Motivation Vs. Vacation

A version of this post originally appeared on the YA Buccaneers group blog. 


I don't know about you, but I always find it difficult to feel motivated to work in mid-August. Maybe it's the heat. Maybe it's that perpetual almost-back-to-school feeling. Maybe it's everyone's beachy photos on social media. Maybe it's the fact that I'll soon be at the beach myself. 

[Note: this post is from 2016, but we will in fact be beaching again, little person in tow, in a few weeks! Just you wait for the baby swimsuit photos...sorry-not-sorry in advance. And for the record, while this summer has been a crash-course in new-parenthood, most summers I'm writing and promoting my work just as hard—if not harder!—than the rest of the year.] 

Whatever the case, there's no question that I could use a vacation. 

But here's the thing about being a writer, full-time or otherwise: it can be hard to let yourself take a vacation from the work. There's the sense of obligation—this book isn't going to write itself. There's how productive everyone else seems to be. There's the fear of missing out, of being left behind by writers who have more book deals and whose careers are progressing faster. And of course there's the guilt: if I'm not doing everything I can to help myself succeed, I'll have only myself to blame if I fail. 

Needing time off can feel like weakness. Taking a break can feel like quitting. 

So here's the reminder, for myself as much as for all of you who are in the trenches with me:

Rest is important. Vacations are important. Time spent not writing is important. 

But when should you indulge in time off? Deadlines permitting, I'd say...

1: When you finish a draft. 

After you type "The End," is your first instinct to scroll back to page one and start editing? What would happen if you saved and closed the document, instead? What if you spent the rest of the day lounging at the pool, or catching up on Netflix, or reading a book? 

Taking a few days or weeks away from a project when a draft is done isn't just good for your brain; it can also be good for the manuscript! Time off can give you the space and distance you need to assess your work more clearly. You might pick up on plot holes, character inconsistencies, and even typos that you'd miss if you dove back in without pausing to catch your breath.  

2: When you send out or turn in a draft. 

When you send a manuscript to your editor, your agent, or beta readers/critique partners, you probably aren't going to immediately start tinkering with it. But what about those other projects that have been waiting patiently for your attention? Should you shift gears right away? 

Your mileage may vary, but I've found that this is one of the best times to take a brief writing hiatus. When I sent a YA WIP off to my agent last July, I'd planned to jump right into the MG fantasy rewrite I'd been anxious about starting. But after two days of feeling paralyzed by the blank page, I realized I needed to give my brain an actual break. I told myself, You'll start the MG on Monday morning. Then I devoted some time to all of the things that can fall by the wayside during intense revision periods. I took on some additional freelance work. I cleaned the apartment. I cooked some delicious meals for myself and my husband. I took extra yoga and dance classes. 

I went a week without creative writing, and it didn't kill me. In fact, when I opened the MG document again, I felt refreshed and was able to hit the ground running. 

3: When you're hitting your head against the wall. 

I'm a firm believer in "the only way out is through." Most of the time, when I'm stuck on a chapter or scene, I'll find a way to get something down on the page. I'll jump ahead a few scenes. I'll sketch an outline that has actions but no emotions, or vice versa. But what about those times when forward progress feels completely impossible? 

This is, I think, when it's hardest to step away from the computer. The stubbornness kicks in. You don't want to let the manuscript defeat you, even if writing is like squeezing blood from a stone. 

So...make yourself take a break. Walk around the neighborhood. Do dishes. Work out. And if your head doesn't feel clearer in an hour, give yourself the rest of the day. Or a couple of days. That stumbling block will still be there when you return—and with any luck, the time off will help it look less like a mountain you can't climb and more like a stepping stone you can use to reach the next level. 

What about you? When do you find it best to take a step back from your writing? How do you find the balance between staying motivated and giving yourself permission to let go? Chime in in the comments! 

Enjoy the rest of your summer!


Friday Five: Can't-Miss Books from Kerry Kletter and Jeff Zentner

It's Friday again! It's been a pretty good week here—how've you been? 

Anyway, here's my Friday Five: 

1) I've (almost) made it to the end of the 30-Day Shred! (Today is Day 29, for those of you keeping count...) Four weeks ago, this exercise challenge seemed incredibly daunting. And I won't lie—it hasn't been easy, especially on the days when I had to get up early in order to fit a workout into my busy schedule. (Getting up early *and* working out...blech.) Anyway, I'm proud to say I haven't missed a day. :) 

2) Books: I read two incredible ones this week...and the authors happen to be each other's critique partners! (I also got to see both of them at the NYC Teen Author Festival last week, which was so much fun.)

Kerry Kletter's debut THE FIRST TIME SHE DROWNED is a lush, lyrical book about a girl who's trying to rebuild herself after a two-and-a-half-year stint in a mental institution. Upon release, Cassie heads straight to college, but unsurprisingly has a hard time adjusting to her new circumstances—never mind dealing with renewed attention from her mother, who's the one who checked her into the hospital against her will in the first place. Cassie's mother is magnetic and charming and self-absorbed and cruel, and Cassie is so tempted to fall back into her orbit, even as she remembers all of the abuse and neglect that led to her current fragile state. This is a heartbreaking and hopeful story, beautifully written and extremely hard to put down, not unlike the next book in this post...


Jeff Zentner's debut THE SERPENT KING was always going to be right up my alley, with its small-town Tennessee setting and its distinctly southern prose and sensibility. But man, did I love this book. It's about three misfits: Dill, the son of a disgraced Pentecostal snake-handling preacher; Lydia, who's Internet-famous for her fashion and lifestyle blog; and Travis, who's so obsessed with a Game of Thrones-esque fantasy book series he actually carries a staff. Their mutual outcast status brought them together, but it's senior year, and Lydia's planning to get as far away as she can for college—her top choice is NYU—while Dill feels his small life closing in around him. (Travis just wants to stay out of his drunk father's way.) Full disclosure: this book made me cry. But it also made my heart sing. It's sad and sweet and thoughtful and gut-wrenching and lovely. 

3) On the topic of my own writing: it was a fun week, because I got to write a lot of kissing! Spoiler: my first two books (THE DISTANCE BETWEEN LOST AND FOUND and HOW IT FEELS TO FLY) don't have much in the way of making out. This new project, on the other hand...there's a fair bit of smooching, at least in the chapters I've been working on lately. But don't worry—my characters won't remain in that happy kissing place for much longer...*evil laugh*

4) Husband and I are heading to Philadelphia tonight to celebrate his mom's birthday. It will be nice to see family, even if only for 24 hours! 

5) Ahh, NYC spring...

Friday Five: WIP Goals, Author Events, Music, and More

I think I jinxed us when I gushed about the weather last week. I just checked the 10-day forecast to discover that NYC is supposed to get SNOW on Sunday. It's 60 degrees right now (Thursday evening). Bah. 

But with that gripe out of the way, it's been a pretty cool week. Here's my Friday Five! 

1) I passed 75,000 words on my manuscript-in-progress! Given that the book was hovering around 55K when I wrote "The End" on the first draft in January, I'm pretty pleased with my forward momentum. Can I get to the end in the next month or so? How many more words do I need? Stay tuned... 

2) It's been a fantastic NYC Teen Author Festival so far! I went to an author event at the New York Public Library on Monday evening and another at Dixon Place last night, and participated in a group author visit with GED students yesterday morning. That presentation was definitely a highlight of the whole week. The students asked wonderful questions about writing and publishing and inspiration...and our favorite movie stars and films. I love interacting with readers! 

3) It hasn't all been book-stuff this week. I also managed to squeeze in my friend Kohli Calhoun's latest performance. She's a talented singer-songwriter who's releasing a new album this spring, and trust me—you will be hearing more about her from me once that comes out. For now, you can access a free EP on her website, which I linked to above. 

4) The sprained ankle is on the mend. Still a little sore, but nothing I can't handle. 

5) HOW IT FEELS TO FLY got its first trade review this week! This particular reviewing outlet, Kirkus, is notoriously snarky, so I'm relieved to have had two books make it through the Kirkus gauntlet unscathed. Here's a spoiler-free snippet of the review: 

"Holmes concentrates on demonstrating the benefits of therapy, dissecting Samantha’s emotions, and depicting her increasing strength in overcoming her traumas and her difficult relationship with her obsessive mother. The book winds up as almost a paean to clinical psychology, but it should resonate with driven readers and those with their own body issues."

Less than three months until HOW IT FEELS TO FLY hits bookshelves. Eek! That's a scary/good thing for another post... 

Did you have a good week? 


Friday Five: Taking a Deep Breath

The absolute best thing about the past week has been the lull in my freelance work schedule. It was pretty hairy there for a month! (That's what happens when you say "yes" to just about every assignment you're offered...) So, the Friday Five has to start with: 

1) Having time to get everything done each day, without feeling freaked out or overwhelmed. Plus extra time for my current book-in-progress! I'm probably halfway through this first-draft/first-revision—it's a mix of new writing and revising—and I'm starting to sound like a broken record for how much I'm in love with this project. 

2) Next, a pat on the back: last Friday, I started the 30-Day Shred. After a cold, comfort-food-filled winter (and, frankly, a sedentary and junk-food-filled 2015), I wanted to see if I could reboot my body and rebuild my cardio endurance a bit. But here's the thing: I really don't like to exercise. I love taking dance classes and yoga classes, but the whole jogging/weights thing—not my favorite. So I am rather pumped that I've made it to Day 8 without missing a single workout, even when it was absolutely miserable. More on this next week... 

3) I've been writing on Thursday mornings with the charming and talented Lance Rubin, and yesterday, we both really enjoyed the cafe's 80s/90s classic rock Pandora station. Never mind that I was working on a very emotionally charged scene... each new tune made me smile. Phil Collins! Chicago! George Michael! Whoever it is that sings "Total Eclipse of the Heart!" It was a blast, even if the mood was all wrong for my WIP. 

4) Broadchurch season 2. Just as devastating as season 1, with the added perk of seeing the actor who plays Jarvis on Agent Carter in a *very* different context. 

5) Oh, books... I read two really lovely, inspiring books this week.

It was a pretty sure bet that I'd fall in love with Jennifer Longo's UP TO THIS POINTE. It's about a ballerina who runs away to Antarctica's McMurdo Station after realizing that her plan for her life (first up: a company contract with San Francisco Ballet) might not work out after all. The story jumps back and forth between the lead-up to Harper's fateful SFB audition and the present day at McMurdo, where she gets into Winter-Over shenanigans (there are penguins!) while also rebuilding her broken spirit. One thing I loved about this book was how unflinching it was in forcing Harper to face the facts about her future. Being passionate about something doesn't mean you're destined to find success at it—an issue I also tackle in HOW IT FEELS TO FLY—and yet having to change your life plan doesn't mean your life is over. UP TO THIS POINTE is filled with honesty and hope. 

Another sure bet: Natalie Lloyd's THE KEY TO EXTRAORDINARY. Natalie's an auto-buy for me. Her debut, A SNICKER OF MAGIC, was in my top 10 books of 2014. Her follow-up is heartfelt and heartwrenching, a winsome love song to a small mountain town and its occupants—especially protagonist Emma Pearl Casey. Every woman in Emma's family has had the Destiny Dream, and before Emma's mama passed away, she predicted that Emma would discover her destiny at a young age. The last thing Emma expects is for her dream to ask her to find buried treasure, but with the future of her Granny Blue's Boneyard Cafe on the line, she gathers her friends and goes treasure-hunting. This book has ghosts and magical flowers, laughter and music and love, and there were definitely a couple moments that made me tear up. I adored it.

What's got you smiling this week?



I’m a big believer in finding the right music to write to—and what’s perfect for one book often won’t work at all for the next. For THE DISTANCE BETWEEN LOST AND FOUND, getting my writing playlist together took a little trial and error. The book is set in East Tennessee, specifically in the Smoky Mountains, so I needed songs with a southern, bluegrass feel. But the main character, Hallie, is a singer, and her tastes drift more toward the singer-songwriter spectrum. I wanted to make sure her artistic voice was present. And finally, Hallie and her friends are on a youth group retreat when they get lost in the mountains, which meant I needed at least a couple spiritual songs mixed in. A few weeks and one carefully curated Pandora station later, I had a selection of music that never failed to get me inspired to work on the book.

Because it’s all music I love, I thought I’d celebrate THE DISTANCE BETWEEN LOST AND FOUND’s (almost) six-week birthday by sharing a curated playlist with you. These songs will give you a glimpse into my process, as well as a glimpse into Hallie’s mind and heart. As an added bonus, this playlist roughly follows the arc of the story, so if you listen while you read, you might find that certain songs line up pretty nicely with specific scenes!

Want to learn more about why I chose each song? I’ve annotated the playlist below. But be warned—there are a few light plot spoilers!





So here we go!

1) “Elastic Heart” by Sia

Okay, I admit it—this song wasn’t around when I was first writing THE DISTANCE BETWEEN LOST AND FOUND. That said, “Elastic Heart” completely captures Hallelujah Calhoun at the start of the book: angry and angsty and ready to snap.

2) “The Weight of Lies” by The Avett Brothers

I discovered The Avett Brothers while writing DISTANCE, and this song is one of my favorites of theirs. I love the wistfulness of the singer’s voice, the sense of wishing for things to be different. As far as the book goes, Hallie is clearly suffering under the weight of all the lies people have been telling about her, and she feels like she can’t break free. 

3) “Poison and Wine” by The Civil Wars

I was obsessed with The Civil Wars while I was working on DISTANCE, and to me, this song is made for Hallie and Jonah. It’s their former closeness and their current distance, the harmony and the hurt all wrapped up together. Plus, I can imagine the two of them performing this song as a duet…

4) “When Your Mind’s Made Up” from the Once soundtrack

Hallie loves the soundtrack to Once; it's one of the albums she shared with Jonah, back when they were friends. The chorus of "When Your Mind's Made Up" pinpoints how Hallie is feeling about Jonah—and all of her former friends—during the first few chapters: "When your mind's made up / There's no point trying to change it." I also hear the storm that opens the third day in the swirling emotion as this song builds and builds. 

5) “Wash.” by Bon Iver

After Hallie and Jonah fight under the tree, she cries until she feels wrung out. This song is for those raw, tentative next moments when Hallie and Rachel start to open up to each other, as well as later that evening, when Hallie and Jonah start to figure out who they are to each other after everything that has happened. 

6) “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” by Sufjan Stevens

This is my favorite version of one of my favorite hymns. It’s quiet and reverent and lovely. In the imaginary movie version of DISTANCE, this song is playing while Hallie sits on the mountaintop on the morning of the fourth day, looking out over the landscape and watching the sunrise. 

7) “The Light Will Come” by Phil Wickham

The fourth day is when Hallie really starts to feel like things can change—she can change—and this song echoes that hopeful feeling. “Lift your eyes, the sun has overcome the night / Come alive…” 

8) “Locked Up” by Ingrid Michaelson

Ingrid Michaelson is one of Hallie’s favorite artists, so this playlist had to include her! This song represents Hallie deciding whether to trust Jonah and Rachel with her story. There are so many spot-on lyrics: “I have taken a wrong turn / When will I learn? When will I learn? / Should I show them all my scars?” 

9) “The Kiss” from The Last of the Mohicans soundtrack

The Last of the Mohicans was the first soundtrack I listened to over and over…and over. While writing DISTANCE, I kept returning to it when I needed to feel just as lost in the woods as my characters. “The Kiss” provides the perfect backdrop for Hallie, Jonah, and Rachel’s late-night soul-baring on the fourth day. 

10) “Tomorrow Is a Long Time” by Nickel Creek

The fifth day starts with a few happy surprises—not the least of which is the renewed ease between Hallie and Jonah. This song is Jonah in the creek. It's the three of them with food in their bellies. It's Hallie's feeling that anything—good things—can happen. 

11) “Everything Has Changed” by William Fitzsimmons

Pay no attention to the lyrics, aside from that critical “Everything has changed.” The song may be about a man’s relationship with his father, but the melody and William Fitzsimmons’ soft, wistful voice feel just right for Hallie’s changing, opening heart on the fifth day. 

12) “The Story” by Brandi Carlile

It’s not in the text, but I know Hallie likes Brandi Carlile. This is one of Hallie’s hiking songs on the sixth day, as she’s psyching herself up to find help and make it home. And I love the lyrics: “All of these lines across my face / Tell you the story of who I am … But these stories don’t mean anything / When you’ve got no one to tell them to…” 

13) “Where the Light Gets in” by Sennen

Pandora chose to introduce me to this song at the exact right moment: as I was writing the scene when Hallie finds the road on the sixth day. Now, I hear it in my head whenever I read that passage. The music builds and builds as Hallie walks closer and closer to rescue. 

14) “Don’t Carry It All” by The Decemberists

The seventh day! Home! Rest! Safety! When she wakes up in the hospital, Hallie finally lets go of the burdens she’s been carrying and decides to move on. (And yes, Hallie definitely listens to The Decemberists…) 

15) “Hard Times” by Eastmountainsouth

The “closing credits” song. It starts playing when Hallie and Jonah are together in the hospital, staring out the window at the mountains in the distance. "It's a song, a sigh of the weary / Hard times, hard times, come again no more / Many days you have lingered around my cabin door / Oh, hard times, come again no more."  

Fade to black. :)

My Word for 2015 Is...

Happy New Year, everyone! Can you believe it's 2015?! How crazy is that? I feel like I've been waiting for it to be 2015 for so long, and now… well, my book comes out in six weeks. So if I seem overwhelmed and flustered and exhilarated and stressed all at once in the next couple months, you know the reason why. 

My fellow YA Buccaneer Bridgid Gallagher painted me this watercolor postcard, and it's been hanging above my desk for a year!

My fellow YA Buccaneer Bridgid Gallagher painted me this watercolor postcard, and it's been hanging above my desk for a year!

For the past two years, instead of making a list of resolutions, I've chosen a single word to represent my goals for the year. In 2013, I selected PATIENCE. My aim was to help myself be okay with my publishing path taking longer than I'd wanted and to remind myself that what mattered was writing the best possible book I could write, the book only I could write. In 2014, I chose MOMENTUM. With my debut novel on its way to publication, I wanted to keep working hard and pushing forward, not resting on my laurels or taking a second book deal for granted.

In both cases, having a single word to focus on helped keep me grounded and on track throughout the year. So obviously, I was going to try for a third successful Word of the Year in 2015. After much deliberation, I've picked...

I've been thinking a lot about gratitude lately. Frankly, I have so much to be grateful for at this point in my life. 

I'm grateful that my debut novel is releasing in February. I'm grateful to be surrounded by friends and family who are almost as excited about my book coming out as I am. I'm grateful for my talented, supportive editor, who pushes me to be better, and for my enthusiastic agent, who helps me dream big. I'm grateful for the rest of the folks at HarperTeen, who have turned my Microsoft Word document into a real, live book that I will get to hold in just a few weeks. I'm grateful for the people who taught me to write, who fostered my passion for reading and writing, who critique and comment on my works-in-progress, who bounce ideas back and forth with me endlessly. To all of you who've helped me get to the here and now, I'm so, so grateful. 

I'll stop there, because as you can probably tell, I could go on and on. And the paragraph above is just the book stuff! (Did I mention my husband specifically? Justin, I am beyond grateful for you. Every single day.) So why did I pick this as my word for the entire year? In short, because no matter how grateful I feel as I'm writing this, I know I will still constantly need the reminder. 

When I'm freaking out about my revisions for my next book, I want to remember to be grateful that I get to write another book for publication. I'm lucky to be doing a job I love. I'm lucky that people seem to want to read the stories I create. When I'm fretting about less-than-stellar reviews or lists that my book isn't on, I want to take a step back and think about the people who have told me my book touched them. When I'm getting too caught up in the big scary craziness of What Happens Next—Will people actually buy this thing I wrote? Will I sell another book? Am I running out of ideas? Do I actually have what it takes to be an author?—I want to try to think about the things that make me happy and hopeful and grateful. As cheesy as it sounds, in 2015 I want to live in the moment and enjoy every bit of what I've accomplished.

(And yes, I'm still trying to be patient with myself and my work and to keep up my momentum moving forward…) 

Did you choose a word for 2015? Share it in the comments! 

And once more, happiest of new years to you all! 


So ... I Have News!

Perhaps you've been wondering what I've been up to lately. Why I haven't posted much about writing in a while. Why I've seemed unusually busy and flustered and fuzzy-headed and overwhelmed for the past month or so. Why I haven't been answering your emails and texts in a timely fashion. I've been hard at work on … *drum roll* … MY NEXT BOOK!! 

I sold my second book over the summer, and have been busy finishing and polishing my first draft to turn in to my editor. Which I did, on Wednesday.(Cue the fanfare and confetti and imminent collapse from exhaustion in my messy apartment.) Now that the first draft is in my editor's hands, I've been given permission to shout about the new book deal from the social media rooftops—and that's exactly what I intend to do!

This calls for a gif:

dancedanceHere's what you need to know about Book Two, which will be coming your way from HarperTeen in Summer 2016:

Everything's Beautiful is about a 16-year-old ballet dancer, Sam, who struggles with body image issues. After suffering a severe panic attack before her studio's spring concert, Sam is sent to an anxiety camp for elite teen artists and athletes to work through her issues with professional counseling and peer support. She initially resists treatment—in part because the camp conflicts with the summer ballet intensive she's supposed to be attending. Then she hits it off with Andrew, a former college football player who is one of her camp counselors. But is the connection between the two of them just about therapy, or could it lead to something more? And if Sam can't come to terms with the pain and anxiety she's been feeling, is her dance career over before it even begins?

I'm thrilled to have Alexandra Cooper as my editor once again! Alex helped make The Distance Between Lost and Found into a finished product I am so, so proud of, and I know she'll do the same with Everything's Beautiful. And of course I have to give a shout-out to my agent, Alyssa Henkin, who believed in this project from the first time I mentioned writing a book about a ballet dancer who didn't have the ideal body, and who encouraged me to discover the story I needed to tell.

So … that's the exciting news I've been keeping secret for a few months! Yay! :)



Going Behind the Scenes to Celebrate BEHIND THE SCENES!

  BehindtheScenesBlogTour3DahliaAdler (533x640)I'm excited to be part of the blog tour celebrating Dahlia Adler's YA debut Behind the Scenes, which releases today! I met Dahlia online (through my friend Ghenet), and I can honestly say she is one of my social media idols. Not only are her tweets constantly cracking me up, she's also a passionate and prolific blogger and a die-hard advocate for YA literature and its authors. I was able to attend her super-fun book release party last night, and I am now the proud owner of my very own autographed copy of Behind the Scenes! I started it last night, and so far, I'm in love.

Learn more about Dahlia on her website and blog.

Here's what you need to know about Behind the Scenes:

behind-the-scenes-adler-coverHigh school senior Ally Duncan's best friend may be the Vanessa Park—star of TV's hottest new teen drama—but Ally's not interested in following in her BFF's Hollywood footsteps. In fact, the only thing Ally’s ever really wanted is to go to Columbia and study abroad in Paris. But when her father's mounting medical bills threaten to stop her dream in its tracks, Ally nabs a position as Van's on-set assistant to get the cash she needs.

Spending the extra time with Van turns out to be fun, and getting to know her sexy co-star Liam is an added bonus. But when the actors’ publicist arranges for Van and Liam to “date” for the tabloids just after he and Ally share their first kiss, Ally will have to decide exactly what role she's capable of playing in their world of make believe. If she can't play by Hollywood's rules, she may lose her best friend, her dream future, and her first shot at love.


In honor of her book's release, Dahlia has asked a bunch of people to give a "behind the scenes" glimpse into our own lives. All of the YA Buccaneers are sharing info about our writing spaces and routines this week. (My post is HERE! Read about the other Buccaneers' writing spots HEREHERE, and HERE.) So, I figured for my personal blog I'd branch out and take a look at the other big passion in my life: dance!

I've written a little bit about being a contemporary dancer, and have shared some recent performance photos (for instance, HERE and HERE), but I haven't gotten down to the nitty gritty. And before you freak out and run away at the idea of seeing my dancer-feet up close and personal, I promise that I'm keeping the calluses and bunions under wraps! There are a few things that just don't need to be photographed and shared on my blog. :)

Let's kick things off with a shot of me sophomore year in high school. This is from an outdoor performance my ballet company did at the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina. (It ended up pouring down rain, thus the tent.) We were dancing to a selection of choral pieces by Brahms, sung live. Even (*ahem ahem*) years later, this is still one of my favorite performance memories!


Flash forward: I haven't taken a ballet class in a couple of years, and I keep meaning to get back to the barre. I do, however, take between two and four modern/contemporary dance classes a week, depending on my schedule and my mood. (I also take a yoga class or two a week, and all of that plus writing books and writing for work equals a pretty packed schedule.) Why do I keep at it? It isn't just that I love to perform, and need to stay in good shape to look my best onstage. It's also that I'm more productive with my writing if I take a break to fit in movement at some point in the middle of the day. Dancing takes me out of my head and puts me in my body. When class is over, I'm able to sit back down at the computer exhilarated, refreshed, and ready to focus. (And sweaty. Sorry, fellow coffee shop patrons!)

One of my favorite teachers, with whom I've been training pretty regularly since 2008, is Diane McCarthy. She was kind enough to let me take some photos in her class at the Mark Morris Dance Center in Brooklyn a few weeks ago. Yes, they're a little blurry. But this is behind the scenes, after all!


The new book I'm working on is about a teen dancer, which means all of my professional worlds are finally coming together. I'm drawing on my own experiences in the dance studio—especially my teen years performing with a regional ballet company—as well as things I've learned as a dance magazine editor and freelance dance writer over the past decade. I can paint my character's emotions, her physical sensations, and her studio environment on the page, because I've been there—and because I'm still there, as often as possible. Despite everything the character is going through in the book, I hope my love for dance shines through.

So there's your glimpse behind the scenes! Buy Dahlia's book!

And who am I kidding? It's not a behind-the-scenes-in-the-dance-studio post without a picture of my feet. But because I love and respect you all, I kept the socks on.

This is what I do to socks.


End of May, End of Bootcamp, Start of…?

I can't believe it's almost June! I also can't believe that the three-month-long YA Buccaneers Spring Writing Bootcamp is coming to a close. Wasn't it just yesterday that we were dividing into teams and setting goals? I wrote last week that I'd pretty much accomplished my Bootcamp goals, and so there's nothing new to report on that front; I just wanted to acknowledge one more time how awesome it was, and how much the format pushed me to accomplish. I'm proud to display my survival badge: I Survived2

Since I'm taking a brief writing break before diving back into revising my various projects, you might not hear about writing for a bit—but that's probably fine, since I've written about almost nothing but writing during the Bootcamp months! Instead, I want to try to do some Friday Reads posts in the coming weeks, to catch you up on some of the amazing books I've read. And of course I'll share any other exciting news that happens in my life...

Such as how this week has been chock-full of writer-friend get-togethers. It's BEA week here in NYC (that's Book Expo America for you non-publishing folks), which means a lot of writers are converging on Manhattan to visit the Expo and sign books and do promotional appearances and such. On Wednesday evening, I went to the Teen Author Carnival, where my friend Lauren Morrill was on a panel with a bunch of other YA Contemporary authors. I may have mentioned before on the blog that I've known Lauren since high school, and that we reconnected when we both ventured into the YA author world. It's always great to see her and catch up! (And it doesn't hurt that I got to attend two fab panels at the TAC, and connect with a few published authors, and buy some books, and get those books signed…)

And then, last night, the Fearless Fifteeners had a group dinner. There were about 16 of us, some New Yorkers and others who are in town for BEA. I definitely met six or eight new faces! We talked and talked and had a blast. As I inch closer to my pub date (and I promise I'll be able to tell you when that is very soon!), I'm so thankful for all of the networking I'm able to do and the friendships I'm developing—with published, soon-to-be-published, and aspiring authors. I can't say it enough: It's so good to be reminded that we're all in the same boat. Or have been in the same boat. Or will be in the same boat.

More soon!


YAB Bootcamp Update — Awesome Things Edition

I'm home in Brooklyn after my week with family, and it feels great to be back in my routine today. I slept in my own bed, sat at my own desk with coffee brewed in my own coffeepot and drunk out of my own mug, took a lunchtime dance class, and now am at my new favorite post-dance-class cafe. Life is good! And being back to my normal life isn't the only reason life is good. Things have been pretty awesome since I checked in last week.

Awesome thing #1:

I finished my first draft of EVERYTHING'S BEAUTIFUL! I think that means I officially WON Bootcamp. :D I wrote the last chapter on Wednesday morning, at which point I did a happy dance in my sister's apartment. (Her cat was not amused at my antics…) I haven't looked at the manuscript since, and that's on purpose. I'm taking a break from this book for a few weeks so that when I am ready to revise, I'll be approaching it with fresh eyes. But it's perfect timing for me to be on a writing break because of...

Awesome thing #2:


I received my galley pages for THE DISTANCE BETWEEN LOST AND FOUND! I can't express how amazing it is to see my book laid out like a *real book,* with a font and chapter headings and section divisions and, you know, all the things actual books have. It looks so different than the Times New Roman MS Word doc I've been staring at for so long! Anyway, I have the next week and a half to scan the pages for errors, and knowing me I'll need to do more than one thorough read to feel at ease about sending the book to the printer, so… as I said, good thing I finished the new book's first draft last week.

Awesome thing #3:

Clockwise from top left: Newborn, 16 months old, 7 years old, 4 years old.

Or, if I'm being honest, awesome things #3, 4, 5, and 6: my fabulous nephews. As happy as I am to be home now, it was wonderful spending the week with all of my boys. (Plus the rest of my family: my parents, my brother and sister-in-law, my sister, my husband's parents, his sister and brother-in-law, and even brother-in-law's parents! Whew.) Here's just a little taste of what I was up to over the past week: snuggles, block towers, baby pools, baths, runny noses, dirty diapers, pajamas, picture books, storytime at the library, train sets, Legos, Spongebob Squarepants, Nintendo, laser tag, chicken fingers, sticky fruit bits (and sticky fingers!), cheese pizza, birthday cake, and the list goes on and on. I'll take my award for Super Aunt now, thanks. :)

So as Bootcamp winds down, I'm pretty much done with my writing goals. These three months have been a kick in the pants and a great morale booster. I've gotten so much done! Thanks to all of the YA Buccaneers—and everyone who participated in the Bootcamp—for giving me the encouragement I needed to push through. And here's one more shout-out to my splendiferous teammates: Winter Bayne, Riley Darkes, Emma L. Adams, Kate Scott, Angel Leigh, and Tonette de la Luna! I look forward to seeing what all of you accomplish in the future! Go Team Mazama!

team mazama final


YAB Bootcamp Check-In, Tennessee Edition

Hello, fellow Bootcampers! Just a quick note from Nashville, where I am going to spend the week doing a little writing and a little freelance work, and much more of this: kat and benton

Last week I hammered out some serious words on my WIP, and as of today I am approximately 2 1/2 chapters from the end! So… depending on the nephews' naptimes, I might even make it there this week. We shall see. Regardless, I am racing toward the finish line of this first draft. I passed 60K last week, and I know what the last two chapters need to be, so it's just a matter of writing them. Then I can officially say I have written THREE books, which is pretty darn cool!

That's all for now. More updates (and baby/toddler pictures?) to follow...


New England SCBWI Conference Recap

Last weekend, I went to the New England SCBWI conference in Springfield, MA, with my writer-buddy Ghenet Myrthil, and on Monday I promised you a quick recap…so here it is! I had a blast.

photo 1

…okay, I'll tell you a little more than that. The weekend was a great mix of networking, listening to industry experts share their wisdom, and honing my craft. On the networking side, I made a bunch of new writer friends. They crossed the spectrum from aspiring authors to those with relatively new book deals to veterans with one or more books on shelves already. We talked about our processes, our current projects, and our paths to publication. We compared notes from the different sessions we attended and talked about our lives outside of writing. And of course, I added quite a few books to my TBR (to be read) pile. The best part? Since we pretty much all followed each other on Twitter right away, I can easily keep in touch with all of them going forward.

As far as the sessions themselves, I truly lucked out in my choices. I attended some great workshops. I learned how to craft my brand as an author—without putting myself in a box. I got tips on refining my characters and on adding suspense to my narratives. I took a close look at the first page of my new work in progress, to make it the best it can be. I learned ways to draw on my personal history in my fiction without getting bogged down in "what really happened." Nova Ren Suma gave a fabulous talk on crafting a memorable first-person voice—and then signed my copy of her novel 17 & GONE. Julie Berry (who blurbed my book, something I still can't stop smiling about) and her editor Kendra Levin gave advice—and a ton of writing exercises—for getting outside of the writing comfort zone. All of that…on top of the various publishing panels that everyone attended! Is it any wonder I came home with my head spinning?

NESCBWI publishing panel—Alexandra is second from left

I also got the chance to spend a little time with my editor, Alexandra Cooper, who was on faculty at the conference. She was part of a general publishing panel, as well as doing critiques for conference participants. For me, it was great to catch up with her in kind of an informal setting, since for the time being, all of my work on THE DISTANCE BETWEEN LOST AND FOUND is done. (Though of course, I begged her for details about what's next in the process for my book…which you'll have to wait just a little longer for me to be able to share online!)

So would I go to this conference again? Definitely! It's smaller-scale and more intimate than the Los Angeles one I attended last August, while still having an array of amazing resources and workshops available for attendees. I met some awesome people and learned a lot. And it was only a short trip away from NYC!

Writers, writers everywhere...

Now… I have to start packing to go out of town again tomorrow. I'm headed home to see my family, including my brand-new nephew who was born yesterday. And I promise I'll try to get some writing done while there!


YAB Bootcamp Check-In: OMG, it's May!

How are we in month three of Bootcamp already? I truly don't know where the spring has gone. That said, the weather keeps getting nicer and nicer, so I definitely don't want to go back in time (or temperature). Plus, I'm still making great forward progress on my first draft of EVERYTHING'S BEAUTIFUL, and I don't want to lose momentum in the slightest! YAB-Spring-Writing-Challenge-2014

So what's the current status?

Last week I moved forward another three chapters. The manuscript total is now 58,500 words! I have another four to six chapters to go (one of which is written but needs revision), so I think I will end up with a 65-70K final word count. Right on target! Beyond that, I'm excited to be on track to finish my draft this month, as I'd hoped. Woohoo!

This past weekend, I was at the New England Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) conference in Springfield, MA. I'll cover the amazing conference in a separate post later this week, but I did want to say that it was fun to go to a conference while in the throes of a first draft. I was able to apply a lot of the in-session writing exercises we did to EVERYTHING'S BEAUTIFUL. I figured out some key character details I want to add during revisions. Plus, remember last week, when I mentioned my ongoing struggle to find a balance between my personal experiences as a teen in the ballet world and my character's separate journey? I attended a great workshop yesterday on how to draw from your real life experiences and personal history in your fiction, and I can't wait to put the tips Karen Day shared with us into practice in my manuscript.

This week I am going to write, write, write—before I head out of town on Friday for all of my family travels. Wish me luck!

Oh, and don't forget to send good vibes to the rest of Team Mazama as we head into the Bootcamp home stretch. The YA Bucklers are: Kate Scott, Emma L. Adams, Winter Bayne, Angel Leigh, Riley Darkes, and Tonette de la Luna.


My Writing Process Blog Hop

Today, for something a little different, I'm participating in a blog hop that's been making the rounds lately: My Writing Process. I was tagged by the lovely and talented Ghenet Myrthil (follow her on Twitter), who I've known since grad school. We got our MFAs in Creative Writing from The New School together, and I'm lucky to still have Ghenet as one of my manuscript readers to this day! So here we go. Blog hop ahoy. KathrynHolmesMarshallphoto

What Am I Working On?

Right now, I am first-drafting a new manuscript with the working title EVERYTHING'S BEAUTIFUL. It's a YA Contemporary about a 16-year-old ballet dancer with body image issues who gets sent to an anxiety camp for elite teen artists and athletes. This book is pretty personal to me because, well, I was a teen ballet dancer with body image issues—so I've been struggling to get the story right and figure out who my character really is, separate from me and my own experiences. I think I'm finally on the right track, but I don't want to give any more details away until I'm sure!

How Does My Work Differ From Others of Its Genre?

There is a lot of *amazing* YA Contemporary out there. Rather than think about how I stand apart from those wonderful authors, I guess I want to try to join their ranks! I want to create honest, lyrical stories where the prose is finely crafted and the characters and their journeys strike a true chord. That said, my book that's coming out from HarperCollins in early 2015, THE DISTANCE BETWEEN LOST AND FOUND, does tackle a subject that I don't think appears often enough in YA literature: faith. The characters in TDBL&F start off in a religious setting (before getting lost in the mountains), and faith is a thread that runs through the book. Religion is a fact of so many teens' lives, to varying degrees, and those teens deserve to see their world and their struggles reflected in their literature.

Why Do I Write What I Do?

The book I'm working on now is only my third novel, but based on my experience so far, I'd say I write stories that captivate me. Whether that starts with the main character, as both TDBL&F and my new WIP did, or with an image/idea I can't get out of my head, as was the case with the book I was working on during and just after grad school (a YA fantasy that's currently on hold, but might be reborn as MG), when something fills my brain, I know I need to write that book. That's why although I've recently been writing YA Contemporary, I can't say for certain that's all I'll ever write!

How Does My Writing Process Work?

I'm a full-time freelance writer, so fiction-writing is just one of each day's many writing obligations. But that's my process: I do as much freelance work as I need to, money-wise, without taking on so much that I don't have time to devote to writing books. The nature of freelance writing means I have heavy periods and light periods, so how much time gets allocated to book-writing can vary. So does the time of day I write. When I'm really in a writing groove, I'll start with fiction in the morning, because I just can't wait. Then, when I absolutely have to, I'll switch to other work. When I'm not chomping at the bit to work on my book, I'll sometimes get the freelance work out of the way first and save the book-writing for later. I usually take a dance or yoga class in the middle of the day, to get away from my computer and clear my head. Basically, every day is different!

As far as the actual writing process, I'm still finding what works best. My first book was workshopped in grad school, which meant I was writing and getting feedback in short chunks. When I started TDBL&F, I wanted to go to the opposite extreme and write a complete first draft before showing anyone any of it. For that book, I did two separate rounds of feedback from beta-readers on complete drafts—and the third draft was the one that attracted my agent. My new WIP has been in the works for almost a year, and I've started it over and over, trying to figure out what it needs to be. I've shown various versions of the beginning to several readers, including my agent, and have taken their feedback before moving forward. Now I finally feel like I'm at a point where I can confidently finish the first draft. Who knows what my process will be for my next book...

Regardless, I am a loose outliner—I like to have key scenes and a rough arc in mind, but I also like to see where the story and characters take me. I like to get to know my characters organically, rather than drawing them out in detail beforehand. Some of my favorite scenes and conversations in TDBL&F were as much a surprise to me as they were to the characters!

Okay—now it's my turn to tag some other writer/bloggers. I've drafted two of my fellow YA Buccaneers: Heidi Sinnett and Erin L. Schneider. Heidi is a children's librarian who writes YA Contemporary, and is represented by Marlene Stringer of the Stringer Literary Agency. She describes her writing as "too ambitious (sometimes), honest, and twisty." Erin describes her writing as "real, humorous, and relatable." She's been writing seriously for six years and is represented by Lisa Grubka of Fletcher & Company. They'll both be sharing their My Writing Process posts next week!

A brief update on the YAB Bootcamp front: I added another few thousand words to EVERYTHING'S BEAUTIFUL last week, bringing the current total up to 55,409 words. I'm on chapter 14 out of I think 20. Two of those chapters are already written and just need to be revised (and one will be cut down by half), while the rest are loosely outlined and need to be written from scratch. I think I am still on track to have a finished first draft by the end of May! Fingers crossed… (and hard work ahead!)



YAB Bootcamp, Week Seven—With Bonus NYC Photos

cherry blossoms Another week of Bootcamp—and it's finally feeling like spring in NYC! I can't express how much the sunshine and warmer temperatures have boosted my mood and my energy. I'm not a sad, low-energy person by nature, but this year's never-ending winter was rough. Feeling the sun's rays on my face, breathing spring's fresh, slightly pollen-y air, not having to bundle up in a bazillion layers to walk to the subway—it's amazing.

This past weekend, my husband and I took advantage of the gorgeous weather to go to Roosevelt Island. Despite living in NYC for almost 10 years, I'd never actually been to this island in the middle of the East River—even though it's easily accessible both by subway and by a picturesque tram line. We took the tram, obviously. We spent a few hours walking around the island and seeing the sights, from the small lighthouse on the northern end to the new Franklin D. Roosevelt memorial and park on the southernmost tip. Most of the island is residential, but in addition to those two landmarks you can see the ruins of the Smallpox Hospital that opened in 1856 and closed in the 1950s, as well as the Octogon, which is what remains of the New York City Lunatic Asylum from the 1840s (and is now part of a luxury apartment complex). As a bonus, while we were there a lot of the cherry blossom trees on the island were in bloom, which meant the whole place looked especially lovely.

Roosevelt Island collage

On the writing front, I had a great week with my manuscript! I added about 4,000 words to the total, and moved six chapters forward. (One chapter was totally new, while the rest involved cutting and revising and adding new scenes and conversations.) If I can do the same this week, I'll be almost three-quarters through this first draft! Not too shabby.

Also on the Bootcamp front, I had two posts on the YA Buccaneers blog last week. In case you missed them:

Interview with Deborah Kreiser, author of THREE WISHES

Learn the Ropes: Don't Let Laziness Win!

That's all for now. Happy spring!

YAB-Spring-Writing-Challenge-2014 ~Kathryn

YA Buccaneers Spring Writing Bootcamp: Week Six Check-In

It's the YAB Bootcamp halfway point! If I'd had one big goal for the three months, I'd be excited to see if I was halfway there. Since I didn't start with one overarching goal, all I have to report is that I met last week's goal: to finish my WIP synopsis and send it to my agent. I have also started changing the rest of the existing draft from 3rd to 1st person. So what's next? I checked my stats in Scrivener this morning and discovered that I have approximately 49,000 words of this rough first draft. That's actually about three-quarters of a manuscript! However, since most of it was written in 3rd person, and before I changed the role of a major character, I have to do some serious revising before I have a draft that's even remotely ready to show to beta readers. What I would LOVE to be able to do is finish the rough draft by the end of the Bootcamp—i.e. by the end of May. Given that that's six weeks away, and I have a mix of revising and new-drafting on my plate, I think it's doable...

Except for the tiny issue of how crazy the month of May will be for me. The first weekend in May, I'm going to the New England SCBWI conference with my friend Ghenet. Then I'll be back in NYC for a few days, only to fly to Nashville the following weekend. I'll be in Nashville for a week, and while I want to work (actually, I'll need to work at least a little) while there, I'll also be getting in some much-needed family time. My brother and sister-in-law are expecting their second child, and I'm hoping to be there when he arrives! And of course, I want to spend as much time as possible with my adorable nephew Turner, who is about to become a big brother. But back to travels: from Nashville, I'm flying to the DC area for a weekend with my husband's family. We'll be attending birthday parties for both of our nephews on his side—the seven-year-old's on Saturday and the four-year-old's on Sunday. Then it's good old Amtrak back up to NYC for a week at home in Brooklyn, followed by a road trip to Massachusetts over Memorial Day weekend for a dear friend's wedding.

Basically, by the time June 1 rolls around, I'm going to be ready to collapse. So much revelry! So many trips, and different modes of transportation! Will I have time to crank out the rest of a first draft? That remains to be seen.

I'm not going to be too hard on myself if I don't make it. All of these trips are for good reasons, and they all involve activities and people and events that are just as important as word count—especially since Justin and I don't get to see our families as often as we'd like. That said, I'm going to work toward a May 31 goal! Each week, I'll share my progress toward the finish line, whether that's word count or chapters revised.

How's everyone else doing with writing goals and such? Go Team Mazama!

team mazama finalThe fabulous YA Bucklers are: Kate Scott, Emma L. Adams, Winter Bayne, Riley Darkes, Angel Leigh, and Tonette de la Luna! Visit their blogs or follow them on Twitter to see other writers in action. And if you're new to this bootcamp business, learn more at the YA Buccaneers' website!



YA Buccaneers Spring Writing Bootcamp: Week Five Check-In

Last week was busy and exciting—and yet also somewhat restful. Since my writing goals were minimal while I was waiting for feedback from my agent, I took the opportunity to cross some other things off my to-do list. Of course, I did my usual share of freelance work. But I also read a lot. I wrote up a few blog posts in advance. I booked some travel for May. I got a much-needed haircut. I had a rehearsal for a dance performance that's coming up this Saturday. I prepared the apartment for the Game of Thrones premiere party my husband and I hosted last night. (And who else is super excited for what GoT Season 4 has in store for us?!) Oh, and I had lunch with my editor in midtown, which is one of the great perks of living in NYC. We talked about what's next in the publishing process for THE DISTANCE BETWEEN LOST AND FOUND, and we compared notes on what we've been reading recently, and it was lovely. But the biggest thing that happened last week? I got my first glimpse of my book's cover! I'd been anxiously waiting for that moment, and it did not disappoint. The cover is beautiful, and I can't stop looking at it. I also can't wait to be able to share the final version with everyone! Stay tuned for cover reveal information in the weeks ahead… :)

Now back to my writing goals, since that's what this bootcamp is about. This week, I'll be working on a synopsis of my YA WIP. I'm not quite sure how long it will take—synopses can be tricky beasts. Luckily, I do have most of the book mapped out already, either in actual draft form or in bullet points. When the synopsis is done, after I've made a few small tweaks to the first three chapters, I think I'll dive into Chapter 4 and beyond. While I've first-drafted many more chapters than that, I recently changed from 3rd person to 1st and tweaked a major character's role, so I want to kind of simultaneously revise/re-draft the parts that are already written to reflect the new beginning.

So that's it for now!

team mazama finalFollow the rest of Team Mazama:

Kate Scott

Angel Leigh

Tonette de la Luna

Winter Bayne

Emma L. Adams

Riley Darkes

YA Buccaneers Spring Writing Bootcamp: Week Four Check-In

It's the end of March! It's April tomorrow! And I was going to write earlier today to complain about how March was going out with a nasty wintry mix, but I was just outside to discover that the skies are clear, the sun is shining, and the temperature has risen about 15 degrees—so I have nothing to complain about! I love having nothing to complain about. Let's get to the update. Last week, my goal was to finish reworking my first three chapters of my YA WIP and send the sample to readers. And I did! I got feedback over the weekend and am about to open up the document to start implementing it. My new goal is to send the pages to my agent in the next day or two. (Alyssa, if you happen to read this, feel free to email and hold me to it!)

I have to say that Month One of bootcamp has been great for me. I've accomplished exactly what I set out to do, and it's been wonderful to know that so many other people are writing and revising as well. Team Mazama is chugging along on our individual goals, and I'm thrilled to have such a genuinely nice group of gals holding me accountable. I know I can accomplish so much more in the months to come! That said, going forward, things will get a little fuzzy… because I have no idea what my goals are for April. A lot depends on what my agent has to say about the two WIP samples I sent her. Will she want me to revise the two excerpts further? Push forward on finishing a draft of one project or the other? Work on drafting both simultaneously? I have no idea!

So, this week, once I send in my YA pages, I am going to go easy on myself. I'm going to try to make a dent in my ever-growing books-to-read pile. I'll do some brainstorming, thinking about how I would like to move forward with both projects, so I'm ready whatever happens. Hopefully, I'll get to hash everything out with my agent and come up with a proper plan for what's next.

Plus, I'll be cheering on my YA Bucklers as several of them start Camp NaNoWriMo tomorrow! Go team!

team mazama final

Oh, and in case you were wondering, the wedding weekend was a blast. Everything went fairly smoothly, the bride looked beautiful, the cake was delicious, and my husband and I tore up the dance floor at the reception. (There might even be photographic evidence of our dance-floor prowess, once the professional photos come in…)



YA Buccaneers Spring Writing Bootcamp: Week Three Check-In

Just a quick check-in today, because I'm off and running on what is going to be a very busy week! I'm in a wedding this weekend, so Justin and I will be heading out of NYC on Friday morning—which makes this a four-day week. Normally, that's a big "YAY!" Unfortunately, this week it means cramming five days' work into four. That said, I couldn't be happier to be part of this wedding. The bride is a close friend of mine from college who was in my wedding in 2011, and I can't wait to return the favor and be there for her on her big day. We're going to have a wonderful time! Oh, you wanted to know about writing and such? Right. Okay.

Last week, I had two main goals: finish my chapter outline of my YA-turned-MG, and figure out what the heck was going wrong with my YA WIP. And I made progress on both counts!

  • I sent my YA-turned-MG sample pages and completed outline to my agent! I am now anxiously awaiting her feedback. I don't know what the next step is, but I know that I am excited about this manuscript and eager to see where it can go from here.
  • I started reworking my YA with a few new ideas in mind. I tried changing from 3rd person to 1st and playing with some new narrative/voice quirks. I changed the role of a main character to add more tension to the plot. I'm about two chapters in, as of this morning, but I think I may be on the right track.

My goal for this week is simple: Keep working on the YA with this new direction in mind. I'd love to send the revised/re-envisioned first three chapters to some readers by the end of the week, before I put them in my agent's hands. That said, I've shared the changes I'm considering with a few people, and have gotten a positive/intrigued response—so that's probably a good sign!

Onward and upward, right Team Mazama? Go Bucklers!

team mazama final~Kathryn


YA Buccaneers Spring Writing Bootcamp: Week Two Check-In

Is it St. Patrick's Day already? I can't believe we're more than halfway through March—especially given the latest cold snap that's hit NYC. Sigh. Well, chill in the air notwithstanding, the YA Buccaneers' Spring Writing Bootcamp is going forward full-force! Here's my Week Two check-in. YAB-Spring-Writing-Challenge-2014

Last week, I wanted to start reworking the first 50 pages of an old YA manuscript into middle-grade. And on Friday afternoon, I got to the end of the set of chapters I want to send to my agent! Of course, I'll read over everything a few (dozen) more times before I send it, but the bulk of that revision work is done. Yay!

So what does that mean for this week? I've just spent about an hour and a half starting my chapter-by-chapter outline of the rest of the book, which I'll send to my agent along with my sample pages. I'm starting by going through the manuscript and typing up an outline based on what was there in 2012, the last time I worked on this project. However, I can already tell that I have some revising and rethinking to do. By cutting out a secondary plotline (that honestly does need to go), I'm losing a lot of interaction with an important character, so I need to find a way to keep that character in the story in other ways. I'm also noticing some pacing issues in the middle of the book, which means I'll need to do some condensing and tightening. On the plus side, once I have this outline figured out, revising the whole book (if my agent wants to move forward with that) should be a breeze!

(Ha, ha. Like any of this is ever a breeze…) :)

I also heard back from my three beta-readers on the first 30 pages of EVERYTHING'S BEAUTIFUL. I got some mixed feedback, so I need to sit with it and think about how I want to move forward. This book has been frustrating me a little bit because I love the idea and want so desperately to get it right…and I can't quite seem to crack it. But maybe this will be the week that something clicks and it starts to fall into place. it can't hurt to hope, right?

Oh, and one other piece of Spring Writing Bootcamp business. It's time to introduce my fellow bootcampers! We've named ourselves Team Mazama, aka the YA Bucklers:

team mazama finalWe're a really diverse group of writers. Our WIPs and finished projects span MG, YA, and adult in a wide array of genres—contemporary, fantasy, thriller, romance, historical, and beyond. But we're all committed to cheering each other on as we try to accomplish our spring writing goals! Here's my team:

Kate Scott

Emma L. Adams

Tonette de la Luna


Riley Darkes

Angel Leigh

That's all for now!