Tuesday, November 26, 2013

44 NaNoWriMo tips and tricks from 24 expert authors

National Novel Writing Month is that crazy time of year when writers drive themselves mad gunning for 50,000 words, a completed novel, and the glorious pride of writerly achievement, all by the end of November. Of course, it's also that time of year when agents become increasingly wary, concerned they'll receive NaNoWriMo manuscripts immediately on December 1...

After doling out revision tips last year, this year we wanted our JVNLA authors to weigh in with their own NaNoWriMo writing advice—whether it be related to revision, persistence, encouragement, or the craft of writing.

We didn't ask our authors to send advice in just any old, boring way, though. Instead, we took to Twitter!

Last Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, our authors flooded a portion of the Twitter-verse with #JVNLAauthors and #NaNoWriMo hashtags. They were responding to this tweet:

We've compiled the 44 tips and tricks they sent in below, with each tweet on its own line under the author's name.

Our expert authors write a variety of genres for a variety of ages, but their advice is perfect for anyone. Take a look!

From Victoria Strauss, author of Passion Blue (Skyscape, November 2012) @victoriastrauss

You're challenging yourself, not competing against others

Take breaks. Go for a walk. Savor a cup of tea. Take a hot shower. Creativity blooms when you let your mind wander.

From Morag Joss, author of Our Picnics in the Sun (Delacorte Press, November 2013) @moragjoss

Keep going to the end of #NaNoWriMo and be proud. Then re-write. And re-write.

From Selena Coppock, author of The New Rules for Blondes (It Books, April 2013) @SelenaCoppock

My advice 4 writers doing #NaNoWriMo? Straight-up disconnect the internet from your computer. And write to Arcade Fire :)

Courtesy of joylajaxx.tumblr.com via giphy.com

From Anne Mazer, author of Spilling Ink: A Young Writer's Handbook (Square Fish Books, March 2010) @Annemazer

Listen deeply to your characters.

Don't be afraid to make mistakes - you can always fix them later.

From Adrienne Kress, author of Outcast (Diversion Books, May 2013) and The Friday Society (Dial, December 2012) @AdrienneKress

Hmm, I'd advise authors doing #NaNoWriMo to not be too self critical. This is the vomit on the page stage, just get it written!

From Jillian Cantor, author of Margot (Riverhead, September 2013) @JillianCantor

Set small page/word goal per day and stick to it no matter what. I do 5 pgs/day

From Victoria Loustalot, author of This Is How You Say Goodbye (St. Martin's Press, September 2013) @VLoustalot

No outlines! Too much planning suffocates the chance for magic.

From Kristi Helvig, author of Burn Out (Egmont, April 2014) @KristiHelvig

Just get the first draft down no matter what...it's supposed to be a hot mess!

Just remember not to submit that hot mess on Dec. 1. Take your time with edits!

Regarding this, Jeffry Halverson, author of Searching for a King: Muslim Nonviolence and the Future of Islam (Potomac Books, September 2012) (@JeffryHalverson), asked...

Other authors chimed in with answers:

From Susan Schoenberger, author of A Watershed Year (Lake Union, November 2013) @schoenwriter

I second @KristiHelvig Get it all down, and then make December #NaDeEdMo

Except it should probably be NaNoEdMo, now that I think about it.

From Mark Ferguson, author of The Lost Boys Symphony (Little, Brown, forthcoming Summer 2015) @thefergusonian

I say write forward. Don't edit what's already written. Doubt will slow you down.

Obviously you'll edit later, to be clear. That's why we call Dec-Oct #NaNoEdMo

To this, Selena Coppock (see her advice above) responded...

From M.D. Waters, author of Archetype (Dutton, February 2014) @_MDWaters

Fun Fact: #ARCHETYPE was my 2011 #NaNoWriMo novel. Finished in 5 weeks. Queried: May 2012 Agented: Oct 2012 SOLD: Dec 2012 #TakeYourTime

Use December to EDIT rather than QUERY.

Every scene needs a goal, motivation, and conflict... How else are you going to keep them entertained?

Your goal has motivation, but does it have CONFLICT?

Scene isn't working? Move characters to a new setting.

It takes more words to show a scene, fewer to tell it.

Pinterest is NOT your WIP. Neither is this, so stop reading
(But, really, keep reading this post and THEN get back to work :) )

Lose your muse? Steal someone else's. It's fair game.

Your antag has a story. I bet they even have good intentions.

That emotion you want to share? Amplify by 10 and write THAT.

Dishes? What dishes? That's what minions are for. WRITE

THIS. http://www.pinterest.com/pin/153966880984883798/

From Robert Repino, author of Mort(e) (Soho Press, forthcoming Fall 2014) @Repino1

This year trade football and Friday morning shopping for writing.

From Ellen Potter, author of Otis Dooda: Strange but True (Feiwel and Friends, June 2013) and Spilling Ink: A Young Writer's Handbook (Square Fish Books, March 2010) @Ellenpotter

When you get stuck, take your dog for a walk. Seriously, it works wonders.

Pledge that if u don't finish the novel you'll give $ to least fave organization

From Ellis Avery, author of The Last Nude (Riverhead, December 2012) and Broken Rooms: Haiku and Sculpture (The Crumpled Press, February 2014) @EllisAveryNYC

Let your characters want something. What do I mean? http://online.wsj.com/news/articles...

Here's an excerpt from that Wall Street Journal article, written by Avery:

Many of us have read subtle, well-wrought stories in which a character's most secret soul is illuminated—and yet (yawn) nothing really happens. The writer tried too hard to Make the Reader Care. There are also pyrotechnically masterful stories in which cars explode and the world ends—and yet (ho-hum) nobody cares. The writer tried too hard to Make Something Happen. To avoid both problems, I've found it helpful to ask three questions: What does my character want? What keeps my character from getting what he or she wants? Does my character get what he or she wants in the end or not?

From Wendy Webb, author of The Vanishing (Hyperion, January 2014) and The Fate of Mercy Alban (Hyperion, February 2013) @wendykwebb

Write each day, very early or late, as your household sleeps. No distractions.

Also: Set a goal for number of words, and stick to it.

Also: No social media or email until you reach your word count goal.

From Timothy Schaffert, author of The Swan Gondola (Riverhead, February 2014) and The Coffins of Little Hope (Unbridled Books, April 2011) @timschaffert

If a scene's not working, move characters onto a different set; one that's unexpected: rooftop, bottom of an empty pool.

Or the bottom of a...full pool.

Courtesy of cheezburger.com via giphy.com

From Susan Kelly, author of By Accident (Pegasus Books, May 2010) @susankellynovel

Go ahead and get up in the middle of the night to change "turn" to "pivot" and remove the exclamation marks.

From Alex C. Renwick (aka Camille Alexa), author of Push of the Sky (Untreed Reads, October 2012) @AlexCRenwick

Don't overthink it...At least, not until AFTER you have a draft.

From Dorothy Hearst, author of Secrets of the Wolves (Simon and Schuster, July 2012) @DorothyHearst

Make character influence action, and action change your characters

From J-Wunder, author of Wait...What?!: Life Advice from a Ghetto Genius (Diversion Books, July 2013) @MrJWunderful

drink until you feel the creative juices flow!

From Nancy Springer, author of Drawn into Darkness (NAL, November 2013) @NancySpringer

Talking about your novel-to-be depletes the energy you need to write it. Don't blow it away w your mouth. Write it.

"Show, don't tell" = the reader visualizes everything you say. So be careful. Eyes fall (onto the floor?), roll...

Most likely yr critique group will focus on the surface of yr novel. Dig deeper. Think structure, story logic.

Find out the goofy way I got started writing in my new Goodreads post:

From Patry Francis, author of The Orphans of Race Point (Harper Perennial, May 2014) and The Liar's Diary (Dutton, 2007) @patryf

"Don't confine truth to facts." 5 Writing Tips: Paul Harding publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/in… via @PublishersWkly

From Helen Maryles Shankman, author of The Color of Light (Stony Creek Press, October 2013) @hmshankman

What you write when you're inspired--and what you write when you're not inspired--by the time you're done editing...

...you won't know which was which. Just keep writing!

Courtesy of leahkonen.com via giphy.com

Friday, November 22, 2013


In Victoria Loustalot's recent interview on WNYC's The Leonard Lopate Show, she describes herself as part of an “in-between generation,” one that bore witness to the transformation of AIDS from death sentence to survivable disease.

Loustalot is the author of This Is How You Say Goodbye, released by St. Martin's Press this fall. Subtitled “A Daughter's Memoir,” the book is an exploration of Loustalot's relationship with her father, his experience with AIDS, his eventual suicide in the face of deteriorating health, and Loustalot's attempt—years later—to fulfill his promise to her of a trip around the world.

Part of what makes this memoir so “heart-wrenching” (Booklist), “bittersweet” (Kirkus), and “probing” (Publishers Weekly) can likely be traced to Loustalot's membership in this “in-between generation.” Her father was among the last group of people who contracted HIV for whom effective treatment did not yet exist. Only after his death did living with AIDS become a possibility.

In her interview, Loustalot explains how difficult it was to be “in-between” and consequently witness both sides of the AIDS crisis:

I spent the first half of my childhood seeing what the AIDS of dying looked like up close and personal, and then the second half of my childhood, after my father's death, seeing this whole new vision and life of what AIDS and HIV could mean for somebody. And so to have one foot in each, and reconciling myself with that and growing up with that duality....I think...now is the moment for people to be talking about this. Because it wasn't that long ago, and I think we've forgotten what it looked like.

You can listen to Loustalot's full interview below:

December 1 is World AIDS Day. Events surrounding the day have already begun and will continue through the beginning of December. According to WorldAidsCampaign.org, World AIDS Day has been held since 1988 as “an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died.”

World AIDS Day. December 1.

In commemorating her father's experience with AIDS and chronicling her own journey to come to terms with his death, Loustalot's memoir does exactly what World AIDS Day sets out to do in its mission. If, as Loustalot says, now is the time to start talking about how AIDS has affected our generation, there is no better way to begin the conversation than with This Is How You Say Goodbye.
Below are some of the excellent reviews This Is How You Say Goodbye has received since its release:

“Eloquent...Gently probing, reflective...Loustalot’s careful, deliberative prose delineates a young woman’s arduous passage to self-realization.” --Publishers Weekly

“Moving...By turns sweet...and heart-wrenching...Loustalot writes with courage and candor about bidding her beloved father a final farewell.” --Booklist

Compelling reading. An intimate portrait of a bittersweet father-daughter relationship.” --Kirkus

"Moves between past and present and is told in frank, detailed narrative marked by irony, heartache and some humor." --Sacramento Bee

A remarkable accomplishment. A riveting narrative that lays bare how important it is to come to terms with the past, this honest and heartrending memoir is for everybody who has ever tried to find his or her place in their family and in the world.” --Julie Klam, New York Times bestselling author of You Had Me at Woof and Friendkeeping

"Loustalot's memoir will resonate with anyone who has ever tried to resolve the complexities of an enigmatic parent, or plumb what lies at the heart of the filial bond. Her uncommon intelligence, wit, and compassion shine through in this beautifully realized memoir...A beguiling writer...a smashing debut." --Alexandra Styron, bestselling author of Reading My Father

Lyrical, thoughtful, often humorous prose...What Loustalot has written is a love story—a moving, aching love story to the father she never knew. It will resonate for all who have loved and lost, and who wish to heal.” --Kerry Cohen, bestselling author of Loose Girl: A Memoir of Promiscuity

St. Martin's Press, September 2013

Friday, November 15, 2013

Pie Perfection: Adventures in baking with the perfect cookbook for the holiday season

Of the many milestones in a book’s publication, my favorite is opening the delivery box and picking up a finished copy of my client’s book for the first time. I recently opened the delivery box to find Linda Hundt’s charming retro cookbook, Sweetie-licious Pies, published last month by Skirt! Books.

Sweetie-licious Pies is the first cookbook I’ve represented, and I couldn’t wait to see how the photographs, text and recipes had come together. The final product exceeded my expectations--I am so proud of this beautiful package!

Featuring fifty-two original recipes, accompanied by gorgeous photos of Linda’s farm in Michigan and mouth-watering images of the pies themselves, Sweetie-licious Pies is the most heavily designed book I’ve worked with yet. I spent a solid hour pouring over the images and re-reading the heart-warming stories behind the creation of each pie. I was so inspired that by the time I set the book down, I vowed to do something I’d never attempted before--bake.

I do not exaggerate when I tell you I don’t have a sweet tooth. In the epic battle of sweet vs. savory, savory always wins in my book. As a kid, I’d turn over my Halloween candy to my brother and sister with a nonchalant shrug and watch them fight over the spoils. To this day, I’ll take a bag of potato chips over chocolate every time. All of which might make you wonder--why does someone who doesn’t like dessert have a pie cookbook on her list? I’ll tell you--it’s all about the crust. I love pie crust. It’s the perfect savory balance to a sugary dessert, the salty yin to fruit’s sweet yang. On a restaurant menu, pie is the one dessert that tempts me, but I’d never tried to bake my own--until the other Sunday.

With sixteen-time national pie-baking champion Linda Hundt’s beautiful cookbook to guide me, I figured I had a good shot at success. I enlisted the help of my in-house photographer/husband to document my baking adventure.

Here’s a little photo show of how it all went down:

To take advantage of the autumn’s delicious apples, I decided to make “Mom Hundt’s Apple Almond Pie” (p88). I lined up all my ingredients and set to work.

This pie calls for a homemade cream cheese crust. Following Linda’s easy recipe (p2), I used my standing mixer for the first time ever and later shaped the dough into a disk to cool in the fridge.

After the dough cooled in the fridge, I rolled it out and carefully placed it over the pie pan. Then into the freezer it went! Linda always recommends working with a frozen crust.

Next step was preparing the apple almond filling. The smells of cinnamon-apple goodness coming from this pot were incredible! After I assembled the pie and popped it in the oven, my trusty sidekick Finn helped me by licking some of the measuring utensils clean.

Voila--Mom Hundt’s Apple Almond Pie!

Baking this pie was a blast, but the final result didn’t last long. Between a little slice here and a tiny bite there, we polished off the pie in just a few days. Luckily, we had extra apples from our trip to the farmer’s market and most of the ingredients needed to bake another.

Behold Round Two: Grandma Ferrell’s Caramel Apple pie (p146)!

Apparently I’m not the only one who’s had apple pies on the brain. Food and Wine Magazine just named Linda’s “Laura’s Sticky Toffee Pudding Caramel Apple Pie” as one of America’s Best Apple Pies. Check out the mouth-watering slide show in which Linda’s pie has top billing here.

Midwest Living also recently featured Linda and Sweetie-licious Pies. The cookbook is featured as a Midwest favorite in the magazine's Holiday Gift Guide.

So this holiday season, whether you're planning what to give for holiday gifts or what to make for holiday dessert, look no further than Sweetie-licious Pies!

Below are some of the great things people have been saying about Sweetie-licious Pies:

“Linda Hundt brings you the sweetness of pie and blends it with tradition, family, nostalgia, and fabulous recipes into one thoroughly all-American pie cookbook.” --Debbie Macomber, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Starting Now and The Inn At Rose Harbor

“Linda Hundt is like the world's greatest pie librarian and Sweetie-licious is a colorful, approachable, pie-lover's dream. It's as if Linda collected the best possible pie recipes from the world's coolest grandmothers, vintage church supper cookbooks, and route 66 diners, then sprinkled them with her own unique and talented voodoo. Get ready to put this book in your 'most frequently used' part of your kitchen library.” --Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, authors of Baked Elements: Our 10 Favorite Ingredients

“With the glide of a rolling pin, Sweeti-Licious Pies transports you to Small Town America, where pies cool on the windowsill, there's a watering can in the garden, and everyone gathers for family dinner. Linda Hundt is truly changing the world, one pie at a time. Make mine a slice of The Farmette's Blueberry Basil Cream Pie!” --Judith Fertig, author of Heartland: The Cookbook

Friday, November 8, 2013

Two books at the forefront of the busy fall publishing season

Fall is the one of the busiest times of the year in the publishing world (if not the busiest time). It's not only when agents are busy submitting to editors who are busy buying books after the lull of the summer, it's also when publishing houses are busy publishing! Many publishers release their lead titles in the fall, and so the season is marked by numerous great reads hitting bookshelves—physical and virtual—for the first time.

Two JVNLA books that have been part of the fall publishing excitement are The Book of Someday by Dianne Dixon and Margot by Jillian Cantor. Since their releases earlier this season, glowing reviews have been coming in so fast we've had a hard time keeping up with them!

Now, we're putting the spotlight on both books:

THE BOOK OF SOMEDAY BY DIANNE DIXON is, as one blogger put it, “a novel rich with compelling characters, each haunted by a past riddled with painful, life-altering mistakes” (Jenn's Bookshelves). The novel tells the story of three women whose lives are connected in mysterious ways. As these connections begin converging, each of their lives will change forever.

Dianne Dixon

Dixon credits a recurring nightmare she had as a child as the inspiration for The Book of Someday.  The nightmare was of “a beautiful woman in a silver gown opening her mouth to let out a scream [that Dixon] knew would be the sound of absolute horror.” Read more about how Dixon wove this nightmarish woman into her novel on her website here--and don't forget to check out the rest of the site!

The Book of Someday was Sourcebooks Landmark's lead title for the fall. Per a Publishers Weekly article about the imprint and its acquisition of Dixon's book, Landmark has been aggressively building its fiction list in recent years.  It has focused on women's fiction, writing that blends the literary with the commercial, and reads that make for fantastic book club selections. With The Book of Someday, Landmark knew it had found the perfect book for its fiction list, and hence it bought the novel (plus a second book) in a major pre-empt deal! Read the rest of the article here.

In another piece, Publishers Weekly highlighted Dixon's unique trajectory from Emmy-nominated screenwriter to novelist.  Novels have a particular advantage over screenplays for Dixon, as she explains in this excerpt:

When you write screenplays, says Dixon, you are creating a blueprint of a story others will execute. “Especially in animated television,” she adds, because she is not an animator. No matter how successful Dixon has been in Hollywood—where she never thought she’d end up—she says she feels most at home writing novels because she is creating the whole story herself.

Read more about Dixon's TV-to-books transition here.

Below are some of the extraordinary reviews we've received in for The Book of Someday:

“This haunting tale is an excellent piece of escapism that will put a pang in your heart and, sometimes, a chill in your bones.” --Shelf Awareness, starred review

“Compelling, emotionally driven...Reminiscent of Jodi Picoult, Kristin Hannah, and Carol Cassella...Enchanting.” --Booklist

“Unusual, suspenseful.” --Library Journal

“A real page-turner.” --Kirkus

“The reader quickly becomes enmeshed.” --BookPage

“Dixon creates beautifully broken characters whose stories are as touching as they are invigorating...A stunning and heartbreaking story.” --San Francisco Book Review

MARGOT BY JILLIAN CANTOR, a lead fall fiction title from Riverhead, tells a unique “what if” story: What if Anne Frank's sister, Margot Frank, had survived? In Cantor's sensitive imagining of this possibility, Margot has escaped to America and is living as a secretary in 1950s Philadelphia. Yet when The Diary of Anne Frank comes to movie theaters, her past and present collide.

Jillian Cantor

Cantor chose to write about Margot Franklin in part because, as an older sister herself, Cantor identified quite a lot with Margot when she read The Diary of Anne Frank as a child.

An exclusive Time feature article and interview with Cantor explores more about Cantor's inspiration, her sensitive subject matter, and her writing process:

Was she worried about treading on what many readers consider sacred text? Only after the fact, it seems. "There’s been so much written about Anne over the years...." [Cantor] says. "...But really nothing has been written about Margot...So I felt like I wanted to tell her story and when I was writing, I didn’t think about anybody reading it. I didn't think about what other people would say. I just sort of thought 'well this is a story that I need to tell. And this'd be a book I would want to read.'"

Read the rest of the article here.

The New York Times Book Review and USA Today also featured Margot in write-ups. O Magazine did a piece on it, too, calling Margot “an ode to the adoration and competition between sisters who were once so close.” O Magazine's piece is below:

But Margot hasn't only caught the eyes of the press.  Each month Library Reads compiles the top ten books librarians across the country have loved most. Margot was one of their September picks.

Below are more of the fabulous reviews Margot has received since its publication:

“Cantor's re-imagining of Margot's life is believable and wistful...A heartbreakingly masterful corollary, ultimately commemorating the abbreviated life of this remarkable young woman.” --Shelf Awareness, starred review

“Daring...This story of sisterly rivalry, sacrifice, and love survives and thrives.” --Booklist

“I haven’t been able to stop thinking about Margot since I finished this book. Highly recommended.” --Historical Novel Society

Intriguing...Compelling sensitivity.” --USA Today

“A convincing, engaging might-have-been.” --People

Ingenious...Will have you smiling--and fighting off tears.” --Ladies Home Journal, October 2013 Book Club Pick

Magnetic characters and the book’s exploration of the complexities of identity and memory make Margot a compelling read.” --Jewish Book Council

“Cantor brings Margot to life with a beautifully raw sense of immediacy.” --Brooklyn Daily Eagle