fringe Benefits, a very funny fourth in Valerie Frankel's hilarious Fringe series.
Dora Benet expected to enjoy Brooklyn Heights with her best buds and boyfriend, but everyone has their own plans for the summer and Dora finds herself alone. Her live-in bestselling authors/parents demand she get a job to learn the meaning of a dollar and so, with an apron in hand, Dora goes to work. Along with a paycheck, Dora will find herself with sultry new friends, a leukemic cat and worries that the boyfriend has left her behind.

Fringe Benefits was a witty read, and I was impressed that I could like a character by the name of Dora. Really! It's possible! The coolest part? This book is not available in stores until September 2nd.

To get your name entered into the hat, leave a comment and tell me about your ideal summer job. ("Doing nothing" does not qualify as an answer, along with "lifeguard watching.") If you spread the word about the contest through your own blog or website, send me an email and your entry counts twice. The deadline is Thursday, August 28th. Open to US-only residents; sorry, internationals.

Here's to Fringe Benefits and the final moments of summertime!

The Winner Twins Come to Innovative

I am super excited to bring you our first teenage authors (yes, honest-to-God published teenage authors), Brittany and Brianna Winner. The Winner Twins have co-written, with their father, a sci-fi/fantasy novel called The Strand Prophecy that has won awards all over the place. Brittany and Brianna will be stopping by here next Wednesday in our first edition of Wednesday Wonderfulness, when on the last Wednesday of the month, we have fun.

If you want to learn more about the Winners, visit their awesome high-tech website at

Monday, August 18, 2008

Writing Supplies: The Necessities

1. The Laptop. If, by any force of nature, you are able to possess, rent or steal a laptop, do so. Private desktops work pretty well, too, but laptops are better. You need a laptop in a quiet space that you can access at almost any given time, when inspiration or deadlines strike thee.

2. The Big Book. I used to not believe in the power of an Empty Book (Putting Your Passion into Print) or a writing notebook for jotting down ideas and notes. I do now. I suggest at least an 8 x 11 notebook, preferably with rings on the side so it's easy to tear out paper.

What do you write down here? Ideas, deadlines, notes, observations, practical and impractical things. Guys can carry it in a backpack, girls in a large purse.

3. Lots of pens, maybe pencils. I love pens. I really, really love pens and have to have lots of them all the time. They usually have logos of beauty salons and pharmaceuticals on them, because these are free.

Buy these things now before school hits and your brain is so swamped you've forgotten you love to write. And stay tuned for Writing Supplies Part Deux and an announcement of next week's giveaway.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

WORD: Planning Your Writing Time During the Year

by Gabrielle Linnell

Summer is almost over. Your days of almost unlimited writing time are ending, and so will your budding career if you don't take steps to plan writing time.

Step One: Identify projects. Are you working on a novel? Do you want to continue writing short fiction or articles or essays? If you're doing both, know that doing both is completely possible, but you may need to have separate writing times.

Step Two: Identify a good amount of time. Can you handle an hour of freelancing a day? A 1000-word/day goal for your book? Don't feel bad if you can't. Try somewhere between 15 and 60 minutes, unless you're home-schooled and can beg your mom to make writing a school subject. Then write more.

Step Three: Think in time zones. Can you write before school? I've tried, but it doesn't work for me. I know I also have a problem writing directly after school because I need time to unwind. My best options are about 30-60 minutes after school, and later at night. But I also need sleep.

Step Four: Find your slot. I need 30-45 minutes a day for freelancing, and 30 minutes for my novel per school day. I work best a little bit after school ends, or later at night. My plan is to go to the library about 20 or 30 minutes after school and work until dinner. I'll do homework then, too.

Step Five: Figure in other stuff. I sometimes have music lessons after school, which would interfere with my writing time. On those days, I'll work from 9 to 10pm, and catch up on extras the following day. I'll also write for two hours on Saturday, and take a break from freelancing on Sunday.

I definitely recommend Time to Write by Kelly L. Stone for more in-depth scheduling strategies.

So, in five steps, I've taken the time to think through my schedule and work out when I write. This has been a fantastic writing summer for me, and I want to continue the trend throughout the year. What are you going to do?

Gabrielle Linnell has written for Cobblestone, FACES, Library Sparks, ByLine, New Moon, Funds for Writers and other magazines and websites. She loves school.

Bookshelf: Those Who Save Us

I read Those Who Save Us this week, a 2004 debut by Jenna Blum. Blum writes the dual storylines of Anna, a young woman during Nazi Germany, and the present-day trials of her daughter Trudy (a middle-aged German history professor) dealing with an aging Anna. Anna has not told Trudy anything about their escape from Germany, and Trudy's life has been tormented by this void of knowledge about her own history.

This book is not for the faint of heart, or youngish teenagers (scenes of torture, rape and other evils run throughout.) I think it's good especially because it brings a different angle to World War Two literature, which is hard to do. The characters are realistic and sad. It's a bittersweet book, leaning more towards bitter, but if you're an adultish reader and interested to see a good work of fiction, I recommend it. Just don't expect rainbows and unicorns.

Next Week: Meet Wendy Toliver!

Wendy Toliver, author of The Secret Life of a Teenage Siren, will be dropping by next week to talk about Roxy, sad dog books and the inspiration for her novel. Don't miss it! and visit the lovely Wendy over at

Friday, August 15, 2008

Of Cabbages, Colleges and Kings

I'm finally home! I've been out of town for two weeks, having a wonderful time with friends and family as well an eleven hundred mile trip scouting out the nation's best colleges, but I am so happy to be home. In my house. Where I live.

Once I get my photos developed I will show you how I debased the John Harvard statue and in other ways left an indelible, angry mark on Harvard's campus (did I mention I'm a little anti-Harvard?) It's pretty hilarious.

A bad thing about my super college quest is that I'm 2000 words behind in my word count. I've never gotten that far off track, so will have to be planning and writing my butt off this weekend. I also have a review due on Monday and two more books to read after that... yikes! And summer homework!

Tomorrow, look for a WORD on planning for writing time during the school year and the announcement of our next bookshelf interviewee. Next week promises to have more, longer posts, as I will hopefully remain at the same address for more than two seconds.

Library Sparks published my article, Going Green with Ida B, in their web resources section. They do such a beautiful job with layout. Find out about this amazing book at

Gabrielle at The Scriptorium

The Scriptorium is a monthly e-zine for writers, and they have a special section for young writers that's worth checking out. I have a guest article ("Writing the Summer Wave") up there now.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Read while You Write, Don't Read while You Write

(If You Want to Write...)

I've heard weird opinions on this topic of reading while writing books. The weirdest opinion is that one should not read books while writing. This makes no sense. Writing a book takes at the very least six months, and sometimes years. Nobody should keep from reading that long!

Another opinion is that writers should not read the genre that they are writing in. This is a little more reasonable, but I love YA. That's why I write YA! Now I have to give up YA too?

I tell you: Read while you write. But with a codicil. Read any genre that you want, but stay away from similar themed books. If you're writing romance, romance is a HUGE genre and you shouldn't have any problems. But if your masterpiece in progress is a tale of the Scottish highland lord, don't read any romances about Scots or highlands or lords.

The real issue here is, of course, both unintentional plagiarism and stolen voice. Never place yourself and your reputation in danger of stealing another person's words. A second danger, more fatal in art than in law, is that of unconsciously adopting another person's style. So read while you write, but read judiciously.

I had a hankering to reread Hacking Harvard by Robin Wasserman, a book I've really enjoyed. But I put it down after the first few chapters, because I realized that both Robin and I were/are writing about overachieving American teenagers. Similar themes and topics, but I need to write a unique book. So Hacking Harvard will wait till January, when I write something else. Perhaps about Scottish highland lords.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Gabrielle is Shopping

Before you judge, I'm shopping for colleges and in between have just spend an hour re-typing a 1000-word submission and have a bunch more to do. Aren't you inspired by my dedication? Regular programming will resume tomorrow night. However, I do recommend you check out the following blogs for excellent, updated content:

See you!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

The Death of Jayson Porter

Bookshelf: Jaime Adoff and The Death of Jayson Porter

Jaime Adoff was born in New York City but grew up in Yellow Springs, Ohio. He received a Bachelor of Music degree from Central State University in Ohio, where he studied drums and percussion. Moving to New York City in 1990, he attended the Manhattan School of Music and studied drums and voice. Jaime's work has received multiple awards and starred reviews, including the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award.
Jaime's latest YA novel The Death of Jayson Porter has been receiving rave reviews nationwide, including a Starred Review from Booklist and VOYA magazine. It has become one of the most talked about books of 2008. He is the son of the late Newbery Award-winning author Virginia Hamilton and renowned poet Arnold Adoff. Jaime Adoff lives in his hometown of Yellow Springs, Ohio.
INN: The Death of Jayson Porter deals with the harsh realities of urban life. What drew you to write a book set in this particular scene?
JA: I had the idea for this book for a few years, just sitting on my desktop. I believe I had the opening piece and a few rough ideas and that was about it. It wasn't until a school visit a couple of years ago that I realized this was the book I needed to write. One after the other the students would share their stories, losing a friend or relative to violence. They shared thoughts of suicide, some had even tried.

What really got to me was how much hope they all had. How they knew there was a world beyond their neighborhoods, a world beyond the violence that was their lives. They had been through more than most of us could ever even imagine, and yet they still had smiles on their faces. This is what inspired me, and at that moment I knew I had to revisit this story that had sat for so long on my computer. I had to write this book . . .
INN: What's something you'd like readers to know as they experience Jayson's story?
JA: I’d like them to just try to imagine themselves in Jayson’s shoes, what would that be like? To try not to judge, to wonder what they might do in a similar situation. And hopefully see his story as a cautionary tale, sadly one which is repeated far too often in the lives of the many Jayson’s in the world.

INN: If you could, which Guinness World Record would you break?

JA: The record for most books sold!

INN: What made you become a writer?

JA: After over ten years as a singer songwriter (trying to be a rock star!) I began writing as a form of therapy for myself. Never thinking it would turn into anything more than my thoughts on a page for my eyes only. Well, I started filling up notebooks with poems and stories and ideas and soon I just couldn’t deny what was happening.
One thing led to another and I was fortunate enough to have my first book published (The Song Shoots Out of my Mouth) in 2002. After 4 books published and number five out this November(Small Fry, a picture book. ) I can’t imagine myself doing anything else!!
INN: Any advice for teen writers?
JA: Keep writing and revising and working on your individual voice. That is what is most important. How you tell a story, how you write a poem, your particular point of view. Take your time, develop your style and write everyday. Don’t be in a hurry to get published. Now is your time to experiment, read and write as much as you can, but most importantly have fun doing it!!

Thanks so much, Jaime!

Visit Jaime's ultra-cool website at

WORD: The Three-Step Essay

by Gabrielle Linnell

To write and sell an essay, first find a market. How about Mothers of Abnormal Children? MAC accepts essays from 500-1000 words, and prefers new writers to break in at the lower end of that number. So I'm writing a 500-word essay for mothers of abnormal children. How do I start?

Step Number One: Choose an odd personal event, hobby or habit.

I love fruit snacks. Seriously, I steal them from every family I babysit for. When my grandmother bought four boxes of Dora the Explorer snacks and Fruit Roll-Ups, it was very bad. I think I ate five or six roll-ups in a day and who knows how many Doras and Sponge Bobs.

Step Number Two: Link said odd personal thing to a universal problem, challenge or theme that is relevant to the magazine's readers.

My love of fruit snacks as a teenager most likely stems from a postponed childhood, because I was a precocious and gifted kid who spent all her time reading books and talking to grown-ups. Fruit snacks represent the abnormal child's desire to be a normal, Sponge Bob-chomping youngster, because all abnormal children crave normalcy in some way.

Step Number Three: Conclude with a personal discovery, observation or idea that binds the personal example with the universal theme.

I'm thankful for my abnormal childhood: it gives me great joy when I lie awake at night. I've had great experiences and won a developed mind in the process. But, when my hand goes out for miniature fruity Bootses and Swipers, it's nice to know I can have a little bit of normal kid life. If a little bit delayed.

Add a few more examples, quotes from famous people or indie rock stars, and make sure you self-deprecate at least five times. Ta-da! An essay fit for a king. Or at least, mothers of abnormal children.

Gabrielle Linnell writes in all her spare time and just got back from Barnes & Noble, where she spends her other spare time, pretending to be a normal child.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Reacting to Breaking Dawn

Note: I am so excited about the author interviews in the next few months. I've decided to host three per month instead of the regular two, simply because these authors are so freakin' cool and I can't wait till November to share the interviews. Jaime Adoff is tomorrow!

Okay. Breaking Dawn. Spoilers included.
I read this very, very fast because I am broke (surprise, surprise) so I read this in the bookstore. Somehow, I don't think I will ruin Stephenie Meyer's finances by doing this. However, in this speedy-speedy reading, I was able to deduce several things.

Terrible writing. I was surprised after Eclipse was so brilliant, but I thought the writing was pretty shoddy. The dialogue in particular was awful. I'm not judging her talent by this, because I believe Meyer is incredibly gifted, but I just wish she would have had more time to clean up the wording. It felt like a first draft.

Too long. The book really didn't have to be 750 pages. It could have been 600 easily, and I think it would have been better, shorter.

Too much happiness! I love, love that Bella, Eddie boy and Renesmee get to live happily ever after. But I was flummoxed by the fact that everyone got what they wanted! This is a series that broke into people's souls because of the delicious, angsty quandary of vampire vs. human. You read Twilight knowing there would be consequences. But there were no consequences. At the end of the series, literally everyone is happy. Bella didn't lose anything to get what she wanted.

Anteclimatic. Did I spell that right? Two of my best friends mentioned this as well. At the end of the book, you're gearing up for this huge, intense fight... that never happens. It feels like there's no reckoning or confrontation. Everything flows away.

With all of that negative crap behind me, I think the ending's great. I know she won't win many points with literary critics, but she's won the lottery with her fans and we are who matters. As an Edwardian lover, I'm happy, and I really loved most of the plot points of the book. I just wish her editor had been more picky.

Niki at SodaHead: didn't like it.

ALSO! with the whole cover thing. I still have no idea why it's a chess set. I did some Googling and the best theories I found were that a) it represents Bella as a mortal pawn and then a dynamic vampire queen, or b) that it represents Bella protecting her baby, who is a pawn in the Volturi's conquest.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

And the Winner Is...

Alas, I left my violet hat at the beach so I had to use a Phillies cap instead. But it was still a hat, and the hat declared the winner to be...

So, robin_titan, if you could email me your mailing address, we'll get you a copy of Violet in Private! My email is in the profile.
Everyone else, thank you so much for entering! I hope you stick around, as we'll be having another giveaway in a few weeks and in between there's lots to see and do. Heck, Jaime Adoff is appearing on Saturday and that will be something to read.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Avoiding a Market Overload

(If You Want to Write...)

Can I blurb quickly for and These two resources have given me more opportunities and markets than any subscription writing magazine, even though those magazines have ten times the number of market listings.

I get easily overwhelmed by all that opportunity. How the heck am I supposed to write for all of them? Even if I could, I have no interest in working for Highly Technical Snob or other such markets. What I love about FFW and KMW is that they regularly list a small-to-middling number of specialized markets. KMW features markets appropriate for children's and YA writers, while FFW divides them by pay range.

Even with these "small bites," I sometimes forget to research these great leads. My strategy?


When I get FFW & Small Markets in my inbox, I skim through them and copy all those that look relevant and interesting. I then email that list to myself. I often do the same with KMW. This way, I have an even smaller list of specialized markets that I'm interested in and it's in my email (usually starred or marked as new) until my freelance palate is ready for more food.

The more you highlight and save and draw doodles over new magazines or e-zines that you want to write for, the more likely you'll be to do it! Managing a budding career doesn't take organizational prowess... just a little forethought.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

On a Personal Note (Three Fs Above Middle C)

(If you didn't get the pun, you don't spend enough time with music geeks. And yes, I can hit that note.)

I love writing my book.

I'm on this kind of writing diet where I write 550 words/day to finish the first draft, and I love it. For once I gave myself a realistic goal that allows me to skip days if I have to, and catch up later. I'm like 68% done! It's craziness.

But more than that, I love my book. I worry about it all the time-- is the protagonist actually doing anything? too much dialogue!-- and once in a while I think this is a sophomoric attempt by a high school senior to write something worthwhile.

Yet I love my book. I love re-reading the first hundred pages and remembering all that stuff I put in there, such a long time ago. I love this because it's so close to my heart as to be part of my aorta and capillaries. I love this because I believe in it: even though I get confused sometimes as to direction and message, the lifeblood of my book is still being pumped and so I can still write.

I love the writing of it. I love how two characters I just plopped in there to make a quick joke turn out to be the centerpiece of a memory or scene. I love discovering dialogic chemistry: with one guy, she can't stop dreaming and with the other she can't stop fighting. I love finding a phrase that fits and even the long hunt of babbling to make this one, all-important point.

I love my characters. I love writing about intelligent, witty people; it's like being on BBC snark steroids. I love their relationships, how they're blurry and awkward and questionably redeemable. I love my protagonist, because she's brave and in-your-face and scared and bitter and strong all at the same time. I appreciate the time I can spend with them.

I love the future editing and revising that's about to come. This is my fourth book, so I know about the constant I can't believe I wrote this and OMG, have you ever heard of CONFLICT? questions that will come, the re-plotting and fixing. I can't wait to finally see the whole book all together, puzzle pieces fitted or broken, complete.

I just love it. Most writers never become famous or rich, even the published ones. But they write because they love it-- their books, words, storytelling-- and that's why I love it. It's something natural and disciplined and gorgeous. My 550 words will most likely be crap and serve to put me forward three pages, not set the world straight. But they will make me a better writer for having written and a better person for having forced myself to do it.

I love this.

The Writing Workshop: Anecdotes

Do you know what an anecdote is?

According to the Gabrielle dictionar, an anecdote is a personal story used for a purpose. These are used in articles and essays nonstop 24/7 all the time but since this is the Incredible Writing Workshop we're talking about fiction and poetry.

Anecdotes are awesome when you write a novel,
because if you're completely stuck and have no idea which direction forward is, you can employ the Storyteller-Like Character and have him/her tell an anecdote. Old Uncle Joe or Little Cousin Tashika can serve this purpose well.

I love when authors use anecdote-telling with irony, like when the weird old woman starts talking about her dead boyfriend and the Protagonist doesn't pay attention... only to discover that the Antagonist is the dead boyfriend's great-grandson!

Anecdotes have obvious humor purposes in

fiction, because what happens to us in life is often funny. Think Mark Twain. Show the tension of a short story when the Sibling launches into a raucous tale of the Protagonist as the Prot. stares helplessly at his Dearly Beloved. It's funny, gives background and moves the story ahead all at the same time.

In poetry, anecdotes can help us remember the feelings

that moved us. Are you writing a poem about embarrassment? Write down the full story of your Most Embarrassing Moment (then burn it. I've never told my MEM to anybody. It's too humiliating.) Underline the phrases that give color to the story or express the events succinctly. Look for odd noun/adjective combinations, and begin to shape your poem.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Let's All Link Arms

Comment to win a copy of Violet in Private!

It's link time!

Jessica Faust talks about hoodlums in publishing

Pema blogs about not using out-of-date language

A new blog has just hatched over at, a compilation of several different All-Star reviewers

The Book Girl is giving away a copy of A Season of Eden at

Author Lauren Baratz-Logsted spills about her relationships with bikinis at

And Kevin Alexander makes this post co-ed with Lake Tahoe and other writing oddities

I've added Young Adult Book Bloggers as well as another blog called Zine Writer (all about writing for online publications) to the blogroll, so check there as well.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

WORD: Bagel Markets and De-Rutting Yourself

by Gabrielle Linnell

How can you tell if you're in a rut? It might seem that we WriTeens are too young for ruts, but if you've been writing for six months it's possible. There are several warning signs for ruttiness.

Same pay. Have you been getting paid the same for more than three months? Have you not been getting paid for more than three months?

Same style. Have you been writing the same kind of article or short story? I write a lot of educational articles, and I have to watch it because I can easily get bored and then the writing quality decreases.

Same zine. Look: good relationships with editors (and multiple publications with the same zine) are very good things. But when you query The Big Glossy Magazine, you can't say you've been published in Beautiful, Beautiful and Beautiful. You must break out and write for other places, especially if the pay isn't great.

The best way to write yourself out of a rut is to find a new market. Have you been working only on fantasy short stories? Try an educational article on the Civil War. You can't un-rut yourself by writing the same kinds of articles.

I was in a bagel shop (buying bagels, of all things) when I noticed our little community newsletter. There was a new market beneath my fingertips! Look for freebie magazines in your grocery store, or neat websites that your friends visit. Markets are findable, if you're searchably inclined.

Gabrielle Linnell has written for Cobblestone, FACES, New Moon, Byline and other magazines. She is proud to say she's working on four articles, three of which are for brand new markets. She is not proud to say she is 4 days behind on the Novel.

Bookshelf: The Story of Edgar Sawtelle

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle is the tale of a mute boy living a picturesque life on his parents' farm, until his uncle arrives and tragic events begin to unfold. Edgar, although robbed of the ability to speak with humans, can communicate with dogs, and he sets out on a quest to right his broken world.

This book has been getting a LOT of buzz and I haven't read it yet. However, when almost every review calls it a modern classic, I believe it's time the WriTeens stepped in and investigated this phenomenon.

Read the books that get a lot of press, even if you're doubtful they live up to it (for the record, this book looks very good.) Successful books tell you so much about the industry and what people like to read.

Next Week: Meet Jaime Adoff

Join in next week for a bookshelf interview with Jaime Adoff, author of the gritty urban novel The Death of Jayson Porter that has been making noise in bookstores and readers' ears alike. Jaime joins in to give his advice to teen writers and talk about where he found the inspiration for his book. Definitely a no-miss.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Should I Join Facebook?

Comment to win a copy of Violet in Private!

I have avoided Facebook, MySpace and even Xenga (in the Xenga days) like the proverbial Bubonic. However, it has come to my attention that a lot of WriTeens have visited this zine because of MySpace links or Facebook.

The Dilemma: WriTeens are on Facebook and MySpace. I love meeting WriTeens and connecting with more of you crazy guys. But I'm scared of social networking sites eating up all my time and/or possibly violating privacy.


Should I join Facebook and/or MySpace? Would you visit me there? Do you think more people would fall in love with Innovative if I did?

The Highlight of My Career

Highlights is a super-popular children's magazine that only allows submissions from writers 16+. I wept over this fact when I was thirteen but about a month ago, I looked at my calendar (or my license, or any time-relating device) and realized I could write for said magazine.

When did that happen?

Being able to write for Highlights is a milestone. I'm (almost) working on my first submission for them and now have to re-read the darn zine so that I remember how they work their short stories. Remember your milestones. They're special