Friday, April 30, 2010


On the eve of the official release of A BLUE SO DARK, I thought I'd do a celebratory reading! (I'm so excited, I don't even mind the silly phone ringing in the background!)

Now, you can see my words in print and hear my voice...


Thursday, April 29, 2010


Fellow Holly and fellow '10 debut-er Holly Cupala has been kind enough to feature me and A BLUE SO DARK in her super-clever Story Secrets blog series!

...Head on over to read the post and comment! (One lucky commenter will win a copy of A BLUE SO DARK!)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


I got my first review from a blogger! And it’s soo fantastic…it’s up on my fridge, right beside the Booklist review! Thanks so much to Sam at One Sparkling Star!

And…I’m thrilled to announce I’ll be at the Borders on Glenstone in Springfield, Missouri to sign copies of A BLUE SO DARK! June 26, 1-3 p.m.

See you there!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


There's just got to be a few four-leafers in this pile of clover…because today, we’re joined by Weronika Janczuk, an intern and writer who’s had the ability to work in the publishing world before graduating from high school!

As a teen with priceless insider experience, Weronika was kind enough to share her thoughts on the YA genre…

* At a young age, you've had the opportunity to work both with a publishing house and a couple of literary agencies. Tell us a little bit about how you landed those positions and about the work you've done...

My first internship - at Llewellyn/Flux - I landed by communicating directly with the acquisitions editor there, Brian Farrey, and I was there for a few months to earn school credit. As for the agencies, I now have two internships with literary agencies (one as of December, the other as of this month), and I scored both of those also by communicating with the agents.

While I was with Brian, I read the slush pile, I read agented submissions, I worked with contracts, I made sales packets, I mailed stuff, etc. With the agencies, I read either the slush pile or partial/full manuscripts or both, and at one agency I also fulfill secretarial responsibilities (logging submissions, etc.).

* How did working for a publishing house change the way your write?

I think the only change that's happened with my writing, and this is a result of both internships, regards how I approach the novel as a medium. I've learned to see the big picture right off the bat with my novels and I don't write for the word count anymore but instead when things feel right. Organization, rising action and tension are key.

* How has working for literary agencies changed the way you read?

I am much harsher and, well, more judgmental. I've also learned to recognize good literature even if I hate it; I've had to look for the signs of good writing versus topics or characters or plots that I like. I've had to analyze why something works (and this has also helped with the writing) as I write reader reports and must be able to pinpoint the reason for my recommendation.

* What's the most important lesson you learned at the publishing house? The agencies?

Take your time. Really. We see so, so many rare great submissions that, if you take another month, another year, you'll be the person an agent or editor jumps up and down about when your manuscript comes through.

* You've had a chance to see submissions in their earliest form. How does it change the way you view what's on the shelf? Or how you review published works on your blog?

This is a tough question. I respect all the literature on the shelf - someone must have jumped up and down about it to get it there. At the same time, as a result of that, I've become pickier in what I read and how I review it. I still have personal preferences, and I still think that there are some books that shouldn't have been published in their stages (or at all). But I read so, so much that most of what I read becomes clumped together in this 'good, but not great' group and thus every book that becomes my favorite must have done something incredible in terms of writing or storytelling.

* Did you ever feel that, as a teen reader, you would have acquired a book or author that was passed up on?
(Or, conversely, did you ever encounter an instance in which a book was acquired or an author taken on as a client, and you just couldn't understand why? In each instance, how did you deal with it...and what did it teach you about the publishing world?)

There has never been an instance in which the agents or editors I work with haven't acquired something I really, really thought deserved it - something I would have fought for, per se. Most full manuscripts I read and recommend wholeheartedly - of which there are very, very few - are carefully considered; if they are passed on, it's because it wasn't good enough or loved enough, and there's been only one instance in which I was surprised at the justification for the pass. As for the other side, yes, there was an acquisition once of a book that I didn't think anyone would want to read, but that only demonstrates the industry's subjectivity. Good literature will be recognized by someone; that's really all anyone in the industry has to go on.

* How has editorial work changed your relationship with your teachers—especially your English teachers? If you could tell your fellow students anything about the editorial process (revision), what would it be?

Most of my teachers don't know that I do this. Unfortunately, they're solely English teachers (except for one, who did work in the publishing industry as a college student) - this end of the publishing industry is an unknown world for them, as it is for most people. Other than writing and revising coming very, very easily for me - and my grades representing that, my teachers recognizing that - there hasn't been anything different in how I interact with them.As for my fellow students . . . well, that's hard, as fewer and fewer teens are writing well. I would tell them sometimes it's necessary to cut your work to pieces and start over. I'm always reminded of the instance in which I made a girl cry with my critique - she wrote well, but the paper just didn't work. Learning how to accept criticism, roll with it, and learn from it is key.

* What were your favorite YA books before your experiences in the publishing world? After? How did your tastes change, and why?

My favorite YA book remains THE BOOK THIEF. I've never had a huge interest personally in the commercial fiction published. I like to read more mature fiction. As a result, I love all of the books with crossover appeal - i.e., THE LOVELY BONES, published as adult but read widely by YAs - and books with a literary or historical feel. Laurie Halse Anderson, M.T. Anderson, and others are my favorite.

(So why do I like working on the publishing side with commercial? I can love commercial stuff but, ultimately, just won't prefer it.)

* How have your experiences changed your life goals? What would you most like to be doing in a few years—editing? Writing? Agenting? Why?

It's made my goals more concrete. This fall, I will begin studying at New York University, and I'll be pursuing English/Creative Writing/Business. I want to continue interning, and I'm working on finding a position as a junior agent so I can take on my own clients, and by the time I graduate from college I want a concrete list of clients, and I want to agent for the rest of my life. I love it. Adore it. As for writing, I want to have two books out by the time I graduate. The book I plan to query with is getting to the finish line. That's the balance for me - actively agenting during the day, writing during the night (I struggle with writing any other time of the day anyway).

* How did you feel about the YA genre before your experiences? After?

I struggled with a lot of the literature in YA - I skipped the YA genre as a reader - and now I'm more in tune with the possibilities, the less-read books that have as much worth - or more worth - than the books that are talked about. It's an interesting, dynamic genre, and it does allow readers and writers to explore every single possible issue, sometimes in the edgiest of ways.

* What, as a teen, do you feel you brought to the publishing house / agencies that was unique...What separated you from older co-workers?

Oh, boy, I wish I wasn't eighteen years old. I feel consistently that I have to prove my worth. My age came in handy when I was at Flux because I was able to recognize the literature that sounded true to the teens that I know, interact with, and listen to. Otherwise, I read adult submissions, and so I've had to be as judgmental and as in tune as my older co-workers. In most cases, that's easy, because I read actively in adult genres. Sometimes, though, because I've had much less time reading and have, well, read less books, I don't necessarily know all the niches and must do some research to better recommend something.

* What is the single most important lesson YA writers can learn from teens?

Holly! What's with the tough questions? ;)

Be sure you're meant to write for young adults. Adult fiction has many young narrators - there's a key difference in how you handle the topic, and you have to accurately take on the challenge of voice. Once you do, in whatever genre you choose, write honest and write deep. Hold nothing back.

…You can always catch up with Weronika at her own blog:

Friday, April 16, 2010


Ah, so many incredible books. 2010 has already been full of such fantastic reads! I don’t know how busy book bloggers choose which novel to dig into first…seriously.

…But before you all take off for the weekend to find yourselves some nice shade trees where you can plunge into your current selections (does everyone have the kind of drinkably sweet spring weather we have in Missouri right now?), there’s one more interview to explore—at Between the Lines!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


I’ve been reeling from this one all day: A BLUE SO DARK received a starred review in Booklist! (A star “indicates a work judged to be outstanding in its genre.”)

Here’s the excerpt that’s also been posted at the Flux website:

“Breathtakingly, gut-wrenchingly authentic...A haunting, realistic view of the melding of art, creativity, and mental illness and their collective impact on a young person’s life.”—Booklist, starred review

Monday, April 12, 2010


Love the questions that were just posted in a new interview at My Tea Time is Book Time! Love.

Hurry on over to find out who my book-crush is, and who I’d pick to play the characters in a movie adaptation of A BLUE SO DARK…

Friday, April 9, 2010


I’m ecstatic to bring you all a little snippet of my forthcoming debut! You’ll also find this excerpt posted this morning at The Book Pixie

In the prologue of A BLUE SO DARK, we find Aura on a family vacation in Florida, when Aura is only ten years old. This is before her parents’ divorce, before her mother begins to sink dangerously into the darkness of schizophrenia. The Florida Aura finds on her vacation doesn’t live up to the paradise she had imagined. But a tub of mermaids, carved from driftwood, that she discovers in a souvenir shop, offers a chance for Aura and her mother to share a moment together…the kind of sweet moment that seems gone for good when we next encounter Aura, at fifteen, in the book’s opening chapter.

…From the prologue:

I dug through the lot, picking up each new treasure and turning it over the way I’d imagined, before leaving Missouri, that I’d turn over seashells along the fringes of the exotic Florida shore. “Mermaids $2,” a sign taped to the gray metal tub advertised, and suddenly, I knew exactly what I wanted to take home from our disappointing trip. I was still trying to pick which mermaid I’d buy when a redheaded sea creature with a shiny gold tail was snatched from my hand.

“How much for all of them?” Mom asked, tossing the mermaid back the way a fisherman tossed back a tiny catch that just wasn’t enough. Her smiling face glowed from behind the curtain of her long black hair. God, that smile, it had a thousand watts of pride in it, and stretched farther across her cheeks than the grin she’d worn when I’d won Best Painting in the All School Art Exhibition the year before.

“All?” the man at the counter laughed. “Good grief, lady, waddaya want ’em all for?”

“For my daughter,” Mom said softly. She looked down at me, her eyes not just glittering, but snapping with fire, like two 4th of July sparklers. “She can’t decide which one she wants. I know, because I’d never be able to, either.” She ran her finger down the length of my nose, almost like you’d stroke a favorite pet, adding, “We’re just alike, me and Aura.”

And you know, back then, the idea of that didn’t scare the absolute hell out of me.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


Two of my guest posts just went live this morning! The first explores how I moved from writing literary fiction in my debut YA to writing a romance in my sophomore novel.

…I know that at first blush, literary fiction and romance might seem to have about as much in common as vibrant spring daffodils and dried-up old autumn leaves…But I say these two styles of writing are far more alike than that first blush might let on…

Here are a few thoughts on writing in multiple genres (which has also been posted this morning at The Book Pixie):
My debut novel, A BLUE SO DARK, is a literary YA that tackles mental illness, the nature of creativity, and the healing power of art, and is due out from Flux Books May 1!

My sophomore YA, PLAYING HURT, a summer romance that occurs between two athletes, is due out from Flux in ’11.

I know this might, at first, seem a little strange—following a literary novel with a romance. When I was in college, literary (character-driven) work and genre (plot-driven) work were discussed as two completely different forms of writing. But the revision process I went through to sell these two novels proves just how much the two genres depend on one another.

Let me explain:

I wrote A BLUE SO DARK in an explosion of creative energy—the whole process took just a little over two months! I cleaned it up, polished it, and began to submit…and the rejections started flooding my inbox. I was hearing that the book had some good literary writing but was just plain too internal. The novel took place far too much in Aura’s head. So I had to insert some action—instead of Aura telling the reader how she felt about her mother or her school life or her art or her best friend, I began to devise scenes in which we could see her interact with the people in her life.

Once Aura was talking and moving about in the world, she became a fully rounded character. Those editors I was submitting to could actually understand Aura better when they witnessed her interacting with the world around her than they could when she told them who she was straight-out!

PLAYING HURT was originally a romance about a couple of teens who found love through a summer affair. The main character, Chelsea, basically learned, in the initial draft, that there was a difference between friendship and romantic love—for the first time, she learned what lust, what passion felt like. But while the first draft of this book was filled with dramatized scenes, there just didn’t seem to be enough going on internally with the characters.

So…..I took a look at my draft, and thought my main character, Chelsea, seemed kind of…athletic. She liked the outdoor activities that took place at the resort where she met Clint, her love interest. So I thought—what if she’s an ex-athlete? What if she’s been hurt, and is at the resort to get some confidence…and then I thought, what if Clint’s been hurt…I began to build them up internally, focusing on character development rather than plot this time to fully round out the story.

Basically, I had to use what I’d learned from all my reading of genre fiction to infuse drama into A BLUE SO DARK, my literary novel. And I had to use what I’d learned about character development from literary fiction in order to fill out PLAYING HURT, my romance!

…So, yeah, literary and genre…I think they absolutely go hand-in-hand…

Now that I’ve whet you’re appetites, and you’re dying for another serving of writing advice, check this out: HOW DANDELIONS MAKE ME A BETTER WRITER. I’m not joking. They do—find out how over at The Book Girl Reviews!

Monday, April 5, 2010


Yep, that's's coming soon…an actual peek into A BLUE SO DARK (set to hit shelves now in less than a month)!

The fabulous Book Pixie has been kind enough to set aside three different slots for me…The interview just posted today—you’ll find a guest post and the sneak peek at her blog later this week. I’ll cross-post the guest post and peek here, too, so get revved and ready!

Friday, April 2, 2010


Okay, so it’s all still basically in the planning stages, but I’m so excited, I wanted to give everybody the heads up: I’ve just landed my first author event!

I’ll be at the Teen Lit Fest at The Library Center here in Springfield, taking your questions and signing copies of A BLUE SO DARK!

Mark it on your calendars: June 5.

More juicy details to come…
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