Interview: Publisher Elizabeth Law & Author Allen Zadoff, Plus Giveaway of Partial Manuscript Critique By Elizabeth

Today at Cynsations, I’m honored to feature a conversation between Egmont USA publisher Elizabeth Law and her author Allen Zadoff.

Elizabeth Law is Vice President and Publisher of Egmont USA, where their motto is “we turn writers into authors and children into lifelong readers.”

Egmont specializes in fiction for ages 8 and up, and among the authors Elizabeth currently works with are Mike A. Lancaster, J&P Voelkel, Cara Chow, Micol Ostow and Allen Zadoff.

Follow her on Twitter @EgmontGal. Read a 2008 Cynsations interview with Elizabeth.

EL photo cutline: With regard to My Life, The Theater, and Other Tragedies: “We were very relieved when the final jacket was chosen!” Note: keep reading to find out why!

Allen Zadoff is the author of the memoir Hungry: Lessons Learned on the Journey from Fat to Thin (Da Capo Press, 2007), and his young adult novel Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can’t Have (Egmont, 2009, 2011)(excerpt) received the 2010 Sid Fleischman Humor Award and has been optioned for a feature film. His new novel, My Life, The Theater, and Other Tragedies, is available now from Egmont USA.

He currently works as a writer and writing coach in Los Angeles.

To both, what were you like as a teen—both as a reader and more generally?

EL photo cutline: “Here I am in ninth or tenth grade, on that most joyful of holidays, Christmas Day. (Historians note I am wearing a mood ring!).”

EL: Let’s just say that as a teen I experienced plenty of the misery and rejection that have made me an empathetic editor of YA novels.

Fortunately, in those years, the groundbreaking YA books were just coming out. They were about dark subjects that a lot of people in those days thought teenagers shouldn’t be hearing about — things like drugs and rape and being gay.

In seventh grade, a neighbor even called my mother and told her I shouldn’t be reading Go Ask Alice (Simon Pulse, 1971). But I was very drawn to books that showed kids rebelling at all the pressure to achieve and fit in that I was feeling.

Two books that I remember really expressed my anger at the time were a long-forgotten novel of Rosemary Wells’ called None of the Above (1974), and the M.E. Kerr classic Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack! (1972).

AZ: I was a relaxed, happy teen. Thin and well adjusted.

Photo cutline: see left.

Elizabeth and Allen, how did you connect with one another?

AZ: Elizabeth says that when she read my memoir Hungry she thought “this guy could write YA.” When she became publisher at Egmont, she asked me to bring her something.

It was the YA equivalent of an actor getting the call from Spielberg. I didn’t know that at the time because I didn’t know much about the field. I called it “Y What?” But I knew I was supposed to write about my teen years, and that was very natural to me. The voice was natural.

I showed up with fifty pages of the book that was to become Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can’t Have. Elizabeth must have liked what she saw because she signed me to a two-book deal at Egmont. That’s a lot of faith in a new author! The second book of that deal is coming out now. It’s called My Life, The Theater, and Other Tragedies.

Elizabeth, what were your thoughts on first reading Allen’s work? What about it appealed to you?

EL: Food, Girls was called “Invisible” when it came in to me, and I know exactly when I decided to acquire it. There’s a scene where Andy is standing in the back of his homeroom wondering whether he can fit into his school’s new desks. The school has just switched over to those little half-desks where the chair is attached, and Andy weighs 306 pounds. What if he can’t take his seat? I felt so much heartache for that kid.

I didn’t really know what a star we had in Allen, though, till his first revision came in. When I sent him the first editorial letter on Food, Girls, I asked for a stronger final third of the book, and I had sort of pointed out that a few of the characters were a bit two-dimensional. But I didn’t really ask him for too much rewriting–the story was funny and working well already.

Then the revision blew me away. Supporting characters I had barely noticed were now fully rounded people, jokes were sharper, there was a new, painful scene with Andy’s best friend, and the ending was wonderful. Allen hadn’t approached my edits like a checklist, he had taken what I said and then gone much further.

By the way, after I sent off that first editorial letter to Allen, he said “your notes were helpful.”

I thought “‘Notes’? He’s calling my carefully crafted editorial letter ‘notes’?”

Now I realize that’s how people in the TV and theater business refer to feedback. As notes. So I’ve stopped taking it personally.

AZ: Right, we call them “notes” in television and film. I didn’t know you were insulted by that.

EL: This interview is getting more interesting!

Photo cutline: Doug Pocock, Managing Director of Egmont USA, Allen Zadoff, and Allen’s literary agent Stuart Krichevsky.

Elizabeth, could you share with us how you approach a manuscript in preparing feedback?

EL: I hope I’m not giving away an industry secret, but Deborah Brodie at Viking taught me to first praise, praise, praise the author before asking any questions about the story or even beginning to hint that an aspect of the book might need to be rethought. She called it “yummying up” the editorial letter. That was a really important lesson. Now I’m always careful to say nice things but I still probably don’t give enough positive feedback.

Other than that, it’s different with every author and every book. My Life, the Theater went through more rounds of revision than Food, Girls. And while I remember tweaking some chapter endings and working through some of the technical theater stuff, most of our discussions in My Life seemed to be character based.

How long ago would the father have died for the kind of grief Adam was going through in the book? Would two characters have time to really fall in love, or would they just be getting together? How much room was there to explore Adam’s relationship with his brother in a book that was more about the loss of his father? How much did we need to know about another character’s back story? Or one of my favorites…if Adam was up in the catwalk all day at one point, where would he go to the bathroom?

Allen, how do you process editorial feedback and apply it?

AZ: I used to process it well, but now that I know the praise thing is a setup, I’m not sure how I feel.

But seriously, the ego is always hurt when first receiving notes. I think it’s natural because the author really only wants to hear one thing: “It’s genius. Don’t change a word.”

But that’s not the real world, and it’s not what makes you a better author. The most important thing I’ve learned is that the hurt reaction is just the first impulse. I don’t have to do anything about it. I let it pass like a summer storm.

Once it’s blown itself out, I move to the more interesting place of sorting out the feedback. They generally fall into four categories.

  • 1. Notes I agree with.
  • 2. Notes I disagree with.
  • 3. Notes I intuitively feel are wrong, but I’m not sure.
  • 4. Notes I intuitively feel are right, but I’m not sure.
  • As I think about it, there is a fifth category: Notes I don’t understand and I need more clarification.

That happened with some notes for My Life, the Theater, and Other Tragedies. So I categorized them. Then I sat with them for a time. Only then did I talk through everything with my editor and determine a course of action.

Earlier EL, described getting a Food, Girls draft back from me that had much deeper changes than what she’d asked for in her editorial letter. That’s because I consider notes a jumping-off point. A great set of notes will open up story ideas I hadn’t considered previously or illuminate areas where I had a blind spot.

I consider every rewrite an opportunity to ask myself if I’m telling the story in the best, most dramatic, most interesting, most specific way possible. That’s why I can get four or five notes and come back with a deep rewrite.

This is such an interesting question. I could do a whole seminar on this topic for writers. I think it’s so important to learn how to process notes and use them without it feeling like a personal attack. In fact it’s the writer’s job to learn how to do this. It’s the difference between a professional and an amateur.

Allen, your debut YA novel, Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can’t Have (Egmont, 2009) was winner of the Sid Fleischman Humor Award. Congratulations! What advice do you have for writers on writing humor? (Your answer should be useful and funny—no pressure!)

AZ: Write like your life depends on it…and your zipper is open.

Allen, congratulations on the release of My Life, The Theater, and Other Tragedies (Egmont, 2011)! Could you tell us a little about the book?

AZ: My Life, The Theater is the story of a boy who is hiding out in the theater after the sudden death of his father two years earlier. He’s a techie (a member of the backstage crew), and he falls in love with an actress. That’s forbidden in his school because the actors and techies are at war.

The book is set during a production of “A Midsummer’s Night Dream” and features a 500-pound gay director, an annoying student designer with a fake British accent, and an angry little dog. You know, a typical theater story.

Allen, what was the initial spark? What was the timeline from that spark to completion, and what were the major events—challenges and triumphs—along the way?

AZ: I grew up in the theater, and it was a great passion of mine, first as an actor and later as a director. I wanted to write a book that brought a general audience into the world of the theater, took them behind the scenes to see the passionate, crazy, quirky world that exists there.

I wanted a book that theater people would love, and non-theater people would find amazing in that way great books can introduce you to a world you knew nothing about.

I was also processing my mom’s illness at the time, and I wanted to explore how you move on after a tragedy.

I knew My Life, The Theater was going to be a funny book, too. How do you mix funny and tragic? That was one of the major challenges of writing the book. I did okay with it, but I’m still learning. Luckily, I’ve got great teachers. Chekhov and Shakespeare, to name two.

Allen, what lessons learned from writing your first novel did you apply to your second?

AZ: The main lesson was: Write faster. Elizabeth Law is waiting for a draft.

Elizabeth, how does Allen’s work fit into the greater conversation of YA literature? Who are authors with a parallel vibe? What is he saying that no one else is?

EL: I love this question. I read everything by Chris Crutcher, Adam Rapp, Pete Hautman—they’re all writers I think are terrific.

But they’re also all such tough guys! Allen’s humor is the first thing everyone comments on, and I think it’s what pulls us into his books. But it’s his characters’ vulnerability and openness that give his books such impact.

And that’s a unique aspect of his writing—no one else is depicting the fragile pain of being a guy in high school in quite the same way. And then making us laugh about it.

AZ: Hey! I want to be a tough guy, too!

Allen, you have a blog and tweet. How do you approach each? What is your strategy toward author promotion more generally?

AZ: I’m still working on defining what those things are for me. Right now, readers can visit my blog or follow me on Twitter to find out more about me, my passions and preoccupations, and get some behind-the-scenes snapshots of the author’s life. I share reviews, photos, links, events, and everything that’s going on with me and the books.

But I don’t know. Maybe that’s a little boring. I might start tweeting as page 27 of my book. “@p.27 says: Who the hell is p. 28? Why is he always breathing down my neck? Creepy.”

To both, there’s a lot of talk about attracting and holding boy readers. What do you see as the challenges? The bright spots? Is there anything you’d like to add to that conversation?

EL: I’ll tell you a particular challenge with what we call “boy novels”—doing jackets that a girl reader will find appealing but that a boy won’t be embarrassed to carry around.

We went through many iterations of the jacket of My Life, The Theater….

In fact the galley has an entirely different cover than the final book. The designer would try different things and show us, and every time I really liked one, Allen and his agent rejected it. It was a classic example of girl taste vs. boy taste.

EL photo cutline: “The galley for My Life, the Theater and Other Tragedies had to be printed for the sales reps and reviewers before the jacket was finalized. This looks nothing like the final jacket!”

AZ: I don’t know how to attract boy readers; I only know how to write, and I hope if I do it honestly, both guys and girls will be into the books. But on the more practical question of book covers, I want them to have some cool factor.

I’m very open to input from the publisher and salespeople on this because they really know their business, but if something makes me cringe, I have to speak up!

EL photo cutline: “Some of the rejected covers for My Life, the Theater, and Other Tragedies. Astute eyes will see that the novel was called ‘Lighting Summer’ at one point.”

Allen, if you could go back and talk to your beginner writer self, what would you tell him?

AZ: Your mom is right about medical school. Apply.

But if you persist in wanting to be a writer (like I know you will), remember this: Don’t try to write like other people. Let go of the idea you have to be literary or make words dance like Cormac McCarthy. Just write like you. Your job is learning how to do that.

A hint to get you started: Write like you speak.

Elizabeth, what other Egmont USA authors and books should we know about?

Ooh, it’s hard to pick just a few, but if you like Sarah Dessen, check out The Sweetest Thing by debut author Christina Mandelski (May, 2011).

If you’re hungry for more funny YA after reading Allen’s books, try Notes from the Blender by Trish Cook and Brendan Halpin (May, 2011).

If you want a haunting read about a girl who gets pulled into a cult, you must get family by Micol Ostow (April, 2011).

And whatever you like to read, don’t miss Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick. That’s coming in September and it will blow your mind.

AZ: Those are great authors. Micol’s book gave me nightmares for a week. But hey, you haven’t sent me Ashes, EL. I want to read it!

To both, is there anything you’d like to add?

EL: Well, yes. Editors dream of finding real writing talent and then working with that author over many books. Those chances don’t come along every day. I feel so lucky to have that opportunity with Allen Zadoff.

AZ: And writers dream of having a long-term collaboration with an editor with a keen eye, a passion for your work, who really has your back. I’ve got all three of those things with EL. Which is probably why I’m writing a third book for Egmont (currently top secret), which you should look for in about a year.

One hint: It’s my first book set in Los Angeles, where I’ve lived for the last twelve years. Expect a lot of yoga, cars, beautiful girls, and dieting.

Cynsational Manuscript Critique Giveaway

Photo cutline: EL and AZ have a drink to celebrate surviving adolescence.

Elizabeth Law is offering a thirty-page manuscript critique giveaway.

(That’s thirty pages of your manuscript, not thirty pages of her feedback.)

Her response will include a thirty-minute phone call with the author and short, written notes about the submitted work, which can be fiction, nonfiction, or chapter book.

The winner will have two weeks to submit an excerpt for critique. The phone call/feedback will occur within a week after that.

Submissions should be writing targeted to young readers, ages 8 and up.

The phone call may also touch on any questions the author has about the audience or market for the book, the publishing and submitting process, etc. In other words, anything the author wants to cover!

To enter, comment on this entry and include an email address (formatted like: cynthia at cynthialeitichsmith dot com) to foil spanners or a link to an email address. In the alternative, you can also email me directly, if you’re especially concerned about privacy. I won’t use the emails for any future purpose.

An extra entry will go to those who comment to ask Elizabeth and/or Allen a thoughtful question or make another, related thoughtful comment. Additional extra entries will go to those who tweet, blog, or otherwise promote this link/giveaway. Please indicate your efforts/URLs in your comment.

Enter deadline: May 31.

This giveaway is international–writers from all over the world are eligible.

151 thoughts on “Interview: Publisher Elizabeth Law & Author Allen Zadoff, Plus Giveaway of Partial Manuscript Critique By Elizabeth

  1. fun interview. I really liked hearing about the editorial process. I've got Food, Girls… on my Kindle Price Drop watch list and it's like the only book so far that's had a price drop. That plus this interview… well, it's a sign that it needs to be on my kindle right about now! 😉


  2. "I don’t know how to attract boy readers; I only know how to write, and I hope if I do it honestly, both guys and girls will be into the books."

    The above quote resonated with me both as a writer and as a teacher.

    As a teacher, I've worked with primarily with boys who were also reluctant readers. My students plucked all kinds of books from the shelves in my classroom. Romance, fantasy, contemporary stories, paranormal, dystopian–I think the authentic voice was key in-terms-of sticking with a book.


  3. This is my first time on this blog. I loved the interview and enjoyed hearing how the editor works with the writer.

  4. Wow–"Just write like you. Your job is learning how to do that." That may be the best advice I've ever heard. Thanks for a great interview–I will tweet!

    deborahunderwood at earthlink dot net

  5. Excellent interview. Fabulous interviewees. My dreamy, unrealistic side is particularly fond of EL's statement: "…first praise, praise, praise the author before asking any questions about the story or even beginning to hint that an aspect of the book might need to be rethought."

    I need one of those letters (although, truth be told, I'd worry that the person who wrote it had me mixed up with someone else).

    Please add my name to the pile: grierjewell at comcast dot net.

  6. I tweeted two links to this interview this morning at What I loved about this interview was not only the inside look at a relationship between an author and an editor as they work together on a revision, but also the practical advice, like "Write like you speak" (great suggestion for writers!), and to take the notes you get from an editor or agent and to process them to go further in making the novel as strong as possible. Great interview! I loved Rosemary Wells as a kid, too. Amazing to think she also writes the lighter McDuff books that my son loved as a kid.

    Thank you! Jeni

    jeni at

  7. All your interviews are fabulous! Truly! But this one is up on a pedestal!

    I blogged about the interview and giveaway at

    It really is some of the best advice I've ever heard!

    Question for Allen…Do you ever get stuck? Writer's block? How do you handle this? Do you write through it? Try writing exercises? Move past the scene that is blocking you? What are your tricks?


    cao at carmenoliver dot com

  8. I love this opportunity!

    I'd love to know what you think about how YA has boomed in the past decade. Do you think this will continue?

    americangirlie1991 AT yahoo DOT com

  9. "Write like your life depends on it…and your zipper is open."

    That's brilliant advice 🙂 Thanks and congratulations Allen!

    christinadaleybooks at gmail dot com

  10. I read Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can't Have and loved it. It was so honest and raw, but funny at the same time. I've passed it on to many friends and told them they have to read it. I look forward to more of Allen's books. Great interview – I love hearing both sides of the process of creating great books!
    I'll add a link on twitter and facebook.


  11. You said you like working with an author over many books. Is it more the story or the author you fall in love with (so to speak) 🙂 or a mixture of both? Hopefully that question makes sense.

    A wonderful interview. I love the insight from both perspectives.

    I've tweeted the contest (!/heatherzundel/status/70894905106509824) and put it up on facebook (hopefully the facebook link works. I'm still not very good at that one). (

  12. To try to answer LindsayWrites' question, I do not have a crystal ball about the YA boom. But I can say this–we are seeing amazing, extraordinary YA writing right now. The bar keeps getting higher and higher. And with such very good material coming out, and more talented writers than ever entering the field (like Allen, for example) I think the success of YA will continue. –Elizabeth Law

  13. Wonderful interview. I hope to be lucky enough to get an editorial letter someday. Now I have a road map to follow when it happens.

    How much time is typically given for revisions of of the letter? Probably impossible to answer with a cut and dried answer, but a ballpark timeframe would be helpful.

    I posted a link on Facebook and Twitter. The contest sounds perfect.!/jimhill/status/70903692223725569

    My email jim at

  14. Very interesting to see the thought behind a girl-friendly/boy-tolerable cover design. Would love to hear more about appealing to boys. I was a voracious reader at that age–we're out there!

    brendan.d.gannon at gmail dot com

  15. To Heather: Just like an author, I am always really into the book I'm working on at that particular moment. So in the moment of reading, editing, taking notes, it's the book I'm excited about–I can't stop thinking about that particular story. But working with an author over time is a very rich and satisfying experience. I can see an author stretch and try new things, and we often develop a bit of a shorthand working together. But the best part is when an author's success and reputation grow. It's easier to help an author build a career when you have the luxury of taking several books to do it.–Elizabeth

  16. What a great interview with fantastic pictures, Cyn!

    realbrilliant at mac dot com

    Posted to my profile on Facebook: Trish Toney Lawrence


  17. Thanks for sharing a peek into the editorial/revision process, and recommending more great reads. Please enter my name for the critique contest. kristinbartleylenz at gmail dot com.

  18. Thanks for this opportunity. Please enter me in the critique contest:

    tmilstein at gmail dot com

    Elizabeth, how many rounds of rewrites do you do with an author or does it vary from manuscript to manuscript?

  19. What a great interview. I love seeing their relationship.

    jpetroroy at gmail dot com

    Allen, how did you find the transition between writing for adults and for YAs? What was difficult to change with your writing, or did it come naturally?

  20. >>I consider every rewrite an opportunity to ask myself if I’m telling the story in the best, most dramatic, most interesting, most specific way possible. That’s why I can get four or five notes and come back with a deep rewrite.<<
    This is a terrific approach, Allen. In fact, I love all your comments regarding response to editorial feedback. I just emailed a link to this interview to my critique workshop students. I'm hoping that seeing how you approach feedback will inspire them.

    Thanks for posting this terrific interview, Cynthia. So much great information here. And what a wonderful opportunity to be critiqued by Elizabeth. I'd love her feedback on a nonfiction project I'm working on. I've linked to this page from my TeachingAuthors blog post today:

    My email: carmela at carmelamartino dot com.

    Thanks much!

  21. To answer carmenoliver's question: Yes, I do get stuck. Here's a little trick that helps me. I pretend someone else is working on my manuscript tomorrow. A different writer, but someone I like. My only job today is not to screw that guy by leaving him in a tough spot. I get something on the page for "him" so he doesn't have to start cold in the morning.

  22. Hi jpetroroy. For me, YA is not a character I'm putting on. It's a natural voice inside me, sort of like a raw, vulnerable and more desperate version of myself. I like tapping into a time when everything was new and confusing. As compared to my current age, when things are just confusing.

  23. Thank you for posting this most informative interview and exciting contest. I enjoyed learning that Allen has written several memoirs, each about a totally different piece of his life. I was on stage crew through high school and college so I will be sure to get my hands on his techie book. I think it is great to introduce mg and ya readers to a new experience and tech ed is something in their own school – hidden in a dark room behind or above the theater – what a mysterious place to learn about.

    Alison at AlisonHertz dot com

    I have also tweeted this contest @VoteAlisonHertz and posted it on my facebook page.

  24. What a great interview!

    Allen — I'm wondering if you would ever consider writing a YA novel from the girl's point-of-view? It seems that many writers stick with what they know in this area.

    Also tweeted this post — so interesting. Thanks for sharing, and for the critique opportunity.

    ~Amanda Hoving

    amanda [at] amandahoving [dot] com

  25. I love this quote: "Write like your life depends on it…and your zipper is open."

    My zipper is open at least once a week. So maybe there's hope for me. martha AT

    Retweeted from @mbrockenbrough, too.

  26. As someone who TOOK her mother (and father's) advice and actually DID go to medical school – and became a doctor, only to discover – gee, that little writing thing (er, burning desire) never really goes away, I'd be so delighted to be entered in the contest.

    Thanks for a delightful interview – sayantani16 (at) gmail (dot) com

    will retweet from @sayantani16 too!

  27. You know, Martha, if you only wear pajants you never have an issue with zippers. And I want to answer Theresa's question. The number of rewrites or rounds of revision after a book reaches an editor's desk varies greatly–some books only take a couple, but My Life, the Theater I think took about 4, and then some polishing of outstanding issues we flagged and needed to think about. There is one small scene, too, that changed between galley to finished book. We do try to get everything as perfect as we can by publication.

  28. Such a great interview! Allen, have you ever thought about writing a female narrator? Do you think that would be difficult for you?

    pamharris1981 (at) yahoo (dot) com

  29. Such a fantastic interview! Thanks, Cynthia!

    Lchardesty at yahoo dot com

    I also retweeted your tweet. (@lchardesty)

  30. This is exactly what I need for my Contemporary YA that I'm writing. I so appreciate what you said about rewrites:
    "I consider every rewrite an opportunity to ask myself if I’m telling the story in the best, most dramatic, most interesting, most specific way possible."

    I actually ask myself those questions 🙂

    AllThingsUrbanFantasy AT gmail DOT com

  31. Love, love, love this warm, insightful, and heartfelt "primer" on what a great author/editor relationship looks + feels like. I'm tacking this one to my bulletin board. Thanks Allen Zadoff, Elizabeth Law and Cynthia Leitich Smith! (Tweeted from @pattyjmurphy and faceblurted at Patricia J. Murphy!) xx oo

  32. This was so insightful into an author/editor relationship. You can truly see the respect they have for one another. Great advice throughout – thanks so much for sharing!

    marjorielight at yahoo dot com

  33. What a funny and informative interview! Lesson learned about the whole "notes" vs. "editorial feedback." Cracked me up.

    Allen, I remember reading about you when "Food, Girls.." was introduced and I hoped you'd write more quickly! Thanks! When you won the Sid Fleischman Humor Award, I thought, "Great. That will really encourage other writers to channel their genuine voice from within and not fret over shaping exactly what they think editors want." Thanks for the "write like you speak" advice. I'm going to let that simmer around in my head a while. :)"

    Thanks for this wonderful contest. Woowoo! So nice! I'll be tweeting and email this to fellow writers right away!

    jodymarielamb [at]

    P.S. Allen, my teenage little sister is a lover of all things theater. She's an actress but has recently begun writing for the stage, too. She said about you, "He rocks." That is a compliment she doesn't throw around often…it's reserved only for the coolest of the world and her dog.

  34. Oooh! Thank you for the terrific interview, Cynthia, Elizabeth and Allen. I especially enjoyed all the behind-the-scenes photos and info. And now I'm dying to read both of Allen's books.

    I enjoyed hearing about Allen's process for dealing with "notes," especially the categories for organizing and thinking about the feedback. I also noticed that you said, "Then I sat with them for a time. Only then did I talk through everything with my editor and determine a course of action." When I worked with Cynthia in Vermont's MFA program a few years ago, she told me that I could ask any questions I wanted to about her editorial letters, but I had to wait at least three days first. Of course, I had tons of questions when I first read the letter and–it was a miracle!–they all took care of themselves within three days. Now, I always use the three-day rule, whether I'm receiving or giving the feedback.

    Thank you, Elizabeth, for the critique and phone call! I'd love to be entered in the drawing. Cynthia, I will tweet this and put it on my FaceBook, too.

    Thanks for all you do!


    kelcrocker (at) mchsi (dot) com

  35. You two make such a great literary couple! Thanks for letting us peek inside a great relationship.

    My email's greenlinnet at

  36. This is a great post, and I love seeing publishers and editors as young adults. It's good to hear about long-term collaboration.

  37. Wonderful interview. Sending thanks to you all.

    The topic of cover art comes up frequently at my house. My two teenaged boys spend a fortune on books with shiny, embossed cover art. Flames, swords, and amulets are a big draw, too. I swear, boys are like magpies.

    Elizabeth, thank you for offering a critique.

    woelki at verizon dot net

  38. This is the best interview I've read in forever. I declare Elizabeth Law the Ursula Nordstrom of her day and fully expect a book of "notes" to her authors to be on the shelves one day.

  39. Thank you for posting such a great interview filled with so much specific digging-in great talk. I loved Allen's advice about writing comedy and will share it w/ my 11-yr-old, who is currently risking an avalanche every night as his nightstand is stacked high w/ comic strip books, including my very favorite, Roz Chast.

    Elizabeth, I really loved reading that the point where you decided you had to acquire Allen's book was when your heart was moved by the character. I LOVE to hear editors talk passionately about character b/c connecting deeply w /a character is such a powerful experience for a reader and one that I fear is undervalued by some of the market.

    My Qs:
    For Elizabeth: Do you have advice on developing and strengthening the narrative arc of a character-driven novel? (hee-hee, sorry, it's a big one. So easy to ask, so hard to answer.)

    Allen: I really liked what you said about the hurt response and how it's temporary and you let it pass. Somehow reading your comment on that took some of the sting out of that process for me. Do you have advice on how to approach a revision so that you can make the story stronger, etc., instead of tweaking and moving words around?

    Many thanks to Cynthia, Elizabeth and Allen for great talk. My email is robynryan @ verizon dot com.

  40. Yes, amandaswrinkledpages, I would write a novel with a female hero. In fact there's a partial hidden in the AZ computer archives as we speak. For me characters appear as who they are, not as who I'd like them to be. So if a female character wants me to tell her story, she'll tap me on the shoulder and let me know.

  41. Jody Lamb, thanks for the nice compliments and I love your little sister! I'm happy to be in such good company (with her dog). She should check out my website for the upcoming Get Famous With AZ contest. Theater people are posing with my book to win prizes for their theater company or school. I want to see her and her dog with my book! 🙂

  42. Thanks, Allen, for sharing the advice you'd give to your beginner self. It was advice I needed to hear.

    elissadcruz at gmail dot com

  43. Allen–I love your description of notes as a jumping off point. Have you ever gone too far with feedback? Have you over-corrected when really a small change would have been better?

    Great interview. Loved the pictures. Tweeting now.

    johanna at johannaharness dot com

  44. Robyn-Ryan, re. strengthening the narrative arc of a character-based novel: I read to find out what's going to happen to someone I care about because they have an issue I’m caught up in. In other words, be sure that we don't just like your character, but that they have a problem we are rooting for them to resolve. In Allen's My Life, the Theater, his hero is humiliated early on, in front of everyone, by an arrogant student director. That was the moment, subconsciously, where I totally engaged as a reader. Was Adam going to be ok? Would that jerk Derek get his comeuppance? After that, a lot of funny and moving things happen in the book and there were bigger plot questions that kept me reading. Would the play, which hurtles toward disaster, come off in the end? Which girl would Adam end up with? (that’s always a favorite of mine.) Would Adam get the attention he craved from his brother? And the big question in the book which is, essentially, was Adam going to stop hiding out from his own life? But having the reader engage in that first question early on was an important key.

    For another tip, pay attention to chapter endings. Allen’s very good at them so I recommend looking at his. –Elizabeth

  45. Thank you for such a thoughtful answer, Elizabeth. What you wrote makes a lot of sense as it's how I get hooked on a character. Whether the boy gets the girl and vice-versa is a huge source of curiosity for me, too.

  46. Tweeted, blogged and I'll be buying the book. My background is in theatre and fat, so I'm very interested. Elizabeth, your voice reminds me of Allyn Johnston's and I love and respect her so much. I want to meet you. I would love to get a critique on my middle grade.

  47. I had the privilege of meeting Elizabeth two years ago at the Summer SCBWI Conference in Los Angeles. I delivered a batch of chocolate chip cookies to Ms. Law and assisted with her PowerPoint Presentation.

    If chosen, I promise:
    1) My manuscript avoids trends.
    2) I will follow up.
    3) Never complain.
    4) Deliver more cookies.

    Lupe Fernandez

  48. SUCH a great interview — funny and informative! I never thought to write as if I'm experiencing a wardrobe malfunction 😉

    I'll retweet (@writertessa).

    tessadevan at hotmail dot com

  49. There was so much to love about the Allen Zadoff/Elizabeth Law interview, but I particularly learned from Allen's steps in processing editorial feedback and Elizabeth's take on Allen's use of the theatrical term "notes." One offered a way to dig deeper in revising, and the other insight into how easily a word can be misunderstood.

    Thanks for the interview and the opportunity to win a critique.

    Please throw my name in the hat.
    millieTmartin at gmail dot com

    Thanks again,

  50. Why do I feel like an awkward, insecure teen when I read interviews like this? (Nice.)

    sandycarl642 at yahoo dot com

  51. Thanks to all three of you for this wonderful interview. I love the five categories for the "notes." Great advice to get past the initial hurt reaction and see it as an opportunity to improve your story.

    This has been shared on Facebook (Nikki Shannon Smith) and on Twitter (nikki2smith).

    Thanks again,

    nikkishannonsmith at gmail dot com

  52. Wow, I'm so excited that Lupe at Pen and Ink Blog offered a bribe if she wins the critique. Unfortunately, it's a random drawing and we can't be bribed at Egmont, but as our assistant editor Alison Weiss and I always say, "It would be nice if someone tried!"

    And Sandy, that's the whole thing about working in YA. You're always painfully close to those adolescent feelings. On the plus side, teenagers don't seem any more confident these days, so I guess we'll always have work.

  53. The jig is up, Elizabeth. Now we writers will discount all that prelim praise and look deeply at the editorial questions. But aside from that (and we suspected it anyway), loved the thoughtful interview. Made we want to buy the books and submit to Elizabeth. Every writer wants to be paired with a thoughtful editor. Lucky Allen. Ok, I admit it-envy. But aside from that ugly emotion…I'm off to purchase Allen's books.

    FB posted, tweeted, and shared the love. Thanks all.

    whitneystewart at gmail dot com

  54. I heard Allen speak at SCBWI-LA in 2010 and was very touched by his honesty and humility! I haven't read "Food, Girls…" but if there's any touch of that in his writing (and how couldn't there be?), I can see why Elizabeth was drawn to it!

    I can't believe all those rejected covers!

    My question: What makes a cover a "boy cover" or a "girl cover" beyond the obvious (it looks pink or it has a hot girl in a bikini)?

    Also: I tweeted.

    Thanks for running the contest!

  55. Karol at writes… Awesome interview! Love the idea of categorizing notes. Will definitely be doing that from now on. Also totally agree about Allen's voice being funny and vulnerable at the same time. (Honestly, I'm a little in awe.)

    My question for both is: Where do you think the fine line is between being 100% true to your story even if it has elements that will make it very hard to sell and finding some palatable compromises that may increase the story's chances of reaching an audience?

    As a point of reference – I'm writing a YA with a 13 year old protagonist who curses all the time (and her cursing is integral to the story). Right now, I'm just trying to write the story as powerfully as possible and am not worrying about whether or not it's publishable… but should I be at least giving that some thought?


  56. I've been struggling to post a comment – Blogger hates livejournal! Just wanted to say three things:
    1. Cynthia, thanks very much for hosting this wonderful exchange! I've blogged it here:

    2. Allen, I love your five responses to editorial comments.

    3. Elizabeth, there are so many great questions already, but I'm a bit curious about the revision process. Considering the number of rewrites that an author may do before he/she even gets agented, and the number that will be expected after the author gets an editor – do you expect to see a manuscript that's already publishable before you will take an author on? I guess I'm confused about the difference between "polished" or "publishable" and "ready to be published". Thanks!

    My email is mekj at earthlink dot net.

  57. Susan: Re Boy cover vs Girl cover. This is hard to address in a small space, but here are a couple of things to keep in mind. Look at the jacket of The Hunger Games. If features a girl narrator, but the publisher kept Katniss off the jacket, in part because they knew they had a ripping adventure story that both sexes would love, but that guys would be a lot less likely to pick up a book with a girl on the jacket.

    Another way of answering that question is to say, when we look at sample jackets for a book that we hope boys will read, if a man in the office says “A boy wouldn’t touch that” or “I would never have picked that up at age 12” we reject it. The process is not much more sophisticated than that!

    Karol: I would say there’s no point in self-censoring yourself now. Write your book, and then see what the agents or editors who respond to it have to say. I would think it’s pretty hard to be in the cave of creation and yet looking in from the outside at the same time! On the other hand, I’m not an author, so I’m curious what Allen has to say.

  58. Cynthia, thank you for this amazing interview. I especially love the simplicity and truth of 'Just write like you." Wonderful advice.

    Allen, I was curious about how you decided how far and fast the love relationships should grow? I'm assuming it's all about character, but did anything else come into play–like attracting and holding readers?


    Please toss my name in the hat.
    patesden at gmail dot com

  59. Great interview, Cyn! Thanks for bringing so much good information to those interested in writing for children.

    I'd love a chance at a 30 page manuscript critique.

    I sent an email to my writer friends and students.
    I posted the interview on facebook.

    Allen, I am curious about your revision process. How do you approach it once you get your editorial letter? What tips can you give to someone who will be coming out with her first MG novel that's still in the editorial process?

    Elizabeth, I am curious about your editorial process. How do you approach writing/preparing an editorial letter for each manuscript you take on? Does it vary from novel to novel or do you have a methodical way of approaching each manuscript? I teach writing for children courses at UC Berkeley and Stanford and am always looking at ways I can help my students improve their manuscripts. Any tips would be welcome regarding helping writers to strengthen their manuscripts.

    Thank you!

    annemarie dot turner4 at comcast dot net

  60. PatEsden: You ask if pacing the love relationship has anything to do with holding and attracting readers, and my answer is yes and no. First the no: Would I add a love story to get readers? Never. I'm always thinking about my hero and his journey, what elements are needed for me to tell the story. If love is a part of that, I'll include it. If not, I won't. On the other hand, I do think it's my job to be entertaining, to tell the story in the most compelling way. If readers aren't attracted and excited by the writing, I'm probably doing something wrong.

  61. Karol: Ditto what EL said. Write your story! Go for it. Life's too short. Why edit yourself? You've got editors to do that for you.

    To everyone: a brief clarification of my notes process. I categorize the notes in my head, but I keep an open mind about all of them. Sometimes editors don't know how to give a note/editorial comment in the most effective way. I was actually taught that it's not their job to tell me well; it's my job to interpret well and fix the story. So let's say i get a terrible, general note (never from Elizabeth Law of course!), something like "That chapter feels slow." I don't dismiss it. I explore it. What are they seeing? What's making it feel slow? Is it pacing, the stakes, a lack of conflict? It would be great if they could tell me, but again, I'm the writer. Who cares that it was a lousy note? Something isn't working, and it's my job to find it and fix it.

  62. I love to see so many comments here! I hope we set a record for Cyn’s blog. Ok, to take the two recent questions addressed to me:

    MaryJ59: If I haven’t worked with a writer before and/or he or she is not yet well known, I expect a manuscript to come to me polished. Why wouldn’t you put your best foot forward, and have everything in the best shape it can be, to impress an acquiring editor? But then it’s still pretty likely that the editor will think “I love this book, but I really wanted to see more of the little sister and to quicken the pace in the first third of the story” and still ask for more additions or cuts or changes. That’s the editorial process.

    Also, editors, like everyone else these days, are busy and under pressure to get a lot of work out. Maybe 15 years ago a young editor could think “this needs a lot of work, but I see some promise—I will write to the author and see if they’ll revise it and then I’ll consider a contract.” Now we’re so swamped, I think we have less time to work developmentally with people like that. I, at least, need to see that the book is in good shape and well on its way to being a strong, readable novel before I take it on.

    AnneMarie, with fiction I would say my general approach is to read a manuscript through, taking notes on all the questions and comments I have. These notes cover anything that crosses my mind when I’m reading—do I forget who a character is if I haven’t seen him for 100 pages, did my interest flag in a certain section, did I find too much explication somewhere, was there enough plot, did the author make a character’s feelings credible in a certain scene—anything at all that crosses my mind about the book. Then I wrap those up in an editorial letter, starting with the biggest questions first (AFTER pointing out things I like that are working well in the story, of course). The amount of questions I have can really vary. But in my mind the letter looks like a funnel—big, wide questions on top and then small little specific ones at the end. As I said in the interview, I learned by being an assistant to an editor and seeing how she worked with her authors. Neither one of us had formal “editing” training—we just used our experience as readers. I also usually send back the manuscript at the same time with notes in the margin. Some of the queries in those notes are things like “I don’t think this character would say this word” or a favorite of mine, “stronger without.” I say that last one when a writer has portrayed a good scene, and then doesn’t trust its power, so puts in a paragraph where a character sums up in his thoughts what just happened or what he just learned. I also try to point out funny lines or good scenes in my notes on the manuscript, too.

  63. Excellent interview!

    Email: writing (at) marlenemoss (dot) com

    Elizabeth, regarding giving feedback to an author, I am the type that appreciates a bold critique. Do you think it makes any sense to try to communicate this in a query letter, to let an agent know I'm not a wilting flower and that I can take feedback to heart and really do something with it (I hope, much like Allen did with his first notes!)?

    Thanks so much!

  64. I've come a little late to this party and what a party it is. I've been laughing and 'hmmming' all the way through the post and the comments. Thank you, Elizabeth, Allen and, as always, Cyn.

  65. Thanks so much for this interview and all the indepth questions and answers in the comments.

    I know Allen touched on how he responds to Elizabeth's ed notes, but I wanted to know how he overcomes the initial hurt reaction. He says he lets it pass like a summer storm – but I'd love to know a little more about how he manages to brush himself off, pick himself back up and go about fixing the manuscript. Any tools for helping other writers get through this hurt reaction?

    Thanks again

  66. I really enjoyed this interview, especially since I'm an introvert who loves people, too!

    My e-mail is mssstevens (at) yahoo (dot) com

    I retweeted this amazing offer!

    Thanks so much,
    Sue Stevens

  67. This is a great opportunity. Thanks for all the advice. I will tweet about this.

    Email: slbynum3(at)hotmail(dot)com

  68. "Just write like you. Your job is learning how to do that."
    Something I'm still trying to figure out (but feel so blessed that I have the opportunity to spend time doing it) Thanks for a funny, informative interview 😉

    Email: katyeh (at) optonline (dot) net

    Kat Yeh

  69. I love "A hint to get you started. Write like you speak." I love doing that in my blog (at least, writing how I would LIKE to speak, given enough time to prepare brilliance and wit). My problem in my MG stories: the voice of the child I'm trying to portray sometimes sounds too much like me. Any pithy advice on digging your MC's voice out of the voice that lives inside you, the writer?

    Thanks for doing the interview Elizabeth and Allen. Thanks Cynthia for posting it!

    I tweeted this link (I actually re-tweeted a re-tweet before entering–seriously.)!/KPWix

    I blogged it too.

    kpwixted at me dot com

  70. A terrific in-depth interview. Allen I really like the titles of you books.

    I love good satire and your books are a nice fit in that genre.

    mculi at aol dot com

  71. GSMarlene: Sure, I would mention in no more than 1 line that you love digging into feedback–why not? (Although everybody says that, and not every writer actually means it.) And Gem, I don't know if you'll find this helpful, but I never think of the comments I give an author as criticism or even fixes. I think it's an author's job to write the book, and mine to bring an outside eye to the project–no one is supposed to be able to have that kind of perspective on their own work. I'm just supposed to read like a teen who comes to a project cold–is there anything I can't follow? Anything that maybe seems too sophisticated or too young to be in line with the character? Etc. And Heather (and everyone who commented), thank you for your kind words! I'm so glad other writers are finding this conversation to be of use.

  72. Excellent interview! Great advice.

    Allen, I was lucky enough to see you at the LA Times Book Festival a few weeks ago. It was a fun event.

    Thanks, Elizabeth, for being so willing to help us newbie writers.

    My email is worddance8 at aol dot com.

    I helped spread the word about this great opportunity at:

  73. Wow, what a great interview! Thanks so much!

    Allen, I loved reading about how you and Spielberg – er, I mean Elizabeth – connected. At what point along the way to publication did you sign with your agent?

    Thanks again. Adding Allen's books to my TBR pile… 🙂

    sharigreen dot YA at gmail dot com

  74. Love the idea of always giving positive feedback to authors before criticism. Especially first-time authors who are still so new and nervous to the whole idea of getting notes from the pros, I would think that'd be especially important. (And, you know, I'll be one of the authors that soaks up praise before having to look at all that bad things in my writing.)

    kelleyork at gmail dot com

  75. Hi Gem! How do I get over feeling hurt by editorial comments? Several things. I remember we're on the same team. (My editor wants a great book and so do I. This is how you get one.) I remember it's business, not personal. (My work is an aspect of who I am, but it's not my entire identity.) I let myself have my reaction (pissed off and hurt) but I don't express it in a professional setting. And finally, I tough up and dig into the rewrite. I'm an artist. I'm a warrior. I'm a professional. I fight back with my creativity. My suggestion: Read Steven Pressfield's book War of Art. It's a must for the working writer.

  76. Shari, I was lucky enough to already have my agent from my first book, HUNGRY. In fact, I owe him for introducing me to Elizabeth Law in the first place. And he wasn't even a YA guy at the time! I guess it was just meant to be. This is why I don't believe in finding the "perfect" agent, the "perfect" story, the "perfect" timing. There's no such thing. So I just keep writing.

  77. It was inspiring to see such a great relationship between author and editor. I love the idea of front loading editorial letters with praise before getting into the tough stuff. That’s the same philosophy I use in my critique groups. Praise is what keeps writers going when things get difficult.

    I love the book covers, especially the refrigerator magnets for Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can’t Have. And what a great title, too!

    Please enter me.
    email address: Kristina @ KristinaMiranda dot com

  78. Great interview! "Just write like you," and "Write like you talk," are excellent tips. Thanks for the fascinating and informative interview.

    lori @ lorimortensen dot com

  79. Thanks for the interesting interview. My question: Elizabeth, is that an Elton John t-shirt your teenage self is wearing?

    gina at ginablack dot net

  80. This isn't another entry. I just wanted to thank Elizabeth and Allen for answering my question in the comments. They were both very helpful answers. Thanks for your time

  81. Loved the interview. Allen, your words are encouraging for a writer (me) on the cusp of completion of his first novel. I'll start mentally preparing for critique and rejection now, but I won't give up! Thanks!

    jacob at jacobsafari@gmail dot com

    interview posted to FB!/jacobsafari

  82. Gina: yup, that's the album cover of Elton John's Greatest Hits (vol 1.) on my t-shirt. That's how I can date the photo! Good eye.

  83. Great interview! What a dream partnership you two have together.

    How has your relationship evolved? Are you thinking about transmedia elements either in promotion or in the storytelling at all?

    judegriffin gmail

  84. Cynthia, what a great interview! I learned so much.

    The part that I found most interesting was actually reading the comments, where Elizabeth expounded on her thought of character development and the arc it should follow. "We not only need to like the character, but also care about him." I'm writing those words down and putting them over my computer.

    I tweeted this interview on and via my Facebook page at Jen Swanson.

    My email address is jenswan1222 at

    Thanks again for posting this and for such a great opportunity.

  85. Great interview, and what an awesome opportunity for writers!

    My favorite bit of advice- write like you speak. Something so simple, yet so important to ensure your ms has a good voice!

    my email address is: angelavcook (at) gmail (dot) com

    I tweeted this via my handle:

    Thank you for such an amazing opportunity!

  86. Great interview! I stumbled upon your blog, but enjoyed my stay. I just down-loaded Cat Calls too. I love discovering new-to-me authors. Please enter me in your contest. McMahon dot Jen at gmail dot com. Thanks!

  87. Thanks for doing this giveaway! The cover dilemma with Allen's book was interesting, because I often wonder how a YA book could possibly capture both a male and female audience. I'm a girl who loves reading YA's with male protagonists. For example, I love C.K. Kelly Martin's novels. But her covers seem much more geared toward a female audience, and I can't imagine a boy actually carrying around those books. So I can understand about the difficult cover decisions.

    I blogged about this giveaway at

    tammysubia at yahoo dot com

  88. But if you persist in wanting to be a writer (like I know you will), remember this: Don’t try to write like other people. Let go of the idea you have to be literary or make words dance

    Allen advice like the above is what fuels me to continue my journey, it took me a while to get that I am not sure I want to write the way I speak, I just figured out my voice but the main thing is to improve my novel and write with joy.

    Last year I was stressing, worrying about getting an agent/published and I finally said to myself all that will eventually happen (hopefully before I am…wont insert age)

    I adore Elizabeth I am an avid participant during her ask agent or chats on twitter and I think you'll figure who it is because I always ease my way into talking to you about TWILIGHT or vampire's lol. I can be reached at I tweeted this awesome opportunity at

  89. Not another entry – I just wanted to thank Elizabeth for her answer. Honestly, I'm not quite as naive as the question might have sounded! But I am new at writing novels, and it's very hard to tell when your manuscript is polished. The process just seems to go on and on! I guess that's just the nature of the beast.

    Thanks again, and thanks to Cynthia for hosting this wonderful conversation.

  90. Thanks for doing this awesome giveaway! I really enjoyed reading this interview. Allen's advice to write like yourself really resonates with me. When I was younger I spent a lot of time trying to write just like my favorite authors because I thought I couldn't be a good writer on my own. Eventually I got away from that idea and developed my own style. Now I'm proud to write like me.

    I tweeted here:!/linda_lea/status/74599435790843905

    linda.lea.wiley at gmail dot com

  91. I am a little worried that Jennifer (Jen Swan) who paid me the compliment of writing my words down, is misquoting me! I said "be sure that we don't just like your character, but that they have a problem we are rooting for them to resolve." That may have been what you took from my quote, Jennifer, but just in case, I'm reiterating my point.

    To try to answer Jude's question about whether we are thinking about transmedia elements in Allen's current and future books, if I understand your question you are asking about ebooks, enhanced ebooks etc. We are using social media for marketing My Life, the Theater for sure, both of Allen's Egmont novels are available as ebooks, and I suppose one of the next steps *might* be extra content available online or in the ebook. We haven't discussed that yet, though. And I'd love to see audio versions of these first two novels available.

  92. LOVE this interview. And after hearing Elizabeth Law speak at SCBWI-LA two years ago, I would be THRILLED to have her look at my manuscript!! Thanks for this awesome opportunity!

  93. Thrilling opportunity. Include me in the hat: calliekingston (at) gmail (dot)com

    Question: What challenges do you see authors having when trying to write from the point of view of a protagonist whose gender differs from your own?

  94. I read Zadoff's memoir last year and loved it. I can't wait to read his other work, so I'll be making a trip to the bookstore soon!

    –Linda (novel16 at aol dot com)

  95. What a wonderful opportunity! Please include me! Swatterswrites at gmail dot com

    Elizabeth – I've heard the phrase 'upper ya/crossover appeal' a few times. Some use it as a new age group/genre. Some just use it as a subclassification. How do you feel about the term? Do you feel that these books are adult books trying to squeeze themselves into the hot YA market right now? Does Egmont publish these types of books?

    Another question – when does Trist and Izzy come out? Can you tell us more about this book?

    I also tweeted:!/Shelley_Watters/status/75096615525945344


  96. This is such a great opportunity! Thanks Cynthia, Allen and Elizabeth! Also all the comments and questions are as helpful as the interview.

    I retweeted (@YamileSMendez) and my email is yamile.s.mendez AT gmail DOT com

    Allen, out of curiosity, whats your writing process like? Are you an outliner? A panster? Thanks again!

  97. Great interview. Food, girls caught my eye on Amazon and it's in my TBR.

    muchlanguage at gmail dot com

    Thanks for this opportunity.

  98. Allen, I read THEATER yesterday. SO GOOD! Man, Derek was one I loved to hate. And Adam's awkwardness rang so true. I couldn't put it down! Thanks for another book I can rec to those who want something funny but meaningful.

    In my writing, I find it hard sometimes to focus on the main plot of the story without letting sub plots or relationships get too big, like say Adam's relationship with Josh. I thought it was done well in your book, just hinted at without throwing in too much of that drama to dilute the main story. How do you decide what to keep small? Or was that part bigger and one of EL's notes was to pare it down?
    dinalapomy AT
    [retweeted by bmlkidsteens]

  99. I would love to enter this contest – though not sure that it is for me – I'm not YA writer – more of a epic fantasy with young characters – If I still qualify that would be great.

    earthsdivide [at] gmail [dot] com

    Thanks for the open and honest interview and suggestions. We all want to be life long authors but sometimes we get in our on way. Thanks


  100. Logan, when you say "young characters," do you mean children or, say, grown-ups in their 20s and 30s?

    The former is eligible, the latter not. But your comment is still appreciated in either case! Just let me know!

  101. What a tremendous interview and post!

    Thanks so much for the great insight into editing – and being able to hear it straight from the mouths of those involved, is invaluable. And the part about the cover dilemma was so interested to read.

    I would love to ask a question for Elizabeth:

    With so many subjects and sub-genres saturating the YA market (vampires, werewolves, faeries, and now dystopian), what are other areas you see as up and coming?

    Thanks again – and thanks for the opportunity for the great contest, as well!

    Email: elschneider (at) hotmail (dot) com

    I also tweeted about this contest – my handle is: @elschneid

  102. Shelley, re. your question on 'upper ya/crossover appeal.” That is pretty complicated to answer here, but in general I don’t think books about adult characters can be successfully categorized as YA—remember, that means they would get shelved in the teen section of bookstores and adults wouldn’t find them. It is easy to get a teen to read adult books, but much harder the other way around. There are a lot of YA books we know that adults would love, but it takes a concerted effort on the part of a publisher to get adult attention for a YA novel—Knopf recently did it with Zusak’s The Book Thief, and they put a lot of effort into the campaign. So I think we give lip service to a novel having crossover appeal, but that crossover audience is still just a sliver of our market. Except in fantasy, where absolutely, adults read YA all the time.

    And thank you for asking about Tris and Izzie by Mette Ivie Harrison. It is a retelling of the legend of Tristan and Iseult, and set in a contemporary high school. Mette was brilliant to dream it up and execute the story so well. I mean, what if you already had a boyfriend and then you accidentally drank a potion and fell madly in love with the wrong guy? It is edited by Ruth Katcher and out on October 11.

    Erin, I’m a very bad prognosticator, but I continue to hear that horror and ghost stories are coming back, and that middle grade adventure will also be coming on strong. I hope that helps!

  103. This interview as great. As is all the industry news and information on this blog.

    I'd love to be entered in the contest. miriam.caldwell at gmail dot com


  104. What a fantastic interview! It's so interesting to hear about the process from both sides of the story, and even more so from both sides (or two sides, I should say, I'm sure lots of other people involved have their own wisdom to add) of the SAME story.

    And all that without the fantastic conversation in the comments. Thank you so much!

    My email is amiekaufman at gmail dot com

    I tweeted here:!/AmieKaufman/status/75559868706209792

  105. I found the part about dealing with feedback useful. It's really nice to know that even authors will profession editors will get feedback they disagree with. And the section of 'feeback I intuitively think is right but I'm not sure' is an interesting concept to think about. Normally it feels right or wrong, but there is a bit of a grey area. I'll have to think about those categories next time I get a critique from a beta reader.

    elanor_gamgee [at] yahoo [dot] ca

  106. Interesting about the cover dilemma. I picture boys having to put brown-paper wrappers on their books to hide the "girly" covers — with a whole different meaning!
    I think the part of the process that most fascinates me is getting an author/editor pairing in which both really have the same idea about what the book should be. I've heard a lot of horror stories about authors and editors not being on the same wavelength. It sounds like you have a wonderful mutual vibe.
    Please enter me int he contest; anne at nydamprints dot com.

  107. What a great interview! I particularly love this comment: "Write like you speak." THAT, I think, will get you closer to your natural voice than anything.

    As to the editorial letter–I think it's not so much that I need praise before the hard stuff. It's more that I want to know if you "got" the book. If you connected with it, if you understand what I'm trying to do with it and if it made you *feel* on some level. If I know that, I can take 30 pages of "please fix this," no problem–because I know we're on the same page, working toward the same story in the end. I've had crits like that–and also crits that were high in praise but tried to turn the core into a different story. They are not the same.

    And as the mother of three boy readers, thank you for your efforts in finding boy-friendly covers. My boys will read books with girls in them, but no matter how good a match I think the writing inside is, they won't' touch a book with a girly cover. The kissing cover appeals to me as a girl and would have picked it up (for the colors and visuals, not just the kissing!). But my boys would never, EVER touch that. The other one, though, sure.

    I posted on my blog about it here:

    and here:

    My e-mail is hvozdany at hotmail dot com

    Thanks for both the interview and the drawing!

  108. This was the most honest and forthcoming exchange I've read about the editorial process~ thanks so much for an enlightening and entertaining interview! Plus, I love the photo of them having a drink in honor of surviving adolescence 🙂

    Thanks for the chance at a critique!

    My email is aycockj (at) gmail (dot) com

  109. I appreciate the funny yet thoughtful perspectives on writing and publishing for children. Elizabeth, I heard you speak at our local conference and was blown away by your knowledge/memory of all children's literature. Allen, thank you for the tip on leaving your friend/co-writer in a in good place to pick up the story the next day.

    I tweeted here:!/TracyAbell

    I'd love to be entered in the contest, Cyn. Thank you!

    tracyabell AT comcast DOT net

  110. What a great look behind the scenes! Thanks to all three of you for the interview.

    What main elements constitute a "boy" story? I know not all stories with a male m.c. are considered "boy" stories.

    I tweeted (@KaiStrand) and facebooked (Kai Strand).

    kaistrand at yahoo dot com

  111. IN sixth grade, my uniform burst at the seams and I walked around all day in school like that. I think I may be able to rekate!

    Thanks for much for this wonderful interview and for responding to the comments, Elizabeth and Allen. The prize is such a generous one, I am going to blog about it.

    Allen: the way you categorize the comments is so simple, yet helpful. It's so necessary to have a system in place when receiving responses that are unexpected.

    my email address is yatyeechongatgmaildotcom.


  112. Thanks for this wonderful interview and thank you to Elizabeth and Allen for their great responses. I especially liked the sneak peak into how you prepare the editorial letter. What suggestions do you have for writers approaching their own revisions?


  113. I'm a huge fan of Egmont books. I think their variety for Young Adult is so well done — and I've yet to read one I didn't greatly enjoy. My favorites include RAISED BY WOLVES (one of my top five reads last year), SIREN (a great mystery combined with mermaid-ish things), EPITAPH ROAD (which I even got my husband to read — he also liked it), THE FALSE PRINCESS (another great mystery combined with fantasy), and of course, FOOD, GIRLS, AND OTHER THINGS (loved the humorous approach). Thanks for bringing this books to us 🙂

    reprehn at comcast dot net

  114. Allen – I love the advice to, "Write like you speak."

    Elizabeth – I had the pleasure of hearing you at the Austin SCBWI conference this past Spring as well as meeting you the last night of the conference. (I'm the one who suggested the group of us move to the stage so you could give your feet a rest.)

    This interview was fabulous, enlightening, and entertaining.

    Elizabeth – It seems like you publish quite a few contemporary novels. Is that happenstance or a genre you feel has a strong place in the current market?

    I would be over the moon for a critique by Elizabeth!

    I blogged about this opportunity as well as posted on FB.

    Thanks for your generosity!


    Lindsey Scheibe

  115. This was my favorite part from Allen:
    "I could do a whole seminar on this topic for writers. I think it’s so important to learn how to process notes and use them without it feeling like a personal attack. In fact it’s the writer’s job to learn how to do this. It’s the difference between a professional and an amateur."

    I've been begging the local community college where I sometimes take workshops to offer a writing intensive solely on revision. It is where I struggle because I can see the notes are good, but can't see what I'm supposed to do with them!

    shan dot lee dot alexander at gmail dot com

  116. Thanks for sharing this honest conversation between the two of you. It was most illuminating.

    My email is plumbelieve @ g mail dot com and my name is Cindy Paul. I will retweet the tweet that sent me here.

    Take care.

  117. Thank you to everyone who entered the manuscript critique giveaway! We're now closed for entries.

    Stay tuned: I'll both contact the winner directly and post who won by the end of Friday.

    That said, please feel free to continue talking amongst yourselves. I've greatly enjoyed your conversation. Thanks to all, especially Allen and Elizabeth!

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