Saturday, April 30, 2011

We caught the bunny, snavelled his eggs and announced winners!

We have winners to announce! 

After double checking entries and the  YAtopia hiding spots, winners were drawn at random. And the lucky bunnies are:

1st Prize (2 chapters & query critic) - Kate Larkindale

Runners up (query critic)  - Carol Holaday, Kate (Kate Wanders) & Beck.

Winners send your materials to to claim your prize.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Recurring Literary Devices

With a plethora of literature at hand, it’s hard to stay original. It’s easy to fall into the tried and true. I sometimes find myself being overcritical of a book that I would have enjoyed without much thought a few years ago (before I picked up the pen myself). I sort of miss those days. Now there are certain literary devices which stand out to me as I read a story. I don’t mean cliché plotlines, I’m talking about small things. They’re not bad or wrong in any way, I just see them often and wonder if they could have been done differently.

Here are two I notice frequently:

- The main character is lost in expository thought and the other character who’s present has to snap their fingers in front of the MC’s face and say, “Hellooooo! Earth to so-and-so. Are you in there?” (It’s the finger snapping that gets me.)

- A character thinks something in their head and another character responds, making the first character blush and realize they accidentally said it out loud. (I see this so much that I wonder if it happens to a lot of people in real life? It’s never happened to me. You?)

Are there certain literary devices which stand out to you while you read a book, or am I just a weirdo for noticing? (Don’t answer that.) Or how about nifty devices that you use (or avoid) as you write?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Pitch with Natalie Winners!!

So - this wasn't easy. It wasn't easy at all. We had awesome entries. As a group, it was so difficult to go through and get it down to a list of 20 for Natalie. It was even harder for her to get it down to her overall winners. Thank you once again for participating in this pitch contest. Keep checking in because we'll be hosting more and more!

So, without further ado...we have our three winners.

In no particular order...


The Hungry Ground

Program 13

Congratulations!!! You have won the chance to submit your query, synopsis and first ten pages to Natalie herself. Just email me (chanelle(@)chanellegray(dot)com) for her email address and instructions on how to submit.

A few people wanted to know if we would publish our top 20. We saw no reason why we couldn't. And here they are (again in no particular order)...

Prison Nation
Edge of Reality
My Life in Nicknames
Note to Self
Program 13
Saving Elizabeth
The Glass Prince
Without a Song
One Last Time
Sit Tight, Take Hold
The Hungry Ground
Arthur and the Washing Machine...
Fear Itself
Shadow Watchers

Thanks again!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A High School Cafeteria's Complicated Dynamic

There's at least one cafeteria scene in most YA books, which makes sense because many of the more complicated teen social intricacies call the high school cafeteria home. I think it's important for YA writers to remember how important this scene is to teen life - and to remember the complicated dynamic involved. 

I had almost forgotten what the high school cafeteria was like until the other day when I ate in my workplace's cafeteria. (I usually work nights so it's quite different during the day.) At my work, every single employee - from the Big Man to the janitor - eats in the cafeteria. I sat watching them one day and realized how many similarities there are to the high school scene.

One department is made up of mostly good-looking females - these are definitely like the nice popular girls in HS. They have perfect hair and pretty shoes and (almost) everyone wishes they could sit at their table. If someone who "doesn't belong" sits there, they may toss out a polite question or two but then an awkward silence falls over the table until lunch is over.

Then there are the higher-up level managers, like the boys who run the school - except these guys literally run things. They can dress how they want, talk to whomever they want, say what they want. Because what they do defines what is cool for everyone else.

And the mean girls? They're definitely there. Like the ones who cheated off of you in biology but refused to acknowledge your presence outside of the classroom, these chicks will bat their eyelashes and ask for a favor - but in the lunch room? You may as well be one of the uncomfortable chairs.

These are the ones that hurt the most: The ones who used to work/hang out with you; you've joked with them and spent a lot of time together. Then they "moved up." Now they give you a guilty half-smile or nod while they pass right by your table to go sit with one of the groups mentioned above.

And then there's me. The new girl. Again. Sitting alone in the corner. Hoping someone will show some interest, invite me to sit at their table or even ditch their usual group to sit with me.

But they don't.

(And here's the difference between now and High School: I understand why.) Because they're afraid. What if he invites me to sit with his friends and I'm really weird and he'll forever be known as the one who invited that weird girl to sit with them? What if I turn out to be way cooler than her (pssh!) and I become the queen bee of the group?

So when writing about this complicated dynamic, it's important to remember to think about everyone's motivations - even if you don't spell them out for the reader. 

What "table" did you belong to in high school?

Monday, April 25, 2011


I'm incredibly sad having found out that my beloved TokyoPop is going out of business. Unfortunately it was something I've seen coming for years: manga and anime became so explosively huge in America. Companies popped up left and right to translate the stuff and soon, the market was so over-saturated that target audiences just couldn't keep up!

(I also think fansubs and fandubs had a lot to do with it. Fans translate from Japanese to English in their spare time and post it online for free and... well, how can the companies compete with that?)

But anyway. My main point was over-saturation. Agents and editors are saying the young adult market is over-saturated with vampires, werewolves, ghosts and - more recently - dystopic worlds, among various other things.

Does this mean if you have a book featuring any of the above, you aren't going to land an agent/publisher for it?

That depends. It will be harder, but if you have an original voice and a unique twist on things, something that sets your book apart from the thirty million others out there, you have a chance. (But isn't that true with any book subject?)

I've also been thinking (read: worrying) a lot about this because I'm nearing completion of the first draft of my new book which features... yeah, vampires. (And witches.)

Knowing such a book was going to be an uphill battle to find an agent for, then why bother writing it? Because it's the story I felt needed to be told. And I feel (hope?) the voice of my narrator/MC is distinct enough, fun enough, unique enough that her story will catch someone's eye and they'll love it as much as I do. (I won't ever write for trends, nor will I avoid writing something because I think others won't like it. I want a readership, yes, but above all else, I write the stories the little voices in my brain demand that I write. ;) )

For those of you out there sick of any particular YA trend, be it the blood-sucking variety, or shape-shifting, angels, demons, etc, what would make you stop and pick up a book anyway? What would catch your eye on a tired trend?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Moody Moody Moods

Let's face it; people are moody. If we all wore mood rings, the rings would change colors so often the rings would be rendered useless. When it's all sunny and shiny outside, we get in the mood to be active, to smile, to frolic in the sunniness. When it's gloom and doom outside, our moods usually mirror that and all we feel motivated to do is sit inside and watch a movie, or write depressing songs. Our moods like to dictate what we do and what we feel like doing.

Lately, I haven't been in the mood to read. Weird, huh? I also haven't really been in the mood to write. I'm starting a new project and I think that's mostly why. I hate writing the beginning of a story, so I'm usually never motivated to work on it. If I'm not in the mood, I don't want to sit at the computer and force something. I've tried doing that in the past and I wasn't happy nor were my characters. Thankfully, though, I think my mood is changing and I'll be invested in my new project again soon. :-)

How do you all cure "bad moods"? Do you like to just take a break and come back later to whatever it is you're not in the mood to be doing?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Easter Egg Hunt with critique prizes!

We're celebrating Easter with an Easter Egg Hunt! It starts today and runs until Monday April 25.

Hidden on a page of DJ's Life in Fiction, Leigh's blog, Beyond Words, Wendy Higgins Writes, Down Under Wonderings, Sarah's website, Kelley's blog and Flowers for a Ghost, are Easter eggs --->

Search through the blogs and websites looking for these little critters. Make sure you take note of the page you've found the egg on. Then fill out the form below with the details. Each egg found equals an entry so the more eggs you find, the more chances you have of winning. You must be a follower of YAtopia to enter.

So what are you hunting for? The winner will receive a critique on the first two chapters of their novel and a query critique.

Three runners up will receive query critiques from one of our members.

So get your virtual baskets ready and get hunting! Hop to it!

Monday, April 18, 2011

In the ZONE

I'm really close to finishing the first draft of my WIP. Like so close I can taste it. It's dangling right out of reach, the tips of my fingers brushing against it and there's nothing I want more than to grab on tight and not let go. Right now I eat, sleep, drink and breathe my books. It's all I think about. In fact, I had a pretty sleepless night because I kept running scenes through my head.

And it's Always. Like. This.

Not 24/7, mind you, but with every book I write, when I get so close to the end, I am so in the zone that I don't want to do anything else but work on my book. No matter what book I've written, the end is always my time. I'm not saying the ends aren't usually the part of the book where I do more editing because, yeah--they are. My fingers get going too fast, my mind speeds up and makes for some funny sentences when I'm doing my re-read, but I can't help it. The end is my time. Everything myself and my characters have worked SO hard for is just waiting for us to grasp it. It's a pretty cool feeling.

If you're a writer, is there a specific part of your books where you're always, "in the zone?"

If you don't write, apply it anything else in your life. Not so good at homework, but totally find your stride during tests? Get all your work done early in your shift so your afternoons you don't have to go so crazy?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Pardon My Rant

(Pitch Contest with Natalie Fischer is below - Go Enter!)
This has been one of those weeks, so please excuse me while I diverge from the usual path for a moment of literary ranting.
I love the internet. Truly I do. There’s an endless store of information and countless opportunities to be found. But lately I’m having issues with book reviews and rating systems at online sites such as amazon and goodreads.
Have you ever loved a book, only to see it bashed in reviews? I’m not talking about well-balanced blog reviews with fair treatment of the positives and negatives. I’m talking about anonymous reviewers who spout off about how it’s the worst writing ever and the main character is a complete Mary Sue, and anyone who likes the book is just tasteless. Unfounded reviews that don’t support their opinions, or they attempt to present their opinion as fact. Or the worst kind, where the reviewer tears down a book and gets information wrong!
I recently read one by a man who had a historical time-travel romance put in his hands as “light summer reading” by the used book store clerk. Let’s just say it was not his preferred genre, but he was under the impression it was a history novel. He proceeded to shred the author most unkindly about the romance scenes and unbelievability of the time travel, all elements paramount to the genre which I thought were well done (plus he got facts wrong, grr!).
Any Joe Schmoe can login and type. But I think we need to remember these books are the livelihood of their authors. People are affected by the things we say about their work, so I feel it’s our responsibility to be fair and thoughtful. I appreciate honest, balanced reviews. The beauty of literature is that there’s something out there for everybody. Just because something’s not your cup of tea does not mean those who enjoy it should be deemed sub-literary.
Let’s be mature about this, shall we? Don’t make me stick my tongue out at you.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Pitch Contest with Natalie Fischer!

Hello guys. I have another amazing opportunity for you. Fantastic agent, Natalie Fischer of Bradford Lit agency, is going to be hosting this round of pitch contest! And some of you lucky people will get the chance to submit to Natalie after... (she's currently closed to submissions).

To see what a recent interview with Natalie and to find out her likes, visit here. The only difference from the other pitch contests is that us YAtopians will choose our top 20 to give to Natalie who will then pick her winners from that.

Don't miss out on this great opportunity! Of course, there are guidelines and rules... Pretty much the same as before, but we'll go through them again.

1) Be a follower of the blog.

2) Blog about this contest and include a link with your entry. If you don't have a blog, you may tweet or make a facebook status. But we prefer blog.

3) Create a TWO SENTENCE pitch. And not a massively long run-on sentence either. Two concise sentences that will hook Natalie to your book and have her desperate to read more.

4) Include the opening line of your manuscript.

5) Manuscripts that you submit should be completed. I leave it up to you whether you decide to submit a half finished manuscript. You'll have to deal with it SHOULD Natalie request you send her the full.

6) This contest will be capped at either 150 entries OR will end midnight on the 21st April.

7) Winners to be announced (along with prizes) on 28th April.

8) Any age any genre accepted!

Good luck! Contest is open NOW. Use the form below and I wish you all luck. Oh, and feel free to ask me ANY questions :D Entries to be posted in the comments of this post.

Story Name:
Blog/Twitter/Facebook link:
2 Sentence Pitch:
Opening sentence:

EDIT: People are asking whether they can submit more than one entry. At the moment, the answer is no. One entry per person. HOWEVER, if by Thursday during the day (contest will end at midnight on Thursday) there still aren't 150 entries, feel free to enter more pitches on that day only. I hope this explains everything.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Self Publishing: Educate yourself, then make a decision

Working on my new project (not much on the site yet, but there will be in the next two weeks) combined with so many agents and editors blogging about the topic recently has got me thinking a lot about self-publishing lately.

(To be clear, I've been thinking about in the general sense, not thinking about it in the I-want-to-do-it sense.)

This picture really doesn't have much to do with my post...

The ease and rise of self-publishing has put our industry in somewhat of an (long, slow) uproar. There are many questions still to be answered: How is the reader supposed to know what's worth their time and money? Is this the beginning of the end for traditional publishing? Is there still value in going the traditional (legacy) route?

And the number one question on many writers' minds: Is self-publishing right for me?

I know our YAtopian readers are all pretty savvy, knowledgeable people so I'm probably preaching to the choir on this one, but I just want to encourage all writers out there to learn about the industry before making this decision.

I spoke to a man a few weekends ago who began telling me about the book he is publishing. He said he decided to self-publish because he wanted to keep all the profit for himself and maintain control over his work. After about two minutes, it became apparent he knew absolutely nothing about the book-publishing industry (e.g. he asked me what a literary agent does). This, in my opinion, is one of the major problems with the prevalence self-publishing: if anyone can do it, anyone will do it.

Though I'm pursuing the traditional route, I'm not against self-publishing as a rule. I think it can be the right decision for a lot of people, depending on individual goals, situations and talents. But I also think it's the wrong decision for many more people who simply don't know any better. I've heard too many heart-breaking stories about self-publishing gone bad.

If you're thinking about self-publishing (or heck, even if you're thinking about pursuing traditional publishing), I'm begging you to learn as much as you can about how the book industry works. Not only will it help you make a decision that shouldn't be made lightly, the knowledge will help protect and guide you once you choose a path.

I know that learning about the industry is hard and sometimes confusing and it takes a lot of time. But you've spent a lot of time working on that manuscript; don't you think it deserves you spending just a little more time to make sure it doesn't die a slow and painful death?

If you're in this boat, here are some resources to help you get started:  (and I'm sure some of our lovely readers will post a few of their favorites in the comments. *hint.hint* )

Monday, April 11, 2011

Accents, Slang and Dialect

Congrats to me! I managed to hit my weekly word goal for last week, surpassing 50k. All right. Pat me on the back.

Anyway! Along with this writing-tastic weekend, I also started - and finished - Carrie Ryan's THE DEAD-TOSSED WAVES. Seeing as she's one of my current fave authors, I fell all over this book and absolutely loved it. Hardbacks are really not in my book-buying budget, but I think I'll need to cave and buy THE DARK AND HOLLOW PLACES. I'm too eager to get my hands on it!

After finishing THE DEAD-TOSSED WAVES, I started in on another book I purchased. I'm only a few chapters in, as it didn't grab and hold my attention enough that I've flown through it. While the concept is fascinating to me, there's something that keeps yanking me out of the story: Slang.

I don't mean our modern-day slang, but made-up slang as the book takes place in the future. A lot of the terms and words used are so foreign to any reader because they're all made up.

Now, I'm a fan of reading/hearing new terms used to match a certain time period or world (thinking of Firefly and some of its terminology, or even something like Harry Potter), but there's something about this particular book wherein the use of it is just yaking me out of the story and making me have to think about it at times. I'm still trying to figure out if it's just the writing style that isn't jiving with me, or if, perhaps, the over-use of such terms are making it difficult to get into. Time will tell as I get further into the book.

Along this same vein are accents. There's a very thin line when wanting to portray in writing a particular accent without going overboard. Personally, I do just fine if an author slips in there that a given character has a given accent. From then on, I can picture their dialogue being spoken in such an accent. Having every little word written out phonetically can be a big headache.

There are a ton of interesting articles on accents and dialect if you turn to your friend, Google.

What do you guys prefer? Slang, no slang? Slang but only if it's made-up to fit the world around it? Accents or no accents?

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Sharing Is Caring...Or Not

I'm all for sharing crayons, markers, pencils, and other various objects people may need to use at some point or other. But when it comes to my writing, I'm very shy about it and don't tend to let other people it until it's "done", which, as many of us know, is never. I do have a critique partner and two or three friends who act as beta readers, but those are about the only people I let read my stories.

Most of my issue with sharing is that I don't want people to read something I'm not entirely happy with. If I don't think a certain scene is working, I won't move on until it's just right and when it is I feel so much better about it. That's when I let my critique partner and beta readers read a section. If I'm not happy, then I'm going to make darn sure I am an hour or two later, haha. It's exhausting to be a perfectionist sometimes.

The other part of my issue stems from the fact that I'm just shy about my writing. I know I'm not a great writer, as I'm still learning/growing, but I do think I'm a good writer. Despite this, though, I'm always worrying about what people will think of my style/voice, which I shouldn't do because not everyone is going to like the way I write/what I write. Being a book blogger has taught me that.

I do want to start opening up, though, because I know I'm missing out on some great feedback by holding my writing away from others. I'll at least start letting my family read my stuff. They haven't even read Hunted yet! That's how lame I am, haha.

Does anyone else have issues with sharing or is it just me?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

One small step

Let's replace "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind" with "One small step for a publisher, one giant leap for Sharon."

Okay, I'm still buzzed, even though my news is not as giant as some of my other YAtopia pals. My novel Mishca is still waiting to be snapped up, but my short story Growth has been selected to appear in the Australian Literary Review's anthology The Basics of Life.

What does it mean for me? 4% of the profits - um that's not what got me excited. But having something of mine deemed to be worthy of publication, that kinda got me going. In fact, if got me jumping around the house exclaiming "I'm going to be a published author, I'm going to be a published author!"

Gave my family a bit of a fright when I came tearing out of the bedroom. Yes, you guessed it, I am an easily excitable and optimistic person. I believe from little things big things grow.

I also know that the news helped me get over my writer's block that I was having since my dad died last year. The irony - the story is about him.

If you look at one of my previous YAtopia posts you can read The First Night Without You Here, which is accounts how it felt for me coming to my parents house after finding out Dad had died and coping with looking after my mum, who had just lost her best friend of 40 years. Writing helps me deal and Growth helped me deal with the news that he had terminal cancer.

Since the news I have finished Karma, another short story that I plan on expanded into a novel, and my head is buzzing with ideas for my WIP. The fact that my husband just got me a new battery for my laptop means beach writing sessions are back, and I'm so jazzed about that!

So don't forget, if you're writing there are many ways to get your work out there. It doesn't always start with a book deal from a major publisher. That may happen after you establish yourself in other ways.

Have fun writing!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

200+ Followers Giveaway Winners!

First, I just want to thank everyone who entered and shared the 200+ Followers Giveaway with their friends! There were way more entries than I expected!

Without further ado, the five winners are:

Congratulations! I've emailed the winners and they've chosen their prizes. Just a reminder, the prizes were:

  • A signed copy of THE SHIFTER by Janice Hardy
  • SPEAK and WINTERGIRLS by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • One of two pair of earrings hand-made by Sarah. (You can check out her Etsy shop for examples of her work!)
Thanks for celebrating with us!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Tuesday Twaddle - Baby Steps

The emotional roller coaster that is getting a book published never ceases to amaze me.  I got my box of ARCs last week and I was so excited that I practically assaulted the poor UPS man, and I dare say he'll think twice about delivering items to the girl who meets him at the door with a giant smile and an iPhone recording his arrival.  I saw the look of sheer terror in his eye and he turned to flee, poor fella, how could he have know that box he carried so leisurely contained my precious babies.

Yes, I ripped open the box and delighted in the arrival of my book. Yes!! MY BOOK!!!

It was with great trepidation that I sent my babies off into the world to shuffle their first awkward steps towards their dreams... my dreams.  But shuffle they did, and they found their way into the hands of some amazing people.  Now the reviews are starting to come in.  I've been sitting biting my nails at my laptop, waiting to pounce on any morsel of feedback.  I'm both terrified and excited to hear what people have to say.  It's like going to your child's first parent / teacher conference.  You're gasping to hear that your child is well rounded, pleasant, outgoing, and shows all the signs of being a prodigy.  But then, your sort of expecting hear, she's a dear child, but really, she could try harder.

Aghhhh! The reviews are starting to trickle in, and the signs are good... VERY good.  Watch this space!

Oh and while I'm on, I've posted my author tracker in the side bar.  I'd love if you could sign up for it.  If you do you'll be one of the first to hear all the exciting news and info on competitions or events. So go for it!!

Until next time.


Monday, April 4, 2011

Connecting with Characters

So, three weeks ago today, I started a new work in progress. I've been keeping track of my progress and on this book's three week anniversary, I'm at 28k words and I could be much higher if it wasn't for RL roadblocking me.

That's a lot.

I usually don't write that fast.

I swear.

Part of it is I'm really determined to finish this book. I gave myself a weekly word count goal, date to finish, yada yada. While I know that's a big part of it because I'm one of those crazy, obsessive people who can't stand not to meet a goal or a deadline, I know that's not the only reason this book is flowing so well for me. Do you want to know what that reason is? Well, I hope so because I'm going to tell ya.

It's because this book is really close to my heart.

We all hear the "write what you know" thing and while I think we should all write what we DON'T know once in a while, I happen to be going through some of the same things as the main character in my book right now. I've gone though them for a portion of my life and I'm actually working through some of it at the same time Annabel is.

We're on the same wavelength right now. Riding some of the same fears and excitement and it makes the book really click for me. I understand how she feels in a way I've not always felt with some characters.

It's pretty darn awesome.

If you write, have you ever written a book where you're dealing with some of the same things as your main character? Did it help?

If you're not a writer, are there times you're dealing with something and you LOOK for books with characters dealing with the same situation to help you get through it? Are there certain characters you've really connected with?

Friday, April 1, 2011

Query Critic Winner and news on Jeyn Roberts

Drum roll please..... Morgan is the lucky winner of our query critic competition with amazing debut author Jeyn Roberts!

Speaking of Jeyn, she has made Bolonga literary news. Read more about it here.

Congrats Morgan and thanks Jeyn for letting yourself be roped into helping a fellow author.