Posts Categorized: The Writing Process

The Problem of Parents in Middle Grade Fiction

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the portrayal of parents in middle grade novels. There are all sorts of challenges when it comes to creating parent characters in books for kids. For instance, how do you get the parents out of the way so that your middle-school-aged characters can get themselves into enough trouble… Read more »

Trusting My Own (Uncertain but Exciting) Writing Process

Since I started writing fiction in 2008, I’ve written six full-length novel manuscripts, two of which will be published, but I still couldn’t tell you how, exactly, I write a book. When I sit down in front of a blank document, ready to start a new project, I feel a mix of confident excitement (This… Read more »

Upper MG Books for Older Middle School Readers…and My New Book Deal!

Last Thursday, I wrote a guest post for a wonderful site called Project Mayhem about the importance of “gray area” novels: upper middle grade books that appeal to sixth to eighth graders and that people in the publishing world have sometimes been wary of, because they’re a bit too old for traditional middle grade but a bit… Read more »

When “Finish What You’re Working On” Isn’t the Best Advice

 “Finish what you’re working on.” If you want to be a writer, that’s one of the most common pieces of advice you’ll hear, and it makes a lot of sense. It’s fun to start a book, but it can be really hard to wade through the murky middle and make it to the other side…. Read more »

Shiny, Happy News: My First Book Deal!

Almost three years ago, I got an agent. An agent I’d heard great things about, who requested my full manuscript seconds after I queried and then read my book in less than 24 hours. I’d worked on that book for two years, throughout the second year of my MFA program at Vermont College of Fine… Read more »

On Writing and the Struggle to Keep Control

I’ve been neglecting this blog for a long time now because even during the summer, when I have glorious stretches of writing time, there are only so many words I can crank out in a day, and I’ve been hoarding them all for the manuscripts I’m writing. Since I last posted, I finished and revised… Read more »

What Works…and What Doesn’t

The first quarter of my school year ended recently, so I’ve been talking to my seventh grade advisees about how things are going so far in their classes: what they’re proud of so far this year; how they learn and work best; and what strategies they might try out in this next quarter to improve… Read more »

777 Challenge

I’ve been challenged by fellow VCFA alum (and Philadelphia area resident) Nicole Valentine to participate in the 777 Challenge. I’m supposed to share 7 lines of text, 7 lines down, on the 7th page of my work-in-progress. Here’s the link to Nicole’s post, where she shared seven lines from a smart and poignant middle-grade time-travel… Read more »

The Gray Area Between Middle Grade and Young Adult Fiction

Back in 2010, Mary Kole, who was then a literary agent, wrote a post called “Is it MG or YA?” on her excellent site kidlit.com.  I should note that the publishing market has changed between 2010 and 2014, so I can’t say whether this post would be the same if Kole had written it today…. Read more »

Character Likability

If you’ve ever read reviews on Goodreads or Amazon, you know that readers find characters unlikable ALL THE TIME. The fact that some readers find a character unlikable doesn’t mean that a writer has done anything wrong. Certain characters simply elicit strong positive and negative reactions. One of the most powerful things about reading is… Read more »

Knowing Yourself and Your Characters (Or Trying to, Anyway)

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything, but I have a good excuse! Or, actually, a few good excuses. First I was busy with the end of the school year, then I was busy getting married, and then I was in Maui and Kauai for a glorious two-week honeymoon! But now I have… Read more »

Student-Author Interview 04: Trent Reedy

Welcome back for the fourth installment of the Student-Author Interview series! This time, I’m excited to feature Trent Reedy, a fellow VCFA alum and a prolific author who writes brilliantly across genres. Trent was a member of the Iowa Army National Guard and served in Afghanistan. Trent’s first published novel is Words in the Dust, a powerful… Read more »

My Writing Process

Writing can feel like a solitary endeavor, so I’m always eager for opportunities to talk shop (whether virtually or in person) with other writers. That’s why I was excited when A.B. Westrick invited me to join the #MyWritingProcess blog tour! A.B. Westrick is the author of Brotherhood (Viking/Penguin 2013), an ALA-YALSA Best Book for Young… Read more »

An Inspiring Author Visit with Eliot Schrefer

It’s a logistical challenge to coordinate an author visit. Especially if the author is coming in from out of town and presenting to multiple groups. And especially especially when there’s a snow day on the originally scheduled date. So it’s really saying something that Eliot Schrefer’s author visit on February 20th was worth the logistical… Read more »

Student-Author Interview 02: K.A. Barson

Welcome back for the second installment of the Student-Author Interview Series! This time, four terrific seventh grade readers are interviewing one terrific author: K.A. (Kelly) Barson. Kelly’s debut, the funny and poignant contemporary YA novel 45 Pounds (More or Less), tells the story of sixteen-year-old Ann Galardi, who resolves to lose 45 pounds in two… Read more »

How “Hooky” Is Your Hook?

During my first semester of graduate school at Vermont College of Fine Arts, I was working on a novel about a very anxious girl beginning her freshman year at a very intense prep school. I really loved this anxious girl, and I really loved her science-obsessed best friend and her kind, stressed-out dad and the… Read more »

Integrity…the Second Definition

As part of the middle school advisory program at my school this year, we’ve been focusing on the theme of integrity. From the start, most of my advisees already understood the first definition that’s listed in a print or online dictionary when you look up the word integrity; they already knew that having integrity means… Read more »

Epistolary Fanfiction: A Story and an Exercise

I recently read Maria Semple’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette? after a few people, including my good friend Laura Sibson, had enthusiastically recommended it. (Laura wrote a post that was partly inspired by the book here.) I loved the book, and I also loved Maria Semple’s short story “Dear Mountain Room Parents,” which appears at the end of… Read more »

Planning Ahead

On Monday night, my fiancé and I went to see The Day of the Doctor, the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special, at a movie theater nearby. On our way home, we ended up talking about a question that’s come up several times before: How far ahead do the Doctor Who writers plan? When each new… Read more »