Monthly Archives: June 2011

Are you Beyond Lucky?

Today, we are going to celebrate the release of Sarah Aronson’s first middle grade novel,

Beyond Lucky!!!

And we’re going to launch this book complete with her family and friends. If family reunions…or long interviews are not your cup of tea…but winning A FREE BOOK is, scroll down to the bottom and make a comment!

Welcome, Sarah!

Congratulations on the release of Beyond Lucky!

Question: So, did you always know you wanted to be a writer?

Judy Aronson (Mom): Are you kidding me? I had to pay Sarah a penny a page to read. She was a terrible student. She hated reading. Every time I turned around, that child was sitting in front of the TV.

Sarah: That’s not entirely true. I did like some books. Like Harriet the Spy. And Blubber. And Oliver Twist. The scene where Bill Sykes chases Nancy still scares me a lot. And of course, I liked Shakespeare.

Rebecca and Elliot (Sarah’s kids): Drama queen.

Rich Aronson (Dad): (sighing for effect) For a while, she was a physical therapist. Now that was a practical job. With a regular paycheck.

Sarah (mourning the regular pay check, too): My writing life began in 2000, when I decided to leave physical therapy (a long story). I needed to do something else, but I didn’t know what. I looked through Dartmouth College’s employment page. There were plenty of offices that needed help. I hesitated. Maybe I could run for school board. I loved politics.

Rich Aronson: She was never the most practical child.

Miriam and Anne Aronson (sisters): She was the bad sister!

Sarah: After very little thought, I decided to write. I was a good mom. I had a sense of humor. Really, what else did you need? ( insert laugh track)

Question: What inspired you to write Beyond Lucky? What’s the story behind the story?

Judy Aronson: me.

Rich Aronson: No! It was me.

Michael (Sarah’s husband): Not me. (Darling, I hope I’m not in that book!) She likes sports.

Sarah: The truth is, this book came in waves. At first, I wanted to write a story about a town of quirky people. I wanted to write like John Irving.

Tanya and Tami, dear friends: You are so not John Irving. But honestly, that version wasn’t so bad. You just needed to learn a little more.

Sarah: It was the best I could do at the time. Then I wanted to write about a soccer team. I LOVE sports. I love watching sports. I like thinking about the concept of team. My son, Elliot, used to play rec soccer. He was the team’s daisy picker.

Elliot: please don’t embarrass me. It just wasn’t my sport.

Sarah: So after a bunch of rejections and the realization that there was something I wasn’t quite getting about writing, I put that novel away. I went to Vermont College and earned an MFA. I learned about craft. And I read a lot. In my third semester, I realized that the book needed to be more about family–a Jewish family. A good one. With problems. (Not like ours, Mom!!) I submitted that version (complete with three crazy aunts) to my advisor, Margaret Bechard.

Margaret: That would be in your fifth packet. The last packet. The whole novel. I will never forget it. How many pages did you send me that semester?

Sarah: (guilty, ignoring honored advisor) Again, I put it away. Until 2008. This time, I had tools. And I had some new ideas. And a plot!! My lucky break? Before I revised, I took the BRAVE step to delete what I had. I changed the POV. I turned Parker, one of the players, into a girl. That definitely amped up the tension. Now I had a story. Still, something was missing.

Elliot and Rebecca: It was the presidents!

Sarah: The presidents definitely helped me find Ari’s voice. And a theme—heroism. That led to Sam, Ari’s older brother. (At one point, he was almost a dead sister!)

Elliot: Calvin Coolidge said, “Heroism is not only in the man, but in the occasion.”

Rebecca: My mom will some day write a book full of dead sisters. Mom, why don’t you insert the trailer???

Beyond Lucky BookTrailer 2-1

Question: Are you normally a lucky person?

Sarah: Not really. The truth is, I’ve never won anything except a negative Bingo game—I won because I was the last person whose number was called. And I have always been a little bit superstitious. So when things started to go my way, I knew this book needed my attention. Of course, when it comes to luck, I also agree with Thomas Jefferson.

Elliot: He was one of the smartest presidents ever. He said, “I am a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.”

Sarah: It’s true. I did work hard, but that’s because I had a lot of support from my family and friends. I got great feedback from my agent, Sarah Davies. And I was really lucky to work with my amazing editor, Liz Waniewski.

And check out my cover!!!

Star Wars lettering and soccer? Can anything be better?

(Passing stranger): I would buy this book!

Question: Anything else to add? Any advice to share?

Rebecca and Elliot: You want to know if she has advice? She ALWAYS has advice.

Sarah (smiling): If you are reluctant about reading: don’t give up! There are tons of great books out there.
If you are a writer, you can’t give up either. My advice: try everything. Be fearless. Don’t worry if it doesn’t work—it’s only a draft! You can change it.
Last, never forget: every time something good happens, celebrate!

Judy Aronson: Tell them about the reviews! So we can go celebrate!

PW says: Aronson skillfully dodges the predictability of sports-themed books by creating multilayered characters and an intriguing whodunit involving a valuable missing rookie card. . . . (Her) graceful storytelling will keep even nonsoccer buffs turning pages.

And Jewish Book World gave Beyond Lucky a STARRED REVIEW!

If You want to know more about Sarah or Beyond Lucky, check her website, www.saraharonson.com. Or click LIKE on her new and growing Facebook page. There you can find more reviews and free downloadable activity guides! More important, if you want to win a free book, leave a comment. You could be lucky! We’ll announce a winner on July 2!

Deborah Halverson For Dummies

I once learned how to knit by using one of those yellow books “For Dummies,” and it was excellent! The book taught me all about yarn-over stitches and that y2tog means knit two stitches together. Everyone in my family received beautiful hand-knit lace scarves that winter, thanks to “For Dummies”. So, as I moved on to my other passion, writing for children, I was excited to discover there’s a new “For Dummies” book coming out for children’s book writers and — the news gets better — it was written by Deborah Halverson!

For fifteen years, as an editor with Harcourt and as a freelance editor, Deborah Halverson has worked closely with writers helping their books reach maximum awesomeness. As a writing coach, her authors sometimes go on to get published and even win awards. She will also answer any writing related question you may have on her Dear Editor blog.

She’s obviously extremely busy — did I mention she’s an award-winning author herself AND the mom of triplet boys?! — so, we are lucky to have her here today to tell us about her book launch and to give away a copy of Writing YA Fiction for Dummies.

Hi, Deborah! Thank you for joining us! As you know, here at the Mixed-Up Files, we’re all about middle-grade fiction. How will middle-grade authors find use in Writing Young Adult Fiction For Dummies?

Don’t worry, Jennifer, I’ve got your back! In the book’s title I use the term young adult fiction as the world at large does — as a comprehensive label for the two distinct publishing categories: MG (middle grade) fiction and YA (young adult or teen) fiction. When making the distinction is necessary within the book, I do so. But all the craft, submission, and marketing information works for both MG and YA fiction because the storytelling techniques are essentially the same and the same publishing players handle both categories. MG authors will get a full plate of writing techniques, examples, and exercises, along with behind-the-scenes insights and tips to apply in all phases of crafting their novels. I’m particularly excited about two features I included to take this book beyond technique: First, thirteen authors, agents, and editors—including National Book Award winners and finalists and Newbery Medalists and Honorees—wrote sidebars for the book in which they share what they do and how they go about it. The foreword was written by none other than M. T. Anderson, whose books exemplify the best of both middle grade and YA fiction, across multiple genres. Second, I’ve included an extensive chapter on self-marketing to help writers exploit the many opportunities that our social media-obsessed world has thrown at our feet. Really, we writers have more power than ever before to spread the buzz about our books. Above all, I wrote WYAFFD to guide all writers—MG and YA alike—in developing a voice and style that appeals to young readers and that is wholly, comfortably theirs.

You were an editor at Harcourt for ten years and then you wrote two fiction novels of your own, HONK IF YOU HATE ME and BIG MOUTH.  What was it like to switch from being the editor to being edited?

Oh, I like “being edited.” First, my editing background helped me internalize the fact that editing isn’t personal, that it’s about improving the story for the readers’ benefit, so criticism isn’t emotional for me. Oh, sure, I can get frustrated when there’s no ready solution to a problem, but emotional? Nah. So that icky aspect of “being edited” isn’t there for me. Second, in the early years of an editorial career, young editors’ work is edited quite deeply by their mentors in order to train them and to push them to develop their own inner editors, so young editors quickly develop a thick skin anyway. And finally, I enjoy revision more than writing the first draft—in my mind, the second and third drafts are where a story really comes alive—and editing is an essential part of that revision process. So I kinda gotta like it.

Do you have plans for more fiction writing?

I’ve been itching to get back to a YA project that I started just before WYAFFD came into my life. I could almost see that round-eyed, triangular For Dummies guy putting his shoulder to my fiction manuscript, shoving it to the backburner. It was a funny feeling, really, writing nonfiction about writing fiction while I desperately wanted to write fiction.

How were you approached to write Writing YA Fiction for Dummies?

I’d been planning to write a craft book one day, but I hadn’t yet envisioned the actual project. Then, out of the blue, an email came my way from an agent who knew of Wiley’s interest in publishing a book about writing YA fiction. The agent didn’t identify the book but instead asked about my general interest in writing a book on craft for young adult fiction writers. She knew of my editorial and teaching background, and that I’m a writer, too, but we’d never met so she didn’t have a feel for me yet. Being in a silly mood, I responded playfully—and inadvertently clinched the deal with her. She revealed the project as a book in Wiley Publishers’ playful but informative For Dummies series and then proceeded to pitch me to Wiley. They bit. The best part is, my Wiley editors were as savvy and silly as the series is. WYAFFD was a real hoot to work on, and I hope that spirit carries through to readers.

What is one of the most important pieces of advice you can share with writers of children’s fiction?

That you be willing to let your hair down. Look at any craft book not as a recipe book but rather as a list of ingredients for you to select from and experiment with. No fear. Hey, you can always “undo” on your computer, right? I absolutely packed Writing Young Adult Fiction For Dummies with tangible techniques—that’s just how I am; I don’t like sweeping statements about art, I want specific techniques that I can try out and keep or twist to my own ends—but you won’t use all these technique in the same proportions in all of your stories. With each new manuscript you write, be open to experimenting with ingredients you don’t normally use, and be willing to cut back on your fallback faves. That’s when your writing will move to the next level.

I hear there are some big launch parties going on for your “For Dummies” book. Where can we go to get in on some of the action?

Yes! Pop over to Dear Editor June 29-July 5 for my virtual book launch, a 7-day blowout event with daily “first chapter critique” giveaways, free daily downloads, excerpts from the book, and profiles of those amazing thirteen authors, agents, and editors who contributed their voices to the book. I’m capping off the launch with a grand finale “full manuscript edit” giveaway. The book is hitting stores July 5, the day after the Fourth of July, and this is my way of shooting off fireworks.

I’m definitely heading over there to try to win a “first chapter critique” among other prizes! Thank you so much for being here, Deborah.

And readers, to help Deborah celebrate I have a free copy of Writing Young Adult Fiction For Dummies to give away. Just leave a post in the comment section and if you spread the word by way of blog, facebook, or Twitter, let us know and you’ll be entered in the contest. I’ll announce the winner on July 5.

Jennifer Duddy Gill writes humorous middle-grade fiction and learns as much as she can from craft-of-writing books, great writers, and wonderful blogs like From the Mixed-Up Files.

Let’s Get Graphic… novel!

The graphic novel has come a long way from whence I was a child… actually, when I was a kid, the graphic novel didn’t exist. Or maybe it was just a really thick comic book. How I longed for a Richie Rich graphic novel, something deep and dark about the wealthy lad, what made him tick, even worse… what made him tock. Alas that never happened. I think it’d still make for an interesting read.

Once graphic novels hit the shelves, most were exactly that — dark and mysterious. One of the first I ever read was Batman Arkham Asylum. A pretty intense book that took the Dark Knight into a more personal realm, making him even more real than ever.

Then it seemed, at least to me, that the graphic novel simply gave the authors and artists the right to be… well, more graphic. And that’s okay, but it didn’t do anything for the middle grade reader. Until recently, that is.

Now Middle Grade readers can choose to read an Artemis Fowl novel, or the latest Artemis Fowl graphic novel.

Or how about Nancy Drew… today Middle Grade readers have their choice of format:

Plus there are bold and very cool new titles popping up in the Graphic Novel Category.

Tales from the Crypt #8: Diary of a Stinky Dead Kid – Stepfan Petrucha (Author), Maia Kinney-Petrucha (Author), John L. Lansdale (Author), Rick Parker (Illustrator), Miran Kim (Illustrator), James Romberger (Illustrator), Marguerite Van Cook (Illustrator)

Lunch Lady and the League of Librarians Jarrett J. Krosoczka (Author)

And honestly, it doesn’t matter what format the kids (or myself) are reading in, just as long as they’re reading… everything is write with the world (misspelling intentional).