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Q&A with Jen Malone

NEW for MWW16 — sessions on writing for the middle grade reader! And we’re pleased to welcome author Jen Malone.

Malone JenJen Malone writes sweet and funny books about tweens and teens for readers of all ages. Her middle grade titles are with Simon & Schuster/Aladdin and Penguin Random House and include At Your Service, the You’re Invited series (co-written with Gail Nall), and The Sleepover. Her young adult titles (with HarperCollins/ HarperTeen) include Map to the Stars and Wanderlost. Jen’s a former Hollywood movie marketing executive who runs critique group seminars through Inkedvoices.com and freelance edits for a host of kidlit and romance authors. You can find more about her and her titles at jenmalonewrites.com. (Twitter: @jenmalonewrites / Facebook: jmalone)

Jen will teach a Part I Intensive Session (Thursday, July 21) called: OMG, Like, Whatevs: Writing For Tweens 

This session tackles the ins and outs of writing for the tween market including how to nail that hard-to-get tween voice, the pros and cons of using slang, and what “content” does and doesn’t fly with this age group. Jen is the author of six novels aimed at the upper middle grade market under Simon & Schuster’s Aladdin M!X imprint, and her favorite comment from tween readers is, “Your characters really act like my friends and me!” In this seminar we’ll do an in-depth examination of issues relevant and appropriate to this age group (as told by tweens themselves), and discuss common considerations facing authors writing for tweens. Lastly, we’ll discuss the publishers and imprints dominating this space and what types of books they’re on the hunt for at the moment.

MWW committee member Cathy Shouse interviewed Jen about her writing and what she will present at MWW16.

MWW: At MWW, you’ll teach an intensive on writing for Middle Grade but you also write YA. Will your intensive be beneficial to writers of both, to an extent? I know all types of writing have some commonalities.

JM: I definitely plan for it to be and I certainly hope it will! The focus of the intensive is on understanding the middle grade kid before attempting to write for him or her: what’s important at this age, what’s not, what details can you include to make your story ring authentic to the reader in this age group, what things should you leave out, how much do you need to be aware of/include pop culture references, slang, etc. The blueprint for how to do that research and the areas to pay particular attention to can be applied to any category (PB, MG, YA and adult), so I’d like to think anyone would be able to find something of value.

MWW: If someone comes to your intensive, what can they expect as far as format, in-class writing, read-aloud, etc.?

JM: The feedback comments from past conferences I value most are where people describe my teaching style as “easygoing and approachable.” In my marketing workshops I offer the mantra “share, don’t sell,” meaning “make it about the other person and what value they’ll gain from reading your book/booking you for a festival/having you in to their bookstore to do a signing, etc” and I would say the same applies to the intensive I have planned. “Share, don’t preach” is my teaching philosophy and I hope everyone who wants to will feel encouraged to join into a discussion on our topic, with me acting as a facilitator to keep us on point. But part of the time will be a more structured Powerpoint presentation with tons of hilarious videos to demonstrate my talking points. And there will be writing time and read-aloud time as well. Oh, and also a cute hedgehog picture or two, likely. Basically, we’re going for the full gamut!

MWW: Since we’re catching up with you on your way to RT (the Romantic Times convention in Vegas), how about a thumbnail sketch of your participation there, in addition to signing? I saw “Pitch Wars Road Show” and “You’re Never Too old for Y.A.” as topics. How will those work?

JM: The one I’m most excited for is a panel with two other Hollywood execs (in my pre-author life I was a movie marketing exec) about applying strategies we learned in movie marketing to outside-the-box book marketing. I’ll be presenting a version of this workshop at MMW! The Pitch Wars session will include aspiring authors pitching their book concepts to published authors in order to collect feedback and encouragement, and You’re Never Too Old for YA is a fun “hang-out” session with a dozen YA authors to celebrate readers of all ages, in recognition of the research that shows more than 80% of YA readers are over the age of 35!

MWW: From your website, I noticed that you came to writing after another career in marketing and travel. What made you decide to take up writing and what has your journey to publication been like?

JM: I did. I was in charge of New England publicity and promotion for 20th Century Fox and for Miramax Films, working through a PR firm in Boston. Part of my job was sitting through press screenings of movies, to try to gauge what critical reaction to that film might be, so I was literally paid to watch movies during the work day. Not a bad gig! It ended up being an invaluable way to absorb story plot and pacing through osmosis, even though I wasn’t conscious of it at the time, nor did I ever have plans to be an author! I started writing in 2012, when my youngest started kindergarten and was learning to read. I thought it would be fun to write a little story about her, that she could read to me at bedtime. It was like getting hooked on a drug from the first time — I started and couldn’t stop! I kept going until I looked up a month later and said, “Um, I think I just wrote a book.” The next thought was “Now what?” Luckily, the first person I shared it with pointed me straight to a writer’s conference, because I had never even heard the words “query letter”! “They” (whoever they are) say to embrace the unexpected, and I’m certainly glad I did!

MWW: Several of your books have themes centered around travel. Wanderlost involves a European bus tour and Map to the Stars is centered around a teen movie idol’s European promotional tour. Has that helped your career, having connections in your books?

JM: If I’m not having fun writing it, a reader won’t have fun reading it, so it makes sense to me that I should write about the things I love most… and topping that list is travel! I saved up for years so that I could spend the year after college backpacking around the world. I hit 45 countries and it was the single biggest influence on who I am as a person now. Now I have young kids and a husband with a fixed-in-place job and a mortgage and all that other stuff that gets in the way of wanderlust, so I have to satisfy my itch by writing about some of my favorite spots on the planet. Whereas MG characters are often trying to figure out how they fit in with their very specific groups (school, friendship circle, etc), YA characters’ focus is growing broader and they’re often looking beyond the “here and now” to figure out where they fit into the world at large. So dropping teen characters out there into that big, crazy world is really just pushing that theme and it’s something I love exploring. As for building a brand around travel romances and how that’s helped my career, I think it’s probably still too early in said career to comment on that one, but here’s hoping it works for readers, because my 2017 YA with HarperTeen is also a travel romance (via sailboat, along the coast of Oregon and California) and I love armchair traveling as I write them. Hopefully readers feel the same as they read!

MWW: You’ll also speak at MWW on marketing your books. In promoting your books, I see you visit a lot of Girl Scout organizations. Were you a Girl Scout? 🙂

JM: I was (and my mom was my troop leader) and I loved it, but we weren’t exactly the most dedicated troop. I have a rather sad collection of badges and some memories of begging my dad to take my cookie order form to work with him so I wouldn’t have to go door-to-door!

MWW: What is the biggest mistake you see authors make when it comes to marketing?

JM: I have two, both of which I am sometimes guilty of as well!

The first is overestimating the general public’s interest and enthusiasm level (even within the book community) when it comes to book promotions and contests. Does someone have to follow ten steps to enter your contest, or cut and paste complicated links into Rafflecopter to demonstrate they’ve tweeted about it, or email you a picture of a receipt as proof of purchase? Sadly, nine of ten people are not going to take the time to do those things, when, for them, it’s “low stakes.” (Just like you probably don’t take the time to fill out the survey on your receipt from Michael’s/The Gap/The Olive Garden/etc for your chance to win a gift card.) Time is a hugely valuable commodity to people and anything requiring significant effort usually gets passed by, especially when there are so many other promotions competing for attention.

The second is front-loading your time and energy on a promotion, without thinking about the end result of an effort. If you spend weeks designing a teacher guide for your book, but haven’t given any thought to how/where/when you’ll get it in the hands of teachers, that’s probably not the best use of your time. Just sticking it up on your website and hoping it will be magically discovered will probably leave you disappointed in the outcome. Same with ordering thousands of postcards (or any other type of swag) without any idea of how or where you’ll use them to help promote your book… I’m a big advocate for marketer “smaller but smarter.”

 

Q&A with Christa Desir

C DesirChrista Desir writes contemporary fiction for young adults. Her novels include Fault Line and Bleed Like Me and the forthcoming Other Broken Things. She lives with her husband, three small children, and overly enthusiastic dog outside of Chicago. She has volunteered as a rape victim activist for more than ten years, including providing direct service as an advocate in hospital ERs. She also works as an editor at Samhain Publishing.

MWW Planning Committee member Cathy Shouse interviewed Christa about the sessions she will present at MWW15.

*   *   *

MWW: Please tell us your background and something about your path to getting published in YA.

CD: Well, I wrote a terrible book. It was awful. I revised it 57 times, but it was still terrible. The idea was good, but I didn’t have the first clue what I was doing. Then I started to connect with lots of people who did know. I had writing mentors and critique partners and I went to workshops and I learned how NOT TO SUCK. (Pro tip: part of this is knowing you’ll suck the first several times around and you have to keep going and practicing until you don’t suck anymore.) So, one of the workshops I went to was a writing workshop for rape survivors, and I wrote a scene in that workshop that was told from a seventeen-year-old boy’s point of view, and somehow, that voice crawled inside me and took up residence. Six months later, Fault Line was ready to go. Except it wasn’t, of course. More revision with my agent, more revision with my editor, more fixing, more trying to inch further away from sucking. And two years later, I had my first published book. Still imperfect (because there is no perfect in writing), but closer.

MWW: At MWW, you’ll be discussing how writers can use their life experiences as fodder for writing YA. You’ve written about date rape and others write about difficult topics as well, like cancer and death. Any tips for writers looking to write edgy who are without personal experience on difficult topics?

CD: Everyone has difficult personal experiences because life is messy. You don’t have to write about the world’s worst experiences to make a book meaningful and connect with readers. I took a writing class once that had us do an assignment: write about the worst thing you’ve ever done. Then we read a short story about a woman whose best friend was sick in the hospital and she couldn’t get up the courage to visit her. It wasn’t edgy, but rather soft and lovely and spoke about some very real and painful human truths. So “writing edgy” isn’t the point as much as writing something authentic that will connect you with readers. One of the books I absolutely love is The Chocolate War, which from the outside seems to be about a boy who doesn’t want to sell chocolate bars for his school. Hardly edgy. But there are so many layers to that story, so many ways that Cormier connects to readers, you realize that what may seem simple is actually quite complex. Every character is in a different kind of struggle in that book, grieving and pushing and pulling for power, and it doesn’t really have to do with chocolate at all. That authenticity is what I want writers to search for in themselves.

MWW:  What would you say is the top one, or three mistakes, people make with the genre?

CD: That’s a very BROAD question, but mostly I think people’s mistakes in writing (and life) come from trying to follow too many rules. Yes, rules exist for good reasons and there are how-to’s for everything, but each person’s journey, how they learn, how they find their voice, how they engage, that’s different, and rules are very confining. I’m one of those people who finds the line someone has drawn in the sand and will do just about anything to figure out if I can cross it. That makes for authentic writing, and authentic human-ing. To me the purpose of rules in writing is to figure out what you really care about and why things matter. Everything else is just personal preference.

MWW: In general, tell us a little about what to expect from your intensive session, and the Part II sessions. What stage should a YA writer be in to benefit most from your classes? Specifically, who is your ideal attendee for these sessions?

CD: What’s fun about my intensive is that it’s for all levels of writers, because we’re talking more about the human side of us vs. the nitty-gritty of craft. And that has a lot to do with finding your voice, figuring out what you believe and what you want to include on the page and what you don’t. I think new writers will benefit from it if they are worried about what to write, and I think seasoned writers will benefit from it if they’re wanting to push themselves a little out of their comfort zone.

MWW: Do you have any advice or general thought for those who want to break into YA?

CD: Write more, read more, listen to people’s stories, have a rich and full life, make friends with other writers, stay out of Twitter drama, fail boldly, repeat.

MWW: In trying to get to know you a bit better, what is a surprising or unique aspect of who you are, either personal- or business-wise, something that would serve as an icebreaker if we were to meet?

CD: I’m made up of many flavors. I do roller derby, and work with rape survivors, and edit erotic romance, and teach Sunday school, and am ragingly awkward and inappropriate in social situations. I’ve had a hundred jobs and am incredibly forgiving of people’s screw-ups because I mess up so frequently in my life. I do a podcast about sex and YA books with my friend Carrie Mesrobian, and the two of us have such strong Midwestern accents when we talk to each other that it sounds like a dirty girl version of “Prairie Home Companion.”

MWW: Would you like to add anything else?  Please let us know some places to connect online. Twitter handle? FB address? Website? Other?

Website: www.christadesir.com

Twitter: @ChristaDesir

FB: https://www.facebook.com/ChristaDesirAuthor

Interview with Daniel José Older

Older PhotoDaniel José Older is a Brooklyn-based writer, editor and composer. Following the release of his ghost noir collection, Salsa Nocturna,  Publisher’s Weekly declared Daniel a rising star of the genre. He facilitates workshops on storytelling, music, and anti-oppression organizing at schools, community organizations and universities. His short stories and essays have appeared in Gawker, BuzzFeed Books,Salon, The Chicago Sun Times, The New Haven Review,Tor, PANK, Strange Horizons, and Crossed Genres among other publications. He’s co-editing the anthology,  Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History, and his forthcoming urban fantasy novel The Half Resurrection Blues, the first of a trilogy, will be released by Penguin’s Roc imprint. His first YA novel, Shadowshaper, comes out in 2015. You can find his thoughts on writing, read his ridiculous ambulance adventures, and hear his music at ghoststar.net/ and@djolder.

MWW intern and agent assistant Sarah Hollowell interviewed Daniel José Older:

MWW: You’re running an intensive session in Part I of the workshop called “Young Adult Literature and the Mechanics of Plot.” Are there any themes that you consider to be unique to YA, or more commonly found in the genre?

DJO: In YA, we’re looking at very specific kinds of crises–the turning point is so often that complicated moment when a young person takes the first step toward adulthood. It’s ripe for literature because it’s always such a truly intense, emotional time and the struggle to take that step, whether dramatized by dragons, cancer, or a breakup, is truly a momentous one.

MWW: Your first session of Part II is about writing the “Other,” an important topic that has been getting more attention with the rising cry from the literary world that #WeNeedDiverseBooks. What do you think is the biggest mistake writers make when trying to write outside their experience?

DJO: Both in these discussions and in our story-craft, we too often ignore power. Power is a fascinating, dynamic, and complex topic that really can only strengthen our writing, but folks dip and dodge around the nitty gritty of it. Why? Because it’s uncomfortable, it’s hard to talk about. It’s messy. And we’re not taught to analyze power with much depth, rarely in high school and college, almost never in MFA programs and writing workshops. But power is what makes conflict great, and conflict lays the backbone of story. To really get real about writing about the “other” requires us to get uncomfortable.

MWW: On a similar vein, you have a session on using worldbuilding as a vehicle for addressing social justice themes without being preachy. How do you combat criticism that says books shouldn’t be used for social justice, preachy or not?

DJO: Oh! I ignore it.

MWW: Your last session is on the ever-changing world of speculative fiction. Are there any types of speculative fiction stories that you are just tired of seeing and reading right now?

DJOTired of seeing white men save the world. Tired of seeing the One Special Chosen One narratives. Tired of same-ol’ stereotypes of folks of color. Tired of the idea that a single, simple move will solve all the world’s problems. Tired of heteronormativity. Tired of women only being written as passive, quirky, or hyper-sexual. Tired of lazy worldbuilding. Instead, I’m excited for all the counternarratives and new motifs the world has in store as we open up new spaces for unheard voices.

During Part I of the workshop, Daniel will be teaching Young Adult Literature and the Mechanics of Plot.

<ONLY A HANDFUL OF OPENINGS REMAIN! REGISTER SOON!>

During Part II, he’ll be teaching: Fundamentals of Writing “the Other”; Context The Changemaker: Using Worldbuilding To Address Social Justice Themes; and Writing Speculative Fiction.

Interview with Barbara Shoup

Barb ShoupBarbara Shoup is the author of seven novels and the co-author of two books about the creative process. Her young adult novels, Wish You Were Here and Stranded in Harmony were selected as American Library Association Best Books for Young Adults. Vermeer’s Daughter was a School Library Journal Best Adult Book for Young Adults. She is the recipient of numerous grants from the Indiana Arts Council, two creative renewal grants from the Arts Council of Indianapolis, the 2006 PEN Phyllis Naylor Working Writer Fellowship, and the 2012 Eugene and Marilyn Glick Regional Indiana Author Award. Currently, she is the executive director of the Writers’ Center of Indiana. Her most recent novel is An American Tune.

MWW social media intern Rachael Heffner interviewed Barb for this week’s E-pistle.

Rachael: Your intensive at MWW is called Writing YA: Think Like a Teenager. I know you don’t want to give too much away, but can you give one tip on how to “think like a teenager”?

Barbara: That teenage person is still there, inside every one of us. If you’re like me, you can’t help thinking like a teenager, at least some of the time. If you’ve forgotten how to think like a teenager, this workshop will take you right back to that time in your life and put you in touch with the emotional perspective you need to get a YA novel right.

Rachael: You write both YA and adult novels. What’s the biggest difference for you in terms of writing these types of books, or is there a difference?

Barbara: I don’t consciously choose to write one or the other. I write the novels that seem possible to write–some of them are made of ideas that reflect the complexity of adult life; others, the rawness and self-absorption of adolescence. They are equally interesting to me and equally challenging. In several cases, novels that started out as adult novels became YA novels in process when I realized that the strongest voices and most compelling stories were those of the younger characters.

Rachael: You are quite a busy woman. You are Executive Director at the Indiana Writers Center. You’ve just published a new novel called An American Tune. Most writers have to struggle to balance family, work, and writing. How do you do it?

Barbara: I’m extremely fortunate to love everything I do. Everything is of a piece to me and everything feeds my writing, one way or another. Still, it’s a constant struggle to keep everything in balance. Usually I write for a few hours early each morning. Sometimes I escape for a week or so to a quiet place and work nonstop, which is heaven. That said, there are plenty of times when I get overwhelmed and find my real life creeping into the time I need for fiction–which is not a good thing because when I don’t write, I’m just not okay. So I try to catch myself when I feel things getting out of whack. Years ago I read this in a women’s magazine–probably about dieting, but it seemed dead on in terms of everything: “Discipline is remembering what you want.” I want to be a writer, so I choose it whenever I can. Slowly, the pages pile up.

Barb’s Part II sessions (Friday and Saturday) include:

  • The Particular Problems of Critiquing and Revising the Novel. Whether you work with a critique partner or regularly submit your novel to a workshop group, the process of critiquing a novel is completely different from critiquing a short story. Novels take a long time to write, they change as you write them, it’s hard to hold them in your head. And when you finally finish that first draft, how in the world are you supposed to look at it? This class will provide practical strategies for getting the useful insights from your readers, identifying problems in your novel, and creating a list of very specific issues you need to address to bring it closer to the novel you want it to be.
  • Historical Fiction. Would you like to live in another time, by way of writing fiction?  This class will provide an overview of the practical considerations of writing historical fiction, addressing such questions as: Where do you start? How do you keep your research from overwhelming the story? How true to the historical facts must you remain? How can you create characters true to the standards and knowledge of their time? And more.
  • Publishing in a Brave New World Panel: Sarah LaPolla, Roxane Gay, Barb Shoup, Jane Friedman, D.E. Johnson

News from agent Kathleen Ortiz

New Leaf Literary & Media

Great news: Joanna Stampfel-Volpe (MWW faculty in 2009) has opened up her own agency, and Kathleen Ortiz has joined her.

Formation of new agency

Kathleen Ortiz is the Subsidiary Rights Director and Literary Agent at New Leaf Literary & Media, Inc. On the children’s side, she is interested in acquiring all genres of YA (she especially gravitates to darker YA), but would specifically love a beautifully told story set within another culture (historical or modern, in the vein of Blood Diamond or Memoirs of a Geisha). She’s also looking for darker middle grade for older kids (especially in the vein of Labyrinth). On the adult side, she’s looking for lifestyle or technology non-fiction, as well as urban fantasy or paranormal romance. Please, no picture books, chapter books or adult books outside of romance.

She represents Jaime Reed’s Cambion Chronicles (Kensington), Dawn Rae Miller’s Larkstorm, Sarah Fine’s Sanctum (Marshall Cavendish / Oct ’12), who also writes as S.E. Fine for Scan (Putnam for Young Readers, coauthored with Walter Jury / Fall ’13), as well as Disney and Sony animator Dan Haring and Betty Crocker recipe writer Bree from BakedBree.com.

Find Kathleen on Twitter or visit her blog for more information or updates on the publishing industry.

Erica O’Rourke’s Secret to Finding a Strong Voice

MWW Committee Member Cathy Day talks with faculty member Erica O’Rourke, who will teach a Part I Intensive entitled “YA Double Header: Strategies for Crafting Compelling Young Adult Novels,” as well as short sessions during Part II on critique partners, the life/work balance, and tricks of the trilogy.

O'RourkeErica is a former high school English teacher who has lived in the Chicago area her entire life. She is the 2010 winner of the Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart® contest for Best Young Adult Manuscript.  Torn, the first book in the Torn Trilogy, was the launch title for Kensington Books’ KTeen line. When she’s not writing, Erica enjoys reading, watching Doctor Who, and keeping her three daughters and two cats in line – with the help of her exceedingly patient husband, who doesn’t like Doctor Who at all. She loves sushi but hates fish, and drinks far too much coffee. The second book in her trilogy, Tangled, was released in February 2012, and the third, Bound, will launch June 26, 2012.Bound bk cvr

 

Q: Your intensive will feature strategies related finding a strong, distinctive YA voice. What does that term, “voice,” mean to you, and why is it important?

One of the things that characterizes YA today is a strong narrative voice, whether you’re writing in first person or third. It requires that you get inside the skin of your character and perceive the world as they do. Everything that occurs in the story needs to be filtered through their experiences — if they come from a small village, they shouldn’t talk about the subway expertly, for example, but they might think in terms of nature metaphors. A character who’s an athlete might view everything as a competition; a character who’s a brilliant student might view every conflict as a test. (Those are gross oversimplifications, of course, but they provide a starting point — you’ll refine as you write, and even more in revision.)

Q: I like that that phrase, “filter through their experiences,” because I’ve noticed that many of my students write as if they are watching their characters, when instead they have to be their characters.  

Yes, deep point of view is really tricky, and truth be told, one of the reasons I prefer writing in first person.

Q: Can you give us one tip, one trick you use for getting inside characters and finding their voice that’s worked for you? How did you find Mo’s voice? I’ll even share one of my own tricks: I imagine my character posting Facebook status updates or tweeting to figure out her voice.

My favorite quick-and-dirty trick to get to know a character — or to build one — is to plan out his or her class schedule. By the time they’re juniors or seniors, kids have a fair amount of flexibility in their coursework: they can take a variety of core classes depending on their career goals, and their elective choices number in the billions. So, I typically download the course handbook from the sort of school my heroine is attending, whether it’s a Catholic all-girls school or one that’s small and rural. I decide what their post-high school plans are: prestigious university? work? backpacking across Europe? Once I know that, I fill in the classes I think they’d take, paying special attention to the electives. A student who takes a lot of speech and drama electives is going to have a more assured, confident voice. Someone who takes a lot of computer science electives is going to have a more logical voice. Again, these are broad strokes. You don’t want your protagonist sounding like Spock just because they’re taking a programming class, but knowing this about them gives you a filter, and you can decide how much you want the filter to apply. You can also use this to make your characters voice and situation more complex: If you have someone who’s taking Principles of Accounting AND Interpretive Dance, it’s pretty clear that something’s up on the home front. That tension should show up in the way she views the world, and herself, and her interactions with other people.

Do you have to stick to your schedule? Not at all. You can use this even if you’re writing a book set completely outside of a high school, if you want – if you’re writing a sci-fi book set in outer space, envision what they’d study: Fitness in Zero Gravity; Airlock Maintenance; AP Klingon History. The key is to use this schedule to understand your protagonist better, to really internalize how they view the world and then apply that to your writing.

Q: As soon as you signed on to teach at MWW, I ordered Torn and tore through it, and a few months later, read Tangled with just as much anticipation. I’m really looking forward to Bound and seeing how the trilogy resolves. Here’s the question I’ve wanted to ask you for awhile: on your website, you say you “write books about girls who make their own fate and fall for boys they shouldn’t,” and I think it’s really important that your books do both those things. Why is it important as a YA author to strike that balance, and how do you do it?

I think the balance is important in YA because to focus exclusively on either one risks making the characters stagnant or unrelatable. If the entire storyline is about the relationship between a protagonist and their love interest, with no thought to the repercussion it has on the rest of their life, you’re looking at a character that won’t really grow or change, because that relationship is only one aspect of their life. And it’s not realistic, because even though teenagers might feel that the relationship they’re in is The Most Important Thing In The World, they’re accustomed to pressure and conflict in all areas of their life: school, parents, friends, jobs, sports, etc. Similarly, a character who pursues a goal single-mindedly, who doesn’t care about the people and events around her, is neither sympathetic or realistic.

Q: That’s a really good way to put it: it’s more realistic for a character to care about both Life and Love. Mo isn’t just “torn” about which guy to choose. She’s also torn about what she wants out of life, right?

For me, the key was to make sure that each boy represented a potential future for Mo: either a life with the Arcs, and the dangers inherent in that, or a life in Chicago, negotiating a truce with the Mob. I don’t want to spoil Bound for you, but I’ll say this: Mo chooses which life she wants well before she chooses between the guys. That was always the crux of the story: Mo’s journey to determine who she wanted to be and what kind of life she wanted for herself. The boys, while great fun to write, were a way of representing those choices.

Register for Erica’s Thursday (July 26) Intensive Session, “YA Double Header: Strategies for Crafting Compelling Young Adult Novels.”

(Limited class size, so don’t wait!)

JT Dutton: Writing the YA Novel

2011 Midwest Writers Workshop – “Writing the Young Adult Novel for the Young Adult at Heart” – JT Dutton. Do you have a vampire in your closet? Werewolves at your door? Or a story to tell about what it feels like to be young and full of dreams? Some novels we read, some we live. Join this intensive workshop to learn how to craft believable teen characters and write the novel you’ve been imagining ever since you first felt swept away by Catcher in the Rye or Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. The workshop will focus on honing the literary elements of Young Adult fiction with special emphasis on voice, character, narrative and pace. Our discussions will not be limited to specific sub-genres of Young Adult but cover the range from romance to edgy. Be prepared to learn lots of interesting new writing strategies.

Success story: Veronica Roth

MWW success story!

During our 2009 MWW, agent Joanna Stampfel-Volpe of the Nancy Coffey Literary Agency met with workshop participants for pitch sessions and signed three authors as clients. In fact, Joanne now represents MWW attendee Veronica Roth who writes YA and has contracted a 3-book deal with Harper Collins Children’s books.

Veronica’s first book, Divergent, has been on the New York Times Bestseller List at #6 for three weeks!

Q & A with author Shirley Jump

Shirley Jump

Q: Young Adult fiction seems to be popular right now. What can you tell us about your next YA title?

My next YA book, The Cellar, will be out in the spring from Houghton Mifflin Graphia. It’s basically zombies with “Romeo and Juliet,” and has a little more of a love story (and older characters) than we had in The Well. It’s still got the Shakespeare theme, and this time the horror comes from the zombies next door who want to turn the heroine into a zombie and keep her forever.

Q: In addition to YA, you write romance and women’s fiction. How important is it to continue to explore new genres, including at workshops?

I read across all genres, and write in other genres when I’m not writing my primary genre, romance. That’s how the YA came about…I just happened to have a book I’d been working on, just for fun, that ended up being another genre for me to write. I think ALL genres can teach you about great pacing, strong storytelling, increasing stakes and all the tools of the trade that make for a great book. And, in my opinion, it never hurts to learn about other genres. For one, many of the storytelling techniques are the same and you can bring those lessons across to your own writing, and for another, you never know where you might end up in a few years. So having that knowledge in your back pocket, so to speak, can be handy.

Q: Please give us a sneak preview of the topic you will be addressing at the closing banquet for MWW 2010.

I’ll be talking about Secrets to Success–basically how to take everything you learn at a conference and how to use it to create success from that day forward, as well as how to keep being successful even in a competitive publishing environment.