Tag Archives: guest blogger

Tidbits by Christopher Fitzgerald

I’m a freelance photographer aspiring to self publish YA novels for boys.
My photography website is here: http://www.candidatephotos.com/
This summer I’ll debut a blog that combines photos and writing.

I was supposed to have slept late. Instead I woke up early in my hotel
room and scribbled down one idea after another for my young adult novel.
This creative logjam bust on the morning after attending the conference.
Enrolling in a morning workshop was a good move for more than just
myself. The other beneficiary was my main character. Thanks to his
exposure to my classmates, he’s revealing way more about his inner
demons than I ever dreamed he would.

Carol here–It’s Friday the Thirteen. Are you writing your fingertips off?
I haven’t written at all thought I have thought of writing. We’re still feeling awfully sad here.
I think I will marathon later when I don’t feel so down in the dumps.
That said, i am proud of ALL YOU WRITERS! You are amazing!

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Guest Blog: Ms. Cheryl on Tweens

Cher-y-lynne {sher-uhl-lin} –noun
1. One who sells or recommends children’s books at Barnes & Noble; a specialist in young adult, middle grade, and picture books.
2. A struggling young adult writer.
3. A lover of chocolate and popcorn.
Archaic: An Audiology and Speech Language Pathology major at Brigham Young University.
Origin: The View from Above & Beyond- http://cherylynne.blogspot.com

I have heard recently from three different editors that they are not looking for, nor accepting, “tween” books…If your protagonist is 13, they advise either making him or her 12, and therefore middle grade, or 15, and therefore young adult.

I’m here to tell you that I think the editors are wrong.

We all know that kids read up.  So for a true middle grade child, someone who’s around nine or ten, they want to read about a 12-year-old.  And for a young teen, someone who’s 14 or 15, they’ll want to read about someone who’s 16 and up.

I  hate to break it to you, but there is such a thing as a 11, 12, and 13-year old tween.  And they like to read.  And they’d love it if there were books for them.

Believe me, I know more than anyone what the problem is.  There isn’t a place to shelve these kinds of books.  And libraries and bookstores aren’t going to build a section for them…at least not until a huge blockbuster comes along that forces them to do so.

But in the meantime, half of the books are in the middle grade section and half of them are in young adult.  The trend I’ve seen is that normally, the tween boy books are kept in middle grade (Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan, Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart, Bartimaeous Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud) while the tween girl books are shelved in young adult (Gallagher Girls by Ally Carter, Frog Princess by E.D. Baker, Once Upon a Time series by various authors.)

The root of this discrepancy, I think, is what I discussed in my last post:  The fact that there are plenty of older middle grade books for boys, but a shocking lack of choices in young adult.  The reverse is also true.  There are not very many books available for older middle grade girls, but an incredible oversaturation of girly young adult books.

I think it’s time to change this.  What will it take?  A new S.E. Hinton (who is usually credited with creating the young adult genre.)  We need an author that will take the tween world by storm.

Now the hard part is just writing it.  Here are some pointers for what tweens are looking for:

1)      Content:  The content must still be just as squeaky clean as middle grade.  These parents do not want their kids exposed to the “teen” world just yet.  I recommend no swearing (no, not even a little!) and no mention of sex.  If it’s a girly book, a few chaste kisses are fine.

2)      Subplots:  Include them.  Normally there is a main plot and one subplot in middle grade, and there can be up to four subplots in teen (though four is really pushing it.)  I would have two or three in a tween book.  These kids are smart.  They can handle it.

3)      Character arcs:  This is an essential.  Most of middle grade has nice, friendly characters that tend to accomplish a life goal rather than change their actual personality.  It works, because younger kids need to like the characters right away.  In young adult, however, you often have characters that change so drastically that you can barely tell it’s the same voice.  This works too, considering that teens change their personalities as often as they change clothes.  But tweens?  They’re still figuring out who they are, even more than teens.  They don’t even know which “clique” they belong to yet.  A character that reflects that uncertainty—and finds a way to resolve it—will find the respect of that crowd.

4)      Humor:  Quite frankly, I would not try to do anything edgy with this group.  Someday, somewhere, I’m sure someone will pull it off.  But for right now, I would try to steer clear and instead try to make them laugh.  Tweens love sarcasm.  That’s why the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books are still popular with them, even though that series is on a third grade reading level.  I think appealing to their funny bone is a brilliant marketing move.

5)      Action:  And let me say it again:  ACTION.  This is not the place to get bogged down with pretty descriptions and detailed theme analyses.  You are competing with the internet (which they probably just recently gained access to) and video games (many are now allowed to start buying the games rated “Teen.”)  Your story has to be more compelling than either of those.

Now, does this give you an excuse to call your editor and tell her she’s an idiot for making you change than age of your protagonist?  NO.  Unfortunately, they probably still can’t sell your tween manuscript.  But here’s hoping that someday soon someone will figure out a brilliant marketing move that will make Tween a legitimate genre.


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Writing is Vomiting: An Extended Analogy by the distinguished Dr. Chris Crowe

I’m not exactly sure why Carol and Ann Dee chose to name their blog “Throwing Up Words,” but when I woke up at 4:48 this morning, it occurred to me that their blog label is more apt than even they may have imagined.

In many ways, very many ways, writing is like vomiting:

•                     it occurs only after some rumination

•                     there’s usually some internal stirring that signals it’s about to—or needs to—happen

•                     the process is usually difficult and unpleasant

•                     you feel much better when it’s over

And everyone who has ever experienced writing or vomiting knows that the end result of vomiting/writing is always the same: what was once inside is now outside.

Just as writing varies by author and genre, vomiting varies by puker and content, but there’s really no essential distinctive quality of vomit.  Minor differences exist in the mode of emission and in the content of the vomitus, but when it comes right down to it (or perhaps, right up to it) vomiting is vomiting is vomiting, regardless of what you call it:


















Because vomiting comes so naturally, some people, such as the famous basketball coach Bobby Knight, believe that writing is no big deal.  “All of us learn to write in the second grade,” the grumpy coach once said to a bunch of sports writers.  “Most of us go on to greater things.”

Of course, vomiting is even easier than writing because it doesn’t have to be learned.  If something nasty gets inside us and doesn’t want to stay there, it’ll find its way out whether we want it to or not (and if it’s really nasty, it’ll use both exit ports at the same time).  That doesn’t mean, however, that all vomiting is automatic.  Some people, because they’re sick—physically or emotionally—try to induce to vomiting.  That’s another parallel to writing, isn’t it?  When writers are blocked, they’ll go to great lengths to unleash the partially-digested words within.

Different kinds of emetics exist for writers and pukers.  Pukers use the handle of a spoon, their index finger, or a teaspoon of ipecac syrup to trigger their spew.  Old time pukers (and old-time doctors) used a dose of algarot or antimony to purge the body of icky stuff in the gut.  Writers have emetics of their own.  Old-timers like William Faulkner or Ernest Hemingway relied on liquor to help them throw up words—and sometimes their lunches, too.  Some hard-core writers have snorted coke or mainlined heroin to nauseate the muse lurking in their bellies.  The more genteel among us use different methods to launch the spew of words: freewriting, pacing, guilt, goals, deadlines, and other such stuff.

But what I really wanted to get in this rambling barfy blog is the real genius in the title of Carol and Ann Dee’s blog: we can classify writers much the same way we can classify vomiters.  Here are some classifications I’ve come up with.  I’ve even added some names that seem to fit each category well.  I’m sure you’ll be able to find a category that suits you or one of your writing buddies:

Buffet Vomiters: the writers who can and do publish every kind of book for every kind of audience (Rick Walton)

Bulimic Vomiters: the absurdly prolific writers who can’t make themselves stop writing (Meg Cabot, Jessica Day George, Carol Lynch Williams, James Patterson)

Closed-mouth Swallowers: people who write often and well but refuse to stop rewriting or to submit their work (Cheri Earl)

Dry-heavers: writers who write lots of first lines or first pages but nothing else (most of us at one time or another)

Nauseated Non-emitters: people who constantly feel like writing but never get around to doing it (most of us at one time or another)

Pepto-Bismal Addicts: writers who are masters of avoidance, who find varied and ingenious ways to avoid writing (Chris Crowe)

Projectile Vomiters:  writers whose books make a very loud and a very big splash (James Dashner, Shannon Hale, Stephenie Meyer, JK Rowling, Sara Zarr)

Seinfeld Vomiters (“I haven’t thrown up since June 29, 1980”): writers who never get around to that next book (Chris Crowe, Harper Lee, Margaret Mitchell. . . notice how subtly I’ve managed to place myself among such lofty company?)

Spit-uppers: prolific writers who write short books (Rick Walton)

Sprayers: writers who vainly try to stifle their own flow (sometimes I wish there were more writers like this)

If I’ve whetted your appetite for more information about vomiting, check out this fine wikipedia article on the art and practice of puking: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vomiting


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Where Does Your Writing Muse Work Best?

Lucky, lucky us. For next two months or so, Amy Finnegan will be our guest blogger. Woot woot! We’re happy about this because Amy know TONS about the writing world. And she also does lots of research for EACH blog. Here’s her little introduction: Amy Finnegan has been an event coordinator for Utah Children’s Writers and Illustrators. She was the first place winner in the children’s and young adult category of the 76th Annual Writer’s Digest Competition. She ate an entire bag of strawberry Twizzlers while writing this blog entry. Admitting that in third person POV makes her feel less guilty about it.

One Friday night a month, I stay overnight at a Hampton Inn that is less than ten minutes from where I live. I leave my husband and three kids at home, and instead take my laptop, food to last me 24 hours, a small overnight bag, and my two pillows that I can’t sleep without.

I check in at 10 AM on Friday, and get a 2 PM Saturday checkout. At some point, I sleep about 5-6 hours, but otherwise, I work, work, work.

I’m not sure why my writing muse is so comfortable in that environment, but I get more done in one day at this Hampton Inn than I do in a week or more writing elsewhere. It just works for me.

But I can’t be a truly productive writer if I only write one day a month. I need to find a way to be less distracted at home, clear my mind, and get into this same Hampton Inn zone at my own desk.

So I’m on a quest to learn what other writers do to be their most productive. Do they have a secluded office with classical/rock/reggae music playing? Inspirational books/quotes/posters around them? I’d like to find the best of the best ideas and mash them all together into an environment that helps me focus.

If you need that, too, I hope you can also learn something from the following authors who agreed to share a bit about their current workspace. I also asked what their “dream” writing environment would be like.

Jessica Day George said:
I work either sitting at the kitchen counter or at a table at the local library.  If I’m at the kitchen counter, then there are probably children running about and I’m only typing with half my concentration.  If I’m at the library, then there are probably children running about (although not my own) and I am only typing with half my concentration while I wonder when the public library became a daycare.  I would like to have my own room, with a comfy chair, and a desk for when I’m feeling tense and must sit up in a businesslike fashion.  There would be enormous bookcases full of my favorite books, and a sound system softly playing a Kennedy CD.

You can learn more about Jessica’s MG & YA novels at:

Ann Dee Ellis:
I write in bed. Always. I know this is weird and it’s even weirder when I try to write at the library or somewhere away from home and I realize I need to lay on the floor or on some couch to get into my groove. I also am terrible at writing consistently but when I do do it, it’s at night after the kids are asleep. My dream environment? I dream of waking up, having a nice breakfast. Maybe yoga or jogging. A long shower where I use a loofah or something like that. Then writing from nine to eleven. Maybe noon. I feel like I’d write beautiful things if I wrote from nine to noon. My head clear. My soul rejuvenated. The birds chirping. One day. Or not.

You can learn more about Ann Dee’s YA novels at:

Mette Ivie Harrison:
I moved recently into our “exercise room,” which includes a couch, treadmill, TV, stationary bike, lots of bookshelf space, my desk and computer, my filing cabinet, and a closet full of games and craft stuff.  I also have a window, albeit a basement one.  I suspect this is my ideal work space.  I love that it is quiet and cool, and that I have a heater to turn on to feel “cozy.”  I love that books are all around me, and that it is hard to find me, and that I can’t hear the doorbell when it rings.  The kids have to walk all the way downstairs to ask me if I want to talk to the salesperson at the door.  I don’t.  Also, there is usually plenty of chocolate there.  I write as soon as the kids are off to school, which is about 8:30.  I write for as long as I can, taking little breaks in between to break it up.  I play on the internet or get a snack and then back to the grindstone.  I take lunch at 11:30 most days, unless I’m in the zone.  Then I go back to work unless I have to do some real world stuff like shopping or appointments.  Or dishes and laundry.

You can learn more about Mette’s YA novels at:

Kristyn Crow:
My workspace is my laptop on the dining room table in the center of my house.  In other words, I don’t use an office.  There are several reasons for this.  a) From my vantage point in the dining room, I can monitor both the kitchen and the front door.  So I’m able, for example, to stop one or more of my seven kids from drinking straight from the milk carton, or from eating an enormous bowl of cereal five minutes before dinner, or from disappearing out the front door to some remote location.  You think I’m kidding, but I’m not.  b) The room I used to use as an office slowly morphed into a computer gaming zone, and I was competing against explosions, robots on the rampage, and bloodthirsty dinosaurs.  c) When I did use that room for an office, it got a little claustrophobic.  I love having a laptop because I can move around and change my scenery as I see fit.  Even if I don’t move around, the idea that I can if I want to is nice.   This year my youngest child started first grade, so I’m finally home during the day with time to write while all the children are gone. My dream writing environment would be sitting outside on a porch or balcony with a breathtaking view.  (As long as there weren’t any bugs. If there are bugs, give me the same view from a huge window in a roomy office.)

You can learn more about Kristyn’s Picture Books at:

Carol Lynch Williams:

At this moment my office is filled with boxes because we are moving in a week or two. Before that, though, it held my desk, a bookshelf, and our grand piano. I LOVE to write when my daughter (yes, our Kyra) practices her classical pieces. I do have a dream office in mind, though. It would be huge–large enough for all my girls to settle in with me. And there would be wall-space enough in the room to hold all my books. Finally, it would stay clean. And there would be a comfy chair for me to read in–though I’m not sure I would ever read there.

You could learn more about Carol’s books if she would ever update her website and make it look professional.

So, writers, what is your own workspace like? What would be your dream writing environment?

Tips I found online (some of the best are in the reader comment sections):






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