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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Story Secrets: THE HEART IS NOT A SIZE winner!

Thanks to everyone for their comments on our Story Secrets interview with Beth Kephart, and to Beth for coming to talk with us about her beautiful novel, THE HEART IS NOT A SIZE.

We had so many wonderful comments this week, like this, from Amy Baskin:

I would love to travel with my father to Rwanda and other parts of East Africa and help him with micro-financing and small business support for coffee farmers.

And this, from InkGirl:

If I could travel anywhere, I'd travel home, and make sure that in this small place which I think I know so well, everything is alright.

And this, from Sylvia:

I've been to China a couple of times already, but if I was given the chance to go there and make a difference, I will definitely grab the opportunity to change how the people there view women, especially daughters. I'm Chinese myself and I grew up feeling inferior to my little brother just because he is a boy and I think it's really unfair...

Such big-hearted people in the world, which I suppose is the theme of Beth's wonderful novel.

So I suppose you'd like to hear the winner of one copy of HEART?


Congratulations to Charlotte! Thanks to everyone, and keep coming back for more Story Secrets interviews and chances to win great books and meet brilliant authors like Beth.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Results of the Library Blog Challenge!

Thanks to everyone who commented on the Library Blog Challenge. We had a whopping list of almost 200 commenters (the main post, plus stray comments on the blog and Facebook!), so as promised we are going to donate our blog challenge total ($300, plus my sweetheart matching the total for $600!) for our local library, the Seattle Public Library.


There has been some extraordinary library love this last week all over the blogosphere - you can see the full lineup of Libary Blog Challenge participants (and share the library wealth) over at Jenn's blog, plus Liz B. of A Chair, A Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy suggests taking the library love a step further. To quote Liz:

As you are sharing your library love online, please look into your current public library and its funding situation and see if they need your help. While it may include actual fund raising, the help may also be as simple as your contacting government representatives (local, state, national) to let them know: you use your library.

How to find out more about the budget and funding issues that may impact your local library? Because this can be either a local or state issue, Google and find out what is happening in your state, town, and county and then act! Each state has a library association; find your state's association webpage for resources.

Right on, Liz.
And here is a library-loving poem from my friend, Annie:
Libraries nurture
With books and much more
Who knows the surprises
That they'll have in store?

Thanks for supporting
Our local libraries
People like you
Are as good as the fairies.

Thank you, everyone, for helping support our libraries, and to Jennifer Hubbard, author of THE SECRET YEAR, for organizing this event!

I'll be posting the Tell Me a Secret-inspired prize pack winner on Friday!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

300 comments for 600 library dollars - comment before Monday!

We're getting closer and closer to our goal...so I decided to extend the Library Blog Challenge deadline until 11am PST Monday! Leave a comment here at the official library challenge post!

If I hit 200 comments, we will still donate the full amount - especially since all of you have been so awesome and supportive! Wow, lots more followers, too. Thanks, everyone!

And don't forget the TELL ME A SECRET prize pack! We will pick a winner next week. You are all the best!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Library Blog Challenge: Don't forget to enter for the TMAS prize pack!

A Tell Me a Secret-inspired prize pack is still up for grabs until 5pm tomorrow eve!

Just leave a comment at my Library Blog Challenge post - for every unique user* comment until 5pm PST Saturday, I will donate $1, up to $300, to my local library, Seattle Public Library (plus my sweetie will match for double the library love)!

Plus there are prizes! Follow the link to leave a comment, plus you can link, tweet, and tell your friends! (Plus check out the full list of Library Blog Challenge participants over at
Jennifer Hubbard's blog).

Winner and final tally announced next week!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Story Secrets: THE HEART IS NOT A SIZE by Beth Kephart + Giveaway!

Can I tell you how much I love Beth Kephart? I haven't even met her in person, but she is one of the kindest writers I know. She encourages others and talks writing and crows and tells truthful stories straight from the heart, not to mention is the recipient of many writing awards. And she was readergirlz's first Author-In-Residence!

So I am very pleased to interview her about her latest, THE HEART IS NOT A SIZE, which releases at the end of this month!

Welcome, Beth!


THE HEART IS NOT A SIZE is the story of two best friends who join other teens on a good will trip to a squatters village in Juarez, Mexico. Each friend harbors a secret. The secrets put these friends at risk. In a heat-baked town among wholly impoverished people, decisions have to be made.

Like most of my books, HEART erupts from real life. In this case, the starting point was a good will trip that I, along with my husband, son, and some two dozen others, took to Juarez in the summer of 2005. We were there to build a community bathroom and to get to know the people. I arrived with my camera and fell in love with the people we met and the kids with whom we’d traveled. I took photo after photo. I published two photo essays. Still, it wasn’t enough—I wanted to think more and harder—and as I created my two key characters, Georgia and Riley, I gave them challenges that I myself have struggled with: a propensity to panic, and (in my teens and early 20s) anorexia.

The book was written quickly and then set aside for a few years while I wrote and finished Nothing but Ghosts and wrote early chapters of an historical novel called Dangerous Neighbors (due out in September from Egmont USA). I find that books that force you into a deep place within yourself require many, many drafts, and time away to gain perspective. I worked with two different editors on the book—first with Laura Geringer, then with Jill Santopolo— and when Jill, too, left HarperTeen, I finished the book with Ruta Rimas. The first draft was a shell of a book. The second through fifth drafts were developmental. The final many drafts were all about getting the language just right.

You have asked if I talk with anyone while writing my books. Every now and then, I’ll feel the need to show my agent or a friend a paragraph or two simply to say, This is the mind space in which I’m living now. If you call and I don’t answer, I am here. After a first complete draft, the editor is, of course, on board. Sometimes, when I’m lucky, a friend will offer to read the book through, but I only share the book with a friend after I’ve gotten it as far as I can take it on my own.

The secret to my writing can be captured in a single word: dwelling. I have to go very, very deep before I find the language I need and before the characters feel distinct from me, as real as real people. I don’t think I’ve ever written a sentence that has stayed untried, untested. It’s always evolving until the very end. I know when a book of mine is done when I no longer have the urge to rewrite its sentences.


Thank you so much, Beth, for sharing your secrets and your great heart.

For a chance to win a copy of THE HEART IS NOT A SIZE, leave a comment below on either a) a place you would love to travel and make a difference or b) why you'd love to read HEART. Deadline is 5pm PST Monday, and please include a way to contact you. Comment away!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Tell Me a Secret: First Review!

Sharon @sharonlovescats has posted the very first review of TELL ME A SECRET, and she gives it five purrs! She says:

I could go on and on about how amazing this book was, but I don't want to bore you all. Tell Me a Secret was a real page turner. The pacing and format of it was perfect. I was never bored or confused by anything that was happening. I pretty much picked Tell Me a Secret up and didn't put it down again until I was finished...

Wow. (Thank you, Sharon!)

Even more awesome, she liked it so much that she's hosting an international contest to give her copy away. Enter at her blog!

Another chance to win a copy: The Bookologist is running a mega ARC giveway!

I also want to thank all of the many very kind bloggers who have contacted me to say they are excited about the book, and Iffath of LoveReadingX, who blogged about me for Author Appreciation Week - you're all the best!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Library Blog Challenge + TELL ME A SECRET Prizes!

Yes, I said prizes... a Tell Me a Secret-inspired prize pack!!!

Prompted by my friend Jennifer Hubbard (debut author of THE SECRET YEAR - read her Story Secrets here!), I am joining the Library Blog Challenge. Basically, it's this:

For every unique user* comment on this post between now and 5pm PST on Saturday (March 27), I will donate $1, up to $300, to my local library (Seattle Public Library, a truly amazing collection!). Plus my sweetheart will match the total for double the library love (thank you, honey!)!

*It's just one comment per person, but you can spread the word by linking to this post, tweeting, inviting friends...and be sure to check out all of the Libary Blog Challenge participants (and share the library wealth) over at Jenn's blog.

And NOW, for the PRIZES!

I will select one random commenter to receive a TELL ME A SECRET prize pack, including a CD from Universal Hall Pass (music that inspired the book), a TMAS excerpt, handmade TMAS magnets (made by me!), and the limited edition bookmark...

Check in next week to find out if you're a winner!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Hanging out with Carrie Ryan + a rgz giveaway!

Carrie Ryan is out and about to celebrate the release of her latest, The Dead-Tossed Waves, and stopped in to Seattle's University Bookstore to hang out with some of us from readergirlz - Liz Gallagher, Jackie Parker, and me!

Liz and I had a chance to sit down with Carrie to chat about tuna, zombies, and fiances with title mojo and snap a few pics (plus you can see Liz'sreadergirlz post here.)

First, there is the Tuna Connection:

Next, fiance-writer-brilliant-title-comer-upper-er:

Then there is process, process, process!

I had to duck out, but Liz went on to capture Carrie's very cool reading event and pizza party:

And some pics! First, Liz with Carrie, and then one with Carrie and me!

Even better, readergirlz is giving a way a signed copy of The Dead-Tossed waves to one lucky reader - see details and enter here. Plus there is lots more about Carrie's next stops, Zombies vs. Unicorns (after meeting Carrie, I'm seriously swayed to consider the Zombie side), and her chat on Random Buzzers.

Thanks, Carrie! And we'll see you around next time for The Dark and Hollow Places...

Friday, March 19, 2010

DIY Friday: Ooooh. Look at this!

I just stumbled on the coolest site when I was researching...well, nevermind what I was researching, because it will probably be a future DIY Friday. ;)

But in the meantime, I offer...http://www.instructables.com/!

Basically, it's a giant DIY site for just about anything you can imagine, and a lot of stuff you probaby wouldn't. Like...

How to make a chocolate cake in 5 minutes - yay!

How to make a magnetic spice rack - cool!

How to make your own chain mail - whoah.

And my personal favorite, how to make Hornz the Rhinoceros!

How did I miss this? More importantly, what do I want to make first??

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Story Secrets: THE UNWRITTEN RULE by Elizabeth Scott

What a treat to have Elizabeth Scott, well-loved author of SOMETHING, MAYBE, BLOOM, PERFECT YOU and many more - and our second Author-In-Residence at readergirlz - here to spill her Story Secrets about THE UNWRITTEN RULE, which just released this week! (If you missed other Story Secrets, read them here!)

Welcome, Elizabeth!


THE UNWRITTEN RULE is about a girl who falls for her best friend's boyfriend. As you can guess, things get really messy really fast, and although the story is a romance, it's as much about friendship and how complicated it can be as it is about love.

How did THE UNWRITTEN RULE come to you?
I actually came up with it when I was talking to my editor, Jen Klonsky! We were talking about high school and somehow we ended up talking about the things you weren't supposed to ever do--like liking a friend's boyfriend or ex-boyfriend. "It's like a unwritten rule!" I said, and then WHAM! The story just hit me.

Jen is amazing enough to take the time to talk through ideas that aren't even ideas and then lets me run with them! I love her for that.

What was it like to write about a friend who falls in love with her best friend's boyfriend?
I thought the book would be a simple love story--but once you put friendship into the mix, it can't be simple. It just can't. And that was challenging, but I like writing about friendships and how they aren't as perfect as everyone thinks they are--or should be.

Do your stories come out perfectly the first time, or do you do a lot of revising in the process?
I go through a lot of drafts--A LOT. And my stories shrink, on average, but about thirty to forty percent between first and final draft because I always think of what Elmore Lenoard says: "Leave out the parts the people skip." It's great advice, although it can be hard to follow when it comes to a passage you love. But those are the ones that usually need to be cut.

I love that! My sweetheart is one of my first readers, and he always says, "It's great! Now I can help you cut the boring parts." Sometimes I have to cut things I love, but he's usually right. Do you talk with anyone about your writing?
I hate talking about what I'm working on--I don't even like telling people I write! But I do share everything--including all those horrible drafts, with my amazing friend Jess. I said in LOVE YOU HATE YOU MISS YOU that she deserved a parade, and I wasn't kidding!

Do your own experiences make their way into your novels?
Not at all. I like making up stories about other people. Writing about myself would be weird and boring.

I don't believe that...there have to be some secrets. So spill 'em, Elizabeth!
I'm left-handed, I'm addicted to celebrity gossip, and I like watching TV--I know, but I do! I also didn't start writing until I was 27, and I am allergic to just about every food--especially fruit-- you can think of. Needless to say, this makes dining out a pleasure!
(rolls eyes)

Thank you, Elizabeth!


And check this out, a really cute fan-made book trailer for THE UNWRITTEN RULE:

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

rgz LIVE! chat with Scott Westerfeld tonight!

Stop by the readergirlz blog tonight for a LIVE chat with Scott Westerfeld, author of the very cool steampunk novel, LEVIATHAN!

The live chat starts at 6pm PST/9pm EST - hope to see you there!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Story Secrets: BORDERLINE winner

Thanks to everyone - including visitors from Guys Lit Wire - who came over to check out the Story Secrets interview with Allan Stratton, who shared some insider info on his latest, BORDERLINE. I hope this book will continue to open up dialogue about important issues of identity in our present world.

We have one copy of BORDERLINE to give away, and there were so many great comments that I turned to http://www.random.org/ for help in selecting one...

One thoughtful commenter said,

"Ever since I first heard of Borderline a few weeks ago, I've been really intrigued! It's a wonderful combination of YA subgenres that don't seem at first impression to fit together, but when combined it actually sounds fascinating."

So congrats to Steph Su on winning a copy of the book, and thanks to Allan who graciously provided it!

Then stay tuned for this week's Story Secrets with author Elizabeth Scott on her latest, THE UNWRITTEN RULE!

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Steampunk World's Fair!

Speaking of Scott Westerfeld and LEVIATHAN, the featured book over at readergirlz this month, this event sounds amazingly cool:

Such a tempting reason to go to New Jersey in May! Think you might want to go? Here's the official site.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Friday, March 12, 2010

DIY Friday: A Garden of Veggies

This year, I decided, I will attempt to grow my own food. Maybe not all of it - probably not even a week's worth, but perhaps this will be the start (pun intended...see? Garden humor already!) of something big.

I started out with some organic seed starter mix, a plant tray, and an array of vegetable seeds...yes, from the Big Bad Box of nurseries, Home Depot (the shame, I know).

Zucchini, parsley, carrots, radishes, basil, yum! We mixed, planted, and covered right there on the kitchen floor, and then you-know-who made markers for each:

And then...


Are you planting anything this spring?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Story Secrets: BORDERLINE by Allan Stratton + Giveaway!

Out of the blue, Allan Stratton, one of my favorite authors (known for CHANDA'S SECRETS, which we have featured on readergirlz twice as a postergirlz pick, and others!), emailed me to say, "Hey, we have the same editor!" I was floored and flustered and very pleased, first because I've always admired his writing, and second, because it confirmed my opinion that my editor is brilliant and wonderful. :)

Then I found out Allan had a book coming out in March, so I asked him to share some story secrets about BORDERLINE, coming out this week! (Read more Story Secrets from YA authors here)


BORDERLINE is a coming-of-age mystery/suspense/thriller. The hero is Sammy Sabiri, a funny, gutsy, Muslim American. Sammy has problems with a bully at the private boy’s school where he’s been stuck by his over-controlling father. But these problems are nothing compared to what happens when the FBI and Homeland Security swoop in and arrest his dad, claiming he’s part of an international terrorist plot. Aided by his best friends Andy and Marty, Sammy risks everything in his struggle to discover the truth about his dad and save his family. It’s a roller coaster ride in which nothing is ever what it seems.

First, tell us BORDERLINE's story behind the story.
Three life experiences almost certainly fueled BORDERLINE:

My mom left my dad when I was a baby. Growing up, I was soon aware that the father I knew was very different from the father my half-brother knew, and even more different than the father my half-sister knew. As a teenager I thought, “If I can’t really know my dad, how can I know anyone? How can anyone know anyone?”

The second experience happened to me when I was eight. I was hiding under the picnic table and eavesdropping on a conversation Dad was having with my grandparents about capital punishment. I remember breaking into a cold sweat, overcome with the certainty that one day I’d be executed for a crime I didn't commit. The idea that life isn’t fair has stuck with me ever since -- and that horrible sense of how helpless we are in the face of rumor, gossip and fear.

Finally, there was growing up as a gay kid in the 1950s and 60s. Unable to be open even to the parents and friends who loved me, I instinctively learned to hide who I was in order to survive. I learned about the borders that keep us from each other, about the lines that separate and shape us. And I learned that ‘The Truth’ and ‘The Whole Truth’ are very different things.

In fact, come to think of it, these three experiences connect to the thematic passions in all my work – to my obsession with secrets, loyalty, betrayal, justice, and the absolute importance of living with truth.

What have been some of the unexpected consequences of writing BORDERLINE?
I’ve always been interested in the spiritual side of life, and in exploring different faith practices. I was raised in the United Church (a Canadian Protestant amalgamation of Presbyterian and Methodist denominations), but have also attended worship at Baptist, Quaker, and Pentecostal churches, as well as Catholic masses (Roman and Eastern Orthodox), Jewish Reform and conservative services, and even undergone a SanterĂ­an purification ritual in rural Cuba, witnessed an exorcism in Botswana, and met with spirit doctors in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Zambia.

I’ve also visited many mosques in Egypt, Turkey and Spain. (The imam at the Mosque of Quaitbey in Cairo was kind enough to let me climb the minaret to see the surrounding City of the Dead.) But work on BORDERLINE introduced me to a range of Muslim congregations and prayer services, both conservative and progressive, where I was reconfirmed in the obvious: that there is an equally wide range of religious interpretation and observance in Muslim congregations and individuals as there are in Christian and other faith traditions; and that the media has done a great disservice in reinforcing only negative stereotypes of Islam, rather than exploring the progressive elements of the faith as well.

That said, I must stress again that this is a character-based, coming-of-age mystery/thriller. By the time one starts writing, all one’s research should be internalized so that the reader isn’t aware of it. Characters and story are paramount: they must be gripping. Research can help root a novel by giving it a more authentic voice; for the greater the human truth of a novel, the greater the spell it casts on its audience.

In terms of writer’s voice, oddly enough, this is the first novel I’ve written from a first-person male perspective, although as a playwright I’ve frequently written male characters and voices.

Who inspires you, in life and work?
Easy. My mom. She is unconditional love. Mom left my dad in the early 1950s when I was a baby. At the time, divorce was considered a scandal, and women didn’t progress very far into he work force. Despite those obstacles, Mom raised me as a single parent to be proud of myself, and at the same time broke the professional glass ceiling, becoming the first female inspector of schools in our province (outside of girls’ phys ed), and finally assistant to the deputy minister of education and a major developer of school curricula. Mom is the reason I write such strong female characters. I absolutely love her to bits. When I face a tough moral choice, I always ask: What would Mom do?

How did BORDERLINE evolve as you wrote and revised?
It took me about six months to research with friends in the Muslim community, as well as with law enforcement, the ACLU, and a guy who was a hostage at the American Embassy during the Iranian hostage crisis. Then it took another nine months to write the first draft. There were two other drafts, each of which took about three weeks apiece. I should add, though, that my first drafts go through revisions on a daily basis. I read everything aloud: rhythm is very important to me.

As always, I had an outline of the story when I began that acted as a safety net. But again, as always, once I got going I let the characters take over. So much happens that I never imagined at the outset. Those times when characters say and do the unexpected are the times when I feel most alive as a writer, laughing, weeping, discovering things at the same time as they do.

Who do you trust to read your work first?
I keep my partner and three close female friends up to date, generally by reading them chunks of new material. They’re all very strong readers and listeners: If they point out a problem to me I listen; they’re always on to something real. Also, I find reading material aloud helps me to gauge when my audience is with me and when it’s drifting.

Thank you, Allan!


Post a comment below on why you'd like to read BORDERLINE - deadline is 5pm PST Monday, and please include a way to contact you. Happy posting!

By the way, CHANDA'S SECRETS is being made into a film right now - Allan traveled to South Africa for the filming, which he blogs about here. It's pretty fascinating. And check out BORDERLINE's Reviews and Stars!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Story Secrets: SPLIT winner

We had some great comments on the Story Secrets interview with 2010 fellow debut author Swati Avasthi, who just came out with SPLIT!

Plus we were very pleased to welcome visitors from Guys Lit Wire to check out a great book by a new author.

So it was going to be difficult to choose three winners out of this selection, so I went to random.org (thanks, Greg Pincus!) for three random winners:

The winner drumroll please...



************Cari, Janet, and Kelly!************

Congrats, Cari, Janet, and Kelly, on each of you winning a brand new copy of SPLIT!

Come back tomorrow for another interview and giveaway with BORDERLINE author Allan Stratton, where you'll hear even more Story Secrets...

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

rgz Operation TBD is coming soon!

Don't forget, ladies and gents, that Operation Teen Book Drop is coming up fast, on April 15, Support Teen Literature Day. We’re bringing 10,000 books to Native Teens, and more than 100 YA authors around the nation will be leaving their books for surprised readers to find and join us for a rockin' online after-party!

And big thanks to School Library Journal for the Operation TBD shout-out!

If you are a YA author and want to participate, contact us at readergirlzdivas AT gmail DOT com.

Wanna Rock the Drop with us? Check out the official Operation TBD page.

And see my trailer below, with the very cool music from my friend's band, Symbion Project, and Blackhawk Kapusta on flute!

Monday, March 08, 2010

Story Secrets contest reminder: win SPLIT

Don't forget to enter the SPLIT giveaway by 5pm PST today for one of three copies of Swati Avasthi's 2010 debut novel!

16-year-old Jace Witherspoon arrives at the doorstep of his estranged brother Christian with a re-landscaped face (courtesy of his father’s fist) and a secret. He tries to move on -- new friends, new school, new job -- but all his changes can’t make him forget what he left behind: his mother, who is still trapped with his dad. Split is about what happens after. After you have gotten out, how do you begin to live again?

rgz in March: Scott Westerfeld

Over at readergirlz, our featured author this month is none other than Scott Westerfeld, and we're chatting about LEVIATHAN and awesome steampunk worlds all month. It's going to be a wild ride!
Learn more at the readergirlz March issue, and be sure to chat with us March 17 at 9 p.m. Eastern, 6 p.m. Pacific at the readergirlz blog:

And don't miss the books the postergirlz committee has worked hard to recommend, including:

The Cabinet of Wonders by Marie Rutkowski
Skybreaker by Kenneth Oppel
The Explosionist by Jenny Davidson
Skin Hunger by Kathleen Duey
Boneshaker by Cherie Priest
Gothic Charm School: An Essential Guide for Goths and Those Who Love Them by Jillian Venters

Hope to see you around this month to chat steamy stories!

Friday, March 05, 2010

DIY Friday: Get a kit to make a readergirlz bookmark!

This is so cool: Jen Funk Weber has put together this fantastic bookmark craft - and you can get a free kit to make one yourself! - to help get readergirlz involved with Stitching for Literacy. Check out this video on how to make one of your own (maybe even to drop with a book for Operation Teen Book Drop!):

Request your kit by March 15 by emailing readergirlz AT gmail DOT com. Readergirlz will be posting instructions on how to make the bookmark soon.


Thursday, March 04, 2010

Story Secrets: SPLIT by Swati Avasthi + Giveaway!

Would you believe I met Swati Avasthi, 2010 debut author of SPLIT, in the elevator at a writing conference? (See how to win a copy below!) Here's how it went down:

Me (spotting Swati and realizing I have to figure out how to put on my red Indian sari, given to me by husband's relatives, for the Red Party that eve): You're Indian! You can help me! Will you help me?

Swati: Uh, sure.

After that, we were fast friends. Then later, after the red sari incident:

Me: So what do you write?

Swati: I'm working on a YA novel...about this guy Jace, who arrives at the doorstep of his estranged brother Christian with a re-landscaped face (courtesy of his father’s fist) and a secret.

Me: Hmm, that sounds exactly like something this agent I know would like...

Next thing I knew, Swati had signed with that agent and gotten a 2-book deal with Knopf (go, Swati!). So I'm very excited to now welcome her to share Story Secrets for her debut novel, SPLIT, on shelves now! (Btw, catch more YA Story Secrets here.)


16-year-old Jace Witherspoon arrives at the doorstep of his estranged brother Christian with a re-landscaped face (courtesy of his father’s fist) and a secret. He tries to move on -- new friends, new school, new job -- but all his changes can’t make him forget what he left behind: his mother, who is still trapped with his dad. Split is about what happens after. After you have gotten out, how do you begin to live again?

Swati: Split grew out my experiences when I coordinated a domestic violence legal clinic in Chicago. In the three years I worked there, I saw thousands of abuse victims. Women, men, and their children sought civil orders of protection at the clinic. And I listened their stories. Once, as a woman relayed a particularly brutal incident while her two children sat beside her, I asked if she'd like an intern to look after the children. She said, no, they had seen it anyway.

I went home that night thinking, What would it be like to be a witness? What would that do to a child? And, I was conflicted about the woman I was supposed to help -- their mother. Was she responsible? What was her duty to her children and to herself? I knew that I was falling into the trap of victim blaming, but couldn't find my way out. Eventually, I gave this problem to my character, Jace, to see what he could make of the conundrum.

What's your secret to calling the Muse?

A cup of Starbucks coffee and a good playlist. At least, that's what keeps my fingers on the keyboard on a daily basis.

Everyone wants to know: what is your writing process like? How long did it take for SPLIT to land on the shelves?
From start to submission: 26 months. From start to publication: 3 years and 9 months, and it only took two months from the time I wrote the query letter to my agent to the auction. Knopf has been wonderful to work with; I couldn't have asked for better. They put a lot of work and time into their books to make sure they're published just right.

I went through an embarrassing number of drafts: 8. I solicit a lot of feedback from my colleagues so each time I get feedback, I revise the entire manuscript. I'm so happy that I drafted and redrafted though, digging deeper each time. By the end of the process, I felt as though I had nothing left to offer the book. It's lovely to feel as though, to borrow a sports metaphor, I left it all on the field.

Any secrets you're willing to share?
Oh, I hate to disappoint, but I think I'll have to plead the 5th on that one. I need to keep Jace's secret.

Well, let's see... how about this: I have a theater background. So, when I work on character creation, I will go for a little method acting and pretend that I am my protagonist while doing my daily work: washing dishes, doing errands, that sort of thing. Once I went grocery shopping as Jace. I came home with Oreos and Fritos and all sorts of junk food. My kids were so grateful.


Thanks for stopping by with your story Secrets, Swati!

While we were doing this interview, Swati confessed that she named a character in her second book after me. Does she talk to random people in elevators, I asked? Is she crushed by one? Regardless, I am speechless with the coolness of it and am thrilled to see SPLIT go out into the world.

Swati's publisher has graciously offered to give THREE copies of SPLIT away - all you have to do for chance to win is comment below on a) why you'd really love to read SPLIT, b) your strangest elevator story, or c) a story of how you made a bad choice but turned it around for good.

Please include a way to contact you! You have until 5pm PST on Monday to post. Comment away, and check out the trailer!

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Tomorrow: National Grammar Day!

Tomorrow is March 4th, the only day that is both a date AND an imperative - but more importantly, it is the only national holiday (seriously! look it up!) that was coined by our very own Martha Brockenbrough, the grammar genius behind THINGS THAT MAKE US [SIC] (illustrated by friend Jaime Temairik). It's National Grammar Day!

And if that isn't a reason to march forth and pick up a hilarious look at the English language (and toast fabulous friends), I don't know what is.

You can also join The Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar, friend them on Facebook or follow the blog.

Go on, march!

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Greg's Happy Accident Giveaway

Greg Pincus was giving away a social media consultation over at his terrific blog, The Happy Accident ("the happy accident: using social media to help create happy accidents"), and I won! Thanks, Greg!

The really cool part, beyond winning , is that Greg, an expert in harnessing the power of social media tools, gave away this consultation to kick off his new social media consultation service.
Want to know about tweeting, friending, facebooking, and following? Greg is your guy. In fact, he came to do a special event workshop session at SCBWI WWA, and I blogged about it here.
So I'll keep you posted on how it goes!

Monday, March 01, 2010

Happy Birthday, readergirlz!

Can you believe readergirlz is three years old! Yup, that's right. It was started three years ago this month by four amazing women:

Justina Chen, philanthropist and author of beautiful novels, whose latest, NORTH OF BEAUTIFUL, pretty much blows the socks off of everyone who reads it...

Lorie Ann Grover, verse novelist of novels resounding with heart, such as HOLD ME TIGHT, and who is the glue that holds readergirlz together...

Dia Calhoun, award-winning author of fabulous and thoughtful fantasy such as AVIELLE OF RHIA, and who brings art and grace to everything she does...

Janet Lee Carey (now a "retired" readergirlz co-founder), whose brilliant fantasy novels, such as DRAGON'S KEEP and STEALING DEATH, get to the core of what it means to be human.

These lovely ladies brought me on about six months after they started readergirlz, and I have been there ever since!

I am grateful for the opportunity to be a part of it, and to work with many others who have since become part of the team: Melissa Walker, Mitali Perkins, Martha Brockenbrough, Little Willow, Miss Erin, Jackie Parker, Liz Gallagher, HipWriterMama, Shelf Elf, Elizabeth Scott, and Beth Kephart. This is a team of thoroughly dedicated (and I might add - volunteer!) women who tirelessly contribute to the causes of teen literacy, community, and giving back to others.

Happy Birthday, readergirlz! Here's to many more.