Thursday, November 6, 2014

8 Terrible Titles Taken from UNDERWATER

Sweet Sixteens founder, Kathy Macmillan, started a fun blog hop to challenge fellow authors to pull lines from our novels and use them as "Terrible Title" replacements. Tags have been making the rounds among Sweet Sixteeners. My "you're it" came courtesy of Kali Wallace (her YA horror novel, SHALLOW GRAVES, is out Winter 2016 from HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Books) and Laura Shovan (her MG novel-in-verse, THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY, is out Spring 2016 from Random House/Wendy Lamb Books).

Here's how to play: Randomly scroll through your manuscript. Wherever you land, that's your title. Not a writer? You can play along with a nearby book of your choice.

Since I'm neck deep in second round revisions, it wasn't hard to pull #8TerribleTitles from UNDERWATER.

Here they are:

1.  By the Door

2.  Not Good

3.  Will I Melt?

4.  Surfing Makes You Hungry

5.  I've Never Been to the Desert

6.  It Went All the Way Through to My Underwear

7.  Well, That's My Mom

8.  It's Short

I hereby tag:

Randi Pink, Lois Sephaban, and Janet B. Taylor.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

So Here's 2014 So Far

Whoa, 2014 has been crazy exciting. Crazy. Exciting. I’ve been wanting to share the details of this journey with you all, but it’s gone so fast that when I couldn’t talk about it, I didn’t blog. There’s a lot to cover, so this post is going to be a long one. You’ve been warned.

So, in October 2013, I finished the first draft on my third young adult contemporary novel, Shut-In. I’m in a great writers group with amazing critique partners, and they critiqued the hell out of my book. I also got feedback from some other writer friends. I gathered all my notes and spent a few months revising and fine tuning and tearing my hair out and all the good and bad things that come with editing your words.

And then, finally, I decided I was ready to start the querying process. I’d been in the query trenches before, so I was ready for a long wait and tons of rejection. I put a very small list together of agents I absolutely loved. At the top of that list was super agent Kate Schafer Testerman, aka Daphne Unfeasible, of KT Literary.

I sent off my email queries and prepared to wait.

But pretty early on, I could sense that this time was different. I kept getting requests, you guys. Wait. What? I was sooo giddy. I couldn’t even reel it in. I mean, out in the world, I reeled it in because I had to be Marisa-Reichardt-Out-in-the-World. But in my house, my husband dealt with a Jumping-Up-and-Down-24/7 person.

So the requests came in, and I was sending off partials and fulls and keeping my fingers crossed. And my toes. And my legs. And my ankles. And anything else I could think of to cross. But the one person I realllllllly wanted to hear from was Kate Schafer Testerman. Please, oh, please, let me hear from her I kept thinking. And then, one early morning, I did. I was actually sleep-deprived because I’d been up the whole night before with a kid with the stomach flu. I wasn’t sure I was reading Kate’s email correctly. But, oh man, I was reading it correctly. Her words were right there in front of me. Kate wanted to see the first five chapters and a synopsis of my book. I did a little happy dance in my kitchen, poured a huge cup of coffee, sent a little positive energy and glitter out into the universe, and mailed off my pages.

Ten days later, Kate requested the full manuscript. 

Six days later, I got the email I’d been dreaming of for years and years. Kate Schafer Testerman loved my manuscript and wanted to chat. With me. My dream agent wanted to chat with me about my manuscript that she loved.

I cried, you guys.

The best part was that I just so happened to have one writers group partner on my cell phone when I first saw the message. We both screamed. Another writers group partner called me on my home phone. We screamed some more. I had one writers group partner on each ear and we were all screaming. And then rational me came to the table. It could be an R&R. She could want to talk about something else. Maybe she wants to know my favorite pizza toppings (for the record, it’s pepperoni, bell peppers, and pineapple).

But the next day, I chatted with Kate and her super amazing assistant, Renee Nyen, and it was fantastic. We talked about Shut-In and I could tell that we were completely on the same page, and both Kate and Renee were so enthusiastic that I could practically see the exclamation points coming through the phone when they talked.

Crazy fast, we went out on submission.

And crazy faster than that, Kate emailed me one day to say that Joy Peskin at Farrar, Straus & Giroux wanted to chat with me. Joy Peskin. At FSG. Joy Peskin, who had worked on books and with authors I worshipped, wanted to chat with me.

Again, there was screaming. And happy dances. And exclamation points. And glitter.

When I talked to Joy, I knew she was the right match for Shut-In. We talked about editorial visions and pub plans and I just knew we’d work well together. I knew she saw what I saw for my book, and was only going to help me make it the very best version it could possibly be.

And then, on April 17, it was announced officially that Shut-In had sold in a pre-empt. And now my book is going to be a book. In a bookstore. On a shelf. With pages I can sign for my mom who cried happy tears when I told her.

Shut-In will be out Winter, 2016. And a second untitled YA contemporary novel I’m writing will be out Winter, 2018.

And that, my friends, is the story of how I signed with my agent and got a book deal in 2014. Believe me, I pinch myself every day. Thank you to all my Young Adultish fans for always cheering me on. I don’t think you guys realize how much it’s meant to me.


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Truth About Poems in the Park

I spent one summer of college working in a delicatessen. There was a boy who came in every day. He sat at a table in the corner with a guitar and a notebook filled with words. One day, when I brought his sandwich out to him, I asked him if he was writing poems.

“Sometimes,” he said. “But I mostly write songs.”

I was writing too. All the time. All the words. Bits and pieces scribbled onto paper napkins, the back of my hand or the frayed pages of a notebook. The words came to me on bus rides to and from campus, or in the middle of the night, in the middle of a dream. I wanted to find other people who wrote that way too. I was desperate to know other people who were consumed by all the words all the time. What they meant and where they went and all they could be.

So we made plans. Not boyfriend-girlfriend plans. Just writer-writer plans. They were early-in-the-morning plans that had to happen before my shift started at work. We met in the park with the sun and the swing set. He brought black coffee in paper cups and a guitar slung across his back. I brought printed pages of stories I’d turned in the semester before to be ripped apart by classmates and professors. Their red ink critiques still bled through the pages, but I wanted to be better so I was willing to ask for the opinions of strangers.

I read him a story. I tried to fix the parts that had been rewritten, but sometimes I stumbled on the sentences. I’d had enough distance to see the imperfections. I wrote notes as I went. I wanted to run home to my computer and fix everything. But he sat and watched me read. And when I was done, he said, “Whoa.”

I didn’t know what “whoa” meant. I wanted to ask, but he started strumming his guitar before I could. And then he was singing.

To me.
In the park.
In the morning.
In the summer.
In the sunshine.
While our black coffee went cold on the cement table in front of us.

I’m not a girl who should be sung to. I don’t like that kind of attention. People passing by stopped to watch us like we were romantic. I would’ve rather crawled under the table to pick off the old pieces of gum stuck there than sit and be sung to while people watched it happen.

Boyfriends sang to girlfriends. And this was a writer-writer outing. Not a boyfriend-girlfriend thing.

Until it wasn’t.

And when he asked, I had to say no. His face turned red. And he gathered his guitar and his papers and his coffee cup and said goodbye before I could ask him what “whoa” meant.