Thursday, June 28, 2012


While you're reading this post I am currently on the road, driving 12 hours to Oregon! It's where we're from and we have a ton of friends there who we haven't seen in about six years! Obviously we're super excited. These are the people I grew up with. People who I spent all my time with from about twelve years-old until we moved here when I was twenty-four.


I'm trying to make myself forget the MOUNTAIN of work I have to do. The proposal waiting for me to write it (YAY) and the edits on two books waiting for me to finish them and have FUN.

I'm not always good at forgetting my work. LOL. I have this big issue about letting work wait and I start to feel pressured and like I'm going to get behind.

So... tell me to relax, k? LOL. This trip is about FUN. The work isn't going anywhere.

Oh! And something else really exciting. When I get back it will be one month until SCBWI. Wendy Higgins, Jolene Perry and Stephanie Campbell and I are rooming together and Jolene will be at my house a few days before the conference. Can't wait! LOVE spending time with writing friends.

Are you taking a vacation this summer? Where are you going? Attending any conferences?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Guestopia: Elana Johnson

On the 26th of every of month, we feature a guest blogger, who can write about any topic related to books, reading, writing, or teens. Go here for more information.

Music that Inspired the Writing—Crush by David Archuleta
A guest post by Elana Johnson

Okay, so along with a ton of other people, I love David Archuleta. Not only is he from my home state of Utah and I’ve met him in person, but he’s a fabulous singer. One of my favorite songs of his is Crush.

It’s just filled with exactly the right emotion for young adults. And as an author who’s quite a bit older than a young adult, I’m always trying to find ways to tap into my inner teen.

So in SURRENDER, there are two narrating characters. They’re each matched to someone else, but they have a little crush on each other. For Gunner, he’s been crushing on Raine for a quite a while now.

For Raine, everything is brand new. She’s never really thought about Gunn that way before, until they sneak out together at night—something completely against the rules of their society.

Then she’s thrown right into the emotions we hear in David Archuleta’s “Crush.”

Do you ever think
When you're all alone
All that we could be?
Where this thing could go?
Am I crazy or falling in love?
Is it real or just another crush?
Do you catch a breath
When I look at you?
Are you holding back
Like the way I do?
'Cause I'm trying, trying to walk away
But I know this crush ain't going

When Raine has those quiet moments, she keeps thinking of Gunner. She can’t help but wonder if he’s thinking of her too. She wonders if he’s holding back the way she is, just like the lyrics say. It’s the perfect song for her developing crush on Gunner in SURRENDER.

Thus, whenever I was working on their relationship, Crush was the first song to be played for that writing session. It truly inspired the writing of SURRENDER.

Are you a David Archuleta fan? What are some of your favorite literary crushes? 

Elana's work including POSSESSION, REGRET, and SURRENDER is available from Simon & Schuster wherever books are sold. She is the author of From the Query to the Call, an ebook that every writer needs to read before they query, which can be downloaded for free on her website. She runs a personal blog on publishing and is a founding author of the QueryTracker blog. She blogs regularly at The League of Extraordinary Writers, co-organizes WriteOnCon, and is a member of SCBWI, ANWA and LDStorymakers.

She wishes she could experience her first kiss again, tell the mean girl where to shove it, and have cool superpowers like reading minds and controlling fire. To fulfill her desires, she writes young adult science fiction and fantasy.

Blog. Twitter. Facebook.

Raine has always been a good girl. She lives by the rules in Freedom. After all, they are her father’s rules: He’s the Director. It’s because of him that Raine is willing to use her talent—a power so dangerous, no one else is allowed to know about it. Not even her roommate, Vi.

All of that changes when Raine falls for Gunner. Raine’s got every reason in the world to stay away from Gunn, but she just can’t. Especially when she discovers his connection to Vi’s boyfriend, Zenn.

Raine has never known anyone as heavily brainwashed as Vi. Raine’s father expects her to spy on Vi and report back to him. But Raine is beginning to wonder what Vi knows that her father is so anxious to keep hidden, and what might happen if she helps Vi remember it. She’s even starting to suspect Vi’s secrets might involve Freedom’s newest prisoner, the rebel Jag Barque….

Purchase Surrender here.

Last, but definitely not least, Elana is having an ebook giveaway this week!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, June 25, 2012

New Adult Pitch Contest Announcement!

At YAtopia, we’re all about Young Adult lit. But we’re also really excited about this New Adult category that’s been popping up. (Read Sarah’s case for NA here.)

That’s why we’ve invited super literary agent Sara Megibow and the awesome Heather Howland (Managing Editor at Entangled Publishing) to help us host a New Adult Pitch Contest! The rules and details are below.

Please note. To hopefully avoid some confusion: Sara is the literary agent judging the contest. Sarah is the YAtopian moderating the contest.

What is NA?

This post at Writer’s Digest by Kristan Hoffman sums it up nicely. So you should just go ahead and read that. We’ll wait.


UPDATE: Your manuscript must be complete, polished, and ready to query!
At midnight (00:01) on July 10th (EST, like all of our contests here), the official pitch contest post will go up at To enter the contest, you must post the following information as a comment on that post before 11:59 PM on July 10th. The pitch contest will be closed if 100 entries are submitted, no matter what time of day it is. One pitch per person.

  • Your name
  • Your email address
  • Title
  • Genre
  • Word-count
  • 35 word pitch (This is a hard and fast rule. Pitches with 36 or more words will be immediately disqualified)
  • If you spread the word about the contest, include a link (details below)
You do not have to follow our blog to participate – but if you want to be kept in the loop about future pitch contest opportunities, it might be a good idea. ;-)

NOTE: If you are agented, please discuss this contest with your agent before participating - and let us know this along with your submission so Sara will know not to request pages from you.


Sara and Heather will pick their winners and we will post the results within the week. We have no rule that says both Sara and Heather can't request the same manuscript! The number of winners depends entirely on the quality of the pitches! There is no pre-set number of winners so they may request ten pages from one person or they could request fulls from all of you – it’s all up to you!

That is why…

Critique Session

NA Alley, THE blog dedicated to New Adult fiction, is going to help everybody out by hosting a pre-pitch critique session on July 3rd!

On July 3rd, they’ll put up a post (which we’ll link to) where you can post your pitch in the comments and receive feedback from other contestants, as well as YAtopia and NA Alley contributors, and Special Guest Lynn Rush, new adult paranormal romance author! All we ask is that you critique three other pitches.

The judges will NOT be looking at these, so make sure you take this opportunity to make your pitch shine as brightly as possible.

Sara’s Bio

Sara Megibow has been with the Nelson Literary Agency since early 2006. Her first responsibilities included reading the query letters, sample pages and full manuscripts that were submitted for representation. In early 2009, she was promoted to Associate Literary Agent and is now actively accepting submissions of her own. From sexy romance to epic fantasy, Sara has loved reading since picking up her first copy of The Hobbit. Sara has a B.A. in Women’s Studies and a B.A. in American History from Northwestern University. She lives in sunny Boulder with her beat-boxing husband, adorable son and two fuzzy cats.

Read about Sara's submission notes, clients and sales at Publishers Marketplace.
Follow her on twitter @SaraMegibow

More interviews:

Heather's Bio

Award-winning young adult author Heather Howland began editing in the legal, industrial, and technical sectors eight years ago while working as a Production Manager. She has since honed her fiction editing skills as a freelancer and as the former acquisitions editor of a small romance publisher. She now works with popular authors such as USA Today bestseller Cari Quinn, Amy Andrews, and Laura Kaye. A portrait photographer in a former life, Heather’s eye for art lends itself to simplistic, NY-style book covers. In her spare time, Heather hosts craft chats and teaches editing workshops for various organizations, and mentors YA authors through the editing process at Savvy U. She holds a BS in creative writing and psychology, which she channels into her love of dark, romantic fiction. Find her on Twitter at @HeatherHowland.

More interviews:

Spread the Word

There is another prize available only to contestants who spread the word about this contest through their ACTIVE facebook, twitter, or blog. These tweets/posts must include a link back to either this post or the contest post and must be posted before 6pm EST on July 10th, six hours before the contest closes.

If you spread the word and leave a link below your pitch, you will be entered into a random drawing to win a query critique from Sarah Nicolas, who is an intern at Entangled Publishing.

If more than fifty entries are received, two winners will be chosen.


To the comments! 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Awesome Things Coming Up!

Hey YAtopians! Is life getting crazy for anybody else?

So please forgive me for phoning in this post, but I have some good excuses. Like...

The AWESOME pitch contest that I get to announce tomorrow morning! (Here at YAtopia)

and a great Guestopia post on Tuesday from the incredible Elana Johnson.

and a giveaway at my blog, where you could win a Cinder audiobook, a signed copy of Tiger's Curse, or a copy of Radiate. (Ends tonight so hurry over!)

Another great MG pitch contest coming your way in early August!

I was interviewed by author Christina Farley about my favorite writing conference experience and the top reasons I don't recommend manuscripts to my editor (I'm an intern).

How is life treating you lately? Have any interesting links to share? Go for it!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

R&R doesn't always mean a vacation

Originally I thought the only success querying was an offer of representation, but over the past couple of years I've realised there are various levels of success with querying.

The stages levels of success of querying include:

  1. No reply/form rejection (not successful).
  2. Personalised reply with feedback (there's something there).
  3. Request (you've intrigued them)
  4. R&R - Revise and resubmit (oh you're so close).
  5. Offer of representation (woo hoo, you rock).
I want to have a look at these four levels a bit closer.
No reply/form rejection

If you are consistently getting rejections through no reply or form letters then something isn't hitting the mark. There are a few reasons for this, but it's probably because your query letter isn't drawing the agents in. Try workshoping your query letter with friends or entering query critic competitions.

Another issue could be your sample writing. Your opening has to be captivating, drawing the agent in. If your MS starts with someone waking up, then agents will probably pass on seeing more. No snoozy starters.

Another reason you could be getting rejections is because you're querying agents who don't represent your genre/category. There's plenty of online resources out there that can help you find information on agents, including the Agentopia section of YAtopia.

Personalised reply with feedback

It's really rare nowadays for an agent to five feedback in a rejection. And I mean real, personalised feedback. If it says "it wasn't for me" or the like then it's still a form rejection. But if you get a response that includes a direct reason why you've been reject such as "great concept, but the opening is too quiet" then that is actually classed as a success.

Yes, it's still a rejection, but the agent liked something about it enough to give you some encouragement and constructive feedback. Take heart when you get those rare emails and take note of the little pieces of advice gold that you're getting as it's rare.


Yes! Your query letter has worked (along with your opening pages if you've submitted them). This is a fantastic sign. It doesn't always lead to representation but it means that you've mastered the query letter and possible how to writer a killer opening. Now the nail-biting begins.

R&R: Revise and Resubmit

This is such a good sign for a writer. The agent has read your work, but doesn't hit the mark for them. But instead of passing they want you to do some revision on your manuscript and send it back. They will include feedback on what they'd like to see changed, and if you think it's a workable idea then you might just find that you send them back exactly what they want.

However, this one is tough. You may decide that the direction the agent wants you to go in doesn't match what you want for the manuscript, in which case it's likely you won't go through with it. Even if you do everything they ask for, it doesn't mean that they'll sign you.

R&R is no holiday. It's tough work to massage a manuscript into what someone else wants.

Offer of Representation

That's the home run. You've written a query that's drawn in an agent and they've fallen in love with your writing. Now the next round of waiting starts as your agent does the "querying" to publishers.

A good way to get into the mind of an agent is to look for places online where agents discuss why they pass on projects. Nelson Literary Agent Sara Megibow regularly does    on twitter, which gives great insight into slush reading. WriteOnCon is only a few months away and they have regular live events with agents. Last year's included the opportunity of a live query feedback event. You can also see the slush from an intern's perspective with The Super Intern Contest on Brenda Drake's blog with Louise Fury's intern Erica Chapman.

I hope that this gives you hope if you've gotten more than just a form rejection, and a way forward if that's what you've received to date. Remember, the road to publication isn't always easy and you're guaranteed to fail if you quit.

If you've been querying - please share your advice and insights.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Teentopia: Aishwarya and Melis

Teentopia is a monthly feature here on YAtopia where we ask real teens questions about what they like to read and how they choose the books they read. For more information and more Teentopia posts, click here.

This week, we're interviewing two students, Aishwarya and Melis both between the age of 12-15.

Aishwarya in blue.

Melis in red.

What are some of your favorite recently-read books?

Jane Eyre

Anderson's Fairytales
Ghost Box 
Danni Minogue autobiography


How do you find out about and choose books that aren't assigned in school?

Sometimes I see them on adverts and sometimes when I go book shopping and I read the summary, I might like it.

By friends recommending books or I just buy one from the shop.

On a related note, do you read reviews before you decide to read a book? Where?

No, I first read the summary.

No, because everyone has different views on books.

Do you read author's blogs/facebooks/twitters? If yes: before you read their book or after - and what kind of content do you like to see?

No, I don't.

No, because if I read a blog about a book, I think it ruins the experience of the surprise of the book.

What kind of covers draw your attention?

Something intriguing like a scary picture or something. Or a famous celebrity because I love autobiographies and Jacqueline Wilson books with bright colours.

Ones that don't give away too much information about the book.

Do you feel like YA books accurately represent teen culture? How so?

Not really because if you're a teenager, you can read an adult book if you want to.

No, because some Young Adult books are too childish and some are too inappropriate.

Is there anything (themes, character types, genres, time periods, etc) you'd like to see more of in YA books?


Not really.

Anything you want to see less of?


Less inappropriate stuff because they stereotypically describe and make out bad things about teenagers.

How do you read books? (paper, e-reader, phone, audio, etc)


I like the feeling of touching and reading paperback or hardback books.

What do you think about all the YA books that have recently been made into movies?

Really good because some people might see the movie and want to actually read the book.

I think they aren't good because it ruins the experience of visualising the characters the way you want to because they are already there.

What book have you read that you think deserves more attention?

Hans Anderson Fairytales.


What novel are you most looking forward to in 2012?

A book by Chanelle Gray 'My Heart Be Damned' - *please note that I totally did not bribe her into saying this*

Any good ones that aren't boring and ones that can easily make you feel like a part of the story.

Do you use any book-specific sites to keep track of what you've read?


No, but I use an app on my phone that helps me keep track of the books I have read.
What's the most important element to you: characters, plot, writing style?

Plot, because that's the whole point of the story.

Everything, because if the plot is a let down, then the story isn't good, even if there are really good characters.

Have you ever seen a book trailer? If so, did it make you want to read the book? What do you think about them?

Yes, once in my English class and it looked really good and I wanted to read it.

No, because I have never seen a book trailer.

Thank you both for answering these questions! 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Book Worlds

Have you ever read a book where you wish you could close your eyes, reopen them and the book world would become your own? Where the characters are real, the world building is real, the supernatural is real?

I want to hear about it!!

But first, I'll share mine.

I'll admit, most of my reason for this is because the world is written so wonderfully. I also love the idea of witches and swamps and gorgeous boys that can disappear with the wind. Love!

It's obvious why I want this world to be real...Etienne!! I want him to be real and I want him to want me and that is all.

This book blew me away. I loved the world, the characters, the Darkling, Mal!! And I want a cool super power. Seriously, I do. I want to be Alina furthermore.

If I'm going to be in this world, I totally want to be an angel. And, Clara, if you don't want Christian - I'll have him.

Once again, gotta love witches. If I was to be alive in this book, I'd need to be a witch like Lena and have cool hair that twists with power. Awesome! I wouldn't want Ethan to be my boyfriend, but he's pretty cool. The magic is impressive, though, and Amna's food sounds off the chain!

Right, your turn. What books do you wish were real and why?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The beauty of simplicity

The other week, Wife and I went to a taped performance of the National Theatre Live's FRANKENSTEIN, featuring Johnny Lee Miller and Benedict Cumberbatch. I haven't seen a play in years, so I wasn't sure what to expect, only that I LOVE Benedict, and they'd received a boat load of awards for their performances.

I was also fascinated because the first night starred JLM as Frankenstein, and Benedict as the Creature. The following night, they swapped roles. It was pretty amazing to see their differences.

I was blown away not only by the remarkable acting, but how such a complicated, gorgeous, sad story could be told with such minimal effects. It's not a movie. There are no rolling landscapes, no expensive costumes, extensive makeup, CGI, or fancy sets. It's a stage with a few props--a strip of grass, a bed, a dock, some rain--and're never once drawn out of the story because of it. If anything, it's simplicity helped you focus more on the plot and the characters.

I mention all this because I believe the beauty of this play can translate into writing. People can enjoy a movie even if it's terrible, just because the effects are great. (I'm thinking AVATAR. Which I did enjoy, but take away the shiny effects and you essentially have Pocahontas meets Fern Gully. Seriously.) All that eye-candy can seriously distract a viewer from bad script-writing and story-telling.

What I'm trying to say is, above all else, a good story and characters are the most important thing in writing. Sure, you need the writing chops to be able to tell that story, but all the beautiful prose in the world won't make up for a boring, flat plot and characters nobody can connect with or love.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Agentopia: John M. Cusick

We're super excited to have literary agent John M. Cusick back at YAtopia - this time for Agentopia, our monthly feature that gives you insight into a literary agent's wishlist. So, without further ado...

John M. Cusick is a literary agent with S©ott Treimel NY, representing authors of middle grade and young adult fiction. He is the author of Girl Parts (Candlewick Press, 2010), and the forthcoming Cherry Money Baby. He is also a managing editor and co-founder of Armchair/Shotgun, a Brooklyn-based literary magazine. A bon vivant and general ne'er do well.

Twitter: @johnmcusick
Websites: &

I’m looking for strong contemporary young adult stories with a romantic twist, middle grade adventure for boys, historicals incorporating sci-fi elements, narrators who aren’t snarky, heroes who aren’t reluctant, parents who aren’t dead or alcoholics, bad decisions with good intentions, villains with vulnerability, boldly imagined worlds, striking imagery, finely composed and choreographed scenes, characters with history, best friends who aren’t destined to fall in love, stories about siblings, stories about middle America, and did I mention middle grade adventure for boys? No angels, devils, Greek or Norse gods, no “Chosen Ones’ or “Dark Lords,” no vampires, premonitions, or ponies.

How to query

Our agency considers all queries exclusively via our handy-dandy, paper-free, online form at

Thanks so much for stopping by again, Scott!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Book Expo America

Hi, all! This is going to be a quick post because I'm in NYC for the Book Expo! Woohoo! It has been a dream of mine to attend this massive event and not only am I going this year, but I get to do so as an author. :-)

Anyway, if any of you are in the city for BEA, I'd love to meet you! I'll be at the Pendrell Publishing booth, # 2054, on Wednesday at 4 PM for a video blog session with Jamie Manning, where we'll be answering questions and talking about BEA, and I'll be there on Thursday at 10 AM for my in-booth signing. Copies of Hunted will be discounted for the event, so yay! :-)

If you have any questions about books, writing, etc, please leave them in the comments and I'll be sure to answer them for the video blog!

Hope to see you all there!


Saturday, June 2, 2012


Again, thanks to Jenny Torres Sanchez for helping us launch our brand new Guestopia feature! And thanks to everyone who entered the giveaway.

Thanks to Rafflecopter, we have a winner for the signed copy of The Downside of Being Charlie...

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Congratulations Gwen! The winner has been emailed.  

Friday, June 1, 2012

Writing Conferences

Happy June, everyone!  I've got a short and sweet post for ya.

I have never been to a writing/blogging/book conference.  Have you?  I used to attend English teacher conferences back in the day, and I loved those. But now I'm super excited because I'm going to be attending BEA for a day next week (Tuesday - road trip up to NYC, woot!), and I'm also attending SCBWI the first weekend of August in L.A. with some of my beta partners, including YAtopia's Kelley Vitollo/Nyrae Dawn. Yay!  I can't wait to meet people!

I'm wondering what to expect.  Have you been to a writer's conference?  What are the benefits and which conferences would you recommend?  Any advice and recommendations would be appreciated!

Also, today is the last day to enter to win a copy of The Downside of Being Charlie.