Welcome!


Thanks so much for visiting HipWriterMama, my blog about children's books, authors and readergirlz!

It's time for a change. I've decided to focus my attention on my writing blog, www.vivianleemahoney.com. Hope to see you there!

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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Winners!!! Book Sets by Jo Knowles

It's time to announce the winners for the fantastic Book Giveaway for Lessons from a Dead Girl and ARC of Jumping off Swings by Jo Knowles, courtesy of Candlewick Press
There were so many entries. 91 official entries! 

I had hoped to make this all interesting and post evidence for your viewing pleasure, so I took pictures. But, I haven't had a chance to download them. In the interest of announcing the winners, I thought it best to report on the details, otherwise, you may all be waiting awhile.

I printed out all the comments, cut them into strips, folded them, and tossed them into my red mixing bowl.  Spy Girl and Ninja Girl hovered around the bowl and mixed the papers around, each picking out five names. 

Before I announce all the winners, I have to mention two interesting facts. And you can be the judge whether it's Fate?? Luck?? or just plain Freaky???

Stephanie Burgis - I know you mentioned you live overseas -- Spy Girl and Ninja Girl picked your name out three times--even after mixing the entries around really well--so if you have a U.S. address, please e-mail me. 

[EDITED TO ADD: Stephanie won't be back to the U.S. for awhile, so she gracefully bowed out so another person could receive Jo's books. Thank you so much, Stephanie. I'm sorry we couldn't make this work. I waited until the girls got home from school so they could choose another name from the mixing bowl. After much discussion, Spy Girl won the honor of choosing the name ...  Becky Levine! ... come on down!]

Suzanne Casamento - Your entry printed out on two different pieces of paper, and each girl picked out part of your comment. I had to check all the other entries to see if there were other "partial-entries" and yours was the only one.

Crazy, isn't it?

Here are the ten winners...Congratulations!
Brittany
Charlotte
Miss Erin
Kelsey
Suzanne Casamento
Miss Shears
Solvang Sherrie
Michelle
Jenna
Becky Levine

All winners have been contacted. Please e-mail your U.S. snail mail address to me by 5pm, Wednesday, June 3rd with the subject header: Book Giveaway - Jo Knowles. Otherwise, your e-mail may be eaten. My e-mail address is hipwritermama @ comcast.net (take out the spaces). If I don't hear from you by June 3rd, we will draw another name out of the bowl. Addresses will be forwarded to Candlewick Press and they will mail you the books. Thank you, Candlewick Press, for your generosity!

If your name wasn't selected in the drawing, please don't be sad. There's another Book Giveway--a chance to win 1 of 10 copies of GRACELING by Kristin Cashore -- deadline is Wednesday, June 3rd.

If you'd like to read Jo's interview and find out more about her books, go here.

Thank you for your interest in Jo's books!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Five on a Friday: It's Not About the Talent...

1. Today is the last day to enter in the Book Giveaway for a combo package of Lessons from a Dead Girl and an ARC of Jumping off Swings by Jo Knowles! Comment here on a time when you last felt carefree. I will close this down at 5pm today.

2. I started a new book last night, The Amaranth Enchantment by Julie Berry. I get nervous with fairy-tale-like stories, because most times they can be quite painful to read, but I must say, this book is really good. Great characters, dialogue, danger and an interesting plot. I can't wait to finish it tonight.

3. Jeff Stone's The Five Ancestors series. I've heard quite a bit about these books and thought my children would like this series since they're really into karate. These books are quick reads--engaging, action packed, great plot with power and emotional struggles--perfect for boys and girls.

4. I've been experimenting with making kim bop -- the Korean version of maki rolls. It brings back memories of hanging out with my mom after school and telling her about my day. My mom filled these with bulgogi (barbecued beef), vegetables and kimchi and I could eat these forever. Mmmm. Total comfort food.

5. Spy Girl and Ninja Girl have been practicing for the school talent show and couldn't wait for yesterday's rehearsal. Spy Girl and a friend are playing "We Will Rock You" on flute and let's just say flutes don't make the same impression as Queen. Ninja Girl and her friend are singing "When There was Me and You" from High School Musical--probably one of the s l o w e s t songs for two girls who each want control of the microphone and belt out the words. 

The rehearsal went well. All of the children had fun acts--from comedy, dance routines, singing, karate, unicycle, hula hoops, piano--we had it all. It was interesting watching the children, from kindergarten to fifth grade, all with different levels of talent and intensity, performing their hearts out on stage. All I can say is, man, these kids are brave.

The one thing that really hit home yesterday, and this applies to all of us, is that the level of talent didn't matter. It was the execution that made kids and adults alike--smile, clap and cheer. There were kids who couldn't hold a tune, but their smile, the way they engaged the audience, made up for it. 

My words of wisdom for the day:
 It's not always about the talent. 
It's in the execution.

Enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Writing Tips from Editors and Agents

Confused about which POV to use when writing your story? Alan Rinzler has the Best Advice out there.

Taking a Chance on a Young Agent: Nathan Bransford

Royalties and Books: Moonrat

What's Safe to Syndicate On-Line?: Moonrat

Agents and the Slushpile: 10 Reasons They Stop Reading: Guide to Literary Agents

It's All About the FINAL Revision

Summer vacation starts in a little less than 30 days. I need to focus and finish my FINAL revision so my children can have a summer worth remembering.

PB has been my life for the past 1 1/2 years and it's time to let her go. This manuscript has gone from first person to third person to alternate voices. The beginning has changed countless times. Darlings have been loved then killed, scenes rearranged, characters evolved, plots thickened, the story transformed and I couldn't be more pleased. 

My fantastic critique group has seen these changes and their feedback ever encouraging. If you're not in a critique group, why not? It will help you in so many ways. Still shy? Check out my critique series. Want more in-depth information? Writer pal, Becky Levine, has a critique book coming out in January, that sounds perfect.

I am so grateful to my group. I just received their latest comments, and man, am I ever ready to finalize details.

So, it's time to get to work.

If you'd like to have a support group to help you through the month of June, come on and join in the Summer Revision Smackdown with organizers Holly and Jolie. Hey, if they can get me to write 5,000 words in a day, I KNOW I can finish my revision.

It's time to get serious and focus. You can do it!!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Summer Revision Smackdown the Holly and Jolie Way!


It's time to hunker down.

Good thing Holly and Jolie threw down another challenge so I can finish the FINAL revision. Isn't their graphic fantastic?

Come on and work on your revisions with us!!

Friday, May 22, 2009

SBBT: Empowerment with Kristin Cashore and a Graceling Book Giveaway

I am so honored to have Kristin Cashore on my blog today. (Kristin's author photo credit © Laura Evans).

If you didn't know this already, Kristin is the author of GRACELING, the kick-butt tale of strong-willed Katsa, who possesses a rare talent--a super power--the manipulative king uses to wreak fear across the kingdom. Katsa resents being used to ruin lives and hates her uncle, King Randa, for treating her as a "dog" and letting her believe she is only capable of brutal violence. There is plenty of conflict and confusion as Katsa finds a way to break through her image as a monster and realize her name can be one of justice and honor.

Oh, and there's romance--enter Prince Po of the intense eyes--not the sniveling, I'll die without you kind of romance, but one of respect and commitment--perfect for a powerful girl like Katsa. Mmmm. 

And the ending! Ahhhh! No spoilers from me. However, have no fear.  I know you want this book.  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has been kind to offer 10 copies of Graceling for a Book Giveaway!! Details at the end of the interview.

Check out all the awards for GRACELING (taken from Kristin's blog):
Shortlisted for the ALA's William C. Morris Award.
A finalist for the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy (the SFWA's award for YA given concurrently with the Nebulas).
An Indies Choice Book Award finalist in the category of Best Indie Young Adult Buzz Book.
Cybils finalist in the category of Fantasy and Science Fiction.
An ALA Best Book for Young Adults.
Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year.
School Library Journal Best Book of 2008.
One of Amazon.com's Best Books of 2008.
#2 on the Winter 2009 Indie Next Kid's List. 
One of Booklist's 2008 Top Ten First Novels for Youth.
On the 2009 Amelia Bloomer List (Recommended Feminist Literature for Birth through 18)
[Updated Award] Finalist for the 2009 SIBA Book Awards in the YA category

Kristin's second book, the highly anticipated FIRE, will be out this Fall. People have been scrambling for an ARC, but they are sooooo difficult to find. And it's so hard to wait, after seeing all the good reviews (Note: I didn't read these reviews--be forewarned, there may be spoilers). While I couldn't get any ARCs for the Book Giveaway, there may be something cool in the future, so stay tuned.

It has been fantastic having Kristin here and being able to pick her brain. She is a talented writer who pays attention to the details, and it shows. Wait until you read Kristin's interview. You're going to love what she has to say. 

Without further ado, here is Kristin Cashore:
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HWM: What made you realize you wanted to write books for teens?
Kristin: I don’t think I’ve ever realized that, actually. It’s more that the characters that come to me tend to be teenagers, so I go ahead and write books about them. I don’t envision anything particular about my audience while I’m writing—other than that it’s an intelligent audience. I’m only ever trying to be true to my characters!

HWM: Tell me what inspired GRACELING and Katsa.  
Kristin: The truest answer is somewhere between I don’t know and I can’t remember! However, I can say that the whole thing started with the characters. Katsa came first, and unsurprisingly, she came to me fighting—quarreling, to be more specific, inside my head, with another character who grew into Po. Really, Graceling began as conversations in my head between two characters who were furious with each other. My job was to listen to them argue and figure out what they were so upset about, what was going on in their world, what that world was like. Katsa and Po kind of formed themselves for me—at the beginning, I was more of an observer than a creator.

HWM: Who was the hardest character to write about?  Easiest character?
Kristin: Both Leck and Po were hard to write, because—spoilers ahead!—their Graces were complicated, and tough to keep believable and consistent. Also, the reader’s understanding of their identities had to change over the course of the book, which made writing them tricky. The easiest character—or the easiest main character, anyway—was probably Katsa. I found her to be relatively uncomplicated, and she came to me pretty clear and intact, which is a thing main characters don’t always do!

HWM: GRACELING is very empowering for girls.  What kind of research did you need to do to create your characters, the political climate, the Graceling skills, the fighting scenes?
Kristin: *smile* Would you care for a lesson in how to construct a bow, tan leather using only natural tools, or make snowshoes? Because I have all that info on my desk here somewhere… let’s see, I can also tell you the basic principles of martial arts and how long it takes to cross various terrain by foot, horse, and ship. Oh, and how to build a fire. And the history of windows over time, and, um, other random things, and a LOT of stuff about horses.

I did do a fair amount of research for Graceling, but in retrospect, I wish I’d done more: more research and more thinking and planning. Graceling is, to my eyes, an obvious first novel. I was juggling a lot of things at once, things that were new and hard for me as a young writer, and I let a few things slide. I see a few cracks in the world-building when I read the book now (and no, I’m not going to tell you what they are! ^_^)—cracks, and even places where I have small regrets. Sigh… I suppose it’s not unusual for a writer to feel this way about a book!

HWM: When did you know you had the right ending for GRACELING?
Kristin: I guess that depends on what you mean by “ending.” I always knew where the chips would fall plot-wise and character-wise at the end, but deciding how to express it involved a fair amount of revision. The original ending section was a lot longer and more drawn out—too long and drawn out, according to my editor and others. I whined and moaned a lot while shortening it. :o) But I’m content enough with how it ends now, particularly with my final scene.

HWM: FIRE, the prequel to GRACELING will be available this fall.  I understand it goes 30 years before GRACELING...I'm sad that Katsa and Po won't be here. What can you tell your fans about FIRE?
Kristin: I think of Fire as a stand-alone novel that’s loosely connected to Graceling. It takes place across the mountains east of the seven kingdoms, thirty or forty years before the story of Graceling, in a rocky, war-torn kingdom called the Dells. There are no known Gracelings in the Dells, but there are beautiful creatures which I call monsters.

Monsters have the shape of normal animals: mountain lions, dragonflies, horses, birds. But the hair or scales or feathers of monsters are gorgeously colored—turquoise, sparkly bronze, iridescent green—and their minds have the power to control the minds of humans. Fire, seventeen years old, is the last remaining human-shaped monster in the Dells. Gorgeously monstrous in body and mind but with a human appreciation of right and wrong, she’s hated and mistrusted by just about everyone. The book is her story, and if you’re wondering what connects it to Graceling, the answer is that (Graceling spoiler ahead!) one of the minor characters in Fire is a creepy little boy with mismatched eyes who seems to have some peculiar verbal abilities. (Fire is by no means Leck’s story, but it does reveal where he came from!)

HWM: What are the challenges in writing a series?  
Kristin: HA! There are many. One is keeping the world manageable and consistent while it grows to accommodate more stories. The world can start to get big, unwieldy, and uncooperative! Another is becoming re-acquainted with characters who may have changed a bit since the last time you encountered them. Another is dealing with the mistakes you made in the first book that can now never be undone; any limitations I created in Graceling are now permanent fixtures in all the books!

Here’s another challenge: I get the feeling that I’m frustrating some of my fans. :o) You see, I never set out to write a series. I planned for Graceling to be a stand-alone book, but then I got this idea for Fire, and found that I had to write it. The same thing happened with the book I’m writing now, called Bitterblue: I never planned to write a third book in this world, but then one day, this stand-alone book about the Graceling character Bitterblue began calling to me, and I had to write it. The end result of all of this is that I’m creating a slightly unconventional series. The books are connected, but they’re not prequels and sequels in the traditional sense of following one character through time. And this is confusing and frustrating to some fans, who are used to picking up with the same protagonists a month or a year after the last book ended!

I will say this: if you liked Graceling and are frustrated that Fire isn’t about Katsa, please don’t be too sad. I try to imbue every book with a similar spirit, so you may like Fire, too. Give her a try. :o)

HWM: Anything you can share about BITTERBLUE?
Kristin: It takes place six years after Graceling and Bitterblue is the sixteen-year-old protagonist. Katsa, Po, and other characters from Graceling are part of the fabric of the book. There are a bunch of new characters, too. Since it’s a work in progress, that’s all I’m willing to say about it at this time, other than that it’s trying to defeat me but I WILL NEVER SURRENDER.

HWM: What other projects are you working on?
Kristin: I think you probably mean writing projects, in which case, the answer is none. Getting Graceling out into various parts of the world, preparing Fire for publication in the USA, and researching and writing Bitterblue is all the writing work I can handle at the moment. However, in other life stuff, I’m planning a move from my current home of Jacksonville, FL to Cambridge, MA in July… and I’m preparing to become the aunt of twins in August! It will be my first “aunting,” as a friend put it, and I’m very happy. (And in case you’re wondering what preparation it requires, at the moment I’m researching twin jogging strollers.)

HWM: What do you like writing the most: the beginning, middle or the end of the story?
Kristin: Oh, easiest question E.V.E.R. Definitely not the beginning; beginnings are absolute murder. Definitely not the middle; middles are murk. Definitely the end! Ends write themselves. (*knocks on wood*) Seriously, though—by the end, you know your characters well, it’s to be hoped that they’re done surprising you, and you finally see for certain where everything has been going all this time. I tend to write endings in this huge ridiculous burst that involves little sleep, hygiene, or interaction with other humans. The closer you get to the end, the more the book takes over your life, and it doesn’t release you until you’ve written that final word.

HWM: I've read on your blog that you write your books out in longhand. How long did it take for you to finish Graceling?
Kristin: The first draft took about a year and a half of full-time writing. However, I don’t think the length of time a book takes has much to do with whether I’m writing or typing it. I’m the kind of writer who’s constantly revising while I write, and that’s what slows me down.

Here’s how the longhand thing works: (1) I write in my notebook, crossing out and revising as I go. (2) After I’ve written 30 or 40 pages longhand, I use voice recognition software to transfer the written pages into the Word file of the novel. I use the software because it’s not healthy for your arms and hands to type 40 pages fast all at once, and I experience pain and regret if I try to do so! (3) I save the Word file on multiple drives and email it to all my email accounts. I also keep my notebook, the paper printout of the Word file, and my book plan in a fireproof safe, because I’m a paranoid freak.

Care for some visual aids?

My Notebook on a Good Day:









My Notebook on a Bad Day:








HWM: Describe a favorite fan moment.
Kristin: My favorite fan moments are quiet moments alone in my office at my computer. When a person who’s just read one of my books takes the time to seek me out and tell me they loved it, it’s an unbelievable gift to me—every time.

HWM: What has been the biggest surprise of your writing career?
Kristin: Um… the biggest surprise is my writing career! I still can’t quite believe I have one!
 
HWM: If you could share any unique writing tip to aspiring writers, what would it be?
Kristin: Writing is all about listening to the voices that tell you you can’t do it, you’ll never do it, what you’re trying to do is impossible, particularly for a talentless bonehead like you; saying to the voices, “Well, aren’t you sad and pathetic, the way you’ll do anything to stop me? You’re wrong, you know. I can do it. Here, have a hug”; accepting that the voices will never go away and that a part of you will always believe them; and writing anyway.

HWM: What was the best writing advice anyone ever gave you?  
Kristin: The best writing advice I’ve ever received came from my editor, and it also makes excellent life advice: Don’t let fear make your decisions.

HWM: What question do you wish other people would ask you and how would you answer it? 
Kristin: I wish someone would offer to teach me how to teleport. I would say, “Yes, please!”

HWM: If you found a way to go back to your teen years as one of your characters, who would it be and why?
Kristin: Oh, goodness me! Someone untortured and relatively unimportant. Perhaps Po’s brother Skye, the sixth prince of Lienid—he’s cheerful, loyal, uncomplicated, a good fighter, presumably he has a nice house, and I have a feeling he’s pretty cute, too. Or, in Bitterblue, there’s a character who’s an “honorable thief” and a bit of a maven; it could be fun to be him. Another character is a hapless lexicographer. That definitely wouldn’t be my choice—too much agony!

There’s a horse in Fire that I wouldn’t mind being, actually. She’s not a teenager, though. :o)

HWM: If you were a Graceling superhero, what powers would you want and why?
Kristin: I have a hard time learning foreign languages; I’d love a language Grace that allowed me to pick up languages and accents quickly. I’d also love a Grace that helped me to find inner quiet—to keep perspective on the inside in those moments when life on the outside is crazy.

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Other Places to Find Kristin:
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Now for the GRACELING Book Giveaway (There are 10 copies courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt!)
RULES:
1. Leave a comment on a time when you worked through the "fear" and did something good for yourself.
2. Only one comment per person.
3. U.S. destinations only.
4. Deadline for the Graceling Book Giveaway has been extended to Wednesday, June 3rd.
5. Please spread the word!
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Other SBBT interviews:

Jenny Davidson at Chasing Ray
Rebecca Stead at Fuse #8
Ryan Mecum at Writing and Ruminating
Lauren Myracle at Bildungsroman
Kristin Cashore at HipWriterMama
Rachel Caine at The YA YA YAs

Thursday, May 21, 2009

SBBT Interview Schedule: Day 4

Siobhan Vivian at Miss Erin

Alma Alexander at Finding Wonderland

Laurel Snyder at Shaken & Stirred

Cindy Pon at The Ya Ya Yas

Thalia Chaltas at Bildungsroman

Come back tomorrow--Kristin Cashore will be HERE!!

Also, if you'd like to enter to win 1 of 10 book sets (Lessons from a Dead Girl and an ARC of Jumping off Swings by Jo Knowles), leave a comment OVER HERE on a time you felt carefree. Deadline is next Friday, May 29th. 

SuperHeroes, Dull Boy by Sarah Cross, and a Cool Book Giveaway

This is too fun. Diana Peterfreund is hosting a fun Book Giveaway for Sarah Cross, author of the newly released DULL BOY.

You all know how much I love superheroes--I have to ask all my interviewees what their superhero power would be. So this contest is totally up my alley. Go to Diana's blog for the rules. And if you'd like, go to The Hero Factory and create your own superhero identity.  

Here's my secret identity, The Great Kicking Ninja. Don't you just love her ripped abs? The girls helped design her outfit. 

Princess Rock Star insisted on a pink outift and unicorn emblem, because I must be a good superhero. "Promise you won't be a mean? You have to be friends with Wonder Woman!" She LOVES Wonder Woman.

Ninja Girl insisted on the nunchaku and was thrilled with our secret identity name. "She can kick out evil!"

Spy Girl pointed out pink was too cutesy and convinced Princess Rock Star the salmon color was pink enough. "Mom, you can't look like a wimp. You've got to have power."

Yeah, that's my girl.

Superheroes sometimes need an alternate identity, so here's The Great Kicking Ninja undercover as The Fantastic Kicking Master - though the name isn't as snazzy. 

Check out Sarah Cross's website. She's got a fun page with quote icons from Dull Boy, and they are a hoot.

Diana's contest lasts through the weekend and she'll announce the winner Monday. 

Come on. You know you want to be a superhero.

What are you waiting for? Go enter now!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

SBBT: Writing the True with Jo Knowles, Jumping off Swings, Lessons from a Dead Girl, and a Book Giveaway!!

I first discovered Jo Knowles when I read her first book, LESSONS FROM A DEAD GIRL, over a year ago. It's a haunting tale of a friendship between two girls and what happens when there's a breach of trust, of abuse. In some ways--Jo's style--the way she let the characters deal with the emotional aftermath with unflinching detail, the way she was unafraid to write what was true, reminded me of one of my favorite YA authors, and I wanted to know more. Every once in awhile I would lurk on Jo's blog and find her enthusiasm, her cheeriness, to be plain refreshing. 

Just last month, I had an opportunity to read the ARC for Jo's second book, JUMPING OFF SWINGS. Jo has honed her style with this book and it is so powerful. This story is told in four different voices, which we all know can be tricky, but it worked so well in this book. I could picture each teen, caught in a trap of their own making, based on one girl's decision, that ultimately changed each of their lives. Jo did a fantastic job keeping each voice, each personality distinct, drawing out the emotion, the conflict, the understanding. 

Look at the awards Jo has received for her books (as taken from Jo's website):
  Jumping Off Swings (Candlewick, August 2009):
-The 2002 SCBWI Work In Progress Grant for Contemporary Fiction

Lessons From A Dead Girl (Candlewick, 2007):
-The Pen New England Children's Book Disovery Award
-A New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age
-A YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers
-A Gold Star Award for Excellence from TeensReadToo.com
-A Georgia Peach Book Award Nominee for 2009-2010

I know you want to read these books. And here's a chance to win a copy! Candlewick Press has been kind to offer a generous Book Giveaway for Jo's books! (THIS JUST IN!!! Candlewick Press will give away 10 packages that will include a copy of LESSONS FROM A DEAD GIRL with an ARC of JUMPING OFF SWINGS!!!) Details at the end of the interview.

Last month, I had a chance to meet Jo, very briefly, at the NESCBWI conference and for lack of a better word, she's so angelic--so sweet-tempered. Sure it was less than a couple minutes, but still, I'm a good judge of character. *grin* It made me wonder even more, how someone so delightful could write about such angst and I couldn't wait to read her answers to my questions. Wait to you read what she has to say.

Without further ado, I give you...Jo Knowles.
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HWM: What made you realize you wanted to write books for teens? How did you get your “break” into getting published?
Jo Knowles: I knew as an undergrad that I wanted to work in the children’s book industry, but I always thought I’d be an editor. I was particularly drawn to YA literature, so when I took a course in writing for children, I just naturally gave writing for teens a try. My instructor was so encouraging, she planted this crazy idea in my head that I could actually be a writer. So, for my master’s thesis I asked if I could write a YA novel instead of a scholarly paper. I was hooked.

As for breaks, my first big one came when I won an SCBWI Work In Progress Grant, which helped me land my agent. The second when I won the PEN New England Discovery Award, which connected me with my editor at Candlewick.


HWM: I've read that you were inspired to write LESSONS FROM A DEAD GIRL after you read an article about kids abusing kids. As a parent, it must have been very difficult to write. How did you keep focused so you stayed true to Laine and Leah, to your story?
Jo Knowles: After reading that article, I think Laine was just born inside my head. She came to me sitting on that bed, scared stiff and confused, and I was right there with her. We never let go of each other until I finished the story. I wrote the early draft before I became a parent, so it wasn’t really an issue. I try not to think about the reader when I’m writing those early drafts because it’s just too distracting. Don’t get me wrong, I care deeply about my readers and want to write responsibly. But I think that means writing “the truth.” When writing about difficult topics, it’s hard not to take the easy way out. But in order for the story to feel real, to be true, sometimes you’ve to go to the hard places.

HWM: What did you like about writing LESSONS?
Jo Knowles: I loved writing the first draft. The story came to me in such a strong and visceral way, that I couldn’t wait to get home from work each night to get back to Laine. It was as if she was waiting for me to help her find her way.

HWM: Your new book, JUMPING OFF SWINGS, is due to be released in August. Talk about powerful. Why did you decide to tell this story from four different viewpoints and what were your challenges?
Jo Knowles: I really wanted to explore the idea that no story is just one person’s story. We’re all affected by each other and each others’ actions. Sometimes, deeply so. I also wanted to explore how there’s always more to a person than we think. We’re all so good at compartmentalizing and then dismissing, you know? We take our first impression of someone, decide they are a certain “type” and then move on. But we’re all complex. There’s always more behind the face. Usually way more than we assumed.

HWM: This must have been another tough story to write. Why do you choose to write about such difficult topics?
Jo Knowles: Ooh, good question. I don’t think I set out to write about tough topics, but so far that’s just how it’s worked out. The stories/characters came to me and I had to write what they needed me to.

HWM: Who was the easiest character? The hardest?
Jo Knowles: In Jumping Off Swings? Hmm, I’m not sure! I think they all had their challenges. I guess my favorite character was Josh, because he kept surprising me with his big, troubled heart. I wrote the Ellie chapter first, and I really wanted to hate him, but as soon as I started writing in his voice it was clear to me there was a lot more to him than met the eye.

HWM: What type of research did you have to do for these books?
Jo Knowles: For LESSONS FROM A DEAD GIRL, I was actually researching something else when I came across the article that sparked the idea for the story (about kids abusing kids). For JUMPING OFF SWINGS, I had to check abortion laws and adoption practices in various states to make sure the plot would be plausible.

HWM: When did you know you had the right ending for your books?
Jo Knowles: When I could walk away from my computer screen and not feel like there was an invisible arm trying to pull me back. Or in the case of Jumping Off Swings, four invisible arms. :-)

HWM:  What other projects are you working on?
Jo Knowles: I recently sold my third book, PEARL, To Henry Holt. It’s about a girl who lives with her mom and grandfather, and what happens when her grandfather dies and family secrets are unleashed. 

HWM: What do you like writing the most: the beginning, middle or the end of the story?
Jo Knowles: Definitely the beginning!

HWM: What is your writing process?
Jo Knowles: I really should have one by now, but it changes with every project. I’ve plunged, I’ve plotted, I’ve revised as I went. I think at this point, I know I don’t like plotting/outlining the first draft, but often in revision I’ll go back and do just that.

HWM: Describe a favorite fan moment.
Jo Knowles: Every time I hear from readers I’ve never met telling me my book helped them or changed them or made them think. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to that. And definitely I’ll never get tired of it.

HWM: What has been the biggest surprise of your writing career?
Jo Knowles: See my previous answer. Honestly I just wasn’t prepared for that feeling. It’s amazing.

HWM: If you could share any unique writing tip to aspiring writers, what would it be?
Jo Knowles: Keep writing. Oh wait. Unique. Hmm. That’s hard! OK, well, I think you should write what calls to you, not what you think will be the next bestseller. I know that’s not very unique advice, either. But it’s worth repeating. :-)

HWM: What was the best writing advice anyone ever gave you?
Jo Knowles: To ask myself at the end of every draft, “Is it true?” Jennifer Richard Jacobson gave me that one and it has made a world of difference.

HWM: What question do you wish other people would ask you and how would you answer it?
Jo Knowles: 
Question: Can I treat you to a nice dinner?
Answer: Yes please!

HWM: If you found a way to go back to your teen years as one of your characters, who would it be and why?
Jo Knowles: I think I’m going to have to write a new book for that one because I definitely wouldn’t want to go through what any of my characters have so far. :-)

HWM: If you were a superhero, what powers would you want and why?
Jo Knowles: Superpowers scare me. But I guess if I had to choose, I would want the power to painlessly knock sense into the leaders of the world so we could stop these useless wars, get everyone on board to clean up our planet, take care of our poor, and make this world a better place for EVERYONE.
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OTHER PLACES TO FIND JO:
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Now for the FANTASTIC Book Giveaway (THIS JUST IN!!! There are 10 packages that will include a copy of LESSONS FROM A DEAD GIRL and an ARC of JUMPING OFF SWINGS), courtesy of Candlewick Press...
RULES:
1. Leave a comment on a time when you felt most carefree.
2. Only one comment per person.
3. U.S. destinations only.
4. Deadline for this Book Giveaway will be next Friday, May 29th.
5. Please spread the word!

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Other SBBT interviews:
Maya Ganesan at Miss Erin
Amber Bensonat lectitans
Carolyn Hennesy at Bildungsroman
Jo Knowles at HipWriterMama
Sherri Winston at Finding Wonderland

Monday, May 18, 2009

readergirlz LIVE chat with Laura Resau, author of RED GLASS, Wednesday, May 20th!

Okay, everyone! Please spread the word. Laura Resau's LIVE chat with readergirlz is this Wednesday, May 20th, 9pm EST/6pm Pacific. This is a great time to ask questions on Laura's writing process, about her book, and hang out with all the readergirlz!

Thanks to readergirlz diva Holly Cupala for designing this graphic. Isn't it beautiful? 

You'll find the LIVE chat at the readergirlz blog. See you there!

SBBT 2009: Day One Schedule

Today's SBBT Schedule
Andrew Mueller at Chasing Ray
Kekla Magoon at Fuse #8
Carrie Jones at Writing & Ruminating
Amber Benson at Bildungsroman
Greg van Eekhout at Shaken & Stirred

Thank you, LW, for these links!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Summer Blog Blast Tour 2009 Starts Monday, May 18th!

The Summer Blog Blast Tour 2009 starts tomorrow, May 18th! I'm so excited. I have two special guests: Jo Knowles on Tuesday and Kristin Cashore on Friday. You must come and read about their writing process, books, writing advice and MORE!!

Below is the interview schedule for the tour. Colleen Mondor did a fantastic job organizing this event. We have wonderful authors and I know you'll all learn something new. See you on the tour!

Monday, May 18th
Andrew Mueller at Chasing Ray
Kekla Magoon at Fuse Number 8
Carrie Jones at Writing & Ruminating
Amber Benson at Little Willow
Greg van Eekhout at Shaken & Stirred

Tuesday, May 19th
Maya Ganesan at Miss Erin
Sherri Winston at Finding Wonderland
Amber Benson at lectitans
Carolyn Hennesy at Little Willow
Jo Knowles at HipWriterMama

Wednesday, May 20th
Barbara O'Conner at Mother Reader
James Kennedy at Fuse Number 8
Maggie Stiefvater at Writing & Ruminating
Rosemary Clement-Moore at Little Willow
Jo Knowles at lectitans
Melissa Wyatt at Chasing Ray

Thursday, May 21st
Siobhan Vivian at Miss Erin
Alma Alexander at Finding Wonderland
Laurel Snyder at Shaken & Stirred
Cindy Pon at The Ya Ya Yas
Thalia Chaltas at Little Willow

Friday May 22nd
Jenny Davidson at Chasing Ray
Rebecca Stead at Fuse Number 8
Ryan Mecum at Writing and Ruminating
Lauren Myracle at Little Willow
Kristin Cashore at HipWriterMama

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In case you're looking for a way to help out to different causes, here are two great ones. Spread the word or donate--either way helps a great deal. Thank you!

 Guys Lit Wire Book Fair for Boys benefiting the male teens incarcerated in LA County's juvenile justice system. 

The Bridget Zinn Auction to help Bridget with the medical costs for her cancer treatment.

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Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Hudson Children's Book Festival on Saturday, May 16th!

via Eric Luper: 
Bring your children to the Hudson Children's Book Festival tomorrow. They will be wowed with the author and illustrator workshops, panels and activities. Plus, they'll have the opportunity to get books signed and meet 55 authors and illustrators! Admission is free!
Saturday, May 16th
10am - 4pm
Hudson Middle School
Hudson, NY

Friday Five: The Last Olympian, A Book Signing, The Bridget Zinn Auction, Gratitude and A Special Book Giveaway

Nothing like a mouthful of title to stand in your way to find out the details of what you seek. *grin* I've got lots to share today, so I hope you'll persevere to the end of this post, and hopefully, you'll find good things to read.

1. Spy Girl had been w a i t i n g for her copy of Rick Riordan's THE LAST OLYMPIAN, the final book of the Percy Jackson series. Little did she know, I had a surpise up my sleeve. Not only did I buy the book, actually 4 copies, but my  favorite independent bookstore scheduled Rick Riordan for a book signing!

2. When I finally told Spy Girl, she screamed! She was thrilled when I told her she could bring one friend and give her friend a copy of THE LAST OLYMPIAN. Spy Girl kept talking about last year's incredible book signing for THE BATTLE OF THE LABYRINTH, her friend - K - couldn't wait, and Ninja Girl refused to be left out of the festivities and insisted she was old enough to come. So I planned on bringing three girls, four copies of THE LAST OLYMPIAN, and one copy of THE LIGHTNING THIEF (for Ninja Girl) to Rick Riordan's book signing. 

Two copies of THE LAST OLYMPIAN were already claimed by Spy Girl and K. 

3. Unfortunately, things sometimes don't go as planned. Our babysitter couldn't come so Princess Rock Star came with us, her older sisters whispering threats of what would happen if we had to leave early because of her. (The lesson learned - It's tough being the youngest. Sometimes.) 

We made it the waiting line at 4:30pm (1 1/2 hours early) and we were numbers 246 - 250. The talk was scheduled for 6 pm on a school night.

K, Spy Girl and Ninja Girl scanned the line to see if they knew anyone and were amazed at how many people were behind us. Princess Rock Star was losing her enthusiasm for staying in one spot in line. But, she made it!

Rick Riordan's presentation was geared to the kids, letting them ask questions about the books, the movie and how he came up with ideas. Fans will be thrilled to know THE LIGHTNING THIEF movie is due to be released in February 2010! No movie trailer yet, but of the names I recognized, Uma Thurman will play Medusa and Pierce Brosnan will play Chiron. Here is the rest of the cast list.

The other news that the kids cheered about was the new Camp Half-Blood series will feature Egyptian gods and goddesses. 

This event was fantastic. K, Spy Girl and Ninja Girl kept screaming and shouting, along with all the other 600 plus fans that were in the auditorium. Princess Rock Star was content to sit on my lap and watch all the crazy kids. When it was time for the book signing, we were introduced to surprise guest Gareth Hinds, illustrator extraordinaire, who has published some fantastic graphic novels. He's currently working on a graphic novel, The Odyssey, and he demonstrated his artwork of gods and monsters for the children, while they waited for their numbers to be called for their books to be signed.

When our numbers were called, the girls got into line, worried about what they would ask him. K clutched her book and kept hugging me. Spy Girl and Ninja Girl obsessed about what they would say. Keep in mind, Ninja Girl hasn't read a word of the book, but wants to show she cares. Princess Rock Star saw the end was in sight to leave the building and pushed people along in the line.

I met Rick and became a blubbering idiot when Rick smiled, using Princess Rock Star as my excuse to walk away. Ninja Girl stood silent as Rick signed her book. Spy Girl and K wouldn't move, elbowing each other until they both told Rick how much they loved his books. Once they walked away, they both screamed in the hallway, jumped up and down and had a shriek-fest. Yes, we do know how to make a scene wherever we go. But, we had fun...

4. So, if you paid attention to item #1 on this list, you read where I bought 4 copies of THE LAST OLYMPIAN, 2 already claimed by Spy Girl and K.  Now I have 2 signed copies of the book left. 

One of these hardcover books is going to Bridget Zinn's Auction. Bridget Zinn has been diagnosed with Stage 4 Colon Cancer and needs help with the expensive medical treatments. When I heard her story, I knew I wanted to donate something. My sister-in-law also has Stage 4 Colon Cancer, and she has mentioned several times how she's so fortunate to work at a company with a generous health plan, otherwise it would be difficult to pay for her treatments. 

I'm hoping people will bid on a signed copy of THE LAST OLYMPIAN, personalized with the battle cry, "Be Strong." Since there are so many people that attend Rick's book signings, he is unable to personalize all of them. I asked Rick to write in "Be Strong" into the 2 remaining books, so these 2 extra copies are special. This book is donated in honor of my sister-in-law, a true warrior. 

If you are interested in bidding on THE LAST OLYMPIAN, go here. If you're interested in bidding on other items, you can go here.  Thank you for your generosity!

5. Now there is one signed copy of THE LAST OLYMPIAN left, personalized with "Be Strong." Hmmm. What to do? 

Well, dear readers, I've decided to give the book away. A special kind of book giveaway in honor of GRATITUDE. 

Here are the rules: 

For my 38 followers as of this posting--I Love Music, Karen Ehrhardt, Djpdancer, Crystal, Adlibby, Solvang Sherrie, katied, Morpho Ophelia, Megan, Patty P, Lorie Ann Grover, becky, Jennifer, Jim Harrington, Christine M, lanna-lovely, Barrie, Anna Lefler, Suzanne, beth, Heather Zundel, tapestry100, Marie Beausoleil, artsymommachic, GoldenApple, Lori Calabrese, PJ Hoover, Jillian Cantor, gabidenise, victoria thorne, holly cupala, Teashop Girl, KiKi, JannenZ, Ello, Rebecca Fabian, eastsidemommy, and T. Anne--you will automatically entered in THE LAST OLYMPIAN book giveaway, to thank you for your interest in what I have to say. I know there are many other people who read my blog, and I'm really sorry about this, but I needed an easy way to determine loyal readership. In case you want to become a follower of my blog, go here.

Also, I will collect the names of those who bid on items in the Bridget Zinn Auction and automatically enter them in THE LAST OLYMPIAN book giveaway, to thank you for your generosity. [Edited to Add: Since there are many bidders and quite a few that don't leave linking blogs to their names, I'll put the responsibility on the bidders to enter their names into this book giveaway. If you've bid on something in the auction, leave a comment with the item and item post link.] Bidding ends May 30th. 

I will announce the winner for THE LAST OLYMPIAN on June 2nd.

Thank you, everyone!

6. Now, I have to slip in #6 to tell you I have many goodies planned for next week. So please come back and stay tuned! 

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Guys Lit Wire Book Fair for Boys

Colleen Mondor writes about the Guys Lit Wire Book Fair for Boys -- If you'd like to donate to the Book Fair for Boys, go to the main wish list page. You will see a LOGIN section for Your Friend's e-mail Address: guyslitwire@gmail.com. Take a look at the wishlist, make your selections, and send the donated books to:
Eve Porinchak
IOW
5850 Brookline Lane
San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
Thank you for your generosity!

Sigh

Clearly, I'm doing something wrong...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

FOCUS on the Goal

The children are finally asleep and I'm ready to start writing. But the Internet keeps finding interesting things for me to read. 

Research! I say. But, we all know the truth. 

I need your help.

Tell me. What do you do to keep focused on your goal?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Take Care for Food Allergy Awareness Week 2009: May 10-16th

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT:
Jennifer Love
Marketing and Media Communications Manager
(703) 563-3061 direct, (301) 639-4811 cell
jlove@foodallergy.org

Take Action, Prevent Reactions During the 12th Annual Food Allergy Awareness Week
FAIRFAX, Va. (April 1, 2009) – The focus of the 12th Annual Food Allergy Awareness Week (FAAW), which runs May 10-16, will be on helping those with food allergies to “Take Action, Prevent Reactions.”

The prevalence of children with food allergies rose 18 percent between 1997 and 2007, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and more research on food allergies is being conducted throughout the world.

FAAW was created by the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) to educate others about food allergies. It is for the 12 million Americans who have food allergy, including three million children under 18. It is for the kids who take a special bagged cupcake to a birthday party, for the vigilant parents who thoroughly quiz restaurant servers about cross-contact
possibilities, and for the millions who carry epinephrine auto-injectors with them everywhere they go.

“Food allergies touch the lives not only of those who have them, but also the parents, relatives, teachers, caregivers, restaurants, and health professionals who help manage food allergies,” said Julia Bradsher, CEO of FAAN. “Through their efforts during Food Allergy Awareness Week, and throughout the year, education and awareness about food allergy can reach new levels. To all those who help keep people with food allergies safe, thank you.”

For more than a decade, people have been finding creative ways to mark Food Allergy Awareness Week. Students have plastered their school hallways with food allergy awareness posters, children have opted to forgo presents at birthday parties to collect money for food allergy research, parents have written to their state governors to urge a proclamation of FAAW, and school nurses and teachers have given presentations to educate students about food allergy.

For more information on Food Allergy Awareness Week, visit www.foodallergy.org.
The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network �� (800) 929-4040 �� www.foodallergy.org

ABOUT FAAN
Founded in 1991, the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) is the world leader in information about food allergy, a potentially fatal condition that afflicts approximately 12 million Americans, or one out of every 25. A nonprofit organization based in Fairfax, Va., FAAN has 30,000 members in the U.S., Canada, and 62 other countries. It is dedicated to increasing public awareness of food allergy and its consequences, to educating people about the condition, and to advancing research on behalf of all those affected by it. FAAN provides information and educational resources about food allergy to patients, their families, schools, health professionals, pharmaceutical companies, the food industry, and government officials. For more information, please visit FAAN at www.foodallergy.org, www.faankids.org, and www.faanteen.org.
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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Presenting....Please Forward

MotherReader (Pam Coughlan), Bill Coughlan, Robin Brande, and a number of talented people worked together on the 48 Hour Film Project

Here's MotherReader's backstory to their 2009 film.

Without further ado, presenting...PLEASE FORWARD. Grab some popcorn and enjoy!