Friday, October 22, 2010

Featured Entry: Jay Asher's Success Story

One of my favorite YA authors to follow is Jay Asher, author of Thirteen Reasons Why.  Released in October of 2007 (it actually just celebrated its 3 year anniversary), the cover had been haunting me every time I stepped inside a bookstore.  I couldn't get away from that mysterious girl on the swing. 

I tried avoiding it - not because the book didn't interest me, but because I knew what was addressed and feared the reaction I would have.  But in December of 2008, I caved and bought it.  Well, I couldn't put it down (seriously; I actually carried it into a movie theater and read until the previews began).  It was a real page turner - one that had me on the edge of my seat and constantly wanting to know more. 

For me, the novel I enjoy the most is one that brings me into the story.  Not just one I can visualize or relate to, but one that pulls me inside the story -  one that makes me a character a character in the background watching everything unfold.  Thirteen Reasons Why did just that!

Jay's novel has been a huge inspiration to me.  It was his debut book and became a huge success.  The concept was unique, one that had not been previously attempted.

ANYWAY, last night, I was in one of my usual writing funks - that cyclical one that plagues my brain on some ambiguous schedule I haven't quite figured out yet.  So I started browsing blogs, and even though I visit Jay's consistently, clicked a link for the first time that took me to his archived post about selling his first book.

Smart move. 

Jay's experience ignited a lot of motivation - so much that it's now hanging next to my desk as a tangible reminder of what might result from writing a manuscript.  It is helping me keep my eyes on the prize.  And even though I never expect to have a success story comparable to Jay Asher's, his depiction of that monumental moment keeps me inspired and focused.

Below, I have copied that entry; it really is a great story!

Happiness is... (From the original blog of Jay Asher, posted on 10/6/2006)

Razorbill? Isn’t that the name of a scary looking bird? Yes, it is. But it’s also the name of Penguin’s kick-ass teen imprint. And their logo, the one seen above, is going to be printed on the spine of my very first published book. Say it with me now…Woo-Hoo!!!

So how did I get The Call? Was it, “Hi, is Jay Asher there? Jay, this is Kristen calling from Razorbill. Are you sitting down?” No, it was a bit more…unusual. I checked my phone on my lunch break and saw that I had two new messages. The first was from my agent asking me nicely to call her back because we’d just received an offer. The second was also from my agent, this time telling me to call her back because we’d just received a second offer.

Last week, Razorbill and two other publishing houses squared off in what I have come to call The Battle of the Book. The rules of engagement, as set up by Referee Rennert (a.k.a. my agent), went as follows:

1. Slap your bids on the table.

2. Show us your marketing.

3. Place a call to the author.

Here’s how Rule #1 went down:

(today, the role of Variable X will be played by Variable $)

1. Contestant A offers an advance valued at $.

2. Contestant B counters with $ + ($ x ½).

3. Contestant A roars back into the lead with a staggering $ x 5.

4. Not to be outdone, Contestant B whips out the ol’ $ x 7½.

5. Wait…who’s that?…it looks like…it is!…here comes Contestant C with $ x 10.

6. Having none of that, Contestant A digs down deep to match the $ x 10.

7. But it’s not over yet, folks. Contestant B gets a second wind and we’re neck and neck with a three-way $ x 10. This one’s gonna be a photo finish.

8. And would you look at that…all three contestants are waving 2-book contracts!

Phew! Just typing that not-so-instant replay made me sweaty all over again. When I told Gregory K. about the auction, and after we were done celebrating, he asked, “Do you remember how it felt when the offer was still at $?” “It felt amazing,” I replied. “That’s what you need to remember,” he said. What a profound guy! (Of course, he then hit me up for some cash cuz he’s a smart guy, too.) But the great thing about having the editors come in with matching advances meant I was able to concentrate on the other details without being swayed by my well-fed credit card bill.

Speaking to each editor on the phone was wonderful. I came away with the impression that children’s book editors are some of the coolest people in the world. In the future, I would love the opportunity to hang out with each of them without having to worry about pitching myself to them…or having them pitch themselves to me. How weird is that? With past submissions, editors told me I was the one who wasn’t right for them. But last week they were telling me why they were right for me. Just when I thought I had this business figured out…

So my first book will be a Razorbill book. And my next YA will also be a Razorbill book. (If you have any ideas for a YA…any ideas at all!…please shoot me an e-mail.) They’re hoping to have my book out in Fall ’07, but you don’t need to write that down. Based on their marketing strategy, anyone within 20 miles of a bookshelf is gonna know it’s on its way. The title will likely change between now and then, but it’s currently titled Baker’s Dozen: The AudioBiography of Hannah Baker. As a demonstration of Razorbill’s marketing creativity, they submitted a 13-point Marketing Plan.

13-point…Baker’s Dozen…get it? Ha!

The original post above can be found here.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Writing Distraction #828: Fantasy Football

By now most of you know I was sucked into joining a fantasy football league this year for the first time ever.  I had absolutely no interest in doing it, but when I saw the pot, I had to go for it.  Unemployment (without actually being paid unemployment) makes a person try just about anything.  Besides, life is boring these days.  I needed something to pass the time.

For having no idea what I was doing, I ended up with a decent team.  Having first pick was pretty awesome, as it landed me Chris Johnson.  Of course I then had to wait 23 turns before picking again, making my choices for QB somewhat limited.  Eh, whatever.  Can't have everyone.

But despite a decent team, I had some devastating bad breaks.  In week one, I was projected to win.  And I would have, had it not been for the Percy Harvin debacle, which cost me a loss by less than 3 points.  Week two was just an extremely bad week, and week three I lost by five points.  Honestly, I would rather have lost by 50; five points or less just makes my blood boil.

Then things turned around.  For two consecutive weeks, I scored the most points in the league.  And then came week six.  Holy anxiety, Batman!

At the end of Sunday, I had a 40 point deficit.  We played Tony Romo, who scored 29.00 fantasy points.  My TE got a concussion, my QB had four points at the half, and I had two guys benched who did phenomenal.  Go figure. 

But then, Chris Johnson performed a fantasy miracle.  Along with my kicker and one defensive player, who is pretty darn good, they recovered my deficit and put me in the lead, allowing my third win by eight points.  Pretty sweet!

This week will be a tad tough, as two of my top players have their bye week.  However, I just picked up this guy, and if he plays like this, things could go very well.  We'll see.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Top 10 Follow-up Plus Jaded Joe's Success

So I have to say, I'm excited by the hits and feedback my top ten lists received this week.  In fact, I'm so excited, I've decided to start a new monthly tradition on my blog. 

From this point forward, I will post a new top ten list on the tenth of every month.  I've started keeping a list of categories to cover, but if you have an idea, please send it my way!

Or, better yet, make your own list and I will feature it on my blog.  Seriously!  And here is proof I'm good for my word:

A good friend of mine sent me an e-mail after reading my post Sunday night.  My blog inspired her to create several of her own lists.  Below are some of my favorites from what she sent:

****REMEMBER: These are not my lists!!***

Top 10 things I have done while (hopefully) watching and waiting for the Phillies to move to the Division Championship (Update for anyone who lives in a hole: they did in fact win!!!)

1. Had 2 glasses of wine (Don't worry; she is 21)
2, Ate 2 kinds of cheese
3. Tucked my girls into bed
4. Looked up what a male castrated cow is called (it's a steer)
5. Played words with friends (with me, FYI...)
6. Realized it was 10-10-10 after reading your blog
7. Grabbed [my dog's] bedtime biscuits
8. Downloaded a tile slide puzzle ap on my Itouch
9. Cursed mentally at my TIVO for changing channels during the game
10. Contemplated washing dishes while wondering what HODS are (one of my Words with Friends words)

Top 10 things I'd agree completely with from your lists (meaning mine)

1. Gary Puckett
2. Dusty Springfield (no shock here)
3. Nachos grande
4. Loaded cheese fries
5. I will also eat an entire bag of any kind of chips
6. Friends
7. Full House (another shocker)
8. Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (saw it in the theater when it came out--love it)
9.Musical movies
10. Mint chocolate chip ice cream

Top 10 songs I would download right now if I could spend money

1. Animal-Neon trees
2. Misery- Maroon 5--I knew you'd like this one-I can picture you singing it often--I do--gets stuck in your head "why do you do what 'cha ya do to me?"
3. If It's Love-Train
4. Breakeven- The Script
5. Just the Way You Are- Bruno Mars
6. As She's Walkin' Away-Zach Brown Band (country)
7. In the middle--Jimmy Eat World
8. Why Don't We Just Dance? Josh Turner (country)
9. Mine-Taylor Swift
10. Boots On--Randy Houser (country)

Top 10 songs I will always leave on if I hear them on the radio

1. Chasing Cars-Snow Patrol
2. I'm Yours-Jason Mraz (a good pick, I must say)
3. Sometimes Love Just Ain't Enough--Don Henley
4. I Can't Make You Love Me (If You Don't)-- Bonnie Rait
5. Heart of the Matter-- Don Henley
6.Total Eclipse of the Heart-Bonnie Tyler
7. Insensitive--Jane Arden
8. When I'm With You- Sheriff
9. Read My Mind-The Killers
10. At This Moment-- Billy Vera and the Beaters--this song is frickin' awesome

Top 10 movies

1. The Sound of Music
2. Amelie
3. Lady and the Tramp
4. Memento (this should have been on my other list)
5. Pride and Prejudice ( the one with Keira Knightley)
6. Love Actually
7. The Piano
8. Now, Voyager (Old Betty Davis movie)
9. Field of Dreams
10. Anchorman

Thank you, friend, for submitting.

In other news, the Jaded Joe's (my fantasy football team) did very very very well last week.  In fact, even with an unfortunate injury, we managed to surpass (by quite a bit) our projected stats.  I'm very proud - could we possibly be making a comeback???  Nice work, gentlemen!

Guest bloggers coming soon - Stay tuned and meet some of my editors and critics!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

My Top 10 Top 10 Lists

Happy 10-10-10!!!  In honor of today, I have composed TEN top ten lists to celebrate this once in a lifetime occasion.  Naturally, I am doing this off the top of my head and make no promises that everything is ranked the exact same way it would be if I had established an actual criteria.  There were definitely a lot of close runner ups, as must be the case in all top ten lists, and I feel bad some could not make the cut.  HOWEVER, it's still a lot of fun and I by no means think my opinion is worth a dime.  I'd love to hear your thoughts on my lists.  So, without further ado....


My Top 10 Favorite Young Adult Novels
  1. The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)
  2. That Was Then, This Is Now (S.E. Hinton)
  3. The Westing Game (Ellen Raskin)
  4. Twisted (Laurie Halse Anderson)
  5. Right Behind You (Gail Giles)
  6. The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Stephen Chobosky)
  7. Looking for Alaska (John Green)
  8. The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (John Boyne)
  9. Thirteen Reasons Why (Jay Asher)
  10. Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie (Jordan Sonnenblick)
My Top Ten Favorite Movies

1.  Chicago
2.  Who Framed Roger Rabbit
3.  The Fugitive
4.  Forest Gump
5.  The Blind Side
6.  Changeling
7.  Seven Pounds
8.  Forest Gump
9.  Shutter Island
10.  Memento

My Top Ten Favorite Bands/Groups

1.  Coldplay
2.  Live
3.  Journey
4.  The Beatles
5.  Fleetwood Mac
6.  GreenDay
7.  Aerosmith
8.  REO Speedwagon
9.  Hall & Oats
10. Simon & Garfunkel

My Top Ten Favorite Legendary Musicians
  1. Jon Bon Jovi
  2. Billy Joel
  3. Elton John
  4. Bruce Springsteen
  5. Michael Jackson
  6. Bono
  7. Marvin Gaye
  8. Frankie Valli
  9. Stevie Wonder
  10. Gary Puckett
My Top Ten Favorite TV Shows Growing Up (aka NOT NOW)

1. Kids Incorporated
2. Saved by the Bell
3. Full House
4. Family Matters
5. Friends
6. Baywatch
7. Boy Meets World
8. Sabrina
9. Under the Umbrella Tree
10. Step by Step

My Top 10 Played Songs Currently on my iPod

1.  I Made It (Cash Money Heroes)
2.  Dynamite (Taio Cruz)
3.  Billionaire (Travie McCoy ft. Bruno Mars)
4.  Animal (Neon Trees)
5.  Sex On Fire (Kings of Leon)
6.  Misery (Maroon 5)
7.  Undo It (Carrie Underwood)
8.  Dog Days are Over (Florence + the Machine)
9.  All I Do Is Win (DJ Khaled ft. Ludacris)
10.  Sweetness (Jimmy Eat World)

My Top Ten Favorite Women of Rock N Roll
  1. Heart (Anne and Nancy Wilson)
  2. Stevie Nicks
  3. Annie Lennox
  4. Debbie Harry
  5. Grace Slick
  6. Pink
  7. Pat Benatar
  8. Linda Ronstadt
  9. Dusty Springfield
  10. Sarah McLachlan

My Top Ten Favorite Snack Foods (Don't put this in front of me or I'll eat the entire plate)
  1. Buffalo Wings
  2. Loaded Cheese Fries
  3. Nachos Grande
  4. Chicken Fingers
  5. Soft Pretzel Nuggets &Cheese
  6. Chips of any kind - I'll eat the bag
  7. Fried Calamari
  8. Stuffed Mushrooms
  9. Spinach and Artichoke Dip
  10. Fried  Mozzarella Sticks 
My Top Ten Favorite Sweet Indulgences
  1. Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream
  2. Reese's Peanut Butter Cups
  3. Marble Cake
  4. Cinnamon Crumb Coffee Cake
  5. Strawberry Cheesecake
  6. Kentucky Derby Pie
  7. Chocolate Mousse
  8. Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
  9. Snickerdoodles
  10. Snickers

My Top 10 Guilty Pleasures
....and just remember, if you say ANYTHING snotty to me, I can write a book about you too!
  1. Lady Gaga
  2. Glee
  3. American Idol
  4. Roseanne
  5. Wicked
  6. Javakula's
  7. Belinda Carlisle
  8. Musical Movies
  9. Whitney Houston
  10. The Nanny
Have a great week, all. 

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Novel Winners

Thank you to everyone who participated in my third giveaway.  Since I really enjoyed your comments and appreciate your participation and support beyond words, I decided to give away all five prize packages instead of just picking three.

So, the lucky five people receiving five new novels are:
  • Michelle of Yardley, PA: Classics
  • Vita of Hatboro, PA: Best Sellers
  • Marie of Reading, PA: Book Store Favorites
  • Courtney of Westhampton, NJ: Before the Movie
  • Nicole of Hatboro, PA: Young Adult
Thank you again to all who participated.  Please continue visiting my blog to check out my latest posts, remain updated on my penning novel, and to learn about future contests and giveaways.  Have a great idea for a contest?  Send it my way!

Also, be sure to look for upcoming posts from my first series of Guest Bloggers later this month.  Stop in to meet and hear from some of the people who are editing and critiquing my work.  And, come November, I will be naming one male and one female Role Model of the Year for 2010.  More details on that coming soon!!!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Alright Book Hoarders: This Contest Is For You!

At the risk of speaking prematurely, I believe I'm approaching the final few miles in the marathon I'm running.  In other words, the manuscript of my novel is winding down, and by the end of this year, I'll be printing out a product.  Of course, it will only be a draft of several drafts to come, but I'm excited to be able to sit down and read it from start to finish.  It is really going to be a great day when that time comes.

I've been following a lot of writers on Twitter - some who are published and others who are in the process.  It is amazing what tips and advice can come from such a simple act.

Anyway, earlier this weekend, I stumbled upon a tweet that linked to this blog post: The #1 Thing You Must Do Before Writing a Book.  I was relieved to read the suggestion was to start a blog, as I have clearly already accomplished that task.

The article reminded me how important a blog can be for an aspiring writer.  It gets your name and ideas out there and allows you to begin generating an audience.  It allows people to know what you are working on, and hopefully, to anticipate a finished product.

Which brings me to my next blog contest.  Once again, it's so easy!  How could you not participate???

To be eligible for this contest, all you have to do is comment on ONE of my previous posts (previous contest posts excluded).  You can use my blog archive to navigate to a topic that sounds interesting to you.  There are 23 to choose from.  Once you have commented on at least one previous post, fill out the form below and register to win one of these book packages:

Book Package #1: The Classics
  1. The Odyssey by Homer
  2. The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain
  3. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
  4. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
  5. Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare
Book Package #2: Before the Movie
  1. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
  2. Must Love Dogs by Claire Cook
  3. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
  4. The Reader by Bernhard Schlink
  5. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
Book Package #3: Book Store Top Picks
  1. Wicked by Gregory Maguire
  2. Riding the Bus with My Sister by Rachel Simon
  3. She's Come Undone by Wally Lamb
  4. The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
  5. Nights in Rodanthe by Nicholas Sparks
Book Package #4: Best Sellers
  1. The Cold Moon by Jeffery Deaver
  2. The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly
  3. Beautiful Lies by Lisa Unger
  4. The Motive by John Lescroart
  5. The King of Torts by John Grisham
Book Package #5: Young Adult Favorites
  1. The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
  2. Milkweed by Jerry Spinelli
  3. Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko
  4. Tangerine by Edward Bloor
  5. Night Hoops by Carl Deuker

 Contest Rules & Eligibility Requirements
  • In order to be eligible for this contest, all you need to do is comment on at least one previous blog post.  Remember, previous contests (i.e. Teacher Treasure Chest and Restaurant Gift Card) are excluded.
  • If you do not have one of the approved accounts accepted by Blogspot (Aim, Live Journal, etc.), select "Name/Url" from the drop down menu. Type your name (full, first name only, or make up a screen name - I don't care - your choice) and click submit. If you have a website, you may type that in the URL section, but that is optional. You can also post anonymously.
  • Click "post comment."  Please verify your comment has been published before entering.
  • After doing so, you must fill out and submit the entry form below. Otherwise, your registration will not be received.
ADDITIONALLY, you can receive extra entries by doing any or all of the following:
  • Advertise this contest on your blog (+5 entries)
  • Advertise this contest on Facebook (+3 entries)
  • Advertise or retweet this contest on Twitter (+2 entries)
  • I'll also add an entry if you become a follower of my twitter feed and/or my blog (+1 each - I will be notified of this through e-mail)
Entries must be received by 11:59 PM on Friday, October 8.  At that time, will automatically generate three (3) winning entries.  The winners will be announced on Saturday afternoon.  Each winner will receive the highest ranked prize package that is still available.  (The first generated winner receives first choice, and so on from there based on availability.)  The prize will be shipped out (or possibly delivered) at some point next week. 

Thank you in advance for participating. Good luck to everyone!

This contest is now closed.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Bullies Thrive as Casualties Rise

In light of recent events, I feel compelled to share my thoughts, feelings, and concerns regarding the devastating news dominating the media these past few weeks.  It was not long ago that summer bid us farewell, the fall arrived, and a new school year began for students and teachers across the nation.  And so far, 2010-2011 has been more than memorable, as at least FOUR individuals have made the drastic decision to cut their  life short due to ongoing embarrassment, humiliation, and public exposure from peers.

It has to end!

Sadly, these are simply the anecdotes that have been brought to my attention.  How many more lives have been lost in this selfish quest of social supremacy?  How many kids are currently contemplating this very same decision, and sadly enough, will be inspired by the recent trend?

September 9.  Fifteen year-old Bully Lucas of Greensburg, IN was found by his mother - dead.  Billy had hung himself.  He was tormented for his alleged sexual orientation; however, he never once told anyone he was gay.  And driving Billy to suicide was not enough for some fellow high school classmates.  Hate messages have now been posted on his memorial page.  A graduate of Billy's high school was quoted for experiencing similar problems.  Now twenty-one, the individual, who chose to remain anonymous, has horrible memories from high school.  He claims he reported such behaviors numerous times but the school district failed to respond.

September 22. Tyler Clementi, an eighteen-year-old freshman at Rutgers University, jumped off the George Washington Bridge and into the Hudson River. Tyler was a bright individual and talented violinist. But after Tyler's roommate streamed him having an intimate encounter with another male over the Internet, Tyler struggled to see the point in living.

It seems the older we get, the more creative some become in their methods for humiliating another person. Because, as Tyler knew, nothing he ever did would reinstate his reputation. He would, for the rest of his college career, be "that kid." Don't get me wrong - I wish with all my heart he was able to find help and support to make a better decision. However, I think we need to wake up and start realizing actions can have PERMANENT wounds!

September 23.  Last Thursday, eighth-grader Asher Brown, 13, of Cypress, Texas was discovered on the floor of his stepfather's closet after his life was claimed from the bullet of a pistol.  Tragically, it was Asher himself who pulled the trigger.  Asher was constantly bullied by four other students at his Texas middle school.  His small size, religion, and wardrobe all made him a target, as did the fact that other kids perceived Asher to be gay.  The article states, according to Asher's parents, "His most recent humiliation occurred the day before his suicide, when another student tripped Brown as he walked down a flight of stairs at the school."

I'd like to remind all educators of the importance of having an adult presence in hallways, especially during passing time.  As an educator, I know it is common knowledge that the majority of bullying takes place during unstructured, unsupervised times: hallways, bathrooms, bus stops, at lunch, during the hectic minutes of homeroom, and in gym class, especially in locker rooms.  If we know these are the "hot spots," then we MUST make our presence known. 

We can never know for sure how many acts we prevent, because an act that never occurs cannot be documented.  But I guarantee, had an adult been present in that stairwell, Asher would not have been tripped.  Would that have made a larger difference in the grand scheme of things?  We'll never know....

September 28.  This past Tuesday, thirteen-year-old Seth Walsh of Tehachapi, California died after he made the decision to hang himself nine days prior.  Walsh was discovered in his backyard and immediately rushed to the hospital.  For nine days, he remained alive on life support.  During that time, Seth's friends created this video:

Seth had people in his life who cared for him.  But sadly, it wasn't enough to numb the pain he endured on a daily basis.

Ellen DeGeneres said recently that "one life lost in this senseless way is tragic; four lives lost is a crisis."  Please take a moment and watch her powerful message:

There are people in this world, some of them who are people I know, who are "tired of hearing the bullying sob stories."  Perhaps they are unable to recognize a need they are so far removed from.  Well, all I can say is, how nice for them.

"We were all teased," a "friend" recently told me.  SO THAT MAKES IT OKAY???  ARE YOU ATTEMPTING TO JUSTIFY THESE BEHAVIORS???  IT IS NOT PART OF LIFE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The bottom line is, there are a number of people who have felt they had no other alternative.  It is not our job to pass judgment - to think in our heads that they made their own choice and had other options.  We have no right as humans to decide how someone should or should not be affected by a situation - to tell someone to "shrug it off."  These kids need our help, and for the names listed above, as well as countless others, we as a society have failed to help them.

Yes, you heard me!  In the subject of bullying prevention, I'm giving the country an F!  And I have a BSE, M.Ed., and four certifications that make me qualified to administer grades.

These kids are unable to see beyond the moment they live in - the current pain and suffering that eats at them twenty-four hours a day.  They don't foresee a time when their life will be better; they only see the next day as returning to the line to be fired at by the enemy.

We have wasted enough time defending the bullies.  Because they are "just kids," right???  They have needs, right?  They didn't pull the trigger or tie the rope around the victim's neck, right???

Seriously, with all do respect, SHUT UP!  It's time to wake up, stop the coddling, and recognize an epidemic infecting our country.  I swear the adults making these excuses must be former (or just older) bullies themselves.  Excuse notes are as useful as the used post-it they are written on.  And I have to say, I'm getting damn tired of reading them!