So here’s a thing that was brought to my attention a few weeks ago by a terrific high school teacher in Mexico: a small group of her students did a group project on my book Fear the Drowning Deep. They created a real-life version of Morag’s book of sea monsters–the book in the story that Bridey relies on for help in her battle against the supernatural creatures plaguing her village! The pages do a great job bringing my vision to life, complete with thoughtful write-ups of each monster and some really cool art!
Their teacher kindly shared images of the project with me, and now I’m delighted and honored to share some of them here on my website for others to admire as well!
*Disclaimer: None of these images belong to me; all belong to the students who worked hard to make this project!
Thanks to the wonderful students who put this together! I hope you find many more great books to get excited about this year!
FEAR THE DROWNING DEEP IS OUT NOW! That’s right…NOW!
And the week leading up to the book’s launch was…more than a little crazy.
It started with Harry Potter World:
And it continued with WHALES! And other amazing new watery friends, of which Fynn and Bridey (from Fear the Drowning Deep) would no doubt approve:
The week continued when we went up to NYC to visit some of my publishers–I saw all but two of my editors this past Friday, which makes me a very lucky lady indeed!
Here are a couple more snapshots of the launch–because this post doesn’t have enough visuals yet, does it? 😉
Lastly, the week culminated in my husband and I celebrating our *5th* wedding anniversary, so here’s a throwback photo in honor of that!
It’s been a crazy week, but the fun isn’t stopping yet–I’ll be speaking on a debut author panel & doing critiques at the SCBWI Mid Atlantic fall conference this coming weekend! Can’t wait!
Here are some fun bits of recent news!
First, my picture book NINITA’S BIG WORLD sold to Houghton Mifflin’s imprint Clarion! I’m so excited to work with the team there, and am confident they will do an amazing job bringing Ninita’s story to life!
In another cool bit of news, Roaring Brook (Macmillan) hired the amazing Maris Wicks (who illustrated the graphic novel PRIMATES) to be the artist for my picture book Dragon Bones, the life story of Mary Anning!
That’s all for now–as usual, stay tuned for more soon!
First of all, I’m thrilled to announce the sale of my book DRAGON BONES to Roaring Brook (Macmillan) and brilliant editor Kate Jacobs!!!
Here’s the Publisher’s Marketplace blurb about the sale:
I’m so excited to share this story with everyone, and honored to be telling it, because Mary Anning had such an amazing life!
And in other news…
I’m also thrilled to let everyone know that Books of Wonder in NYC has graciously agreed to host a launch party for my YA debut, FEAR THE DROWNING DEEP! If you happen to be in the NYC area on Friday, October 14th, I hope you’ll come celebrate with me!
I’ll also be doing several book events throughout Virginia (Richmond, NoVa) during October & November, so check the “Events” page of my website to see if I’ll be near you!
Stay tuned for some more fun news soon… 🙂
Hi there, Pitch Wars hopefuls!
I had a blast mentoring a fantastic YA sci-fi in Pitch Wars 2015 and guiding my first mentee to success. This year is going to be twice as fun, because I’m co-mentoring with Shana Silver! Read through our wishlist here, then click here to go to her website and find a letter for the scavenger hunt!
Shana and I are looking for YA manuscripts only. That being said, here’s our wish list!
-Fantasy of all sorts, but especially epics. Also, historical fantasy in the vein of A Darker Shade of Magic.
–Sci-fi of all sorts; give us Killjoys or Dark Matter or Farscape for YA!
-Magical Realism a la Bone Gap or The Raven Boys
-Mystery/Thriller with a supernatural element
-Horror (ghosts/psychological horror only, no gore)
–Historicals featuring time periods not often explored in YA. Give us a YA book about Vikings, or something like And I Darken.
*Note: we won’t be looking at much contemp, but in this genre, we’d love a YA version of The Big Bang Theory or Weeds!
Things we’d love to see in all of the above:
-LGBTQ+ characters as MCs, whose stories aren’t about coming out
-Diversity in all its forms, #ownvoices encouraged
-Multi-POV without head hopping
-Strong female characters
–Anything reminiscent of Joss Whedon’s work (Witty dialogue, misfits banding together to form a family of sorts)
-Anything reminiscent of Avatar: The Last Airbender and Legend of Korra (The diveristy! The well-rounded characters! The sweeping plot!)
Even more things we love include:
Bad boys who turn good, castles, ghosts, hate-to-love relationships, girls in STEM, mythology that’s rich and ever-present in a narrative, strong relationships of any kind (love, friendship, sibling), f/f romance, gorgeous writing, settings that become its own character, epic kisses, rivalry, girls with swords.
Please do NOT send us:
-Gory horror/anything else with excessive gore
-Animal abuse, even if it’s a minor element
-Religious themes in any genre
^ The above will be an auto-pass from us, so please don’t waste anyone’s time!
This is my second year mentoring in Pitch Wars, and over the past couple years, I’ve mentored in many other writing contests like Query Kombat and Sun Vs. Snow. I’m also a mentor for Adventures in YA Publishing’s monthly First 5 Pages Workshop. And if your novel features bisexual characters, I can offer a sensitivity read as well.
My Pitch Wars mentee from 2015, M.K. England, is now represented by Barbara Poelle of the Irene Goodman Agency; M.K. and I had a great time working together, and have become good friends! Also, she’s a Pitch Wars mentor herself this year, so be sure to check out her bio!
Between picture books and YA (the two age groups I write for), I have 6 books announced/forthcoming: three picture books with Abrams Kids and Sterling Children’s, and three young adult novels, a historical fantasy with Sky Pony Press and a dark epic fantasy duology (with f/f romance, yay!) coming from Razorbill/Penguin. I understand how to write effectively for the YA market, and I’m willing to share all aspects of my own experiences–from the joys to the painful rejections–as I help you take your work to the next level.
My support won’t end when Pitch Wars does, and it’s my hope that our 2016 mentee will view me as a friend for life!
*Here are some fun facts about me:
–I have two greyhounds, two Italian greyhounds, one Bourke’s parakeet, too many fish to count, and one husband-creature–in other words, I have my own small zoo! I also love to ride horses. In short, if you love animals, you are my people.
–I have a Master of Science in Education (preK-6)
–I’m very interested in genealogy and am descended from some fun people including Eleanor of Aquitaine and Isabella, She Wolf of France.
–I love video games. Right now, I’m playing a lot of Fallout 4!
–I also love tabletop games, general nerdery, and attending cons. See below for a few photos of my con adventures!
–Some of my favorite fandoms include Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Firefly, Game of Thrones, The Legend of Korra, and all things Marvel.
–The last sci-fi book I read and loved was Becky Chambers’s The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet.
–The last fantasy book I read and loved was Kiersten White’s And I Darken.
–And now, here’s some photographic evidence of the weirdness that is me, one half of your co-mentor team:
This is also my second year mentoring Pitch Wars. Though I was never a participant, I entered quite a few contests a few years ago, such as The Writer’s Voice. In one contest, I received 10 agent requests! So I know how to create an entry that hooks (AND a query letter). Each time I queried, I had about a 90% request rate. I’ve also finaled in several RWA writing contests.
I have formal training in creative writing from Syracuse University where I studied under some renowned literary authors. My short stories have appeared in a number of literary magazines. And I used to work in publishing in NYC! So I can offer insight from both sides of the desk. I also have a traditionally published YA book from a mid-sized press under a pen name.
My strengths lie in query pitch writing, synopsis writing, line edits, figuring out solutions to impossible plotting problems, and enhancing voice so it leaps off the page.
Like Sarah, my support continues after Pitch Wars!
*We will give a brief amount of feedback (where we stopped reading and why) to any entrant from whom we request material. However, we will not offer feedback to queries we’re passing on, due to our packed schedules.
*With our mentee, I (Sarah) will be doing the big-picture editorial letter in September, which I’ll send to you fairly quickly after mentees are announced! Then, once you’ve finished revisions, you’ll send the manuscript to Shana in early October, and she’ll do line edits and help you polish things up from there!
*We will, of course, both be available for questions and commiseration and cheering at every step of the way!
It’s been a while since I’ve updated this thing, hasn’t it? But to make up for the lack of posts this winter/spring, I’ve got double the good book news to share (okay, most people have probably seen it by now, but I’m documenting it here regardless!).
First, I’m so pleased to announce that I’m doing another picture book with Sterling Children’s! This one is called SELFIE SEBASTIAN and is slated for Fall 2017 publication. While this is for younger kids, I feel like everyone will be able to relate to Sebastian and his quest to take the perfect selfie!
Here’s the official announcement from Publisher’s Marketplace:
Next, I’m over-the-moon thrilled to announce that my dark epic fantasy YA duology, REIGN OF THE FALLEN, has found a home with Razorbill/Penguin!!!
Huge thanks to my super-agent, Lucy Carson, for bringing me together with amazing editor Jessica Almon, who is as kind as she is wise! I know that this book, my beloved characters and world, are in great hands with her, and I cannot wait to share this story with readers everywhere!
This is a story about necromancers, about love and death and letting go. It’s a book about friendship and, like so many of the beloved fantasies I read growing up, about persevering even when it seems all hope is lost. It’s a book about change, something many people (myself included) struggle with. It’s a book about a girl called Sparrow who always finds her way home.
Here’s the official announcement from Publishers Weekly Children’s Bookshelf:
So to recap, here’s the full list of the books you can expect to see from me soon-ish:
-Fear the Drowning Deep, my YA historical fantasy, publishes with Sky Pony Press on 10/4/16!
-A Campfire Tail, a picture book, publishes with Sterling Children’s in Spring 2017!
-Selfie Sebastian, a picture book, publishes with Sterling Children’s in Fall 2017!
-Anna Strong: Daughter of the American Revolution, a nonfiction picture book biography, is forthcoming from Abrams Kids!
-Reign of the Fallen, a dark YA fantasy, and its sequel, are forthcoming from Razorbill/Penguin!
As I think about all of the above, especially the news about Reign of the Fallen, a story that is so close to my heart that it’s like a part of me, I keep trying to come up with some good advice for other writers who are at any stage of pursuing their publication dreams. Yet I can’t seem to come up with anything particularly ground-breaking; after all, there are so many great posts about persevering in this mercurial industry already! At first, I thought, “Well, good things come as a result of hard work,” but I’d argue there’s far more to publishing than just “working hard”–Sure, I work hard all the time, and so does every writer, because our stories are so important to us and that compulsion to tell more stories never goes away, even if it fades a little at times. When looking at publication, there’s also luck and timing and the market, which are completely out of an author’s control, so sometimes putting in hard work doesn’t yield the results we want–and trust me, I’ve been there, too.
With all that being said, I want to share two things that really helped me silence my inner critic and draft REIGN OF THE FALLEN with minimal agonizing despite knowing what a tough road it would be to potential publication:
1) Staying off social media! I cannot stress how hard it is (at least for me) to put down any new words or have any creative energy after opening Twitter and seeing a bunch of book deals and foreign rights/film deals. I have to imagine this is also hard on others. It’s not that we aren’t happy for our friends, but social media tends to be a filter of only the positives happening in people’s lives, and our brains inevitably start doing that darn comparison thing, and…need I say more? Staying off of social media allowed me to draft like the wind on this book, and it’s how I plan to draft from now on. It put me in a much better head space and allowed me to focus fully on my storytelling! It’s great to make time to cheer for everyone’s good news, too, but above all–be kind to yourself.
2) Building a ‘love list’! What I mean by this is that to keep my enthusiasm about the book as high as could be while I was writing it, I made a long list of everything I loved about it. Things I thought were cool about the world I’d built, favorite character moments, songs that reminded me of the story or helped inspire it (random fact: REIGN was written almost entirely to Halsey’s Room 93 EP and Badlands album), lines I’d written that I liked–any tidbits that made me feel excited about the story all over again. I believe I got this idea from a brilliant post on Pub Crawl, and reading over that book love list really helped me to draft on days when I wasn’t really feeling confident or inspired at the outset. Try it–it works wonders!
I hope the above helps someone who may be struggling to draft right now! Believe in your work, and surround yourself with others who do the same, and you’ll go far. 🙂
As for me, I beyond grateful to Sterling and Razorbill for welcoming me and my books! I can’t wait to share these stories with you all!!!
Until next time–peace, love, and greyhounds,
YAY! So excited!
I’ll let the above screencap of the Publisher’s Marketplace announcement do most of the talking for me, but I just wanted to add that Sterling Kids does some amazing books, and I’m thrilled to be working with them!
…And there’s more good news to come, so stay tuned 😉
SO THIS HAPPENED TODAY!
…Kind of. I actually found out in August, while on vacation in beautiful Savannah GA, that I’d be working with the amazing Howard Reeves at Abrams Kids on my nonfiction picture book biography of Anna Smith Strong. She was a spy during the Revolutionary War, helping to pass intelligence that aided General George Washington in winning the battle at Yorktown and turning the tide of the war.
I learned Anna’s story while researching the Revolutionary War because of my interest in genealogy; I have several ancestors who fought in that war, one being Benjamin Pendleton, a soldier in the Culpeper VA militia, and another being Corbin Lane, who smuggled supplies to the rebels–Americans, that is. 🙂 When I read about Anna’s contributions to this incredible moment in history, I knew her story needed to be shared with kids everywhere; after all, girls and boys alike can appreciate the bravery of this female spy!
I feel beyond lucky to be working with a place like Abrams Kids, and I can’t wait to bring Anna’s story to you all!
Oh, and maybe watch this space for some more good news soon, okay?
Naturally, since other people seemed to be paying attention to it, I’ve thought about these words a lot in the past few days. So now, I’m attempting to gather those thoughts into a (hopefully) coherent post–because there’s so much more I want to say on this topic than what will fit in a 140 character limit.
Here’s how what I observed and experienced while reading slush for Pitch Wars has changed my outlook on the passes I receive on my own work–and how it should change yours, too:
But the things above aren’t really what I want to talk about. Imagine: your inbox has almost 200 queries and first chapters waiting to be read. Out of them all, there are a hundred books that have appropriate word counts and seem highly marketable. All have great titles. And all have prose that’s strong. They start their stories in the right place. They maintain tension throughout their first chapters. There aren’t any grammar errors. Their plots seem clear, but also keep you guessing. Their pages drip with atmosphere and voice.
So what makes one stand out from all the others, when so many seem close to perfect as it gets? It’s so hard to describe, and it varies from person to person as much as what makes me smile or laugh differs from what makes you smile or laugh.
In Pitch Wars, I couldn’t request everything that was really strong; there wasn’t enough time. I also didn’t feel a pull to request everything that was really strong. The main character of one story, for instance, would resonate deeply with me for a number of reasons I can’t begin to list, yet other mentors would request something I’d passed over because the characters in that manuscript had resonated with them.
I used to get frustrated when I’d comb the internet trying to understand what makes an agent request a book beyond great writing. But in Pitch Wars, when I was the one making the requests, I found myself saying something I’d heard so many times while querying (and admittedly, it’s a phrase that’s made me roll my eyes a time or two): “I’m not connecting.” Or, “I just don’t feel that spark.” And I was saying it about wonderful, polished manuscripts–books I didn’t request despite their fabulous writing and tension and seemingly well-executed plots, just because I wasn’t feeling a strong pull to read more in the limited time I had for slush (I’m only one person, who gets to pick one mentee, much like agents and editors have limited time and client/author lists they have to keep small to preserve their sanity).
And as I kept wading through the slush, it dawned on me: Being drawn to a voice or story that’s well-written is as complex as what makes us feel. It’s different for everyone.
I requested one book, for instance, because the voice felt like a blend of several of the fantasies I grew up reading. It pulled at my heartstrings, almost like it was an old friend. There, I had that “spark.” With another, I found myself smiling and actually laughing out loud–and making my husband listen to passages I’d read aloud. Something about the characters and setting felt familiar, yet exciting to me, and even managed to tackle humor (a tough thing to do in books), so I had to request.
But there were other books that had amazing premises, yet the writing or characters didn’t grab me. I admired them, but I didn’t feel that burst of excitement, for whatever reason. I can’t put into words what was missing, and while I don’t speak for any agents, I bet some of them would have a hard time saying why they don’t feel that “spark” with certain well-written manuscripts.
So the next time you hear the phrase “not for me” or “not connecting,” know that it’s not necessarily a reflection on the quality of your writing. None of us know what will make someone else feel that spark for a book. It’s a bit like falling in love that way–emotional and unpredictable, something that takes a good deal of searching to find!
But you want an agent or editor who will make that connection with you. Who feels strongly about your manuscript, because they’re going to spend so much time on it, fighting for it, and making it the best it can be. And after working so hard on your book, you deserve someone who will share your passion for your characters and world.
Too, your search for the perfect agent might be a frustrating process because, as I’ve just witnessed in Pitch Wars, there are just SO MANY amazing books out there! So many talented writers!! And not enough agents to sweep them all up at once and feel ALL THE FEELS for their books.
–But that just means you have to keep making stories you love, and polishing them, and seeking out agents until you find the one who absolutely loves your book the way you do.
Finding that right agent may be hard, but you should never give up. Once you have a well-written book, it’s down to timing, and making that connection.
And you know what? You so deserve it.
Good luck to everyone who’s been part of Pitch Wars! And to everyone who’s currently querying! Have patience and persevere; after reading so many wonderful stories these past few days, I believe in you all!