Monday, April 28, 2014

An Illustrated Account of How My Life Changed—Post Book Deal


Sadly, this did not happen. But I did make a little actual cash money from my writing! It allowed me to fix some things around my house and celebrate by taking a group of good friends out for a fancy dinner at The Admiral in Asheville, NC. Something that I never could have done on my teacher's salary alone. It was super fun to tell the waiter, "I'll take that," when he brought the check.


Sorry, Pegasus is still mythical, though I'll never stop dreaming.  But the other thing I did with some of that writing cash money was hire a trainer to help me with my two young horses. I've ridden since age five, but a few years ago had a freak accident on a tried and true mount (she's retired now). It shook me up and I've been battling fear and PTSD ever since. But riding is a tonic and I didn't want it to be over because of fear.  So, the writing that stole so much of my riding time,  has now brought it back, by giving me the opportunity to work with someone to regain my confidence. I'm doing great and so are my ponies!  


HA, HA, Bwahahaha. Going to keep on laughing with this one. But you know, I do think it helps them to see a person my age still chasing dreams. And maybe a few of them think it's super cool. 


No, nope, and no way, no how. It's all still with me. But...I did learn a ton in my editorial process which will only help me in future endeavors. And, getting a book deal with Harper Teen  has been the most tremendous "atta girl" ever. It's like this very special, wonderful, secret I carry inside of me. When I need to pick myself up, or remind myself that, yes, I am a writer, I let the inner voice whisper in my ear, "Hey, chica! You got a flipping book deal with Harper Collins. The Harper Collins in NYC!" And I've got to admit, that feeling is really special. Even if I can't see the life changing part just yet.

(all doodles are done by me - Jaye Robin Brown)

Friday, April 25, 2014

The World as We Knew It: Why Cli-Fi Matters

So the IPCC came out with its latest report on climate change last week, just as I started reading Nathaniel Rich's brilliant, grim and often hilarious novel Odds Against Tomorrow. The story's protagonist, Mitchell Zukor, makes his living imagining worst-case scenarios: nuclear war, antibiotic-resistant superflu, cyber-terrorism, a volcanic eruption in the Canary Islands that triggers a tsunami half a mile high. Adios, Eastern Seaboard.

He also frets about sea level rise, mega-twisters and things of that nature, which, if you're on Team We're Not Batsh&*%t Crazy and Thus We Believe That 99% of Scientists Are Probably Right, are more likely. A lot more likely.

As a writer of cli-fi (a term I only recently discovered but instantly fell in love with), I feel an affinity with Mitchell Zukor. I too spend my days thinking about worst-case scenarios. So does this guy, who made a few waves with a paper warning that we are devouring the planet's resources at such an astonishing rate that the whole enchilada, a.k.a. civilization as we know it, could collapse in a few decades. Basically, the Walking Dead, but with a little less brain consumption.

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The worst-case scenario that inspired my book was that flooding and drought and storms and wildfires would make the surface of the Earth uninhabitable. If you were rich or well-connected, you moved underground. If you weren't, you were left to die. Not all cli-fi takes such a dystopian view of the future. But most of it isn't exactly rosy. And it's a sad truth that the poorest people in the world are the ones who are currently bearing the brunt of this ecological hot mess.

I thought a lot about what happens to a culture psychologically when they lose everything they've known and are cut off from the sun and the sky and other people. 


And then I thought about what surface survivors might be like, how they would view the world and each other. Which is where the more optimistic part of the story comes in. Because I'd like to think that people would pull together at the end. That divisions like race and gender and sexual preference would take a back seat to more pressing concerns, such as finding food and water and not being caught by hypercanes. In fact, maybe the ones who were written off eventually manage to create something better, something more human. More altruistic, even.

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I sincerely hope my worst-case scenario doesn't come to pass. There's still time to get it to together, although not a whole lot. In the meantime, writers like Nathaniel Rich and John Atcheson and Margaret Atwood and many others are unafraid to explore the darker reaches of cli-fi.

Their imaginings may be wildly different, but the underlying message is the same: The future is now.

Kat's debut YA cli-fi, Some Fine Day, comes out July 1 from Strange Chemistry. You can find her on Twitter and her website. Goodreads also has a nice little list of cli-fi books here.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

My (very obviously) changed life

By Kate Boorman

Kate Boorman sits down with Kate Boorman in a rare, candid interview about how a book deal has changed her life.


Wednesday, April 23, 2014


By Joshua David Bellin

Ask my wife and children how landing a contract for my debut novel has changed me, and they’ll tell you something like this: it’s made me insanely busy, obsessive, and megalomaniacal.

More than usual, anyway.

But however true that may be (and okay, it’s all true), the biggest change I see in myself is that I’ve begun to think of myself as a professional. I’ve thought of myself as a writer for a long time (in fact I made a conscious decision a few years ago to stop calling myself “a teacher who writes” and start calling myself “a writer who teaches”). But obtaining a contract has made me think of myself as a professional writer.

This requires a little further clarification. I’m not saying that writing is now my career, solo or otherwise. I did get an advance for Survival Colony 9, but it’s nowhere near enough to quit my teaching job, even if I were inclined to do that.

Nor am I saying that the contract validates my seemingly bizarre decision to spend hours at the keyboard, dreaming up imaginary scenarios and committing them to paper. I didn’t need the external validation of a contract to think of writing as an important and legitimate aspect of my life.

But thinking of myself as a professional writer has changed me, in ways both tangible and intangible. Visibly, it’s made me do things professional writers do: develop a website and other social media sites, build relationships with others online and in person, join professional associations such as SCBWI, devise a marketing plan and seek paid assistance in enacting it, declare writing-related deductions on my taxes, and so on. I recently hired someone to redo my website (with, I hope you’ll agree, smashing success). I’m also working with my publicist to plan my launch, schedule appearances, create a press kit, and more. Since acquiring the contract, I’ve been approached to critique queries, judge contests, join writers' groups (including this one). A couple months ago, I was asked to introduce YA novelist James Dashner at an event in my hometown of Pittsburgh (see photo at right). That was awesome, and it wouldn’t have happened without the contract. So yes, professionalizing my life as a writer has introduced big, time-consuming, and amazing changes.

At the same time, the contract has changed my private sense of myself and my writing. The idea that others will actually read (and purchase) the words I’ve written is at once incredibly cool and incredibly humbling. I recognize that I owe something to other people in ways I didn’t when my writing was pretty much for my eyes only. Especially given the fact that many of my readers will be young people, I have an enlarged sense of responsibility: to treat my readers with respect, to be honest with them, to write about things that matter not just to me but to them, to deliver on my promises. Those are big responsibilities, and I’m determined to hold myself to them.

These responsibilities extend beyond my immediate circle of readers to others in the writing world. I’m committed to being a good resource and friend to other writers, whether that be by giving them my time and (when asked for) advice, retweeting their links, or applauding their successes. I’m committed to never speaking about other writers or their works from a position of jealousy or spite; though I’ll be honest, I won’t be petty, belittling, or mean. I’m committed to being a mentor, a sounding-board, a supporter financially as well as emotionally--whatever I’m asked to do that I reasonably can do.

All of this is a lot to take on, but I have to say: I believe it comes with the territory. Being a professional writer is a rare thing, when you consider it in relation to all the people in the world. It’s a privilege, not a right. The fact that I worked hard to get here doesn’t make it any less of a privilege or more of a right. I want to act in ways that show I recognize what a privilege it is, and in ways that show I won’t abuse the privilege I’ve received.

Now you see what my wife and kids are talking about?

JOSHUA DAVID BELLIN's debut, the YA science fiction adventure SURVIVAL COLONY 9, releases September 23, 2014 from Margaret K. McElderry Books. While he's waiting, Josh is tearing through other 2014 YA debuts and having a grand old time.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Deadlines and Self-Promotion: How My Publishing Contract Changed My Life

For me, like a lot of authors, my life hasn’t really changed too significantly since Little, Brown offered me a contract just about one year ago. I still write in pajamas and pretty much no one knows who I am (HELLO WORLD!). But a few things I have noticed since the big contract, aside from having much more entertaining fodder for dinner parties, are:

  1. Deadlines. They now exist.
  2. Social media foreverrrrrr

Social media has actually proven (so far) to be the easier, although more time-sucking, aspect of being A Debut Author. Years ago I was that obnoxious twenty-something who had to explain to her corporate boss what “tweeting” and “tumblr” and “teh blogs” were all about, so I always felt pretty comfortable online.

But now that it’s become less about noodling around on the Internet and more about connecting with other online folks / readers, social media has definitely become a sort of pleasant black hole to which I am constantly drawn, because now when I spend two hours looking stuff up on Twitter or fiddling with an image for my Tumblr, it’s not mindless procrastination, it’s WORK.

I’m still trying to find the right balance between nurturing all my little online pets and actually, like, writing (I say, now, writing this blog post instead of working on my manuscript). I’ll let you know how it goes.

The other fun revelation? DEADLINES!!!

Writing used to be like wandering merrily through a field of daisies, where I could nap or bask in the sunshine and take as long as I like. Now it’s still a field of daisies, but instead of wandering merrily, it’s more like running as though there’s an army of zombies after me, and oh yeah, the field is on fire.

I actually work pretty well under pressure and I enjoy budgeting my time, so deadlines are not, like, horrible for me. But it’s still a weird sensation to write something in blood on my calendar and know that the book is not done because I feel like it’s done. It's done because it’s May 1 and I have to email it to my editor.

There’s something ironically creatively freeing about deadlines, knowing that unlike my previous manuscripts, I don’t have the time to sit and noodle forever, so I have to make commitments and trust my gut and just get on with it. Still, it’s something I always took for granted before I was a to-be-published author, having all that free time and no expectations. And don’t get me wrong--expectations are nice, having someone actually waiting for what I’m writing is pretty cool--but it also adds a level of pressure that still surprises me.

So, my publishing contact hasn’t gotten me any Evian-water-baths or gold-plated-iPads, just good ole fashioned distraction and pressure. And that’s the other thing I’ve learned: the more you become an author, professionally, the more non-writing responsibilities you get and the less time you have to actually, y’know, write. Signing my contract was like throwing the switch on the carnival ride that is publishing, and while I’m still figuring out all those roller coaster ups and downs, so far I’m having a lot of fun.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Why Writers Should be Readers

by Amy Finnegan

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As a writer of books for children, the most difficult thing for me to admit is that I wasn’t a big reader when I was a child (which is very a-typical for kidlit authors). I read and loved a lot of picture books during my elementary school years, and then some Amelia Bedelia early readers, but I can literally name—on just two hands—the novels I remember finishing before I graduated from high school. They were pretty much all by Judy Blume and Roald Dahl.

I look back now and can’t figure out exactly why I wasn’t a big reader—my parents both read incessantly and took me to the library all the time—but I have a clue. Truth be known, reading was difficult for me. More often than not, I felt frustrated because I would read five or ten pages and then realize I had no idea what was going on. I couldn’t remember which character was which or how they knew one another. I didn’t feel attached to the story at all. As it turns out, I had a learning disability that I didn’t know about until I was in college. But I won’t put a label on it now because this isn’t the point of my post.

The point of my post is to say this: My writing ability has taken a very long time to develop because I wasn’t a big reader until I was in my twenties. And now I’ve been playing catch up for the next twenty years.

I started with non-fiction (typical for a college student), moved on to the adult market, then finally—for the first time in my life—truly discovered the magic of middle grade and young adult novels. And that’s when I fell in love with reading. It became an addiction.

In his book On Writing, Stephen King says, “If you don't have the time to read, you don't have the time or the tools to write.”

I wholeheartedly agree. Reading is, by far, the best thing a writer can do to sharpen his or her storytelling skills. Yes, you also need to write and write and write, for development, but very little improvement will take place if a writer isn’t learning from others through a process similar to osmosis. Exposure to excellent storytellingand lots of it, can’t help but rub off.

As a reader, the more books you read, the pickier you become about loving a book verses just liking it. Or even finishing it. Right?

The same thing has happened to me as a writer. The more I read, the easier it becomes to pick out what makes a plot work and what hurts it. The characters in a great novel become my friends, and just like it’s simple for me to tell someone what I like about my real-life BFFs, I can more skillfully tell my readers what makes a person attractive or repulsive (at least to me). And I can also better understand, by reading excellent books, what my own weaknesses are as a writer. I struggle with the details of setting—how to make it feel natural without overdoing it—and transitions. (Why is it so darn difficult to move a character from one room or thought to another?!)

But when I see the masters at work, I learn. And I absorb.

And this is another critical element: A writer needs to know and understand the genre and market they’re writing for. If you’ve been involved with critique groups and read enough pages from beginning writers (and believe me, I was one of them, so I’m not knocking anyone), it’s likely that you’ve heard sample pages that don’t fit the parameters of the author’s intended market. Perhaps it’s a picture book with 3000 words. Or the story is about seniors in high school, who should be thinking about college applications and their unattainable crush, but is instead filled with pranks on teachers and middle grade gross-out humor.

Knowing what works in each market, and what doesn’t, is obviously paramount to your success. And you’ll only know this if you’re intimately familiar with your chosen genre.

And then there is pacing. This is another thing I struggle with. I think of a cool scene that I’m dying to get to, or that awesome moment when my two main characters finally get things right, and I want to make it happen that very moment. I want the plot to move over so my characters can make out express everything they’ve been holding back. But the best pacing uses restraint for a slow burn; it builds up for a worth-while reveal. It makes a reader work for the rewards. And it also knows when to push all the details about the carpet and drapery out of the way and get on with the story.

I love that about reading, because good pacing is something that can only be understood through experiencing it. It can’t really be taught, and it’s certainly difficult to master.

Another benefit of continuous reading is recognizing clichés or overdone plots. While it’s true that there are “no new ideas, only new voices” editors likely won’t even read your first page these days—no matter how stellar your writing is—if your pitch tells them that the new girl in school is unavoidably attracted to a mysterious boy who is actually—gasp!—a vampire/werewolf/dark angel. While this pitch in various forms sold book after book about seven years ago, writers who keep up with the ever-changing trends will likely know better than to spend their time on a similar plot (but check back in another seven years).

And the #1 reason to read: isn’t reading THE BEST THING EVER, anyway?

I’m still not a fast reader, and my struggles with attention haven’t entirely faded, but once I get hooked on a good book, I’m gone. I’m in heaven. And I want nothing more than to help my own readers experience this same emotion.

So tell me, what has reading done for your own writing? Has it helped you avoid overdone plots or character types? Honed your skills? Does good writing put you in the mood to work? It surely does that for me!

Amy Finnegan writes her own stories because she enjoys falling in love over and over again, and thinks everyone deserves a happy ending. She likes to travel the world—usually to locations where her favorite books take place—and owes her unquenchable thirst for reading to Jane Austen and J.K. Rowling. Her debut novel, NOT IN THE SCRIPT, came about after hearing several years of behind-the-scenes stories from her industry veteran brother. She’s also been lucky enough to visit dozens of film sets and sit in on major productions such as Parks and Recreation and Parenthood. You can follow Amy on Twitter @ajfinnegan, or Facebook (Amy Finnegan, Author).

Friday, April 11, 2014

How publishing a book changed my life...

by Austin Aslan
Random House/Wendy Lamb Books - Aug 5, 2014

How publishing a book changed my life (Short answer): It didn’t.

Thank you very much, everyone. Have a good night.

How publishing a book changed my life (the long (and socially graceful) answer):

I think I get where this question is coming from, but the answer is pretty simple: my “life” has changed very little. I now write for a living. I get to claim movie tickets as tax write offs. That’s about it, folks.  I dreamed and dreamed and dreamed of becoming a published author, and I half expected my life to suddenly transform into glitz and glamor once I finally realized my dream (don’t we all daydream about that?). But the truth is that I believe that circumstances don’t change who people are.

Change in one’s life comes from within; it’s rarely external. The good fortune I’ve had so far hasn’t changed who I am or how I act or who I hang out with. The biggest difference for me is that I’m now able to make writing my job. But I don’t actually feel that I’m writing more often than I used to. I’m just getting paid to do it now. So, it has freed me up somewhat, but that just means I have more time to attend to the thousand other responsibilities of raising a family!
And, really, let’s not get carried away, here. When it comes down to it, all that has happened is that two (TWO) people liked my book. First, my agent. Second, my editor. That’s it. TWO people liked my book, and suddenly all these doors are open and everyone else assumes my book is good and everyone’s been so great. We’ll see how well that holds up once the book hits the shelves! Until then, holding pattern, at best.

How publishing a book changed my life (the long (and come on, now, let’s all be honest with ourselves) answer):

I now write for a living. I NOW WRITE FOR A LIVING! I avoided a mid-life crisis by THIS much. I spent last June (LAST JUNE THAT’S RIGHT THE WHOLE MONTH) gallivanting around Costa Rica (which I almost certainly would have done anyway but, hey). I no longer shy away from that “What do YOU do for a living?” question at parties.  I’m cuter. I’m younger. AND…I get to hang out with this completely amazing group of Fall Fourteen debut authors who are all so kind and smart and gracious and generous and, and…

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

How My Book Deal Changed... Everything

You always hear about those amazing life-changing, quit-your-job and write kind of deals.

This story isn't about one of those.

This story is about my first book deal, and how it changed...everything.

Selling SWEET UNREST was a long time coming. Let me start by saying, I was not one of those people who have always wanted to be a write. People would hear that I was majoring in English and ask if I wanted to write books, and I would think about Toni Morrison and Virginia Woolf, and William Faulkner and say, "hell no. I can't do that." Mostly I was scared. I never thought I could, so I didn't try.

Fast-forward to post-PhD, when my professional life was basically in the toilet. There were no jobs to be had for literature professors. Like NO jobs. So I moved to Birmingham, AL for my husband's job and decided to try my hand at writing.

SWEET UNREST was the second book I ever wrote. First I tried writing a Harlequin-style romance, and it got some hits with editors, but I had this other idea... I wrote SWEET UNREST back in the late fall of 2010, started querying in early 2011, and found my first agent who took it on submission in the summer of 2011. But the book didn't sell until May of 2013. That's a long haul for a book.

In that time, I wrote another book that my then-agent didn't even finish reading (but I still love), broke up with my agent, wrote yet another book, found a new agent, had the agent decide she didn't like the revisions on that second book enough, broke up with second agent, and found my awesome agent. Oh, yeah, I also up an moved across three state lines with two kids, started a new full-time job, and started a part-time editing job.

By the time I got the email that SWEET UNREST had an offer, I hadn't written anything new in more than 8 months. I was wondering if I'd ever write anything new, because honestly, I just felt like this:

I was tired, overwhelmed by all the jobs I was doing, and pretty convinced that I couldn't write anything marketable. I mean, I had high hopes for the new awesome agent who was taking my book on submission, but I tend to set the bar for high hopes pretty low.

I'm not exactly a sunshine-and-lollipop-and-everything-will-be-awesome kind of person. I'm more of a don't-expect-anything-and-be-pleasantly-surprised (instead of heart-breakingly crushed) kind of person.

So, yeah, I kind of felt like the window for selling SWEET UNREST had passed. And because I'd just started this very Real, very Full-Time kind of job, the book on submission felt like my last chance. (I already figured that SWEET UNREST was done.)

And then, out of the blue (or not really out of the blue, because I knew it was going to acquisitions, but see above for my positive outlook on life) I get this email that the book sold. In a two-book deal. After literally sitting in the "going to acquisitions" pile for almost a year.

It felt a little like this:

No, wait. Actually it felt like this:

Because I'd basically talked myself into taking a break (a.k.a. giving up).

So getting the news of my deal made me really, really consider my options--what I wanted to do. What I thought I could do.

I'd spent so long--grad school, jobless after grad school, YEARS--worrying about how to get a career started, how to make enough money so that my boys didn't notice we were constantly tight. I'd started writing because it was my last chance to make a life from literature (because the whole college professor thing hadn't worked out), and then I discovered I loved it.

And when the whole college professor thing did finally, kind of, work out, I kept on loving it.

But writing takes up a hella lot of time. It's time I spend away from my kids, occupied by the glow of my laptop screen instead of their adventures. It's time I spend pounding away at the keys for no guaranteed payday when maybe I could pick up a few more editing jobs to earn some extra money. In short, as much as I might have discovered this love for writing, I'm a mom and a professor and I have other responsibilities.

The deal for SWEET UNREST wasn't one of those 6-figure, change-your-life kind of deals, but it changed things anyway. Sure, it let me take my two kids for a surprise Disney vacation, but what it really did was let me feel okay with the time I was spending and the sacrifices my family was making for me to keep writing.

Selling my first book helped me decide that I wasn't ready to give up trying to be an author.

So I made some hard decisions. I (reluctantly) quit the editing job I loved, because balancing all three jobs just wasn't working. I stopped letting fear and guilt get in the way of the stories I wanted to tell. I pulled out my laptop and started writing again, for real.

And guess what?

While I was going through edits and waiting for my release, that third book I wrote--the one that got me my current agent of awesome--sold to Simon Pulse in a two-book pre-empt.

And I wrote another book--a little Middle Grade that's quirky and spooky and has goats in it that I absolutely love.

I never would have written that without the deal.

Or maybe I would have. Maybe in a few years, things would have calmed down, and my kids would have been old enough to have their own lives, and I would've gotten the itch again. I know I would have gotten the itch to write again... I can't seem to make myself stop.

It wasn't a life changing kind of deal... but then again, for me it was.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014



Once the dust settles and she decides on a day, the remaining 13 of us Fall Fourteeners will be sporting this as our Twitter profile pic:

And though I know we were all sitting on the edge of our seats, wondering how our identity was going to change in the blink of a blogger comment, I bet THIS is what you want to know: