Author Reflections

Liz Garton Scanlon“That evening, we had a lovely, celebratory Beach Lane Books dinner at the most delicious Italian restaurant. Beach Lane, a Simon & Schuster imprint, brainchild of the inimitable Allyn Johnston, and publisher of ALL THE WORLD and my next few books, is less than two years old but they’ve already put together the most perfect little lists.” —Liz Garton Scanlon on the 2010 ALA Conference and the Caldecott (PB)

Stalker Girl“In the perpetual present tense of social media, there is no deep inside. And someone else is always prettierricherthinnerhappier.” —Rosemary Graham on Online Break-ups and STALKER GIRL (YA)

Rita Williams Garcia“I walk out among the good people of Jamaica, Queens, frightening them with my jack-o-lantern smile. I walk a quarter mile to the now-closed Mary Immaculate Hospital, the site of the rally. I can’t stop smiling. I am of no help to the cause. I turn around and walk home, smiling.” —Rita Williams-Garcia on her National Book Awards experience (YA)

Dad and Pop“As my children moved through childhood to teenville and then adulthood, I’ve examined the vital roles fathers—birth father, step father, father figures—play in their lives. And, as writers do, I used my work, creating picture books, as the basis for this exploration.” —Kelly Bennett on Celebrating Fathers: Daddy, Father, Pop, Son, Shel, Cash and Cole (PB)

Jessica Lee Anderson“When you’re feeling especially vulnerable, try to surround yourself with people who encourage rather than those who trivialize or antagonize. Also, we need to be reminded that while writing is important, it isn’t the sum of who we are.” —Jessica Lee Anderson on The Creative Skin We’re In (PB-YA)

Patrice Barton“It comes naturally for me as an illustrator to look for an event in each chapter that will make an engaging illustration–one that leaves the viewer with more questions than answers so they will be enticed to read the story.” —Patrice Barton on the Difference Between Illustrating Picture Books and Chapter Books (PB, CB)

Ellen Booerum“Problems like being overweight and substance abuse and racial prejudice are extremely important to readers, and to some readers they are all-important. I’d never want to be off-hand about a topic that’s crucial to someone else.” —Ellen Booraem on When Issues Become Side Issues

“’Every day in every way I am getting better and better.’ Over the next few months, she coached me until I could do about a quarter of the clues in the Guardian crossword.” —Ed Briant on Hitler, Miss McNally & Stephen King

Owl Keeper“Certainly there can be loss, tragedy, even death, but for ‘tweens fantasy books tend to have upbeat endings. And hope….” —Christine Brodien-Jones on Writing Scary (But Not Too Scary) for Tweens (MG-Tween)

Hive Detectives“In the years since this conversation, I’ve come to realize that confusion over the nonfiction genre in general, and the term creative nonfiction in particular, is somewhat widespread.” —Loree Griffin Burns on Identifying Nonfiction Genres

Sarah C. Campbell“In addition to considerations about content, you will need to decide the form you want your materials to take. I publish mine on my website, making them available to anyone with internet access. When I go to a teachers’ conference, I print a copy of my educational materials for display so teachers will know what is available online.” —Sarah C. Campbell on Connecting Nonfiction to the Curriculum

Mary Casanova and Hoyt Ard“Though I live in Minnesota and Ard lives in Arkansas, that hasn’t kept us from e-mailing each other or having face-to-face visits at conferences regarding our books.” —Mary Casanova on the Author-Illustrator Collaboration (PB)

The Exiled Queen“I’m more worried about violence without reflection—about media content that implies that those who die can be resurrected for the next episode or game.” —Cinda Williams Chima on

Debby Dahl Edwardson“What exactly do the terms ‘borrowed’ or ‘adopted’ mean to those, such as myself, who have lived within their ‘adopted’ cultures longer than they have lived within their own birth cultures? Or to those straddling, by blood, two or more cultures?” —Debby Dahl Edwardson on Lens Shifting (YA)

Lisa Faustino“I began jotting the early ideas in graduate school, and for twenty years, I have returned to the story off and on, always getting back to it between other projects because I cared about my characters and themes too much to let them go.” —Lisa Rowe Faustino on the Benefits of Keeping Your Day Job (MG)

Deborah Halvorson“Wow, I thought. I’m a perfectly nice person. And that’s a perfectly nice dog. Yet for an instant there I could have been perfectly happy doing something very not nice to that sweet animal. How in the world does that happen?” —Deborah Halverson on Why Perfectly Nice People Make Perfect Bad Guys (YA)

Zero the hero“Sometimes they’re just words taped on pages that I can turn so as to get a feeling of how the story unfolds. Those never go to an editor. Other times—as in the case of Zero the Hero—I draw sketches, generally spiff things up, and actually submit the dummy itself.” —Joan Holub on To Dummy or Not to Dummy a Picture Book and ZERO THE HERO (PB)

Mark Jeffrey“Here’s the thing: scientifically speaking, if you could walk through walls, you should also fall through the floor (assuming there is gravity). These two facts are inconsistent with one another, they are irreconcilable. But in fiction, if you make it a rule that, in your universe, characters do not fall through the floor, and you stick to that dogmatically, you can get away with it.” —Mark Jeffrey on The Rules about Rules (MG)

Daniel Krause“Here is the key: I don’t think about those poor, sensitive teens when I write. I don’t think about those poor, sensitive adults either. Or even those poor, sensitive elderly people. I just think of readers, plain and simple, who want to read a good story.” —Daniel Kraus on Why Do You Write Such Dark YA Fiction? (YA)

David Lubar“Metaphors are a great way to generate that ‘ah-ha!’ sort of reaction in the reader, and a reliable tool in the humorist’s arsenal.” —David Lubar on the Seven Stages of Humor (CB)

CJ Omolulu“I wasn’t trying to put a face to an important worldwide problem. I didn’t want to become the point person for people who grew up in hoarded homes. I just wanted to tell one girl’s story. In the end, what I got was much more than that.” —C.J. Omololu on Writing “Issue” Books (YA)

Purple Daze“I wanted PURPLE DAZE to be a story about six high school friends and their sometimes crazy, often troublesome, and ultimately dramatic lives. I didn’t want their stories be overshadowed by history lessons.” —Sherry Shahan on Letter from Vietnam Inspires YA Novel in Verse (YA)

Anne Ursu“It’s easy to be so dazzled by fairy-godmother glass slippers that you forget a pair of shoes can just as easily make a girl dance herself to death.” —Anne Ursu on Happily Ever After (or Not) (MG)

Audrey Vernick“Most of my ideas have started as stupid, offhand comments I made that, for whatever reason, echoed in my head after I said them. I do my best thinking, apparently, when I’m not thinking. But now, instead of ignoring myself, as I did for decades, I started to listen, and use those throw-away comments as starting points.” —Audrey Vernick on Getting to the Funny (PB)

Siobhan Curham“I was absolutely ecstatic when it made it to the shortlist of six. All the other books on the list were from major publishers, so it was a massive boost to my confidence. And then, in a fairytale ending, DEAR DYLAN actually won the Young Minds Book Award.” —Siobhan Curham on Daring to Dream (YA)

Sundee Frazier“Yes, starting and persevering are hard, but what other choice do we have if we truly want to light people’s hearts on fire?”—Sundee T. Frazier on Starting and Persevering (MG)

Emily Lockhart“It’s there in my chest even while I’m putting on lipstick or chatting with a friend. It’s there, and I’m a little afraid to look at it. Because tears might leak out my eyes or my heart might pound.” —E. Lockhart on Where Fiction Comes From

Camo Girl“It became important to me to own the material, to say it was inspired by my middle school experiences. And at heart, it was, although I maintain that an artist’s creativity can’t be so easily pigeonholed or attached to specific inspirations.” —Kekla Magoon on Truth, Inspiration, and Camo Girl (MG)

“Very often, when I arrive at my physical destination, I’ve arrived at a mental destination, too, and know exactly what to write next.”—Mike Mullin on Writing on the Run

Jen Nadol“…you’re walking through the bookstore or scrolling through Publishers Lunch and you see it: your concept, already on the shelves or listed in the latest deals. Has this happened to you? It’s happened to me. Twice.” —Jen Nadol on Oh, No! Someone Used My Idea (YA)

Joy Preble“We make all sorts of excuses for ourselves, and many of them are even legitimate: my family, my kids, my day job… Jump anyway.” —Joy Preble on Embracing Risk (YA)

Cheryl Rainfield“…writing that taps into our own experiences and emotional truths can be among the most powerful writing. I think that it can touch others on a deep level, evoke compassion or thought, create change. And that’s something I always want to do.” —Cheryl Rainfield on Writing Bravely (YA)

Alex Sanchez“We all know the admonition that society imparts to boys: Boys don’t cry. But from what I observed, the message is actually far broader: Boys shouldn’t feel, period.” —Alex Sanchez on The Guy Box (YA)

Suzanne Selfors“Thinks the opposite sex is rather annoying and doesn’t require a story to have the slightest inkling of romance.” —Suzanne Selfors on Why I Love Writing for Middle Graders (MG)

“We love books for what they do, not for what they manage not to do. We love them for the thing or things that hit each of our particular story buttons, that reach out to bridge the gap between story and reader, that pull on us and make us want to or need to read on. A flawed book that does the things it does right, very right is far more powerful than an unflawed book that doesn’t.” —Janni Lee Simner on Love, Perfection & Books

Ann Redisch Stampler“My weighty issue: Mortality. Specifically cancer, when my kids were very tiny, leading me to ask in a more urgent way than usual, what do I want in my life? What do I want my legacy to be? What’s important to me?”—Ann Redisch Stampler on Paper Clips, Post-Its and The Meaning of Life (YA)

Brenda Reeves Sturgis“Traveling to New York was a big deal to a small-town girl. While attending my first SCBWI conference, it took every ounce of strength I could muster not to turn and dash out the door. Instead, I kept moving forward with faith in my dream.” —Brenda Reeves Sturgis on Keeping the Faith (PB)

Elissa Weisman“I couldn’t call a book Nerd Camp if it was just a regular summer camp story with a smart-kid slant. The fact that it’s a camp for smart kids had to be the story, and the fact that my character loves it had to be at the heart of the conflict.” —Elissa Brent Weisman on The EVOLUTION OF NERD CAMP (MG)

Alien Invasion“I had a voice. I couldn’t deny I had a voice. Every writer loves when they feel they have a voice, a narrator who speaks distinctly. But this was still not the novel I had planned. This was definitely not that novel. My finger hovered over the DELETE key.” —Brian Yansky on Being Unreasonable (YA)

Through years of teaching middle school, author visits, and a day job that requires me to present to thousands of students of all ages each year, I’ve developed strategies that help me minimize distractions and take the crowd by the horns…” —Shana Burg on Take the Bull by the Horns

“If the publisher declines to keep the book in print, request reversion of your rights. Once you have the rights back, you are free to sell the text to another publisher. (Artwork belongs to the illustrator.) I have been fortunate to have this done three times, finding that smaller publishers are more receptive to reprinting a book than the larger publishers.” —Sherry Garland on Requiem for a Book

Soap, Soap, Soap“In these economic times, publishers have become interested in creators who already have a platform–a public profile, persona or following. It takes time to build this up, but the Internet has made it easier, so I’ve been working on my platform since before I was published.” —Elizabeth O. Dulemba on Marketing: The Snowball Effect (PB)

Perfect Chemistry“It was a cameo role—Alex is the sexy and hot hero in PERFECT CHEMISTRY and Carlos’s brother. I knew I couldn’t settle for anyone less than ‘perfect.’” —Simone Elkeles on Book Trailers (YA)

Elizabeth Eulberg“While it can take a lot of time (I sometimes joke that I have 2.5 jobs: publicist, author and the .5 is social networking), it is an extremely crucial step in promoting your books.” —Elizabeth Eulberg on Author Marketing

Heather Hepler“My characters bake cookies and brew coffee and discuss the merits of mango lassies. One of my characters is obsessed with candy. Another character thinks he’s the next big thing to hit the world of competitive eating.” —Heather Hepler on Writing, Food, and Cookies for Weeping (YA)

Mari Mancusi

“The DVD extras generation is looking for an entire multimedia experience when he or she delves into a book. They want the world the author created to live and breathe, and they want to become a part of it.” —Mari Mancusi on Kids Don’t Read Like They Used To…And That’s A Good Thing (YA)

Sarah Mlynowski“I knew the book’s theme needed to be part of my Twitter promotion, so I decided to e-mail various authors, (hello, Facebook Friends!), ask them “What would you tell your younger self, if, say, you had a magic cell phone that could call yourself in the past?” and tweet their answers.” —Sarah Mlynowski on Her Twitter Promotion for GIMME A CALL

Book Trailer Manual

“Trailers should evoke interest in the book, without putting such images into a reader’s head that they can’t imagine it for themselves.” —Darcy Pattison on Creating Book Trailers

Bettina's props“I use the skull in so many ways. I have a child pretend he is a tree, and I use the skull to ‘eat’ him. I pulled shy children into the conversation with a ‘moose kiss’ from the horrible teeth of Daisy. The kids and teachers love it—and so do I.” —Bettina Restrepo on Propping Up Your School Visit (PB)

Stories Behind Stories

Virginia Hamilton book“When I first visited Arnold in Yellow Springs, he pointed out Virginia’s office to me through the closed sliding glass door. I was drawn to it like a magnet, but it was clear that Arnold was not ready to open that door.” — Arnold Adoff and Kacy Cook on VIRGINIA HAMILTON: SPEECHES, ESSAYS, & CONVERSATIONS (YA)

Janis Joplin“The image-illustrated project has been a magical musical journey of many years where I have lived all things Janis.” —Ann Angel on JANIS JOPLIN: RISE UP SINGING (YA)

Strange Case of Origami Yoda “There were times when I thought that nothing good that might come would ever outweigh the bad times I had been through. But I was wrong.” —Tom Angleberger on THE STRANGE CASE OF ORIGAMI YODA (MG)

You Killed Wesley Payne“I am transported by a failed escape, suitcases full of loot broken open on the runway, dollar bills being sucked into the propeller and chopped into hammy metaphorical bits.” —Sean Beaudoin on A Journey to Noir (YA)

The Christmas Coat“…I came to understand the complicated mixture of Native American custom and Christian religion, of devastating loss as well as embracing family ties, that nurtured Virginia’s childhood in South Dakota in the 20th century.” —Ellen Beier on THE CHRISTMAS COAT: MEMORIES OF MY SIOUX CHILDHOOD (PB)

Marisol Macdonald Doesn't Match“I knew from experience what happens to children who don’t fit into any one box, and I was determined to see that Marisol’s story was told, for my sake, my daughters’ sake and for the millions of children who are proud of the multiplicity of their identities.” —Monica Brown on MARISOL MCDONALD DOESN’T MATCH (PB)

Fabulous The story of Andy Warhol“…we wanted something edgy but not imitative. I was teaching art at the time, and some of my students were experimenting with a photo transfer method which I adopted and adapted for the illustrations.” —Bonnie Christensen on FABULOUS! A PORTRAIT OF ANDY WARHOL (PB)

“Fibonacci’s tale is particularly rich and engaging. He sailed the Mediterranean, and helped convert the western world from I-II-III to 1-2-3.” —Joseph D’Agnese on Math Phobia (PB)

House of Dead Maids “I have pondered for decades what could have happened to Heathcliff before the beginning of Emily Brontë’s classic to make him the monster he is. And when authors ponder, they write books.” —Clare B. Dunkle on Of Humans and Other Monsters (YA)

Importance of Wings“One of the themes of THE IMPORTANCE OF WINGS is Roxanne’s desperate desire for the right hair. There are several scenes involving blow dryers, curling irons, and ozone-depleting hairspray. Like fashion, hairstyle is a pop reference that’s instantly recognizable to an era, from the bobs of the 1920s to the beehives of the 1960s.” —Robin Friedman on the ‘80s, Gen X, and THE IMPORTANCE OF WINGS (MG)

Goddess Girls “We tossed our egos out the window and mercilessly rewrote each other’s work until the series began to sound as if one author had written it.” —Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams on the GODDESS GIRLS series (MG)

Soup Day“I think cooking can also foster a sense of empowerment in children, much like expressing themselves with words and pictures. And if they are involved in the process of cooking, they are more likely to eat their creation!” —Melissa Iwai on SOUP DAY (PB)

Indigo Blues

“Indigo enjoys music but is haunted by the song ‘Indigo Blues’ once it’s being played every which way that she turns. She is really pissed off that Adam wrote the song and trampled all over her privacy. But in order for her to move on, she has to see things through Adam’s eyes and break down the meaning behind the song.” —Danielle Joseph on INDIGO BLUES (YA)

You Are My Only“When I decided to tell the story of Sophie as a fourteen year old—and to alternate her story with the story of a young mother whose baby is stolen—I needed an entirely different sound for this book. I needed, obviously, two sounds.” —Beth Kephart on Following the Voice, Finding the Soul: The Making of YOU ARE MY ONLY (YA)

Librarian on the Roof“These days we expect to find computers and Internet access in libraries, but when RoseAleta Laurell moved to Lockhart, Texas, to become director of the Dr. Eugene Clark Library in 1989, she found a small town on the wrong side of the digital divide.” —M.G. King on LIBRARIAN ON THE ROOF! A TRUE STORY (PB)

Surviving the Angel of Death“We, the survivors, should be shown respect for being living witnesses and be the first resource to learn the truth. For all these reasons, I believe that a survivor’s story should always be included in any Holocaust curriculum.” —Eva Mozes Kor on SURVIVING THE ANGEL OF DESTH: THE STORY OF A MENGELE TWIND IN AUSCHWITZ (YA)

Lanie“Since I’d loved almost everything about creating Saba—including my editor’s strong support of including tough-but-true details for that girl living in Ethiopia in 1846—I was in thrilldom when I found out she wanted me to tackle creating the character of the Doll of the Year 2010.” —Jane Kurtz on AMERICAN GIRL: LANIE and LANIE’S REAL ADVENTURES (MG)

Walking Home to Rosie Lee“I couldn’t find a single book about the reunification of African American families during reconstruction, so I wanted to write one to ‘get the ball rolling,’ as it were.” —Alexandria LaFaye on WALKING HOME TO ROSIE LEE (PB)

Betsey Red Hoodie“In the original tale, when the Boy cries wolf for the third time and there really is a wolf, the villagers abandon him by not coming to his aid. I’m mad at them for that. They deserve to lose their flock.” —Gail Carson Levine on Outrage, Fairy Tales, and BETSY RED HOODIE (PB)

Hibernation Station“The aspect of hibernation that I find most interesting is the fact that some animals are known as light sleepers and some of them are known as deep sleepers.” —Michelle Meadows on HIBERNATION STATION (PB)

“There, right in front of me was a triumvirate of nerdtacular action. One nerd sat at the table with a headset on, talking to two other nerds. Three huge nerds joined together in one place through the miracle of technology and gaming, right when I need to observe nerds… a coincidence?” —Erin E. Moulton on Framing THE TRUTH ABOUT OWEN (MG)

 Trail to Ghetto Cowboy“It seemed like a modern-day western to me: cowboys vs. the land barons, the good guys struggling to defend a way of life against the oncoming modernization of a city. And in the middle of it, black men acting as family, spreading values and traditions in the only way they knew how: the Cowboy Way” —G. Neri on On The Trail to Ghetto Cowboy (MG)

Firehouse LIght“While the language is simple, the research to verify specific details was extensive. Were the boots thick? Were the coats heavy? What type of communication was used? When, exactly, did Livermore install its first traffic signal?” —Janet Nolan on THE FIREHOUSE LIGHT (PB)

The Knife and the Butterfly“I couldn’t stop thinking about that young man—about what I knew of him from the papers and about all that I didn’t know about him. I wondered what stories he would tell if there were someone to listen to him. I wondered who he was besides another kid in a gang.” —Ashley Hope Perez on Rewriting the News and the Rules of My Characters’ World in THE KNIFE AND THE BUTTERFLY (YA)

“Day after day, an increasingly thin Leopard hauled out onto the beach, hiding in rocks from joggers, dogs off leash, and curious beachcombers. He was as beautiful as he was vulnerable.”—Brenda Peterson on LEOPARD & SILKIE: ONE BOY’S QUEST TO SAVE THE SEAL PUPS (PB)

This Thing Called The Future“South Africa has the reputation for crime and violence. This reputation is deserved. But in my multiple, lengthy trips there, I discovered a country rich with hospitable people who welcomed me and made me feel like I was home. It was an adventure.” —J.L. Powers on Writing a Foreign Culture for THIS THING CALLED THE FUTURE(YA)

“As adults, we’ve learned that there aren’t limits on types or kinds of art, but we proceed to limit ourselves, our possibilities, our attempts. We tend to stop trying new forms of art and, when we do dabble, we’re self-deprecating about it. Kids are a lot bolder and braver in this than we are.”—Liz Garton Scanlon on Why We Should THINK BIG (PB)

Feeding the Sheep“They occasionally get a bad rap (“A Nation of Sheep”), and what did they do to deserve it? Nothing. Milk, cheese, meat, wool, gamboling lambs—they provide it all, plus they keep fields mowed. Go, sheepies!” —Leda Schubert on FEEDING THE SHEEP (PB)

Anna Maria's Gift “When I read that Vivaldi had taught orphan girls at the Pietà in Venice, I knew there was another story to be told. Especially when I found out that he turned those girls into an orchestra known all over Europe.” —Janice Shefelman on Researching ANNA MARIA’S GIFT (MG)

Orchards“…in Japan, connections are everything. You can’t just waltz into a village and expect a welcome. I asked friends and colleagues and my husband’s friends and colleagues if anyone knew anyone in that tiny corner of Japan. Ultimately, through one of my husband’s former colleague’s husband’s elementary-school friend’s wife’s journalist friend’s cousin’s friend’s cousin (whew!), I was introduced to a farm family in the village, and I arranged to work with the farmer for a year, learning everything I could about mikan cultivation.” —Holly Thompson on the Perfect Setting and ORCHARDS (YA)

Brave Dogs Gentle Dogs“Even though some of the words are somewhat sophisticated for the young reader, the photos provide the reader with context for understanding those words, and the combination serves as a learning tool.” —Cat Urbigkit on Every Picture Tells a Story (PB)


Centaur's Daughter“I had worked hard to get just the right words and images when I described him initially. How could there be another set of ‘right’ words and images? At the same time, it didn’t seem fair to my returning readers to recycle from the first book.” —Ellen Jensen Abbott on the Pain in the Backstory (YA)


Amelia Atwater Rhodes“Once I, as the author, have a sense of the world, I need to figure out a way to communicate it to the reader without drowning them in info-dump that slows the plot.” —Amelia Atwater-Rhodes on World Building (YA)

Almost Home“As a screenwriter, you don’t get to describe anything in a screenplay that wouldn’t be visible to the audience watching the film. You have to show those thoughts and feelings, in visible, externalized actions.” —Jessica Blank on Adapting a Novel to a Screenplay (YA)

Susan Bartoletti“…I pay close attention to footnotes, bibliographies, captions, and acknowledgments, because these things lead me to other important sources and collections housed in museums, historical societies, and academic libraries.” —Susan Campbell Bartoletti on Writing Nonfiction and THEY CALL THEMSELVES THE KKK (YA)

Mr Sam“Several people I spoke to told bone-chilling stories of librarians tossing old photos and negatives during one clean-up or another.” —Karen Blumenthal on the Power & Challenges of Using Photos & Cartoons in Nonfiction (YA)

Gumption“Nothing in a story keeps readers as enthralled as a character who has won their hearts.” —Elise Broach on Writing Likable Characters (MG)

Wolf Mark“I brought to it not only a wide knowledge of the field of fantasy but also a great deal of knowledge of the natural world, and a desire to reflect American Indian culture in a way which was neither stereotyped nor one-dimensional.” —Joseph Bruchac on Writing Fantasy and WOLF MARK (YA)

Grandma's Gloves“It’s a sad book. It’s fragile. It’s grown up, even though it’s for kids. Or maybe it’s for the kids that still live inside of grown ups and still have to deal with loss and grief.” —Cecil Castellucci on Letting the Novel Choose Its Form

Paco“Repetition also helps so the reader has more than one chance to absorb the new vocabulary. In Soap, soap soap, the line ‘Soap, soap, soap! Jabón, jabón, jabón!’ is repeated throughout the text (and is lots of fun with an audience). By the end of the book, the reader surely won’t forget that ‘jabón’ (pronounced ‘habon’) means ‘soap’!” —Elizabeth O. Dulemba on Writing Bilingual Books (PB)

“Nearly all heroes and heroines of contemporary novels, his argument ran, are either running towards or away from the allure of sex.” —J.T. Dutton on The Problem of Sex in Young Adult Novels (YA)

The Challengers“…a second book can reveal the author’s growth as an artist. Releasing subsequent books will reveal a career arc that will ideally show continued blossoming and refinement.” —Greg R. Fishbone on Surviving the Sophomore Outing (MG)

Big Mouth“In the last few years, I’ve noticed an increasing dearth of setting in the manuscripts crossing my desk. Writers are focusing on voice and plot and character arcs, and on fresh, marketable hooks—and rightly so, as these are all integral storytelling elements. But our poor little friend, Setting . . . she’s barely there.” —Deborah Halverson on Setting, Wherefore Art Thou?

ANcient, Strange, Lovely“…to me, fantasy novels in which the wish fulfillment is too easy…feel hollow and unsatisfying.” —Susan Fletcher on Waiting to Fly

Nocturne“Setting isn’t just the buildings and streets and rivers and hills characters navigate during the course of a story. It’s also the way those physical features affect the characters, the history and circumstances of a place that shape the attitudes and behavior of the people who live there.” —L.D. Harkrader on The Thin Line Between Fantasy and Reality (MG)(YA)

Shadow Horse“Most recently I have combined horses with history to create suspense-filled historical fiction. The two meld perfectly because human and horses have been intertwined as early as 3500 BC when horses were raised for milk and meat in Kazakhstan…” —Alison Hart on Writing About Horses (MG/YA)

The Seventh Level“I’ll start with the obvious. I happened to grow up in a household with two brothers where Sunday afternoon TV was all about NFL football. Until I was eleven, I lived in a neighborhood where girls didn’t seclude themselves with dolls, but came together with the boys in hardy games of Red Rover, Uncle Sam, Spud, and softball.” —Jody Feldman on Writing the Boy Book, by a Girl (MG)

Girl Stolen“The trick to writing a good mystery or thriller is to have plenty of tension. Heck, that’s the trick to writing any good book, period. But how do you get that tension?” —April Henry on How to Make Any Good Book—But Especially Mysteries and Thrillers—Better

Margo Lanagan“Short stories stay still. You can keep an eye on all their dangly bits and possibilities at once. You can whip them into shape, drag yourself back to the very instant–the very half-sentence, the very word–where you went off-track and proceed from there.” —Margo Lanagan on Short Stories and Novels – Different Animals, Different Taming Techniques

Kimberley Little“So you may be wondering how setting intersects with character and plot? Does setting really matter? Isn’t it one of those elements that can be added later, or decided at any time, and does it actually play a crucial role?” —Kimberley Griffiths Little on Deepening Character with Setting (MG)

Queen of Secrets“This isn’t to say that every character needs their own subplot, but secondary characters can not merely be props for the main character.” —Jenny Meyerhoff on What to Do If Your Secondary Characters Multiply Like Bunnies (YA)

Jennie Moss“One of my simplest and easiest-to-create files is a cheat sheet, just like the ones some professors would allow for tests in college. My objective was to put the global framework of the book on one piece of paper, so I could reference it when I needed to, getting information at a glance.” —Jenny Moss on Maps, Tables and Timelines (YA)

Sucks to be Me“A book is never, ever finished. You simply get to a point where you and your editor are reasonably happy with how it is and you go with that. Left to our own devices, a writer would endlessly fiddle with a book, changing little thing after little thing.” —Kimberly Pauley on Writing Sequels (YA)

Vicky and Cleo“Even though feminist ideals are a modern invention, it made sense to me that the daughter of the most powerful woman in the world — who saw great men bow at her mother’s feet — would have a sense that she was ‘equal to’ or ‘better than’ the men surrounding her.” —Vicky Alvear Shecter on CLEOPATRA’S MOON and Tips for Writing Historical Fiction (YA)

Janni Lee Simner“No matter how you write, there’s someone out there who writes completely differently. And for many of us, there’s a voice inside our heads that, seeing that, begins to worry: Am I the one doing it wrong?” —Janni Lee Simner on Writing Your Way (YA)

Caroline Starr Rose“Because poetry is both visual and aural, let the structure of your work communicate to your reader your protagonist’s emotional state.” —Caroline Starr Rose on Writing Verse Novels (YA)

Hunchback“…it’s science fiction inspired by the aesthetics and atmosphere of the Victorian era.” —Arthur Slade on How to Put the “Steam” in Steampunk (YA)

Melissa Stewart“Sometimes nonfiction writing should be straightforward and businesslike. But most of the time, a lively, more informal style is a better choice.” —Melissa Stewart on Every Word Counts: Crafting Nonfiction That Sings (PB)

Allan Stratton“It’s like I’m doing a one-person improv. At the top of each scene, for each character, I ask myself: What’s my situation? What do I want? What am I going to do to get it?” —Allan Stratton on Writing for Young Adults and Writing Thrillers (YA)

Kristen Tracy“A lot of people will say that my voice is funny, but I think the more accurate comment is that my voice is sincere. Or at least it’s trying to be. When I’m writing middle-grade fiction, I do everything I can to inhabit the mindset of a tween. And if I nail that mindset, the humor will arrive.” —Kristen Tracy on Where Does Humor Come From? (MG)

Melissa Walker“I knew that if I got the characters right, readers would follow them into the story even if they didn’t share the same belief system. I had to focus not on my characters’ ‘likeability’ (which is something I often see discussed in reviews), but on their realness.” —Melissa Walker on Writing True Characters vs. Writing “Likable” Characters (YA)

Front Page Face Off“Your characters know about the celestial wonder of outer space because you’ve laid in a country field and seen the stars fill the night sky. Your characters can react to the heat of a dragon’s flame because you’ve touched a hot stove and know the pain.” —Jo Whittemore on Everybody’s Doing It: Writing from Real Life (MG)

“A high concept book/series hook should be original, unique, and have wide appeal. It’s a fresh spin on a universal situation or premise. The best hooks will cause others to think, “Wow. What fantastic idea. Wish I’d thought of it.” —Suzanne Williams on Heroes in Training: Finding Your High-Concept Series Hook