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  1. Oh, god, it’s time to write a query again?

    January 12, 2013 by Kiersi

    Yep, it’s that time again–a new manuscript, a new query.

    For me, writing a query is a long, long process; one that usually begins while the manuscript I’m querying is still in the early stages (first or second draft). There are a couple reasons for this:

    1. Writing a query requires fundamentally understanding the story you’re trying to tell. When I say “query,” I’m meaning the whole shebang: the hook, the pitch, the short bio, the ass-kissing. And none of these things are possible to do well if you’re not absolutely sure of the story, the characters, and the stakes.

    And it’s not just understanding the structure of these things, or what they look like, or writing them in pretty sentences–it’s also understanding their appeal. (more…)


  2. “New Adult” Books: Haters Gonna Hate

    January 1, 2013 by Kiersi

    Some actual New Adult books. Notice the absence of Harry Potter, Twilight or Fifty Shades.

    The Emerging New Adult Genre and Why CNN Hates It

    I’m not going to write an article about “New Adult” books, or what the “New Adult” genre includes, or even the debate over whether this term should actually exist. That’s a pretty boring discussion that I’ll let people like Liz Burns over at Tea Cozy bludgeon to death with a wall of text.

    What I do want to write about is the way the media has received the emergence of New Adult as a genre–and what has become an unwarranted, vitriolic attack on what real readers are reading.

    Jezebel is the worst offender. The first article published by Jezebel on New Adult came last month, titled “‘New Adult’ Is Now an Official Literary Genre Because Marketers Want Us To Buy Things.”

    It’s not that I don’t think marketing happens. Pixar’s Cars has action figures; Jelly Belly makes Harry Potter-themed jelly beans. But to claim an entire genre was “invented” by a skilled marketing department just to snare a narrow group of readers–I’m sorry, ma’am, but your logic is flawed. (more…)


  3. Revising Homophobia: “Straightwashing” in YA

    September 20, 2012 by Kiersi

    Lesbian Romance by Made Underground

    Lesbian Romance by Made Underground

    I had started preparing some long-winded post about the troubles with revising my upcoming novel with RainTown Press, Devil’s Fire (renamed from Fire & Brimstone), when I stumbled across this Guardian article: Stranger, a young adult novel with a gay hero, acquired by publisher–after an unnamed agent refused to represent it unless the hero was “straightened.”

    Naturally, the pair of authors (Sherwood Smith and Rachel Manija, both previously published) were taken aback at the request, and summarily refused to do any such thing. It’s not a novel about the gay experience or homophobia, like Lauren Myracle’s Shine, which was surrounded by some controversy after it was gently shoved off the National Book Awards list of finalists (it’s a book about a gay hate crime–up to you to decide if it was removed from the list to “preserve the integrity of the award” or to please particular parties, but I’m a bit of a conspiracy theorist). Stranger, on the other hand, is a dystopian novel, that just happens to feature a gay hero–one of many narrators telling the story. (more…)


  4. Why Self-pub Authors Need to Stop Whining

    September 13, 2012 by Kiersi

    I really like author and blogger Noah Murphy. I’d like to think we’ve had a good relationship on Twitter. I’m excited about his upcoming book, Ethereal Girls. But I’m growing pretty tired of self-published and indie authors whining about being repressed and “kept down” by the traditional book publishing industry when that is clearly not the whole story.

    In his article, Publisher’s Weekly Review Double Standard, Murphy accuses book periodical Publisher’s Weekly of extorting self-published authors. As you probably already know, Publisher’s Weekly reviews traditionally-published books for their book review section. But they also have PW Select, which reviews self-published and indie-published books. The catch? The regular PW only takes submissions for books published by a publishing house, and it’s free to submit; however, PW Select charges a fee for your submission.

    Murphy writes:

    To Publisher’s Weekly, we’re not real authors – worthy of consideration for free – because we’re not part of the club. We decided to go outside the system and therefore we should be punished for that by extorting us. We have to pay to even be considered worthy of a review. This is the major way traditional publishing can keep us down because otherwise they’re quaking in their boots. (more…)


  5. Query Hell: The Fastest Way to Madness

    August 29, 2012 by Kiersi

    photo by fmgbain

    Each new query letter I write is like learning to ride a bike all over again, with the accompanying falling, scraping, and toddler-esque shrieks of frustration. I don’t think it will ever matter how many times I write a mini-synopsis–each manuscript has its own set of challenges to be overcome in breaking down a book-length plot into a short pitch.

    Finding inspiration in book blurbs and dust jackets.

    The first problem I’ve had writing my query letter for The Aeronauts is that the novel takes place across multiple settings. Parallel worlds, really, if we’re going to get technical. It means I have to introduce not one, but two environments within a single mini-synopsis. And while one world (Earth) doesn’t feature prominently in the story, it is the protagonist’s home and the backdrop to her character, so it requires a little airtime in the query letter. (more…)


  6. WWC12 Wrap-up

    August 14, 2012 by Kiersi

    Willamette Writers Conference 2012 - Portland

    This year’s Willamette Writers Conference 2012 was a startling success. I pitched to four agents and one publisher, and received from all of them requests for more. I attended sessions all three days (Friday, Saturday, Sunday) and did my best to stay sane and conscious enough to socialize.

    Part A: The Program

    I wish I could Vulcan mind-meld with you, if only so you could have experienced with me Eric Witchey‘s stellar, re-orienting talk on Story Fluency: Story as a Second Language.” It’s not my place to divulge all of the secrets that Eric, in turn, divulged to us–but I can tell you that my most basic understanding of the structure and arc of story is fundamentally changed. It goes a bit like this: (more…)


  7. YA Authors and the Gender Gap

    August 9, 2012 by Kiersi

    This week, Meghan Lewit, a NY-based writer/editor, wrote an article for The Atlantic called “Why Do Female Authors Dominate Young Adult Fiction?

    It’s a great question–and one that she doesn’t even get close to answering.

    Lewit prattles on ad nauseum about why certain YA titles (same old, same old–The Hunger Games, TwilightHarry Potter) have obtained huge, almost cult followings in both youth and adult audiences. YA appeals to our desire for escapism, by specifically avoiding “being literary” and instead aiming for sheer enjoyment on the part of the reader; it harkens back to a time in our own youth; it gives us heroes and heroines with which we can easily identify. (more…)


  8. Self-editing is Not Editing

    July 12, 2012 by Kiersi

    A Treatise on Not Getting Yourself Down, and How To Be a Professional

    I am hyper-critical of my work–as in, critical to the point that I actually burst into tears during a revision of Fire & Brimstone. Not even joking. First came the tears, then the heart-wrenching sobs, then the boyfriend going slack-jawed as I began to thrash and scream. Okay. Well, I’m more emotional than some.

    But rewriting can be hard. Editing your own work is, by its very nature, an emotional experience. (I’m looking at you, @RebeccaTomorrow.)  Especially if you are editing a work you first wrote (a) 6 months ago, (b) one year ago, or (c) so long ago it doesn’t even matter anymore. Pretty much everything past (a), if you write regularly, will look like a third grader went at it with a crayon and some slobber. Trust me. I’m there with you. My threshold is about four months now–the beginning of The Aeronauts, which I started back in February, reads like some mutant crossbreed of a high school English essay and Tolkien.

    But there are things you can do to lessen the impact: and that is to realize that self-editing is not editing. (more…)


  9. A Lesson for All Authors

    June 1, 2012 by Kiersi

    Kiera Cass's agent Elana Roth, calling a reviewer a "bitch"

    Kiera Cass's agent Elana Roth, calling a reviewer of Cass's book a "bitch" on Twitter

    As a reviewer, I’ve experienced an author’s wrath first-hand. In my particular case, my negative book review spectacle was more fueled by said author’s rabid pack of fans than by the author herself–later incendiary comments on Goodreads by someone named “Marilyn” even accused all of us who wrote negative reviews about the book of “colluding to ruin this good woman’s reputation.”

    Regardless of that hilariously absurd allegation, the whole situation got me to thinking in broader terms about the blogosphere and the ramifications of its naturally low barrier to entry. To set up a blog these days, all you need to do is visit a site like wordpress.com or Blogger and create an account. Pick a theme, add some content, and you’re up and ready to post some book reviews. Social media networks such as Goodreads lower the barrier even further, so anyone with a computer can sign on and review a book.

    By the same token, authors use these platforms to great success. Kiera Cass (who I will talk about more in a moment) keeps an online journal where she talks about book releases, signings, and more. I recently added a book to my Goodreads’ “to read” list after reading a fabulous blog post by that book’s author. I’ve built relationships with other debut YA authors on Twitter over things like cover reveals and critique partners. Social media–including my Twitter, my Facebook, and my blog–have all done a lot of my marketing for me, because I simply enjoy using these mediums to talk about my passion. (Which means I am always working, and by the same token, never working.)

    My friend Abi over at A Hunger to Learn pointed me to a much larger-scale debacle than my indie-pub incident. This controversy stars Kiera Cass, New York Times best-selling author of The Selection (to which I gave a panning review here), and a high-profile blogger-slash-book reviewer who goes by Wendy Darling. (more…)


  10. White Girls, Dead Girls, and Fancy Dresses

    May 17, 2012 by Kiersi

    Black models on 2011 YA covers

    Kate Hart: Uncovering YA Covers: 2011

    I wrote a controversial post some time ago regarding young adult book covers that have been announced for 2012 called All the White Girls, where I suggested YA authors need to get their shit together and start writing books about something other than white chicks in flowing dresses. I found it immensely disturbing that not a single book on the Top 25 YA Books of 2012 featured a cover photo of anyone besides a white girl.

    A bunch of commenters suggested the problem lies with publishers and not authors, as cover designers in YA are rarely faithful to the look, ethnicity, race, or whatever of the book’s protagonist for which they are designing.

    Today I discovered this post by YA author Kate Hart via my twitter peep E.C. Meyers. Kate breaks down over 600 YA covers from 2011, scientifically, in a number of fascinating and revealing ways, including how often you might find a headless, dead, or back-shot model on a YA cover. (more…)