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.