Saturday, December 8, 2012

I Was Painting with the Colors of the Wind

I apologize for my prolonged absence. I have been busy preparing for Pelham Skate School's production of Enchanted Moments Stories Told on Ice.

This was my first solo performance since I had ACL construction back in March 2010. It has been a long journey of healing, and I couldn't have done it without the support of my family, friends, and especially Dedrick Agee, Jorge Bonnet, and Danny Tate.

B Metro magazine wrote an article about me and below is a video of me as Pocahontas.

Anita Saxena Skates in Enchanted Moments on Ice from Saxena Video Productions on Vimeo.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Not What I Had Imagined...

This weekend I am going to be wedding dress shopping in Atlanta. I think it's a girl thing--that from childhood we dream about what that special day of shopping is going to be like. The sun will be shining. The racks of dresses will literally sparkle, beckoning me to try them on, and when I do, the sun will shine extra brighter, and the birds will burst into song, and I'll twirl around the store while the sales lady and my family and friends look on with clasped hands and smiles.

This is what's really going to happen:

The sun is not shining. It is overcast and cold.
I'm going to stumble in with a box of kleenexes pressed to my chest. The dresses will still sparkle, but they'll make my already swollen eyes water, which will then set off a sneezing attack. I'll reach for a tissue, but not be able to grab one in time, and accidentally send mucous flying onto one of the pristine dresses. The store owner will get upset and kick me out.

Oh, and one of the bridesmaids is pretty pregnant, so I'm going to maintain a twenty five foot distance from her the entire weekend, because she and baby do not need this cold. So we'll be at the store, and I'll be modeling the latest dress, and I'll have to yell across the store, "So what do you think?" And she'll just have to give me a thumbs up or thumbs down because if she tried to comment I probably wouldn't be able to hear because I'm so congested and my ears are stopped up.

Yup, that's what's going to happen.

You're probably asking why must I go shopping this weekend?

Well, it's been planned for months. Bridesmaids are flying and driving in. Parents are coming. And this is literally the only weekend between now and the end of the year that I actually have time to do this--what with the ice show and work stuff.

So...yeah...wish me luck!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Up and Down. Up and Down.

Sometimes I'm so excited to be on the Writer Emotional Roller Coaster and sometimes it's so draining. I'll reach a milestone or a goal and get all excited and then the next day it's like it never happened because I'm on to the next great, or not so great, thing.

Oh, I can't wait until I finish researching for my new shiny, exciting novel.

When I finish this first draft, it's going to be epic.

First Draft sucks.

Second draft smells.

Third draft is it.

No. No. Fourth draft is it.


If I could just get this query right I'm going to be in the home stretch. I know it.

Oh my God. Oh my God. I just got picked to be in the top 50 for a pitch contest. Man, if my pitch gets requests. I'll be beyond ecstatic.

Only one agent liked my pitch. I suck.

Holy freaking cow, I have an agent. Agent. I HAVE an agent.

Agent wants exponentially increasing number of revisions.

Revisions are done. Party time!

My book sucks no publisher is ever going to buy it.

OMG. My book sold to Super Duper Publishing House. It can't get better than this.

Sigh. What if no one reads it? What if my books just gather dust at all the stores? What if there's some mega electronic glitch and people can't download it onto their Kindles and Nooks?

What if? What if?

What if I can't write another book? What if I do and it's worse than the first? What if I do and it's better than the first and then nobody will but the first?

Looking forward to seeing what this next week has in store for the Writer Emotional Roller Coaster.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

To NaNoWriMo or NOT to NaNoWriMo, that is the question....

These past few weeks I've been thinking long and hard about participating in NaNoWriMo. I came quite close to plunging in, but then decided, that for me, for this year at least, it may not be the best fit.

I'm already working on a new novel that I'm a good 75 pages into. Technically, if you participate in NaNo you should be starting on a brand new novel. I do have a new fledgling idea I'd like to get cracking at, but it would require a lot of research (which I haven't done), will probably need to be more than 50k words (the NaNo goal), and I probably can't humanly get anywhere near that word count by the end of November because I'm preparing to perform in this:

I am so excited and honored and thankful to be given the opportunity to perform as a soloist, playing the role of Pocahontas. When I tore my ACL back in March 2010 I honestly though my years of solos and skating shows were over. So because I want to skate hard and put out a great come back solo performance, I've decided to pass on NaNoWriMo...for now.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Stay Safe in Frankenstorm!

Down here in Alabama I doubt we will feel the effect of Hurricane Sandy, but to everyone on the eastern seaboard please stay safe and warm.

Some news articles have referred to Hurricane Sandy as the Perfect Storm or Frankenstorm--both sound ominous. When I hear Frankenstorm, I imagine giant swirling clouds of green with angry winds and torrential rain. The latter is probably true, but those of you in New England will have to let me know if you see any green in the sky.

Stay dry, safe, and warm! Sending positive thoughts to all affected by the hurricane.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Great experience at SCBWI Wik Conference

Joining SCBWI was the best decision I made last year.
This past weekend I had the opportunity to participate in the SCBWI Wik Conference in Birmingham, AL (my hometown!).

On Friday was the writer's intensive with Donna Jo Napoli. Not only is she a successful children's author, but she is knowledgable about craft and extremely hilarious. The intensive was specifically about dialogue and I left that evening with my brain full of new knowledge about character conversations.

On Saturday were the break out sessions. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend all of them. But I did get the opportunity to hear Editor Leila Sales from Viking talk about tropes in middle grade and young adult fiction. After that I heard Author Irene Latham talk about how to really make your writing sing off the page. Both excellent sessions.

If you haven't joined SCBWI and were considering it, I highly recommend it. This past year I went to conferences in New York, Atlanta, and Birmingham. Not only do I learn a lot at each even, but I've bern given the opportunity to submit directly to editors of major publishing houses. I've also met some great friends along the way. I love the writing community!

Monday, October 15, 2012

THE SECOND SIGN Cover Reveal & ARC Tour

I know we all do it: dream about what the covers of our books will look like. When Elizabeth Arroyo, my critique partner, gave me the honor of reading a draft of THE SECOND SIGN, I knew right away that this story was special. I knew in my gut it would get published.

My gut was right.
Liz is going to be a debut author! Squueeee! Once I learned that Sapphire Star Publishing was going to release the book on February 7, 2013 I've been trying to imagine what the cover of THE SECOND SIGN would look like. I knew it'd be pretty awesome, but I'd never in my wildest dreams expect it to be as amazing as this:




I can't stop looking at it. 

Here's a little bit about THE SECOND SIGN:

Bred to believe in the war between angels and demons, Gabby has come to the conclusion that love is responsible for war, jealousy, and all the other deadly sins she can think of. So when she’s exiled to the middle of nowhere for getting kicked out of her fifth school for fighting, she doesn't expect to meet Jake. Much less fall in love. But Jake is quickly drawn to the eerie beauty of her violet eyes while Gabby is unsettled by their undeniable connection.

When a demon guardian comes to collect her soul, she refuses to give it up. She’s not a demon. She can’t be. Her father and twin brother are angels. The demon gives Gabby twenty-four hours to decide her allegiance, and then starts killing her short list of friends, leaving a message behind: She is the Second Sign.

As Gabby and Jake begin to unravel the mystery behind the Second Sign, she learns Jake may be the key to saving her soul. But it means a sacrifice has to be made that will change their lives forever. 

I'm hosting an ARC Tour for THE SECOND SIGN and I'm looking for participants.
I would like a boat load of people to read this book before its release in February and I want to flood cyber space with blogs promoting THE SECOND SIGN. If you'd like to participate in the ARC TOUR you will have to commit to the following:

1. Reading the book fast. Don't let the ARC sit on your shelf until February. We want to circulate this solo copy of THE SECOND SIGN to as many people as possible before the release.

2. Blog about the book

3. Pay to ship the book via priority mail (which typically costs $4.95) at the post office to the next person on the ARC Tour list. The Post Office provides free priority mail envelopes.

4. You're encouraged to write in the book, not only to sign it and leave Liz an awesome message about how much you enjoyed it, but also feel free to comment on any page where you think something is good/cool/whatever. Smiley faces and hearts are always welcome! 

If you are interested in participating in the ARC TOUR for THE SECOND SIGN please contact me at

Sunday, October 7, 2012


I thoroughly enjoyed the audiobooks of PERFECT CHEMISTRY and RULES OF ATTRACTION by Simone Elkeles. The narrators Roxanne Hernandez and Blas Kisic did an outstanding job.

From Goodreads:

When Brittany Ellis walks into chemistry class on the first day of senior year, she has no clue that her carefully created 'perfect' life is about to unravel before her eyes. She's forced to be lab partners with Alex Fuentes, a gang member from the other side of town, and he is about to threaten everything she's worked so hard for: her flawless reputation, her relationship with her boyfriend, and the secret that her home life is anything but perfect. Alex is a bad boy and he knows it. So when he makes a bet with his friends to lure Brittany into his life, he thinks nothing of it. But soon Alex realizes Brittany is a real person with real problems, and suddenly the bet he made in arrogance turns into something much more.

From Goodreads:

When Carlos Fuentes returns to America after living in Mexico for a year, he doesn’t want any part of the life his older brother, Alex, has laid out for him at a high school in Colorado. Carlos likes living his life on the edge and wants to carve his own path—just like Alex did. Then he meets Kiara Westford. She doesn’t talk much and is completely intimidated by Carlos’ wild ways. As they get to know one another, Carlos assumes Kiara thinks she’s too good for him, and refuses to admit that she might be getting to him. But he soon realizes that being himself is exactly what Kiara needs right now.

What I love about these books:

The characters. They are so real! Ms. Elkeles is amazing at her character development. Both novels are written in alternating point of views so you can really get inside Brittany's, Alex's, Carlos', and Kiara's head. 

The love story. I love West Side Story. I'd describe both novels as modern day retellings.

There's a sequel about little brother Luis, CHAIN REACTION!
From Goodreads:

Like his brothers, Luis Fuentes is a risk taker; whether he's scaling the Rocky Mountains or dreaming of a future as an astronaut, Luis is always looking for the next thrill. Nikki Cruz lives her life by certain rules -, don't trust a boy who says "I love you", boys lie to get their own way and never date a boy from the south side of Fairfield. Then she meets Luis at his brother Alex's wedding and suddenly she's tempted to break all her rules. Getting Nikki to give him a chance is Luis's biggest challenge, until he finds himself targeted by the head of the gang that nearly destroyed his brothers' lives. Will Luis's feelings for Nikki be enough to stop him from entering a dark and violent world that could prove to be the ultimate risk?

Warning: There is language and sexual themes in all three novels

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Adversity with Endings

I envy people who can plot an entire story before they start writing. The New Yorker recently wrote a piece about J.K. Rowling, and apparently Rowling can do just that. But, then again, she is J.K Rowling.
I get to know my characters pretty well. Their family trees, their hobbies, their fears. And I can think up beginning, middles, and conflicts pretty well. I just can't figure out how to resolve the mess I create for them.
And it's not just novel endings. It's the ending of log lines (speaking of log lines, Miss Snark's Baker's Dozen contest is coming up). It's also the ending of synopses. The end of ice skating programs.
And I think my problem lies in the fact that I have great respect for well thought out endings. The endings that culminate everything to a perfect point and leave no dangling threads. That's the kind of ending I want--an ending that is ingenious, unpredictable, and well executed.
What part of writing is difficult for you? Beginnings? Middles? Ends?

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Writing Lessons at Walt Disney

I apologize for my absence from the blog. But I've got a really good excuse. Seriously. I do.
I was at Disney World!
I got to meet the pals from Pooh Corner!

And I screamed down the Splash Mountain. Go ahead, make fun of the poncho. I don't care =)

At the haunted mansion I learned the deadly hazards of writer's block.

The park had signs boasting words of wisdom from Mr. Walt Disney himself. And I agree with him whole heartedly. If I don't give myself a deadline, I never get anything done with my writing or skating. But sometimes I forget how important deadlines are, so it was nice to be reminded on my vacation.

This quote from Mr. Walt Disney made me feel so much better about being on the twelfth draft of my novel!

Sarcastically Delicious and Me on the It's A Small World ride.
The writing community and publishing industry may sometimes seem daunting, unfathomable, and so vast. But, it's really all about perspective. You can embrace the journey, stay optimistic, and power through or remain permanently rooted where you are with that deer-in-the-headlights look.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


I apologize for my prolonged absence from the blog-o-sphere. I have been a writing, reading, and traveling machine as of late and the poor blog has had to suffer.

Today, I am hanging out at Writeoncon. There is so much to learn from this on-line writing conference. The conference is free and it is August 14th and 15th. And if you are too busy to check it out today or tomorrow, everything is archived, so you can peruse at your own leisure.

So go! Check out

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Gossip Time...Looking for Alaska

After enjoying WILL GRAYSON, WILL GRAYSON and THE FAULT IN OUR STARS I simply had to find more books written by John Green. So I decided to start with his debut, LOOKING FOR ALASKA, which won the 2006 Michael L. Printz Award.

Synopsis (from John Green's website):

Miles Halter is fascinated by famous last words–and tired of his safe life at home. He leaves for boarding school to seek what the dying poet Francois Rabelais called the “Great Perhaps.” Much awaits Miles at Culver Creek, including Alaska Young. Clever, funny, screwed-up, and dead sexy, Alaska will pull Miles into her labyrinth and catapult him into the Great Perhaps.

First Sentence:
"The week before I left my family and Florida and the rest of my minor life to go to boarding school in Alabama, my mother insisted on throwing me a going-away party." This sentence says so much about Miles Halter and how his life is irrevocably changing. Miles goes to seek the Great Perhaps at Culver Creek Preparatory School. And the fact that a teenager would uproot his life to search for something like this immediately hooked me. Miles is cerebral, but at the same time just a teen navigating his way through life.

Things I Loved:

Culver Creek Preparatory school is literally down the street from where I live and the civic complex where I ice skate. John Green describes the area in a way that only Alabamians would know. He understands the stifling summer humidity, and the Southerners affliction with all things fried. Even though there isn't a Culver Creek Preparatory that I know of (I've been trying to research this on the internet...there is an Indian Springs School close to where Green places Culver Creek), his fictitious school is placed realistically along Highway 119, not to far from I-65. The author understands the differences between kids that grew up in Mountain Brook versus Vine Station.

There is a countdown. After Mile's going-away party there is a periodic countdown in the book. It starts with one hundred and twenty eight days before. The whole time I'm reading, I'm like before what?!? And as the days randomly decrease and Miles, soon to be known as Pudge (because he is the absolute opposite of fat), grows closer to THE DAY, I found myself on the edge of my seat like I was watching an action/adventure movie and not reading young adult contemporary fiction.

Things to Consider When Deciding to Read:
John Green's fiction is realistic. What comes with that realistic teenage territory is language and sex. It is not gratuitous but just part of Miles's journey as he seeks The Great Perhaps. If you have apprehensions or a teenager that you do not want to expose to these themes, then perhaps LOOKING FOR ALASKA isn't the book for you.

Friday, July 13, 2012


It was almost 21 months after ACL reconstruction that I was able to do double jumps again. Jorge Bonnet and PURmotion were an integral part of helping me get to that point.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Indie Found Me

On the Fourth of July my family and I decided to take a walk by the Tennessee River. My Dad chose to walk along a path that I felt was to dense with mosquitoes and my Mom and I chose to walk by the marina. I don't know how much walking we actually got done as we were sidetracked by some baby ducks and then ran into one of Mom's co-workers who proceeded to tell us a gripping tale of a baby turtle she rescued, lost, and then found again.

After that my Mom and I headed for some swings beside the campgrounds. It was still early morning and the cool air rushing past our faces was exhilarating as we swooshed back and forth. As we were swinging I mentioned to my Mom that when I was a kid I would always sing Mary Poppin's songs whenever I was on a swing set. So to keep to tradition I belted out my own off key rendition of Let's Go Fly A Kite.

Just as I finish the last chorus a little grey kitten comes running out of nowhere meowing her tiny heart out. The scrawny thing was thirsty and she lapped up water from my Mom's thermos for a whole minute. I checked with the campers to see if she belonged to anyone. After a unanimous no, I picked her up and headed for the car. When my Dad returns from his walk, his eyes laser beam on the cat (he is NOT a cat lover) and he says, "What is that?"

I tell him it's a baby and we have to feed it. So of we go to Wal-Mart in search of kitten food.
The initial plan was to feed her and find her home. But she is honestly the sweetest kitty I have ever met (and she literally found me), so after much deliberation, and much to the dismay of my two other cats, I have decided to adopt the rambunctious fur ball.

Say hello to Indie! (She's named after Independence Day of course).

Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Importance of Cross Training

No figure skater became an Olympic champion by just skating all the time. In conjunction with the thousands of hours on the ice, there were ballet lessons, weight training, off ice jumps, time spent learning about nutrition, and goal setting. Some skaters even cross train with swimming, running, or Pilates.

What is cross training?

It's when you participate in another activity or sport with the intent of improving your primary sport. And I believe that cross training is just as important for writers as it is for athletes.

As a writer how can you cross train? Why I'm glad you asked.

  • Reading- You've heard this time and time again. Reading makes better writers. The words seep into your brain and while you're having fun in story land, you're learning about characters, plot, and pacing. I encourage you to read widely in different genres for different age groups. But you don't have time to read you say? Check out audiobooks from the library and listen to them in the car. You can purchase audiobooks at your local bookstore or Amazon. Get an Audible subscription. Hearing stories I believe is just as helpful as reading stories.
  • Watch Movies- Whenever I watch a good movie I more often than not leave the theater pumped about writing. A screenwriter wrote that movie you paid $9 to watch and those words came to life before your eyes. It happens to all of us, sometimes we get stuck in the writer's slump. Maybe it's writer's block, lack of motivation, or just thinking that you suck. But if you can watch something that gets you excited about writing (and along the way teaches you about plot--movies are excellent for this) then DO IT.
  • Listen or Play Music- I believe music turns on the creative side of our brain. The benefits of singing out loud are innumerable (except for the person who may have to listen to you if you are not musically inclined). Wipe the dust off those piano keys and tune those guitar strings. Playing just one song a day, just one song, can soothe your mind and hasten the journey to imagination land.
  • Free Write- Grab a pen (preferably in a color that you fancy) and some paper and just write. About anything. It shouldn't be anything premeditated or even about the book that you're writing. Just write about whatever pops into your brain. Not only is it therapeutic and a great warm up before your actually writing session, but sometimes you just might generate a new book idea or circuitously find that answer to the problem you were having with your WIP.
  • Nature Time- Spend some time in front of the ocean, listen to the waves and bury your toes in the sand. Take a hike or a walk in the park and escape from the car exhaust and cell phones. Spending time with nature is great for clearing your mind and tapping into your creative side.
So while I am a big proponent of BIC (Butt In Chair), cross training is important too so that we can all become the writers that we want to be.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day!

Today is the first Father's Day in my entire life that I don't get to be with my Daddy (yes, I still call him Daddy). It's ok though, we're going to celebrate next weekend. We all love our Dads but I wanted to take today to salute the reasons why I think my Daddy is extraordinary.
  • Daddy took me ice skating. The first time was in Cincinnati when I was maybe ten years old. It was only for maybe an hour but my father could tell how much I loved it. Then when we had to move to Alabama a year later (and at this point I was not handling the frequent moves well) he literally bribed me to get excited about the move because he told me a new ice arena had just been built in Huntsville and that he would sign me up for lessons. Moving was still hard but having something like ice skating lessons to look forward to made something bleak not seem so gray. And as you know, that first lesson was the spring board for the next twenty one years of my life.
  • Daddy taught me math military style. Math is not my forte, although I think I've found an appreciation for it later in life as I've found enjoyment in tutoring a friend in her college math. Daddy gave me a solid mathematics foundation. He made me memorize my multiplication tables before we even learned what multiplying was in elementary school. He'd quiz me in the car. He'd give me problems to do everyday during my summer breaks. He had a strict protocol for setting up word problems and equations. And you had to do it that specific way. At the time I thought it was a bit much, but then later I found myself insisting on the same thing with the people I tutor. I mean, don't they say we inevitably turn into our parents? Daddy also had a no excuse policy when it came to doing well on math tests in school. He'd say, "How can you get an A in English, a subject in which there can be many possible answers or interpretations to a question, and a B in math? In math there is always only one answer."
  • Daddy is on call 24-7. If I need something, anything, even if I am hundreds of miles away, he's always there for me. Like when the movers broke a pipe in my apartment and it flooded the entire building--he was there. Or when I had to have sinus surgery, he stayed with me and my two cats (he HATES cats) and took care of me. If I need money. If I need food. If I needed new skates. If I just need someone to listen. He is ALWAYS there.
  • Daddy understands me and all my oddities. He doesn't think it's strange that he has a daughter that likes to take on more business ventures, more jobs, more hobbies, that any sane human should. He wants me to be successful at everything that matters to ME. It may not be something that he always agrees on, or he may not understand why I like to do the things that I do, but he is always supportive, always understanding. And I love him for that the most.
So Happy Father's Day not only to my super-hero Daddy, but to all the fathers out there!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Forever Waiting Writers Series: Interview with Laura Golden

Today Laura Golden, the author of EVERY DAY AFTER which debuts the spring of 2013 by Delacorte Press/Random House books, is spending time with us on the Forever Waiting Writers Series

From the flap copy of EVERY DAY AFTER:
Trouble has rained down on Lizzie Hawkins. Her daddy has deserted the family, her mama is silent with sadness, and the bank is after their house.

Daddy always said Lizzie was born to succeed, but right now she can’t even hold on to her top grades or her best friend, Ben. Bratty newcomer Erin Sawyer has weaseled both away from Lizzie, yet Erin won’t be satisfied until Lizzie is out of her hair for good, packed off straight to the nearest orphanage.

But Lizzie refuses to lose what’s left of her family. With the bank deadline fast approaching, Erin causing strife at every turn, and Mama and Ben slipping away from her, Lizzie finds comfort writing in her journal and looking at Daddy’s face in the heirloom locket he left her. She’s keeping her head high and holding onto hope that Daddy returns on her twelfth birthday. Still, she can’t help wondering: Why did Daddy have to leave? And can I save us if he doesn’t come home?

Times may be tough in Bittersweet, Alabama, but the unsinkable Lizzie Hawkins will inspire readers with her resilience and determination.

I met Laura at the SCBWI Springmingle this past February. We started talking in between presentations and hit it off right away. Laura is incredibly sweet and encouraging towards other writers. I'm so excited she's willing to share her inspiring publishing journey with us.

Laura, you have such a unique publishing journey in that you submitted directly to an editor you met at a conference. Would you mind telling us a little more about that?

I’d be happy to! I began work on Every Day After (then By the Light of the Moon) late in 2009. It was fall of 2010 before I had a viable manuscript that I slowly began submitting to agents and a few editors.

By last spring, I’d accrued around thirty rejections. Sixty percent were form rejections, but the other forty percent were personal rejections containing lovely, encouraging comments with the dreaded “but” at the end. “Too quiet” was the typical criticism.

As a writer, I’d heard the oft-repeated advice about not giving up on a manuscript until you’d submitted it at least one-hundred times. Alas, I did not follow this advice. I shelved it, believing that the current publishing market was not in favor of my “too quiet” story, and I began work on a second story—darker and louder—that  straddled the fence between middle grade and YA. This new story blended past events with a near-future setting, so I threw myself into outlining and historical research. Still, the shelved manuscript kept nagging at me. Deep down I knew I’d given up too soon, but I was determined to wait for just the right time before submitting it again.

Several months later, the Midsouth region of the SCBWI announced the attending faculty for their 2011 Fall Conference in Nashville, Tennessee. My pulse quickened as I read the list of names: Linda Sue Park (Newbery-winning author!), Ruta Sepetys (author of the best-selling and beautiful Between Shades of Gray), Erin Murphy (beloved agent who only takes queries through referrals or conferences), Michelle Poploff (super-star editor of books such as Moon Over Manifest and Hattie Big Sky), and more. It was the conference line-up sent straight from heaven. I signed-up as soon as registration opened, but I decided against the one-on-one critiques and extra workshops. My new story was nowhere near ready, and I knew By the Light had been edited, revised, and critiqued to death. I wasn’t going to put the manuscript—or myself—through that. I wanted to go solely to learn.

Come September, I made the journey from Birmingham to Nashville, and poured over the schedule of sessions in my hotel room. During the conference, I listened intently, straining for any hint that one of the attending editors or agents might be interested in acquiring a manuscript like mine.

The first half of the day yielded just one possibility—Erin Murphy. She liked quiet books. She seemingly preferred them. She was placed on my submissions list. I went through the rest of the day with no further additions. I either felt they weren’t the right fit, or they were way out of my literary league (Michelle Poploff, anyone?).

Back at home, I resurrected the story that had been laid to rest and gave it one last scrub through. I had an inkling that the opening chapter wasn’t as strong as it could be, but filled with post-conference enthusiasm, I sent a query to the lone name on my list—Erin Murphy. I knew she was the one. I could feel it. I was elated when she requested the opening chapters of By the Light of the Moon, and…

I was totally devastated when she turned it down. Soon, the devastation warped into anger (not at Erin, but me) and determination. I reworked the opening, shifting chapter one to chapter four. I wrote a stronger opening paragraph, one I thought raised appropriate questions and hinted at the core issues and themes of the story. It was now two months post-conference, and my husband encouraged me to not sell myself short. At his prodding, I printed off the first three chapters and assembled a submissions package for Michelle Poploff. He knew I’d loved her session at the conference and the books she’d edited. She’s super-smart, and has a list of authors to die for. At least I’d know I tried, right? I said a quick prayer, dropped the manila envelope into the mail, then tried to forget about it.

On the Monday after Thanksgiving, at 8:30 in the morning, my cell phone rang. It was a 212 area code, but I assumed it was a random sales call and let the voicemail get it. I was day-dreaming about how nice it would be to get a call from a real, live editor when my voicemail alerted me to a new message. I was in the car with my husband at the time, and put the message on speaker. The female caller said, “Hello, this is Michelle Poploff calling from Random House Children’s Books. This message is for Laura Golden.” I grabbed my husband’s arm. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. She liked the opening chapters. She wanted to see the full manuscript. She’d tried to email me several days before, but I’d never received it. I’m so glad I didn’t. Receiving that voicemail was…I can’t even describe it.

“I knew it. I knew it,” my husband kept saying.

I tried to calm him down. “She hasn’t read the whole thing yet.”

But I guess he did know. Two weeks after I sent off the full, Michelle emailed me requesting a phone call. It was set for December 13th. I was a complete wreck, afraid I’d come off as a total idiot, and that she’d consequently change her mind about my manuscript. My fears were unnecessary. She was extremely gracious and warm, and I relaxed just a few minutes into the call. She wanted to see a round of revisions, and was sending a marked up copy of my manuscript back to me. I could look through it, think it all over, chew on it for a while, and decide if I wanted to tackle the revisions. Of course, I did!

I spent the next month going back and forth with Michelle, coming up with a defined plan for revision. I sent her a detailed, chapter-by-chapter outline on January 17, and by 2:00pm the next day, my phone was ringing. It was Michelle calling to make an offer on By the Light of the Moon—before I’d even completed the revisions. I was surprised, thrilled, euphoric, and any other term of supreme happiness you can think of. The story I’d shelved months back had finally made its way to the desk of the exact right person at the exact right time.

Since the offer, the manuscript been re-titled, it has grown from 34,000 words to over 50,000, and is currently going through copyedits. Not too far from now, on a lovely spring day in 2013, I’ll finally get to hold my very own book in my hands, and I’ll have to re-thank my husband for forcing me to muster up the courage to submit to the unattainable editor who ended up being the one.  

Prior to this conference that catapulted you into Authordom (yes, that's a word), what had your pre-published journey been like?

Like every other aspiring author’s—fraught with highs and lows. I’d always been a reader, and had tinkered around with writing on-and-off throughout my childhood, but I never dreamed I’d become a writer. Frankly, I began consistently writing only about six years ago because I felt I had no other talent. I can’t carry a tune in a bucket. My eight-year-old paints better than I do. I’m not especially good at arts-and-crafts. I tried them all, but failed to stick with any of them.  

One day in 2006, I saw a print ad for the Institute of Children’s Literature. I registered, and I haven’t looked back. Like many other writers, I have days I feel like quitting or times I severely doubt my ability to put together a coherent sentence, but I’m always pulled back to writing.   

Prior to the acceptance of Every Day After, I’d only achieved publication once—a historical fiction piece about the rise of the Nazi party. It was published in the May/June 2008 issue of Learning Through History, a small educational magazine that had a circulation of about 10,000. It folded shortly thereafter.

But I did what we all, at one point or another, choose to do: keep pressing forward. And the rest, as they say, is history.

What advice can you give to those of us still trying to achieve our writing dreams?

Marry a husband like mine! Just kidding.

In all seriousness, if you haven’t already, I whole-heartedly recommend joining the SCBWI. It’s a great organization that grants us aspiring authors the opportunity to learn first-hand from the heaviest of heavy-weight editors, agents, and fellow authors. The resources they provide more than out-weigh the membership fee.
Next, get thee over to Verla Kay’s blue boards. It’s a supportive and caring community of children’s book writers (many published), agents, and even a few editors. Have a question? Ask and the answer shall be given to you. Need to vent anonymously? Go ahead, and more than a few members will rush to sympathize with you (or give you a good kick in the pants, if you need). Every one of us on the blue boards is eternally indebted to Verla Kay for maintaining such an awesome gathering place for the kidlit community.  
Next, we’ve all heard it, and we don’t want to hear it again, but it’s so important. Read. Lots. When I slack off on my reading, I can definitely see the quality of my writing decline. Reading published books is like a constant refresher course in what makes writing publishable. And don’t restrict your reading to the award-winners and critically-acclaimed. Read widely. If you can identify the different strengths and weaknesses of published books, you’ll soon begin spotting the strengths and weaknesses in your own work. 
Finally, and most importantly, write what you love, and never give up. Don’t do as I did. Don’t give up too soon and force yourself to try and keep pace with an ever-changing marketplace. If you write what you love, it will show in your story, and soon enough, someone else (the right someone else) will love your story, too. 

If you could have any super human ability, what would it be?

Oh, my. This is the hardest question ever. *Furrows brows, bites lip, and ponders this question for way too long* (No, I absolutely did NOT spend days on this question! Why would you think that?)

OK, I’d have to say the ability to become invisible. I am the world’s biggest dork. Seriously. I am the one who falls in front of fifty people. I am the one smiling ear-to-ear without realizing I have broccoli stuck in my front teeth. I am the one whose mind blanks when conversing with important people. So, it’d be nice to literally fade into the background any time I royally embarrass myself—which is often.

By the way, I wanted to come up with an ├╝ber-cool ability here, but my mind blanked. Again.

Yes, I can think of a couple instances where invisibility would have come in quite handy. Thank you for sharing your publishing journey with us Laura! 

If you'd like to spend more time with Laura or get further information about EVERY DAY AFTER check out her very cozy website.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Difficult Writing

So my new novel has a lot of me in it. I know that most characters are reflections to some degree of the writer. But my main character is a figure skater, one that is a whole heck of a lot better than me, but she goes through a pretty major injury.

I don't know if having to sift through these memories again is making writing this novel feel like I'm pulling an recalcitrant elephant behind me. Or if it's the fact that I'm writing contemporary fiction that deals with real issues and I can't drive the plot forward anymore with magical actions or spectacular super human abilities. I'm pretty grounded in reality. It's hard for my main character and hence it's hard for me.

My WIP and I have this love hate relationship. I avoid it most of the time. But those moments when I sit down and actually start reading it, and thinking about it, then a scene will flow from my pen, but then when it comes time for the next difficult scene I find myself more apt to closing the notebook then plowing through.

It's a frustrating, cyclical, roller coaster process. Has anyone else had a relationship like this with one of their novels?

Friday, June 8, 2012

Forever Waiting Writers Series: Interview with Elizabeth Arroyo

Today we will be spending time with Elizabeth Arroyo (my awesome critique partner) and author of THE SECOND SIGN, which will be released February 2013 by Sapphire Star Publishing.

Here’s a little teaser about THE SECOND SIGN:

After Gabby refuses to give her soul to a demon, she’s given twenty-four hours to comply while her friends begin to die. Jake, her almost boyfriend, is the key to her salvation, but a fool with a key is a very dangerous thing.

Liz and I became critique partners back in April 2011. Natalie Whipple was kind enough to host critique partner classifieds on her blog and the rest is critique partner history. Liz has not only given me invaluable advice about my own writing but she is there to cheerlead me through it all.

THE SECOND SIGN is intense. I remember flying through it when I read it. What inspired you to write this story? 

Thanks! Demons and ghosts have always scared the crap out of me.  When I was a kid my dad used to tell us all sorts of creepy stories that included demons and ghosts.  And I’ve been hooked with the supernatural ever since.   THE SECOND SIGN was a result of a dream I had that kept nudging me to write.  In the dream I saw a dark man with blood red clothes. He went into my bathroom (yeah, don’t know why) and when he came out he stepped into the light and melted, like wax. But before he melted he said something.  I woke up and those spoken words haunted me. I racked my brain trying to figure out what he had said to me. Until finally I decided that it sounded like “the second coming”.   After doing some research a story was born.  Yes, my subconscious has all sorts of craziness in there and I use writing as an outlet to let it out.

Your first blog post was written September 27, 2009 and was entitled Jumping Off My Platform and on May 25, 2012 you wrote a post entitled My Book is Getting Published!!!! Can you share what your journey has been like from 2009 to 2012?

Wow…I had to go back to read that.  The journey has been hard.  I started my blog so that I would be accountable to what I said I would do. That was hard but it was the best thing I did. I’ve met wonderful people through it, awesome crit partners like you, and learned so much through other people’s journeys and learning experiences.  THE SECOND SIGN is my fourth full manuscript. I sent over 150 queries combined for numerous projects. One I didn’t even bother pitching. I got some full requests with the end result usually leaning toward the concern of the marketability of the project and not the project itself. One agent even suggested I submit to a small publisher.   Needless to say, the journey was not easy, but it allowed me to grow as a writer and a person.

Can you share what it was like to decide to publish THE SECOND SIGN with a fairly new small press like Sapphire Star Publishing?

After an agent asked to read The Second Sign and told me that she thought the writing was good but feared she wouldn’t be able to sell it (the cycle all over again), I decided to query a smaller publisher. Actually, Sapphire Star Publishing was the first on that list after I saw them on Twitter. And…I loved the covers of their books. I’m a visual person. What can I say?  I also wanted the book to be accessible as a hard copy (paperback) and SSP has that option.  After they contacted me stating they loved my book and couldn’t put it down I was thrilled.  It is why I write, to hook the reader so that they forget life and follow my characters as I put them through…well, hell.  The staff at SSP have been wonderful and their authors welcoming. I was hooked.

So now that the contract is signed what’s next with THE SECOND SIGN? Are you working on any other projects?

THE SECOND SIGN will be released February 7, 2013 and I’m going nuts eagerly waiting the edits.  I am currently writing the sequel. Yay!! It still freaks me out to say it. I also have a few other manuscripts in the works.

If you could have any super human ability, what would it be? 

I’d like to move things with my mind.  I’m just lazy that way. =)

You can follow Liz at her blog Chandara Writes, where I am sure she will be sharing her cover reveal and where and when we can pre-order THE SECOND SIGN.

Thanks Anita!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Gossip Time...SURRENDER + Give Away!

SURRENDER, a companion novel to Elana Johnson's debut POSSESSION, releases today!
SURRENDER has three things that are fail proof when it comes to spiking my interest:
  • Forbidden love
  • Way cool futuristic technology
  • A theme of breaking free of control 

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….

In honor of SURRENDER'S release today I'd like to give away my ARC. The winner will be announced on the blog Monday June 11. This contest is for U.S. residents only. If you'd like to enter, you must do the following:

  • Follow the blog and/or Follow me on Twitter (Anita_Writes)
  • Post a sentence in the comment section of this post in which you use the words: surrender, ice, hypnosis, and love. Yes, you must use all four words. Which ever sentence strikes my fancy the most, I will send the writer of that sentence my ARC of SURRENDER.
 If you haven't already, check out this interview with Elana Johnson.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Forever Waiting Writers Series: Interview with Elana Johnson

Today we will be spending time with Elana Johnson. Not only is she the author of POSSESSION, REGRET, and SURRENDER (all 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. Elana is also a teacher (I heart teachers) and loves bacon and claims to drive too fast.

Here is my own Gossip Time Review of POSSESSION and below is a short description from Amazon:

Vi knows the Rule: Girls don’t walk with boys, and they never even think about kissing them. But no one makes Vi want to break the Rules more than Zenn…and since the Thinkers have chosen him as Vi’s future match, how much trouble can one kiss cause? The Thinkers may have brainwashed the rest of the population, but Vi is determined to think for herself.
But the Thinkers are unusually persuasive, and they’re set on convincing Vi to become one of them….starting by brainwashing Zenn. Vi can’t leave Zenn in the Thinkers’ hands, but she’s wary of joining the rebellion, especially since that means teaming up with Jag. Jag is egotistical, charismatic, and dangerous—everything Zenn’s not. Vi can’t quite trust Jag and can’t quite resist him, but she also can’t give up on Zenn.
This is a game of control or be controlled. And Vi has no choice but to play.

Elana, what’s interesting about SURRENDER (which I had thought was a sequel but I stand corrected in your answer below) (and don’t worry no spoilers) is that you chose to write it from the point of views of Raine and Gunner and not Vi. What made you decide to do this (other than the obvious…which is what happens to Vi at the end of POSSESSION)?

Yes, no spoilers! So I needed a new narrator. I’d tried and thought of many different things—all of them closely related to POSSESSION. After all, I wanted readers to know they were in the same world.

But everything I tried failed. It was all wrong, wrong, wrong. It was only when I stepped completely away from POSSESSION that I found SURRENDER. Yes, it’s a companion novel. Yes, it’s the same world. Yes, you’ll see many of the same characters.

But SURRENDER is it’s own book. There’s a new part of the Association, new characters, new problems, new relationships, new everything. It still maintains the feel of POSSESSION, but it really is a new novel. Not a continuation of a story that’s already done.
So that’s why I chose to write from Gunn and Raine’s POV. SURRENDER is their story.

Other than an awesome story fraught with tension, SURRENDER has some way cool tech! In particular I love the concept of e-comms and cache. Can you explain what these are and what inspired you to invent such cool tech?

A cache is a mental device that’s implanted at birth that allows people to communicate mentally. So Gunner can compose an e-comm—basically an email—and send it all with the cache, all inside his head. No computer required!

I need cool tech in the novels, because the society is futuristic and somewhat based on technology. Plus, I like inventing fun gadgets and using them—for good or bad! Because, hey, a cache feed can be monitored… and once you have something in writing, it’s hard to take back. So the cache isn’t always a good thing…

What I admire about you is not only how you have built a presence for yourself and your books on the internet, but how you have put so much information out there to help other writers in the trenches. Your book from Query to the Call is available for free download, you have links on your blog to help writers with their query letters and building a better blog, you’ve recommended the book SAVE THE CAT (which was a HUGE help to me with my own writing)—how do you do it, between work, family, and writing? What would you say to writers out there that are being beaten down by rejection or are just pulling their hair out from all the waiting?

First, thank you! I can do what I do because my family is forgiving, my summers are free, and I’ve learned to operate on little to no sleep. I’m only sort of kidding about that last one. I have also been doing this for years, so I’ve learned what works for me and how to maximize the time I have.

My best piece of advice for those dealing with rejection—which published authors still get rejected too, so I still feel this pain from time to time—is a simple one: Write more.
You started writing because you love writing, right? SO WRITE.You didn’t start writing because you love PUBLISHING. 

And there’s a difference between writing and publishing. One is something you do because it brings peace to your soul or helps you sort through the mess of your life or whatever. The other one is something that happens after you’ve gone completely insane and decided you want other people to read your work. I’m only sort of kidding about that last one. Ha!

But seriously. You didn’t start writing because you love publishing. You started writing because you love to write. So do that. You’ll get there.

If you could have a super human ability, what would it be?

I would like to fly. 

Thank you so much for spending time with us Elana!

SURRENDER is going to release on June 5, 2012. That's in less than FIVE DAYS! 

About SURRENDER: 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…. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

ER Memories

When I was in college the attendants at the emergency room knew me by name.

It started Freshman year when I was introduced to basketball.

Ice skating is a pretty solitary sport and I enjoyed basketball because of the team aspect of it. I played on a co-ed intramural team. My forte was defense. The refs rarely called foul on a girl when she tried to bat at the ball (and sometimes hit the opposing player in the process) or jumped up to block shots (and sometimes hit the opposing player in the process again). On offense, if I happened to have the ball I'd get too nervous and was quick to pass. I'd leave the dribbling and shooting to team mates more seasoned than I. I can't recall if I ever scored points in a game, but I remember practicing a lot of three pointers because if a girl shot one in a game it was worth four points. I do, however, remember finding great joy in setting picks for my teammates. The last thing someone expects on an intramural team full of predominantly Asian girls is for one of the girls to set a pick. I relished seeing the defense's stunned faces when they'd run smack dab into me and my teammate would run past and score.
The bad thing about basketball was how it ate up my ankles. After a couple trips to the ER with bad sprains, and some disapproving looks from my ice skating coach, I hung up my basketball shoes.

Next, came football. I loved it even more. What really helped me understand the game was my friend Victor teaching me how to play Madden. I finally found an appreciation for those weekend college and NFL games that I had thought were boring tv time sucks. I remember practicing very hard on perfecting my spiral (because if a girl threw or caught a touchdown it was worth more points), but I always had a bit of trouble in the catching department. It never failed in practice or a game that I would get hit in the face. And perhaps this was fitting because our team's name was Broke Jokes. Though I never visited the ER for facial trauma, I did see my health care friends for a pulled ham string and jammed finger.

When I wasn't playing intramural sports I was making bad life decisions. I moved out of a town home, away from some awesome girls that are still my best friends today, to an eighty year old apartment infested with lady bugs. When I wasn't vacuuming lady bugs off my ceiling or swatting and screaming at them when I was in the shower, I was befriending my crazy neighbor who was in love with Pomeranian puppies and booze. When I decided to move into an even older (albeit bigger) house with drunk Pomeranian lover I ended up slicing my hand open on one of those old fashioned glass door knobs.

My friends at the ER were waiting for me with open arms, lidocaine, and twelve stitches.

There may be a few more visits to the ER that I'm not remembering, but these are the ones that stick out in my mind the most. Next time I'm in a nostalgic mood maybe I'll share my affinity for walking into glass windows and doors.