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Editing a Manuscript: Inside the Editorial Process

Posted by inkpopbecki on June 8, 2011

So many of you have asked, what goes into the editorial process? Well as inkpop author Leigh Fallon will tell you, Carrier of the Mark went through A LOT of editing. Want to hear more or ask a real live HarperCollins Editor about publishing? Join us for a live chat today at 5 p.m. EST in the inkpop forum events.

Until then, check out some of the work that went in to making Carrier of the Mark the fantastic novel that will be published on October 4, 2011

Eric performed two rounds of line  edits on Carrier of the Mark. These were the first line edits, done by hand. Line-Edits

The second line edits were done through  Track_Change.

Want to see more or want to find out more about the editing process? Psst a comment or a question in our  inkpop forum events.

Posted in inktips, Inside the Mind | Tagged: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Scoring Your First Book Deal & More: Inside the Mind of Josephine Angelini

Posted by inkpopbecki on May 25, 2011

Josephine Angelini had an interesting road to publication. After leaving her job, living on nothing but credit cards and hope, on the brink of quitting she received a multi-figure publishing contract with HarperCollins. Whoa, you say!? Whoa is right! If you’d like to speak to Josephine about this or other topics related to debut series, Starcrossed, join us for a live chat today at 5 p.m. EST in the inkpop forum events. We caught up with Josephine to ask her a few questions.

In Starcrossed you use aspects of Greek mythology to create a modern day paranormal. What inspired you to use Greek mythology?

I studied Classical Theatre in college, so this was one of those “write what you know” scenarios.  I took The Iliad, mixed in a heavy dose of Romeo and Juliet, added a dash of The Oresteia for spice and voila!

I was inspired to use Greek mythology because the same themes that worked way back then still work today.  Togas may have gone out of fashion (I have no idea why—so comfortable!) but people still fall in love and run away together and they still want to strangle their relatives.  Not much has changed.

I’ll let you in on a little secret– the ancients loved paranormal romance.  They called it “theatre”.

How much did you adhere to the real mythology and how much were you able to rewrite for your own purpose? How do you decide what to use and what to rewrite? How do you turn this type of mythology, which can be a little academic, into a compelling new story?

At first glance, it would seem like I rewrote quite a bit, but as the series progresses you’ll see that I kept a lot more of The Iliad than is shown in Starcrossed—I just had to disguise it.  I don’t want to give too much away, so I’ll zip it.

There are some things that I felt had to change though, mostly because there is one huge point in Homer’s original that no modern mind can accept.  A ten-year war because two crazy kids fall in love?  I never bought it, and I don’t think there are many people today that would buy it either.  So, I had to find a way to justify a war started for love, but still use the themes that are essential in Greek tragedy—revenge, the sin of kin-killing, and yes, incest.

The one Greek theme I leave out (purposely) is cannibalism.  You’d be surprised how many of the ancient myths there are in which the moral of the story is “don’t eat anybody”.  Makes you wonder…

But, as to making these ancient themes interesting, I didn’t feel like I had to do anything at all.  This is epic stuff, here.  Gods and families and the threat of a devastating war tearing young lovers apart—I don’t think it gets any more interesting than that.  All I did was get out of the way.

What did it take to sell your first novel? Where there any adjustments that had to made to get it ready for the publishing market?

I think there are always a million things that can be fixed in any story before publishing.  Writing really is mostly rewriting.  For Starcrossed, the plot stayed the same, and my characters, or course, but there were plenty of things that had to be clarified and cleaned up before my book was fit to print.  I tend to complicate things, and I don’t understand why other people can’t just look inside my brain and see what I see.  Luckily, both my agent and my editor are no-nonsense ladies that insist on clarity.  They push me to simplify whenever I can and they pare down my rambling writing style whenever possible.

Want to hear more from author Josephine Angelini? Check out the live chat today at 5 p.m. EST in the inkpop forum events.

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Setting Your Novel Apart: Inside the Mind of Amy Plum

Posted by inkpopbecki on May 18, 2011

Editors are not known to be effusive with their praise for a book, but this is what Amy Plum’s editor had to say about her debut novel Die for Me when she first received it. “I got [Die for Me] on submission last November and fell in love with it immediately. I made an offer for the trilogy the day before Thanksgiving and was literally negotiating the deal while boarding a plane.” Why was this editor nearly jumping off her plane to negotiate this deal? As her editor says a uniqueness that literally and figuratively set her book apart. The setting isn’t Forks, Washington, but Paris. This isn’t vampires, werewolves, angels or zombies either it’s a deadly paranormal called revenants.

Want to hear more? Join us for a live chat tonight at 5 p.m. EST in the inkpop forum events. In the mean time we caught up with Amy to ask her a few pre-chat questions.


Die for Me is a paranormal unlike any currently in the market. What did it take to write a paranormal that stands out from the crowd and really creates a new space for itself in a currently well tread area of the market?

I didn’t want to write about any existing paranormal creatures mainly because I felt I didn’t have anything new to add to them. So much had already been written about every monster out there that I felt I had to invent my own in order to have something new to say. I didn’t think that creating a new mythology was really that big of a deal until my editor told me how excited she was about introducing revenants to the YA world!

What inspired you to set your novel in Paris? How does location impact the story itself?

I lived in Paris for five years when I was in my twenties, and fell head over heels in love with the city. Since DIE FOR ME was my first try at fiction, I decided to follow the rule “write what you know”. And I DO know Paris!

Setting the story in a city—as compared to in the suburbs or countryside—gave my teenage protagonist a lot of independence. She could go places by herself with no problem. And the cultural activities she’s able to do in Paris (museums, cinema) go well with her personality. She’s also an ocean away from her old friends and support network, so is really stranded, which is also important for the story’s development. So—practically speaking—a faraway city was perfect. Speaking visually, what a better place to situate a gothic romance than in Paris? The city lent itself to the story.

As a debut novelist what are some of the most important lessons you’ve learned publishing your first book?

Patience is one thing I’ve been forced to learn. I am such an impatient person, and every step in publishing necessarily takes a long time. I’ve taken up jogging because it’s one way to deal with the stress that waiting inflicts!

I’ve also had to learn how to work with an editor. It’s hard to take criticism when you’re a new writer. It’s hard to see things through other people’s eyes. It was so difficult for me to let go of passages that needed to be cut or completely rewritten the first time around.

Now that I’m working on the edits for Book 2 (UNTIL I DIE), I don’t feel the same way. I can look back at how my editor’s suggestions for DIE FOR ME made it SUCH a better book, and have full confidence that she knows what she’s doing for this story. That confidence is what I needed to feel okay about ripping scenes out and piecing the story back together—never an easy process.

Now that I’m working on the edits for Book 2 (UNTIL I DIE), I don’t feel the same way. I can look back at how my editor’s suggestions for DIE FOR ME made it SUCH a better book, and have full confidence that she knows what she’s doing for this story. That confidence is what I needed to feel okay about ripping scenes out and piecing the story back together—never an easy process.

Want to hear more? Join us for a live chat tonight at 5 p.m. EST in the inkpop forum events.

Posted in Inside the Mind | 1 Comment »

From Books to Film and More: Inside the Mind of Alex Flinn

Posted by inkpopbecki on May 11, 2011

Ever wonder what it takes to go from book to film? Where were those writers before their books were movies? Join us for a live chat  with #1 New York Times bestselling author Alex Flinn to discuss this and other topics tonight at 5 p.m. EST in the inkpop forum events. In the meantime we caught up with Alex to ask her a few questions about her work.

How did you come up with the idea to adapt Beauty and the Beast into a modern day fairy tale?

I read a lot of fairy tales with my kids, and I became interested in the part of the story you don’t hear about as much – the Beast.  How did he become a beast?  Why was he all alone in the woods?  Where were his family?  I thought a lot about his loneliness and desperation, and that’s why I decided to write a book?

What was it like seeing your characters lifted from the page and brought to life on the screen? Were there things that the film did that you were unable to do in your book and conversely were there aspects of the book that were unable to translate to film?

Book and film are very different media.  I didn’t expect the movie to be exactly like my book.  What the movie does that a book can’t is, it provides a visual and also, music.  What the book did that the movie couldn’t was that it was longer and way more detailed.

Since Beastly you have created adapted another fairy tale into a modern retelling. What does it take to adeptly do these sort of reinterpretations? Are there limitations or things that you have to keep in mind when adapting these tales?

The hardest thing about adapting a fairy tale is deciding what the characters know about the existing fairy tale.  Has Kyle seen Beauty and the Beast on film, for example?  Also, do the characters believe in magic and, if not, do they come to believe in it based upon the circumstances of the story.  Since we are used to NOT believing in magic, this can be a hard transition.


Your debut novel, Breathing Underwater, is now coming out in a new paperback edition. What have you learned since publishing Breathing Underwater in 2001?

What I’ve learned since publishing Breathing Underwater is more about being published than about writing.  The main thing I’ve learned is that not every reader is going to like every book.  Even with my own books, I have books that will appeal to different readers (The reader who likes A Kiss in Time is not necessarily going to be the same reader for Breathing Underwater).   When you first get published, you want everyone to love everything you write, but a book that appeals to all may not deeply touch many.  Now, I write each book for the reader who will like it.

Want to hear more? Join us tonight at 5 p.m. EST in the inkpop forum events for a live chat with author Alex Flinn

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Selling Your Book and More: Inside the Mind of Aprilynne Pike

Posted by inkpopbecki on May 4, 2011

As a #1 bestselling author, you would think the road to publishing would be bump free and easy. That’s not the case with author Aprilynne Pike. Before her bestselling Wings series came out, this author, just like you, struggled to find the right agent and publisher. She even had her first book rejected! Want to hear more from New York Times #1 Bestselling author Aprilynne Pike? Join us for a live chat tonight at 5 p.m. EST in the inkpop live forum events.

Can you tell us how you found your first agent and publisher for the Wings series?

I had a friend who was published who really mentored me through writing my first book and when my book was done, she recommended it to her agent. I sent it off with stars in my eyes, expecting that call within DAYS.

Which did not happen. What did happen is that I queried over 180 agents on two different books over the next ten months and eventually realized my original manuscript had problems. I had to tear it apart, combine it with it’s “sequel” and cut about 60K words. Then I changed the title, wrote a better query, and re-sent it to about ten agents.

How did you land an agent from there?

About that time the agent from the beginning of the story emailed me. She had literally lost my manuscript and found it that day on the floor in the corner of her office and was it still available? Problem was, she had that terrible, unrevised, half-a-book version. Luckily, she was open to receiving a new version. I sent it off and we worked on revising the book for about four months before she offered me representation. It was a very nerve-wracking time.

Finally the book was ready to send out. My agent—Jodi Reamer—who is one of the powerhouse agents in the industry, sent my book out to the six big publishers, and to all top editors within those publishers. I am convinced that no manuscript in the history of the world has ever had a better shot than this one. I tell you that not to brag, but because that book never sold. To this day, three of those editors have never even responded. As aspiring authors I think we all believe—I know I did—that if we can just get our wonderful book in front of the right agent and editor, that it will sell. And the fact is, sometimes, even after all that hard work, the book just isn’t good enough. And that’s okay.

Now I had to write another book. I spent that summer coming up with something that I thought was pretty special and sent it off to my agent. There were another couple of months of revisions and then the book was ready to go to editors. Sincethe YA market is bigger than the fantasy market (which is the genre my first book was) this time it was sent out to ten editors.

Within 24 hours I got my first rejection. From a prominent editor who said that my mythos would just not work in the YA market. (I am still tempted to print out that rejection and frame it side by side with a copy of the NYT list the week I hit number one.:D) Over the next few weeks more rejections poured in until I had six rejections. Over half of the submissions. Well, I had been down this road before and I knew where it led. And it wasn’t to a publishing contract.

So I gave up.

I had written four and a half books, no one wanted them, I was clearly a hack writer, and I needed to go back to teaching childbirth classes to help support my family. (My husband was in law school at the time). I was literally sorting through my teaching supplies when Jodi called to let me know that Tara at Harper Teen wanted to acquire the series. You know that saying about the darkest moment being just before dawn? That was me.

How did you develop the mythology for Avalon in your Wings series?

*WARNING: Some Spoilers*

The mythos of the faeries and Avalon is really the driving force behind the series and is what came first. Like I said above, I was trying to write a new book for Jodi and I decided to write a YA about faeries. I have loved faeries for basically my whole life, I wanted my faeries to be special. Something truly different. That is easier said than done. I came up with an idea at like 4:00 in the morning about this goth faerie who lived with three old women and couldn’t go out after midnight because there was no power from the sun. It was this goth Goldilocks and the Three Bears meets Cinderella meets Superman. It seemed like a really cool idea at 4:00 in the morning and significantly less cool at 8:00. But the idea that faeries could get their power from the sun stuck with me and I asked myself why that would be. Well, the science geek in me (yes, that is where David gets it) came up with the obvious answer, which is that they photosynthesize. From that realization sprang the entire series.

Faeries have always been associated with nature. They live in nature, or use it for their magic, or get their power from it. But as far as I can tell, no one has taken what felt was the most obvious next step and actually made them plants. From there I started thinking about how a plant person would survive among animals like us and how her chemical make-up would affect her daily life. That is, essentially how Laurel came to be.

I honestly don’t remember how the Avalon mythos got tangled up in all of this, but I think it was simply when I was trying to decide what to call the faerie realm. I considered making it in the Bermuda Triangle, and then the lost city of Atlantis, and I believe it was my husband who suggested Avalon. In the end, my Avalon is a combination of all three, with some of the legends about each one included.

However, calling it Avalon was a clear invitation to twist in some of the King Arthur legends as well. And while the first two books hint at those legends, Illusions is much more explicit. It’s been interesting to see reviewers question why I would include bits of Arthurian legend without actually doing something with them and I have been squirming in anticipation for this third book so readers can see what I’ve been leading up to with all of it, of course, culminating in the fourth book.

What does it take for a debut author to become a #1 New York Times bestseller? What did you do when you first heard your book was a #1 bestseller?

When you are a debut author, no one knows you. They can’t. Word of mouth hasn’t even had a chance to get going. Wings got massive support from Harper Teen in the form of pre-publication buzz and ARC distribution, sales support for a large buy-in and print run, displays in the chains stores, touring both before and after publication, and a well-timed release date. All of these combined for a perfect launch for Wings. I did what I could; I did basically everything Harper Teen asked me to do, but it is my publisher’s efforts that really made the difference.

I hit number one my second week out. I did hope to hit the list and when I found out I did my first week out, I admit, I was relieved. The work my publisher had put into my book worked! They weren’t going to hate me forever! Even in my secret pie-in-the-sky dreaming, I never considered it could hit number one. That just doesn’t happen for debuts because, like I said, no one knows you. So when my agent and editor conference called me on Wednesday night (the night the list is released to industry insiders) I figured I had hit again, and I was totally thrilled, but when they told me I hit number one, it was like having a huge bucket of icy water dumped over my head.

I yelled, “Are you kidding me!” (The one and only time I have ever yelled at my editor or agent on the phone). My husband comes running in, worried, because I don’t yell very often, and I am just listening, pretty much dumfounded. He whispers, “What number are you?” and I hold out one finger. However, that also looks like the universal sign for Just a minute, and he goes, “Just tell me.” I widen my eyes and hold my finger out again. “Number one?” he whispers, almost as shocked as I was.

Then the terror set in. It was a joke. The whole world was ready to have a laugh at my expense. I didn’t want to tell anyone. The more people I told, the more mockers I would have when everyone found out it was a terrible practical joke. My mother called and I made my husband tell her. I literally stopped feeling my fingers and toes for a few hours; I kinda went into shock. Several hours later when my husband (he’s such a good husband!) made me post the news on my blog, it was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. My editor had sent me the announcement from the New York Times, but honestly, it wasn’t until they posted it on their website that Saturday that I actually started to believe it.

And then it was awesome!

People often ask me what it felt like to hit number one and when I reply, “Terrifying,” they look at me like I have three heads. But that’s how it felt.

Want to hear more from bestselling author Aprilynne Pike? Check out our live chat with Aprilynne tonight at 5 p.m. EST. You can post questions for her to answer in the inkpop forum events.

Posted in Inside the Mind | 1 Comment »

Realistic Dystopia, Not an Oxymoron: Inside the Mind of New York Times Bestseller Megan McCafferty

Posted by inkpopbecki on April 27, 2011

New York Times bestseller Megan McCafferty is best known for her contemporary adult series Sloppy First. So we were excited when we heard she was penning her first young adult novel. Then when we discovered it had dystopia aspects, we became really curious. Bumped is set in the not too distant future and centers upon a world where fertility is fleeting and girls are being encouraged to “Bump” early in their lives.  Sound interesting? Join us for a live chat with New York Times bestselling author Megan McCafferty tonight at 5 p.m. EST in the inkpop forum events to find out more about creating a realistic dystopia.  In the meantime, we sat down with Megan to ask her a few quick questions about Bumped.

How did you come up with the story idea for Bumped?

Like many, I was fascinated by the Gloucester High School pregnancy pact. Shortly after, Bristol Palin and Jamie Lyn Spears went public with their pregnancies, and Juno was released to widespread critical and commercial acclaim. Cultural conversation in this country is dominated by extremes, and anything having to do with teens and sex is no exception. So the combination of all these events brought familiar debates about Abstinence Only versus Comprehensive condoms-on-bananas Sex Ed to a whole new level of hand-wringing intensity. I asked myself: What if teens were encouraged to have sex and get pregnant? What circumstances would make that morally acceptable on both sides of the sociopolitical spectrum? Those questions inspired the whole story.

What was it like moving from writing contemporary adult novels to writing young adult fiction? What did you have to keep in mind when making this transition?

Sloppy Firsts and Second Helpings take place in high school and are considered by many to be young adult novels. So the transition wasn’t as drastic as it might be for an adult fiction writer who has never tried writing for or about teens. After spending an entire decade with the cast of characters in the Jessica Darling series, it was far more challenging just to be writing about anyone new.

How does an author approach topical issues, like teen pregnancy, and still make their novel relevant for future generations?

By not making it an “issue” book about teen pregnancy! Bumpedis really about what happens when two girls defy the expectations placed upon them by their parents, religion, friends

and society at large. I think we all can look back on a defining moment in our lives when we stopped pretending to be the person that others expected us to be and started being ourselves. That growth process is universal, and will hopefully help Bumped endure the test of time.

Want to hear more from Megan McCafferty, join us for a live chat today at 5 p.m. EST in the inkpop forum events.

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Writing Multiple Bestselling Series: Inside the Mind of Adriana Trigiani

Posted by inkpopbecki on March 16, 2011

Writing a series is difficult. Constructing a good narrative arch that can reach across two or three books, creating compelling characters that readers want to follow and wrapping up a good story. Well what about writing multiple series? Adriana Trigiani has done just that. The second book in her new YA series, Violet in the Spotlight, comes out this month. Want to hear more about writing multiple bestselling series? Join us for a live chat with Adriana Trigiani in the inkpop forum event at 5 p.m. EST today! In the mean time, we sat down with Adriana to talk a little bit more about Viola and her experience writing multiple series.

Viola is your first young adult series. What was it like going from writing a bestselling adult series to writing a such a successful young adult series?

I love writing young adult novels because I’m speaking directly to the readers.  I fell in love with reading when I could go to the library and choose my own books to read, so I keep that in mind when I’m writing.  A young adult selection is also a choice, and it brings a sense of wonder and empowerment to the reader.

Viola is an aspiring film makers, her parents are successful documentary filmmakers. You worked on such acclaimed shows as The Cosby Show and A Different World. How much of the character, Viola, and these experiences come from your own life? How important is it to write from a perspective you really know?

There is nothing like a camera- it’s great- it records the drama, and it’s artful, it’s truthful and it requires skill. I love Viola’s ability to be part of the family business.  It’s very organic.  Viola has a camera, and I had a pencil. Having said that, the techniques for storytelling grow and change and adapt to the audience, but there has to be a relatable point of view by the creator. I hope my readers know that I am writing for them.

What inspired you to write the Viola series?

Viola has a comfortable life, when suddenly, the road changes.  I like that she has to deal with change. Change is a tough concept, young, old and in-between.  I wanted to write a story about the unexpected turns a life takes and how it’s up to the protaganist to sort it all out.

As you’re writing the Viola series, you are also currently writing another adult trilogy for HarperCollins. How do you write two series at the same time? What are the challenges switching between two series?

I really only ever work on one book at a time.  So, when I’m writing Viola, I’m only writing Viola.  I would find going back and forthvery confusing. Plus, I want to stay in the world of the character until the story ends.  It’s one of the delicious aspects of writing books.

Want to ask a question of your own? Join us for a live chat with Adriana Trigiani in the inkpop forum event at 5 p.m. EST today!

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Finding an Agent

Posted by inkpopbecki on March 2, 2011

Agents! They’re a popular topic on inkpop and indeed in most writing communities. What are they? What do they do? Do you need them to get published? And most importantly how do you get one? Well join us today for a live chat in the inkpop forum events to speak with Agent Tina Wexler and the first author discovered on inkpop, Leigh Fallon.  In the mean time, we caught up with Tina and Leigh to hear about how agents find authors and how authors find agents.

How do I find clients?
My clients have come to me by way of conferences, contests, and pitch slams, as referrals from existing clients, and as referrals from editors and other agents. Some of my clients were people I discovered online and approached myself.  And, of course, I find clients by reading through my query letters.
For those writers who don’t have an ‘in,’ a well-written query can still open doors. I read and respond to all of my queries (the ones that aren’t eaten up by ICM’s SPAM filters, that is) and I have found many gems that way.
The queries that are most apt to catch my eye are those that demonstrate a familiarity with what I’m looking to represent—primarily middle grade and YA fiction and adult non-fiction—and that summarize the work in 3-4 concise yet engaging lines.  And if, say, your manuscript has shot up the ranks on inkpop within weeks of being posted, well, that’s always good to include too.

Finding an Agent

The woes of trying to get an agent! You won’t believe it until you start trying.  When I finished The Carrier of the Mark I stumbled blindly into querying.   I bought myself a copy of The Writers Handbook and started looking for agents who would be a match for me.  I reached out to a few in Ireland with no luck.  Then I tried my hand at a select few from the UK and the US, but to no avail.  I’m not surprised.  Neither my book nor I were ready to be on submission, and my query letter totally sucked too!
inkpop changed all of that.  After I uploaded my work and got critique advice, my manuscript seriously improved.  And through reading the forums I learned a lot about submitting to agents.  When HarperCollins first contacted me, I decided to take action once again in securing an agent.  I was very picky this time. I researched in detail and found four agents who I felt were a match for me; I liked their work, style, and ethic.  Tina Wexler’s name kept popping up during my searches.  She’d done many interviews with bloggers and I just felt from the start that she was ‘the one’.
Tina was the first to respond to my query, she was very pleasant and helpful.  She gave me advice and was very upfront and honest.  When I received an offer from HarperCollins, I contacted Tina again.  She requested my full manuscript and said she’d get back to me once she’d read it.  The next day Tina and ICM offered to represent me. Instead of waiting for my manuscript, Tina read what she could on inkpop, and was convinced we’d make a good team.  I withdrew my queries with the other agents and signed on the dotted line with ICM.
In the time honored tradition of clichés… the rest, as they say, is history.

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Writing What You Don’t Know: Inside the Mind of P. J. Converse

Posted by inkpopbecki on February 24, 2011

Sure you can look out of your window and write about what a summer day looks like in your own back yard. As a teen, you probably don’t have to stretch that far to create an authentic voice for young adults. What if you don’t want to write about the things around you? We caught up with author P.J. Converse to discuss his experience writing about a foreign country through the eyes of a Chinese teenage boy. If you like what he has to say, join us for a live chat today at 6 p.m. EST in the inkpop forums events.

What was the experience like getting your first novel published?

Getting my novel published involved a lot of photocopying and letter writing and a crazy amount of waiting. Then there’d be one note after months, “Pls send first 3 chaps w/ SASE” and it was the greatest thing ever.

If you’re like me, you’ll start out at the bottom, sending unsolicited submissions to publishers or agents you’ve found in some book. Then you send out a query letter and 3 chapters or first fifty pages or just a query or the whole thing—whatever the particular publisher or agent wants—and wait for someone to get back to you. Several weeks is the shortest turnaround period in this process; often it can be several months.

I started out with sending to publishers because I thought I wasn’t going to give 20% to an agent just for making a call to a publisher, which is all I thought they did. So I sent out to lots of publishers.

A lot of the time I got a form letter saying no thanks. Other times I got an actual letter saying no and why. A positive response was major, especially the first one. When I got my first “send three chaps” I thought destiny had arrived.

I think I had eight publishers ask me for pages. One process went all the way up to a senior editor / panel who decided not to move forward—that took a year and half with an average of 5 months between correspondence.

After two years of writing queries and sending out pages to publishers, I’d gotten nowhere. That’s when I thought about finding an agent. Luckily there were still publishers I hadn’t sent Subway Girl to, so that once an agent helped me get Subway Girl in better shape, there would still be places to send it—you don’t typically get a second chance with the same book with a publisher, so be careful about sending it out to too many places first off.

Also, and this was big for me too, an agent can get your book to someone much quicker and it will probably be to a head editor instead of to the person who has to go through unsolicited manuscripts – so, you won’t have to wait maybe years before your book is read by someone who can actually buy it.

No way Subway Girl would have got published without George Nicholson and Emily Hazel (who are now at Lee & Low Books) at Sterling Lord Literistic. The best site I know for finding a list of agents to query is

One last thing, it was actually harder to get an agent interested in reading pages so don’t get discouraged if that takes a while. Try not to send out your book to too many agents first up, so that you’ll still have places to send it later if you decide you need to do some more editing.

Your protagonist, Simon Chan, is a Chinese boy living in Hong Kong. What does it take to for you, an American author, to write from the perspective of a sixteen year old Chinese boy? What do you have to do to bring a foreign city like Hong Kong alive for a teen American reading audience?

I spent a couple of years teaching English in Hong Kong at a high school. You could tell almost immediately that the teenagers were thinking and worrying about the same things that teenagers think and worry about in other countries. Then after being around HK for a couple of years, I learned some of the specific things a HK teenager has to deal with growing up in a crappy part of Kowloon and going to a so-so high school.

It helped me to have lived and worked in HK for a couple of years because you go through all the emotions when you live in a place (versus just visiting there.) The store of memories I have definitely helped me describe how the places felt and not just how they looked.

What was it like to write Amy?

It was fun! She seemed very real to me very quickly and then it was a case of letting that voice come out in the different situations as they came up. The tough part I guess is to get to the point where you hear your character’s voice.

Amy’s voice comes from the girls and women that I’ve known and from myself as a teenager. I didn’t worry so much about getting ‘the female perspective’ right, but about expressing in detail the perspective of a beautiful, sensitive teenager who is thrown into a different city and culture and school with only her little brother and mom—and making that voice interesting (at least), and sometimes humorous or moving (at best).

Want to hear more from P.J. Converse? Join us for a live chat today at 6 p.m. EST in the inkpop forums events.

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Juan Felipe Herrera: Inside the Mind of a Poet

Posted by inkpopbecki on February 16, 2011

Juan Felipe Herrera is a poet, performance artist and professor of Chicano and Latin

American Studies at California State University. His work of poetry, Half the World in Light, won the National Critics Book Circle Award and was recently elected to the Board of Chancellors for the Academy of American Poets. His new book, SkateFate, has recently been published by HarperTeen. We caught up with Jaun, who was kind enough to share his poetry with us. Want to hear from more Juan Felipe Herrera? Join us for a live chat today at 5 p.m. EST in the inkpop forum events

My word against theirs, my sickle humor
against their last glass of chianti. Simple,
Direct and compassionate—in a way, let us say,
it is in my nature to be generous: to remind
the passengers about the last stop in Anguish-
town, to spell integration with an X, to scrub
the word Prison with sneaky vastness inside.


It is my own penchant for skull symphonies
my embossed headdress, especially, that brings
me to your carpeted doom-time; this flowery intro
serves a purpose; every spirit strand is an exit,
a cash & carry star of exits and entrances.

Read more poetry from Juan Felipe Herrera at Woodland Pattern.

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