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A Room of My Own (and No Bed)

For years, I wrote out of a small corner in a bedroom--be it my parent's hand-me-down kitchen table that stood next to my bed in my studio apartment, or the Target desk made out of particle board next to my bed in my one-bedroom apartment, or the same Target desk next to the that same bed in the spare room in my first house.

When we moved to New England, we were lucky enough to find a house that could accommodate an office. I share that space with a treadmill, my daughter's easel, and, yes, a couch that pulls out into a bed. But it's a room that is my own. My very, very own.

Here are five things I love about my office:

1) The bay window that overlooks our front yard. Today, the snow is deep and makes everything look a bit like a wintery wonderland. However, I don't enjoy much time looking out this window. Usually, I work at night, and all I truly see is the walkway lamppost that's situated outside my window. Fine by me. My ADD (if I believed in such things) wouldn't be able to work through the squirrels running up the trees and the neighbors walking their dogs and their children.

2) The lovely country-esque desk I got from Office Max. A total step up from the Target particle board contraption. My mother-in-law assembled it for me when I was eight-months' pregnant, who I'll be forever grateful to. On the corner of the desk in the white binder? The first 250 pages of my WIP. I definitely love that thing.

3) The ability to have my Netbook running on one part of the desk at the same time my Mac is up. Sometimes, my Mac just can't handle iTunes, Firefox, and the five Word documents I have open simultaneously. So the Netbook is where I actually do a lot of my writing. Plus, the Mac is where I do a lot of work for my online classes (I teach technical and research writing for an online university). It's nice to go to another computer where it doesn't feel like I'm doing yet more work.

4) Having enough room to have the books that are inspiring me at the moment right in front of me. I have Twilight and Hunger Games and Graceling and Soulless on the right, as well as books on topics such as baby names, spells, and Elizabeth George's Write Away on the left. Of course, I have a four-foot bookshelf right behind me with another 100 books, but rolling over those few feet to get to it is just so much more work.

5) Having all my inspirations around me, and not having to clean them up when guests come. I have an image of man going through evolution (from ape to modern homo sapien) to remind me to take the same care and patience to create story and character. I have numbers from two races close by, to remind me that staying up until 4 a.m. to meet word count is nothing compared to the pain of running 13 miles with torn cartilage. I have a heart paper weight, a metal fairy, and a ceramic Chinese cat from writing partners who helped me get my writing to where it is today. And then of course there's the framed adage I live by: The harder I work, the luckier I get.

I love my office that's finally mine, all mine.

5 Goals...365 days to achieve them

1.) Have Patience.
This is a big year for me. The year I’ve been anticipating since selling my book two years ago. The year I’ve been dreaming about since I don’t even know how long. ago Forever. Seriously. I want to soak in this whole year and all the new, exciting, glorious dream-come-true stuff, because even though I have more books coming out in 2011 and 2012, this is the first year. There’s only one first book, and I know it’s got to be less shiny with the second and third and fourth books…right? So I want to be patient. I want to not wish it away.

2.) Survive.
Even with all of the new, shiny, dream-come-true stuff that’s going to happen (hopefully) there will also be some bad, not-so-awesome stuff that will happen too. Like bad reviews. People who will say mean or annoying things. Expectations that aren’t met or fall short. All those things…I know I have to survive you, and I will.

3.) Blog more, but be on the Internet less.
To clarify, I want to post more regularly with interesting things to say, or to discuss writing craft or books I love or other fun things. But I want to spend less time on the Internet than I currently do. I want to check my email twice a day instead of dozen. I want to unplug for larger chunks of time.

4.) Write consistently.
Right now I’m shooting for writing at least 5 days a week for a few hours each day. I really, really like doing at least 1,000 words a day, though I don’t always achieve it. Some days it’s all I can do to make it to the end of one scene. Or one page! But the goal is to show up for work consistently no matter what the outcome.

5.) Celebrate Accordingly.
I want to be able to give myself permission to be proud of what I will accomplish, and what I’ve accomplished so far. It’s hard for me to *not* criticize myself, or to not search for some new way to improve myself or my writing or even my lifestyle. I just want to be able to step back and say to myself, “Job well done.” And then of course, um, buy myself a present :-)

Amanda's 2010 Writing Goals

1. FOCUS! I printed a sign that reads "Focus" and it's hanging on the wall in my new office to help keep me on track. Last year my focus disappeared and I had my very first case of writer's block. I'm doing better now, but I'm still not where I used to be when I could simply open the file and the words would  pour out. Today I am going to make a bigger sign.

2. Read more. My to-read pile has more than two hundred books in it. I keep buying books and put them on one of my shelves and look wistfully at them. Today I am going to pick one off the shelf and read the first chapter and try to read one more every day.

3. Recommit to picture books.  Fourteen years ago when I started writing I wanted to be a picture book author and illustrator. When the third one I started turned into a novel I embraced the longer format and scoffed at the idea of writing picture books as too hard write and too hard to sell in this climate. Well, last year I wrote two new picture books and fell in love with them all over again. I have no desire to illustrate any more, but today I'm hosting the first meeting of a new picture book critique group and have a new story turning over in my head.

4. School Visits: Now that I have some middle grade books coming out and have done a few classroom visits at my daughter's school I want to get a powerpoint presentation done, write up a brochure, and send out to schools. I will not work on this until I hand in my next two books, but  today I added to my list of "visit" ideas on my bulletin board. "I held a cockroach" certificates for brave children who over-come their fears and embrace the creepy-crawliness that are hissing cockroaches.

5. Critique Group: My novel group has gotten really out of sync. We used to meet every month without fail, but people got new jobs, schedules got difficult to plan around and by putting off meeting month after month all of our writing has suffered. Today I will email my group and set a permanent date each month that we can plan around with no excuses.

Robin's 2010 Writing Goals

These goals are simple because I need simple in my life right now.  Simply simple.

1.  WRITE DAILY:  I need to make writing a daily habit the same way I've finally made exercise a daily habit.  Only emergencies have gotten in the way of my BodyPump and kickboxing.  The plan is to write something, even if it's not work on the novel.

2.  READ DAILY:  I have been doing this, but I often get sucked into self-help books of which there is a never ending supply.  I need to go back to my stack of YA's.

3.  SET SMALL GOALS:  My critique group is handy for monthly writing goals, but we slacked over the holidays.  I'm saying it here and now:  I will write a chapter a month until my WIP is done.

4.  SUBMIT and SELL MY WIP:  I want to submit my WIP over the summer.  Summer is when I can breathe and think and plan.  

5.  NEW WIP:  Start work on a new/old story.  I have a couple of books fight for attention in my head.  I'll see which one wins.

I'm My Own Solution and My Own Problem

So it's January 11, and I'm already 11 days behind with my New Year's Resolutions. If I were 14 and didn't know how to find unique credible sources, I would go to Dictionary.com to tell me what a resolution is. Once there, I would skim and find that it can mean an intention, a resolve, or as definition #8 more interestingly puts it, a solution.

So here are my five SOLUTIONS for 2010 (when it comes to writing, at least; my diet and fitness program are best discussed betwixt the angel and demon on my shoulders):

Problem 1: I may or may not have found the genre I want to write in.
Solution to Problem 1: Write. See if new genre is right for you. Complete manuscript in new genre, and revise, revise, and revise yet again. Revisit self-doubt on the completion of pretty new manuscript you would not have otherwise have written if you hadn't just done it.

Problem 2:
I want to complete two books this year, but childcare/publishing industry woes may work against me.
Solution to Problem 2: Write. Give self-imposed deadlines, and let Miss Agent know about self-imposed deadlines so that you humiliate yourself if you don't meet them. Listen to Miss Agent's thoughts about the industry. Don't stick head in sand hole, listening only to the sound of your own voice.

Problem 3: I wish I could write words that come out right the first time.
Solution to Problem 3: Embrace the mantra, "Don't we all."

Problem 4: I wish I would stop depending on eyes and smiles to show emotions. But they always crop up. Always.
Solution to Problem 4: Find and replace is a wonderful tool. Use it.

Problem 5: I can't believe people like Paris Hilton and Lauren Conrad are on the NYT bestsellers' list and I'm not.
Solution to Problem 5: Seek and find Jon Gosselin, and build BFF relationship. Hook a reality show deal based on the relationship. See if I can get Octomom to guest star. Wait until MTV picks up the show, then release my third book written by ghost writer.


Books for My Stocking and Beyond

Angie posted some books that she hopes will make it into her stocking, and that made me start thinking about my own wants (no, NEEDS--books are needs, are they not?). Here are some of the ones I'm looking forward to on An Embarrassment of Riches for My Two Year Old's Day and beyond:

1) TANGLED, by Carolyn Mackler. I have read everything by teen writer Mackler, and enjoy her stories and characters immensely. This book comes out just after Christmas (and the wait has seemed eternal!). Happy New Year's gift to me!

2) CHANGELESS, by Gail Carriger. I loved Carriger's first book in the Parasol Protectorate series, SOULLESS. Love, love, absolutely love (almost in a stalker-like way). Can't wait for another dose of the Soulless Miss Tarabotti whose lovers are werewolves and whose besties are vamps and whose enemies are indestructible-Terminator-like automatrons.

3) THE STRANGELY BEAUTIFUL TALE OF MISS PERCY PARKER, by Leanna Renee Hieber. The look and feel of this book reminds me of Carriger's work, and the title alone had me at Hello. This better be in my stocking, darling dear! (After all, I did print out the B&N page, highlighted which section you'd find it in, and wrote "Hint hint" in all-caps.)

4) LEVIATHAN, by Scott Westerfield. I must admit, I already own it. But the premise made me unable to wait until Christmas--an alternate, steampunk-based reality of WWI with genetically mutated jellyfish as hydrogen dirigibles? Irresistible!

5) Anything by husband and wife team David Small and Sarah Stewart. The Library, The Gardener, The Friend, to name a few (one of these is under the tree right now--the first two are already in my daughter's bookcase). Beautiful illustrations and tender stories perfect for any 7-and-under in your life.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good (book at) night. ;o)


A Nice Review for CASHING IN!

SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL wrote: Colebank has created an engaging read with a twist at the end. Even reluctant readers will be eager to see what happens to Reggie. Thank you, SLJ!

Perfect Stocking Stuffers

Books. They really fill out that stocking nicely, don't they? I bet I could fit two hardcovers in mine...I mean, Santa could ;-) I've always loved getting books for Christmas. A book is perfect because it isn't something you unwrap and then poof, the surprise is over. The surprise is still waiting inside, and it's something you can stretch out for a few more days.

Here are five new books I would love to have in my stocking come Christmas:

I’ve heard so many great things about this debut book and the premise is super intriguing.

The purple and black cover theme continues with this debut YA by my agent-mate Bree Despain. Her book sounds mysterious and romantic and dangerous. A good mix!

Another intriguing cover, and an even more intriguing story hook. I admit, I like using books as decoration pieces and beautiful covers help.

I just love this title! Maybe I just like saying it. And I’m discovering a trend in my choices, both cover and plot wise. Purple, dark, dangerous, southern Gothic, paranormal books must be all the rage.

I saved this for last because it not only looks different, but the plot is a bit different too. I’ve been wanting to read Jackie Dolamore’s book for a long time! Anything having to do with a soul locked inside an Automaton is a win in my opinion. (cover image is the UK cover)

So, what books would you love to find inside your stocking this Christmas?


I have been good this year, good to others, yet I haven't returned the favor to my writer-self. Can you help me?
I want only five things this year:

1. TIME: I'm every woman... Isn't that a song? I'm a teacher, mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend, and I'm also a writer. Unfortunately, I tend to put the needs of others before my own. What about a special block of writing time? I had one once... It doesn't need to be gift wrapped.

2. SPEED: Before I was published I wrote in a happily manic bubble, pleased with whatever appeared on the paper, and equally pleased to revise. Now that the world is watching I've become self-conscious and frozen. Okay, that's slightly overstated, but you get the picture. Actually, that was really melodramatic... But I DO have a need for speed, though. I want to bust through the over-thinking.

3. COURAGE: On that same idea, please leave me some courage. Courage will help me to slay the devilish editors nibbling at my creativity, and to take back my time where I need it.

4. ENDURANCE: Once I get going things are often as they should be; the story flows, the character takes over, one idea births another, the world is right. Problems arise when fatigue sets in and overuse injuries appear out of nowhere. I don't remember this with the last book. Santa, please leave me a magic formula.

5. BALANCE: None of the previous gifts will work if I don't learn how to balance everything. A gift of balance would be the best gift of all!
Here at The Randoms, we want to talk about what's on our wish lists for the holidays. Following is what I want for Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/Solstice...

1) Is the patience to revise. When I finished BLACK TUESDAY (Dutton, 2007), I thoroughly revised the book twice. In hindsight, this was not enough, but then again, I was a newbie and didn't realize that, especially as a former journalist who never had to revise (edit, yes, but rewrite? Not so much). For CASHING IN (Dutton, 2009), I thoroughly revised approximately four times. And in hindsight? The end product was better, but it could have benefited from another go-through to solidify themes, punch up romantic burgeonings, etc. This next book, I plan on revising better. To allow myself to sit and stew. To dream about the book even more. I'm not trying to go for Revision #5, just for Revision Even Better.

2) Is the imagination to create the world my characters deserve. I'm branching out into a different genre, and it has fantastical elements (but not of the pointy-teeth or dog-biscuit-breath variety). I'm having fun with world-building, but I need it to be more than a vanity project. This world needs to be worthy. It needs to have Mordor and Ewoks and Hogwarts. It needs landmarks that stick with a girl, y'know?

3) Is the self-perception to devise a much-loved character or 12. I love documentaries (and yes, Sweet Sixteen on MTV counts), and I love taking characteristics from these crippled people and putting them into my own characters. But the characteristics readers most relate to in my books are the ones that I've pulled from my own life--either experienced by me or by a friend when I was with her/him. So this reader love makes sense--3D characteristics is always better than 2D.

4) Is the stalwart heart to take my characters to the brink and not save them too fast. Or maybe at all (at least at the end of Book 1). I always want to get my characters out of sticky situations quickly. I hurt when they hurt, after all, and I feel like I've forgotten to turn off the oven Day 2 of a roadtrip if I have unresolved issues. But hurt is a good thing. Readers like hurt. I may just have to wear a rubber band about my wrist and plick myself every time I want to write a character out of a corner. Bad, Susan, bad. *Plick*

5) Is the confidence to know my voice is good enough. I read books that have done better than mine, and I want to have the same luck. I want to have their voice and be just as beloved. However, at the end of the day, voice is who you are, not who you wish you could be.


Who are we?

We're four YA writers who love talking YA. And publishing in YA. And one day, seeing our YA as a small $200 million movie starring Kristen Stewart and Rob Pattinson. Or at the very least, a Lifetime movie starring Leann Rimes.

And yes, there's only four of us--which means we're missing a fifth. Which means that every Tuesday we'll have a visitor. A special visitor. A visitor you're just going to have to stop by for.