We’re In New Yooork…Well, Almost!

Writing Song of the Day: “Empire State of Mind” Jay-Z ft. Alicia Keys

Taken from: SCBWI

Yep, you read that right. We’re about to take our SECOND trip to New York. The first didn’t really count since it was one of those day trips on a bus. This time, we’re gonna spend a WHOLE weekend there. And we’re gonna be amongst our brethren, other writers! We are attending our very first, SCBWI New York Conference.

While we’ve gone to the LA conference four years in a row, we wanted to change things up this year and try out the New York winter conference. We’re hoping to take in NY on Friday, experience the whirlwind conference on Saturday, and hop back on the plane Sunday. The goal of attending the conference is to get our mojos going again. With the hectic schedules of our lives, our writing has definitely suffered. We want to get to work on revising our 2013 NaNo novels and hopefully the panels and keynote speakers will inspire us to get our crap together.

Don’t worry, we’ll tweet and Instagram throughout the weekend and give you a brief wrap up when we get back next week. Yes, we’ve given you promises before on this blog that we haven’t kept…but this one we promise to keep. Promise. We swear on all that is Joseph Gordon-Levitt. And you all know how we feel about him!

Taken From: http://fashionvertigo.com/joseph-gordon-levitt-covers-out-october-2013/

Omigod…Quita has a FLIPPING Agent!!

Celebrating Song of the Day: “I Celebrate the Day” by Relient K

WOW–after two years of querying/revising/editing TWO manuscripts, I can FINALLY report that yes, the title of this post is correct. I HAVE AN AGENT!!! Over a year ago, Pam gave you this post on how she got her agent (the awesome Sarah LaPolla of Curtis Brown LTD), so I figured I’d do the same. If you’d like to hear my story…here it go!

I started writing at a young age. I gave you all a sneak peak of my first completed novel (that I wrote at age 15), but then I got practical. I realized if I wanted to make lots of  money, I needed to finish high school and go to college. So, I did…and then I got my degree and became a teacher. Yep, I thought I’d be rolling in the dough from that career. As my fellow educators know, no such luck. Anyway, I digress. Back to my writing journey. Me and Pam got serious about our childhood love of writing and applied for MFA programs. As Pam recounted on her post, we got in and she was told from a literary agent that she has a knack for teen voices…so why not write young adult? She told me and was like, “hey, you usually write in teen voices, too.” And from there we began our foray into the wonderful (and I mean, WONDERFUL) world of young adult. Then my first novel was born…

December of 2009: I finished writing a novel based on a screenplay that me and Pam wrote together. Said novel was not my best friend. I kept trying to stick to the screenplay. HOWEVER, I did get a full request from a literary agency with this novel. But, lit agency NEVER responded…

Jan/Feb. 2010: While waiting for news about other manuscript, I began to come up with ideas for a new novel. All I had was these few sentences: Syl Huston is a 15 year old living in Philadelphia in 1918. The year that the Great Influenza has hit the United States. His older brother 18 year old Ricky Huston has enlisted in the United States Army and is sent to fight in Germany- he sends home letters that open up each chapter.

Begins in September 1918- Syl is in school and is called to the principal’s office. There he learns that his aunt, who lives with him has just been taken to the hospital and is in severe condition.
April 2010: Finished my first draft of In Limbo (title was switched to Hysteria briefly). This draft consisted of just Syl–who gets sick and spends the second half of the novel in his bedroom while people visit him. In one word: LAME. Thanks to my alpha/beta reader, Pam, this was quickly changed.
August 2010: Finished second draft–still a little lame, but I felt it was ready to query. WRONG–nothing but rejections. I got a few partial requests, but NO fulls. Pam read again and suggested that I make the love interest black–something to change things up.
October 2010: New draft! And this time my love interest, SJ, is BLACK. And she and Syl have a goal. I also have another beta reader, Ann, read this draft. She loves it, but gives a few suggestions. I take them.
December 2010: Another new draft–this time Syl has religious issues (don’t ask where THAT came from…). I query again. I also began the first draft of my contemporary–convinced that agents do not sign debut authors with historical novels.
January 2011: I get my FIRST full request!!! And it’s from an agent who LOVES historical- woo hoo! Alas, she passes…
February 2011: I whine, whine, whine about not getting an agent. I do some work on the contemp and query that. I get a couple requests for the contemp and shelve In Limbo while my betas read and let me know WHY it continues to suck.
June 2011: Me and Pam attend our regional SCBWI Novel Retreat. There we get a moment of clarity–why not make In Limbo a dual POV novel??? That might up the tensions, the stakes etc. Pam also suggests that I have one of the couple really not like the other–after all they are interracial and it is the early 20th century. Sooo…I work hard on both of those ideas and send it off to my betas again.
July-September 2011: Feedback from betas and hardwork to get the manuscript JUST RIGHT.
Late September/Early October 2011: I re-query those agents who had slight interest in In Limbo, and I go to QueryTracker.net (QueryTracker, I HEART you) and search for all agents interested in historical YA novels. There’s quite a few…so I weed through them and find the ones who seem like they really, truly love historicals. That’s when I see the name…Jennie Goloboy of Red Sofa Literary Agency. Not only does she WRITE historical novels herself, she also has a freakin’ PhD in American Civilization from Harvard!! I queried her on September 27th, 2011–she answered a short six days later. She said she is intrigued and wanted to read the first three chapters. YES!
October 2011: I continued to query my contemp. and had a full & partial out for that, too. But Jennie got back to me on October 10th, saying she enjoyed it and wanted to read the full. OMIGOD!
Then on the 18th, Jennie wrote back and said she loved the manuscript overall, but had a few things she wanted me to look at and change. I agreed–so I worked on the revisions right away.
November 2011: On November 20th, 2011 I sent back the revised version of In Limbo. On the 30th, Jennie wrote back and said she really enjoyed the revise and resubmit…then asked if there was a time we could talk!!!
December 2011: WE TALKED! She offered–I wanted to accept right away. Jennie LOVES my novel, she loves history–what more can I ask for? But I had other material out. I had to give those agents a chance to read and decide if they loved my work enough. After all was said and done…I signed with Jennie on December 20th, 2011! 
AND NOW? NOW I have an agent!!! 
That was A LOT…and I don’t blame you if you skipped some parts. I can get a lil’ long winded sometimes. Sorry 😦 Anyway, I hope reading about my “journey” gives you all some insight into the work that it takes. In Limbo didn’t get agented until I wrote 10 (YES, TEN–granted some of the drafts had small changes, but still) various drafts of it. It takes work, people…lots of it.
Thanks for reading 😀

Time is on Your Side (SCBWI:Take Two)

Informing Song of the Day: “Time is Running Out” by Muse

Yesterday we showed you what we did at the SCBWI LA Conference through some very professional cell phone photographs. And we promised we would share some of the highlights today. There were sooooo many major moments that we witnessed, keynotes from Libba Bray, Gary Paulsen, and Richard Peck. Sessions with editors Jennifer Hunt from Dial, Alessandra Balzar , and authors Sarah Stewart, Bruce Coville, and Laurie Halse Anderson. And although EVERYTHING we did this past weekend was full of awesome, perhaps the most awesome was Laurie Halse Anderson’s session on making time for writing.

I must admit, I’m a little biased. I went into the session KNOWING I was going to adore whatever came out of her mouth–she is one of my fave writers after all. But when me and Pam entered that room and became engrossed with the talk, (just like the other people squeezed in the tiny room with us) I knew Ms. Anderson was giving us some truly GREAT advice. Okay, I’ll stop teasing and get to the deets.

Before that session, we were quick to say things like:

“But, we don’t have any tiiiime to write!”

“We can write after So You Think You Can Dance goes off.”


“Who can maintain a full time job, a family, and writing? Only a super hero!”

Now, after listening to her speak (no pun intended) we understand that using all of those excuses was our way of masking the fear that we have about writing. Ms. Anderson said that when we write about teen emotions we’re usually revisiting those times in our lives, leaving us vulnerable. That vulnerability leads to fear.

How do you get rid of that fear and stop making excuses then? Ms. Anderson had us do two quick activities where we list our “Top Five Time Consumers” –we had to put the top five things that take up our time on a daily basis. TV showed up on both mine and Pam’s list. Then we had to write the five most important things to us…TV showed up on my list again. I had to be honest. This made Pam and me realize that we spend WAY too much time watching TV. So, as soon as the session ended, me and Pam scurried to our room and did this:

**If you look real closely,you can make out the titles…what do you see that you’re guilty of watching, too :)**

That is the list of every TV show we watch during a given week. We went through and scratched off the shows we were willing to give up, made a note of “maybes” –the shows we would give a trial run, and then checked off the gems we knew we couldn’t stop watching (Supernatural, Boardwalk Empire, anyone??).

And then we felt a weight lift off of our shoulders. Now, we won’t fall back on those old excuses and we will do what Laurie Halse Anderson quoted from William Faulkner: “Don’t be a writer, be writing.”

Tell us, what are some of your time wasters? And what are you willing to give up???

SCBWI International Conference–Summer 2011 in Pictures!

Remembering Song of the Day: “This Photograph is Proof” by Taking Back Sunday

So, we promised you some info and highlights from the magnificent SCBWI 40th International Conference. Instead of trying to write everything that we did, we decided to demonstrate the weekend through pictures.

First of all, we arrived to LAX on Thursday, August 4th, 2011…after midnight 😦 We were some sleepy mofos!

Friday August 5th, 2011:

Right away, we find out John Green (who was one of the major reasons why we had to attend the conference this year) wasn’t coming…waaah!

BUT, it gets leaked that in his place JUDY BLUME…wait, did you catch that? JUDY FREAKING BLUME would be in attendance!!!!

Picture courtesy of Lisa Yee (Twit Pic)

Talk about an awesome first day! Not only do we hear Bruce Coville give a great opening keynote, but we also got to meet Laurie Halse Anderson!!!!! She gave a great session on making time for writing and also signed our books!!!

Me and Pam with THE Laurie Halse Anderson…the pinnacle of YA!!!

Saturday August 6th, 2011:

Pam meeting her idol, Ellen Hopkins! She even bought a book that she already had at home because she HAD to get Ellen’s signature.

Pam and her agent sister, Shana Silver (they met for the first time IRL!!).
The 40 Winks Pajama Party:

Pam sporting the nightgown look

Quita, always choosing pants 🙂

Sunday August 7th, 2011– Last Day 😦

Dessert at the Golden Kite Luncheon. So creative!

One of the many AWESOME surprises was legendary Richard Peck! He gave a speech at the Golden Kite luncheon on August 7th that was one of the many highlights of the weekend 🙂

We got books signed by the hilarious and incomparable Libba Bray (far right and she’s talking to me!!!!) and she pretty much rawks!

Bruce Coville demonstrated how to make plot and character meet…by jumping on a table.

And the magnificent Laurie Halse Andeson gave a motivational, informational, and all around engaging final keynote speech to close things out on Sunday August 7th.

Of course there was much, much more…but we didn’t bring our camera and was limited to taking pics with a BlackBerry 😦 However, tomorrow if you come back, we’ll have some more goodies to share with you from the Summer SCBWI conference. See ya then 🙂

We’re Goin’ Back to Cali!

Traveling Song of the Day: “Going Back to Cali” by Sevendust

By the time you read this, we’ll be on a plane heading to LA for the SCBWI 2011 Summer Conference. We got to attend this conference last summer, and it was one of the BEST times we’ve ever had. Everyone was so friendly and inviting, and we learned so much. When we found out that this year was the 40th anniversary, we had to hop on the chance to attend again (our wallets still haven’t forgiven us for that). We can’t wait to give you all a recap next week, but until then we give you…
The Top 5 Reasons We’re Stoked for the SCBWI Summer Conference!!!
5. That West Coast Weather! Here in VA, we’ve had a MISERABLE summer. Heat indexes have reached over 100 degrees. Humidity like that does not do great things for African-American hair. I checked weather.com for the temperatures in LA and saw nothing above the lower 80s. Woo to the hoo!!
4. The 40 Winks Anniversary Poolside Gala! That’s right–we’ll be attending a pool party with some of the publishing elite…in our pajamas! At last year’s extravaganza, we saw an accountant-type man rocking the mic to old school hip-hop–not to mention seeing Jay Asher prance around in a cupid costume. What will be in store this year?
3. Manuscript Consultation! This year, Quita signed up to have the first 10 pages of her manuscript critiqued. By whom, you ask (or is that “who”? I could use a critique myself). Who knows? It could be an agent; it could be an editor…it could even be an award-winning author. Either way, we’re sure the feedback and the one-on-one time will be valuable.
2. Networking, Baby! Last year, we collected so many business cards from fellow writers. I even rode an elevator with Ellen Hopkins (of course, I was too paranoid to say anything to her). I can’t wait to rub elbows with more authors–both aspiring and established. It’s so refreshing to be surrounded by others who know both the pains and joys of writing.
1. Um, Can You Say John Green and Laurie Halse Anderson?! That’s right. Two of our absolute, favorite authors will be attending the conference–and we think they’re signing books! Words can’t even express how much they’ve influenced our writing–and to think we’ll soon see them in person just boggles our mind. But there are a TON more awesome folks that’ll be attending this year as well. Just check out this list of the faculty.
It was hard narrowing it down to just 5 reasons, but we did the best we could. Can’t make it to the summer conference this year? Never fear! You can catch the action on the SCBWI Conference Blog! Also, if you’re on Twitter, just follow the #LA11SCBWI hash tag (Quita and I will also be tweeting live–just click on our tweets on the sidebar).
Any of you able to attend? Drop us a line–maybe we could meet up! 🙂

While We Were Away…Plus ANOTHER Contest!

Revising Song of the Day: “Back Down South” by Kings of Leon

Hey, all! Fancy meeting you here…where have we been this past week, you ask?
*Working on MFA requirements (still doing that a little…)
*Revising our YA WIPs and completed manuscripts.
*Attending an awesome SCBWI Novel Retreat in Shenandoah National Park!!!

The last item on the list was probably the most fun and informative and we would love to share that experience with you. After traveling on a train, a bus, and then a taxi cab,we FINALLY arrived in Shenandoah National Park Friday June 10th. We went to our room which looked like this on the outside:

And the view looked like this:

And this is what sunset looked like:

Oh, and this is us posing with the awesome bear at Big Meadows Lodge (cuz we were in bear country!):
Then we proceeded to have dinner and after that was our FIRST (out of four) sessions with the amazing, super intelligent, uber literary, spectacular Cheryl Klein from Arthur A. Levine Books (an imprint of Scholastic). In the first session Ms. Klein gave us general ideas about what we’d be discussing later in the weekend, and probably gave one of the coolest pieces of advice ever. Ms. Klein told us how she has her clients write a letter to her when it’s time for revisions. In the letter, Ms. Klein tells her clients to answer the following questions:

What were you trying to do with this book?

What’s the story or your vision?

What’s the book about?

What do you love most? (Characters, scenes, lines etc.)

What do you suspect needs the most work?
That was just one of the major highlights from the retreat. The rest of the weekend was full of peer reviews (with problem scenes and first page critiques) and insight on revising novels from Cheryl Klein. Ms. Klein gave sessions on character, plot, and voice with specific outlines, questions to ask, and exercises to complete in order to make your novel better. Most of her talk is featured in her writing resource: Second Sight: An Editor’s Talks on Writing, Revising, and Publishing Books for Children and Young Adults

We stood in a line like this to get our books signed:

Now…there was a limited number of these excellent books, and essentially me and Pam are one person. So…we decided to get one signed for us:

And then get the other signed for one of YOU!!!!

Okay, since we just finished a big contest (winner will be announced Wednesday June 22nd) this one will be easy. To win all you have to do is be a follower of the blog and comment on this post with your e-mail address. Simple, right??
We hope that you all will enter because Ms. Klein’s book is a priceless tool that we guarantee will only make your novel better. Good luck! You have until Wednesday(June 22nd) at Midnight EST to enter.

In the mean time, do you have any revising tricks you’d like to share??

Friday Fives: Light Reading…And a CONTEST!

Reading Song of the Day: “Summer Love” by Justin Timberlake

It’s that time again…the freakin’ weekend! And once again, me and Pam are traveling. This time we’re headed to Shenandoah National Park in northern Virginia for what is sure to be an ah-may-zing SCBWI novel retreat. But we couldn’t leave without participating in Pam’s group blog Paper Hangover’s Friday Fives.

Also, we have a few announcements to make…so make sure you don’t leave until you get to the end!

This week’s Friday Fives is:

What are the Five Best Summer Reads?

Here is our list in no particular order:

1. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins: We have raved about this book here and here. I don’t think there’s more we can say– except the book is fun, light, and absolutely clever. A must read for the summer!

2. The Mortal Instruments Series by Cassandra Clare: Okay, so this may not be “light” reading, but the summer is a great time to get caught up on the series. There are 4 books out already and more to come. If you want to be a part of the craze for the next book in the series, then use the summer to read what you’ve missed thus far.

3. The Iron Fey Series by Julie Kagawa: I brought these books for Pam for her birthday b/c she is working on a fairies book and she wanted to see what else is out there. She’s going to use the summer to get caught up on the series so she can be ready for the next book.

4. The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling: Pam bought me the first book for my birthday b/c I told her I wanted to start reading them. I am now hooked! I’ll be using the summer to read ALL of the books and hopefully start watching the movies as well.

5. Invincible Summer by Hannah Moskowitz: Pam read Gone, Gone, Gone and RAVED. So, we figured Invincible Summer must be just as good, if not better. Plus, you can’t go wrong with the word “summer” in the title!

Okay…now it’s time for some announcements!

Announcement # 1: We are going on a blogging hiatus. Fear not, loyal followers! We shall return in ONE WEEK- June 20th, 2011. So, you have to go one week w/out us…don’t celebrate too much.

Announcement # 2: This one is much more EXCITING! We are giving away TWO books to celebrate our one year blogging anniversary (as of 5/31/2011–Pam and I have been blogging together for one WHOLE year!) AND to celebrate all of the awesomeness that we experienced at Weekend of Awesome. Because we want to celebrate that joyous occasion we will give away two books that we learned about from our new real life friends 🙂

Book # 1: Notes From the Blender by Brendan Halpin and Trish Cook. You can read what Goodreads has to say about this novel here. We got to do a Skype chat with Brendan during WOA (thanks to Erinn) and he is so funny and witty. Those elements are sure to show up in his novel and we KNOW you will enjoy it! But, wait…there’s more! This book will be signed by Brendan Halpin himself!

Book # 2: Fill-in-the-Blank Plotting by Linda George: The link will take you to the Goodreads page where you can learn more. But this book was introduced to us by Alicia during WOA and it is AWESOME! It’ll help you to plot your novel based on the Hero’s journey and the Three- Act structure.

Enter to win by filling in the form below. Easy peasy!

Now that that’s over with…we’d love to know what books you all are looking forward to reading this summer!