A blog about the amazing things teenagers do, about writing for teens, books for teens, and occasional forays into my world and the world of publishing.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

On (Critique) Group Therapy

Recently I read a tweet that kind of shocked me. It went something like: Writers, when you finish writing something you love, what makes you go back and make changes?

My response to this was: The second time I read it. (Or the third or the fourth.)

I got this message back: So it's not as good when you read through it again?

To which I answered: If can't find problems with your writing, you need a critique group.

I think a lot of writers write in a box, they think what they've written is perfect and wonderful and then they ask their spouse, parent, sister, and/or friends to read their work and then say, "Tell me what you think. Honestly."

The response is usually like, "It was good, I liked it. (My sister and I have a running joke about this.)

The point is, your friends and family are usually not going to be able to tell you what's good or bad. They probably love you too much to tell you the truth, they may not know, or they may just not get it.

For me, my early feedback people were my husband, my sister (also a writer) and my sister-in-law, a published author with an MFA from Vermont college. Between the sister and the sister-in-law I thought I had pretty good critiquers. And I did, but they were still family. Finally after reading draft after draft of my writing and really needing to spend time on her own stuff, my sister-in-law said, "Get thee to a critique group."

So I did.

I joined Val, Sarah, Blessy, Michele, and Joan in a group called In My Opinion Issaquah. Somehow the planets aligned and I ended up in the perfect group for me. (Even though Michele and Sarah deserted us to go on their own adventures in Costa Rica and Africa respectively.)

As perfect as it is, it takes me over an hour to get to our meeting place, I've shed more than a few tears during our critiques, some days I have left swearing that I will never come back, and most of the time I wonder if I'm helping these ladies anywhere near as much as they're helping me.

But I keep going back.

For me my critique group is both book therapy and group therapy. Every writer knows, when you write you aren't just making up a story, you're leaving a piece of yourself on the page. Sometimes it's painful to bring up the memories that inspired your character. Sometimes you need to talk about what brought about the story. Sometimes you just need to talk about how crazy and heart-wrenching this industry can be with someone who gets it. Sometimes you need to be pushed to keep writing. Sometimes you need to be told to reach deeper into your story. And as painful as it is, sometimes you need to be told that the perfect story you've written, isn't perfect.

Because you're going to hear that at EVERY SINGLE STAGE YOU REACH AS AN AUTHOR. Hearing it from a group of people who are just as nervous about what you think of their work is the best way I know to prepare yourself for the inevitable REJECTIONS you WILL receive as a writer. Every critique, whether I agree with it or not, helps my story and/or helps me personally and as a writer.

I shudder to think what would have happened if I hadn't been in a critique group before I received my first edit letter. I would have probably been reduced to a quivering pile of Jello and quit on the spot. But, because I was used to helpful and even painful critiques of my work I could take what my editor said and know that it would make my story better. I also knew I could push back and say, "But what about this?"

Of course, I'm positive I wouldn't have reached the point where I would ever get an edit letter without my critique group.

For every writer out there who thinks their work is perfect. (And everyone who knows it's not.) I'm going to pass along my sister-in-law's advice,


Whether it's on-line or in person, find someone who is willing to spend time with your writing in exchange for you spending time with theirs. If the first group doesn't click, try another one. (But make sure the fit isn't bad because you aren't willing to hear what's wrong with you writing.)

To give you a taste of what a critique group is like, I'll be offering up my own. My wonderful critique partners have agreed to be part of a blog contest. Stay tuned. Next week I will introduce my critique partners and let you know how to enter our contest. The winner will receive a critique from all of our members and something to yummy to drink at Starbucks. Details to follow next Wednesday.

In the meantime, what do you think about a critique group? If you belong to one, tell me about it.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Do Kids Still Read? Or When Rick Riordan Comes to Town

A couple of years ago I reviewed the Percy Jackson Series and talked about the war it created in my house. I had one set of books and three kids trying to finish the series at once. Somehow, we survived. In the end all the kids had read the books, so we were all winners, and my third child was hooked on reading


My kids still love Rick Riordan I was at the bookstore picking up SON OF NEPTUNE for my daughter (the day it came out), and the clerk asked me if we were going to the Rick Riordan book signing event, I was thrilled. My kids were giddy. (Someday I aspire to inspire giddiness.)

Sponsored by Timberland Regional Library, the Rick Riordan event was the biggest event for a single author that I've ever seen. There was live music and art projects and booksellers and tons and tons of people standing in line to get Rick Riordan's signature. In total there were about 3,000 people who attended the event.


During the event, the librarian for my kids' school and I were talking about whether kids still read. After all, kids are busier than ever, and there are all sorts of other distractions with things like TV, internet, and video games, but if the crowd gathered at this event is any indication, I think we can answer that question with a resounding YES!

Thanks to Timberland Regional Library and Rick Riordan for putting on an amazing event. Thanks to Rick Riordan for inspiring my kids and so many others to read and read and read!

What author or authors inspired you to be a reader?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Class of 2k12 Launches!!!

Today my Class of 2k12 officially launched!!!



The Class of 2k12 is a group of 20 young adult and middle grade authors whose debut novels come out in 2012. We've joined together to combine marketing efforts, book and speaking events, and to give back to the book community. (Also it's great to have so much support from people who are going through or have gone through the same things that you are.)

You should come check us out. You can find out more about us on:

our fabulous website,

our blog,

our newsletter (put "add me to newsletter" in the subject line),

our facebook page,

and our twitter account.


As part of our launch we're giving away 17 books from the Class of 2k11!!!

If you know of a library that's in need of some great young adult and middle grade books like POPULAR and THE FAERIE RING, please join the discussion on facebook to nominate them.(I have a library in mind, but unfortunately I can't enter.)

I love being part of the Class of 2k12. I can't wait until next year so I can celebrate each launch with some fabulous authors.

For a preview of all of the Class of 2k12 books, check out our group trailer.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Friday Firsts/Friday Favorites--Halloween Costumes

As we head into October my thoughts always turn to Halloween. More specifically, who or what will I be this year. Yes, I realize that I'm in my upper 30s, yes, I realize that I have four kids who need costumes, but I still love to dress up.

Maybe it goes back to my dad. I remember him putting on a sheet, a wig, and sheet rock stilts and terrorizing the neighborhood, (long after he was too old to trick or treat). Or the PTA carnival when my mom, (the PTA president) realized with horror that the ugly woman walking around was my father. I guess I got the dress-up gene from my dad.

The first Halloween costume I remember wearing wasn't spectacular. In fact, looking back on it, it was pretty pitiful, (but I was too young to realize that). I don't remember exactly how old I was. All I remember was that I wanted to be a witch and my sister wanted to be a clown.

My guess is we didn't have extra money for costumes that year, so my mom spent the day decorating paper bag masks for each of us. It didn't occur to me that it was cheap, or that I might have looked silly walking around with a paper bag on my head. I thought my mom was the best artist in the world and I knew she loved us. Because it was October in Idaho, I'm sure the rest of my costume consisted of a huge winter coat, long pants, and maybe boots, but that didn't matter. In my mind, I was the wickedest witch ever.

That Halloween, (though I didn't realize it until much later), my mom taught me that money didn't mater if you had a little imagination and a lot of love.

I asked my friends on Facebook about their first or favorite Halloween costume and these are the comments I got:

Stacey Shaw I think mine was a snow suit and snow boots. (Yes, he's my brother, so he was trick-or-treating in Idaho.)

Rebecca Blanton My favorite was going as the iceberg that sunk the Titanic. Hung out in the West Village in NYC and took photos with tourists all night!

Marissa Meyer The first costume I can remember was a jester - my mom made it for me out of all different colors of shiny metallic fabric, bells on the hat and all. (strike up the chorus of AWWs)

Ashlee Patterson Thomas I was a toilet on year, and a skunk another. I always tried to think of different things.

Karen Adair Each of my kids were a cow for their first "walking" Halloween. It started when we had no money to buy a costume and we used a cow print vest my sister had sewn for me. We found a bell to hang on a ribbon around their neck, cut out foam ears attached to one of my headbands, and a pair of ug boots to complete the ensemble. My older ones always looked forward to when the younger ones would wear the costume next. It became a special moment for everyone as they thought about their time wearing it and passing the torch (so to speak). :)

Love the comments! I want to see pictures!

What about all of you? What was your first or favorite Halloween costume???

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Northwest Bookfest--It's Raining Books!

Last weekend I went to Northwest Bookfest, in Kirkland, Washington. I sat at the SCBWI- Western Washington booth to promote that great organization.

Since this was my first real author-type event, I had my teen daughter help me pick out an outfit. I tried to dress nicely, from my satiny blouse to my open-toed high heels.

Nobody told me the event was going to be outside.

It turned out that Northwest Bookfest's title, "It's Raining Books" was aptly named. Sigh. My nice outfit was covered by a jacket, (which I had grabbed as an afterthought on the way out), and my shoes were made fun of by everyone who saw me walking across the waterlogged lawn. (In the nicest possible way, of course.)

BUT... I still had fun. I met some great local authors, some great local teens, and two great local teen authors, Marta Stahlfeld and Tiffany Leahy. Both said they would let me feature them on my blog, so you'll get to hear more about them later.

I also gave away a signed ARC. (It made me feel all giddy and authorial, even if I had no idea what I should write when I autographed it.)

And of course I bought books!!!

It was well worth venturing out on a cold, rainy, Washington day, but next time I bring a warmer jacket and leave the heels at home.