Thursday, July 28, 2011

Girlfriend's Cyber Circuit: Starring Jennifer Echols

I'm thrilled to bring you author Jennifer Echols are part of the Girlfriend's Cyber Circuit. Her newest book LOVE STORY (awesome title!) is out now!!! Let's hear more about it!

From Jennifer Echols, the award-winning author of Going Too Far and Forget You, comes LOVE STORY(Gallery Books; July 19, 2011; $11.00), a provocative and powerful story of teen romance, set against the bustling world of a New York City university.

For Erin Blackwell, majoring in creative writing at the New York City college of her dreams is more than a chance to fulfill her ambitions – it’s her ticket away from the tragic memories that shadow her family’s racehorse farm in Kentucky. But when she refuses to major in business and take over the farm herself someday, her grandmother gives Erin’s college tuition and promised inheritance to their maddeningly handsome stable boy, Hunter Allen. Now Erin has to win an internship and work late nights at a local coffee shop to make her own dreams a reality. She should despise Hunter… so why does he sneak into her thoughts as the hero of her latest writing assignment?

Then, on the day she’s sharing that assignment with her class, Hunter walks in. He’s joining her class. And after he reads about himself in her story, her private fantasies about him must be painfully clear. She only hopes to persuade him not to reveal her secret to everyone else. But Hunter devises his own creative revenge, writing sexy stories that drive the whole class wild with curiosity and fill Erin’s heart with longing. Now she’s not just imagining what might have been. She’s writing a whole new ending for her romance with Hunter… except this story could come true.

“A tremendously talented writer with a real gift for developing relationships.”
– Romantic Times Magazine

And here's more about Jennifer!

JENNIFER ECHOLS is the author of teen romantic dramas for MTV Books and teen romantic comedies for Simon Pulse. She lives in Birmingham, Alabama, with her family. Please visit her online at

WOW!!! I'm totally stoked for this one! Everyone, pick up your copy of LOVE STORY today!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Girlfriend's Cyber Circuit: Starring Melissa Walker

Today I'm so excited to feature friend and author Melissa Walker! Her new book, SMALL TOWN SINNERS, is available now. Check out this awesome cover!

“A devilishly good read.” —Lauren Myracle, NY Times bestselling author of Shine


New York (Winter 2011)— Inspired by an article on Hell Houses (haunted houses of sin) she wrote for ELLEgirl magazine, journalist Melissa Walker set out to delve deeper into the culture of this phenomenon, as well as the community that creates them. The result: Small Town Sinners (July), a universal story of first love and finding your voice set against the backdrop of extreme religion. This thought-provoking, touching story of faith in family, friends and self will have readers endlessly talking about and sharing this break-out novel.

“I was so intrigued by the small town I traveled to and the warmth of all the teenagers I met, plus their obvious passion for this production, that I had to revisit that world,” said Walker.

Hell Houses are often run by fundamentalist Christian churches and emphasize the belief that anyone who does not accept Christ as their personal savior is condemned to Hell. The way they often work is that a script is written covering a variety of sins each of which is performed within its own vignette in its own room in the house. A guide leads the visitors through each room acting as narrator. The performances have a controversial tone focusing on issues such as abortion, suicide, drinking and drug use, premarital sex, and homosexuality. Hell Houses usually take place in the fall.

Small Town Sinners is the story of Lacey Anne, daughter of the pastor and perennial good girl, who is eligible for a lead role in the season’s Hell House production—a role she’s been coveting for years. But when Ty moves to town as casting begins, a new perspective is added to Lacey Anne’s world and she starts to see her tight-knit, Evangelical community in a different light. With the help of her two best friends Starla Joy and Dean, and her potential first love Ty, Lacey Anne begins exploring her own thoughts and feelings about her religion, her community, and her place within both. While this novel deals with provocative issues like religion, teen pregnancy and underage drinking, it is not an “issue” book; the topics are masterfully interwoven into this story of friendship and family.

Early readers agree:

“Small Town Sinners shines a light on the fascinating world of the teenage Hell House. Sit back and let Melissa Walker be your guide. She writes without a shred of judgment and plenty of heart.” —Dana Reinhardt, author of A Brief Chapter of My Impossible Life

“Walker is sympathetic and respectful of her characters’ faith, while putting on display the shocking extremist scare tactics that make Hell Houses, well, hellish.” —Donna Freitas, author of This Gorgeous Game and The Possibilities of Sainthood.

“A non-judgmental, nuanced, fascinating look at the teenage religious right… Walker writes an outstanding contemporary novel with a cast of characters who, far from being portrayed as hateful zealots, are relatable for readers of all faiths. The extremism of Hell House is tempered by the perfectly understandable attitudes and intentions of Lacey Anne, who struggles with what it means to grow up, to question and to think for herself.” –Romantic Times

“Both tender and provocative… Walker creates an astutely balanced portrait of a conservative congregation’s in-your-face response to perennial issues of domestic abuse, teen pregnancy, and suicide, as well as of those who struggle to fit the prescribed Christian mold.” –Publishers Weekly

“This secular story about religious people could easily devolve into camp mockery, but because Walker takes her character’s crisis of faith seriously and sensitively, readers will, too.” –Kirkus Reviews

And also in the NYTimes Book Review

MELISSA WALKER: Melissa has worked as ELLEgirl Features Editor and Seventeen Prom Editor. She is the author of the Violet on the Runway series as well as Lovestruck Summer. Melissa manages I Heart Daily, an e-newsletter and blogs for ReaderGirlz, an online community for teens.

You can check out The Apple Challenge HERE for your chance to win!

SMALL TOWN SINNERS is available now! Pick up your copy today!!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Summer 2011 SCBWI Pre-Conference Interview: Julie Strauss-Gabel

In another SCBWI Team Blog exclusive, I'm here with the incredible Julie Strauss-Gabel. I had the opportunity to chat with her in a pre-conference interview for the Annual Summer Conference in LA!

Let's learn more:

Julie Strauss-Gabel is the Vice President and Publisher of Dutton Children’s Books, a small middle grade and young adult fiction list (Please note that Dutton no longer acquires picture books.) A graduate of Amherst College and Harvard University, Julie worked at Hyperion Books for Children and Clarion Books before joining Dutton in 1992. Her authors include: Ally Condie (Matched), Gayle Forman (If I Stay, Where She Went), Adam Gidwitz (A Tale Dark & Grimm), John Green (Looking for Alaska, Paper Towns), Nina LaCour (Hold Still), Lauren Myracle (the Winnie Years series), Stephanie Perkins (Anna and the French Kiss), and Nova Ren Suma (Imaginary Girls). (From SCBWI website)

I got a chance to interview Julie Strauss-Gabel about the upcoming conference:

What advice can you offer first time attendees on how to select the right workshops for them?

Pick the opportunities that are both for the writer you are and the author/professional you hope to become, being realistic about what you really need now or in the near future. I think it’s important to mix in some attention to craft, not just focus on selling. All that said, this is a special opportunity that doesn’t come along often, so make time for someone you’ve always wanted to hear speak, or take a chance on a new topic.

What topics will you touch on in your talk?

I’m looking forward to talking with a lot of people about the talented authors I’m working with and the list I’m building at Dutton. It’s been an exciting few months as Dutton moves into a small, fiction only list, and it’s nice to have the opportunity to be back with so many friends at the LA SCBWI Summer Conference to talk about it.

The LA SCBWI Summer Conference has a great mix of writers. What do you think newly published authors can gain from attending a conference?

Especially at a conference this big, I think writers at every level can find information and inspiration. Not only is it a great opportunity to take your craft to the next level (everyone is always learning and getting better . . . that never stops), but also to pick up some knowledge about marketing and the business overall. And the personal connections you will make with other writers is so, so important; it’s probably the best thing about the conference.

There you have it! Yet another reason to attend!! Thank you so much to Julie Strauss-Gabel and I hope to see all of you at the conference!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Summer 2011 SCBWI Pre-Conference Interview: Steven Malk

As part of my pre-conference coverage for SCBWI's Summer Conference, I got a chance to interview fantastic agent Steven Malk of Writers House. Here's more about him:

Steven Malk is the third generation of his family to be involved in children’s books, as both his mother and grandmother owned children’s bookstores. He opened a West Coast office for Writers House in 1998, and represents a wide range of authors and illustrators, including Jon Scieszka, Lane Smith, Marla Frazee, Kadir Nelson, Sara Pennypacker, Jennifer Donnelly, Brett Helquist, Sonya Sones, Adam Rex, Deborah Wiles, and Cynthia Rylant, among others. (from SCBWI's website)

I was lucky enough to interview Steven about the upcoming conference:

Are you doing any manuscript critiques this year? If so, what can an author expect in terms of feedback?

I will be doing critiques this year. I do my best to provide constructive feedback to the author about his or her work, both from a strictly editorial perspective and also in terms of how the work fits into the market from an agent's perspective. I really believe that the best editorial conversations are a dialogue, so I always hope for some back and forth in the critique session and try to ask questions that hopefully get the author to think of his or her work in new ways. My goal is for the author to take my comments, think about them carefully, and use them as a springboard to really dig in and build on my feedback in a way that will result in the best revision possible.

The SCBWI Summer Conference is a great way to meet perspective agents. Have you ever met a client through a conference or after-conference submission?

I've been fortunate to have met lots of talented people at the conference over the years, and a few of them have ended up becoming clients. At one of my very first conferences, I met Sonya Sones after one of my talks. She introduced herself and then sent me her manuscript, STOP PRETENDING, right after the conference. I'll never forget reading the whole thing in one sitting and being completely blown away. At that same conference, I met Bruce Hale, who submitted the first book in his CHET GECKO series to me following the conference. And, finally, I critiqued Stephanie Hemphill at the conference. She submitted the poems that eventually formed the foundation for her first book, THINGS LEFT UNSAID. Stephanie's gone on to write several well-loved books and she won a Printz Honor for YOUR OWN, SYLVIA.

What advice can you give first-time attendees in terms of making the most of their conference experience?

I think the key to making the most of the conference experience is to go in with an enthusiastic but relaxed attitude and not to put too much pressure on yourself. Sometimes, I think people go in with very specific goals to the point that they feel the conference will be a failure if they don't talk to a certain person or get a request from an agent or editor. And that's not the case at all. The more important thing is to just soak up as much as you can and relish the chance to be around so many people who love children's/middle-grade/YA books as much as you do. The most important and useful piece of information you pick up at the conference might come from a speech you hear or a critique you get or even just from an informal conversation in the lobby with a fellow writer or illustrator. If you can go into the conference just expecting to have fun and learn as much as you can, you won't be disappointed and you'll keep coming back year after year.

Wow, amazing right?? Thank you so much, Steven! And everyone, I'll see you in just a few weeks!!


Friday, July 1, 2011

Summer 2011 SCBWI Pre-Conference Interview: Alessandra Balzer

The SCBWI Summer Conference in LA is just around the corner, and to give you more behind the scenes action, Team Blog is conducting pre-conference interviews. Today I'm here with Alessandra Balzer:

Alessandra Balzer is the Vice President, Co-Publisher of Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Children’s Books. She edits everything from picture books to novels for teens. Among the authors and illustrators she is fortunate enough to work with are Candace Bushnell, Doreen Cronin, Stephanie Hemphill, Gordon Korman, Patty McCormick, Bob Shea, and Mo Willems. Recent projects include the #1 New York Times bestseller Knuffle Bunny Free: An Unexpected Diversion, the National Indie bestseller The Trouble with Chickens: A JJ Tully Mystery, and the New York Times bestselling Carrie Diaries series. (From SCBWI's website)

I got a chance to interview Alessandra Balzer about what you can expect from this summer's conference:

1.) What do you think authors can learn from editors when attending a SCBWI conference?

I think they can get terrific, straightforward feedback about the publishing and the editorial process. I also love hearing people’s stories about their experiences or their career paths—it can be so inspiring. Authors should come prepared with lots of questions. They’ll also learn about editors’ tastes and what they are looking for.

2.) What will be the focus of your workshop, and do you think it’s best suited for published or aspiring authors?

My workshop will reveal the key secret to publishing that has been protected by editors for centuries...kidding! Sadly there is no one secret. I’m going to debunk some myths that authors have probably heard about the publishing process and be very honest about the process that editors go through in-house for acquisition, and what my particular imprint (Balzer + Bray) is looking for. I’ll also leave lots of time for questions--that’s often the most useful part for writers. It’s probably best suited for aspiring writers and published writers who are just starting out.

3.) Is there any advice you can give writers on how to reach out to editors or agents they’ve met through SCBWI?

Most editors work in publishing houses that do not accept unsolicited manuscripts. But usually the presenters will be willing to accept submissions from attendees for a short period of time. They will normally detail that in their presentation and if they do not, authors should ask. I’m sure Lin, Sara, or Kim will have a good idea if you can’t find it out through your session.

So there you have it! Yet another reason to attend this year's conference!! You can check out more interviews and insights at the conference home page. Hope to see you this summer!!!