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And the Winner Is... [18 Aug 2014|08:54am]
[ mood | weird ]

Wow, this contest was a tough one! You guys tried valiantly and threw everything at me, but much like the Highlander, there can be only one.
Kristen Kittscher, congratulations! You are the grand prize winnah!
Kristen (who had 4 out of 5 right...told you it was tough!) gets a lovely ARC of Colonial Madness (my new book coming out next February), along with a copy of D is for Drama and a $10 Barnes & Noble gift card.
Congrats, Kristen!
And for those who were wondering:
(from L-R)
Cindy Pon (Taiwan), Jo Whittemore (Korea), Sophia Chang (Taiwan), Joyce Wan (China), Kat Yeh (Taiwan)

Thanks to all who participated, and don't worry, there will be a couple more chances to win big as we get closer to the release date!

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Contest: Guess the Asian Origin! [06 Aug 2014|11:50am]
[ mood | artistic ]

Yesterday I received some ARCs of my new book, Colonial Madness!
photo
I'd love to share them with you BUT there's a little game involved.
See the lovely ladies below? (including...ahem...yours truly)
YOU have to guess their Asian heritage. Why?
Because diverse authors are just as important as diverse books.
We are Asian, but we are so much more.
photo2
So:
The ladies, in alphabetical (not photographed) order, are:
Sophia Chang
Cindy Pon
Joyce Wan
Jo Whittemore
Kat Yeh

The locations you can choose from are:
China
Japan
Korea
Singapore
Taiwan
The Philippines
Vietnam

The Rules:
1. Match the name to the lady (you can do a simple "From L-R...")
2. Match the location to the lady (not all locations will be used and some may even be repeated!)
3. Open to US and Canadian residents only (Hey, I'm diverse, not rich)
4. If multiple entries are correct, a winner will be chosen by random drawing
5. Contest ends at midnight CST on 8/10
6. Enter by emailing your answers to ME

The Prizes:
An ARC of Colonial Madness
AND
A copy of my book D is for Drama (so I'm representing both my Caucasian AND Asian [but which?] heritage)
AND
A $10 Barnes & Noble gift card

Get thee to guessing, and good luck!

2 comments|post comment

Listen to Yourself [27 Jul 2014|01:35pm]
[ mood | thoughtful ]

Hi, guys!
Before I get into the deep stuff, some updates!
1. Here's the awesome cover for Colonial Madness (coming Feb 2015). Don't I get the best artists?

2. The JoJo Dojo is coming along nicely!

3. I'll be at SCBWI LA, so if you see me, don't be afraid to say hi!

And now, to get to the point of this post.
One of my favorite shows is Once Upon a Time, and the other night I was watching an old episode, "That Still Small Voice," all about listening to your conscience...listening to yourself.
It's very important for us to do this as writers.
I'm not talking about listening to the voice that makes you doubt your work and tells you that you're not good enough. That's not the real you.
Know how I know?
Would the real you say such hurtful things to another person? No?
Then it's NOT THE REAL YOU.
I'm talking about the moments when you're writing and something feels...off. Or when you put a project aside because you no longer find pleasure in it. Or you dread working on a project.
Pay attention to your feelings and ask yourself...Why?
The answer is most likely because the story isn't going where it needs to go. And you know it deep down because the story is a part of you.
So instead of avoiding it, fix it. Find out where you stopped loving it, where the writer's block barred your path. That is the point where your story took a wrong turn, and only YOU know what can get it back on the right path. Once you do that, notice how differently you feel.
You're happy and confident and love writing because you're writing the right thing!
Listen to yourself. You're smarter than you think!

2 comments|post comment

It's Okay to Be Type A (How I Manage it All) [11 Jun 2014|11:27am]
[ mood | accomplished ]

There are a few things about me that fascinate people: my intense love of chocolate, my left-handedness (which pretty much equates me with being a unicorn), and how I manage to juggle so much in my life.

For instance, here's what's going on right now:
1. I'm working on a six-book series ("Confidentially Yours" with Harper Collins), the first two books of which are due in September.
2. I've got a separate book coming out next spring ("Colonial Madness" with Aladdin) that I'll need to start marketing come this fall.
3. I've got a day job where I'm training myself to become an Excel guru and learning some new reporting functions.
4. I'm having a house built and meeting with the builder to go over details, working on the financing, decorating, etc etc
5. I'm working on my general business acumen so I can build my brand (aka me).

How do I do all this? I've got a very strong Type A personality.
Obviously, my methodology and work ethic isn't for everybody, but take what you need if it inspires you:

1. See things in black and white. Gray areas are dangerous, because they're full of ambivalence and maybes.
If something is not a definite, it can't be counted on. Don't accept maybes, and don't schedule your life based on them.

2. Put yourself and your family first. If your mental, physical and emotional health aren't at peak levels, you're not going to be on top of your game and you'll have less to contribute to others.
No matter what happens, YOU will always be there for you and so will your loved ones. Don't neglect the important things.

3. Don't be afraid to say, "No." The Type A mentality is generally to take on more than you can handle, but everyone has a breaking point. Yes, you love socializing with friends and taking on new projects, but inevitably something's gotta give. Worthwhile people will understand when you've reached your limit because, again, everyone has one.

4. Don't be afraid to say, "Help!" This can also be hard for Type A personalities, because they feel like they're admitting defeat if they need help. But it's NOT that you can't do it by yourself. Eventually you'd find a way, you genius, you! It's just often quicker when there are two or more brains/brawns involved.

5. Prioritize. Know what you need to keep your life on course. People who tell you money isn't important are fools. You need money to buy food and pay for shelter. Your top priority? Doing what will produce definite income. This is why I keep my day job.

6. Be grateful. You've got a lot to do? Thank God! People ask for your time/help because they recognize your worth. You are an asset, adding value to the world around you. Be grateful for a busy life and the things that make it busy.

7. Make lists. I got this from my dad. He makes lists of the things he needs to accomplish each day so he can visualize how his day should go. As he accomplishes a task he gets the satisfaction of crossing it out.

8. Keep a calendar. My mom keeps two (I keep three), and I know it should be common sense, but so many people still miss birthdays and appointments and deadlines because they forgot to write it down. Like making a list, a calendar is a top-level look at what your life is like. It says, "Here's your month. If I were you, I wouldn't schedule anything for next weekend."

9. Put a price on your time. Your time has a value. It is a precious commodity that gets folded into the opportunity cost of pursuing a project. For example, if you spend 20 minutes looking at Facebook, that's 20 minutes you didn't spend outlining that new novel. Was the profit you made from looking at Facebook worth the cost of your time? No? Don't waste your time.

10. Don't worry. That is a HUGE time-waster. There are two approaches to worry.
Approach One: Is it fixable? Yes? Then stop worrying.
Approach Two: Is it fixable? No? Then stop worrying.

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Berlin, Birds, and Books [04 Dec 2013|09:57am]
[ mood | accomplished ]

Hello, hello, dear friends!
November was a busy month in the Life of Jo.
At the start of November, I took a business trip to Berlin, where I rode the rails, saw the sights (below: Alexanderplatz station, Brandenberger Tor, Berlin Wall) and ate the chocolate:
BearBT
BWBerlin Wall
chococake

Next came Austin Comic Con, where myself and the rest of the Writing Ninjas of Texas assumed our REAL identities and wowed the crowd with literature.
The biggest highlight was meeting a girl who'd read two of my books at her school library and stopped by to pick up the third. I LOVE MY FANS!
Also, I met James Hong! Look at him, sharing his breakfast. So thoughtful.
booksWN
girlsjh

At the end of the month, I tried my hand at my first ever home-cooked Thanksgiving turkey. I started off with a training bird
chicken

Then moved onto the big leagues. Not bad, huh?
turkey
And nobody died.
Except the turkey.
Which was already dead.

Hope you're having a wonderful winter, and we'll talk again soon!

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Polish Pride & Writing Tips [25 Oct 2013|10:46am]
[ mood | accomplished ]

Well, hello! Long time, no blog!
I will do my very very best to get back into consistent updates, but for now I give you two things of interest:

1. The Polish cover for Odd Girl In (that's right, we're going global!).
My Polish is a little non-existent, but the translation, I believe, is This Girl is a Little Strange.
Polish cover

2. Writing tips! If you follow me on Twitter (@JoWhittemore), you've noticed daily writing tips I've been posting. If you've missed any, here are the first 30 in Tweet form:

DWT#1: Write like life. Avoid adverbs. You don't say, "Man, I ate that cereal hungrily!" You say "Man, I DEVOURED that cereal."

DWT#2: Unless the way your character does a common task is unique, there's no need to describe it. We all know what getting dressed entails.

DWT#3: Even a hot guy gets the occasional booger. Don't make your characters perfect. We all have flaws, and that's what makes us relatable.

DWT#4: The original solution for your MC's core problem will never work as planned. Why? It's based on who they were BEFORE their journey.

DWT#5: Conflict arises from differing opinions. Opinion reveals character. Even if your MC doesn't understand enemy motives, YOU should.

DWT#6: Shocking revelations require foreshadowing to be believable. Leave the reader thinking, "Holy...! Of course!" and you've won a fan.

DWT#7: The key to a great opening is intrigue. What is different about THIS day in your character's life?

DWT#8: Characters needn't shout to convey emotion. A soft "I'm going to kill you" can have just as much impact as "I'm going to kill you!"

DWT#9: Characters are like flower buds: closed off at first, revealing more of themselves over time. How long? All the way until The End.

DWT#10: If we don't know where your character came from, why should we care where they're going? A little backstory, please!

DWT#11: People have distinct ways of talking. Take away every characters' speech tags. Does the dialogue all look the same? Fix it.

DWT#12: A character's observations should differ by age & gender. No 10-year-old boy is going to describe the window treatments in a house.

DWT#13: Pay attention to the passage of time. It might take you 15 minutes to write a convo but only 2 minutes for your characters to say it.

DWT#14: Everything on the page should enhance AND advance the story, including description. Use what you need to world-build, then stop.

DWT#15: All drama/action, all the time is exhausting, both for your character and your reader. Allow for moments of downtime/reflection.

DWT#16: When revising, start w/ a read-through for story flow. Mark places where it gets muddled. Why pick at lint when the dress is torn??

DWT#17: Character strength comes from character weakness. People don't watch how you deal w/ positive; they watch how you deal w/ negative.

DWT#18: Often we start strong w/ character habits/quirks, but we forget as the story takes over. Keep it up! Those quirks may come in handy.

DWT#19: Conversations don't occur in a movement-free void. Do YOU talk while remaining perfectly still? Add some actions for real...ism!

DWT#20: Your words beat a rhythm on the page. If a sentence feels off, add or subtract beats by trying words w/ different syllable counts.

DWT#21: Even if a subplot is for a secondary character (the BFF), it should still involve the MC in some way. If not, save it for a spinoff.

DWT#22: When solving a story problem, don't think like you; think like your character. How can his/her skills, friends, surroundings help?

DWT#23: Books don't have mood music, so your pacing & word choice set the tone. Intense action, for example? Short sentences, sharp words.

DWT#24: Antagonists don't have to be evil. They can simply be at odds with your main character's goal or striving for the same goal.

DWT#25: A story's conflict can be Man vs. Man or Nature or Society, but it will also always be Man vs. Self. Character growth, people.

DWT#26: Your character should have something worth fighting for. That something should be revealed in the first couple chapters.

DWT#27: You write w/ a child's voice, but do you write w/ a child's wonder? Every new life experience is an adventure. Don't gloss over it.

DWT#28: You don't need fancy segues between transitional scenes. Sometimes "The next morning..." works just fine.

DWT#29: Highlight these in your story:
THAT, JUST, START(ED) TO, BEGAN TO, DECIDED TO.
Most aren't needed.
START TO DECIDE TO delete them.

DWT#30: You can't have a final conflict without earlier conflicts. They don't have to be against the Big Bad, but they MUST happen.
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End o' Year Recap [28 Dec 2011|08:05pm]
[ mood | amused ]

Happy holidays, boys and girls! Here's a whirlwind recap of the last couple months. 
For starters, next fall's release D is for Drama has a cover!

This particular scene is when the ragtag band of theater wannabes learn to dance. Hilarity ensues!

October was Nashville for the Southern Festival of Books, where I did a casual Q&A with the sweet and funny Laurel Snyder:

I also got the opportunity to hang out with other writing friends: Jackson Pearce, Eric Wight, Matt Phelan, and Mandy Morgan


AND I headed up to Kentucky to see where I was born and visit with online friend Cassi Haggard at the famous Smokey Pig BBQ


The weekend after that was Texas Book Festival, where I spoke on a panel with several awesome middle grade authors. 
And when I got to the signing tent, there was a line waiting for me!


November was Austin Comic Con, where I ran into fellow Texas Sweethearts Kari Holt, Jessica Anderson, and Tricia Hoover dressed up and selling their awesome books:


And December was, of course, the holidays and...Tori Amos!
I've loved her since I was in high school, and she's still just as dynamic and talented.
Yeah, the photo's blurry, but revel in her awesomeness anyway! And a string quartet!


What's coming up in January? ALA Midwinter and green hair (I lost a bet). Stay tuned!

7 comments|post comment

And the Guess the Asian winner Is... [06 Sep 2011|08:56am]
[ mood | chipper ]

First, let me applaud all the entries for the contest. We had an 86% accuracy rating.
The vast majority of you can tell your Asians apart, which makes me VERY happy.
The winner of 10 free books by Asian-American authors is...Julie McKee!
Congratulations, Julie!

Bonus author #7 was Kat Yeh.

5 comments|post comment

It's a "Guess the Asian" Contest! [26 Aug 2011|10:23am]
[ mood | mischievous ]

Disclaimer: This contest is open to U.S. residents only. See complete rules at end of message.

We've all heard the adage "All Asians look alike", but anyone with half a brain knows that's not true.
Koreans look different from Japanese who look different from Chinese...etc etc.
So let's break that stereotype, yeah?
Identify the writers in the picture below for a chance to win a stack of 10 books by Asian-American authors!

(Photo courtesy of Rita Crayon Huang, copyright 2011)

The books YOU can win are:





Writers who might POTENTIALLY be in the picture are:
Cherry Cheva
Cindy Pon
Cynthea Liu
Dan Santat
Ellen Oh
Gene Luen Yang
Jo Whittemore
Kat Yeh
Linda Sue Park
Lisa Yee
Malinda Lo
Mike Jung
Rita Crayon Huang
Sophia Chang

And for an extra bonus entry (even if you Guess the Asians incorrectly), name lucky #7 shown below:



Rules:
1. DO NOT POST YOUR ANSWER HERE. Send an email to:
jo underscore whittemore at hotmail dot com with the email subject as "GTA"
2. You may guess as many different name combinations as your heart desires. Only one correct entry will be accepted per person, however.
3. If there are multiple correct entries, the winner will be selected by random drawing.
4. The contest ends September 2nd.
5. People in the photo...you may not enter. But you probably knew that. :-)


Good luck!

8 comments|post comment

Asian Invasion--LA Photo Montage [09 Aug 2011|09:59am]
[ mood | amused ]

Annyeonghaseyo, peeps! I hope you've been having a fabulous summer. 
This past weekend while the annual SCBWI conference was being held in LA, I decided to take advantage of the chance to mingle with writing friends in a place far, far cooler than Texas (110 degrees...the nerve!)

I turned it into a critique weekend with chums Cheri & Rachel. We met to critique each other's manuscripts on Friday, plot our novels on Saturday and do free writing on Sunday:


Friday night once everyone had finished their sessions for the day, I met up with fab editor Liesa Abrams and some writer peeps at Rock Sugar.
(From l-r: Alan Silberberg, Shannon Messenger, Hillary Homzie, me, and James Riley. Liesa was womaning the camera)


Later in the lobby, I ran into agency sisters, Erin Jade Lange and Kristen Kittscher.

We talked of iPhone auto-corrects (Mine changes "I am anal-retentive" to "I am anal detective") and the plethora of men at the conference (Plethora=more than 2, in this case).

Saturday, I caught up with long-time conference pal Jody Feldman over lunch and even more of my agency sisters over dinner:
(From l-r: Erin Jade Lange, Whitney Miller, me, Kristen Kittscher. Martha Flynn was kind enough to take the photo)

This time the subject was marketing a new release, and we brainstormed ideas for upcoming debuts, as well as how and what conferences to get into.
Later, after I'd changed into fashionable PJs and gone to sleep, I was roused by music coming from outside. I ventured onto the back lawn and spotted Stephanie Ruble and a whole slew of other people milling about in their pajamas. Those crazy LA folks!:


Me, Cynthea Liu, Cindy Pon:


Me and girl-boyfriend Sophia Chang


I saw this restaurant and couldn't pass it up. Who doesn't love cheese?
Note: Kristen's finger gun is not actually loaded.


Here's the lady behind SCBWI's annual photo montage, Rita Crayon Huang.


She's always with camera, except for here:


If you'll notice, I haven't named any of the people in the photo. Because they're part of a grander Guess the Asian game that will be revealed very soon. Stay tuned!

All in all though, a great trip. I miss California and those writing pals already!

5 comments|post comment

ALA Recap...a Bit Late [11 Jul 2011|09:41am]
[ mood | happy ]

Yes, I'm just now posting about ALA, but two weeks is how long it takes to recover afterward!
One of my favorite parts of major book-related events (apart from getting new books) is reconnecting with friends across the country and making new ones.
And it started Friday.
Texas Sweethearts Jessica Lee Anderson, Tricia Hoover and I had just arrived at the convention center in NOLA when I bounced off to get my badge and ran into...Jonathan Auxier! I've only known him through Twitter, but I recognized his profile (and name badge), and we struck up a conversation and headed to lunch, picking up author Shannon Messenger on the way.

From l-r Jonathan, Tricia, Shannon, Jessica. I don't know the dude in the background.

Friday night, Jessica, Tricia and I cruised the convention floor with roomie Emily Anderson and then visited a few choice publisher parties.

Check out the caricature from the Random House party! Note how he didn't give me the slanted eyes most caricaturists enjoy giving me. I was very grateful. Also, he gave me big boobs.


Hamming it up with Phil Bildner. And there's gorgeous gal Ellen Hopkins in the background!

On Saturday, I did a wee bit more of the book grabbing, a bit o' slots at Harrah's casino (it's in walking distance. How could I not?) and then off to some more evening events. This time? The posse was much bigger.

Yes, all these sweet girls had names. No, I don't remember what they were.


At the Simon & Schuster party with author/illustrator Eric Wight and Emily Anderson.
(You can tell it's getting later...and more humid...in the evening. Check out my hair).

At the same party, I also:
-Finally got to meet Jenny Han(!!!)
-Was scolded and forced to sit on the floor with Mr. Schu Reads (we were blocking a very short woman's view during a presentation)
-Judged a very nice man by his rolled-up shorts. Hi, Alex!
-Adventured into the ballroom bathroom barefoot (cute shoes will eventually kill you)

On Sunday, I enjoyed catching up with friend and former SCBWI roomie Jen Lynn Barnes and a slew of other authors at lunch. Hey, Jen...MONKEY.
And yes, I did meet Jonathan Stroud. And yes, he was as awesome as I thought he might be.

All in all, a great trip.
 


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Sounds Authors Make [17 Jun 2011|09:37am]
[ mood | relaxed ]

Ahhhh.
Do you hear that?
That's the sound of me turning in the manuscript for D in Drama! It's got humor, it's got heart, and most of all...it's got theater.

Aughhh!
That's the sound I'll be making in about a week when I realize I could have made a certain joke funnier or a scene less sappy. Yes, I'm one of THOSE people. You know the ones...even after their book is on the shelf, they still want to make corrections to it. Fun fact: bookstores frown on you writing in their paperbacks.

Eeee!
Do you hear THAT?
That's the sound of ALA 2011 just around the corner. I'm not speaking or signing; I'm just there to soak in the New Orleans experience (and maybe snag some books). I decided to go because it's close, it's New Orleans, and because Jonathan Stroud will be there. I heart him!

OMG!
That's a cry typically reserved for the younger generation, but I'm still pretty hip so I'll go with it.
That sound, dear friends, is for the for the film version of Front Page Face-Off. And look at the cute poster!
 

It's been a pretty busy summer so far, and it promises to say that way (which I love).
There's still revisions for D in Drama, a trip to Boston, a critique workshop, a trip to Los Angeles, and plenty of books to read. Plus, I'm dying to get back to another writing project. Crazy? Yes! 
But we're all a little mad here. (^_^)

4 comments|post comment

Deadline...or Death!! [18 May 2011|10:41am]
[ mood | busy ]

Okay, that's a bit melodramatic, but I do have a deadline looming oh-so-very close (next month), and it feels as if I'm dangling by dental floss over shark-infested waters.
And I still have so many embarrassing photos to burn!
So what's been going on? I puttered around Korea for a bit on day-job business:

Korean Starbucks!


A pot of boiled maggots and a child eager to eat them!


Funny hats! May I suggest sharing the one on the right with frenemies?


And because no Jo travel story is complete without at least one odd adventure, I found myself at one point in the middle of a Mens Only park. You'd think I would have guessed something was wrong at the entrance when a guy jumped into my path and yelled at me. I just figured he was a jerk.
Little did I know he was saying "Hey, American! Unless you have testicles, get thee gone!"
Fun lesson to learn.
The Monday after I got home, my dear sweet town of Austin was graced by the presence of some stunningly beautiful and talented authors from other parts of the state/country as part of the Diversity in YA tour.


And from now until mid-June I'll spend my spare moments writing the MC of my new book D in Drama into hilarious theater-related hijinks! After that, I'm ALA-bound. Maybe I'll see YOU there!

4 comments|post comment

Hooray for TLA, Part 1 [14 Apr 2011|02:42pm]
[ mood | bouncy ]

I only have one more day left of TLA goings-on, but the past two have already been greater than I could have ever imagined. These librarians are some of the sweetest, funnest people I've ever met. Hi, y'all!

To start off yesterday, I had a signing at the Simon & Schuster booth for my new book, Odd Girl In, as well as Front Page Face-Off.
While we were setting up, a woman approached and said "When will the author be signing the books?"
I smiled and told her that we were still setting up and almost ready. The woman looks at me, smiles, and says, "You don't recognize me, do you?"
So, of course, I stare at her. And then I give one of those squeals reserved for 8-year-old girls and men getting kicked in the groin.
"Eeeeee! Mrs. Mock!"
Mrs. Mock was my HIGH SCHOOL librarian/drama coach. I was so excited to see her, and of course, that just made the conference jump from good to great.
So, I signed books for the hour:


Then I changed into my Texas Sweethearts & Scoundrels shirt and headed over to the CBAY Books booth for our We Love Librarians ice cream reception:


After that, I went through another costume change (in my car in the Four Seasons parking garage...yes, I'm THAT classy) to rub elbows with awesome authors at the joint publishers reception:




Then it was time for dinner! The wonderful people of Simon & Schuster took their authors out on the town, where we did a lot of talking about craft and music and some of our favorite things. All in all, Wednesday was a fantastic day. More to come about Thursday!

5 comments|post comment

Underdogs of the World Unite! [22 Mar 2011|09:30pm]
[ mood | determined ]

Today was the official release of my tween humor novel, Odd Girl In, from Aladdin MIX.
It's about a troublemaking tomboy and her brothers, forced to take a life skills class to gain some discipline. It's a story with family, friendship and flaming bags of poop, but most of all...it's an underdog story.
I love underdogs, and I always root for them. In fact, you may notice the underdog as a common theme in my main characters. The odds are always stacked against them, they're not the most popular or the best-looking, but they have heart and hope, and that's why they persevere.
Another reason I love underdogs? I've always been one, and I'm proud to have many friends who would say the same. I can't identify with people who breeze through life or have things handed to them. I respect those who tenaciously struggle and work to get what they want.
Underdogs, I salute you! And I'd howl at the moon with you anytime.

13 comments|post comment

Who Sold a Book? Jo Sold a Book! [03 Mar 2011|02:20pm]
[ mood | ecstatic ]

If you already follow my Twitter feed, you know that yesterday, the following announcement came out in Publisher's Marketplace:

Childrens: Middle Grade --
Jo Whittemore's D IN DRAMA, about a group of drama school losers who are perpetually cast as trees and nameless villagers, but hatch a plan to upend the status quo and create their own starring roles, again to Alyson Heller at Aladdin, by Jennifer Laughran at Andrea Brown Literary Agency.

Ta-da! I'm bringing more humor your way, folks!
And don't forget, in a couple weeks (March 22nd, to be exact), Odd Girl In will be hitting a bookstore near you!
28 comments|post comment

Reviews for Odd Girl In!! [15 Feb 2011|08:00am]
[ mood | chipper ]

It's been a very exciting last few weeks! Eeeeeeeeeee! (See? That's how you can tell).
My editor passed along two wonderful reviews, which I've taken the liberty of paring down to remove potential spoilers.

The first review comes from Kirkus Reviews:
"Alex’s absent mother provides an element of drama in this otherwise witty, laugh-out-loud romp. Whittemore handles not only the comedy but deftly portrays Alex’s and her brothers’ advancement into a more mature state of mind. It should keep middle-schoolers laughing from start to finish. Funny and perky. (Fiction. 8-12)"
The reviewer laughed out loud!

The second review comes from an equally awesome source, School Library Journal:
"Secondary characters have surprising depth. There’s plenty of humor along the way to redemption and healing as Alex and her brothers learn to work as a team and as a family."–Brenda Kahn, Tenakill Middle School, Closter, NJ
Awww. She makes me sound thoughtful!

All my lovelies, I hope you'll enjoy this book, too!

17 comments|post comment

Motivation (Write On!) [24 Jan 2011|01:51pm]
[ mood | Let's do this. ]

After the holidays, it can be tough to get motivated at any stage of writing, whether it be first draft, revision or marketing a new release. Here are some handy tips to get you going again. (Note: For everyone of these you don't follow, a fairy will smash into your windshield.)

1. Get an accountabilibuddy. "What is this nonsense?!" you cry. An accountabilibuddy is a buddy who can hold you accountable for your actions. It's someone you communicate with on a frequent basis to pledge your writing goals for the day/week/month and then provide progress reports. You're also responsible for making sure they keep on target.

2. Socialize with writerly types. It's a proven fact that if a group of two or more writers convenes for longer than thirty minutes, at least one of them will ask "What are you working on?" And nobody likes to be the writer with nothing to report. Plus, hearing the success stories of others will motivate you to have one of your own to share.

3. Read success stories.  As mentioned above, seeing how other people have struggled and triumphed will keep your spirits up and give you something to strive for. You can find success stories dozens of places, from blog entries to books to Verla Kay's BlueBoards.

4. Get involved. Join a critique group or book club or (if published) an actual book tour, like Diversity in YA. That way, even if you're not at first motivated for yourself, you'll feel motivated because you don't want to let the group down. I should also mention various writing challenges, like NaNoWriMo, where you post updates on your progress.

5. Start with a sentence. You don't eat a pizza in one huge swallow; you take bites, right? The same is true for writing a story. You can't look at it as "I'm going to write this whole book today!" You must look at it as "I'm going to write this sentence today." Then, you build from there. "I'm going to write this page today." Feeling overwhelmed is a huge killer of motivation, so keep it manageable.

6. Reward yourself. It's so very B.F. Skinner to condition yourself this way, but sometimes we're more apt to get moving if we know there's a tangible reward at the end. I don't mean publication, because on our darker days, we'll tell ourselves it's not going to happen. I mean something you can guarantee within a set amount of time. If I get two pages written today, maybe I get some guilt-free trash TV time tonight.

7. Read books. Sometimes, reading how other writers navigate conflicts and problems in their books gives us inspiration for our own writing. Roadblocks that kept us from finishing a manuscript get whisked away and we start thinking outside the box. Soon, we're itching to get back to our own projects.

8. Gather writing quotes. Then display them all over your office/house/bathroom mirror every time you need a reminder of why you do what you do. Need some starters?
"The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say."- Anaïs Nin
"Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart."-William Wordsworth
"If I don't write to empty my mind, I go mad."-Lord Byron

9. Change your scene. Writing from the same place every day gets dull and tedious, especially if you're home by yourself. Try switching it up and heading to a coffeeshop or restaurant. Some bigger cities even have writers rooms, where (for a fee) you can get access to a spot built just for writers, complete with bathroom!

10. Remember, this is a career. Unless you 're writing purely to entertain yourself when it's raining, you should view writing as a career that needs to be taken seriously (even if you have a full-time job). I repeat, if you ever expect to get anywhere as a writer, YOU MUST TAKE IT SERIOUSLY. Just as you worked to get ahead in your non-writing day job, you must work to become a good writer. This means reading, researching, writing, and revising every week. Not just when the whim strikes you. It means promoting your book once it comes out and spreading the word. Your publisher can only do so much. In the end, your writing career is yours to manage.

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2010 Highlights [07 Jan 2011|01:25pm]
[ mood | content ]

Happy New Year, y'all! Is it just me, or did 2010 start slow and then fly by after the summer?
Here, in list-form (my favorite!), are my 2010 Highlights (made awesome by the company of friends & family):
1. ALA Mid-Winter in Boston. Yes, it was cold, and author Jessica Lee Anderson and I spent our first night sleeping above an alley of loud, nocturnal activity, but visiting the Boston Public Library was wonderful and I got to spend time with some fabulous author friends.

2. Front Page Face-Off released in March! It was my first venture into contemporary fiction and my first book to later be carried in Justice clothing stores and turned into a student film!

3. TLA in San Antonio. The Texas Sweethearts took the Riverwalk by storm with a delicious, and crowded, reception, followed by a crashing of a publishing party.

4. London!!! Me, the hubby, and our friends crossed the Pond to have afternoon tea, delicious Indian nosh, catch some West End shows and visit the Manchester Football club.

5. SCBWI National Conference in LA. If awesome were illegal, that event would have been invaded by SWAT, FBI, CIA, MI-6...you get the picture. A great educational experience for writers and illustrators.

6. Various Austin SCBWI happenings. With such a prolific writing community, we had so many fantastic events, from booksignings, to conferences, to writing workshops. Move here, and you'll see what I mean!

7. San Jose/Madera visit. I went for work, and I stayed for fun. Got to connect with my lovely critique partner, Cheryl Peevyhouse, as well as author friends and family.

8. Texas Book Festival. I had the great privilege of introducting internationally adored fantasy author TA Barron, as well as rubbing elbows with some other literary greats at various TBF parties.

9. Austin Comic Con. I'm always jealous of the people who attend in San Diego, so when the opportunity arose in Austin, I jumped at the chance to attend. And it was awesome. Nicholas Brendan shook my hand!

10. NCTE in Orlando. The Texas Sweethearts jetted to Disney World to speak with teachers about bringing writing to the classroom. It was also my first opportunity to meet many great people from Simon & Schuster (my publisher) and fellow authors for them. Also...Disney World!

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Last Minute Gift Ideas [22 Dec 2010|09:53am]
[ mood | thoughtful ]

Ho ho hello! The holiday season is upon us, which means a nice little break, even for writers...unless you're under deadline. In which case, why are you goofing off here? Get back to work!
Some people *cough* ME *cough* are still busy doing last minute holiday shopping, so I thought I'd offer a listy list of gift ideas that I think are awesome.

For the Writer:
ThinkGeek's Mary Shelley Tee-Cozy, cute and inspirational
For the Mystery Lover:
Sherlock-LOVE this BBC remake, and with Doctor Who writer Steven Moffat involved? All the more reason!
Sherlock: Season 1 

For the Glamazon:
Too Faced Glamour To Go Fairy Edition-Great little makeup palette with awesome colors for eyes, lips and cheeks.
 

For the Gamer:
World of Warcraft Cataclysm-New races, more levels, and new battlegrounds. For the Horde!
World of Warcraft: Cataclysm Boxshot 

For the Older Reader:
Starcrossed by Elizabeth C. Bunce-From the Morris Award-winning author comes the story of a young rogue who finds herself trapped amidst royalty after a job gone wrong. 
Starcrossed by Elizabeth Bunce: Book Cover 

For the Younger Reader:
Art & Max by David Wiesner-I adore the illustrations in this book, using various art styles.
 

For the Chocolate Lover:
Because I adore chocolate, I've got two new things I discovered this year.
Three Musketeers Mint-Zingy and deliciously dark

Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Macadamia Ice Cream-The juxtaposition of salt and sweet=YUM.

That's all for now, folks! Happy holidays!

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