Friday, October 29, 2010

Friday Feature: Journeys Toward Publication and Beyond: Jeff Hirsch

Welcome, everyone, to another addition of the Friday Feature.  This morning, we're talking with Jeff Hirsch.  I honestly can't remember what link clicked me through to Jeff, but once I landed at his blog, I immediately wanted to know more about him and his path towards greatness.  So, I backtracked through his blog.  I especially love this haunted post (which fits in so nicely with our Halloween weekend), and this post about his journey.  Go ahead, click through.  We'll wait. *twiddling thumbs*

You're back? And properly inspired? Great. Clearly, I went all fan-girl on Jeff, and invited him over here.  And, here he is!  Help me give Jeff a warm welcome by leaving him a question or high five in the comment section here, as he'll be stopping by to hang out with us. 

Jeff Hirsch grew up in Richmond, VA and received an MFA in Dramatic Writing from UC San Diego. He now lives in Queens, NY and works at a non-profit in the ad industry. Besides writing, Jeff enjoys cooking, fire eating, escaping from a straitjacket (while standing up or hanging from the ceiling by his ankles), and trying not to get obsessive about politics. Jeff's first novel The Long Walk Home, will be released in the fall of 2011 by Scholastic. You can follow his journey to publication at or 

Spoiler alert--do NOT click through that twitter link unless you did NOT fall asleep on the couch last night halfway through Project Runway! *quietly sobbing* *collecting self for rest of the interview*

Jeff, your book, THE LONG WALK HOME, will be published by Scholastic in the Fall of 2011. How exciting!! Tell us a bit about the book.

Well, one thing is that it almost certainly won't be called The Long Walk Home for very much longer. We're working on a new title now and I hope to let everyone know what it is soon. Heck, I hope to know what it is soon.
The book follows a scavenger named Stephen and his father twenty years after The Collapse, when America was wiped away by a nearly apocalyptic war with China. When their decision to risk it all to save the lives of two strangers leaves his Dad dreadfully injured, Stephen must lead them to safety in a lost remnant of the Pre-Collapse world. There, Stephen falls in with Jenny Tan, the wild child town outcast, bringing him into violent conflict with a group that is determined to remake the world that was, no matter the cost.

What has been the highest high, and lowest low while working on this book toward publication?

The highest was definitely the day of the auction. I don't know that I'm a good enough writer to adequately describe how exciting and strange a day that was. The lowest? I think it was when I finished the 2nd (or was it the 3rd?) draft then realizing I needed to delete the last 100-150 pages of the book and start over.

What made you start writing seriously?

Way back when, I was an actor. I studied acting in college then moved up to NY to throw myself into that life. I went out on lots of auditions and there was of course a lot of rejection. I remember one night in particular. It was a couple years into my time in NY and I had just gotten home after slogging through torrential rains and cold after a lackluster 8 hours at my day job. I didn't feel all that well and I had an audition later that evening. Sitting there in my dreary little apartment, I knew there was no way I was going back out there to that audition. That's when it occurred to me that if I loved acting, really loved it, a little rain and cold wouldn't get in my way. I thought about what I did love that much and the answer was writing. Soon after that I quit acting and got to writing.

How great that you had a self-aware moment like that! How did you connect with your agent, and get that first book into the publisher’s hands? Has it been smooth sailing from there?

I got to Sara (The delightful Sara Crowe of Harvey Klinger) through a run of the mill query. I read about her on Publisher's Marketplace, liked that she was very highly rated and seemed to represent my kind of stuff. Once I hooked up with Sara things have been, knock on wood, pretty smooth.

I love hearing when agents picked up writers through the slush pile!  Yay! Jeff, what has surprised you most on your journey toward publication?

Beyond that it actually happened? I guess that things happen very very slowly until something happens (like signing with Sara) and then they happen very very fast. The switch was extremely disorienting and extremely exciting.

What are you currently working on?

Well, it's currently called Magisterium though, again, that will almost certainly change. Maybe to The Queen of Birds. Maybe to The Air is a River Too. Who knows? It's a genre-bending story about a girl named Glenn who just wants to get back home but the world has other plans for her.

Ooo, genre-bending.  Not sure exactly what that means, but it sounds AWESOME! What are your writing habits? Do you have a set schedule or time of day that you set aside for writing? What do you do when you get stuck?

I write every morning before work from 5:51-8:01AM. I know that sounds totally bizarre, but I swear it's true. I have a tendency to be extremely rigid about schedules and for some reason those times stuck and now that's my window of writing almost without fail every day. Sometimes inspiration strikes or I have a deadline and I'll work outside of that time but it more or less stays in that box.

When I get stuck I try to at least write badly. Just keep typing at all costs. I think a lot of times the reason I get stuck is an aversion to writing something I know isn't good. I try to remember that, especially when writing a rough draft, it's all bad. The only thing you can do is keep moving forward. You'll make it good later.

What has been your biggest trial in writing?

Hanging in there. Honestly, that's the toughest thing. I wrote for 6 or 7 years after grad school and no one was interested in my work. No one. I can't tell you how many times I wondered if I should just bail and, I don't know, get a job at a bank or something. Whew! That's one seriously weird life change narrowly avoided.

How has the blogging and on-line community changed your connections with other writers?

Yes. I, uh, have them now. Before I was writing YA I was a playwright so most of my writer friends are from that world. Twitter and blogs helped me come in touch with a lot of great people in the kid's books world, especially the mighty ladies of the League of Extraordinary Writers blog, which I count myself lucky to be a part of.

What is a favorite blog post that you have written?

Probably this one.

It's my take on the reasons for the proliferation of dystopian books for kids.

Wow Jeff--I love this line in that post:

"I think that idea, the idea of being able to hit the reset button on a too complicated world, is what drew me to writing a book like this." 

That resonates with me.  Now, tell us about a book that has impacted your writing life.

Two really. Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising made me an obsessive reader as a kid. MT Anderson's Feed made me want to write YA.

What is your practical goal with your writing? Do you have a reach-for-the-stars goal that you would like to share?

Well, when I'm not suffering from one of my frequent delusions of grandeur (Printz awards! Giant advances! A pony!) I think I'd just like to be the kind of writer you can count on seeing one good book a year from. If more than that happens that'd be great, but that's what I'm shooting for.

If you could create the perfect place for you to write in, what would it look like?

I actually like my writing space a lot. I write sitting on our couch with a computer on my lap, a cat at my feet begging for attention and my wife sleeping peacefully in the room behind me. It's all very still and quiet.

And, just because I’m curious, coffee or tea?

Both actually. One large cup of coffee in the morning and then I move to tea during the day.

Oh, and do you NaNo?

Nope, never have. Is it fun?

I think it's fun.  I think others might think it torture.  Thanks, Jeff, for the fantastic interview!  

Everyone remember to leave a comment here, before heading over to Jeff's blog to give him some love.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


I just wanted to pop in for a moment, and tell you that there will be a FABULOUS Halloween Party at 11 PM EST Sunday night in Tina's AWESOME THE PRACTICE ROOM.  Not enough adjectives for you yet?  Then stop on by!! We'll be chatting about all things writing until the clock hits midnight when we all turn into pumpkins the NaNo-ers start pumping out words.  You don't have to be a NaNo-er to come by and hang out--Tina is open and affirming.  She really is--she's very honest and very supportive.  And, I guarantee a good time and laughs.  So, consider yourself invited!!

And, if you are doing NaNo, come and FRIEND ME already.  I'm HeatherLane over there (the old die hard blog followers will remember that alias!)

Oh, and you are all also cordially invited to another SUPERCALIFRAGILISTICEXPIALIDOCIOUS interview HERE tomorrow.  Please stop by!!

If you are unsure about what to expect at the Practice Room, Tina explains it here.  I'm hoping that Tina will leave the chat room up all night, in case I need to go back in for support and silliness.  Not that I'm going to be writing ALL NIGHT LONG. But, yay, so much fun!!  See you here tomorrow, and there on Sunday!!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Friday Feature: Journeys Toward Publication and Beyond: Janice Hardy

Welcome to the start of a new session of Friday Features.  Where we grab our coffee, read a little about a fellow writer, and start a conversation with them in the comment section. Welcome all!

I'm so excited to introduce this week's interviewee, Janice Hardy!  Janice just published her second book in a trilogy, BLUE FIRE and is having fun touring the blog-o-sphere talking about her new book and her journey.  Janice's blog is choc full of great writing tips and perspective, so give her a shout-out over there!  Don't forget to check out her website, filled with current news about her books. And, she recently participated in Anna's Letter To Myself series.  Which is such a fabulous way to get to know a writer, so check out Janice's letter!

Here's Janice in her own words:

A long-time fantasy reader, Janice Hardy always wondered about the darker side of healing. For her fantasy trilogy THE HEALING WARS, she tapped into her own dark side to create a world where healing was dangerous, and those with the best intentions often made the worst choices. Her books include THE SHIFTER, and BLUE FIRE from Balzer+Bray/Harper Collins. She lives in Georgia with her husband, three cats and one very nervous freshwater eel.

Yay!  Thanks for being here, Janice! Janice, your book, BLUE FIRE, the second book in THE HEALING WARS TRILOGY came out October 5th. How exciting!! Tell us a bit about what to expect when we pick up BLUE FIRE.

Nya and her friends are on the run, doing their best to avoid soldiers and the Duke’s trackers. But things go wrong (as they always do) and Nya winds up in Baseer, where she discovers life in the enemy’s city isn’t any better than life in Geveg. Probably even worse, and she’s pulled right into the middle of it.

Ooo, sounds exciting! What has been your highest high, and lowest low while working on BLUE FIRE?

The lowest low was during the third or fourth draft when I was convinced the first book had been a fluke and I really couldn’t write. I’d never be able to turn this mess into something someone would want to read. The highest high was when the reviews started coming in and they were even better than the first book. I had turned the mess into something good!

Tell us a little about how THE HEALING WARS TRILOGY came about. Did this second book surprise you in any way as you wrote it?

It first started about nine years ago when I was playing with common fantasy ideas and trying to turn them on their heads. I thought about healing and how it was usually portrayed as something good. I started wondering if I could make it used for evil. But it was a bad story at that point, no more than an outline, and I stuffed it in a drawer. A few years ago I pulled it back out, and the pain shifting idea still resonated with me. I started thinking about that world, and that led to the whole buying and selling pain idea, and the story developed from that.

BLUE FIRE was a constant source of surprises and not all of them good (grin). I was surprised at how hard it was to write, most of all. Surprised that I pulled it off in the end. I was surprised to find one of my characters had been keeping a major secret from me. There’s also something about Nya I hadn’t been expecting. There was quite a lot, actually.

Janice, what made you start writing seriously?

I decided I wanted to see my books on the shelves. I think I was also curious if I was good enough to publish. You never really know until you start putting it out there.

How did you connect with your agent, and get that first book into the publisher’s hands? Was it smooth sailing from there?

THE SHIFTER was smooth sailing almost from day one. I’ve never had a book go so well. I pitched my agent at the Surrey International Writers Conference, and ten days later signed with her. I had several other agents interested, and a few offers (one was waiting for me when I got back from the conference) so that sped things up a bit. My agent wanted me to do some revisions (like rewrite the ending) which I agreed with and did (twice). That took four or five months, and then we waited a teeny bit longer because there was an editor she wanted to submit to that was about to launch her own imprint (Balzer & Bray/HarperCollins). My agent felt that editor would like the book. She was right, because B&B bought the whole trilogy.

That's wonderful.  It's nice to hear stories when things go smoothly. What has surprised you most on your journey toward publication and beyond?

That it moved fast from submission to acceptance. Everything I’d ever submitted had always taken forever, and everyone says be ready for the long wait. But my entire query process was six weeks, and my novel submission was a month. I was fully expecting it to take up to a year, but things happened quickly.

Fast is great! What are you currently working on?

Waiting on my revision letter for Shifter 3, and then I’ll be editing that for several months at least. There’s a lot to wrap up in the series and I imagine it’ll take some work to get all the arrows aligned. I’m hoping to start a new book in January, a YA fantasy about an undercover teen spy, but it’ll really depend on when Shifter 3 is done.

Janice, what are your writing habits? Do you have a set schedule or time of day that you set aside for writing? What do you do when you are stuck?

I’m a morning person, so I like to write from about 8 to 11am. I’ll edit in the afternoons or evenings, but the writing is always better early in the day. I’m not an everyday writer, and unless I’m on deadline, I prefer to write for a few days, then take a day off. That keeps me from getting burned out. When I’m stuck, I walk away. Go read, play, do chores, anything to occupy my mind so my subconscious can work on the problem in the background. Taking hot showers also helps. Something about washing my hair helps get the brain working again.

What has been your biggest trial in writing?

BLUE FIRE. They aren’t kidding when they say the second book, especially if it’s a middle book, is the hardest thing you’ll ever write. Second books incorporate all the hard stuff, (tons of backstory, saggy middle problems) and you have to overcome those and write a book that isn’t a rehash of the first or a setup for the third. From a technical standpoint, characterization was something I struggled with for a long time.

What is the most outlandish thing that a fan or aspiring writer has said to you?

Oh wow, I’m not sure. I guess I’ve been lucky so far that nothing really strange has happened. I’ve had some folks tell me about typos, which always struck me as a little odd, since there’s nothing I can do about them once the book is printed. But maybe they’re trying to be helpful in case the book is reprinted.

What marketing tools have you used that have worked to get the word out about your books?

I started blogging, I frequent writer’s forums, I printed business cards for the books that I can hand out when folks ask about them. I do a lot of school visits and various events. Just mostly get out there where people are talking about books.

How has the blogging and on-line community changed your connections with other writers or fans?

It’s let me connect with people all over the world, which is great. I’ve found lots of opportunities from folks online, or forums, or just seeing something on someone’s blog.

What is a favorite on-line resource?

I’d have to say Absolute Write. It has a lot of great info on the main site, and the forums are full of helpful information and people. It’s also a great way to connect with other writers of all levels.

What is a favorite blog post that you have written?

Ooo that’s a toughie. I think Overcoming Adversity Through Adverbs is one of my favorites, because it was something that I figured out could be a huge help while editing, not only to me, but to others. And it was a new way of looking at adverbs as something not to be avoided at all costs, but to use as a first draft tool.

Tell us about a book that has impacted your writing life.

Fiction First Aid, by Raymond Obstfeld and Scene & Structure, by Jack Bickham are two that finally made things click for me. It took a while to get Bickham, but once I did plotting became so much easier.

What is your practical goal with your writing? Do you have a reach-for-the-stars goal that you would like to share?

I just want to keep writing stories that people want to read, (and my editor wants to buy). I want to be able to do this for the rest of my life. As for the reach-for-the-stars goal, a National Book Award would be nice.

That would be very nice! So far, what has been the best part of your writing experience?

Having fans tell me how much they enjoyed my book. I love that thrill you get when you read a really great book, and the thrill is even better when you’re able to provide that for another book lover.

If you could create the perfect place for you to write in, what would it look like?

Comfy chair, a good surface for my laptop that allows me stretch my legs out, good lighting with no glare, nothing distracting in line of sight, but things to look at if I need to take a break and look away. And within reach of drinks and snacks. Maybe a couch for naps or thinking.

Speaking of distractions, tell us about a few in your life.

Three cats who think my mouse pad is for their naps. Computer games that call to me to come play with them. My growing stack of to-read novels. And of course, my husband, but he’s gotten really good at knowing when I need to be distracted or left alone.

And, just because I’m curious, coffee or tea?

Tea for sure.

Oh, and do you NaNo?

Never have, but it would be fun to do one day. I just need a year when I’m not swamped in November.

Now, Janice since we're so excited about your new book--take a moment to plug any author visits, book signings, giveaways or other publicity so we can get on the BLUE FIRE bandwagon!

If you live near Gainesville, GA, I’ll be at Hall Book Exchange on Saturday, October 23 from 2-3pm. They’re doing a 24-hour Read-a-Thon for charity. I’ll also be at Barnes & Noble at the Avenue Forsyth on October 28 from 6-8pm. One of the local middle schools is having their book fair that night and I’ll be signing books. I think that’s it for public events.

Here's the official BLUE FIRE blurb:

Part fugitive, part hero, fifteen-year-old Nya is barely staying ahead of the Duke of Baseer’s trackers. Wanted for a crime she didn’t mean to commit, she risks capture to protect every Taker she can find, determined to prevent the Duke from using them in his fiendish experiments. But resolve isn’t enough to protect any of them, and Nya soon realizes that the only way to keep them all out of the Duke’s clutches is to flee Geveg. Unfortunately, the Duke’s best tracker has other ideas.

Nya finds herself trapped in the last place she ever wanted to be, forced to trust the last people she ever thought she could. More is at stake than just the people of Geveg, and the closer she gets to uncovering the Duke’s plan, the more she discovers how critical she is to his victory. To save Geveg, she just might have to save Baseer—if she doesn’t destroy it first.

Sounds intriguing, Janice!! Everyone can pick up a copy here, and please make sure to check out Janice's website and blog.  After leaving a comment or question here, in the comment section, of course!  Thanks, Janice for being here today.  I really enjoyed getting to more about your journey beyond publication!!  Now, who's going to get this party started??

Monday, October 18, 2010

Monday Meeting: Haunted House

I walked through a haunted house with a few fifth graders yesterday.  And it reminded me of writing.  Or more specifically, it reminded me of what lives in my head as a writer.

When I'm away from writing for a while, and then I have that thought, that "maybe I should open up my novel's word document", well, something jumps out at me.  Something dressed in fluorescent paint, a ghoulish mask, and blood-red fingernails.  Something wielding an ax.  Something that chops up my desire to revise, and scares the hell out of me.  You know. The "what-if-I'm-not-good" monster.  And sometimes I listen to her, and stay away from my revision.  Which only makes her bigger and scarier the next time she jumps out at me.

For some reason, when I'm knee-deep in writing, I can keep the ghoul away.  But if I even take a weekend off, she rears her ugly head.

But, yesterday I got to the other side of the haunted house, and I got to the other side of that *B* in my head too.

And you know what I always find when I wrestle her down so I can get back into my revision?  Some parts of my novel are great, and some aren't.  But the story gets better, stronger, tighter, filled with more tension and depth of character as I revise.  Revision is nothing to be afraid about.

I think.

How's everyone doing this week?  My goal is to revise for at least an hour every day.  To continue revising until Nano, and then see if I can do both.  (What--am I insane?)

What goals do you have?  Do you NaNo?

Happy ghoul hunting to you all!  I hope you are wrestling your writing demons DOWN this week!!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Get Ready, Get Set, Friday Feature!!

Phew.  I'm here.

*poking at the cobwebs*

*giving up*

Halloween calls for cobwebs, anyway.  And why should my blog be cleaner than my house?  Thanks for sticking around through all the dead air here, at Edited.  I'm fired up to jump back in.

I am simmering my new novel until it boils over, right in time for Nano, I hope.  I'm also picking up the revisions and attacking them slowly.  But I am thrilled with how they are coming along, and I'm excited for the next couple of months as a time to pick up the pace after a very slow end-of-summer/beginning-of-fall.

I hope you join me next week when I kick-start the next round of Friday Features.  Upcoming featured writers are Janice Hardy, and Sarah Dooley.

 Janice's book, BLUE FIRE, just arrived on bookstore shelves.  It's the second in THE HEALING WARS series. Congrats, Janice!

And LIVVIE OWEN LIVED HERE, Sarah's debut book, came out August 17th.  Woo-hoo, Sarah!!

So, consider this a homework assignment, if you so choose to accept.  Grab their books from the library or bookstore, and read before the next couple of Fridays.  Not only will you have great questions for the writers about their writing techniques, but you can add to the discussion about their books as well.  And, if you are unfamiliar with the Journeys Toward Publication Friday Feature protocol, check out the interviews in my blog roll over on the right. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------->

To recap: Janice Hardy.  Sarah Dooley.  BLUE FIRE. LIVVIE OWEN LIVED HERE.  An opportunity to talk with these authors on the next two Fridays.  Come hang out.  Enjoy the discussions. I'd love for you to be here.  *hugs* *high fives* fist bumps*