Friday, April 30, 2010
She has 42 people lined up for it and you can read all their last lines by visiting her blog tomorrow. I'm cheating a bit and posting my ending today.
I'm sharing a piece that I cut out of Canary. I like to give my deleted scenes a new life somewhere!
It's from the start of the book after Kate's dad tells her and her brother that they will be transferring to Beacon (the prep school where he coaches basketball). Kate's brother, Brett, throws a fit and the conversation is left unfinished as Kate's dad goes after her brother. Kate reflects on the conversation with her dad.
Dad never asked me how I felt about changing schools.
Maybe he was afraid I would feel the same way Brett did.
I would have told him he didn’t have to convince me, I would have quickly agreed.
My old school was where I went when Mom got sick, the place where I sat and wondered what was going to happen to her.
It was the place I did work with results I no longer cared about, focused only on the results of Mom’s tests.
The halls of that school held friends who pretended nothing had happened, because I guess it was easier than talking to me about what did.
While Brett fought to stay at his old school, to stay, I was ready to run forward.
If Dad would have asked me how I felt about going to the new school, I would have told him that he didn’t even need to ask.
In a life where nothing seemed to be right anymore, leaving was the first thing that did seem right.
Cool Bonus: If you read this blog today (Friday), that means there is still time for you (yes, you!) to be a part of the blog fest. Why not? If you are, let me know in my comments so I can read your ending!
Thursday, April 29, 2010
Book Number Fourteen
How It's Done (Christine Cole Maclean) 336 pages
I found this book randomly at Borders and decided to buy it. It was the only copy on the shelf, and I had never heard of it. I liked it because from the start I knew the narrator was making bad choices, and it reminded me of a horror movie where you wanted to yell at the heroine and tell them not to open the door or go up the stairs. I could see Grace's decisions were destructive, but there was nothing I could do about it but go along for the ride.
Book Number Sixteen
This World We Live In (Susan Beth Pfeffer) 256 pages
I love this series. I finished the first book in less than a day; I couldn't put it down. I was so excited when I found out that Pfeffer was created a series out of it. This book is great because it combines the characters from the first book with those from the second book. I felt the ending was a bit rushed, but otherwise, this was a great read. If you haven't read the series yet, read it! I don't really like disaster stories, but this series grabs you from the start and you can't stop reading.
Book Number Sixteen
The Last Song (Nicholas Sparks) 480 pages
Okay, so maybe I read this book. And maybe I cried at the end. And maybe I plan to see the movie this weekend.
Have you ever looked at Nicholas Sparks? My students and I were curious so we googled him. He's not what I expected. He looks like someone you'd see out clubbing, not someone who writes sappy love stories.
I mean, seriously...this picture below could be the new cast member for Jersey Shore. I wonder if he's good at fist pumping!?
What about you? What are you reading right now? Anything good? Share!
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
However, yesterday my agent gave me some news. Not bad news, but not the news I was hoping for. Actually, it's the best news I've received so far during the submission process, but it's not a book deal. I can't get specific, but let's use some similes to describe the news (some of these are actual similes from my life...can you figure out which!?!)...
It's like getting every number on a lottery ticket right except for one.
It's like watching LeBron shooting the game winning shot at the buzzer and watching the ball slowly roll around the rim before falling to the ground without going in (not that that would EVER happen...because the Cavs rock!).
It's like getting put on the wait list for the school of your dreams.
It's like finding a super cute pair of Jessica Simpson heels at TJ Maxx, but they're not in you size.
It's like finding out that you were the runner up for a job interview that you really wanted.
It's like trying on engagement rings, but then waiting and waiting for the proposal.
It's like finding out that U2 is touring again this summer but they're not coming to Cleveland.
You know, those almost things. Things that excite you. Things that are so close you can touch them. However, you just fall a little bit short.
Yesterday I had an almost moment.
It was tough.
It's bumming me out.
But I'm trying to remain optimistic. I still have submissions with editors and today we're submitting to a few more. My hope is still here and I can't wait to share news that isn't "almost" but that is actual crazy, exciting news!
Please send some positive thoughts my way. I'd love to celebrate a book deal with all of you sometime very very soon!
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
I gave my students the opportunity to volunteer to do an end of the year project where they'll "test drive" some YA novels that I'm looking at using in my classes.
The units next year will connect the books to a social issues research project where students don't just follow themes and ideas in the text, but they'll also research it throughout history and in our present day society. I plan to bring in speakers about these topics and have my students This year my students will just take notes as they read, develop discussion questions, lesson plans and projects that I may use next year.
I'm pretty excited about the potential for next year, and I'm even more excited when I introduced it to my students and large amount of them wanted participate. In fact, they were arguing about who got first dibs on the books.
Students fighting about books?
Am I dreaming?
I've always been a huge believer in the power of YA literature and using them in the classroom. I can't wait to get my students feedback.
Here's the line up...
Thirteen Reasons Why (Jay Asher)
Life as We Know It (Pfeffer)
The Good Thief (Tinti)
Paper Towns (Green)
Little Brother (Doctorow)
The Book Thief (Zusak)
Hunger Games (Collins)
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian (Alexie)
What about you? If there was a high school YA literary canon, what books would you add?
Monday, April 26, 2010
But…what I have to say next may make some of you mad. I feel like it’s the skinny girl who complains about eating everything and still can’t gain weight type of comment or the girl who has to keep saying no to guys who ask her to homecoming because she already has the perfect date. The type where you’re like, oh geez, it must be so hard to have your problems (insert eye roll here).
Anyways, I’ve been writing a lot, but now I have two projects that I’m doing. I’ve been working on a piece for a few months that is all plotted out and I have about 75 pages done. However, when I was in Florida I got an idea that wouldn’t let me go. It got me so fired up that I couldn’t sleep and ending up writing until about four-thirty in the morning.
I’ve never had a problem like this. I have two books that are begging to be written, and I’m not quite sure what to do.
On one hand, the first book is plotted, I’ve been working on it for awhile and I love the lyricism of my writing. It’s from a piece that I wrote in one of my MFA workshops and I like how literary it is. I love the characters and the story haunts me. It’s not a happy piece, it’s hard to write, but what is coming out of this writing excites me.
Then, there is the new idea. It won’t let me alone. It keeps me up at night and I love the possibilities of where it may go, but it also scares me. This book is different than anything I’ve written before. It has a dual narration, one being male. I never write in a male’s voice, but his male is speaking to me. It needs a lot of plotting and planning to get the voices to work together side by side, but when they do, I think the story could be pretty awesome.
I really don’t know what to do. Summer vacation is coming up (30 days, but I’m not counting...ha!), and summer is when I get most of my writing done (I leave the school year for revising). I need to decide what to focus on, because I can’t write two stories at once. I’m not that talented!
So what should I do? Have you ever been in a situation like this? How o you decide? Do you have any thoughts, ideas, and recommendations? I’m really torn right now. I love both stories, so I have no idea how to proceed. Help? Help? Anyone?
Thursday, April 22, 2010
A Nicholas Sparks book?
A Nicholas Sparks book with Miley Cyrus on the cover?
And who is reading it?
Okay, I admit it...it's me!
My female students have been devouring this book. I've had at least ten of them read in within the last two weeks. When one of them offered her copy to me, I decided to take her up on it. After all, I had to see what all the buzz was about, right?
I'm always so busy reading books for my classroom, for my MFA program and the latest YA stuff that I don't have time to read much else. I consider this Nicholas Sparks book a guilty pleasure. Although my guiltiest pleasure is chick lit (like Something Borrowed, The Devil Wears Prada, The Nanny Diaries). I have also loved reading chick lit, but more often now I download the books to my iPod and listen to them when I'm walking. I get to "read" the book and am more motivated to go walking!
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Before we get to the winners...I thought it might be useful to give some general query letter advice. Pay attention...this is good stuff to know!
Rachele's Advice When Querying:
10) Step away from the computer. You will become obsessed with refreshing your e-mail to see if you heard back from an agent. Get out of the house. Let your computer battery run down. Find a show you can become obsessed with (I recommend The Real Housewives series on Bravo. Nothing helps you forget more than trashy shows full of older woman fighting. It will suck you in and we'll forget for a break...fleeting...moment about the agents you've queried.).
9) Speaking of agents you query...keep a list. Check it twice. Check off those who your hear from and those who you don't. Nothing sucks more than finding out your sent a letter to an agent twice or to two in the same agency.
8) Spell the agent's name right. This is advice coming from someone who has lived her life with her name "Rachele" misspelled. It stinks. It makes me mad when people can't double check and make sure they have my name right. Agents feel the same way. Make sure you get it right.
7) Don't make changes to your manuscript while querying. Remember how I told you to step away from the computer? Well, also step away from the manuscript. Your manuscript should be done when you start querying. Revising, making changes and keeping track of this can be one big mess.
6) Don't discuss your querying experience by name (or allude to or reference things that someone may be able to figure out). Agents are watching. They google their names and find them on your blogs and twitter accounts. They read discussion boards and forums. You want to be professional when querying agents. Talking about who rejected you, how they rejected you or even how much you love an agent could come back to haunt you.
5) Don't take things too personal. Agents are agents and they have a job to do...to sell books. If they don't like your book, there will be someone else who does. Don't place some weird voodoo hex on the agent, don't get angry at the agent or bad mouth them online and please...do not write them back. The agent is taking out a personal vendetta against you, they're doing their job. All they know of you is your letter. Instead, chalk it up to a good story about all your rejections that you'll tell when you become an award winning author and move on to querying another agent.
4) Candy helps while you're writing your letter and researching agents. Lots of candy. Okay, who am I kidding...candy helps all the time!
3) Agents can take a long time to respond. Agents can take even longer to read your full. Be patient. Don't bug them. I know some people are believers in a reminder e-mail about two or three months after sending a manuscript, but you must wait two or three months. Two or three weeks will irritate the agent and two or three days will freak them out.
2) Be yourself in your query letter. Find your voice and let it come out. While it's important to have a solid letter, I think it's equally important to have a letter that represents you. If your letter is too formal, it will read as that. I feel like too much revising can make a query letter become cold and impersonal. Stress over the letter, but only so much.
1) Only send what the agent requests from you. Do not send personal pictures of you and your dog at the Grand Canyon. Do not put confetti into the envelope or white powder. Vampires may glitter, but your letter shouldn't contain it. Don't spray perfume or send homemade cookies. However, you may send all of these things to me!
Truthfully, there's a ton more I can say about querying, but let's get on to the winners. I'll be able to offer advice through the form of feedback on your actual queries.
Okay...this morning I grabbed my "Paint Your Own Pottery" mug and put all the names of those who entered into it.
I shook it up a little bit...
Woo-hoo! Thanks to all of you who entered! If you're a winner, please send your query letter or manuscript to my e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org
I'm looking forward to reading them!
Let's take a look, shall we?
Today I pulled out some deep sixth grade reflections about how life is changing. I've tried to clean up my awful spelling/grammar in the italicized sections. I wonder if my sixth grade self would be mortified that I keep sharing this stuff!?
"I'm growing up so fast an it seems as if everything is changing. It seems as if just yesterday me and Randy were best friends and playing Star Wars together as if it didn't matter (that) I was a girl an he was a boy."
"...changing too. It seems that my best friend Betsy, who we have been best friends since kindergarten, hardly ever talk to each other anymore. It seems that me an Jenny are best friends."
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Now, remember when I had an epic fail and hardly blogged at all?
Well, I'm pulling out those questions and tackling a few.
Allison, a fellow MFA student blogger, asked me about my thoughts on MFA programs. If you don't know, I started a MFA program at Cleveland State University last winter as a fiction writer. I'm only taking one or two classes a semester, because it's my second master's degree (my first is a MEd in English from Boston University) and I'm teaching full time. I know I won't finish the program in the typical three years, but I'm so glad that I started it.
My favorite part of the MFA program is the community of writers I've come into contact with. I've been moving through the program with many of the same writers, and as we get to learn about each other's writing styles, we're able to offer feedback and advice that helps improve our writing. These are people that I have exchanged papers with during class and have met in informal critique groups outside of class. Many of these people have helped me along the way with getting my novel published, and I have gained some valuable writing partners. The work can sometimes get overwhelming (and this is only when taking a class or two), but I know that for all the time I'm putting in to critique someone else's piece, I'll also get the same back on my paper.
My program has given me a more structured writing routine. I'm constantly thinking about my writing. I am always producing something new. I look at published authors and generate ideas through conversations. I don't find a lot of moments where I have writer's block anymore, because I'm so stimulated by the people around me. I'm challenged by my those in my program and I love when we are able to take a piece of writing and bounce ideas around with each other. We may not always be talking about my piece, but by coming up with solutions to other writer's problems, I'm able to come up with some to my own.
I also love the opportunities to network with other writers. I've attended workshops, conferences and readings and learned from writers both published and still getting closer to the same goals I'm stretching towards. I've learned from their processes and there are many people I have met that I still stay in contact with. It seems like after starting my MFA program, I now have someone I can turn to for any type of writing advice that I need.
In NO WAY do I believe you need to be in a MFA program to be a great writer or publish (in fact, I wrote my book that's on submission before I even started this program). There are also many other ways to reach out to fellow writers (and I can speak on that in future posts), but I think the MFA program I'm in is perfect for me. It kicks my butt at time, but in a good way. It keeps me writing and my ideas flowing. Who can ask for something better than that!?
What about you? What are your thoughts on MFA programs? Or writing groups in general?
Also...Don't forget to enter my query/manuscript critique contest...you have until Wenesay night to enter. Click here for details: Super Cool Contest
Monday, April 19, 2010
Welcome home, MacBook...you've been missed!
What about you? Do you have a writing related item that you can't live without? Share!
Sunday, April 18, 2010
If you don't win, you can always pre-order it HERE!
Friday, April 16, 2010
I want to give a special welcome to some new readers who may find their way over to my blog from the guest post I did on Matt Rush's blog today.
Matt has a great blog that I encourage all of you to check out. He focuses on the query process (ugh...the nightmares of querying still haunt me. It's such a wild ride!). He shares his own experience with querying and features a signed agent's query letter each Friday. Today it is my letter...yay!
You can go over to his blog to read my letter, but I wanted to share the wonderful response I got from Lina Sion (my super agent at Global Literary Management) offering representation. Nothing is better than an e-mail like the following:
I finished reading CANARY and I was very impressed with the writing as well as the juxtaposition of the Blog with the narrative. I found the character of Kate very well developed, you can feel the angst that is so characteristic of teenagers. The plot is executed quite well and is totally believable notwithstanding the edgy aspect of it.
I would love to speak with you and see if we can work together.
Let me know when is a good time to call you.
Seriously, how great is that? Needless to say, I was beside myself!
Now my book is on submission (fingers crossed) and I can't wait until I get an e-mail telling me that my book has sold.
You can check out my query on Matt's blog, but I wanted to make a comment about what I didn't include...the hook. I feel like the hook is one of the most important elements of a query, but after getting feedback from an agent (see Matt's post), I combined my information and it still seemed to work. It was a crazy gamble, but it worked out in the end. However, I would advise you to use a hook. Get that agent's attention. Don't be like me!
Here's my original hook:
Kate is propelled into the world of privilege when her dad becomes coach of one of the state’s top high school basketball teams, but when a player violates her trust, she must decide whether to stay silent or expose the corruption, destroying her father’s career and bringing down a town’s heroes.
What about you? What is your hook?
I'm offering to critique 10 queries and draw two winners for a 30 page manuscript critique. I'm not an expert, but I am a high school English teacher and MFA student so I do have lots of experience offering advice.
1) You must be a follower
2) If you'd like the chance to have me look at your query letter or manuscript, post your hook in the comment section by midnight Wednesday (April 21).
3) You can have an extra chance at being drawn each time you tweet, blog or Facebook this contest (just post which you did in the comment section)
I'll draw ten winners randomly for query critiques and two winners for the 30 page manuscript critique.
Now go enjoy Friday!
Thursday, April 15, 2010
I had a methods class (a mini-version of student teaching) and my teacher gave us a project where we would investigate a topic in schools and create a multi-genre paper to present our findings. A multi-genre paper is where you present your information like a story...you focus on your topic and present an analysis of it using things like stories, poems, graphics, comics and other pieces of writing or image.
I chose the topic of sexual harassment towards girls in high school and middle school. I loved (and still do) the powerful book Reviving Ophelia (Pipher) and used it as my inspiration for the paper. Sexual Harrassment and any bullying is a topic I am passionate about. I urge you to join the new group of YA Authors Against Bullying. Great things are already starting to be done in this group and you can also have a voice in the movement.
I created a story about a girl in high school who was harassed because of rumors. We had to create something that repeated between each of the entries, so I found the most vulgar Eminem lyrics directed towards women that I could find to place in between each page.
The paper was powerful and many of the ideas in it were transferred to my book. Here are some pictures of it. Please click on the images to enlarge them to read the pieces.
The rumor page was what sparked the initial idea for CANARY. I liked the idea of a girl who did nothing wrong, but things got out of control anyways through rumors and bullying. The book is a lot different from this, but it was the ideas that I carried around and transformed into the book I have out on submission right now.
I swim around in a giant fishbowl while everyone watches through the glass. Their eyes huge and bulging, warped by the water, faces distorted like fun house characters in mirrors.
Bodies blocking the hallway, faces laughing.
Fingers pointing at me.
Looking at me.
All eyes looking at me as I walk through the halls.
I'm scared for class to end.
For the bell the shriek my inevitable doom.
I sit in class willing the minute hand to slow down.
But it never does.
Isn't that how it works?
The moment you dread is right in front of you before you know it.
The halls are the worst.
I keep my head down so I don't see them as I swim down the hallways.
But I can still hear them.
The words that tug at my ears.
Whispers that dance around me at night, blowing their harsh winds into my dreams.
Closing my eyes at night only invites their words to visit me in sleep.
The boys press against me in the halls. Pretending to stumble and grab me from behind as I push through them.
It makes me sick.
Their hot breath against my ear, "Now that Jack’s done with you, and Luke’s used you, let’s see how the coach’s daughter can play off the courts…”
And the girls.
Standing against their lockers.
Identical Barbies in their designer clothes looking at me with disgust.
Perfect on the outside, but I can see the fear inside.
Afraid to speak up because they may be the new victim. The one signaled out for the world to attack.
I want to scream.
To stand in the middle of the room and scream at the top of my lungs, "You don't scare me. I'm stronger than that. Look at me. Look at me for who I am."
But I don't.
Because they won't.
My mouth open and closes. Silent bubbles that float up with words that I wish I could say.
And I put my head back down and continue down the hallway as the thunder roars around me in silence.
What about you? Where did your ideas come from? What inspired your writing?
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Our condo is on the market and we had some showings while in Florida. I took my MacBook over to my mom's house while we were gone because I didn't want anyone to take it. Well...I forgot it when we got back from Florida! I'm having the worst time without it (blogging is not as easy when I don't have my laptop). I won't be able to get it until the weekend which just stinks.
I'm ready to go back here...
I'll be back into the swing of blogging soon...I promise! In the meantime, check out this picture I took in Florida. My Aunt has a mint-condition 1973 Mustang convertible. My main squeeze took us all out for a drive (including my Aunt's dog!). I captured our ride through the side mirror...
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
I've gushed about Florida in the past and one of the things I love about it is the ease of the days where we do nothing but sit by the pool and read (and knit!). I finished three incredible books in the last week; each unique and amazing in their own way.
Book Number 10
Breathless (Jessica Warman) 320 pages
This book reminded me so much of one of my favorite books in the world Prep (Curtis Sittenfeld). It's the story of Katie, a swimmer, who is sent to a prep school her sophomore year. The book follows her during the three years she's there. If you've read Prep, you know that Lee is a very passive character. Katie is the opposite. She becomes popular at the school and learns that she needs to hide her past if she wants to continue to stay popular.
Book Number Eleven
Will Grayson, Will Grayson (John Green and David Levithan) 304 pages
While I could gush and gush about this book (and one of the authors!), I'll just tell you to go read it instead. It was great, and as I teacher I can't even begin to tell you how important a book like this is for my students. I know this book will speak to many people.
Before I Fall (Lauren Oliver) 480 pages
This is one of the best books I've read in a long time. I couldn't get enough of it and flew through it. I love YA authors who have MFA degrees because there is often a craftmanship and lyricism to their writing that I recognize from my work towards an MFA. Oliver's book is amazing, and I've already given it to one of my students who I'm sure will finish it within the week. If you're looking for a good read, pick this one. Seriously, I totally heart this book.
What book are you reading right now???? Share!
Friday, April 9, 2010
I promise to make it up to you on Monday when I'm back to the real world.
Look for me...I'm itching to write and will be back to my regular routine.
In the meantime, I've got to grab my last two days of sun! I hope your weekend is full of things that make you feel warm and happy!
Thursday, April 8, 2010
Check them out...you'll be sure to get some laughs (especially if you like reality TV). It's one of the first blogs I go to in the mornings. They're running a great contest right now, so you better enter!
Now...back to the pool and John Green (about 100 pages to go and I'm loving it!)....
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
This morning I talked my main squeeze into going to Barnes and Noble with me and proceeded to march right over to the teen section...
where I found the shelf was empty!!!
So I went over to Jonathan Levithan's section and checked for it there. It was still gone (the book title WTF below just about summed up my thoughts at the moment).
It wasn't until I asked a worker that we found it in the corner of a shelf...hidden away with only two copies. Two copies! Don't they realize the rush that will be on their hands today to get it?
Okay, I know that John Green was waging a pre-order campaign to get people to but it online, but there were still those of us who wanted to physically buy it in a store.
Phew! I had it! The joy, the joy!
And now it's time to go enjoy it buy the pool...
What about you? Do you have your copy yet???
Monday, April 5, 2010
My postings may be a little later than usually because I'm catching up on some much needed sleep. However, I have some great questions that people have sent to me that I plan to answer and hopefully will be able to post some pictures.
The only downside to being in Florida is that I made the decision to leave Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver at home. If you've read it, I've made it through the sixth day. If you haven't read it (read it!). It's a huge book, and I didn't want to bring it on the plane only to finish it after a day, and now I'm wishing I had it. I may have to set up camp at Barnes and Noble and finish it (which I think is okay, since I do own it...just not here!). And I will be at Barnes and Noble tomorrow morning early...can any one guess why???? You get huge points if you remember and even bigger ones if you'll be at your Barnes and Noble bright and early too!
Guess what I did on the flight down? I downloaded New Moon and watched it on the plane. Now, let me premise this by saying that I'm not a huge Twillight fan (yes, yes...go ahead and hiss, boo and throw things at me...but I'm really more into com temporary YA). But, I really really liked the movie. Really liked it. I liked it so much I wish I would have saw it in the theatre and may rent it again so I can watch it on a big TV (instead of my tiny ITouch). I was impressed!
Speaking of...Kristan asked me, "How are you going to survive without your Macbook?!" And let me tell you, it's hard! I debated bringing it, but I wanted this to be a vacation and I knew I'd start writing if I had it. Instead, I'm on my main squeeze's computer and brought a notebook to write in instead. I've missed my Macbook, but it was a much needed break.
Prepare yourself...I'm collecting a bunch of Florida related items for a prize package. I hope to bring my following up to 100 people, so all you lurkers...show yourself! I'm nice and have prizes and candy for all of you!
Okay, the sun is out and the pool is calling and this post is getting long and random....hope you all had a great Easter weekend!
Friday, April 2, 2010
I have to admit that I'm following the trend. Kate's mom has passed away a year before the novel starts and her father is unable to get over this loss ("mopey"...check!). He throws himself into basketball as a way to deal with his loss ("distracted"...check!) and when Kate comes to him with concerns about bother her brother and the basketball team, he is unable to acknowledge what is going on ("inept"....check!). Looks like I'm following the trend!
I'm just glad that the NYT is writing so much about YA literature lately. The recognition can only help.
What are your thoughts on this? Do you have "bad parents?" Do you think it's important to show "good parent?" Share, share, share!
Thursday, April 1, 2010
Am I weird if I say it made me a little teary eyed?
Dorling Kindersley used it as a promotional video for their employees and it's since gone viral. Watch it all the way through. It's worth it!
Also, I have some great questions from readers. If you have any, send them my way no later than tomorrow (Friday) night and I'll do my best to answer them all. Read this post for information.