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.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Countdown to the Call: (Results Not Typical)

You know those miracle diet ads where previously overweight people gush about how easy it was to lose the weight and how much better they feel and the whole time they're gushing there's this little disclaimer in the corner of the screen, "Results not typical"???

I ALMOST feel like putting that in the corner of this blog post. Almost. (But apparently that has been banned from advertising and I don't want to get in trouble and...)

What are typical results for a writer anyway?

Every writer's journey is unique, and I don't want to derail someone's progress because they think they aren't moving fast enough. I know writers who have taken ten years to sell a manuscript. KUDOS to them for hanging in there. I know writers who were picked up out of the slush pile on there first try and...wait, I don't know anyone like that.

Anyway. I've debated for a long time whether I should even put up a post describing my journey to this point. I decided to do it because I want to give other writers HOPE. It CAN happen. It DOES happen. You can be picked out of the slush pile. A debut novel can sell in this economy. And most important you CAN and SHOULD enjoy ever little step in this journey.

So here's how my journey went down (results not typical).
Countdown to the call:
April 2008—(Kind of out of the blue, after years of wanting to and not being able to or not making the effort due to being swamped with life), I decide to start writing again.
July 2008—I finish my first manuscript.
July - December 2009--I send the manuscript out for critiques, rewrite the entire thing changing point of view and tense, join SCBWI and work on a sequel.
December 2009—I send out the first query for my 1st manuscript (ms). Received a bunch of rejections before I decided it needed some serious revision. (Still working on that one.)
January 2009—I finish the sequel to my first ms.
Septemberish 2009—I join a critique group and an on-line writing class from Ann Gonzales.
Octoberish--Writing prompt from Ann's class, “Describe something using every sense but sight.” When I present my paragraph to my group, I get a great response. The seeds of a story based on that prompt work their way into my head.
Decemeber 2009—Over Christmas break I start messing around on the story based on that prompt, despite having two other works in progress waiting. TIGERSEYE is born.
January—I take TIGERSEYE to my critique group and to “The Great Critique” at the Western Washington SCBWI meeting. Both groups tell me to keep going on this one.
January-April-- Many late nights of writing, many trips up to the ski hill passing the time by writing, many piano lessons/soccer practices/play practices writing in the car while I wait. (Let's just say, my laptop went with me EVERYWHERE.)
April 2010—I finish TIGERSEYE.
April-May 2010—The full manuscript of TIGERSEYE goes to my sister, husband, sister-in-law and my critique group.
May 5—Impatience gets the better of me and I send off the first query for TIGERSEYE before getting feedback. * NOTE: I actually wrote the synopsis and query before I finished the manuscript. *
May - July —I send out 14 more queries for TIGERSEYE. The third query goes to Sara Megibow (my future agent).
June 1 - July 20—Query results: Six requests for the partials of my manuscript and five requests for the full manuscript—long, exciting, stressful couple of months. Four agents offer representation—(see blog post, "The Other Side of Send.")
July 28, 2010—Accept representation from Rock Star Agent Sara Megibow at Nelson Literary.
September 1, 2010—A few revisions, edits, and a website later, Sara puts TIGERSEYE on submission to 14 editors. Because she is AWESOME all fourteen agree to read.
September 9, 2010—We receive our first “no thank you.” (Sounds so much nicer than rejection.)
September - October 10, 2010 Four more “no thank yous” but some interest from two editors who want revisions before they will go to acquisitions.
October 12, 2010—Conference calls with two wonderful editors from two great publishing houses. Each editor has revision notes that are completely different.
October 13, 2010—I start revisions for the editor who wants to change TIGERSEYE the least.
October 13 - 27th —Working on revisions, but I’m sick, my kids are sick, and things aren’t coming together the way I had hoped.
October 28th—I get THE CALL from Sara!!! We have an offer from Mary Kate Castellani at Walker!!!
October 28th—(Later that day.) I talk to Mary Kate Castellani about TIGERSEYE. I’m excited about her editing notes and excited to work with her.
November 4th—We accept Walker’s offer (after waiting for a response from the other editors who were still reading).
November 4th –The deal goes up on Publisher’s Weekly!!! See post: "I Got a Book Deal!"
From conception to the call (and the deal announcement) was about 11 months. It sounds really fast when it's not broken up into days, hours, minutes of agonizing waiting.
But like I said, RESULTS NOT TYPICAL. Your journey can be longer or shorter. I have been writing, learning, and querying for close to three years now, still I know this has been very fast. I know how blessed I have been. It has been an amazing journey with a lot more amazement (and work) ahead.
I will say this about TIGERSEYE. From the beginning it felt right. Of the three I've written this one felt like it was THE ONE. I don't know how to explain it beyond that, but I've heard that same comment from other authors about their manuscript that finally sells.
For my writer friends in whatever stage you're at: DO NOT GIVE UP. Every "no" is one step closer to "yes". Every moment spent writing is a learning experience. Every manuscript that gets filed in a drawer is one step closer to the one that will get picked up.
Enjoy the journey!
This is just an outline. If you would like to know more specifics about how all of this happened, I'm open to questions. Please ask!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Vetran's Day Tribute, Kids and Teens Who Have Served Our Country

When I was thinking of my "Teens Doing Great Things" post in relation to Veteran's Day, it occurred to me that there have been a lot of kids and teens who have served in the Military at a very young age. History is full of kids in their teens and younger who have served their country during times of war. Many lied about their age so they could be soldiers. Many of those child and teen soldiers paid the ultimate price.

I did some Internet research and here's a sample of what I found:

Revolutionary War

John Kitts (joined the Continental Army) in 1776, when fourteen years of age, he was a member of the First Pennsylvania Regiment of the Revolutionary War. (He died at the age of 108, and was possibly the last living Revolutionary War Veteran.)

War of 1812

Timothy Batchelder, a lad of eight summers, watched weary soldiers march by his Allenstown, New Hampshire home.... The beat of the drums had charmed Timothy long before now, but today it made him pulse with excitement. Yes, Timothy was a very real boy and his name is on the War of 1812 muster rolls.
War of 1812 Drummer Boy: Timothy Batchelder Off to War and Still a Child

Civil War
An 11 year old who was awarded the Medal of Honor during the Civil War. The official citation notes his birth date. There are records of boys as young as 7 serving in the Civil War.

Civil War Statistics:

More than 1,000,000 (soldiers) were eighteen or under.
About 800,000 were s
eventeen or under.
About 200,000 were sixte
en or under.
About 100,000 were fifteen or under.
Three hund
red were thirteen or under-most of these fifers or drummers, but regularly enrolled, and sometimes fighters.
Twenty-five were ten or under.
Boys in the Civil War

World War II

The youngest US serviceman in World War II was 12 year old Calvin Graham, USN. He was wounded in combat and given a Dishonorable Discharge for lying about his age. (His benefits were later restored by act of Congress). World War II Facts

11,465 KIAs (Killed in Action) were less than 20 years old. One man killed in Vietnam was only 16 years old (RABER, PAUL J.)


In researching for this blog I came across the story of a young Iraqi who most likely lied about his age so that he could serve with the United States Army as an interpreter. He made that decision after al-Qaeda came to his school and killed two of his best friends. He decided he wanted to make a difference for his country. This brave teen reminded me of the young men and women in American history who lied about how old they were so they could fight for their country. You should read the whole story. Here's a link to the Washington Post article, "As U.S. troops leave Iraq, an officer honors the memory of a young interpreter"

An Inadequate Thanks
Even now many of our men and women in uniform are young. Seventeen-year-olds can enlist in the Military, but they're not supposed to go into combat until they're eighteen. Whatever the age, I'm grateful for the service of all of our servicemen and women. I live near Joint Base Lewis McChord so I know a lot of military families. I've attended a memorial service for a soldier killed in Iraq, the husband of a dear friend. These experiences have given me a glimpse into the sacrifice our soldiers and their families make.

I belong to Soldier's Angels, an organization that offers programs to support our troops, like adopting a deployed soldier who could use some mail. I would encourage anyone who's interested in supporting our troops to participate in Soldier's Angels or other programs like it.

As a teen I got to put a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery. The feeling and reverence at that sight is undeniable and indescribable. Although there is no way I could adequately say thank you to all of those who have served and are serving our country, whatever their age, I hope they understand that I am grateful.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Kids Doing Great Things--Jump Rope for Heart at South Bay Elementary

How do you get kids moving for a good cause?

Rick Mortlock, the PE teacher at South Bay Elementary, and the American Heart Association have the answer--Jump Rope for Heart.

For the past 12 years students at South Bay have been teaming up, raising money, and jumping to help the American Heart Association fight Heart Disease and help people with heart defects. Every year, 150-180 kids in grades 4th -6th form teams, collect donations for the American Heart association, and practice their jump roping skills for the big day.

This year South Bay's Jump Rope for Heart was held on October 28th. Twenty-two teams met in the gym to show off their jump roping skills, hang out with their friends, and then enjoy healthy snacks provided by the PTA. During breaks between jumping, Mr. Mortlock drew names for door prizes--t-shirts, jump ropes, footballs (all of which went to girls) and lots of other cool stuff.

The event is fun with a purpose. Not only are the kids learning a great way to keep their own heart healthy, they're helping other people, even other kids who have heart defects. A poster on the wall reads, "I am jumping in honor of..." The participants added the names of people they were jumping for. The names weren't limited to people with heart problems. The list included cancer survivors, personal heroes, and soldiers deployed to Iraq andAfghanistan .

Every year South Bay students raise between 5,000 and 7,000 dollars. In the biggest donation year, South Bay raised over $11,000!

They're working to top that. Donations are still being accepted for this event through November 12th. You can click here to donate. (Yes, I know it's my son's donation site, but this is my blog and I'm allowed a few shameless plugs. And it is for a good cause.)

Beyond November 12th the American Heart Association could still use your help. You could even organize your own Jump Rope for Heart event.

Congratulations to the kids at South Bay and Rick Mortlock for doing great things for the American Heart Association!

Know a kid or group who deserves to be recognized? Let me know. I love posting about the great things kids do!

Thursday, November 4, 2010


JUADSOL!!!! (Jumping up and down screaming out loud!)

Now that it has been announced in Publisher's Marketplace, it's official and I can announce it to the world:

November 4, 2010

Young Adult

Jennifer Shaw Wolf's debut TIGERSEYE, about a young woman healing from the car crash that killed her boyfriend while hiding the truth of their relationship, to Mary Kate Castellani at Walker, in a nice deal, by Sara Megibow at Nelson Literary Agency (World).

I'm still kind of in shock, but I think this means...
1) People other than my husband/sisters/mother/daughter/friends will be reading my book. TIGERSEYE will be going out into the world!

2) Someone is willing to pay me to write. (Which is the coolest, most incredible thing in the world!)

There are a million thank yous I should make to the people who got me here. These are just a few...

The most amazing husband in the world, my web designer, photographer, and biggest supporter! Love you, David!

My totally amazing agent for picking me out of the slush pile (query her, she's incredible) Sara Megibow and everyone at Nelson Literary.

Mary Kate Castellani and Walker Books for loving my work enough to take it on. I can't wait to work with you!

My awesome sister, Kristin Amrine for her many reads and long phone calls.

My incredible sister-in-law, mentor, coach, editor, and "tough love" advisor author Angela Morrrion.

My inspirational family--my kids, Mom and Dad who taught me that I could do anything, my brothers and sisters-in-law who read for me.

Greatest critique group in the world--Val (totally awesome freelance editor!), Sarah, Blessy, Joan, and Michele (even though she's leaving us to explore the wilds of Costa Rica.)

Ann Gonzales and the writing prompt that made the wheels in my head start to turn.

My darling niece, Ashley who started me on this journey with e-mails like, "Is there any more of the story?" and "Can you write faster?"

And to my writing organizations SCBWI, Western Washington SCBWI, South Sound SCBWI, and ANWA for the support and information!

Okay, I know I'm not receiving an Academy Award, and I know I have a lot of work still ahead of me. I know this is just the beginning. But it's a beginning that is a long way from where I started.

I have a lot to be thankful for.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


I talked to an editor recently who said she doesn't care where a book takes her, as long as it takes her away. WINTERGIRLS by Laurie Halse Anderson, is a book that definitely takes you away. But it's not a journey to a specific place or another time. Reading WINTERGIRLS is like taking a trip inside the mind of a teen aged girl with anorexia.

The book begins when the main character, Lia finds out that her best friend, Cassie, has died alone in a hotel room. Lia and Cassie have been friends since childhood. Their mutual need for acceptance and competition with each other lead both of them to eating disorders--Lia to anorexia and Cassie to bulimia, (ultimately the cause of her death). Although they haven't been close for months, Lia knows that Cassie called her 33 times before she died. Lia is plagued by guilt because she didn't answer Cassie's call, and she feels responsible for Cassie's self-destruction and death.

Lia's hates herself and is "hungry" for her parents' attention. Her self-loathing manifests itself in anorexia and in cutting herself. In Lia's world every food is reduced to it's caloric value, and every bite she takes (or doesn't) is an exercise in self-control and punishment.

The story is told through Lia's thoughts. Her daily battle with food and her parents' apathy is shown by crossed-out words in her stream of consciousness. She's haunted by Cassie's ghost, and shows signs of mental instability that go beyond hunger or guilt-induced visions.

This book is beautiful and poetic. Laurie Halse Anderson is a master of imagery and words. The story is dark, but anorexia and self-mutilation are dark and they are real problems. This leads me to my


The dark subject matter in this story may be disturbing for younger readers, (actually, it would probably be disturbing for anyone who reads it,) but it is heart-breakingly authentic. There were moments when I was reading that I recognized myself in Lia, both now and especially when I was a teenager. I think that the negative self-talk that plagues Lia is typical of many teenagers. (If not most at, least at some point.)

Because it is graphic and dark I would recommend this book for fourteen or fifteen-year-olds and up. Again, know your kid. I told my 12-year-old daughter about WINTERGIRLS and she has no desire to read it, at least not now. However, one of her friends has read this book and loved it.


This is an important book for parents to read with their girls. Just explaining the plot to my daughter brought up a good discussion about eating disorders and the idea of self-mutilation. She didn't even know what anorexia or bulimia was, and honestly I wish it was something I could keep from her forever. Unfortunately, the way things are...

A moment of ranting

At age twelve my daughter is already very aware of body image and the idea of size 0 (she has some very small friends). On a recent shopping trip I literally couldn't find any jeans that were over a size 2 at a popular clothing store. A clerk helped me find larger sizes (and by larger I mean 5s) after I said (loudly) that there were no clothes for real people in that store. The unrealistic ideal that we see in magazines and on TV, I believe, is a big contributor to eating disorders on both ends of the scale--anorexia and obesity. (See my post on Creating Strong Female Characters.) I don't see that image changing anytime soon, so it's important that girls are educated about the dangers of eating disorders and the importance of liking yourself the way you are now.

There's a message in WINTERGIRLS for parents as well about being aware of what is going on in our kids' lives. We all have busy lives, we all have our own issues, but we can never let our children feel like they are invisible. Many of Lia's issues in this book seemed to come from a need to be noticed by her parents. (May I suggest reading and discussing books with your kids as a way to get to know them and strengthen relationships?) As a mom I'm grateful for books like WINTERGIRLS that allow me to open up a discussion with my kids and help them learn a lesson without me always being the teacher.

The dark reality this story paints is a clear vision of the dangers of eating disorders and how much you miss out on or lose when you allow an obsession to rule your life. The hopeful ending shows that there can be a way out, not an easy way out, but there is always hope.

WINTERGIRLS is a powerful read. I highly recommend it. Laurie Halse Anderson is amazing.