TLA 2012


We don’t say the whole name. We’re too excited, for one thing, and we’re too breathless. But all the kidlit community knows instantly what we’re talking about: the Texas Library Conference.

This year it was in Houston, and it was… amazing. It was THE PLACE to be to meet famous and not-so-famous authors, librarians, teachers, booksellers, book buyers, publishers, editors, bloggers, and book lovers of all ages.

I think every Texas writer who can go, should. If not to meet and mingle, then to be surrounded by so many people who are deeply passionate about books. It does the heart good.

Here are some of my favorite pictures, with some of my favorite people from this year’s TLA!

Wait! What's that? My ARC??? And candy-covered bookmarks? Hooray!


Yes, this was sort of totally awesome. Now on to other people.


The YaHous! Awesome Houston Authors Lynne Kelly, Mary Lindsey, Jenny Moss, Joy Preble, Christina Mandelski, and Crystal Allen.


Apocalypsie Meet-up! With Megan Miranda (FRACTURE), and Lynne Kelly (CHAINED).

A small corner of the Suzieverse: Agent-sister Lisa DesRochers - with her smexy books. 🙂

Probably not cool to snap iphone pics at the publisher's cocktail party but OMG JOHN GREEN, right? With my friends Salima and Samantha.

The Texas Sweethearts (No Scoundrels here): Jo Whittemore, Jessica Lee Anderson, Kari Anne Holt, and Jeanette Larson. Look at those awesome books!

OMG David Lubar. And, yes, my friend Kari is totally photobombing us.


Austin Authors take TLA by storm! Also by tennis shoes. What NOT to wear to TLA? Pinchy shoes. Ouch!


Seriously, I could post pics all day. But I won’t. I’ll just say, be there next year!

Breadcrumbs and Witches: Got Any More Ideas?

Hi, y’all! I’m getting ready to present a speech (or two) at the Houston Writer’s Guild conference this weekend, and this week I’ve been putting the finishing touches *coughwritingtheentirethingcough* on my “keynote” speech. I’m talking about the journey of the debut writer (because, duh, right?) and I’m comparing it to all sorts of gruesome and macabre fairy tales. Inspired, I know.

What I was hoping YOU could help me with is this: what small piece of advice (let’s call it a breadcrumb) do you wish you’d had when you first started writing? I would love to have a few of these to flash up on the powerpoint (alongside the usual subliminal pictures of chocolate and hot guys) that didn’t all fall out of my own rotting brain.

So, what do you say? Do you have any breadcrumbs for our new writers, to help keep them on the path?

Or any warnings about witches?

Who are the witches in your writing life? My guess is, if you’ve been writing for a while, you won’t name editors and agents… but you might come  up with some ideas I could steal and use this weekend.

Thanks, friends! I love stealing from you all. 🙂

Note: The winner of my ARC giveaway on Cynsations was Jaclyn Dolamore! YES, this Jaclyn Dolamore!!! I’m so excited – I love her writing, and now she’s going to read mine. *faints* Thanks to everyone else for commenting.  I’ll *probably* have a Goodreads giveaway next month… 🙂

Odds and Ends

I’m sweeping up bloggy odds and ends this week as I await an editorial email. (Eep!) A few things I’d like to share with you, dear readers:

1. If you tried to contact me regarding the use of one of my flash fiction pieces in your English class, the answer was YES! But your return email address keeps bouncing the YES back to me. So, Dear English Teacher, I hope you taught it with a clear conscience, and know that I was very flattered to be asked. <3

2. Don’t forget to leave a comment on Cynthia Leitich Smith’s blog, Cynsations, to win an ARC of my novel, THE SINISTER SWEETNESS OF SPLENDID ACADEMY… and chocolate, too! You have until April 9. Not long.

3. It’s hard to fathom. My book has its very own Blog Tour, organized by the amazing Jen Bigheart. I’m flabbergasted at her generosity and overall awesomeness — and I’ve been terribly pleased with the reviews so far! Most of them haven’t been posted yet, but you can read THIS ONE at Still Waiting For Books To Come True. (Thanks, Lexie!) I can’t wait to see what the rest of the bloggers think. I so appreciate the time they are taking to read and write such thoughtful reviews. (If you would like to join the tour, contact me, and I’ll set you up if there’s still space.)

4. The Houston Writer’s Guild conference is just around the corner! I am one of the keynote speakers, and I’m presenting a talk on queries as well, so please come, keep me company, and learn from some truly outstanding agents, writers, and editors. Um, and me. 🙂

5. I have been reading up a storm. I fell in love with two middle grade books this week. The first was Claire LeGrand’s THE CAVENDISH HOME FOR BOYS AND GIRLS. I cannot express how delightfully wicked and perfectly terrifying I found this book. I have embarrassed myself on Twitter and elsewhere gushing about it, so I’ll stop now. But I WILL start up again closer to its expected arrival in August!

The other book I just finished tonight. I picked up an ARC of The Bad Apple at ALA Midwinters. I wish I hadn’t waited to read it! It was AMAZING. Full of humor and mystery, mischief and heart. Speaking of hearts, I found my own heart actually racing at one point, I was so caught up in the story. Seriously, folks: palpitations.

6. A shiny new idea knocked on the door today. It was completely unexpected, and strange. And frightening — I’m not sure about this one. It’s quite visceral and dark… and funny, but sad? I have a few pages. I don’t know what’s in the plot yet, but this poor character, in his dire situation…? I can’t wait to see if he survives it.

I think he might. 😉

Happy April, Friends! Write well.

Sinister Sweetness ARC Giveaway!

This is an exciting week for me! The Advance Reader Copies of The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy are making their way out into the world, and so far the reviews have been lovely. If you would like to win an ARC of my debut novel (don’t you want to? DON’T YOU???), just hop on over to the extremely excellent Cynsations blog. Cynthia Leitich Smith, my friend, mentor, and all-around splendid person, is hosting a giveaway.

Not tempted? Then check out the CHOCOLATE and swag that goes along with it!

Now you want it, don’t you?

ARC Winner, Great News, & Sinister Sweetness ARC Raffle

First off, congratulations to Katie! She won the ARC of The False Prince. Thank to everyone who commented! (If you’re curious, Katie would have stolen “anything from the Dear America” series from her mom. Wow, Katie. You would STEAL from your MOM?! The False Prince has a main character who’s a thief in it, so it’ll be perfect for you. 🙂

The False Prince (The Ascendance Trilogy, #1)

Next, I want to say a HUGE (and belated) congratulations to my dear friend and critique bud, Lindsey Scheibe, who had this Publisher’s Marketplace tidbit to share two weeks ago:

Debut author Lindsey Scheibe’s RIPTIDE, pitched as Jennifer Echols/Simone Elkeles meets the movie BLUE CRUSH, in which a seventeen-year-old is training for a big surf competition — her ticket out of an abusive household — and trying desperately to keep from falling in love with her best friend, to Brian Farrey at Flux, in a two-book deal, for publication in 2013, by Mandy Hubbard at D4EO Literary Agency (World English).

I had the delight of reading and critiquing some of the earliest drafts of this book – and I’m so thankful I did! The world is going to love this book. Wait… did I say book? I meant BOOKS, Ms. Two-Book Deal!  Squee for Lindsey!

And last but NOT least, you have two days to RACE over to the Authors for Henryville website, hosted by the lovely YA author and all-around wonderful human, Julia Karr, to donate to help rebuild the public libraries in Henryville, Indiana devastated by the recent storms… with the chance of winning one of my ARCs!


One last note: The launch party for a new middle grade novel that I heartily recommend is coming up this weekend, on Saturday, at Bookpeople in Austin, 2 p.m. The book is The Chronal Engine by Greg Leitich Smith, and it’s amazing. Dinosaurs plus time travel plus a great family dynamic plus bad guys? Total fun. I’d love to see you at the launch, but you should buy the book even if you can’t get to Austin.

Dear Teen Me: Cool at Last

It’s happened. I’m finally cool enough to sit at the cheerleader table.

That is, if the “cheerleaders” are Ellen Hopkins, Tom Angleberger, Tera Lynn Childs, Ilsa Bick, Sara Zarr, and Kersten Hamilton, to name a VERY few.

And, of course, the “table” is the Dear Teen Me anthology, a book of letters from 70 YA authors to their teenage selves, coming from Zest Books on October 31, 2012.



Oh my gosh, this is so cool! Do you recognize Jennifer Ziegler on the cover, looking coy and cute with her corded phone? And Mike Jung, looking like the Eternal Band Geek of Awesomeness?And Jessica Lee Anderson, showing her mom the exact spot she wanted to get her tongue pierced? (Kidding, Jessica! I think…)

Here’s the official description:

Edited by Dear Teen Me blog founders Miranda Kenneally and E. Kristin Anderson, the letters in Dear Teen Me cover a range of topics, including physical abuse, body issues, bullying, friendship, love, and enough insecurities to fill an auditorium. Your favorite YA authors dissect critical moments from their own young lives, and offer advice and guidance to their teenage selves.

Totally inspiring.

I’m so excited to be included in this. And my letter – like all the others — will be a totally new one. But I promise mine will be as awkward and painfully funny (now, not then) as THIS ONE and THIS ONE.

So, why not pre-order one of these fabulous, cheerleader-worthy anthologies?

Excuse me, I have to go hot-roller my hair now, and look through my old high school albums while listening to Duran Duran.


The False Prince ARC Giveaway!

A few weeks back, I went to ALA Midwinter and picked up (as one does) a bunch of Advance Reader Copies for books that are coming out in the next few months. Some of them I delivered, unread, to the local librarians who couldn’t attend. Some I read quickly and passed on to teachers and friends who might be able to use the book in their classrooms or book clubs this year.

And some of them were STOLEN by my sneaky SON, taken to the middle school, and traded back and forth by him and all his friends because Certain Books are amazingly irresistible.

The False Prince (The Ascendance Trilogy #1)

One of the very best of this last batch was The False Prince, by Jennifer Nielsen. I LOVED this book. And I am a terrible book reviewer, so I’m just going to say this is the exact sort of book I would have devoured as a kid – much like my son and his friends did this month. (Until I sneaked the ARC back out of one of his friend’s backpacks at a sleepover. You see? I can be sneaky, too! Apple, meet tree.)

Here’s the description, taken from Goodreads:

THE FALSE PRINCE is the thrilling first book in a brand-new trilogy filled with danger and deceit and hidden identities that will have readers rushing breathlessly to the end.

In a discontent kingdom, civil war is brewing. To unify the divided people, Conner, a nobleman of the court, devises a cunning plan to find an impersonator of the king’s long-lost son and install him as a puppet prince. Four orphans are recruited to compete for the role, including a defiant boy named Sage. Sage knows that Conner’s motives are more than questionable, yet his life balances on a sword’s point — he must be chosen to play the prince or he will certainly be killed. But Sage’s rivals have their own agendas as well.

As Sage moves from a rundown orphanage to Conner’s sumptuous palace, layer upon layer of treachery and deceit unfold, until finally, a truth is revealed that, in the end, may very well prove more dangerous than all of the lies taken together.

An extraordinary adventure filled with danger and action, lies and deadly truths that will have readers clinging to the edge of their seats.

The book is coming out any day now*, and I will be buying at  least one copy for me, and possibly one for the boys’ school libraries, so I don’t need the ARC. But YOU DO, dear readers.

So, here’s the deal. All you have to do is leave a comment below telling me what book you’ve read (recently, or as a kid) that you would have STOLEN FROM YOUR MOTHER, if that had been the only way to get a copy.

That’s it. No blog follows, or any of that stuff. Although, if you wanted to follow my blog, that would be nice, too.

One entry per person, must leave a comment AND your emails address, U.S. only please (this time around). Contest will end on FRIDAY, March 16, at noon CST. Winner will have 72 hours to respond to my email, or I’ll pick another name from the hat. (Literally. My larcenous son is going to be pulling the name from an actual hat.)



Best Worst Book Review Ever

I’m been trying to host a giveaway of an AWESOME ARC, but my kid’s friends keep stealing it to read and taking it to school. Argh! What is it with these authors and their amazing writing that kids cannot resist??? I’m talking to you, Jennifer A. Nielsen.

When I lay hands on it again, I’ll post the giveaway details here… until then, I must share this very awesome video with you. I’ve been getting some reviews of Sinister Sweetness, and so far they’ve been good. But if I ever get a real stinker? I’m totally going to put together a band and do something like this. Totally.

Black Metal Book Review

Sinister Snoring: A Guest Blog Post

Howdy, Friends! Allow me to re-direct your attention to another blog this week — one you might already follow. And if you don’t, and you’re a kid lit writer — what are you waiting for? This is one of the best! All sorts of information on just about every aspect of writing and publishing for the under-18 set. I am completely honored to have my contribution on today’s Adventures in YA and Children’s Publishing WOW Wednesday feature.

What did I write about, you ask? Well, I’m not going to tell you, but I’ll give you a hint: it’s a true story about my upcoming book, The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy, and a room full of snoring children.

And it’s sort of embarrassing to think about.

Go check it out! And a huge thank you to Martina at Adventures in YA and Children’s Publishing for allowing me to air my dirty literary laundry on her amazing site.


Austin SCBWI Conference Pictures!

When I was a brand-new writer, I went to writing conferences hoping to gain knowledge (both craft and industry-related), rub elbows with editors and agents, and — possibly last on the list — meet other writers.

These days? It is ALL about the other writers. Just think of it- spending DAYS with other people who care passionately about the same things you do, who can talk about them, who speak the language of writing and publishing, who write sweet picture books but swear worse than any sailor… you get the idea.

And that’s what I got to do last weekend!I know, lucky me. Wait until you hear the rest.

The Austin SCBWI Annual Conference was by all accounts a resounding success, thanks to our capable and dedicated leadership, including Austin’s Debbie Gonzales.

Debbie is the BEST!

But we also had all SORTS of awesome SCBWI folks, from all over, in town! Like fellow Apocalypsie Lynne Kelly, the author of the Middle Grade soon-to-be-a-classic Chained. This book is so gorgeous, a love story about a deeply compassionate little boy and his… elephant. Touching, hopeful, and painfully real. It’s going to be one of those books that lasts.

Her shirt says "Peace, Love, and Elephants."

Also from Houston, the amazing Vonna Carter, writer and blogger extraordinaire.

Vonna looks great! I look like I have on All The Makeup in Texas. Thanks, makeup counter lady at Nordstrom's.

And, of course, we had the Extremely Famous and Talented People, including keynote speaker Lisa Yee, who was hilarious and heart-breaking and amazing in every way a keynote speaker can be.

Author Lisa Yee and Peepy in a UT cheerleader uniform. Perfect!

Some of us were lucky enough to go to a full-day intensive on Sunday with Lisa Yee, where we learned to write Better Bad Guys. This much fun, and a tax-deduction? I love this job.

Writer Lindsey Schiebe makes villainous magic on her laptop!

And then there was the raffle. I won!! For the, like, the first time ever, I actually won things! Like, gift certificates to Bookpeople, and books, and wine! It was my lucky day.

We're ALL Winners! But only I won wine. *fist pump*

Lucky me, for sure. I hope you strike it rich this year, too — and I hope your riches are the kind that last… and the kind that listen to you blab on about writing stuff without complaint!

Of course, to find those “riches” you might have to register for a conference or two. 🙂