Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Ta Ta For Now!

Alas, I'm so new to the Ro Com family and already it's time to say goodbye. Well, it's been good while it lasted. And I'm still thrilled to be in the company of such amazingly funny, talented writers! My Ro Com isn't even out yet... Language of Love will be out this December as part of the "Love, Love, Love" title. It's my first stab at fiction, and I read many of the books by the wonderful authors here like Jenn Echols, Wendy Toliver, Niki Burham, and more, to learn about what makes a romantic comedy work. So I thank you all for setting the stage, teaching me through your writing, and welcoming me into the Ro Com family!

Even though I won't be blogging here anymore, please come by and visit my blog for teens, Smart Girls Know. I post there a few times a week about everything from writing contests and opportunities for teens to stuff going on in the world that is relevant to young women. You can also keep up with my other writing projects on my author website, friend me on Facebook, or follow me on Twitter (@DeborahReber).

Thanks for all of your support for this blog and the Romantic Comedies books, and I look forward to staying in touch!

XOXO Deborah Reber

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

It's Been A Thrill

One of the thrills of my life was when my agent called to let me know that Simon & Schuster were interested in buying Royally Jacked, my first book for teens, and that--double thrill!--they wanted to make it one of the two launch titles for an all-new line of romantic comedies. Thanks to all the great authors Simon Pulse discovered for the line--most of whom are right here on this blog--it ended up being a more successful venture than I ever could have imagined. And we have you, the readers who loved the books enough to write to us, to recommend them to your friends, and to talk up the books online, to thank for all of it.

It's been a wonderful adventure writing my four books for the romantic comedy line, and though the blog is ending, the adventure continues. You can follow the other authors at the links they've provided in their posts. If you'd like to find out about what I have in the works, you can visit my official Niki Burnham website and bulletin board (which I check regularly), as well as my personal blog, The Go-Ahead. You can also find me on Facebook and Twitter. Feel free to post your thoughts or ask questions anytime!

Again, thanks so much for making this blog--and the romantic comedies--such a success. It's been a thrill!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Thanks For The Memories

What a ride this has been. From the moment I was graciously invited to join this blog in advance of PERFECT SHOT’s release, I’ve felt welcomed by the Pulse Ro-Com community. Having a forum where I can introduce myself as an author while connecting with other authors and readers was beyond awesome.

As a Jersey girl living abroad, being a part of this blog family has helped to soothe some isolation blues. There was always a spirit of fun and support here. This was no doubt a reflection of blogstress Jenn Echols who set the tone when she got this this party started years back. Merci mucho much for everything, Jenn! And while I’m making shout-outs… Thanks to everyone who made this blog a regular stop on your daily web browsing. Thanks also to those who have left comments and linked us to other sites. We so appreciate your enthusiasm for the Pulse Ro-Com series.

The good news is that the connections we’ve all made here will continue. Let’s meet up again at our various sites, blogs and social network hubs. You can find me on my blog, website, facebook and the S&S site. Let’s all pick up right where we left off, shall we?

Until Next Time...

Shhh …. don’t tell my editor but I’m sneaking away from the deadline I’m on for a couple seconds so I can say goodbye to this amazing Ro Com Community that the incomparable Ms. Echols created. Well, maybe it's not so much a “goodbye” as a “see you around” since we’re not dropping off the face of the earth or anything. The Ro Com writers are all over the internet, putting me to shame with my relative lack of participation in social media.

This blog was one of the first that I ever knew about that brought together a writing community with the readers. I've enjoyed every minute being part of the team and sharing stories and the writing experience with all the wonderful readers and aspiring writers out there. I've gained so many new friends here. Friends that call me P.J., which makes me feel even closer to you even if you don't know what I look like ... or that I'm a guy. (Not like this was hard to figure out. Clicking on the link to my website pretty much blew that "secret." Also my last name. There aren't too many Ruditises out there writing for teens.) Don't worry though. I don't think we've seen the last of P.J. At least, I hope we haven't.

Beyond this blog, I don’t have much of a web presence. My website is hopelessly out of date, but I am tweeting away on Twitter. At least, not when I’m on deadline. (I added that last part for my editor.)


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Simon Pulse Ro-Coms Rock!

As you might have heard, we are saying goodbye to the Simon Pulse Romantic Comedies blog. First, I want to thank the 11 amazing authors who've been contributing, from those who've been there from its inception (like the amazing Jennifer Echols, the blog's creater and web mistress) to some of our newest authors. It's been a blast getting to know you and read your books!

Personally, I received my invitation to join this talented, witty, and fun-loving group in 2007, right before my first ro-com (and first novel ever!), The Secret Life of a Teenage Siren, came out in December 26, 2007. It's hard to believe it's been that long! Then, about a year later, in Feb. 2009, Miss Match came along. Sinice then, I've been working on different projects, but my ro-coms will always have a special place in my heart, and that's thanks to all the fabulous Pulse Ro-Com readers out there! So thank YOU!

I know I speak for everyone when I say we hope you still stay in touch with us on our various web-sites and other blogs. Here are some good places to find me on the web: My web-site, Facebook, Twitter, Teen Fiction Cafe blog, Books Boys Buzz blog, and my official Simon and Schuster author page.

Goodbye, blog! *sniffle*

Almost four years ago in October 2006, just a few months after Major Crush, my first novel, had been published, I finally got the okay from Simon Pulse to start this blog. We've had hundreds of posts and countless visitors over the years, but I never thought that after four years, we'd still have eleven Simon Pulse Romantic Comedies authors participating.

However, we have decided to close the blog and concentrate on other projects. Over the next week you'll find other authors posting here to say goodbye and tell you where else you can find them online.

You know where to find me: my web site, my guest book, my personal blog, Facebook, and Twitter.

But I've really appreciated your support of this blog over the years. As a thank you, I'm giving away all four of my romantic copies: a copy of Major Crush, a copy of The Ex Games, and The Boys Next Door and Endless Summer together in one volume. I will draw one winner at random. To enter, you should be at least 13, and if you're a youngling you should have your significant adult's permission. You must enter before midnight Central Daylight Time on Wednesday, August 25. U.S. addresses only, please. It costs eighteen dollars to send Endless Summer alone to Vietnam. I found this out the hard way.

For a chance to win, just e-mail me at echolsjenn (at) yahoo (dot) com AND post a comment here about your favorite romantic comedy. It could be a Simon Pulse Romantic Comedy, another book, or a movie. Just don't say in your post, "You are my favorite author, Jennifer Echols, besides Catherine Clark," because I get enough of that already.

Thank you, blogosphere, for being so kind over the years. The day in July 2005 when I sold my first novel, and the day in October 2006 when I got this baby up and running, I never could have predicted how involved I would get with the reading and writing communities online, or how rewarding it would be.

Jenn ♥

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

When you were a teen, did you love or hate going back to school?

Hated it with a passion! I still get butterflies in my stomach when I walk through Target and discover that back to school supplies have replaced summer beach towels, and sunscreen. It wasn't that I struggled in school. I had plenty of friends and except for math and P.E. I did okay in class. I just didn't like school -- for a number of reasons. Summer was paradise mostly because of the freedom that came with it. Free to read books all day long, free to hang out at the beach, free to sleep in, free to watch the Price Is Right, free to do whatever the heck I wanted. No, I wasn't dying to return to tests, speeches, detention and stinky locker rooms. Furthermore, I'm a night owl. The summer nights of staying up late and then sleeping in were absolute heaven. I used to fantasize about throwing my alarm clock off a cliff. High school just seemed like this really slippery stepping stone I had to maneuver my way over before I could get to a much better place, college.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Comic Book Writing 101

I mentioned a few months back that I’m working on a new comic book series based on the TV show Charmed and a few of my Ro Com Compatriots asked what it was like to write for comics. Now that Issue 1 is out and I have a bit more experience under my belt under the tutelage of my co-writer, Raven Gregory, I thought it might be fun to share some of the things I’ve learned so far. As with any writing, the learning process is forever ongoing. These are just some general lessons and there are exceptions to every rule.

1. A comic book script is the most concise form of writing I have ever attempted. The average comic book is about 20-some pages of content. Sometimes the story will continue over an arc of several comics, but each individual issue (as any story) should have some kind of beginning, middle, and end to it. For me, outlining is absolutely necessary in this process.

The first thing I do when approaching a new issue is I create a table in Word that is two columns wide and twelve rows long. Then I break it out as if it were the layout of the comic book. The top row is the inside cover and page one. Second row is pages two and three, and so on and so on. Then I fill each box in the grid with the basic action that will take place on that page. This allows me to move things around, control the pacing of the story, and generally get a visual on where the big reveals will be. All reveals happen on even numbered pages so that when you turn the page--BOOM--something interesting should be happening on the left page, as here in the U.S. we read from left to right. (Mind you, you can’t just make every even page “exciting” because a story has a natural flow.)

2. The obvious rule: Every panel can only hold one action. You can’t just have someone go to the refrigerator, open it, take out some string cheese, shut the door, open the packaging, peel off a tasty string of cheese and eat it in one drawing. That’s seven panels. (It’s also a very boring comic book.) You have to find a way to link the panels by highlighting the important action. Panel 1: The person reaches into the refrigerator for the string cheese. Panel 2: Eating of the string cheese ensues.

3. A comic book page is only so large. You can only fit so many panels on one page. You can only fit so much information into one panel. You have to envision the page as you want the artist to draw it, balancing out the number of panels with the amount of information each panel reveals. Then you have to link the panels into a story.

This is where you get to have fun. Some pages can be packed with panels. Some might only have two or three panels. In rare cases, you can have one panel equal a whole page. And in really special cases, you might have one panel stretch out over a two-page spread for a really big reveal. This is where the pacing comes in. Sometimes you set the pacing and other times the pacing sets you depending on how much information you need to share. A big two-page spread might be fun to have the artist create, but if you need to reveal a bunch of information over those two pages, it might be best to use multiple panels to do it.

4. The artist is not a mind reader. You have to be very careful how you describe the art that is going to be drawn. That’s a risk with novels as well. When I’m describing something to a reader in a novel, I can’t get into that reader’s mind and tell her what to think. There’s always a chance the reader will imagine something differently than I intended. With comic books, if the artist draws something that does not match your intention the reader will only see what appears on the page.

5. You have to be able to let go. Comic books are a collaboration. No matter how in sync you are with the artist, some things will not be translated the way you pictured them. If you’re lucky enough to see the art before it goes to print (which is not always the case) you can’t nitpick every little thing. You have to focus on the big stuff. The things that affect the story. Because if you do start getting all nitpicky you should be warned that the artist may want to kill you. But sometimes the changes may be worth placing your life in jeopardy.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Big "R"

Today I had the honor of visiting a gifted writing class for junior high and high school students at the University of Utah. They made this cool chair for me to sit in! Sorry, I just thought that was really cool. But back to topic, we're talking about rejection here at the Pulse Ro-Com blog, and how I dealt with rejection was one of the many wonderful questions I was asked today. Because I'm sure at least some of this group of enthusiastic students will become authors someday, I was sure to answer honestly and not sugar-coat the reality that I dont' know a single writer who has breezed into publication without his or her fair share--and sometimes more than their fair share--of rejections.

One of my favorite authors (and she's a really cool and beautiful person to boot) is Shannon Hale, and though I haven't actually seen this presentation of hers, she apparently has a whole collection of rejection letters that she has attached end-to-end and rolls out for everybody to see. As rumor has it, it goes on forever and ever. One of the students I hung out with today mentioned that an author she knows wallpapered her office with rejection letters, and I know of a couple of authors who've held on to each rejection and stored them in a special--and very fat--folder.

While I don't have a visual showcasing every rejection I've accumulated throughout my 6-year writing-to-become published career, I can say I've had to grow a thick skin. And with each rejection, I have to remind myself that this is an extremely subjective industry. How many times have you read something (or watched a show on TV or a movie) and thought it was amazing, yet your best friend thought it was a waste of time? Right. Same goes with all the editors (the people at publishing houses that read your book and decide whether or not it's "right" for them) and literary agents out there. Some books speak to them, move them, make them jump for joy, while others ... don't. That doesn't mean your book is bad (per se); it just means it's too similar to something they have, needs more work, or any number of legitimate reasons.

So, what I'm trying to say (I'm still trying to catch up on sleep after my overnight flight two days ago so I can only hope I'm making some sense) is that if you sit or want to sit in the "Author's Chair," you shouldn't take it personally when you get a rejection.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

How Do I Deal with Rejection?

This is a great question for anyone to ask of herself. In fact, Caitlin (the protagonist of Getting to Third Date) is trying to fast track the relationship rejection process by finding a reason to reject all her potential boyfriends by the second date. Ultimately, she learns this doesn't actually help ease the sting of rejection.

By the time you turn 18, you've probably had friends (boyfriends, girlfriends, friendish folks) who suddenly don't return calls because they've moved on to the next new and shiny set of friends (lets call them drifters). You probably also have a few keepers -- the friends who stick with you when you move, cut your hair, get a boyfriend, lose a boyfriend, etc. It still stings when a friend you thought was a keeper turns into a drifter.

Take that feeling, and picture spending months and years on a book you love, then sending it off to agents and editors -- some of whom don't reply at all, some who say a polite and vague "not for me" and some who are quite rude ("your baby is ugly...and so are you"). Why would anyone subject herself and her work to that?

Well...for writers that's an easy question to answer -- because that process of rejection is the only path to published novelist (unless you self-publish, which is an entirely different post). When I was a new writer, I did my research and I understood that rejection was a fact of the business. So I was not horrified by my first rejection letter (for a short story that was all tell, with a character thinking about her job as a prison security guard presiding over frozen criminals she called corpsicles). As it happened, it was a lovely rejection as such things go -- instead of a generic "no thanks" I got feedback telling me that my story was all tell and no story.

Since that first rejection letter I've had success and more rejection--from the "I wish I could buy it" to the "I wish I could burn it and wash out my mind." Rejection doesn't bother me...wait.... Wrong. Rejection annoys me for three reasons: I sent the manuscript to someone who doesn't get it; I failed in my goal with said manuscript; and (worst of all) I have to go back and figure out whether to revise or simply resubmit until I find someone who gets it.

So, generally, to boost my spirits during the process, I just remember those friends who drifted away -- and the keepers who remain strong forever and enrich my life. If I had let the drifters convince me to stop trying to make friends, I wouldn't have the keepers who encourage and support me.

(apologies for being AWOL lately -- starting a new company is very time-consuming!)

Friday, July 16, 2010

How Do I Deal With Rejection?

Usually by falling face down on my bed and wondering why, why, WHY I chose to be in this insanely competitive, rip-your-heart-out-and-stomp-it-into-the-ground industry. Then I read the rejection letter or rejection email a thousand times, wincing as each negative comment is permanently branded onto my ego. Or, if it was a rejection phone call, I'll recount every word of said phone call to my husband until he's ready to plaster my mouth with duct tape.

Only then will I sit down at my computer and bring up the rejected sample chapters, or manuscript, or outline, and calculate how many hundreds of hours of work I put into it. And mull over the fact that it will most likely never see the light of day. Instead, it will sit on the hard drive of my computer. . .and there it will remain. . .and remain. . .and remain.

After that, I head straight to my bookshelves and my kitchen, in that order, and proceed to drown myself in Jane Eyre and pepperjack cheese. Or, if it was a particularly painful rejection, House of Mirth and Fudgicles. Have you ever tried Fudgicles? They really work.

Happy writing!

(Note to all the aspiring writers out there: This post is not meant to dissuade you from the rewarding field of fiction writing. But if you can't handle rejection, you should seek an easier career. Like lumberjack. Or maybe ironworker.)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

How Do I Deal With Rejection?

If you're a writer, rejection is part of the job--it happens to all writers, no matter how talented. When--not if, but when--it happens, there are several ways to react. Some writers I know get down for a day or two, then forget about it. Others brush off a rejection as nothing. Still others will mull it over for weeks at a time, picking apart each word from the editor or agent who rejected the project, trying to figure out what went wrong. Some writers head straight for the pint of Ben & Jerry's.

I don't fall into any of these camps.

I admit, I've gone for ice cream after a rejection letter appeared in my in-box, but I will use any excuse for ice cream (selling a book, seeing the cover for the first time, getting good news or bad from an editor, the Red Sox winning a big game, you name it.) When I get a rejection letter, rather than bemoan it, I view it as one person's opinion that a particular project isn't right for the market at this time. When viewed that way, it doesn't bother me. It's nothing more than a simple business decision. I haven't been fired; I've essentially been told to try to come up with something more marketable. So in the end, my internal response to rejection is, "Okay. Thanks for the analysis."

When I first started writing, it was tough to do that. No writer wants to think that the time and energy consumed by that rejected project was wasted. But over the years, I've learned that markets change, editors change, and readers' tastes change. As long as I keep working hard to become a better writer, improving my craft with each project, by the time the market is ready for that particular idea, I can resubmit, possibly in an improved version. Even if it doesn't sell, I can always pull a character, a story thread, or some other component of that project and use it in the future. In the meantime, I don't stand still. I keep writing. By the time I receive a rejection, chances are that I have another project--maybe even two or three--in the works, and a new focus for my energy.

Friday, July 09, 2010

How Do I Deal With Rejection?

Happy SUMMER everyone!

There's a common knowledge in Seattle that summer doesn't actually start until the day after 4th of July. It's strange really, how every year I'll be watching fireworks in fleece and a few days later wishing to God someone would just install central air in my home already. And that's my state of mind at this very moment...covered with sweat in my upstairs office, blinds pulled down to keep out the oppressive sun as the mercury hits the mid-nineties. As a born and bred East Coaster, one would think I'd be used to sweltering hot Julys, but it appears that after 10 years on the West Coast, I've gone soft. Anyway...I hope everyone is staying cool and having a great summer.

And now, onto the question of how I deal with rejection. The answer? Not very well. Well, that's not exactly true. I actually handle it much better than I used to. I used to take it all so personally, flabbergasted that the pitched-to editors couldn't see the obvious - that my book idea was pure gold...Oprah Book Club material...the stuff that NY Times bestsellers are made of. But now, about ten years into my career as a writer, I have a more zen approach. Yes, I still get disappointed, especially when said rejection comes from a publisher who initially showed interest in my idea. And I let myself be disappointed too, for about 2 days. Then I stop sulking and remember that one of my core beliefs is that everything happens for a reason, and therefore if so and so doesn't like my idea, that just means it hasn't connected with the right editor yet. And when it does, it will all have been worth it. And that usually works.

So what does that really mean? It means that I have a file cabinet full of unsold book proposals and manuscripts. Well, at the very least a few overstuffed hanging folders. But I'll hold onto them, because who knows...?

Before I go, check out the new cover for Language of Love! While I LOVED the original illustrated cover by Amy Saidens, I must say that if we're going to a photographic look, I kinda dig how my book turned out. If you haven't heard, Language of Love is going to be paired with RoCom Cupidity, by Caroline Goode. It's slated to come out this December...I can't wait!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

What's in a Name?

Naming characters is sometimes the easiest part of a book and sometimes the hardest. Some characters name themselves. A name just pops into my head that would be perfect for the person I’m writing about. Other times, nothing feels right. Or when I do finally come up with a name, it’s too close to the name of another character in the book and I can’t use it.

One of the things you have to keep in mind about naming characters is not just what the name sounds like or what it may mean. It’s also important to see how the name looks written out on the page. Try writing about characters named Bryan and Byron in a book and see how fast your editor breaks out the red pen. (Of course, there’s always an exception to any rule. Check out: Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan. No, seriously. Check it out. Loved it.)

For Love, Hollywood Style, I had pretty much the easiest time ever naming my characters because I did something I’ve never done before and will probably never do again. Since the book is a romantic comedy set at a movie studio, I named all my main characters after the characters in one of my favorite movies of all time: The Philadelphia Story.

Tracy = Tracy Lord (Katharine Hepburn)
Dex = C.K. Dexter Haven (Cary Grant)
Connor = Macauley Connor (Jimmy Stewart)
Liz = Elizabeth Imbrie (Ruth Hussey)

Even though there are no real parallels between the two stories, it was my way of paying homage to a true classic romantic comedy. If you like witty dialogue and snappy comebacks, I highly recommend The Philadelphia Story. It is one of the most sharply written movies ever.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

How do you decide on character names?

People actually ask me this question all the time and it's something I've often wondered about my own favorite writers. I just finished a huge long book with (what seemed to me) a thousand characters. I actually had to make a list of all the first and last names and post it near my computer so I wouldn't repeat any. Still, I made mistakes like calling the dad "Don" in one chapter and "Dave" in another (there's always a Dave in my books.)
I actually don't love choosing names--I'm always anxious the name will sound silly or too trendy or just weird. I usually try to play it safe: first names are those that are appropriate for the age of the characters--for instance, no mom is going to be called "Taylor" but a twelve year-old girl might. "Mildred" is better for the grandma than for the five year-old little sister. I usually choose first names that are short, one or two syllables, and not overly distracting. No "Siobhan," for instance. (No offense to all the Siobhans out there.)
Last names are harder--usually I'm also looking for a short, non-distracting name. But it also has to sound "real"--as in not overly bland. So I often use last names of people I know--friends, neighbors, former math teachers, etc. It's also a nice way of paying tribute to my favorite people--there's been a "Kohli" in my last two books, which is my best friend's last name.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Team Sweet Valley

On this blog, we talk about the Simon Pulse Romantic Comedies (I know-- big duh, right?). Modern, contemporary romances are one of my favorite genres to read -- and to write!

But as a writer, I owe a huge debt of gratitude to one of the original young adult romance series, Sweet Valley High. It’s not an overstatement to say that my love of Sweet Valley is in large part responsible for my decision to forge a career in young adult publishing. Imagine my thrill, then, to be invited to join a small circle of diehard Sweet Valley fan bloggers to meet with Big Fancy Publishing People to talk about the release of the upcoming sequel: Sweet Valley Confidential!

For anyone who’s ever had a love-hate relationship with the Wakefield twins (and with series for readers of all ages in print, who hasn’t?), this splashy, soapy follow-up (Elizabeth and Jessica are 27!) lets us catch up with the whole crew.

Over lunch (including yummy tiny cupcakes!), we readers talked about what exactly we loved about the series, and how we thought we might be able to build buzz for the book before its release next March. We filled pages and pages of notebooks with ideas, many of which will be rolled out very very soon. You’ll have the chance to read early chapters from Sweet Valley Confidential, to win swag like that pictured above (a teaser chapter from the book, a “Team Jessica” tee shirt, and a sparkly Wakefield compact mirror!), and much, much more!

I’ll be blogging about the first chapter of SV Confidential soon, but in the meantime, whether you’re new to the series or a long-standing groupie, now’s the time to get reading! It’s pretty sweet stuff!

Oh -- and let me know: Team Jessica, or Team Elizabeth? If you're like me, you're probably a little bit of both!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

How do you decide on character names?

I'm so happy to announce that after only a couple of weeks in stores, Endless Summer has gone into its second printing! That means YOU bought a copy at the bookstores and told a friend about my book, and I appreciate you.

So of course I'm answering the question of the month with Endless Summer on my mind. Here's how I came up with the characters' names:

LORI: I really just used this name as a filler until I could go back and change it. I meant to do a search-and-replace in Word with a name I liked better. Unfortunately the cover was designed before I finished writing The Boys Next Door, and Lori's name was on it.

ADAM: I give my heroes names that I love but that don't really remind me of anybody: Adam, Nick, Drew, and currently, Hunter.

SEAN: He is named after Sean Penn. Remember in Truth or Dare, I think, when Madonna says Sean is the love of her life? You could really see in her face that she pined after him, and that's how Lori feels about my Sean.

CAMERON: He is named after the adorable but unfortunate best friend in Ferris Bueller's Day Off. I'm showing my age here.

MCGILLICUDDY: Lori's older brother is named Bill, but everyone calls him by his ridiculously long last name. The power of naming is very strong. I get to do it as the author, because I'm inventing this world. Parents get to do it for their children. And if a kid gets to name his friends with nicknames that actually stick...well, that's a very powerful kid. I gave that power to Sean to show you how he glows with an aura of popularity, and therefore why Lori would fall for him, and why all of this would drive his little brother Adam completely insane with jealousy and outrage.

So...I thought it would be funny for Sean to call Bill by his excruciatingly long last name until it caught on. I literally went through the phone book and picked the longest name I could find that seemed to fit.

I'm really pleased with all my choices. Except for Lori. Too late now...

Friday, May 28, 2010

Did anyone in your life inspire you to become a writer...?

A few key events, rather than specific people inspired me to pursue a career in writing. In elementary school, I wrote plays and cast my little cousins in the roles. My good-sport-of-a-dad filmed our homemade productions. I also kept a poetry book—a marble notepad filled with catchy, rhyming stanzas capped off with inspired titles, like “The Fab Four” (read: what a group of us girlfriends named ourselves). And I can’t even begin to count the number of diaries I’d filled by the 9th grade. Writing was always a part of my personality. So much so, I didn’t give it much significance. I didn’t even give it much weight when I began winning essay contests that I entered to earn college money. And then early senior year, my guidance counselor got a call from the admissions office of my dream school, New York University. They called to ask her questions about little ole me! Huh? Apparently, they were really taken with my college application essay and wanted to know more about me. Of course, this caught me completely off guard, but it was extremely encouraging. I thought to myself, writing is viable. (p.s. I got accepted, but couldn’t financially afford to attend.)

Soon after, on the strength of another contest essay, The Star-Ledger, the local newspaper, awarded me scholarship money (through journalist Jerry Izenberg's Project Pride program, which awards college-bound city kids). Having my writing recognized by professionals in the field was a turning point for me. At the time, I was looking at comfortably settling into an undecided, undeclared underclassman existence, and my immigrant parents were pushing me to be more career-minded (“Pick a major! Your choice--pre-med or pre-law.”). So this recognition gave me the direction I needed. One look at the Star-Ledger plaque—which was titled “For Excellence in Journalism”—and something clicked for me. A few years later, I decided that my personality was best suited for magazine journalism, rather than newspaper or TV. My first magazine internship put me on a direct road to awesome magazine staff positions which, in turn, led me to an exciting introduction to the book publishing world.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Release Day for Jenn Echols' ENDLESS SUMMER!

Starting today you can get your very own copy of Jennifer Echols's ENDLESS SUMMER (the sequel to THE BOYS NEXT DOOR, which is in the same volume!). I don't know about you, but I'm so excited! Congrat's to Jennifer, who not only does a great job writing romantic comedies; she's the lady behind this awesome blog. Thanks for all your hard work, Jennifer, and best wishes with your newest book(s)!!!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Who Inspired Me to Become a Writer?

Unlike a lot of authors I know, I only decided to try my hand at writing books later in life. Like, way later (30?). I always enjoyed writing and did well on writing assignments throughout my school years. Several of my elementary, junior high and high school teachers helped build my confidence, but they were general "you can do anything" types of messages.
Then I went to college and realized I should probably start trying to narrow this "what do I want to be when I grow up" thing down, at least a little. I did take one creative writing class, but it was kind of a neutral experience. I got good grades but my prof never really jumped up and down about anything I turned in. I found that neutral was a lot more pleasant than negative, though.
My honors philosophy professor (who the entire liberal arts building was named after) told me I could not write. He even brought me into his office to tell me this so it could have its full, devastating effect on me. Not only did he give me a bad grade on a paper I felt I'd done a great job on, it ended up making my GPA fall just enough to lose my honors scholorship. My heart wasn't set on being a writer at that point, but I'd only ever had positive encouragement from teachers and parents. I'd never been told I could not do something, ever! (I actually include this story in my school presentations nowadays.)
Thankfully I bounced back, and it was only a little while longer before the dean of my college called me up to her desk, handed me an A-plus paper and told me, "You can do anything you set your mind to, but if it doesn't involve writing, you'll be doing this world a great disservice." And guess what? She surprised me and one guy in the class with scholarships!

Of course its' a happy ending because after trying out a variety of jobs, I finally discovered that writing makes me the happiest and I've been able to work towards becoming a published author. In fact, my third YA, LIFTED, comes out in just a few days! So it's all good. Very, very good. :)