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A Book Is Just Like You! – Read-n-Feed

Toward the end of last year, I went on a reading binge and resurrected my Read-n-Feed posts, which made me feel all industrious and proud of myself. But then I got engrossed in several writing projects and stopped reading again. I have a really hard time reading other people’s stories while I’m immersed in mine – they get muddled together in confusing ways. So while it’s great that I’m making significant progress on the writing front, I miss reading. Now I’m determined to find the right balance and revive my Read-n-Feed posts . . . again.
 
Like last time, I’m kicking it off with a book by a friend of mine: Kathleen Fox. I met Kathleen six years ago when I first joined SCBWI, since she ran the local critique group. I was petrified walking into that first meeting (sharing my work with strangers, what?!?), but Kathleen and the others quickly put me at ease. Kathleen is warm, witty, and supportive, and I’m so lucky to call her my friend.
 
Kathleen is a fabulously funny writer, who also manages to infuse a ton of heart and soul into her writing. Her stories can have me giggle-snorting at one moment and then ugly crying just a few pages later. While A Book Is Just Like You! is not that type of emotional roller coaster, it does have a special place in my heart: it’s the first published book that I helped critique. I know it would have been fantastic even without my input, but I did feel a bit like a proud auntie when I held it the first time.
 
Author: Kathleen Fox
Illustrator: John Wallace 
Category: Picture Book
Genre(s): Nonfiction
Publisher: Upstart Books (2012)
Pages: 32
Description:  Do you know that a book is just like you? It’s true! Think about it:
 
• On the day you were born, you were given a name. A book is given a name, too — it’s called a title.

 
• You have a spine that helps to keep your body together. A book also has a spine, which keeps the book’s body of pages together.

 
• You don’t go to school naked — you wear clothes to keep warm, protect your skin, show off your fashion sense and, of course, to keep out of the principal’s office! Books wear clothes, too. A book’s clothes are called a cover, or jacket, and like clothes, they keep the inside of a book protected from things like kids with sticky ice cream fingers and little baby brothers.
 
With vibrant illustrations and hilarious comparisons, A Book Is Just Like You is the perfect teaching tool for helping students understand their books — inside and out. Grades K-3.
 
Since A Book Is Just Like You! is not only a picture book but also nonfiction, it is well outside of my wheelhouse, but that’s why it was such a great learning experience to read it. I’ve taken a few stabs at writing nonfiction articles for kids, but they have all been horrible. No matter what I try, they sound lecture-y rather than enjoyable. 
 
Kathleen avoids that pitfall by starting with an inventive premise: teach kids about the parts of a book by comparing it to something they are very familiar with – themselves. Then instead of using a teacher-y tone to explain the similarities, she uses a chatty voice that sounds like she’s discovering these similarities along with the kids rather than lecturing them.
 
In addition to the main text, each page is filling with amusing captions that accompany all the adorable drawings. These captions are where Kathleen’s humor really shines – they support what she’s explaining in the text in a memorable, funny way that should stick with young readers. 
 
I don’t know if I’ll ever try my hand at non-fiction for kids again, but if I do, I’ll be returning to Kathleen’s book as an example of how to make it both educational and entertaining.
 
Giveaway
To celebrate the re-revival of Read-n-Feed, I’m giving away a signed copy of A Book Is Just Like You! Since it compares the parts of a book to the parts of a person, I’m asking: If you could be any book, which one would you be? To enter the giveaway, leave your answer in the comments and feel free to share why you’d be that book if you have a reason.
 
When I asked Kathleen, she said she’d be How to Make An Apple Pie and See the World by Marjorie Priceman.
 
As for me, I’d want to be Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss because on the surface it’s fun and silly, but at its core it has a serious message. Ironically not a message I took to heart because change makes me break out in a cold sweat. 
 
There are also social media related ways to receive extra entries – just fill in the Rafflecopter form, and I'll use it to pick a random winner. 
 
The giveaway is now over - congratulations to Carol for winning!
 
This is a great book for librarians or teachers to use in their classrooms, so please share the giveaway with anyone you know working with young children.
 
I’m willing to ship internationally, so this is open to everyone. The giveaway will be open for a week, and I’ll announce the winner next Friday, July 26th. Good luck!

Release of Secret for a Song

A few months ago, I participated in the reveal of the lovely cover for Secret for a Song by S. K. Falls, however, back then she was going by the pen name of Adriana Ryan. Since I’m lucky enough to know the super sweet S.K. in real life, I actually know what the ‘S’ stands for, although I just realized I don’t know what the ‘K’ stands for – a topic for discussion during our next coffee/writing session!
 
Anyway... Secret for a Song was released last week, and I’m honored to be part of the blog tour. For my leg of the journey, S.K. is interviewing her main character Saylor. Take it away, S.K.!
 
Saylor is the main character in Secret for a Song. She has Munchausen syndrome, which is described by the Mayo Clinic as “a serious mental disorder in which someone with a deep need for attention pretends to be sick or gets sick or injured on purpose. People with Munchausen syndrome may make up symptoms, push for risky operations, or try to rig laboratory test results to try to win sympathy and concern.” I thought it’d be enlightening to interview her. 
 
Check your pockets. What’s in them? 
Not so long ago I’d have said a syringe. But right now…a wallet, a letter from someone I used to know, and the keys to my own apartment and car. I don’t think there’s anything else I need. 
 
Saylor, do you have any normal memories of your childhood involving your parents? From the book, it seems like your relationship with both of them has always been…strained, to say the least. 
Yeah, our relationships haven’t been conventional in any way. But I do have some normal memories, rare as they are. For instance, they took me to a pumpkin patch one year. We did the whole hay maze thing where I ran through and tried to find my way out. Of course, my parents followed behind me fighting the whole time. But still, with the chilly air and multicolored trees, it was almost enough to pretend we were normal in that moment. Almost. 
 
What was the last book you read? 
The last book I finished was about multiple sclerosis… but you probably read about that in Secret for a Song. The book I’m currently reading is Wuthering Heights. It’s for my English class at college. I only just began, but I think I’ll like it. I’m sort of trying to figure out what my likes and dislikes are. It’s interesting getting to know myself. 
 
Saylor sounds like a complicated gal - I can't wait to read more about her! Here's the synopsis of Secret for a Song:
 
Secret for a Song
Saylor Grayson makes herself sick. Literally.
 
She ate her first needle when she was seven. Now, at nineteen, she’s been kicked out of college for poisoning herself with laxatives. The shrinks call it Munchausen Syndrome. All Saylor knows is that when she’s ill, her normally distant mother pays attention and the doctors and nurses make her feel special.
 
Then she meets Drew Dean, the leader of a local support group for those with terminal diseases. When he mistakes her for a new member, Saylor knows she should correct him. But she can’t bring herself to, not after she’s welcomed into a new circle of friends. Friends who, like Drew, all have illnesses ready to claim their independence or their lives 
 
For the first time, Saylor finds out what it feels like to be in love, to have friends who genuinely care about her. But secrets have a way of revealing themselves. What will happen when Saylor’s is out?
 
Get your very own copy of Secret for a Song here:
 
S.K.'s Bio: 
S. K. FallsA huge fan of spooky stuff and shoes, I enjoy alternately hitting up the outlet malls and historic graveyards in Charleston, SC where I live and imbibe coffee. My husband and two small children seem not to mind when I hastily scribble novel lines on stray limbs in the absence of notepads. 
 
Since no writer’s biography is complete without mention of her menagerie of animals, you should know I have one dog that doubles as a footstool, a second that functions as a vacuum cleaner, and a cat that ensures I never forget that my hands are, first and foremost, for pouring cat food. 
 
Visit S.K. Falls: 
 
 

Cover Reveal for Secret for a Song

A while back I was honored to participate in the cover reveal for Adriana Ryan’s novel World of Shell and Bone. Well, Adriana has been hard at work and has another book releasing in June! Check out the cover for Secret for a Song:

Secret for a Song
I love the play of light and think it makes the cover very striking. Congrats, Adriana, you have excellent cover art luck!
 
Adriana’s previous novel was set in a dystopian world, but Secret for a Song is a contemporary drama that sounds like it’s going to be a real tearjerker. Here’s the synopsis:
 
Saylor Grayson makes herself sick. Literally.
 
She  ate her first needle when she was seven. Now, at nineteen, she’s been kicked out of college for poisoning herself with laxatives. The shrinks call it Munchausen Syndrome. All Saylor knows is that when she’s ill, her normally distant mother pays attention and the doctors and nurses make her feel special.
 
Then she meets Drew Dean, the leader of a local support group for those with terminal diseases. When he mistakes her for a new member, Saylor knows she should correct him. But she can’t bring herself to, not after she’s welcomed into a new circle of friends. Friends who, like Drew, all have illnesses ready to claim their independence or their lives  
 
For the first time, Saylor finds out what it feels like to be in love, to have friends who genuinely care about her.  But secrets have a way of revealing themselves. What will happen when Saylor’s is out?
 
Adriana RyanYikes, my tear ducts have already started their work-out routine to bulk up for reading this one!
 
And now here’s a quick bio for Adriana: A huge fan of spooky stuff and shoes, Adriana enjoys alternately hitting up the outlet malls and historic graveyards in Charleston, SC where she lives and imbibes coffee. Her husband and two small children seem not to mind when she hastily scribbles novel lines on stray limbs in the absence of notepads. You can find her on Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads
 
What do you think of the cover? How about the synopsis? Do you think the novel will have you cuddling with a box of tissues?
 

Unspoken – Read-n-Feed

For today’s Read-n-Feed, I’m featuring a novel by an author who cracked me up two years in a row at YALLFest:

Category: Young Adult
Genre(s): Gothic mystery/fantasy
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers (2012)
Pages: 370
Amazon Description: 
Kami Glass is in love with someone she's never met—a boy she's talked to in her head since she was born. This has made her an outsider in the sleepy English town of Sorry-in-the-Vale, but she has learned ways to turn that to her advantage. Her life seems to be in order, until disturbing events begin to occur. There has been screaming in the woods and the manor overlooking the town has lit up for the first time in 10 years. . . . The Lynburn family, who ruled the town a generation ago and who all left without warning, have returned. Now Kami can see that the town she has known and loved all her life is hiding a multitude of secrets—and a murderer. The key to it all just might be the boy in her head. The boy she thought was imaginary is real, and definitely and deliciously dangerous.
 
I saw Sarah Rees Brennan speak on the History & Mystery panel, and (like last year) she was also the judge of the YA Smackdown. And she was hilarious. I knew anyone able to fire off zingers on the spot with an entire auditorium staring at her would be especially funny on the page with plenty of time to ponder each word. Turns out Unspoken wasn’t just funny, it was witty and clever, with dialog that had me leaning closer to the page with a smile on my face anticipating what the characters would say next.
 
I honestly think Unspoken should be on every aspiring YA writer’s list of books to read to see “the craft” in action. First of all, Sarah created a fascinating protagonist in Kami, and any teen who looks up to Bella Swan should be tied down and forced to read this book. Kami is independent and brave, but not in an obnoxious, eye-roll-worthy way. While Kami is in a “love triangle” (with the potential for more shapes to emerge), she doesn’t exist solely to be a point in a geometric figure. She’s more interested in her future as a journalist and solving a mystery than picking a boy. And through all the craziness, she maintains her sense of fun, so she’s not a dour character to hang out with (waves at Katniss).
 
With so much focus on creating such a dynamic protagonist, it would have been easy to let the secondary characters slide through the cracks. But Sarah brings the rest of the characters to life in interesting and quirky ways. Kami’s friends and family are so fully realized, they could each waltz off into his/her own starring role in another novel. They aren’t there just to drive plot points - they help make the entire world feel real. Which made it that much worse when book one came to a jarring end, leaving me howling for the release of the book two, which is still too far away.
 
I guess it’s obvious I’m a big fan of Unspoken, but it really hit my sweet spot: a mystery/thriller with angsty romance and lots of humor. In fact, that’s how I describe my own WIP, except mine doesn’t have the supernatural elements like Unspoken. One of my love interests even has a scar on his face, like one of Kami’s love interests, although now I think I’m going to de-scar my guy since Sarah has already done it so well. And as I circle in on finishing this (hopefully!) last major rewrite of my WIP, I’ll definitely use Sarah's writing as inspiration for making sure ALL my characters are three dimensional and compelling.  
 
If you’ve read Unspoken, what did you think? Do you make sure your secondary characters are as dymamic as your protagonist? What books have you read that inspired how you write your characters? 

The Book of Blood and Shadow – Read-n-Feed

First of all, thank you to everyone who left a comment with an embarrassing boy-related story as part of The Boy Project giveaway – they all made me cringe vicariously. And the winner is . . . Janelle! Congratulations! I hope you enjoy Kami’s book as much as I did!

And now for today’s Read-n-Feed, I’m talking about another book written by an author who impressed me at YALLFest:
 
Category: Young Adult
Genre(s): Mystery/historical
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (2012)
Pages: 432
Amazon Description: 
It was like a nightmare, but there was no waking up. When the night began, Nora had two best friends and an embarrassingly storybook one true love. When it ended, she had nothing but blood on her hands and an echoing scream that stopped only when the tranquilizers pierced her veins and left her in the merciful dark. 
 
But the next morning, it was all still true: Chris was dead. His girlfriend Adriane, Nora's best friend, was catatonic. And Max, Nora's sweet, smart, soft-spoken Prince Charming, was gone. He was also—according to the police, according to her parents, according to everyone—a murderer.
 
Desperate to prove his innocence, Nora follows the trail of blood, no matter where it leads. It ultimately brings her to the ancient streets of Prague, where she is drawn into a dark web of secret societies and shadowy conspirators, all driven by a mad desire to possess something that might not even exist. For buried in a centuries-old manuscript is the secret to ultimate knowledge and communion with the divine; it is said that he who controls the Lumen Dei controls the world. Unbeknownst to her, Nora now holds the crucial key to unlocking its secrets. Her night of blood is just one piece in a puzzle that spans continents and centuries. Solving it may be the only way she can save her own life.
 
I saw Robin Wasserman speak on both the YA Coffee Shop Collective and History & Mystery panels. She was so quick-witted and funny that I couldn’t wait to read The Book of Blood and Shadow. It would be easy to say that what I learned as a writer was how to seamlessly mesh history and imagination because Robin is a master at that. It’s especially inspiring when you read on her website about the actual historical figures – the way Robin tied events from their lives into her story took considerable skill. But as impressive as it is, it’s not a tool I’m likely to add to my toolbox. I’m painfully aware of my shortcomings, and I’m just not patient and diligent enough for the massive amount of research needed to successfully write something so influenced by history.
 
For me, the thing from her book that really struck me as a writer were two paragraphs:
 
“That was the strange thing about translation, speaking someone else’s words in a voice that somehow was and wasn’t your own. You could fool yourself into believing you understood the meaning behind the words, but—as my father had explained long before I was old enough to get it—words and meaning were inseparable. Language shapes thought; I speak, therefore I think, therefore I am. In this case, Elizabeth’s letters, written in a language that died centuries before she was born, were already at some remove from her life. Transforming them, word by dictionary-approved word, into modern English meant there would inevitably be a little of me in Elizabeth. It didn’t mean there was any of her in me.” (page 25)
 
“Latin had always made sense when nothing else did. That was the point of it, for me. Language as mathematical equation, slotting one word in for another, shifting positions, adding, subtracting, substituting, applying one rigorous rule after another, until eventually, from the jumble of letters, a single, true meaning emerged. One meaning, hidden beneath all the mistakes and wrong turns. One puzzle, one solution. Latin was a question that supplied its own answer.” (page 366)
 
The protagonist Nora is extremely skilled at translating Latin, which not only drives the plot, but also helps define her character. Although I took two years of Latin in high school and a year in college*, it wasn’t Nora’s feelings about translating that grabbed me, but that her thoughts about translating perfectly capture how I feel about writing.
 
Writing is not just telling your story - it’s finding the right words to tell your story the right way. It’s speaking for your characters in a voice that both is and is not your own. Creating a story is beautiful and freeing, but it’s also messy. The rules of language and writing help control the chaos. Moving and substituting the words like logical pieces in a mathematical equation can turn any ol' story into something special.
 
I returned to these two paragraphs multiple times, thinking about how they applied to me, and I just hope someday I write passages that speak so directly to a reader that it stops her in her tracks and makes her think.
 
*Why did I do something so impractical like "waste" my time learning a dead language? Back then, I thought I was going to be a doctor, not because I wanted to be one, but because I thought that’s what students who excelled in school were supposed to do. How could I have ever guessed that learning those Latin words, which are the root of much of our language, would contribute to my journey to becoming a writer by fleshing out my vocabulary and my love of words? 
 
If you’ve read The Book of Blood and Shadow, what did you think? What language did you study in school and did you enjoy translating? Do these passages about translating speak to your experience as a writer?

Cover Reveal for World of Shell and Bone

How lucky am I that two days in a row I get to pimp one of my kick-butt writer friends? Today I’m honored to be a part of the cover reveal for Adriana Ryan’s World of Shell and Bone.

I met Adriana last year when she came to a few meetings of my local kid-lit critique group. Sadly for us, she decided to stop attending in order to focus on her adult writing instead (check out that racy cover – ooh la la!); but she’s still an honorary member, so we hang out sometimes to drink coffee/wine and write. Not only is she a super-sweet, enthusiastic cheerleader, she is a crackerjack critique partner. So even though I’m currently on a YA kick, I can’t wait to read World of Shell and Bone, coming December 7th, 2012.

Behold the beautiful cover!

World of Shell and Bone

Kudos to James Helps for creating such a striking cover!

So what’s this book all about? Here’s the blurb:

In a world ravaged by a nuclear holocaust, Vika Cannon knows there are no guarantees: no guarantees of safety, no guarantees that your neighbor is not actually a spy for the government, and no guarantees you’ll be allowed to emigrate to a new life in Asia.

New Amana is dying. Food and water are scarce, and people suffering from radiation-caused mutations—the Nukeheads—are the new class of homeless.

Vika has just one purpose: to produce healthy progeny using a Husband assigned by the Match Clinic. Unhealthy children are carted away to Asylums to be experimented on, just as Vika’s little sister Ceres was, eight years ago. Parents incapable of producing healthy progeny are put to death in gas chambers.

When she’s assigned a Husband shortly after her twentieth birthday, Vika expects him to be complacent and obedient. But Shale Underwood has a secret. He is a member of the Radicals, the terrorist group intent on overthrowing the government. And Shale has information about Ceres.

As she learns more about the Rads’s plan, Vika finds herself drawn to Shale in ways she’d never imagined. When freedom calls in the way of a healthy pregnancy, will she betray her government and risk death for Shale and Ceres?

And here’s Adriana’s bio for good measure: Adriana Ryan lives and writes in Charleston, SC. She is currently at work on a dystopian and an urban fantasy series. A huge fan of spooky stuff and shoes, she enjoys alternately hitting up the outlet malls and historic graveyards. Adriana Ryan is a member of the Romance Writer’s Association (RWA). Contact her via email, facebook, or twitter.

Congrats, Adriana, on the debut of a gorgeous and intriguing cover!

What do you think about the cover?  Are you intrigued by the synopsis?

The Boy Project – Read-n-Feed

For the resurrection of my Read-n-Feed posts, I’m actually cheating just a bit. I am kicking it off with an author from YALLFest, but since Kami’s a friend, I actually read The Boy Project when it came out early this year. But I think spreading the word about a friend’s awesome book is the best way to restart Read-n-Feed.

I met Kami a few years ago at a SCBWI conference in Charlotte, NC. Since we’re both from the Lowcountry region of SC, we quickly became conference buddies. Kami was further along in her journey to publication, and via her entertaining dry sense of humor, she generously shared advice and even a few war stories. She’s continued to demonstrate this generous spirit by sending me ideas to spread the word about Saying Goodbye, and even interviewing me on her blog (possibly the coolest idea ever for a blog: Nerdy Chicks Rule). I'm thrilled to have a chance to return the favor.
 
Author: Kami Kinard
Category: Middle Grade
Genre(s): Contemporary
Publisher: Scholastic Press (2012)
Pages: 253
Amazon Description: 
For anyone who's ever felt that boys were a different species....
 
Wildly creative seventh grader Kara McAllister just had her best idea yet. She's going to take notes on all of the boys in her grade (and a few elsewhere) in order to answer a seemingly simple question: How can she get a boyfriend?
 
But Kara's project turns out to be a lot more complicated than she imagined. Soon there are secrets, lies, and an embarrassing incident in the boy's bathroom. Plus, Kara has to deal with mean girls, her slightly spacey BFF, and some surprising uses for duct tape. Still, if Kara's research leads her to the right boy, everything may just be worth it. . . .
 
Full of charts and graphs, heart and humor, this hilarious debut will resonate with tweens everywhere.
 
The writing lesson I learned from The Boy Project can be summed up in one word: FUN! Kara is a witty character that makes it fun to spend time in her head. The premise of melding her science fair project with her search for a boyfriend is fun. The situations that result are extremely funny. Even the way the story is presented is fun – a journal with extras like charts and graphs and doodles and index cards. Reading this book was fun, and it seemed like writing it was . . . an absolute blast! (You thought I was going to say fun, didn’t you?)
 
Now we all know writing is hard work. I think the quote goes something like, “Writing is easy. You just open a vein and bleed.” And sometimes it definitely feels that way. But it should never feel that way to the reader. Kami does an excellent job of making it look effortless, like she was just sitting at her computer cracking herself up all day long. But I know Kami takes her craft very seriously, she even teaches writing, so a lot of technique went into making everything so entertaining. 
 
Kara’s lively voice and the predicaments she finds herself in could have stood on their own for a very amusing tale, but Kami takes things even further by adding extras in the journal. From the emails from BeBeTrueLove about finding a soul mate to a faux death certificate to bar graphs made of smiley faces, each extra item was another opportunity for a chuckle.
 
And we can look forward to more misadventures while studying boys because Kami just announced that Scholastic will be publishing The Boy Project Too in 2014 - hooray!
 
While writing, it’s important to think outside the box and really push the bounds of your creativity. If it looks like you’re having fun, then your readers will have fun, too.
 
Giveaway
To celebrate the resurrection of Read-n-Feed and Kami’s awesome book, I’m giving away a The Boy Project prize pack, which includes a signed copy of the book and a TBP swag bag with things like a bookmark, a bracelet, and tattoos. 
 
Since Kara experiences many embarrassing moments in her quest to understand the male species, you can enter the giveaway by leaving a comment sharing an embarrassing boy-related moment. 
 
Kami was kind enough to share one of her embasrrassing moments to get everyone started: "One time a boy from my church asked me to go to a dance at his school. I didn't like him enough to go, so I turned him down. Then I immediately fell down the front steps of the church, wearing a dress, of course. The poor guy rushed down the stairs and helped me up. I was dying of embarrassment, but after witnessing that graceful move he was probably pretty thankful not to have me for a dance partner!"
 
And to be fair, I’ll share one of mine, too: I had a crush on my lab partner in Chemistry (oh my God, how cliché!), and I was so busy trying to work up the nerve to flirt with him that I wasn’t paying attention and knocked a beaker of boiling water towards him. Luckily he jumped out of the way, but since I lunged for it, I ended up burning my face on the side of the Bunsen burner. It wasn’t serious, just humiliating. 
 
So if you’re willing, leave a comment sharing a moment that made you blush in front of a boy. There are also other social media related ways to enter – just add your entries to the Rafflecopter form, and I'll use it to pick a random winner.
 
The giveaway is now over - congratulations to Janelle for winning!
 
I’m willing to ship internationally, so this is open to everyone. The giveaway will be open for a week, and I’ll announce the winner next Thursday, December 6th. Good luck!

Why Do I Love YA?

Beth Revis giveawayI love the movie Grease. I remember watching it as a wee lass and being utterly captivated by the singing and dancing and romance and friendships and excitement (even if I didn’t understand some of the more risqué elements). I was bitterly disappointed to find out high school wasn’t really like that. For some reason, I could never convince my friends to spontaneously burst into a carefully coordinated song-n-dance routine. 

So what does my love of Grease have to do with my love of YA? For me, reading YA novels evokes that same sense of hope/nostalgia for the possibility of a fun adventure that at the same time could never actually happen. When I was a teen reading YA, all the romances, mysteries, adventures the characters my age were having seemed like something that might…possibly…hopefully…doubtfully...happen to me. And now that I’m an adult reading YA, it brings back those same feelings – those adventures could have happened to me, even though they didn’t. 
 
It’s a weird mix of hope and nostalgia (hopestalgia?) – wishing to experience those heightened emotions and escapades while knowing it will never be. I might use the term wistful to describe the feeling reading YA evokes, but without the undertones of melancholy; since it’s always an enjoyable experience, even for those stories that make me cry like a baby. 
 
I don’t know if any of that actually makes sense, but it’s a feeling that’s hard to describe. Anyway, that’s why I love YA. Of course the hot boys and tummy-fluttering romances don’t hurt either. :-)
 
So what prompted this post? While it dovetails nicely with my resolve to read more YA, it’s actually because of Beth Revis (who was actually a panelest YALLFest for the second time). She’s having a bonkers giveaway: she’s giving one lucky winner almost fifty YA novels signed by their authors, and sharing why I love YA earns me a bunch of entries. Whoo hoo! Go check it out - meanwhile, I’ll be sitting here with all my fingers and toes crossed!
 
Why do you love YA? Have you entered Beth’s contest? If so, include the link to you YA love post so I can read it.

Resurrecting Read-n-Feed

Last year I decided I needed to add reading back into my life, not only because I love to read, but also because it’s an important way to grow as a writer. And since I wanted to be serious about it and keep myself accountable, I resolved to share the lessons I learned about writing while reading in blog posts called Read-n-Feed. Since there has only been one Read-n-Feed post in the ensuing fifteen months, you can see that plan worked out splendidly. 

Chloe ate a book!

But at the YALLFest a few weeks ago, I was both shamed and inspired anew to put my reading muscles (atrophied from disuse like my weakling regular muscles) back to work. It was embarrassing to be watching such charming and intelligent authors on stage and not have read their books. It made me squirm when I had to admit over and over to fellow attendees raving about any of the bestsellers that I hadn’t read them yet. I felt like an imposter, both as a fan of YA fiction and as a YA writer. And of course, all the panelists affirmed again and again that their best advice to aspiring authors is to read, read, READ!
 
So I’ve been reading.
 
Probably more in the past few weeks than in the past few years combined (pathetic, I know!). 
 
And I’ve been using the list of authors at YALLFest as my guide for picking books.
 
Freya ate a book!
 
And starting this Thursday, I’m going to have my first Read-n-Feed post in over a year. *cue confetti and celebratory honking* And since it’s such a momentous occasion, I’m starting with my friend Kami Kinard, author of The Boy Project: Notes and Observations of Kara McAllister. And as part of celebrating the resurrection of Read-n-Feed, I’m giving away a signed copy of The Boy Project along with special TBP swag. So mark your calendars, set a reminder on your phone, tie a piece of string around your finger – just remember to stop by on Thursday for your chance to win!
 
* So was it Chloe or Freya who was guilty of snacking on books? Or could it be that they were . . . *gasp* . . . framed?!?
 
How do you balance your reading and writing and other obligations? What are you reading right now? Any suggestions for YA books that MUST be added to my towering To Be Read pile?

YALLFest Returns

YALLFestY’all, the second annual YALLFest was a blast! I could probably just cut and paste my post about last year’s YALLFest here because it was the same type of awesomeness: funny and inspiring YA authors on stage and bonding with old and new writing friends. But instead of being lazy, I’ll try to come up with new superlatives to describe this year’s event.  

First of all, you have to check out the incredible lineup – it’s kind of mind blowing! There were 47 YA authors there and 25 of them are New York Times bestsellers – that’s a lot of writing talent in one location. I was excited to see all of them, but as a long-time fan of the show Bones, I was especially jazzed to see Kathy Reichs.  
 
The one drawback of having so many talented people in one place was that there were three panels happening at each time period, so without Hermione’s time turner, it was impossible to see everyone. So on Friday night, I printed out the YALLFest schedule and utilized several colors of highlighters to map out my plan of attack to get the most bang for my buck (Except not really, because the absolute best part about YALLFest? All that awesomeness was FREE!!). By Saturday morning, I was prepped and ready for my mission: absorb as much inspiration as possible from these YA writing luminaries. 
 
Fortunately I also had a number of partners in crime to share the day with: Kathleen Fox, Lisa Downey, Jillian Gregory Utley, Rebecca Petruck, Rebecca Enzor, Leah Rhyne, Kami Kinard, and new writing friend Laura Moss. It was so much fun to meet up throughout the day to chat about the panels we had just attended and compare notes. The keynote session was with Cassandra Clare and Holly Black discussing literary friendships, and I have to admit listening to them talk about the love and support of writer friends as I sat in the audience with my fantastic writer friends made me a tad teary.
 
Late in the afternoon there was finally a break, so some of us headed to Rue de Jean for a drink, where we started a new tradition of “serious” writerly discussions over wine and French fries. Thanks to Kathleen for the picture of Lisa, Laura, Rebecca E, me, and Rebecca P. Just like Kami (who made the leap from audience member last year to panelist this year – so cool!), I know others in this group will be on the YALLFest stage in future years – I just hope one of them is me!
YALLFest Gals
YALLFest really is a fantabulous event – both for readers and writers. The authors were very generous in sharing information about their ups and downs before they were published, their writing processes, and other fun stories. Plus Charleston is a fabulous place to visit in the fall. Thank you so much to Jonathan Sanchez of Blue Bicycle Books and Margaret Stohl for organizing such a fantastic event! They have already decided on November 9th for next year’s festival, so mark your calendars – I hope to see y'all there!
 
Were you able to attend this year’s YALLFest? What was the best piece of advice/inspiration you heard? Are you planning to attend next year?