Would You?

by Melissa Dalton
Published on: October 8, 2014
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Recently, I stumbled across this article in the New York Times. Here’s an excerpt:

“Swoon Reads, a young-adult imprint that is part of Macmillan Publishing, is upending the traditional discovery process by using crowdsourcing to select all its titles. By bringing a reality-television-style talent competition to its digital slush pile, the publisher is hoping to find potential best sellers that reflect not editor’s tastes but the collective wisdom and whims of the crowd.”

So here’s the deal. Once you finish your manuscript for your YA romance, you upload it to the Swoon Reads site.

Then you sit back and see what people have to say about it. If you get a lot of reads and likes on your manuscript, the editor considers publishing it. Submission guidelines are here.

Would you give it a try?

“Make friends with other writers…”

by Melissa Dalton
Published on: August 8, 2014
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“The right alliances will save your spirit — not to mention your career — during the dark nights of the soul. Spend some time getting to know what you want. It’s a shifting-sands industry, so you’ve gotta take responsibility for being familiar with your own priorities. And never, never, ever let the word ‘rejection’ apply to you. It’s not a rejection, it’s a pass, and they happen every day. But so do offers.”

I thought this was great advice from a newly published writer and it reminded me of the value of a critique group (and great group of friends :). You can read the rest of the interview here.

Query Advice from KT Literary

by Melissa Dalton
Published on: April 8, 2014
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  1. 1.
    guidance or recommendations concerning prudent future action, typically given by someone regarded as knowledgeable or authoritative.


Need help writing the perfect query for your middle grades or YA novel?

Go to this website, hosted by KT Literary. (They represent Maureen Johnson and Stephanie Perkins, two big names in YA.)

Every Friday, in the column About My Query, they critique a query letter from the slushpile.

Here are some tidbits:

I’d also always cut any mention of future books in a series in the query letter — save that for once you actually have an agent interested in the story.

— My first thought: Hooray! We won’t have to deal with a YA heroine looking in a mirror to describe herself!

— What I’d want to see in the author’s query is what sets it apart from the expected. In general, look to find a way to give us the details that make the main character’s specific story interesting, and her character one we’d like to hang out with for the length of a novel.

So helpful and addictive! Enjoy!

Good Advice from Ira Glass

by Melissa Dalton
Published on: March 10, 2014
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I found this video very encouraging. Ira talks about how long it takes to get good at your craft and the key to getting better: Put yourself on a schedule!

Watch it here.

What are you reading?

by Melissa Dalton
Published on: January 8, 2014
Categories: Other Topics
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It might be a hazard from working in a library but I’m always curious about what people are reading. I asked the Scrivas to share and here’s our round-up of current reads. Maybe you’ll find something new…

Here’s to a whole new year of reading and writing!

Amber is reading:

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain. I am “in” every page. It’s nice to hang out with “my” people.

The Woman Lit by Fireflies, by Jim Harrison. Damn! Every one of Jim Harrison’s words hits me in the gut. It demands that I do better in my own writing.

Liz is reading:

The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman. Creepy, cool fiction.

5: Where will you be in five years, by Dan Zandra. Good start of year visioning exercises with inspirational quotations.

Calling Dr. Laura, by Nicole Georges. An interesting graphic novel memoir.

Building Stories, by Chris Ware. A cool box of stuff from the cartoonist who is coming to Portland Arts and Lectures…

Melissa is reading:

Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson. In this book, the main character dies repeatedly only to start her life over and over again, and the reader glimpses the changes wrought by her different decisions. Though the premise can wear sometimes, I am loving Atkinson’s language. I sit down to read and look up 75 pages later.

The Not-So-Big House, by Sarah Susanka. I love all of Susanka’s design books and eat up her suggestions for customizing your smaller space. I find her to be an excellent, clear, and engaging design writer.

Ruth is reading:

If You Find Me, by Emily Murdoch This is one of ten “finalists” for the Mock Printz Award workshop that I’m part of at the Multnomah County Library in a couple of weeks.
It’s required reading. It’s also inspired reading. Murdoch makes writing a young adult novel look so easy!

Jews, Turks, Ottomans: A Shared History, Fifteenth though the Twentieth Century, edited by Avigdor Levy. Research, research, research. The history part of my next work of historical fiction. (I relax by reading another chapter in If You Find Me….)

Sabina is reading:

Together: Annals of an Army Wife (1946), by Katherine Tupper Marshall, wife of WWII General George Marshall. As far as I’ve gotten, it’s an interesting evocation of Army society life during the ’30s, and of a very capable man, awake to, and having an impact on, everything around him. For example, when he’d be sent to a run-down base, he’d spruce up his own garden and lodgings–and soon enough, the rest of the base followed suit. Or, when he oversaw CCC camps during the Depression, he advocated for the young men’s dental health–AND urged the dentist overseeing their care to write up a study about dental health across America, based on the representative young men he treated. This study ended up being published again and again, even in Time magazine.  (As a writer, I guess this book shows me some things about how to build a character (through actions!) — and how to give the sense of a time and way of life so different from my own.)

Life in a Jar: The Irena Sendler Project, by Jack Mayer. While the writing is just OK, the story is amazing. An ordinary young Polish woman, a social worker, managed to smuggle out of the Warsaw ghetto 2,500 Jewish babies and children. Remarkable, the impact of one person’s decision and will for good. (I guess this shows me the importance of an emotionally-gripping narrative–and the power of Very High stakes!)

Various titles, by Georgette Heyer. A decades-long favorite — I began the year by re-reading a couple of titles by Georgette Heyer, the novelist who OWNS the Regency period. I’ve read Arabella and The Foundling numerous times, know exactly what happens in each novel, and continue to read them, and many other Heyer titles, with the greatest enjoyment. (I guess they show me the importance of voice–and that when a book comes together well, in the hands of a master, it is vastly more than the sum of its parts.)

Thanks ladies! Happy reading! Please feel free to share what you’re reading in the comments below…

YA Romance and Feminism

by Melissa Dalton
Published on: December 9, 2013
Categories: Basics, Challenges, Craft, Genre
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Here are some links to chew on the subject:

1. Rachel Lieberman discusses writing active female heroines in your YA Romance here.

2. “Well, in a world where Twilight was universally adored by teenage girls for a brief period of time and universally hated by their male counterparts, I want to celebrate the part of this culture that encourages women to fantasize and dream and write, just as I want to criticize the parts of Twilight that are bigoted or simply foolish.” You can read more of Chelsea Condren’s discussion on The Hub.

3. And here is Bitch Magazine’s list of 100 Young Adult Books for the Feminist Reader.

Have a great week!


What Would You Do?

by Melissa Dalton
Published on: October 8, 2013
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Perhaps I would feel less like this if someone else conceptualized a novel for me…


Recently I finished a teen romance novel that I really enjoyed: Meant To Be by Lauren Morrill. (Check it out here). Then, as I skimmed the Acknowledgements section in the back, something caught my eye.

(What, doesn’t everyone read the Acknowledgements sections? It feels like you’re reading someone else’s yearbook.)

Anyway, it was this little blurb from Morrill that had me curious:

“First and foremost, thanks to Lauren Oliver and Lexa Hillyer, who took a chance on me and then whipped me into shape over many months of drafts. I was but a wee babe of an author before you two taught me that my characters should, you know, do stuff, and slapped that -ing construction out of me.”

Of course I know who Lauren Oliver is, author of the great Before I Fall, a book on lots of teen reading lists, including Scriva Michelle’s here. So was this a writing group that Morrill was referring to then? I got to googling and found Paper Lantern Lit, Oliver’s literary development company. Here’s their mission statement on the front page of the website:

“We build story. Major plot geeks, our unique literary incubator model means that we’re also author-focused and committed to excavating the freshest new voices. We mentor authors step-by-step through the novel-writing process, providing a conceptual foundation, teaching narrative architecture, and constructing a platform for success.”

Fascinating business model, right? Delving deeper into the website, it would appear that authors apply to write for Paper Lantern Lit (PPL) by sending in some writing samples. If they like what they read and have a project that they think fits the author’s voice, then they contact them to do some spark pages for their concept. If PPL likes the spark pages, then I think they do a contract-author kind of deal with the writer. Paper Lantern Lit makes the decisions regarding concept and plot, while the writer fleshes out and creates the story. Then PPL edits and sells the project when it’s all finished.

Side note: Isn’t that how a lot of movie studios do their scripts?

Ever since coming across this site, I’ve contemplated sending in pages from my W-I-P and applying here.

What would you do?

Update: I think I give the wrong impression with the photo caption and by mentioning that I would send in pages from my W-I-P. Paper Lantern Lit is not interested in developing writer’s projects, just their own. They are not interested in existing manuscripts, just fostering writers. The prospect of being mentored (should your application get a pass) just sounds so lovely. I’m sure the odds of getting chosen are very small…

“Fail Better”

by Melissa Dalton
Published on: June 9, 2013
Categories: Challenges, Craft, Other Topics
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Veronica Roth, author of the Divergent trilogy, quotes Samuel Beckett and has great advice on critique and writing here. Inspiring stuff!

“Books are made in revision.”

by Melissa Dalton
Published on: May 8, 2013
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As I try to get through the revision of my novel’s first draft, I sometimes turn to John Green for a little pick-me-up. He and his brother, Hank, have been exchanging weekly video letters to each other since 2007, gaining lots of popularity and creating quite the archive. Here’s one that I stumbled upon recently that made me feel better after a tough writing day. In case you just want to hear my favorite part, I’ve transcribed it below:

“Books are made in revision. For all three of my novels, I have deleted 90 percent of the first draft. And everything that people like about my books emerges in later drafts…Like if you want to think about it like sculpture, writing a first draft is like digging the clay out of the ground. And the revision is like when you actually use the clay to build something. That you like….See that was a good example of first draft failure.”

— John Green, “NaNoWriMo!!!”

November 2, 2009

Congratulations, Ruth!

by Melissa Dalton
Published on: April 9, 2013
Categories: Celebrations, Events
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“Ruth Tenzer Feldman won the Leslie Bradshaw Award for Young Adult Literature for “Blue Thread,” published by Ooligan Press, a student-run program at Portland State University.”


Read about Ruth’s win (and her fellow winners) at the Oregon Book Awards last night here.

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