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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Five Rules for Engaging Readers of YA Fiction by Regina Brooks & Giveaway

Literary agent and author Regina Brooks tells you everything you need to know about writing and publishing the next big YA best-seller in her new edition of WRITING GREAT BOOKS FOR YOUNG ADULTS  which covers everything from choosing a topic to finding the right agent.  
To celebrate WRITING GREAT BOOKS FOR YOUNG ADULT’s October release, Sourcebooks is sharing a spotlight excerpt from the book: “Five Rules for Engaging Readers of Young Adult Fiction,” and giving away a copy of WRITING GREAT BOOKS FOR YOUNG ADULTS  (US and Canada only) any day in October.
Just comment here and RT on FB and Twitter for a chance of winning a copy!

Writing Great Books for Young Adults
October 7, 2014
By Regina L. Brooks
ISBN: 9781402293528 ● Trade Paperback/$14.99

Five Rules for Engaging Readers of Young Adult Fiction

Before you even start putting pen to paper (or finger to keyboard), there are some issues that need to be addressed. A lot of writers out there think writing YA fiction is easy. It’s not. Some mistakes you might make will condemn your book to languish on the slush pile forever. So before we even talk about the nitty--gritty of how to shape your book—-character, plot, setting, point of view—-we need to talk about the five key elements that can make or break you as a YA writer.
The Holden Caulfield Rule—-Don’t Be a Phony!

Imagine traveling to a planet where your survival depends on hiding out among the inhabitants, where being recognized as a phony would mean instant annihilation. In that situation, you’d want to study the locals until you knew just how to look and sound and respond like them. It is the same in YA fiction. In this case, sudden death occurs when the reader, stumbling upon a false image, loses interest. The book closes with the splintering sound of a fatal bullet.

It’s no exaggeration.

Holden Caulfield, the protagonist of J. D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, was always railing against the phoniness of other people, particularly adults. The enduring popularity of Catcher in the Rye demonstrates that teens today are the same way—-they despise fakes.

YA Fiction Rule #1: The life of the story depends on the writer’s ability to convince READERS that the protagonist is one of them.

The key to writing a successful YA novel means knowing kids well enough to channel their voices, thoughts, and emotions. (“Kids” is used as an operative word here. The official YA audience encompasses twelve-- to eighteen--year--olds, but it is expanding as children’s book publishers work to attract readers as young as ten and eleven, and adult publishers reach to capitalize on the growing market.) While some of your readers may be a little younger than the twelve--to--eighteen target—-children aged ten to twelve tend to read above their age—-and some may be a little older, keep in mind that you have to convince all segments of your audience that you know what it feels like to be a young person today. If you can’t convince your audience that you know how they feel about the world today and express yourself the same way, you will never reach them.

Avoid the Preach ‘n’ Teach
Whether YA readers attend elementary or secondary school isn’t an issue when it comes to the importance of YA Fiction Rule #2.

YA Fiction Rule #2: Don’t be condescending to your readers.
Young people won’t abide stories that suggest that their turmoil or idealism will pass when they “grow up.” Brent Hartinger, author of Geography Club, says, “I’m a big believer that kids are smarter than we think they are.…I think kids can handle complexity and nuances, and the advantage to writing that way is that the book appeals to both teenagers and adults.”

Many adults read fiction as an escape—-teens are no different. Imagine spending a long day in school, learning boring lessons ’cause you’re supposed to, having everyone from parents to teachers to employers telling you what to do, how to think, what to wear, then picking up a novel—-and having someone else trying to shove another lesson down your throat! I can’t imagine a bigger letdown.

Don’t deal with young people by trying to push them in one direction or another. Deal with them where they’re at now.

Soak It Up!

A word of caution: don’t emulate your favorite authors, but learn from them. You’ll want to create work that is truly your own. In the resource guide at the back of this book, along with details such as schools that offer writing degrees with a YA focus, you’ll find listings for websites that recommend great YA fiction.

YA Fiction Rule #3: Read, read, read today’s
YA fiction.

The benefits to reading what’s already on the market are phenomenal. It will familiarize you with what’s selling, how kids today talk, what they wear, what issues concern them, and so on. If you don’t have easy access to a teen, reading books meant for teens is probably the next best thing to having a teen personally tell you what he or she would like to read.

Ideals First, Meals Later

Writing a successful book that aims to attract the widest possible audience should be every writer’s goal, shouldn’t it? The answer is yes and no. It helps to have a general audience age in mind, but you don’t want to be consumed with thoughts about how and whether you’ll sell your work.

YA Fiction Rule #4: Silence your worries about commercial considerations.

This allows you to concentrate on your primary objective, which is to tell your story. If a nagging inner voice surfaces or someone discourages you, rather than pulling on earphones and listening to music as a teenager might, transform the voices through the power of your imagination into “white noise.” This is the all--frequency sound emitted from machines that imparts a feeling of privacy, calming you and allowing you to focus on that world you’re creating. Keep your artistic integrity—-your ideals—-ahead of how commercially successful—-your meals—-you want your book to be. If you focus on writing the best possible book, commercial success will follow later.

As your manuscript develops while you work through the guidelines provided in the ensuing chapters, your audience will become as clear to you as if you were speaking on a stage and looking into an auditorium full of people. If you subsequently work with an agent, the two of you can determine whether the manuscript should be pitched to editors specializing in YA, adult fiction, or both. But the fate of your manuscript will still be up in the air. Editors, who are invested with the power to buy or decline a manuscript, will ultimately determine to whom the book will be marketed.

The significant rise in the success of YA novels has opened the way for a multiplicity of categories, and just to give you an idea, I’ve listed some alphabetically: adventure, chick lit, comical, fantasy, fantasy epics, futuristic, gay--themed, historical, multicultural, mystery, religious, romantic, science fiction, sports, and urban. If your story idea doesn’t fit into any of these categories, you may have to invent one. Consider it an opportunity.

The Undiscovered Country

From this point on, let your creative spirit be guided by YA Rule #5.
YA Rule #5: In your new world of YA fiction, erect no concrete barriers, wire fences, or one--way signs. Instead, forge new paths.

The YA field welcomes innovators. Encapsulating the newness of the time, YA novels are being published in nontraditional formats. Three YA authors banded together to compose a novel. Another entry is an interactive book with websites that combines reading with the world of Internet gaming. What will your contribution be? Think fresh.

Remember that young people are trendsetters—-they’re always looking to differentiate themselves from others. It’s how teens forge their own identities. Don’t be afraid to push the boat out as well. Coming up with a fresh idea will set you apart from the pack and might be the thing that sparks an editor’s interest in your work.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Friday Five

1. Had so much fun at #kidlitcon!  If you didn't read my last post, I had a blast and it was so fun to finally meet bloggers, publishers(Chronicle books you rock), and the Cybils head people in person!

Love this photo with me and Sheila Ruth, who is over the Cybils YA Speculative panel.

And do check out blogger Blanca Welsh and her blog site

Blanca and her sister Libertad were so energetic and enthusiast.  Loved so much!

2. LOVED the iced tea Chai and mochas at Temple Coffee House in downtown Sacramento:

3. And the foyer of the Citizen's Hotel on J street had me picturing Stephanie's next haunting:

**Got to hear #Weneeddiversebooks panel and received on of their pins which is on my handbag!

4. Yes, I did read too!

Picked this galley up at Kidlitcon.  Stayed up till 3am reading this tale of a boy that goes to hell and then 'takes' this one item, thinking he can re write his death.  He takes a couple friends along with him, a Viking, a girl who burnt to death in 1666, and a girl he really likes that died in 1967.  Really enjoyed the voice.

And there will be a second book in this demon time-traveling series:

5. Loved this one!  Plus, it has a diverse protagonist.

Omg, the ghost in this story is based on the one from the horror movie THE RING only her vengeful spirit kills those that murder innocent kids/teens.  There's also scenes where exorcisms take place in the Japanese countryside and those spirits are bound in Japanese dolls.  Creepy, haunting and oh so good!

**Be prepared to read excerpts and reviews from Cybils nominated books!

And thanks in advance to publishers that send me copies!!!!!

**Guilty Pleasure:

Going with son to Party City to get him a costume.  I want to decorate my face in celebration of Dia de Los Muertos--Day of the Dead.  This Latin@ holiday is celebrated on November 1st and is a day of celebrating our ancestors by remembering them.  It's a day of reflection.  Excited going to Olvera Street in Los Angeles next month with son's Spanish class where I hope to finally purchase a sugar decorated skull!

Finding and Reviewing the Best in Diverse Children’s and YA

Finding and Reviewing the Best in Diverse Children’s and YA

There’s a great article from Katie Cunningham, an assistant professor Manhattanville College on a  Lee and Low blog back in Feb. 2013.  She refers to an article from RIF-Reading is Fundamental’s- Rudine Sims Bishop who uses the terms mirror books- and window books to describe how we both 
see ourselves and see others when we read literature.

My nephews: Baasam age 8: He loves reading on ancient Egypt, Rome, and other ancient worlds. He also asked why isn't there any books on time travel (he said going back in time or in the future).
**He also loves to watch Maya and Miguel & likes to put TV shows in different languages and English subtitles.
Khalid age 5 wants more Ninjas

As a bilingual teacher, I found that there wasn’t enough books out there that were mirrors for my students. To me it boiled down to that first day of school assignment where I had kids draw pics of themselves for our ALL ABOUT US bulletin board and most of the kids would color themselves white, blond, with blue eyes.  Really bugged me.  Then I looked at the media which had my kids loving Britney Spears, Xuxa(a Brazilian Pop star who was married to soccer Pele at that time), and all the blonds in the media. **Lack of bks that mirror Latinos-or where SkippyJon Jones books that reinforce stereotypes by thinking putting an ‘o’ at the end of words will make it authentic.  Cringing.
Plus, there wasn’t any Latina Junie B. Jones books; Magic Tree House books; or other popular kid books that shared their culture.

 As a result, I ended up ordering/borrowing books from other bilingual teachers—thank you Mrs. Salazar- that were from Mexico and Spain.  I also had my first graders write their own stories during Writer’s Workshop.  They shared their books with not only our class in our library but also with friends, family, and others.  I later found books from Alma Flor Ada that shared Spanish nursery rhymes and fairy tales.  I also shared some things I learned from my own bilingual/bicultural grad classes including Chicano Studies.  Leaders like Benito Juarez, Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta. 

Now diversity has many faces and stories which should be told.  We’ve done better than when I was first teaching in South Whittier back in the 90s but we can do much more.
I went to local library this week and asked about multicultural books for children which came up with a blank or only a very few. 

So how do we find?
Tu books editor Stacy Whitman’s Pinterest boards: **Great source.  Also on FB, Twitter, Instagram
2.Diversity in YA-great site that shares not only why important but gives links to what’s out there
3.Love Lee and Low blog which addresses the need for more books with diversity
Latinos in Kids lit
Imaginenselibros reviews/suggests Latin@ books
**Also author Alma Flor Ada has a blog site that shares her bks & other ones with Latin@ flare
Finally, where to get these books:
YABC does monthly giveaways
TeensRead too have giveaway: www.teenreads .com and www.kidsreads. com
**Latina Book Club:
Founded 2005. My mission is to promote Latino authors. I have a book of the month, weekly reviews, book summaries, author interviews. Email me directly at
Diverse Book Tours

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

More YA Speculative Books That Have Been Overlooked for Cybils

Today is the last day to nominate books for the Cybils!

Here's some more books that have slipped under the radar:

Love Metcalf's writing and this one is no exception!

I usually don't nominate sequel books but this one is a must read: Bewitching tale of Ink and Joy!  Loved!

2. REBEL BELLE is totally fun!

YA Books Central:

Teaser: A great new series from Rachel Hawkins sure to appeal to Buffy fans. Humorous with a bit of Southern charm this story will worm it's way into your heart. Great romance and coming of age story with a touch of magic. I want more!!!!


YABC review:

Teaser: Fast-paced action had me turning the pages, not wanting to stop until I found out the fate of Madeline and her twin. There's hints of other grisly things that go on inside the Usher house. Madness is shown throughout and you can't help but shiver more than a few times.

A great retellling of Poe's THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER that will please not only fans of Griffin but those who love a good, creepy tale.


YABC review:

Teaser: This is a fun new series with teens who develop the ability to read minds. I read it in one sitting. Now curious what will happen in the sequel.


YABC review:

Teaser: An unique twist on a historical YA with amazing insight into on of the most infamous crime couples of all time. Well-written with a touch of romance and fast paced suspense.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Reflections From #Kidlitcon and Sacramento

1.First off, it was kind of surreal to be back at my old work place, some thirty years later!

I used to work at Weinstocks in 1984 on K street.

My YA paranormal CROSSED OUT takes place in Sacramento too!

It felt so surreal to be back 'home'. Everything has changed with the city tearing up Downtown Plaza to make room for the King's stadium. Almost everyone, including the very friendly Super Shuttle dude, told me they worry about what impact the stadium will bring with parking and just driving.

Some things didn't change:

The amazing trees!

2. Found this awesome Temple coffee house right around the corner from Citizen's Hotel:

Loved their iced tea Chai and iced mocha drinks!

3. Yes, here's my blog saying! I took it from Cesar Chavez's famous quote. Chavez has special meaning to me as my bisabuela's--great-grandmother's-- family were migrant workers.

4. I met tons of bloggers and also FINALLY met Sheila, who is over the YA Speculative fiction panel.

5. And these two bloggers had tons of enthusiasm and energy. Loved!

**Check out their multicultural blog too!

6. Yes, I can be a part of a panel!

7. Also I finally GOT one of those #weneeddiversebooks pins!

8. The biggest thing I learned?

DON'T BE AFRAID TO SPEAK UP! Don't be afraid to fight for diverse books to be out there.  Preorder the books.  Ask for them at your library, bookstores.  Write them!  **Yes, my current project as a strong Latina protagonist.  And when I 'shared' I'm going to do a spin-off series with Selena from No More Goddesses?  I got a few squeals!

Remember, this: Like Shannon Hale told us on her Skype visit, that story might be for that one child.

9. Speaking of that, I totally got goosebumps hearing this trailer for SUGAR:

10. Also I faced my fear of traveling by myself!  Yes, I usually travel with family but this was the first time since college that I did it all myself!  Yay!

Which included getting on flights, getting a Super Shuttle, and checking in at the Citizen Hotel!

**Now if I'd only get over being shy on getting photo taken!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Some YA Books That Haven't Been Nominated Yet for the Cybils YA Speculative Fiction Category

I'm loving the list of books being nominated for the Cybils. There's some great finds but I also noticed a few books are missing from the list. So I thought I'd add my own list of some amazing YA Speculative books that have been missed so far!


I listened to the audio version and totally LOVED this Sci-fi novel. It's creepy and amazing!


You all know I'm a huge fan of Roswell The TV series. For those who also love a great alien love story, this is the one!


I'm surprised this one hasn't made the list yet.

My YA Books Central review:

Teaser: Chilling and haunting, this story had me reflecting on recent shootings gripping our nation. I actually was able to go to a prison during one of my social work grad classes and witnessed first hand some so-called sociopaths and was able to read their background stories. Specialists were able to trace to the reasons that could have caused these prisoners to do horrific things but still it boiled down to bad choices. I shudder thinking if there was in fact a genetic test that could determine a person's predisposition toward killing. I can't even imagine what would happen if there was a chance of a mistake. Also what about free will? This book will have you questioning such things and more.


My YA Books Central review:

Teaser: Mysterious and suspenseful, this novel shows us sixteen-year-old Kyra waking up and finding out she's lost five years. This is more than a Sleepy Hollow type of story as Kyra hasn't changed at all. Things that she has love and even her family seem off somehow. Here's when the creepy factor comes in. A stranger appears at her home, telling her he can help but something isn't right. Add one very cute brother of a former boyfriend and another guy who seems to everywhere.


YA Books Central review:

Teaser: What worked: The voice. What I love so much about Yovanoff's writing is it isn't over the top graphic but subtle. I was hooked right from the very start with the chilling premise--Clementine was buried alive and only after she is 'rescued' does she confront the horrific truth of what happened that night. Horror at it's finest!

Monday, October 06, 2014


I'm really excited to be able to host YA author Ally Condie on her ATLANTIA Blog tour!

Short Q&A from Ally Condie:

1) What influenced you to write about a world under the sea?
Even though ATLANTIA isn’t a book about mermaids (it’s about humans living in a city they built underwater in order to avoid pollution), I got the initial idea from re-reading Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid. (The original story is VERY different from the Disney version—much darker.) In that story, the separation between the land and the ocean is so stark and unreachable, and yet the little mermaid longs to live somewhere other than where she is. I found that yearning so poignant, and I used that as the basis for Rio. She was born in Atlantia, underwater, and yet she knows and feels that she needs to be somewhere else.

2) Love the idea of the world above and the world below. If you had a choice, what would you choose and why?
I’d pick the Above, even though in the story it’s been ruined by pollution. I just don’t think I could live in a place with walls. I like the feeling of space around me.

3) What do you do if you hit a wall in your writing?
If I get stuck, I have a few tricks. I’ll either work on another project, or read something fun, or go for a walk or a run. But usually, since I’m a mom, I’ll get stuck and then go do all the kid things with them, and by the time I can write again and they’re all in bed or all at school, I’m ready to go.

4) Do you celebrate after you finish a project? If yes, what do you do?
I do like to celebrate a little when I’ve reached a big milestone—turning in a draft to my editor, for example, usually means we get takeout from The Bombay House, our favorite restaurant. And then, instead of working after the kids go to sleep, my husband and I will re-watch a favorite episode of SHERLOCK or PARKS AND REC. I love that kind of thing. My husband has also bought me a necklace—nothing fancy or expensive, but meaningful—to wear to the book launch for each of my books. Which is very lovely of him.

5) Do you have a favorite place to write?
I love to write in my office. For so long, I didn’t have one (just a corner in the living room or a bedroom), and two years ago we moved into a home that had a dedicated office space. It’s so nice because it has windows! And bookshelves! And a bulletin board with inspiration pictures and photos of my family! I do most of my work there. Of course, I have learned to write on the road or other places, but my office is definitely my happy place as far as writing goes.

Title: Atlantia
Author: Ally Condie
Published: October 28th from Dutton Children's (Penguin Teen)
Can you hear Atlantia breathing?

For as long as she can remember, Rio has dreamt of the sand and sky Above—of life beyond her underwater city of Atlantia. But in a single moment, all her plans for the future are thwarted when her twin sister, Bay, makes an unexpected decision, stranding Rio Below. Alone, ripped away from the last person who knew Rio’s true self—and the powerful siren voice she has long hidden—she has nothing left to lose.

Guided by a dangerous and unlikely mentor, Rio formulates a plan that leads to increasingly treacherous questions about her mother’s death, her own destiny, and the complex system constructed to govern the divide between land and sea. Her life and her city depend on Rio to listen to the voices of the past and to speak long-hidden truths.

My YA Books Central review:

A great tale of the love of sisters set in a futuristic world under the sea. I loved Condie’s dystopian series MATCHED and once again she delivers an amazing new tale!

What worked: I loved the twist on ‘The Little Mermaid’ set in a future world with Sirens. Think people that can control others with their voices. Some worship them. Others fear them. There are two worlds: the ‘Above’ which has been ravaged by pollution and destruction and Atlantia, the “Below” a domed world under the sea.

A huge plus of this story has to be the love between sisters. Rio and her twin sister Bay are very close. The loss of their Minister mother still haunts both of them. Rio longs to go above and see the sun and feel the air. When an unexpected decision has Bay leave for the Above, Rio sets out to find out the real reason.

Condie shows us the determination of Rio even when her search leads her to Maire, her mother’s Siren sister. There are twists and turns and some surprising reveals that threaten everything Rio has believed in. Condie scratches below the surface and we find that some motivations on what individuals do (or don’t do) aren’t all what they seem.

Atlantia is a major character in this story. This world is shown in vivid, rich strokes that is mesmerizing with under water temples, bats with blue wings, and metal trees with chiming leaves. The world is rich and colorful. Rio loves Atlantia but notices something is off and her world is collapsing. The contrast between the world she loves and the one that is coming apart propels her to make an important choice that pivots the storyline.

There’s even a love interest-True-who has his own secret.

There is so much to love about this story--action, suspense, and a sisterly love that transcends anything that is thrown in its way.

Plus, there's a giveaway for a chance to win a galley of ATLANTIA and a very cool necklace:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Follow the team #Above for chances of prizes!

October 9- Audra (TheSociety.Net) – Long Q&A
October 11 – Emily (Emily’s Reading Room) – Review
October 13 – Magan (Rather Be Reading) – Guest post
October 15 – Nereyda (Mostly YA Obsessed) – Fancasting
October 17 – Stacy (Girls in the Stacks) – Long Q&A
October 19 – Kait ( – Long Q&A
October 21 – Kathy (I Am A Reader) - Review
October 23 – Lena (Addicted 2 Novels) – Guest post
October 25 – Lauren (Alice Marvels) – Review
October 27 – Gillian (Writer of Wrongs) – Review

**Thanks to Penguin Teen for the ARC and the necklace + the necklace images!

Friday, October 03, 2014

Friday Five

1. Been getting ready for my part of #kidlitcon next WEEK. Holy cow, next week!!!!!

2. Part of my presentation is on finding books with diversity and how to get them into the hands of bloggers. Finding some great sources out there. Do any of you know of sites that do giveaways with YAs that have diversity like latin@, African-American, GLTB, Asian, and others? Please share!!!!

3. Also excited to be a part of Ally Condie's upcoming ATLANTIA blog tour!

Check back on Tuesday for Ally's Q&A part of her tour!

Oh, I'm team Above! Read the first couple chapters and really enjoying this twist on a dystopian world.

4. You all know how much I heart Audrey Hepburn. Well, I finally finished BEING AUDREY HEPBURN:

This humorous tale is filled with a protagonist who, after wearing the very dress Audrey Hepburn worn in Breakfast at Tiffanys, is caught up in her own version of Charades by taking on the Holly Golightly persona while mingling with celebs and the rich. Lots of fun insights into Audrey Hepburn's life including a few facts I didn't know! Fun voice and characters though I felt the ending was a tad bit rushed. Still, a fun read to include in must read NA contemporary novels.

5. Just purchased from Audible books BELZAR:

Loved the sample chapters I got from Netgalley last May. I'm also finding I'm really getting into audio books again. I used to listen to them when I commuted into LA back in the 1990s. Only then it was a huge box filled with cassette tapes. The newer ones you download on your iPhone. LOVE.

**Also sightly freaking out over latest news on ebola case in Texas. Just listened to this one doctor who suggested bringing anti-bacterial wipes when flying(which I will be doing next Thursday afternoon) and cleaning down the spot where you sit. Then Liz, my one editor told me not to freak as it's only transmitted by close contact. Ugh. Then there's that other virus going around that affects kids with asthma(which son has). I feel I've stepped into one of those dystopian novels I've been reading.

Ok, deep breathe.

**Guilty Pleasure:

Going to finally get hair cut and color so I'll look fab at Kidlitcon next week.

Also slightly addicted to Starbucks Mojito drinks. What's that you ask?

Photo courtesy of

For a venti drink?
Cool lime refresher

2 pumps Classic

1.5 pump peppermint

Frizzy water

Mix with ice water.