Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Meeting Shannon Hale

So I have read her blog for four or five years, devoured her books, preached her gospel of fantastic fantasy, spread her good literature like a virus... and finally got to meet her. Shannon Hale, authoress extraordinaire, winner of the Newbery Honor, best-selling writer and wonderful person.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Brief Aside: Marley and Me

What college students do in their nonexistent free time (and you think I'm kidding) is read five-year-old bestsellers that everyone else read before it was popular and quotes on a daily basis.

Marley and Me: The Collegiate Perspective

I can't review a book that's been made into a movie. It's impossible. But I told myself that I would not cry during this book and found myself devastating the one Kleenex box I packed. John's story of his home life, his kids, his writing and above all his dog was just too heart-breaking for this first-year, however free from homesickness.

When in South Florida, John Grogan missed trees and hills and beautiful places. I have trees and hills and beautiful places, but I miss dogs and kids. Not even my dogs and kids. I miss seeing little runny noses and "MOM! I WANT THAT!" and dogs urinating on city property and running up with the most intelligent looks on their faces. There is a world outside of eighteen-year-old scholars; I think I've read about it.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Bell at Sealey Head: A Review

The Bell at Sealey Head
by Patricia A. McKillip

In this 2008 release by a World Fantasy Award winner, the inhabitants of sleepy Sealey Head are shaken when a mysterious stranger arrives to inspect the mystical bell that rings every night. His arrival sets off a chain of romances, adventures, discoveries and unravelled secrets full of magic and mayhem.

The best quality of this book is its sense of place. McKillip does a superb job of adding details and story tidbits to make you feel like Sealey Head exists. It's a British-esque town in an unnamed magical land, just enough removed from history to make it fantasy. Her style of writing-- halfway between formality and casual banter-- suits the telling, reminding me of Victorian fairy tales. I quibbled a little with the character developement: none of her protagonists seemed to change. They may get lost or get married or free themselves from an overlord, but inwardly they remained the same. Some of the romantic sections seemed a bit childish.

Overall, this is a stunning fantasy and suited for readers of every age. Don't miss Sealey Head, and don't be put off by the "small town" mindset.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Attention Publicists and Authors!

I have moved from my home in Virginia to college and therefore have a new mailing address. If you are sending me books or had planned to send me copies, I will still be reviewing but need to give you my new address. Send me an email at

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Carpe Corpus: A Review

Carpe Corpus
by Rachel Caine

This is my second attempt into the Morganville Vampire mysteries, and my second failure to finish one. The series is about the very life-and-death struggles featuring Claire, a human, and her vampire and nonvamp friends. Bishop is the Dr. Evil and Shane is the Uber Hottie. Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

The books aren't horribly written, but the author errs in assuming that their characters are likeable (even Nora Ephron has been faulted for this) and in having a heavy action-based plot. I don't like Claire. I don't care about Amelie and the fate of Morganville. Their behavior is so angst-ridden and tortured that I'm much happier watching Bishop devour them all. The second fault, the action, isn't a real problem for readers looking for a movie-as-book. I hate action movies (how many times can you tear off a leg, race over a roof?) and their only redeeming quality is a loveable hero to keep you interested (Bourne, Bond).

If you prefer books with lots of running around and breath-stopping action, try Rachel Caine. If you liked the last fifth of Twilight, don't miss it. I, however, will be sitting this one out. 


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Once a Witch: A Review

Once a Witch
by Carolyn MacCullough

Tamsin is the witch that should have been. Proclaimed to be the Be-All Witch-All at birth, she has shown no sign of greatness, magical or otherwise. She's content (or pretending to be content) to practice normality at a NYC boarding school while waiting for her perfect older sister to steal the family glory... until a mysterious professor shows up at her grandmother's store and challenges Tamsin to change her future by changing herself.

I liked this book. Tamsin is gutsy enough to keep the book interesting, and the reader interested in her. Her old friend Gideon pops up, hot and gentlemanly, and his only fault is that he has none. While I would have liked him to have shown more foibles to balance the other characters, Tamsin and Gideon have fun chemistry. The adventures Tamsin has get a little overdramatic at the end, but are otherwise very enjoyable. MacCullough knows how to pace her book, and how to create a climax. 

Fans of modern-day Tamera Pierce and all fans of Patricia C. Wrede should look this one up. 

Friday, August 7, 2009


On page 182, there begins the tale of Gabrielle Linnell's freelancing career and the story of how the Innovative Teen blog began. First, thanks to all who have supported the blog since its inception, and to the friends we've made along the way.

Second, to celebrate the release on August 18th, I will be moving us out of our summer semi-hiatus with more reviews, hopefully some interviews and thoughts on what we've done and how far we've come.

Third, I will be entering Wellesley College this fall. I am so excited about that, but it means that Innovative activity will not be five-posts-a-week as we have done in the past. Reviewing and some interviews will continue to happen, but on a hectic college student's schedule.

Thank you, and look for a Once a Witch review this week.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Review: Simply Irresistible

Simply Irresistible
by Jennifer Banash

It's hard to know where to start. The dramatic lives of the new TV show "DeLuxe" are fodder for Banash's latest title. Casey switched boy toys, Madison is fighting domestic change, Phoebe doubts her own feelings, Sophie adopts her birth mother. Banash does a good job of extending and inventing conflict for her series and no one can deny that "The Elite" isn't fun.

However, the characters themselves annoyed me and their lack of definitive action was frustrating. Drew's struggle with his wealth is an intriguing idea but the kid anguishes for the entire novel without any decision. The physical perfection alone in each and every character is surreal: teen girls do not all have aerodynamic metabolisms. I guess my main complaint with the novel is that it doesn't feel like a novel. It reads more like an elongated chapter in a Dickensian epic set in the Upper East Side.

So I've Been Out of the Country

Gallivanting around the UK, pilgrimaging in Potter's footsteps, seeing the Sayers sites, etc. For a month. Many reviews to come in the next week or so. Thanks for your patience!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

What's Been Happening

I have copies of Jonas Brothers: The Unofficial Scrapbook, Carpe Corpus, Confidence is Queen! and... something else... which are being read and will be reviewed, no worries.

I had my last day of high school today. :S

Also, my "Dollar Store Designers" article was featured in this summer issue of Kiki.

Just so you know. :)

Saturday, May 16, 2009

My Big Nose and Other Natural Disasters

My Big Nose (and Other Natural Disasters) by Sydney Salter

In this debut novel, Jory has a nose comparable to those on Mount Rushmore and an inferiority complex to match. Determined to change her face (and therefore her life), she gets a summer job to pay for a nose job. Yet through a crazy series of events-- finding love, losing it, finding it, making friends, losing friends, discovering jewelry-- Jory has to rethink her life and what the problems in it really are.

The book was cute. There were many positive messages about body image and relationships, which I appreciated and thought were cool. Gideon was absolutely droll and you just wanted to snatch him right out of the book. Jory's incessant self-centeredness, though, was annoying for the first three-quarters. I had the feeling that if Jory was real, I wouldn't be friends with her, and that made reading her story harder. From a writing perspective, Salter had a decently developed point of view and there were few signs of the self-aware style of new writers in the book.

Overall: good beach read with positive messages.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

The First Best Book of 2009

The Reformed Vampire Support Group by Catherine Jinks
I loved this. Loved it loved it loved it. BUY IT!

This alternative vamp tale is told through Nina, a permanent 15-year-old whose funny, snarky view of life is clouded by the fact that she doesn't enjoy being a vampire. She has weekly meetings with other Australian down-under hidden-cover bloodeaters in the Reformed Vampire Support Group, but when one of their own is killed with a silver bullet, it's a race to figure out who the killer is, how to save their undead lives and maybe uncover secrets at the same time.

I loved Nina, I loved the supporting cast, I loved the whole story. I can't say this enough. Catherine Jinks is a genius (previous novel: Evil Genius) and I worship at her feet. If you're looking for witty, funny, sarcastic vampire tales with a dash of unusual romance and lots of adventure... heck, if you like great books, run out and get this one right now. Or Nina will come and suck your blood.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Bookshelf: Hello to Susane Colasanti!

Susane Colasanti is the author of three novels, When It Happens, Take Me There, and Waiting for You.

INN: Your titles are awesome: When It Happens, Take Me There, Waiting for You. Did you know all of your titles when you started writing the novels, or did they evolve from many drafts?
SC: Before I started writing books, I always thought that coming up with titles would be the easiest part. I was wrong. It’s much easier for me to write a book than come up with a good title. At least, that was the case with these three books. I knew the title of my fourth book, Something Like Fate, in the early stages of writing it.
It’s interesting to see how titles evolve. When It Happens was originally called Trust and the plot was different in a few ways. After revising the manuscript, it was clear that Trust didn’t really fit anymore. The original title of Take Me There was My Way Home, but the sales & marketing team didn’t think that was catchy enough. By then, I’d decided that all of my titles would have three words. While I was writing Waiting for You, I knew the title would have to involve waiting in some way, so that title was easier to come up with.
INN: Your books often use multiple points of view. What is it like writing from several different perspectives in a single book?

SC: It’s a lot of fun! When I was a teen reading the limited supply of decent young-adult novels available back then, I was always so frustrated that the author only told one side of the story. If the book involved a main girl and boy character, we only saw the girl’s perspective. I was dying to know the boy’s side of things, like what he talked about with his friends and what he really thought about the girl. I promised myself that if I ever wrote a teen novel, I would tell it from both sides so my readers could know the whole story.

Take Me There was more challenging than When It Happens, since the story involved three different perspectives. Several chapters include scenes that we previously saw from another character’s point of view. I loved using this technique because I could have the reader wondering about certain things the first time they saw a scene, then fill in the blanks when the scene is shown from an alternate perspective. This technique was tricky, though. My obsessive attention to detail came in handy.

INN: Sometimes the grades in high school seem aeons apart, while other times they blur together. Having written characters in several different grades, what do you think makes each grade different for the writer and for the teen?

SC: I like writing about older characters. I find that time when high school is ending and an entirely different life is beginning the most interesting to explore. However, I wanted to also write a book a bit more accessible to younger readers, so Waiting for You takes place during sophomore year.

Senior year is the strangest. That’s when you realize that the microcosm you’ve become so familiar with is about to explode. For people like me who hated high school, this is a very good thing and a time for extensive celebration. This is when all of the people you have known forever are about to go their separate ways. You will probably never see most of them (or maybe even any of them) ever again. People who can seem like your whole world one day disappear the next. An interesting dynamic I noticed during my senior year is that people stop caring how you’ve been labeled all those years before and start caring more about who you are. Everyone sort of realized that we’re all distinct people about to start our real lives, not just parts of a larger group. They calm down. They’re nicer. It’s fascinating, really.

INN: How did you break into publication?

SC: After I read The Outsiders in seventh grade, I had this fantasy about becoming an author. I wanted to inspire other kids the way S.E. Hinton inspired me with the world of Ponyboy Curtis. That book was pure energy to me. I even slept with it under my pillow, wishing for some magical osmosis that might help make my dream a reality one day.

The other significant thing that happened when I was 12 was realizing I wanted to be a science teacher. I was a teacher for almost ten years. But I still carried that dream of becoming an author in my heart. While I was in grad school at New York University, I started writing some early pages of When It Happens. I kept writing and soon I had a manuscript. It was rejected by several publishers, but Viking Children’s Books saw something there and wanted to work with me. Now my books sit on my bookshelf next to The Outsiders, all of them with the Viking imprint on the spine. That dream I kept alive for so long has finally become reality.

INN: Do you have a favorite moment from one of your novels?

SC: Well, I love the scene in When It Happens with Sara and Tobey where he’s in the car and she’s outside his window and they press their hands together, separated by glass. I always thought that would make an excellent movie moment. I also love the iPod dancing scene on the pier from Take Me There. There’s something about being surrounded by the city lights and energy and night that makes the scene an emotionally powerful one for me.

INN: Any advice for teen writers?
SC: Read. Write. Repeat.

The more you read, the better your writing becomes. I developed strong skills in my high school English classes (not because I liked them, but because I had outstanding teachers). You definitely have to know the basics of grammar, punctuation, and spelling, so if you’re behind on developing those skills, dedicate time each day to learning. However, it was reading thousands of books that made me a writer. The rhythm of words, the flow of sentences, the intangible essence of a great book – all of these things can only be absorbed by reading.

If you’re feeling reluctant to write or just uninspired, maybe it’s time to think outside the box. You should be writing for fun because you love it, not feeling like you have to force yourself to write (unless it’s for school, in which case I feel your pain). Write about your passion. Whatever it is that makes you feel alive, write about that. Then, never give up. You can’t fail if you never stop trying.

Thank you, Susane!!
You can find out more about Susane Colasanti and her books on these sites:

Friday, April 10, 2009

Review: Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side

Where have you been dating?

This debut novel by Beth Fantaskey, Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side, tells the tale of a somewhat normal Pennsylvanian teen who finds a Romanian so-called vampire moving into her house, stalking her at the bus stop and announcing that Jessica's his long-lost betrothed, destined to be a vampire princess. Jessica deals with everything from interfering cheerleaders and her own mixed feelings to a vampire war in order to figure out what the problem is, who the hero is and what she wants out of all of this.

The book was entertaining. With all of this Twilight obsession, it's nice to see the funny side of vampire lore. The first half of the book doesn't take itself seriously, which was a good move by the author, with several funny scenes involving farm boys, horses and school.

The second half is much more serious and dramatic (cue vampire war threats), when Jessica has a change of heart about her vampire betrothed while he's changing other hearts. I felt like this didn't completely fit in with the beginning of the novel, giving it an uneven tone. Major vampire drama is hard to pull off (Stephenie Meyer flopped in Breaking Dawn) and I wish the author had kept it set in Pennsylvania and focused on the Lucius-Jessica chemistry instead.

The messages Lucius shares about women with Jessica are almost all refreshing (I have differences when it comes to chivalry) and unusual to find in YA lit (not advocating diets? what?!). Readers looking for a fun vampire read will like this one, and I'm interested to see whether the author chooses to write lighter or darker fiction later in her career.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Sophomore Undercover: A Review

Original is the adjective for Ben Esch's Sophomore Undercover. I didn't know what to expect, but what I got was an incredibly personable Vietnamese sophomore with raging hormones and an ironic sense of humor, with Pulitzer-sized dreams and an acid trip for a school. It's a little disjointing until you realize Esch is writing a parody that is, at the same time, the realistic story of a young misguided character.

What I admire about the writing is that although this is a debut, Esch has managed to avoid writing cliched sentences. 90-95% of the sentences are Dixie Nguyenisms, unique to his character and perfectly situated. Beyond that, this is outright funny. I wouldn't recommend it for those who only do family-wholesome humor but for any high schooler, it's a riot. I look forward to reading Esch's next work, and meanwhile comment to win a copy of Sophomore Undercover!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Bookshelf: Interview with Lisa Yee!

With the publication of Millicent Min, Girl Genius, Lisa has realized her lifelong dream of becoming an author. The winner of the prestigious Sid Fleischman Humor Award, there are over 300,000 copies of MILLIE in print. Lisa's second novel, Stanford Wong Flunks Big-Time won the Chinese American Librarian Association Best Book of the Year award, and was named an American Library Association Notable Book. Lisa was also named the 2007 Thurber House Children's Author-in-Residence. Her third novel, So Totally Emily Ebers came out in 2007 and so did Good Luck, Ivy, an American Girl historical novel. Lisa Yee's most recent novel is Absolutely Maybe. -

INN: Absolutely Maybe features a cross-country road trip, crazy charm school mothers and Hollywood quests for unknown dads. Where did you find the idea for this novel-- or multiple ideas?

LY: The original title was CHARM SCHOOL DROPOUT and it was a much different book--lighter and for a much younger crowd. Then I started writing and even though I worked from an outline, the characters sort of hijacked the story. I always write my endings first, so at least I knew where we were headed. But some of the side trips surprised me.

Initally, I planned for the book to take place in thirds. The first being in Kissimmee, FL where a goth girl grows up with a ex-beauty pageant queen mom. I thought a road trip would be fun because I once drove across country with my best friend Henry. And then I wanted Maybelline (she calls herself Maybe) to land in Hollywood, the way Dorothy landed in Oz. Only, as I began to write, the LA/Hollywood part sort of took over, and I cut way back on the other two parts.
My struggle with writing is never lack of ideas, but having too many. In the deleted many subplots because it made Maybe's story meander. (However, I've saved them and they may appear in another book!)

INN: If Maybe had her own TV show, what would it be called and what would it be about?

LY: Oooh, great question! Hmmm . . . I know! It would be called TIPS 'n' TACOS WITH MAYBE. She would help people solve their problems. Plus, Maybe would figure out what kind of taco would make them feel better, and cook it for them.

INN: You've written very successfully for middle grade/middle school readers with Millicent Min, Girl Genius and the sequels with Stanford Wong and Emily Ebers: what was the transition to writing YA like?

LY: It was heaven. With YA there are no constraints either with topic or language. I felt a freedom writing Maybe's story that I hadn't felt before. I loved every minute of it.

INN: I'm a huge American Girl fan: can you talk about writing Good Luck, Ivy?

LY: American Girl approached me about writing a historical fiction. At first I said no, because I don't really write that sort of thing. But when I found out it was set in 1974, I was shocked! To me, that doesn't seem so long ago because I was alive then. Finally, I agreed to do it and had a great time. The story is set in San Francisco, so they sent me there to research. I said, "I really think there needs to be a scene that takes place at the Ghiradelli Chocolate Factory." And they said, "Well then, you should go there." And I thought, "Oh yeah!"

It was really weird/cool seeing the Ivy Ling doll. And the book and doll were on Oprah, so that was tres exciting.

INN: What's up next?

LY: I have a chapter book series that will debut in September. The first book is called BOBBY VS. GIRLS (ACCIDENTALLY) and the illustrator is the talented Dan Santat. He has a Disney Channel cartoon called THE REPLACEMENTS.

INN: Any advice for teen writers?

LY: Read, read, write, read, write and read some more. Every book you read is like getting a free writing class. If you love a book, reread it for style, pacing, plot, etc. And write all the time. It doesn't have to be stories, e-mails, journals, letters, they all count. Also, don't just write what you know, but write what you want to know. Explore. Have fun.

Find out more about Lisa Yee at

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Deadline Contemplations

I'm working hard on an article assigned weeks ago... that of course I haven't started until recently. Due Friday. Procrastination is part of my teenage nature, and therefore natural. However, while I procrastinate, I contemplate to prevent this situations...

Commit to an earlier date. If your deadline is April 1st, email your editor and let her know you will be done the article by March 25th. Sound insane? It probably is, but it means you will be in the editor's good graces and not emailing the article at 11:59pm on April 1.

Use your query as an outline. I love copying and pasting the original query to keep myself on track, and remember what I promised to deliver to my editor. It keeps any unexpected tangents from taking over the piece.

Put your dates in your normal agenda. I have little reminders about this article next to my Calculus homework and weekend plans. It's one way to keep it together in the midst of a crazy senior semester, twelve days from college decisions...

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Sophomore Undercover Giveaway!

I was given an extra copy of the FABULOUS Sophomore Undercover by Ben Esch. Fans of John Green gone wacky and biting, funny other comic writers will enjoy this one. If you want a free copy, please:

1. Live in the United States of America
2. Comment and tell me what your thoughts on Sophomores are
3. Do so by April 8th, 2009

Have fun and comment!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

So, the Blogger had a Mental Health Week...

And completely flubbed the dates.

I apologize. If you're a second semester senior in a competitive school with acceptances and rejections flying about your ears, you will understand but it's no excuse.


Lisa Yee will be coming in 2 weeks.

The review of Sophomore Undercover will come this week along with details on our 2 upcoming giveaways.

I will be uploading some more posts on publishing. :) And enjoy, hopefully, a less insane seven days.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

News from the Blogging World

Susan McBride has re-designed her website at All you Debs fans go and check it out!

Orb28, the lovely ladies' blog I've been guesting at for several months, is sadly closing due to the turn of events that are turning many people's lives at the moment. Go over to until March 14 to say your goodbyes.

Ben Esch's "Sophomore Undercover" was hilarious and I will be posting a review of it this Saturday. I have a copy to give away as well as a copy of Lord of Misrule because I can't finish the darn book. Details on Friday.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Bookshelf: Welcome to Micol Ostow!

Micol Ostow is half Puerto Rican, half Jewish, half student, half writer, half chocolate, half peanut butter. When she is under deadline, she is often half asleep. She believes that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts except in the case of Chubby Hubby ice cream. She lives in New York City where she reads, runs, and drinks way too much coffee. -

INN: You have written many books for teens, spanning diverse topics: from high school politics in Popular Vote to the Simon Pulse romantic comedies like Crush du Jour and 30 Guys in 30 Days and even ethnic heritage in Emily Goldberg Learns to Salsa. What inspires you to write about such different scenarios?

MO: Hmm...when you put it that way--maybe I just have a short attention span! Ha! Seriously, though, I have always had a broad range of interests and I love to read all kinds of books-- from chick lit, to thrillers, to literary fiction, and I think my writing reflects that. I'm very, very lucky that I have editors who encourage me to stretch and explore all of my areas of interest. And each project teaches me something new about myself. "Emily" was heavily based on my own experiences getting to know my Puerto Rican family, and I think it was a story that I always had inside of me. My graphic novel project due out this summer, "So Punk Rock," talks about life in a Jewish day school.

And of course, with "Bradford," I'm able to access my love of pop culture and the whole extended online community. The hardest part is balancing all of my deadlines and occasionally having to switch back and forth between projects very quickly--that can result in a bit of split personality and can be crazy-making. The truth is that not all of my readers will respond to all of my books. But if I keep publishing (knock wood) across a broad range of genres and topics, hopefully, there will be a Micol Ostow book out there for everyone.
INN: Have you always wanted to write books? If so, how is your present career different or similar to what you imagined?

MO: I have always, always, always wanted to write books. My summer camp bunkmates and I used to create the back cover copy to the Sweet Valley novels we were going to write when we grew up (okay, dork alert. You've got me. But hey--I knew where my talents lay). That being said, I never DREAMED that one day people would actually pay me to write the type of books that I love to read, and therefore, I took a very sensible job as a YA book editor when I graduated college. I loved that job (true story: I was an editor at Simon Pulse, which is just one of the many reasons why I adore publishing with them now--they're like family to me), and had no plans of leaving to write. But people knew that I was interested in writing and some opportunities came up, and literally, one thing led to another...

Eventually, I realized that I wouldn't be able to give 100% to my editing and 100% to my writing, so for now, at least, the writing has won out. But we'll see what the future holds. I guess you could say that my present is different than what I imagined in that I honestly never dreamed I would be able to do exactly what I've always wanted to do. I'm a lucky lucky girl.
INN: Your new series The Bradford Novels releases its first title, GoldenGirl, this January. What would you like to tell readers about this series?

MO: GoldenGirl and Bradford follow in the well-trod tradition of private school "mean girl lit," but I like to think that several things really set it apart. Firstly, I *hope* that the voice is one that readers will find distinct, funny, tongue-in-cheek, unique, etc.,etc., etc. But what is especially awesome about Bradford--and what really drew me to the project from the start--is the entire online "experience" that it offers to readers. I don't believe there's been anything like this in YA publishing yet. Sure, we've had dedicated websites for books and series, and Facebook accounts and that sort of thing.

But offers you a huge network, and a chance to really experience the stories and the characters from new perspectives once you've actually finished with the books. You can read about the series, yeah, but you can also email the characters, visit their profile pages, follow them on twitter, and read new blogs in real time (one character, for instance, is a fashion designer, and you can bet she'll have a lot of opinions come Oscar night). You might find a tertiary character in the books whose online blog reveals an entire subplot involving a clique you were only peripherally aware of. And you can check out the websites of many of the locations we've created in the books.

So basically everything you'll find online is meant to enhance and build on your experience of reading the books, as opposed to merely supplementing it. Teens--and writers!--are more plugged in than ever, and I think it will be very exciting to see how we react to a book series that responds to the ways in which we express ourselves and communicate today.
INN: What is it like writing a series, as opposed to individual novels?

MO: The self-employed businesswoman in me will tell you that it's comforting to know you've got three titles slated for the upcoming year. But the truth is that the process of writing a book is much more ephemeral than most people realize. For instance, the first draft of the graphic novel project I mentioned, "So Punk Rock," was turned in to my editor literally a year ago, and won't be out until July. There's a lot of downtime in between projects for a writer. So what I love about a series is the chance to spend more time with my characters, as opposed to merely sending the manuscript off to my editor and saying goodbye for, if not forever, at least a good chunk of time.

I feel more grounded and in turn feel like I have a chance to get to know my characters and watch them grow and evolve. And of course, with Bradford, there's *always* something going on--if we're not working on the book, then my editors and I are creating online content, thinking about web design, plotting out story arcs...I'm always knee-deep in Bradford and I like the feeling of working on something solid and all-consuming that way. It helps me to combat that split personality that I mentioned above that comes from having my hands in lots of different projects at any given time.
INN: As a huge Grace Kelly fan, I'm guessing that Spencer Grace Kelly's name is not an accident (if so, a wonderful coincidence!) Why did you choose to connect the glamorous icon with the main character in GoldenGirl?

MO: Not an accident at all! She is meant to be a distant relative of Grace Kelly's (who was originally from Philadelphia, and therefore a local icon). Grace Kelly is the epitome of style and, as you say, glamour, that we associate not only with the series, but also with Spencer, who is by all accounts the "Grace Kelly" (that is, the golden girl) of Bradford Prep.

INN: Any advice for teen writers?

MO: The best advice--and what seemed to work for me--is to read everything you can get your hands on, and to keep writing. Writing isn't about being published (though that's always fun too)--it's about sitting your butt in your chair and *writing.* It's harder than it sounds, but it's worth it!... THANKS!

INN: Thank you so much!

Monday, February 23, 2009

You Know You Want To...

Check out Micol Ostow when she comes to Innovative this Saturday, February 28!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

May I Recommend Some Good Books?

Have to run, but--

The Blind Assasin by Margaret Atwood

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (Niffennegger?)

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

are all completely, 100% worth your time.

They are why we write.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Holiday Bookshelf: Chatting with Ben Esch

While writing Sophomore Undercover (in bookstores February 24), Ben Esch slept on a fold-out sofa in his parents' basement, gained thirty pounds, and developed a crippling fear of raccoons. The author did not date much during this period. Ben now lives in Los Angeles and sleeps in an actual bed. Chase your dreams, kids.

INN: What inspired the unorthodox, unusual character of Vietnamese high school reporter and nerd, Dixie Nguyen?

BE: Dixie came from a couple of inspirations. First of all, I grew up in a small town in Northern California that was pretty homogeneous (homogeneous = chock full of white people). There was a Vietnamese kid in my high school class, and I used to think it looked interesting to see him walk around campus, completely surrounded on all sides by a bunch of huge, hickish white dudes. One day I got to thinking: what if he had an adventure?

As for the personality of Dixie Nguyen...well, to be perfectly honest, I'm not exactly sure how I came up with that. I guess I from the school of writing that when you write a character, you're basically writing about yourself. So, I suppose that means there's a fairly big chunk of the character that's me. A much more clever, adventurous, and slightly less of a big, goofy white guy version of me, but still me nevertheless. This fiction stuff is fun.
INN: Dixie uncovers a drug scandal involving high school athletes. How did you approach this topic-- through research, asking teens, memories of your own high school experience or something else?
BE: Though Sophomore Undercover took a lot of inspiration from my own time in high school, there was never a drug scandal in the football team. At least not that I'm aware of. No, let's just go ahead and say there wasn't a drug scandal. I just made up the drug scandal thing. Again, fiction is fun.

In terms of the rest of the story, I didn't really do any specific research until the book had gone through a few drafts, and even then, the "research" was just me walking around my old high school campus at night to remind myself where the buildings were. So, I got off pretty easy on this book. Unless you count the four years I went to the high school as research. In that case, I researched the hell out of this thing.

INN: If Dixie had his own game show, what celebrity would he choose to be the Vanna White and why?
BE: That's a good question...I've spent a lot of time thinking about this and I think he'd probably go with one of the cute but somewhat nerdy girls from that G4 channel (I'm all about that Ninja Warrior show, by the way) so let's go with Kristin Holt, maybe? Of course, I'm guessing that Dixie would spent most of his time staring at his feet and stammering if he was around anyone that pretty, so that would probably hurt the game show a bit...
INN: The ultimate question: how did your book break into print?

BE: Well, the first step was writing a book. An underrated, but essential part of the process.
The second step was finding an agent. There's a lot of stuff on the internet on how to go about doing this, so I won't get into the more boring details about how all that works.

The third step was working with the agent (Steven "I look uncannily like David Blaine" Malk) to make the book I wrote actually make sense. Turns out that most publishers are looking for something like that, which was a bit of a shock at the time. Anyway, we worked together for about seven months, I knocked off a hundred pages or so, learned quite a bit about writing, and in the end we had something that he thought we could sell.

The fourth step was selling the book. This was a rough couple of weeks, but in the end Disney-Hyperion was into the book and we were into Disney-Hyperion. Everybody at Disney-Hyperion is remarkably cool, by the way. And I'm not just saying that because they pay me. I mean, the money thing doesn't hurt, but they're still really nice regardless.

And that's how my book got into print.

INN: What's up next in your writing career?

BE: Well, the first thing up is the release of my book, "Sophomore Undercover" on February 24th which is equal parts exciting and terrifying. So, that's been taking up most of my time. I should probably tell you guys to go to my website: Oh, and we just got the Sophomore Undercover video game launched which is a guaranteed good way to waste five minutes. (

And after that...well, I'm under contract for another book with Disney-Hyperion that should be coming out in the Summer of 2010. So I should probably get cracking on finishing that.

INN: Any advice for teen writers?

BE: Three things:
1. Try to remember this time in your life. The stuff that you are going to be obsessed with for the rest of your life (for better or worse) is going to happen during your teenage years, and like it or not, this is the stuff that you're probably going to end up writing about. There's just way too much exciting stuff happening in your life right now for you to not remember it and use for creative fodder down the line. Keep a journal, hold onto your yearbooks, make a scrapbook...just make sure you remember it.

2. Write the story that you want to read. This is pretty much the only advice I feel qualified to give to any other writer. The neat thing about being a writer is that you get to craft the exact kind of story that you are interested in/want to read. I know it's tempting to try to write something that is popular, but if you're not really writing something that you're passionate about, it's going to show in the final product.

3. Read. And this just isn't to get you guys to read my book...but you know, it would be pretty awesome if you guys would read my book, actually. The best education you can have as a writer is reading. Read everything. I can't emphasize this enough. READ. Sorry I had to go all caps on you guys there, but I'm really serious about this.

Thanks so much!

Learn more about Sophomore Undercover and Ben Esch at

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

YA Blog Newsletter

I've joined the new YA Blog Newsletter team and will be contributing on upcoming reviews. Check out to learn more. This is one of those "Duh!" things, like... how have we lived without it?

Also: look for In My Mailbox tomorrow, slightly tweaked to What Books I Have Been Given Recently. And Benjamin Esch will be joining us on V-Day!

Monday, February 9, 2009

_______ of the Week

Essay of the Week
"I Wish I Could Read Like a Girl"

This was written a month ago, but this essay about teen reading by Michelle Slatalla is excellent as well as entertaining.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Baby Steps to Better Bandwagon Behavior

As you may have noted, I've been scarce in posting because of major exam and end-of-term nastiness. I have survived exams with fairly respectable grades and all of my internal organs intact, to become that amazing creature of American high schools: the second semester senior.


This means I can finally get back to writing. I've put off working on my novel in favor of studying, and missed my January deadlines for sending out queries. February and early March will therefore be spent revising, with 10 queries being sent out by March 20th. Freelancing? That too. It was fun to have a magazine email me after 1.5 years to see if the article I queried was still available.

Career Week will be coming up, as well as some truly AWESOME interviews coming up with some spectacular authors. I'm looking to work with other bloggers to coordinate different Spring events, celebrating Spring Break and then finally graduation.

So: rest assured, I will be back and blogging well. My column for February is up at for those who are interested in finding inspiration in your old clips.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Post-Exams Bookshelf: Hello and Welcome to Daphne Grab!

Daphne Grab grew up in Rhinebeck, New York and attended Bard College, studying history. She's worked in Colombia, taught ESL in China and history in LA, and received an MFA in Creative Writing from The New School. Her debut novel, Alive and Well in Prague, New York, was released in May 2008 to wonderful reviews. -

INN: Alive and Well in Prague, New York is such an unusual (and awesome!) title. Did you have this title in your mind as you began writing the book, or was it a last-minute suggestion?

DG: I am terrible at thinking up titles, in fact for my second book a friend’s husband is the one who came up with the title Halftime. But for Prague the title came to me before the book. I had this idea of best friends signing their emails in creative ways and suddenly the title popped into my mind. Originally I wanted it to be Matisse Osgood, Alive and Well in Prague, New York, but my editor thought it was too long and, as was the case with most things, she was right.

INN: Matisse deals with several serious challenges that other teenagers find, including moving to a new town in the middle of high school. Did you ever move as a teenager?

DG: I lived in the same small town until I went to college but I did change schools when I went to high school. My mom taught at a boarding school and I got to go for free which was awesome. It was really hard to leave my friends and the boarding school was another world. Kids there were about a thousand times more sophisticated than I was and I remember one senior said I was so innocent I was like a child of the sun. I think it was also that I skipped eighth grade so I was younger than everyone. But I wanted to write about that experience of being immersed in a whole social setting that is completely different from all past experience.

INN: If Matisse was a real person that you could take anywhere in the world, where would the two of you go and why?

DG: Hm, I think we’d have to hang out right here in NYC. Matisse could take me to all the cool places she shops and the fun restaurants where she hangs out with her city friends. I’ve lived in NYC for ten years but I’ll never know it the way a native like Matisse does!

INN: What was the most difficult part of writing Alive and Well?

DG: The rewriting. I pumped out a first draft quickly but it needed a ton of work and it was so hard to do. Major revisions are like surgery: you pull out an organ, put in a new one and then have to make sure each little vein and tendon attaches back up so smoothly you’d never know the surgery took place.

INN: How did you break into publication?

DG: I had a teacher at my MFA program bring in her editor to look at subs from our class and the editor liked mine. It can take ages for a story to fall into the right hands, those of an editor who will love it and help it reach it’s full potential, and to have it happen with the first editor who saw it is extremely good luck.

INN: Any advice for teen writers?

DG: Two things: work as hard as you can on your story, revising and revising until it’s as good as you can possibly make it. Then show it to other writers and stay as open as you can to their critique. Make the changes that resonate with you (and be honest- no story is perfect and good critique will make you a better writer if you can listen to it) and then get an agent. It’s so important to have an agent to handle the business side of your relationship with your publishing house and a good agent will nurture your whole career.

Thank you so much, Daphne! Visit Daphne's website at, and watch for her blog on our Author's Blogroll!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Update from the Very Busy Western Front in Statistics

6,395 tissues used
4 college interviews had so far
1 acceptance
$30,000 offered in scholarship money
3 exams taken
3 exams to go
2 more days until I don't have to care about school any more and can watch American Idol-- I mean, Mad Men-- without feeling guilty
1 second before I return to massive studying

Sunday, January 25, 2009


The weekend before exams, I get completely, utterly sick. Posting will be scarce until I can get antibiotics.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Help Me Teach Teen Writers!

I'm doing a presentation in a few weeks about getting published, hoping to cover everything from queries to contracts (and something in between!) Do you, fellow teen writers and adult writing experts, have any suggestions? If you came to the workshop, what would you want to hear? What are you interested in? What are you not coming to hear?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Thought for the Day

Lone wandering, but not lost.

- William Cullen Bryant

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

When to Work for Free

When young writers start out, you almost always start by writing for a byline. No cash, no contracts (as we talked about last week), only the pleasure of saying you got published in Examine Your Zipper or Orlando Bloom Quarterly. I've been freelancing for four years now, and only write for free in several situations.

Exploring a New Market. Travel is something I'm interested in writing about, so I'm hunting for travel zines or travel columns regardless of whether they pay. Once I've earned my stripes, I'll go after the heavy-hitting (and big buck-giving) travel zines (Geez, what's with the participles?).

Establishing a Reputation. Columns or guest positions are fantastic because now you can say, "I'm a columnist for Angelina Jolie Live Always and Everywhere." If you're offered a column position, take it. Your reputation will benefit if you do a good job (Hint: always keep track of your deadlines!)

Giving Back. Sometimes I write for free when I like the magazine editor and she's helped me out before. Write if you believe in a cause and want to support it. If there's a "giving" aspect, think about writing. Your art is not meant for pure profit.

The Prestige of the Prestige. If a big name approaches you about doing a piece for no cash, think about the name. In the bio part of your query letters, you don't put how much you were paid for an article, but you do note what the name of the magazine was.

Monday, January 19, 2009

A Book in Your Pocket

Since I received all those amazing books over the holidays, I've carried books in my purse. This Gilmore Girl-like behavior isn't unusual, but now I'm being deliberate. Wherever I go, whatever purse I carry, I want to have a book on me.

I don't always have the time to read during school, or on the bus or waiting for a lesson; but I often do. Reading in between classes is a fantastic use of time, but it also serves a metaphysical purpose. Plugging in numbers or running from activity to activity means I'm not writing most of the time, not doing what I love most. It's easy to forget why you love what you do.

So my challenge to you, as writing teenagers and people who support writing teenagers, is to carry a book in your pocket or backpack or purse. It's good for those in-between moments when the teacher gives you 20 minutes to work on a project you finished last week. It's good to just search for your lip gloss and find your fingers on The Conde Nast Traveler's Guide or Cracked Up to Be, and remember for a moment that books exist, good books are possible and that one day you will write one.

Belated Bookshelf: Hey There to Tina Ferraro!

Tina Ferraro believes in the adage that it is never too late to have a happy childhood. She, in fact, had a very happy one, living in Westchester County, New York, with her parents, her brother, and several cats. She was an avid bookworm, earned a shelf full of medals for competitive swimming, and would sometimes play Barbies for days on end. It was her teen years that she feels she failed to make the most of--probably because she was too busy daydreaming of the exciting life she wished she had.

All these years later, as a wife of two decades and a mother of three teens, she is giving herself that happy teenage experience by writing stories about girls who not only dream big--but make their dreams come true.
Some of Tina’s favorite things include reading, drinking lattes, hanging with her family, watching the TV shows "The Office" and “Lost,” and chatting with her readers through her website,

INN: I first found your books when Top Ten Uses for an Unworn Prom Dress came out because I was so intrigued-- what can you do with an unworn prom dress? Where did you find the idea for your debut novel?

TF: I came upon a nonfiction book called something like 101 Things To Do With a Bridesmaid Dress. And it started my mind racing...what if it was a prom dress? Because...because...the guy dumped her just days before the prom? And instead of 101 things, what if it was ten...

And I was off and running. I then took the idea to my on-line brainstorming group (which is composed of about 10 authors) and asked for input. I got great feedback, including the idea to go with “Top Ten” instead of just “Ten.” When I pitched it to my agent, she told me to drop what I was working on and start writing it right away!
INN: If Parker (protagonist of the upcoming The ABCs of Kissing Boys) had a New Year's Resolution, what would it be?

TF: Interesting question! Since the book takes place in August/September, I’d like to answer two ways, the New Years before and after. Before: to cut out the junk food and keep in tip-top shape for soccer season. After: to pay attention to the people in her life, and remember that not everyone is as they seem.

INN: How did you get published?

TF: Well, I started selling short stories back in college, but it took many years of reading, writing, networking, taking on-line classes and attending conferences to get to the point where I understood “my voice” and the situations that brings it to its fullest potential. That is in teen “dramedy” situations, where humor and internal struggle go hand-in-hand. When I found my niche, I found my agent, and the first sale happened relatively quickly.

INN: Did your own experiences in high school affect the way you write about teenagers now? What are some differences and similarities?

TF: Absolutely! I was a major people watcher and daydreamer in high school, spent hours creating exciting scenarios that I really, really wanted to happen. (In most cases, they never did, however.) So much of what I write today is based on those types of daydreams--larger-than-life drama. I stay current through my kids who keep me updated on the electronics and when to use IM, TM and what-not. And let me know when the phrases I use are horribly out-of-date!

INN: What are you most excited about with the release of ABCs?

TF: Well, modestly, I think I’m going to get good reactions from readers. ABC’s is probably my funniest book, and I had a great time researching and listing different kinds of kisses that readers can try out on guys (or, if they’re more like I was, simply daydream about trying out).
And I have to say, I put in several mentions of something called a Steam Kiss, which I did not research, so when my characters tried it, (obviously) they couldn’t get it to work. I’m looking for someone to try it for real and report back to me!

INN: Any advice for teen writers?

TF: Yes. It’s important to ask others (friends, teachers, other writers) for feedback on your writing. But sometimes that feedback conflicts with what you’re striving for, or what your gut tells you is right. In this case, I employ what I call my Rule of Three. The first time I hear criticism that I don’t agree with (say, someone says a scene is too slow), I ignore it. The second time, I seriously consider it. The third time, I throw up my hands and make the change. So far, this has worked for me.
Thank you so much, Tina!
Visit her website at and watch for her blog on our Bookshelf Authors' Blogroll.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Permissions, Releases and Contracts Part Two

Permission releases are another form of contracts, although a more informal kind. In them, you are giving permission for the magazine or company to use your work for an agreed-upon sum or reward.

Watch for weird clauses. Know what rights you're giving up, and weigh them against what you're being paid or the prestige of the magazine. There are shady zines that will steal your words for no payment, so watch out.

Photo releases. Sometimes big magazines will want your photo in the bio line, and will ask for a photo release. Make sure these are photos that you or your family took and are not copyrighted photos with a professional photographer. Senior portraits won't qualify most of the time. Choose a good pic of yourself!

Always know your goals. The best situation is when you allow a magazine to publish your story with First North American Rights or minimal rights given, for a large sum of money or prestigious publication. However, you usually have to decide what's most important: getting published, being published again, payment and prestige. Don't be in such a hurry to get published that you make the mistake of selling your work for little profit.

If your story is publishable, you are worth being paid well. Read carefully and keep copies of all your contracts. It's good practice for later life, or so my parents tell me.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Minor/Major Matters of Business

First, congratulations to everyone who applied for the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards ( The results won't be known at regional levels for another month or so, but congrats. You guys work so hard. Please let me know if you win anything!

The PUSH imprint contest, for unpublished novels written by teens, is open until March. If you have 30-50 pages of a novel, run over to the Scholastic page and see if you're interested in submitting. Please pay attention to the rights you give up for the contest; know what you're doing!

You can find me today over at, and my Fresh Ideas column at has been published. Go read my life-altering words of wisdom-- or gently entertaining writing thoughts-- over at

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Permissions, Releases and Contracts, Pt 1

Negotiating the legalese world of permissions, releases and contracts as a teenager is confusing unless you're a prelaw student or your mom's an contract lawyer. However, there are some simple guidelines that I've found to be useful

Contracts. Contracts state that you are giving up certain rights (such as North American rights, all rights, etc.) to a magazine or e-zine in exchange for an agreed-upon sum. Make sure you know what rights you are giving away. I don't care as much about selling all the rights to my work if I'm being paid and I can't see myself re-using the article in question. Always note the price and date you will be paid.

Negotiating prices. You receive your contract and the payment is $25 less than you thought it would be. Do you email the editor and complain? This depends on how bureaucratic the magazine is. If the editor always responds within 24 hours to your emails and seems eager to work with you, you can bring up the price. However, this is best done before a contract is brought up. These are almost impossible to change if you're working with a major mag.

Negotiating rights. If you're unhappy with the rights you're supposed to be giving away, talk to the editor. Be prepared to wait, be prepared to be frustrated, make sure you know what is important and why it is important. That said, I relax my rights-worries when dealing with big name companies and magazines with good reputations. Be worried when dealing with Small Zine Nobody's Heard Of, and comb that dang contract.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Writing and Extra-Curricular Activities

How can writing and school intersect? I'm not an expert, but through different ECs I've been able to use writing and have fun with school friends. Writers having a social life? Not a completely impossible scenario... sort of...
Debate Team. Lincoln-Douglas, or LD, Debate uses both prepared cases and on-your-feet thinking to let students argue about moral issues of the day. The current resolution is about the United States joining an international crimes court. If you're interested in writing about ethics, see if there's an LD Debate team at your school.
Literary Magazine. This is a traditional way to be involved with literariness at school. Join your Lit-Mag and see how teen writing is different for "school" than it is for "publication." What can you learn? Loads. Most of these magazines focus on poetry rather than prose.
Destination Imagination. This of-the-coolest EC is designed to make you solve problems creatively. Many of the Challenges can be met with a script: quite an opportunity for budding playwrights. It's a neat chance to use the arts, science and technology in a competitive environment... with PEOPLE!
Newspaper. If journalism is your cup of tea, it only makes sense to start writing for your school paper. If your school paper stinks (it happens), ask the journalism teacher to give you the names of your local paper's community-friendly editors. Then get in touch with them about writing.
School Newsletter. Many schools publish a monthly or quarterly newsletter for parents, to let them know about events and experiences at the school. Talk to your school secretary about writing a piece on a landmark activity for this, and see your writing in the hands of all your friends' parents. It's usually a good thing.
Underground Blogging. If you're super rebellious, start an anonymous blog called The Secret Life of a ____ Student and write snarky reports about teachers and students and homework. Print out flyers and mysteriously spread them over the school. You could get suspended (minus) or super famous and never get caught (plus.) Just saying.

Monday, January 12, 2009

______ of the Week

Literary Landmark Photo of the Week

This is Box Hill, the place where the oh-so-dramatic picnic scene in Jane Austen's Emma was set. (It's true, look it up on Wikipedia!) I took this while on my oh-so-fabulous British vacation. Oh-what-a-wonderful Monday!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Bookshelf: In Too Deep

In Too Deep by Jennifer Banash is the continuation of her Elite series, about how newcomer Casey fits into the over-privileged life of the Bramford apartments and the private school where its residents are educated. The story is told in several different points of view, as each member of the clique debates their current crises.

As I mentioned in In My Mailbox, I wasn't expecting to like this book. There is a glut of books about the super-rich and I find they rarely offer something original. However, I did read In Too Deep incredibly fast while another book I need to review -- Lord of Misrule -- is taking me weeks.

I enjoyed reading it. The characters were just stereotyped enough to make you hate Madison and like Casey (Team Quirky!), but they had unusual traits as well. It was interesting to have a lone guy's perspective -- Drew's-- and to hear Sophie's struggle with her parental sitch. The betrayal Drew feels when he also has a "parental sitch" was believable. I was a little annoyed that there were "AP Cinema" and "AP Algebra" classes in the book, because I'm a collegebound senior who knows there are no such classes. It's also hard to believe that Phoebe, Sophie or Madison would ever have a shot at Harvard without serious extra-curriculars and grades.

Overall: In Too Deep is a seductive read. While it may not add a new dimension to rich-girl lit, it provides an example of how to do it well. Now, where did I put my Hermes scarf? Must be right next to the Louis Vuitton luggage.


Thursday, January 8, 2009

Woo-Hoo for Review!

My review of Letters to a Bullied Girl is in this month's January online edition of Teen Voices. Check it out at

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

So... What Were the Best Books of 2008?

I realize this is late, and because of this there's one more add. I read a number of books last year-- large number-- and out of those, I've kept a list of those I believe represent the best of young adult fiction published in 2008. There are a few ARCs I've read that are promising, but they won't count for this year.

I have five.

Sweethearts by Sara Zarr. This book was scathing and delicate and heartbreaking all at the same time. Last week I read one of Sara's essays in an anthology about weight loss; more and more, I think she's the YA author to watch.

A Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger. This one is responsible for my current obsession with old movies and the reason I love Lauren Bacall so much. It's the story of three unusual teenagers in Boston, and how baseball, musical theater and growing up make for a definitive year in Brookline. I read it three times in a week.

Undone by Brooke Taylor. This debut novel didn't cut any corners and cut straight to the core of teenage experience. Serena's relationship with her best friend was staggeringly real to what I see in my own hallways, and the devastation she felt once Kori left... I was so impressed by the writing and by the story that Taylor wrought, and can't wait to see what she writes next.

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart. I am so proud of the fact that I loved this book the moment I read it, and that The Powers That Be agreed with me in making it a finalist for the National Book Award (and WHO did an interview with E. Lockhart earlier this year?) This book makes you laugh, cry, question female roles and the importance of the Ivy League and rejoice because life is life and P.G. Wodehouse exists.


Graceling by Kristin Cashore. I am a picky fantasy reader-- I mean picky. So it is with great joy that I announce that Graceling is by far the best fantasy I've read this year. It's beautifully depicted with strong characters and story, scary in its evil and gorgeous in its good. Although it was a long book, I didn't want the story of Po and Katsa and Bitterblue to end. Nighttime may find me drifting in the shadows of a Lienid city.

That's what I think. Thanks to all the authors and publicists who sent me novels and did interviews. We'll be reflecting in the next month and looking ahead to the fabulousness that awaits-- for after all, this is senior year.

Monday, January 5, 2009

______ of the Week

Awesome Blog Supportive Gesture of the Week
For writers interested in staying cool online
JJ's resolved to get 28 comments on every orb28 blog post. Orb28's a blog aimed for girls 13+, as an offshoot of New Moon magazine. Their fun, intelligent posts are interrupted every Thursday by my own rambles on life, but otherwise this is a great place to be for teen girls. Help them get their New Year's resolution!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

New Year Bookshelf: Welcome to Elizabeth Scott

Elizabeth Scott is the author of Bloom, Perfect You, Stealing Heaven, Living Dead Girl (2008), Something Maybe (March 2009) and Love You Hate You Miss You (June 2009).

INN: Living Dead Girl deals with the horrible circumstance of child abduction and subsequent abuse. What moved you to write this story about Alice?

ES: Usually, when I get an idea for a story, it comes in bits and pieces. But once in a while -- great while, frankly -- an idea will come to me fully formed, a story demanding to be told.
Living Dead Girl was one of those stories. I woke up the night of April 5, 2007, from a disturbing dream. I write all my dreams down, and usually they're pretty nonsensical, but this one was different. I wrote:

"Alice." It is her name but it isn't her name. She thinks of who she was as someone far away. Long ago. Kidnapped when she was ten. Five years, and she lives with the kidnapper still. Now he wants someone else. New. She'll do anything to get him off her. Knows no one sees her, staring at blue thing, plastic like water but not water, reflection strange. Blurred, featureless. Flash of teeth, grinning not grinning, hands and pain, HIM. Thinks, I am a living dead girl.

By the time I was done writing, I knew Alice's story. I knew I had to tell it. But I had other projects I was working on, and I told myself to file it away. The night of April 6, 2007, I had the same dream again. By the night of April 8, 2007, I woke up from the now-familiar dream and wrote only one word:
I wrote Living Dead Girl because it demanded to be told, and I hope it speaks to you as strongly as it did to me.
INN: How did you break into publication?
ES: Pure luck! I'd been writing for fun for about five years when some friends talked me into sending a few short stories out. To my complete shock, they were published, and I eventually ended up writing a query letter for my first book, Bloom. It sat on my hard drive for a while, but I eventually sent it off and was lucky enough to land an agent and sell Bloom.
INN: Living Dead Girl has received starred reviews from writers, reviewers and readers. What's it like to see people love your work?

ES: Fabulous! Especially hearing from readers. That's my favorite thing EVER.

INN: What are you reading right now?

ES: American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld.

INN: Any advice for teen writers?

ES: Well, I'd say if you're a teen writer, you're probably already super aware of what you need to do in terms of writing, and I'd just say to keep two things in mind:
1. Make sure you look into any agents/publishers you decide to query about your work, and don't rush to sign anything!
2. Read. And don't just read what you love--if you love science-fiction, try reading poetry. If you love poetry, try reading thrillers. I really think there's such an amazing variety of great writing out there--and really, what's better than a fabulous book?

Thank you so much, Elizabeth! Visit Elizabeth Scott at

Thursday, January 1, 2009

In My Mailbox / What I Brought Home / Hopelessly Plagiarized Attempts At Recounting Books Taken

The Story Siren has had to cut back reviews over at to take care of her puppy. My heart goes out to her-- we have a puppy who just needs a birth certificate to be a legal member of the family, and if he ever got seriously ill... yeah. So, in honor of her and because I have found some new books lately, here is a version of In My Mailbox/What I Have Now/Books That Found My Address.
Lord of Misrule by Rachel Caine was sent to me by Penguin (thank you!) and I started this one on the flight over. So far, not in love, but I've got 200 pages to go.

In Too Deep by Jennifer Banash, also sent by Penguin. This I was prepared to hate, and read subsequently in about an hour. It's so addictive. Review to come soon.

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart is one of the 4 books on my Best Books of 2008 list. I was given quite a lot of cash for B&N, so I promptly picked up this, my favorite book of the year. I ordered online (new and exciting!) and hopefully will have it soon...

Dramarama by E. Lockhart is the only E. Lockhart YA I have not read. It's in paperback and impossible to find in school, so on to the virtual shopping cart it went. (Weird. You buy books... without touching them. Strange.)

The Conde Nast Traveler Book of Unforgettable Journeys: Great Writers on Great Places. How could I resist? The cover alone is delicious.
Now, I'm planning on picking up Cracked Up to Be tomorrow and I still have about $9-10 leftover. The question is, what YA paperback written by a fairly new author would you recommend? I'll buy it if it looks good. Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles comes to mind, but please recommend things!
(Ooh. I also received The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen and Graceling ... I am a spoiled brat. I have books. Goodness.)