Wednesday, October 31, 2012

ROOTLESS Blog Tour Stop: Interview with Laura Rennert and Chris Howard (and a GIVEAWAY!)


Yay, welcome to today's stop on the ROOTLESS blog tour!!!! 

These days I don't have time to do very many blog tours--but I HAD be a part of this one because I LOVED this book. It's so amazingly well written--and talk about a head trip of a story. Seriously, read it. You won't regret it.

But right--you're not here to read my ramblings!

Today I have the privilege of sharing an amazing--and exclusive--interview between Chris Howard and his lovely and brilliant literary agent Laura Rennert. So take it away Chris and Laura!

(and make sure you read to the end--there's an AWESOME giveaway!)
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ROOTLESS simply wouldn't exist without the amazing, Laura Rennert. Not only did she find a publishing home for the book after she helped me edit the manuscript, but if it wasn't for Laura, I might never have written the book at all! The first time we met, Laura read some of a manuscript I'd been working on for a few years. She didn't like the story much, but she liked my writing - and told me to write another book. So I did… and that book was ROOTLESS. As a result, I'd happily run into a burning building to save her pet chihuahua! In addition to being brilliant at what she does, Laura is also super cool… and she's graciously agreed to participate in this Q&A with me. BOOK BLOG TOUR EXCLUSIVE!

CHRIS: I brought ROOTLESS to the Big Sur Writing Workshop that your agency sponsors, and came away from that weekend with an agent, an editor, and some great new friends. Can you tell us a little about how the workshop came to be, and what's made it such a success over the years?

LAURA: We’re thrilled to be celebrating the fifteenth anniversary of our Big Sur Writing Workshop this December! As agents, we recognize that in-depth feedback on a manuscript from industry experts is incredibly valuable for writers, and is often hard to come by. The conference evolved to meet that need. Our agency created the Big Sur Writing Workshop because, though there are many conferences that present valuable industry information and offer networking opportunities, there aren't as many where a writer can get intensive feedback. One of the reasons the Big Sur Workshop is so special is that each attendee belongs to two critique groups of four or five writers, each with a group leader who's an experienced editor, agent, or author. Over the course of the weekend, each critique groups meets two times, for about two hours. Writers have the opportunity to workshop different sections of their work and get extensive hands-on feedback. They also have time for revision and can bring the revised material back for another session with their critique group.

Big Sur has been a great success over the years because of the attendees’ passion and commitment, the outstanding and generous faculty, and the intimate workshop setting, which fosters real relationships among writers and faculty. We're proud to have amazing success stories like yours! For us, the Big Sur Workshop is a labor of love. That so many attendees have found their agent or editor, turned an important corner with their manuscript, and gone on to get a publishing deal makes it all worthwhile for us.


CHRIS: One of the things I love about working with you is that you're hands-on at the editorial stage, before even sending a manuscript to the publisher. You pushed me to make ROOTLESS better with your great feedback, and my reaction to your ideas always seems to be "if I'd thought of that, I would have done it already!" It must be something that comes naturally to you, but how have you honed your editorial skills over time?

LAURA: Although I wouldn't say it's a requirement, I do believe that getting my Ph.D. in English Literature and teaching at the university level helped me hone my editorial skills. Those many years of literary analysis were invaluable. I also came close to attending a joint M.F.A. and Ph.D program and, though I didn't choose this path in the end, I did take quite a few creative writing courses. I'm drawn to great literary stylists, both of the past and of our time, and I believe reading widely and analyzing superlative works developed my taste and sharpened my editorial skills. Whenever I make big deals and have books that are breakout successes, I analyze the essential elements that are the basis for this success. These two things together, my academic background and my success in the market, have helped me come up with the criteria for powerful and successful books likely to stand the test of time. I use these criteria in assessing the works I choose to take on, and it also helps shape my approach to working on client manuscripts. I also invest in continuing education that helps me hone my editorial eye. For example, many authors need help with story structure, and I've found that Robert McKee's fantastic course on screenwriting, among others, has helped me work with authors on this aspect of their manuscripts. Finally, an occupational hazard and benefit: when I read in any genre, I always read with a critical eye, assessing what is working and what isn't working.


CHRIS: You represent such a diverse group of authors, from #1 NYT bestsellers Maggie Stiefvater, Ellen Hopkins and Jay Asher, to brand new, first-time authors. Are there common threads that tie your clients together, or is what draws you to a particular story always different?

LAURA: The common threads that tie my clients' diverse works together and draw me to a particular story are:

a.) an amazing, original voice
b). an unusual or fresh perspective
c). an ability to make the reader think and feel deeply
d). page-turning story telling
e). some element of narrative risk-taking
f). rich, replete world building


CHRIS: Though there are strong, dare I say badass, female characters in ROOTLESS, the protagonist, Banyan, is very much a seventeen-year-old dude. Why do you think so much of YA literature is dominated by female protagonists, and what do you think it'd take to buck that trend?


LAURA: I LOVE Banyan precisely because he's such a relatable teen guy!

So much of YA literature is dominated by female protagonists because this segment of the market is driven by girl readers. When editors make acquisitions, and when agents take on clients, they're especially on the lookout for works that appeal to this female audience. Editors and agents know that one of the best things about this female readership is its intense loyalty. Maggie Stiefvater's THE RAVEN BOYS, the first book in her new YA series, and Ellen Hopkins' new YA novel TILT just both debuted on the New York Times Bestseller List, and it's this amazing, committed female readership that helped put them there.

Unfortunately, this kind of thinking also becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Acquisitions are increasingly driven by this teen girl readership, so editors and agents have a harder time making the case for books that don't target this audience. As a result, agents take on fewer YA novels that target a male readership, editors are more reluctant to bring these books to acquisitions, and fewer such books are published. There's a trickle down effect. Writers are then disinclined or discouraged from writing YA boy books because they're aware of this calculus, and at the other end, we lose many male teen readers because they have a hard time finding YA books that appeal to them.

I think the way to buck the trend is to publish smart, powerful fiction that has both teen girl and teen boy appeal. ROOTLESS accomplishes this beautifully. It's an intense, page-turning, action-filled, nail-biting novel about a gritty, vivid, violent world, with a charismatic, sometimes inconsiderate teen guy protagonist. Banyan is a survivor but is also vulnerable. His tough exterior hides his longing for connection and belonging, and his conflicted relationships with the other characters, including his intense romance with a badass girl pirate named Alpha, are so relatable, real, and wrenching.


CHRIS: If an aspiring-author is reading this and thinks… I should query Laura, she's beyond awesome… what's your best advice for them before they do?

LAURA: First and most importantly, I'd advise them to work on their craft and to make sure their manuscript is as strong as they can make it on their own. It's also important that they demonstrate their professionalism as writers in the work itself, in the query, and in any contact with the agent. Authors should educate themselves about the market, about how to approach agents, and about the category within which they're writing. Also, the more you can personalize or tailor your submission to a specific agent, the more likely it is to capture the agent's attention. Thus, before submitting to me or to any other agent, please check out the agency's website. For me, that's www.andreabrownlit.com. Our website includes submission guidelines, our bios, and a list of our exemplary titles and recent deals. My author website, laurajoyrennert.com, also offers some advice for writers.


CHRIS: Finally, I got asked this, and because you know the book almost as well as I do, I wondered what you'd say… If you could be in one scene in ROOTLESS, which would it be?

LAURA: This is a tough one! There are so many scenes I love in ROOTLESS, and some are so vivid and terrifying that, even though they're amazing, I’m not sure I’d want to inhabit them. I'd have to pick the beautiful and heart-rending scene where Banyan has repaired the statue and brings Alpha and the others to see it first illuminated. I don't want to say too much more about this scene because readers should come to it on their own, but for me it sums up the perilousness, vulnerability, and beauty of being human. It's a moment that stayed with me.


And now, the tables get turned, and it's Laura's turn to ask me questions!

LAURA: What's was inspiration for ROOTLESS? You wrote the novel in such a compressed period of time that I'm particularly curious about where it came from.

CHRIS: The inspiration came from seeing all the trees in the Colorado Rockies that have been killed by the Mountain Pine Beetle. I started thinking "What if some sort of insect destroyed every single tree, all the crops and plants and grasses? What would be left?" … I imagined genetically engineered corn surviving, and a single corporation owning it. And then I pictured a young man building trees out of scrap metal on the dusty plains… Once I started thinking about it, I couldn't stop. Banyan's voice was so clear in my head. "They figured me too young for a tree builder." I had that as the opening line right away, and I wrote the first chapter the same day the idea popped into my head. By the end of the first chapter, I'd introduced five main characters and the map to the last trees, so then I thought about it for a few weeks, to make sure my ideas "made sense", and then I let it pour out of me. I knew the book was about people searching for something "lost" - nature, the trees, human connection. And I think, more than anything else, knowing what it's about helps tell the story - though you realize later all these other things it's about, too!


LAURA: How much of you is there in Banyan?

CHRIS: Probably more than I realized when I was writing the story! I've certainly been a rootless drifter at times :) And we both love trees, that's for sure. I'd say the most similar thing, though, is that I began writing stories because I believe in the transformative power of art, that transcendence that Joseph Campbell calls the "elixir of life", and that's ultimately why Banyan and his father build trees. "To have something to believe in. To prove you can take one thing and make one thing into another," as Banyan says in the book.


LAURA: You're a musician, as well as an author. Can you tell us if there's any connection or relationship between the music and writing for you?

CHRIS: Well, I think I have more of a gift for writing than for anything I've ever done musically! But I come at it from the same place… I'm trying to tap into the feeling of being alive. I mean, really being alive. Whether you're creating it or witnessing it, I believe a story or song, a sonnet or statue, a beautiful building, a play, a film… anything where the human spirit is allowed to soar… it lifts you up, reminding you of the wonder of existence. The natural world certainly fills me with that sort of transcendent feeling, too. And for me, there's no better feeling :)


LAURA: What do you feel are some of the most important things you learned from any part of the process -- writing, revising, working with an agent, working with an editor, working on the sequel -- of bringing ROOTLESS to publication?

CHRIS: I've learned that I do really good with deadlines - even if I just set them for myself. I wrote the first draft of ROOTLESS in a frenzy, and then spent a lot of time revising. So I thought I'd take more time over the first draft of the second book in the series, assuming I'd have to do less revising on the flip-side. The opposite was true! I "took my time" too much on the first draft, and got bogged down in prose versus story. I had to really gut it and get back to the mindset I was in on the first book.

Another important thing I've learned is: the "audition feeling" doesn't go away! I thought if I found an agent and an editor who connected with my work, then I'd be set. But your story has to connect with people every step of the way - all the way through the publishing house, booksellers, reviewers, readers. So you have to get used to people judging your work, and their opinions affecting how many others will be exposed to the story.


LAURA: What part of the working on a novel is the most fun for you, and why?

CHRIS: The first draft! Even if it needs tons of work later on, I love that initial creative phase where you feel like you're reading and writing the story at the same time. I think the subconscious is more interesting than most stuff on the surface, and it's so fun to balance on all these different parts of your brain. It's a rush, really. Like surfing a wave :)

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Laura Rennert has been a Senior Agent with Andrea Brown Literary Agency since 1998. She thinks of herself as a "literary omnivore" and specializes in all categories of children's books, from picture books to young adult, and in up-market women's fiction and narrative nonfiction. She represents award-winning and best-selling authors, including #1 NYT bestsellers Ellen Hopkins, Jay Asher, #1 NYT bestseller and Printz Honor Finalist Maggie Stiefvater, and National Book Award Finalist Kathleen Duey, as well as brand new, first-time authors. Find Laura online at andreabrownlit.com and laurajoyrennert.com



Chris Howard was born not far from London, but was raised under the influence of a galaxy far, far away. He left England at the age of nineteen, traveled around the globe one too many times, then settled in Colorado. He's studied natural resources management, concentrating on forest ecology and sustainability; spent seven years leading wilderness adventure trips for teenagers; worked for the National Park Service; released three albums of swirly guitar music; and been a kick-ass wedding DJ. ROOTLESS (Scholastic Press, November 1st, 2012) is Chris's first novel, and he's currently at work on the next book in the series. Find Chris on facebook, twitter, goodreads, and his website
GIVEAWAY TIME!

Look at the shiny prize:


(and in case that's not clear, 1 winner will get one SIGNED AND PERSONALIZED hardcover of ROOTLESS, a bookmark, and a T-Shirt of their color/size preference. )

Enter using the fancy rafflecopter thingie!

(And if you want to follow the rest of the tour and get more chances to win ROOTLESS swag, check out http://yabookscentral.com/blog/rootless-blog-tour)



a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

YAMazing Race Winners!

Sorry this is a little late. So much chaos with travel and moving!!!

Okay, there were five winners, each of whom get a complete set of all 4 KEEPER art prints. And they are:


YAY!

*tosses confetti*

If that's you, please email me at SWMessenger (at) hotmail (dot) com with your mailing address so I can send off your prize. 

Thanks to everyone who entered. Don't worry, I'm sure I'll do more giveaways in the future. :)

Monday, October 29, 2012

MMGM Links (10/30)

I just survived the longest travel day EVER (a five hour drive plus a 2 1/2 hour flight followed by a 2 hour layover and then a 3 hour flight and an hour drive home--oh, and I came home to a house full of boxes, because my husband moved us while I was gone). So... definitely not up to arranging an MMGM. But I'm still going to try to assemble the links but warning: my brain is FRIED. If I make a mistake just correct me in the comments.

And here's where you can find the other awesome MMGMs:
- Jessica at Book Sake is caught up in DEAD CITY.  Click HERE to see what he thought.   
- Michelle Mason is featuring... um... KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES (EEEEE!!!) (*blush*) Click HERE for her review--and a GIVEAWAY!  
- Alyson Beecher has an exclusive cover reveal for THE WIG IN THE WINDOW. Click HERE to see the shiny! (and for the ARC giveaway!)  
- Laurisa Reyes has an interview with author Kathy Rygg--with a GIVEAWAY! Click HERE for details.
- Andrea Mack is championing THE UNWANTEDS. Click HERE to learn why she thinks its worth a read. 
- Heidi Grange is digging STORYBOUND. Click HERE for her review.
- Flash, the Feline Extraordinaire, (and Professional Mews to Cindy Strandvold) recommends GHOSTS OF THE TITANIC. Click HERE to see what he thought.  
- Faith Hough is featuring SELLING HOPE with an interview with author Kristin O'Donnell Tubb. Click HERE for all the fun 
- Julie DeGuia is highlighting THE SECRET PROPHECY--with an ARC GIVEAWAY. Click HERE for details.
- Rosi Hollinbeck is cheering for Henry Frank--with a GIVEAWAY. Click HERE for details  
- Jennifer Rumberger has A RECIPE FOR TROUBLE with a GIVEAWAY! Click HERE for all the fun.
- Joanne Fritz always has an MMGM for you. Click HERE to see what she's talking about this week. 
- The Mundie Moms are always part of the MMGM fun (YAY!). Click HERE to see their newest recommendations. And if you aren't also following their Mundie Kids site, get thee over THERE and check out all the awesome!
- The lovely Shannon O'Donnell always has an MMGM ready for you! Click HERE to see what she's featuring this week!

- Karen Yingling also always has some awesome MMGM recommendations for you. Click HERE to which ones she picked this time! 
- Pam Torres always has an MMGM up on her blog. Click HERE to see what she's spotlighting this week.
- Michelle Isenhoff is always part of the MMGM fun. Click HERE to see what she's talking about today.
If you would like to join in the MMGM fun, all you have to do is blog about a middle grade book you love (contests, author interviews and whatnot also count--but are most definitely not required) and email me the title of the book you're featuring and a link to your blog at SWMessenger (at) hotmail (dot) com. (Make sure you put MMGM or Marvelous Middle Grade Monday in the subject line so I see it)

NOTE: I used to not have a cut-off time for adding links to the post, but with how insane my schedule is right now, if you don't email me by Sunday evening (usually around 11pm PST is when I put the links together) I can't guarantee I'll have a chance to add you. BUT, you are welcome to add your link in the comments on this post so people can find you!


*Please note: these posts are not a reflection of my own opinions on the books featured. Each blogger is responsible for their own MMGM content and I do not pre-screen posts ahead of time, nor do I control what books they choose. I simply assemble the list based on the links that are emailed to me ahead of time

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The YAmazing Race with MGnificent prizes strikes again!!!


**NOTE: The race is now officially over.**

YAY--Welcome to my stop on the YAmazing Race with MGnificent prizes, a blog hop featuring over 50 debut authors, and prize packs that include ARCs, gift certificates, swag, and more!

(and I know some of you might be looking for this week's MMGM. You can actually find that by clicking HERE

The race runs from Monday, October 22 at noon Eastern to Monday October 29 at noon Eastern and the winners will be posted on the Apocalypsies website on Tuesday October 30. If you haven’t yet been to the Apocalypsies website, please click here to read the complete rules.

I'm part of the Silly String team--which means I will be ATTACKING YOU ALL WITH SPARKLY STREAMS OF DOOM--er, um.... no, not really. I would if I could--believe me. But alas, the internetz currently do not allow me to silly string attack through the screen. So you are spared from my sparkly streamers. For now.

ANYWAY, here's a little info about KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES (*hint* read carefully--you'll be quizzed on it later):

Twelve-year-old Sophie Foster has a secret. She's a Telepath--someone who hears the thoughts of everyone around her. It's a talent she's never known how to explain.

Everything changes the day she meets Fitz, a mysterious boy who appears out of nowhere and also reads minds. She discovers there's a place she does belong, and that staying with her family will place her in grave danger. In the blink of an eye, Sophie is forced to leave behind everything and start a new life in a place that is vastly different from anything she has ever known.

Sophie has new rules to learn and new skills to master, and not everyone is thrilled that she has come “home.” There are secrets buried deep in Sophie's memory—secrets about who she really is and why she was hidden among humans—that other people desperately want. Would even kill for.

In this page-turning debut, Shannon Messenger creates a riveting story where one girl must figure out why she is the key to her brand-new world, before the wrong person finds the answer first.

Got that? Good! You WILL be quizzed later. (Don't worry, I went out of my way to make the question easy). And if you're so bowled over by the awesomenes of that (or... feeling so loopy from hitting all these tour stops that you are EASILY IMPRESSIONABLE ) I should mention that you can buy a SHINY hardcover of Keeper through Amazon and B&N. Or, you can support an amazing Indie and get a SIGNED Hardcover by ordering through Mrs. Nelsons (though make sure you specify that you want a "Signed Copy" in the notes field). You can also like it on Facebook or add it to your Goodreads list.

Okay... shameless self promotion stuff over. You guys have a race to complete. And remember, you must complete ALL FIVE quizzes to be eligible for a prize pack.

But before you race away to the next stop--wait, there's more! I couldn't have you guys all come here and NOT offer a prize of my own. So I'm personally giving away FIVE exclusive sets of Limited edition KEEPER Art Prints to FIVE lucky commenters. See:



And when I say exclusive--I mean it. These are made from my own drawings and they are hand signed and hand numbered with a limited printing of 1000. And I'll only be giving them out at signings or VERY special occasions, like today. So trust me, you want to win these!

How do you enter? Leave a comment on this post by 11:59 pm pacific time on Saturday, October 27th. I'll draw 5winners and post their names on Tuesday, October 30th. International entries welcome!

Thanks for stopping by! Ready to move on?
Click HERE to go to the next Silly String-er

MMGM Links!!!

I'm in the middle of a long trip, so I sadly do not have an MMGM for you guys. BUT, I still have all the links. Plus I'm part of the uber exciting YAMazing Race again today, so make sure you also go HERE for all the fun.

And here's where you can find the other awesome MMGMs:
- Melanie Conklin is cheering for LIAR AND SPY. Click HERE for her review. 
- Barbara Watson is caught up in BENEATH THE SLASHINGS--with an ARC GIVEAWAY. Click HERE to enter. 
- Danika Dinsmore is kicking off her blog tour with a post on THE RUINS OF NOE. Click HERE to read.
- Mrs. Heise is spreading the love for AUDITION AND SUBTRACTION. Click HERE to see why.   
- Alex Baugh is dishing on ONE FOR THE MURPHYS. Click HERE to see the review.
- Rosi Hollinbeck is singing praises for A DIAMOND IN THE DESERT--with a GIVEAWAY. Click HERE for details
- Andrea Mack is stuck in a RIP TIDE. Click HERE to learn why she thinks its worth a read.
- Michael Gettel-Gilmartin is seeking STOUT HEARTS AND WHIZZING BISCUITS. Click HERE to see why. 
- Brennan and Meyrick Murphy are stuck on STORMBREAKER. Click HERE to see what these two middle grade readers thought of it.
- Flash, the Feline Extraordinaire, (and Professional Mews to Cindy Strandvold) recommends MY HAUNTED HOUSE. Click HERE to see what he thought.  
- Jessica at Book Sake is featuring Koles review of THE SORCERESS. Click HERE to see what he thought.  
- Susan Olson is spinning for TWISTER: JOURNAL #3 OF A CARDBOARD GENIUS. Click HERE to see why. 
- Faith Hough is featuring KATERINA'S WISH with an interview with author Jeannie Mobley. Click HERE for all the fun
- Michelle Mason is covering SCIENCE FAIR. Click HERE to see why she enjoyed it.  
- Natalie Aguirre is interviewing author Shelby Back, with a giveaway of GIANTS AND ICE. Click HERE for more details.  
- Akossiwa Ketoglio is featuring LIESL & PO. Click HERE to see why she loved it. 
 - Dorine White is discovering THE SECRET FORTUNE. Click HERE to see why.   
- Joanne Fritz always has an MMGM for you. Click HERE to see what she's talking about this week. 
- The Mundie Moms are always part of the MMGM fun (YAY!). Click HERE to see their newest recommendations. And if you aren't also following their Mundie Kids site, get thee over THERE and check out all the awesome!
- The lovely Shannon O'Donnell always has an MMGM ready for you! Click HERE to see what she's featuring this week!

- Karen Yingling also always has some awesome MMGM recommendations for you. Click HERE to which ones she picked this time! 
- Pam Torres always has an MMGM up on her blog. Click HERE to see what she's spotlighting this week.
If you would like to join in the MMGM fun, all you have to do is blog about a middle grade book you love (contests, author interviews and whatnot also count--but are most definitely not required) and email me the title of the book you're featuring and a link to your blog at SWMessenger (at) hotmail (dot) com. (Make sure you put MMGM or Marvelous Middle Grade Monday in the subject line so I see it)

NOTE: I used to not have a cut-off time for adding links to the post, but with how insane my schedule is right now, if you don't email me by Sunday evening (usually around 11pm PST is when I put the links together) I can't guarantee I'll have a chance to add you. BUT, you are welcome to add your link in the comments on this post so people can find you!


*Please note: these posts are not a reflection of my own opinions on the books featured. Each blogger is responsible for their own MMGM content and I do not pre-screen posts ahead of time, nor do I control what books they choose. I simply assemble the list based on the links that are emailed to me ahead of time