Sunday, May 31, 2009

LA Conference!

I was in, then out. Now I'm in again! Arriving Thursday afternoon, leaving Sunday night. Who's in? Who's up for dinner Thursday night?

I've been reading my post about the last conference and marveling at how a year could have passed so quickly. Deadlines be damned! I just can't quit you, conference.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Feast Your Eyes

Move aside, Pygmy Tarsier--there's a new pygmy in town! The Pygmy Jeroba is smaller! Cuter! Has more alien-like eyes!

I was hypnotized by this video. Only the Japanese could so romanticize a miniature rodent feasting on tiny shreds of cabbage.

Not enough? Need more big-eyed pygmy action? Enjoy:

Kind of has a rat/duckling hybrid feel, no?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

And now for some shameless self-aggrandizement…

In January I was shocked to find out that I was the winner of the Oregon Literary Arts Fellowship for Young Readers Literature, judged by Printz-winning author An Na. Today I was shocked to find a story about me in the Oregon Literary Arts Quarterly! For those of you related to me, the entire story can be found here, but for the sake of brevity I’ll post the good bits below:

In July applications traveled from our office in Portland to judges around the country. Christy’s application went to author An Na’s home in Vermont. After reading through all the young adult submissions, An Na selected Christy for the Edna L. Holmes Fellowship in Young Readers Literature.

Judge An Na commented on Christy’s promising writing:
“Raedeke’s portrayal of a teen protagonist grappling with secrets, her family’s as well as her own, shines with details that amuse, enlighten, and startle as we recognize ourselves and others in the everyday revealing moments of truth and pain. As only the best writing can accomplish, the story compels us to take a leap of faith and believe in the unusual, to lose ourselves in a character’s life and voice as her struggles and questions become our own.”

Best blurb on a nonpublished, desk-drawer work ev-ar! Despite the fact that An Na loves the book, my agent has sent it back to me for revision twice. Hopefully I’ll get it right this time… 
This weekend we were invited to be the mystery guests at something called the Ashland Secret Society Dinner. Basically for the last 18 years a group of friends has been having a monthly dinner, to which a mystery couple is invited. Does it say something that it’s taken 18 years for them to get to us? 

Anyway, the host decides how to introduce the guests and for us he asked that we write down some odd things in the manner or two-truths-and-a-lie. But as a twist, he wanted them all to be true. Then hidden on a balcony above the living room where the group was gathered, Scott and I had to read our lists:

For my 40th birthday week I went to a monastery for silent seclusion.
I have Bill Gates’ comb in my desk drawer.
One Halloween I spent the night in a 500-year old Scottish castle. 
After breakfast of toast and tequila, I jumped of the I-5 Bridge into Lake Shasta (for those who have never seen this, it’s like jumping off a skyscraper)

By not going to seminary, I have broken a 300-year ancestral streak of Lutheran Pastors.
My mother and stepfather, a nurse and a doctor, ignored the fact that I had a broken leg for a week. 
I have walked deep into the cave where Zeus is said to have been reared.
I once thought I was going on a standard advertising Booze Cruise on Lake Washington in Seattle and found myself with Steve Forbes on the Forbes Yacht in all-too-casual clothing.

Once the group had voted on what was true we were allowed to come down, show ourselves and reveal that all the statements were true. Word to the wise: don’t fall for this trap. Once you list anything remotely odd that you’ve done everyone expects you to be supremely interesting and engaging. Fortunately, Scott shines at this kind of thing (while I wash down beta blockers and pretend to be comfortable as the center of attention). There’s a reason I’m a writer—and it mostly involves being alone in a room…

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Recycling, Kid Style

My kids get something from rom Toys R Us that they've spent months longing for and then spend five minutes with it before getting bored. But give them a cast-off box and the possibilities are endless!

This one, from my recent ergonomic chair purchase has been a robot, a toy cart, and a slide, among other things. My favorite use of the cardboard has to be what they call the “Luxury Box” created as a TV-watching base. They take turns being on the first or second floor. 

They loved it so much they wanted to eat dinner in/on it, so I indulged them, "Luxury Box" style. Becasue it won't be long before the aperture narrows on their eye for possibility and a big box loses its magic.

The Claws That Haunt

I am not always a good mother. Revision: I am often not a good mother. But if you want to grow something in water, I’m the mom to have. Triops, fish, crustaceans, frogs, snails, seamonkeys, algae—you want it, I’ll help you grow it. 

So this week we built a pollywog nursery in the yard and went out pollywog hunting. We made three stops before we finally tracked some down at an old reservoir, and we now have 14 beautiful babies scurrying around under a layer of lacy duckweed. 

My children’s first experience with tadpoles ended with me possibly breaking some environmental bio-hazrd laws. It started innocently enough through a grow-a-frog by-mail thing. You get this tiny aqua version of a hamster habitrail called Tube Town, put the ’wogs in, and watch them grow. It was great (for me, the kids got bored after about 42 seconds) to watch them sprout their tiny little legs and arms and turn into itty-bitty frogs. After a week or two I noticed one of the frogs was getting much bigger than the others, then one morning one of the smaller frogs a had vanished and the larger frog had a bit of a pot-belly. A few days later the other small frog was gone, and the lone frog remaining was licking his smug little frog lips. I kept my distance and had the kids feed him after that. He was the kind of frog that had long toenails that you could hear click against the plastic of his aquarium. My daughter enjoyed picking him up and feeling the little claws, but that’s something I really couldn't abide. 

One day we realized he could touch all four walls with this arms and legs and the clicking of nails was getting louder as he grew, so we transferred him to the lovely new aquarium chock-full of a variety of interesting fish that my in-laws had given the kids. I think you can see where this is going. The next morning the aquarium was empty, save for the frog, who looked like he could use a cigar and a couple of Tums. 

By that time we learned not to put anything in with him. But after the massive fish buffet, he grew really big, really fast. I started to dream about him and those sickening claws tippety-tapping against the glass. I won’t say exactly what we did with him because after looking this species up on the web and reading things like, “when released into the wild they have the capacity to wreck entire ecosystems by eating native wildlife such as fish and turtles that have no natural defense against these creatures,” I’m pleading the fifth. 

Lesson learned: no frogs by mail. Now we just get native species and let them do their thing outside the house. Who doesn’t love the sound of (clawless) frogs at dusk? 

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Addicted to Goodreads

Are you all fans of Goodreads? I'd joined a few months ago, entered a couple of books and then left it for dead. I didn't really see the point. After the initial entry it felt a little too much like entering my snack calories into FitDay - a chore with not much reward. 

But then one day I poked around a little bit and I was hooked. Hooked! Really, it combines the best of what I love from online book browsing with my love of CIA-level-profiling of the people I stalk online. I've been burning up my library card checking out stacks of books recommended by my online peers and they don't even know it! Like Facebook, it's the ultimate way to get personal information without having to employ any actual interpersonal skills. Huzzah! 

Plus, once I started entering books I'd read, forget it. My All or Nothing Switch (on which I'be been trying to install a dimmer for years) was flipped and I voraciously ripped through my last three years of B&N and Amazon orders to post my books. In the end I got a pretty collage for my blog. Bonus! When I find some time I'll try to work in all the books I've bought in meatspace as well, which takes actual work rather than just cutting and pasting from Amazon. So, yeah, it might be a while.

I urge you to give Goodreads a try - more for book recommendations than for a catalog of your own reading. And please, if you sign up, make me your friend so I can peruse your books as well...

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Expatriate: Interview With Author Stephanie Burgis

Ever since I read Stein's The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas and Hemingway's A Movable Feast as a teen I've wanted one thing: to live abroad as an expatriate. However, the choices I continue to make get me no closer to that goal, which only fuels the burning envy I have when I read about expatriates. Today I bring you a perfectly seethe-worthy case study in expatriatness:

Stephanie Burgis
Too damn young to be so accomplished
Spent a year in Vienna on a Fulbright scholarship, studying Austrian music history before receiving Masters degree in Historical Musicology. Was accepted to the Clarion West six-week residential writing program where she met her husband, the writer Patrick Samphire. Now resides in Yorkshire, England where she can freely use the term expatriate. Has a three-book deal for regency-romance-flavoured fantasy series (my own categorisation, not hers). Ed. note: See how easily I can slip in the u and swap the z for an s? It's all part of my expat preparation program.

I like to start interviews with a deal report becasue it's a good way to get all info about book, agent, and editor all in one place, but Stephanie says her report is all wrong now. "My editor and I have both changed publishers (I followed her from Hyperion to Atheneum Books), and the book titles (and series title for the trilogy) have all changed!" she says. "My trilogy is now called The Unladylike Adventures of Kat Stephenson, and Book One: A Most Improper Magick is due to be published by Atheneum Books in early 2010."
Becasue we don't get a blurb about the book's premise, I'll add the summary at the bottom of the interview. For now, let's get to The Expatriate!

How did you meet your agent?
I'd heard of Barry Goldblatt years ago as a really stellar YA fantasy agent - he represents a lot of my favorite writers in the field - so he was always my dream agent, from the moment I first decided to market A MOST IMPROPER MAGICK. I’d never met him in person or online - I just mailed him a query letter and hoped like crazy for him to like it. So you can imagine how excited I was when an email from him popped up in my inbox a week later, asking for the full manuscript! And from then on, everything went just amazingly well - he offered representation, as did another couple of really good agents at the same time, and I was suddenly in the unexpected position of getting to make a choice. I am thrilled that I signed with him. He's been absolutely wonderful.

Can you tell us how your book deal happened?
After I signed with Barry, I did one more round of revision based on his critique, and then he sent the novel out to 11 different editors, giving them a 1-month deadline to reply. Two editors made serious offers at the end of the month, and we ended up choosing to sign with my editor, Namrata Tripathi, who has been fabulous.

What was the inspiration for A MOST IMPROPER MAGICK and how long did it take you to write?
A MOST IMPROPER MAGICK mixes up my two favorites genres of fiction - fantasy adventures and Regency romantic comedies. But I really never planned to write it!

I was actually already in the middle of writing a different - a very different! - novel, one that was very angsty and dark and adult. It was the kind of novel I felt that I *should* write if I wanted to be a Serious Writer, rather than what I actually *wanted* to be writing (or reading!). Then, as I was chopping onions one day for lunch, I actually heard Kat's voice very clearly in my head, speaking the first two lines of A MOST IMPROPER MAGICK. ("I was twelve years of age when I chopped off my hair, dressed as a boy, and set off to save my family from impending ruin. I made it almost to the end of my front garden...")

I giggled as I "heard" those lines, and that was it - I was hooked. I just had to write down those first two lines to save them for later...and then I just had to write the next paragraph and the next...I wrote the first two chapters in a week, having more fun than I'd ever had writing *anything* before. Then I forced myself to stop, because I was convinced that it was a commercially impractical thing for me to do. A few years earlier, I'd come very close to selling an adult historical fantasy novel with my first agent, and I was convinced that that meant I should write more dark, adult novels as my way to break into publishing. I told myself that it didn’t make any sense for me to write a lighthearted, funny book, no matter how much fun I was having with this one.

So I put away A MOST IMPROPER MAGICK for almost a year. But I missed it like crazy, and I kept wondering what had happened to Kat and her sisters. Finally, I gave up, because I couldn’t focus on any of those serious, angsty novels I thought I was “supposed” to be writing. I came back to Kat instead, I told myself I would just write it for fun and not worry about ever marketing it, and I wrote the rest of the book in a big, joyous rush, finishing the first draft three months later. took me only 4 months of actual writing time to write the first draft of A MOST IMPROPER MAGICK (followed by another 3-4 months of revisions), but if you add in the year I took off in between, I guess the answer would be a year and a half.

What's your publication date and where in the process are you now?
A MOST IMPROPER MAGICK is due to be published sometime in early 2010 - there's no exact publication date yet, but I'm waiting with bated breath! :) I've been through the copyedits and have just turned in my dedication and acknowledgments.

What are you working on now?
Right now I'm revising Book 2 of The Unladylike Adventures of Kat Stephenson, which is full of scandalous gossip, notorious rakes, and wild magic. :)

Kat plays matchmaker to all three of her older siblings in your trilogy, but she doesn’t even look for her own true love. Why not?
The easy answer is that these books are set in a Regency society where no real concept of “boyfriend” existed for well-bred twelve-year-old girls. The real answer, though, is a lot more complicated and personal.

When I was a teen, I loved the Regency romances of Georgette Heyer and Jane Austen, as well as some adult contemporary romances. All of those books left me feeling hopeful and happy about my own adult future. When I read YA romances, though, I often ended up feeling really depressed and “less” because I didn’t already have a boyfriend, whereas the YA romances I was reading seemed to prove that “normal” girls were dating like crazy all through high school.

The truth is, although I and my friends from high school have all experienced wonderful romance as adults, none of us had any luck with romance as teens, and I think that’s not uncommon for smart girls who are better at schoolwork and writing than at makeup and flirtation. There are lots of wonderful YA romances out there - I particularly love the romances in Maureen Johnson's and Sarah Dessen's novels - but a serious romance just didn't feel realistic for Kat at this stage of her life, partly because of my own personal experiences, and those of my friends.

I wanted Kat to have all the fun of vicarious romance, by observing (and sneakily manipulating!) her older siblings, but I also wanted to empower those smart high school girls who aren’t getting any romance of their own yet. So Kat, at twelve years old, is much more focused on her family, and on the magical challenges that face her as she discovers and develops her own powers, than on trying to find the perfect boy.

On the other hand, if the series ever continues past these first three books to show Kat growing into adulthood, then of course I’d love to explore her eventual romance, with all of its attendant magical complications... ;p

Do you have any words of wisdom for writers trying to get published?
Yes! Don't imitate my mistake of writing what you think will be most publishable/what you think the market wants. Writers are terrible at making those predictions! Instead, write what calls to you the most strongly. Write the novel that's most fun for you, and there's a good chance it'll be just as fun for other people, too!

Where can we stalk you on the web?
Livejournal blog

And here's the summary of Stephanie's book (this was what she sent in the query that landed her the agent Barry Goldblatt).

Her mother was a scandalous witch, her brother has gambled the whole family into debt, and her Step-Mama is determined to sell her oldest sister into a positively Gothic marriage to pay it off--so what can twelve-year-old Kat Stephenson do but take matters directly into her own hands? If only her older sisters hadn’t thwarted her plan to run away to London dressed as a boy and earn a fortune! When Kat makes a midnight foray into her mother’s cabinet of secrets, though, she finds out something she never expected. Her mother wasn’t just a witch, she was a Guardian, a member of a secret Order with staggering magical powers--and Kat is her heir.

Of course, there’s no chance of Kat choosing to join the Order that forbade her parents’ marriage...but Mama’s magical mirror doesn’t seem to understand that. It keeps following her wherever she goes, even when the family travels to Grantham Abbey to meet the sinister Sir Neville, her oldest sister’s chosen fiancé. And what with Sir Neville showing a dangerous interest in Kat’s untapped powers, her mother’s old tutor insisting that she take up her mother’s position as a Guardian, and her sister Angeline refusing to listen to her about anything, as usual...well, it’s a good thing Kat kept her boy’s clothing, because she may well have to use it--especially if the rumors of a highwayman are true.

Thanks so much for the interview, Stephanie! You've kept the expatriate dream burning in me!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Smell an apocalypse? Get thee to Georgia!

This really freaks me out. On a barren knoll in northeastern Georgia there’s a man-made monolith (unveiled in 1980) that’s built to withstand most any disaster. In addition to being an astronomical tool, instructions for rebuilding society after an apocalyptic incident are etched into the stone. Several languages are represented, including a couple of dead ones.

The capstone reads Let these be guidestones to an Age of Reason and the instructions tell us to keep human population at 500,000,000 or lower, pay attention to diversity in reproduction, and create a new worldwide living language, among other things. Buried below the enormous granite monument is a time capsule. And I’m just dying to know what’s in it.

Only one living soul knows what group of people commissioned this work and he’s not talking.

Have any of you lovely southern bloggers seen this thing in person? It’s at once baffling, titillating, and frightening. What do these people know that we don’t? Why would northeastern Georgia be the place to put this massively expensive set of instructions? Could that be the safest place in the world from an apocalyptic standpoint?

Wired has a really great article about it if you’re interested in reading more.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Test Your Title...

As an addendum to the title post from yesterday, here's a fun tool for testing the likelihood of a bestseller based on your title.

Click here to test your title.

How did you score?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Baboon Metaphysics

Books titles are tricky. Titling is a marketing function performed by the publisher and while the author does have input, it’s the publisher’s call. That’s okay with me—I like to rely on experts so I’ll go with whatever they give me. I’ve never been wed to any of my titles anyway, and there have been a few already. The book that Flux is publishing started as a manuscript called The Fáistine, which became The Last Daykeeper when I was agent hunting. Then when my agent submitted to editors she renamed it Prophecy of Days, and the working title my editor has given it is Prophecy of Days, Book One: The Daykeeper’s Grimoire. In a couple of months it will go through the marketing/titling process and come out with an ISBN and a final title. Let’s just hope it doesn’t get me the Odd Title Prize.

Yesterday the Oddest Book Title of the Year was announced. The winner? The 2009-2014 World Outlook for 60-miligram Containers of Fromage Frais. That title edged out other front runners, including Baboon Metaphysics, Curbside Consultation of the Colon, Strip and Knit with Style, Techniques for Corrosion Monitoring, and—my personal favorite—The Large Sieve and its Applications.

I’d love to see some other working titles. Care to share your titles and/or title evolution?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

From Mushroom Farmer to Word Wrangler: Author Denise Jaden

Denise Jaden is one of those people who seems to have done everything, from farming mushrooms to dancing professionally. And now with her forthcoming novel from Simon Pulse she can add "Author" to her ecclectic resume. Go Denise!

Here's her deal report from Publisher's Marketplace:

Denise Jaden's LOSING FAITH, about a teenage girl whose quest to solve the mystery of her sister's death leads her to a strange religious cult, to Anica Rissi at Simon Pulse, for publication in 2010, by Michelle Humphrey at Sterling Lord Literistic (NA).

Welcome, Denise! Can you tell us how you met your agent?
I met my agent through the blind query process. I know a lot of aspiring writers think this never happens and that those who have agents "know" somebody, but for me this was not the case. I kept an eye on the Verla Kay "Blueboards" and sent out a few queries at a time to agents who were actively pursuing young adult fiction and sounded like a good fit for my book.

Can you tell us how your book deal happened?
In October, 2008 I attended the Surrey International Writers Conference. I still didn't have an agent at this point, but I did sit down with several at the conference to pitch my book to. I also pitched it to Anica Mrose Rissi, Senior Editor from Simon Pulse. Anica loved the idea for my book and invited me to send her the full manuscript. I chose to hold back from sending right away after the conference, and instead kicked up my efforts to find an agent first. Once I had found a wonderful agent (Michelle Humphrey from Sterling Lord), we made plans to submit my manuscript to Anica and several other editors. The whole process went fairly quickly for me. I attended the conference in October, found my agent in November, submitted to editors by the end of January, and had an offer from Simon Pulse by the beginning of March.

What was the inspiration for your 2010 debut book and how long did it take you to write?
LOSING FAITH was inspired by a couple of incidents I experienced as a teen. A close friend of mine was killed by a drunk driver when I was in tenth grade. This influenced the way I shaped LOSING FAITH around the loss of a sister. A few years after high school, I experienced a second tragedy, another car accident with another death (no alcohol involved), but this time I was at fault. Writing my character through her grief, guilt and eventual forgiveness was cathartic for me as an author as well as the basis for a great character journey.

I wrote LOSING FAITH during National Novel Writing Month (nanowrimo) in November 2007. That's when over a hundred thousand writers around the world attempt to write a novel in one month. Well, I did it! But that's not saying I had a saleable book after thirty days (not at all!). In fact, I spent the month of September beforehand on a thorough outline of the book. Since LOSING FAITH is a mystery, I really needed to have clues and, more importantly, a satisfying solution in place before starting the actual writing. The first draft took me 21 days, and then between passing it back and forth to critique partners as well as revising, I spent about another eight months on it.

What's your publication date and where in the process are you now?
My release is scheduled for fall of 2010 (I'm still waiting on a more specific date). I am currently working on the first round of revisions.

Other than writing, tell us about some of your other jobs and/or hobbies.
Let's see...I've been a mushroom farmer, jewelry manager, fitness & strength competitor, and church secretary. At the moment, I split my time between writing and homeschooling my five year old son. I'm also a professional Polynesian dancer and have traveled worldwide as a feature dancer/dance captain of my dance troupe.

What are you working on now?
I have several novels in various stages of revision. BELLY UP is about a pregnant teen who fights to keep her baby despite the pleas of her emotional and infertile mother. APPETITE FOR BEAUTY is about an insecure teen who discovers her perfect sister's life-threatening secret and tries to intervene before it's too late.

Do you have any words of wisdom for writers trying to get published?
Writing for yourself first and foremost will make your writing more honest and believable. It may also give you peace of mind in the sometimes long process toward publication.

Where can we find out more about you on the web?
My website can be found at, where I also have links to Facebook, Twitter and Live Journal.

Thanks Denise! Cults have always been one of my pet fascinations, so I can't wait to read this one...

Sunday, May 10, 2009

A Good Day

What a great Mother’s Day! I got everything I wanted:

- Bagel and coffee in bed with homemade presents from the kids
- Time to read my manuscript (in bed!)
- A clean house
- My favorite dinner of herb-crusted steak sandwiches, spinach salad, and warm brownies right from the oven
- Lots of love from kids and husband

What more could a person want?

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Cat Psycho In The Woods

A very strange thing has happened. Let’s start with the setting. My dad built a house on five acres on the top of a mountain in Jacksonville, and it’s not the kind of place you can just wander by or accidentally find yourself. There’s a gate with a code and even if you just park there and slide through the gate you still have to walk the quarter mile driveway to get to the house. In sum: it’s remote.

Recently, two cats were abandoned on a road near their house. After going though all the channels to get them back to their owners, they ended up adopting them in lieu of sending them to the pound. No one wants middle-aged black cats so their stay there would most likely end with The Big Sleep. Because there are all sorts of kitty predators in the woods around their house, the cats are now indoor only and they don’t wear collars.

So, yesterday dad and his wife Pam drove into town to take Pam’s mom to an appointment. When they returned, they found the larger black cat - still inside the house - wearing a shiny new red collar.

They checked all the doors they thought they had locked and found a side door to the guest room was indeed unlocked.

The fact that nothing was missing is perhaps the creepiest part of all. What kind of person would brave sneaking into a house only to put a flashy but useless collar on a cat? Which begs the question: What’s would be that kind of person’s next move?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Babies! Books! Author Sara Bennet Wealer is the Ultimate Creative Machine!

Author Sara Bennett Wealer is having a banner year. Not only did she sell her book to HarperTeen, but she just HAD A BABY! Yep, just two days ago she gave birth to a little girl, her second child.

The bio Sara wrote for the Tenners site is very amusing, and I recommend going straight there, if only to see how elegantly she can segue from “I love ballet” to “I write a lot about poop” with only two sentences in between. I simply cannot do it justice here! Go, go! (Then please come back....)

Here’s Sara’s deal report from Publisher’s Marketplace:

Sara Bennett Wealer's debut RIVAL, in which two high school seniors compete for a prestigious singing scholarship, set against a backdrop of the events that turned them from best friends to rivals, to Erica Sussman at Harper Teen, by Holly Root at Waxman Literary Agency (world).

Hi Sara! Can you please tell us how you met your agent?
The traditional way. I queried, then sent a partial, then a full. Holly loved my book (which actually *wasn't* RIVAL - I'd sent her a newer manuscript that came thisclose to selling, and that I'm planning to revise). I loved how enthusiastic and professional she was, and she's been a dream to work with.

Can you tell us how your book deal happened? It happened within hours and was heralded by an airplane flying over my house, tugging a banner that said, "Please let us publish your novel!" :-)

Actually, unlike some of my agency mates whom you've already interviewed (*cough* Rachel Hawkins *cough*) it took awhile. Erica Sussman, who now is my editor at Harper, told us that she loved RIVAL but felt it needed some tweaks before she could take it through the various approval committees. She shared her suggestions, and I agreed that they would make the book stronger, so I agreed to a revision. When I was finished, Erica took the book to acquisitions. They loved it, too, but felt there were a couple more things that needed to be done in order to get a final sign-off from those farther up the food chain. So I revised once more, and it paid off. Harper made an offer in October. I feel so fortunate to have had a champion in Erica. Her thoughts on the story really helped me take it to that all-important next level!

What was the inspiration for RIVAL and how long did it take you to write?
I worked on RIVAL off and on over a period of about six years. During that time, I wrote two other novels as well, one that will never see the light of day and the one I mentioned earlier, which I currently am revising.

RIVAL was inspired by my experience as a singer in a competitive high school music program. There was only one high school in my hometown, which also had a major university, and that meant you had a high concentration of very talented, very driven people. Being in the top choruses meant lots of rehearsals and lots of traveling, which created quite a pressure cooker when it came to relationships. There were rivalries galore and I had my fair share, though "grown up" me wishes I'd focused more on being friends than on who sang better or who got the lead in the musical. The memory of what that atmosphere was like inspired me to write RIVAL (though, of course, nothing that happens in the book actually happened in real life).

I also wanted to write a book that kids who are interested and/or active in the arts could identify with and enjoy, though RIVAL isn't just about music! There's a romance, Homecoming drama, scheming BFFs--and if you aren't into singing, just substitute cheerleading or your favorite competitive sport. In high school, rivals pretty much can be found around every corner.

What's your publication date and where in the process are you now?
I'm waiting on a concrete publication date. I just turned in my formal revisions and am awaiting feedback from my editor. I imagine copyedits will be coming next and then... well, I'm dying to see a cover!!

So will you be singing opera on YouTube to promote your book?
Probably not! My voice isn't what it used to be, though I still like to sing when I can find time. I do plan to create a spot on my website where visitors can explore the various singers, musicals, etc. that I mention in the book. And I've got some marketing ideas that could include real teen singers showing off their skills. They would be MUCH more fun to watch than I ever would.

What are you working on now?
I'm working on two projects. The first is a re-write of the novel I mentioned earlier. The second is a totally new project that I'm super-excited about, though I always feel funky giving out details of a work in progress. Let's just say it deals with a whole 'nother kind of rivalry, and it may or may not have an element of the paranormal.

Do you have any words of wisdom for writers trying to get published?
Be obsessive, but objective. By obsessive, I mean that you have to be willing to sit your butt down every day and write, whether you feel inspired or not. You have to be willing to keep submitting and working, no matter how many times you get told "no," until finally you get a "yes." I tell my friends it's like beating your head against a wall. You get to a point where the next blow could be the one that breaks it all down, and you sort of have to say, "I either get brain damage, or I bust this sucker, but either way I am not quitting!"

At the same time, you have to be objective about your work. Find good critique partners and listen to what they say. Be willing to rip your stuff apart and start over. Educate yourself about how the publishing business works and behave professionally as you look for an agent and publisher. Don't fall into the trap of blaming others for the fact that you haven't made it yet. It's not that nobody appreciates your talent or that the market only wants the next Twilight or that agents are evil, etc. Many, many times, the problem is that your work is not ready for prime time, which can be difficult for people to hear. When it is ready, then things will start to happen. They still won't be easy (I don't think anything in this business is ever easy), but when you see that wall start to come down, you'll know it was due to your own hard work, and that is an incredible feeling!

Where can we find you on the web?
You can find my website at (There's a lovely "coming soon" message there now, but I plan to go totally live within the next month or so--even planning on doing a cool giveaway. Yay!) I'm also on Facebook and on Twitter and I blog at LiveJournal.

Thanks Sara! Hearty congratulations on your amazing creations, both literary and human!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Ah, the humanity!

Sometimes I am an idiot. Like today. As I mentioned in an earlier post, today was the "date to appear" stamped on the photo ticket I got in the mail awhile ago. So I actually put on clothes that have to be dry cleaned, got my children off, and then showed up at court expecting to talk to someone Judgy. Well, officially Judgy, that is, not just judgmental.

Instead I got an unfriendly woman standing behind a sheet of bullet-proof glass. The microphone on my side was down by the sliver of an opening that will allow a piece of paper to slide through but not, say, a hunting knife. This meant that I had to bend over like I was talking to a toddler in order to speak through the glass while looking at her belt buckle, not her face. This is municipal court? What's "courtly" about this?

To make a long story short, through a series of misunderstandings that I was too embarrassed to admit, my case is now going to trial. The best part? The part the snarky woman behind glass didn’t tell me until after I chose this route? There was an officer in the van, not a robot.

I’ll face him at my trial on June 10.

Raedeke v. Robot

Today I am off to face a robot in traffic court. I have a lot of robots in my life, I don't need them now accsusing me of things and then mailing me photos as proof. I’ll admit to 29, but not 36 in a 25 zone! I think I might exercise my right to face my accuser in court.

I’ll let you know how it goes. I'm sure you're all trembling with anticipation...

Friday, May 1, 2009

Happy May Day

I love May.

May feels like an appetizer at a good restaurant; a small peek, a little taste, of what’s to come. Then we get our beautiful hot and dry summer, June through September, like the hearty main course. Fall is short but sweet: coffee and dessert. Winter? Winter is the bill, when you realize how much that great bottle of wine cost. You hate it but pay it, knowing no great meal comes free.

This is Juliet, my eight-year-old, at the May Day Concert and Dance.