Monday, December 20, 2010

One last question

Happy Monday everyone!

I hope you are all having a wonderful December, and Holiday season. I love this time of year so much. Sometimes it can end up being stressful if we spread ourselves too thin, and I'm trying to avoid that. I am going to answer one more question on querying (from my contest/post last Monday), and then I'm going to take a break for the rest of the Christmas/New Year holidays. I want to spend the next couple of weeks focusing on my family, and making this a really fun break for my son who is now out of school until January. I will miss you all, and may break down and pop in a few times. We'll see. ;)

So, here's Jennie Bailey's question:

How do you whittle your book down to one small paragraph without leaving anything important out? Do you give away your ending? Or keep it secret?
Often the best way to do this is to write your query BEFORE you write your book. If you try to write it then, the idea is still at its core elements (usually), and you won't have all the details that come later confusing and befuddling you. You'll end up revising it, I can almost guarantee it, but you'll have a great start. If you've already written your book, the best thing to do is to focus on only one character--your main character, none of the supporting cast should appear unless absolutely necessary. Then decide what is his/her main conflict--aka, what is your hook? That is what your write your query on, and that's IT. You don't reveal the ending in a query, that is for a synopsis. Your query should really be no longer than two paragraphs for the book and one paragraph for your bio (if you have one). The query isn't intended to show all your complex plotting, and twists and turns, etc. Go find some of your favorite books, and read the jacket copy. Notice how different they are, and try and figure out which ones grab your attention the most. Or, you could go to the bookstore and try this. Find a bunch of different books you haven't read yet and try reading their jacket copy. Which ones grab your attention the most and make you want to buy it? What is the difference? That's basically what you're trying to accomplish. A short, concise, intriguing two paragraph letter that will grab an agent's attention. Also, the query should show the M.C.'s voice, so sometimes it works to write it in first person when you're drafting it, then switch it to third when you revise it.

I hope that helps! I could keep going and going, but I better get going on entertaining my kids! (Who are currently being entertained by the Disney Channel while I write this.) I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! I will "see you" in 2011!

Friday, December 17, 2010

And the Winners are...

Drumroll please...

The random number generator has spoken and the TWO winners who will get their queries critiqued are:




Woohoo!! *tosses confetti* Congratulations to you both. Please email me your queries at sarablarson21 (at) gmail (dot) com and I will get that done for you.

You guys had some really great questions, so I will be taking a few at a time in the next couple of posts to answer them. Thanks again for entering everyone!

D.L. Hammons asked: Here's my question. How much do you go into possible revisions the agent my want before signing on the dotted line? What if they don't want to go into detail? I hope I'm reading this question right, but it sounds like you're asking how much should you do for an agent if they want revisions before signing you, right? Since I'm not sure, I will try to answer it both ways. First, if an agent asks for a revision before signing you (which I had happen and did--even though it didn't work out, my manuscript was much stronger for it), I think 9.7/10 times you do it. That is a huge opportunity, and at the very least you can try what they suggest and see what you think. They know what they're doing, and often end up being right when they ask for changes. Not 100% of the time, but close. ;) If you are on a phone call with an offering agent, and they won't go into detail about what revisions they want (which I doubt would happen, but it's possible!), I'd ask them detailed questions to try and get an answer. I wouldn't want to sign with an agent who isn't up front about their feelings and thoughts on my book. If they are vague in answering, saying something like "We can discuss that more later," I would respond with, "Can you give me some specific examples now of what you want changed?" I doubt any agent would dodge the question again.

Pensees asked: Should you mention that you sent a query a year (or more ago) when re-querying after making substantial edits? Or just forget about ever querying that project to that agent again? Hmm, this is tricky ground for sure. Technically, you aren't supposed to requery the same project again to the same agent. If you have a new project, I'd go with that and keep the other project for after you sign with an agent. However, I have had people tell me different answers to this. I'm pretty sure I remember some authors admitting to changing the titles and requerying projects on their blogs. If the project is substantially changed (including the title), and the agent gave you a form rejection I've had a few people say that is probably okay to requery, and not worry about mentioning the past. However, if the agent had requested a partial or full that is another story. Again, if you have a different project ready to query, go with the new project. It's probably better anyway, honestly. That's just how it goes, we tend to get better with practice. However, if the revised mss is your only shot, you could try querying those agents again and let them know you had the opportunity to have "so and so" (hopefully someone reputable in the industry) give you feedback and you did a complete revision or rewrite based on their critique and wonder if the agent would be interested in seeing your revised manuscript. (And of course you would do that in a way that is eloquent and not a run-on sentence.) The worst that can happen is they say no or don't respond. Just be very careful and wise in making a decision like that. Research the agent, see what other people's experiences have been. I know it's been done on occassion, and even more rarely has been successful, but yeah, not very often.

Wow, I'm really nervous to answer some of these questions! I hope this is helpful, but I would definitely recommend researching these things out for yourself, too. Don't take my opinions as the end all--I have a lot of experience with querying, but yours will be different and unique. Ultimately, you need to research the agents you are querying in multiple ways--on their agency blogs/websites, on forums like AbsoluteWrite, etc. and find out what their personal likes/dislikes and policies. Good luck and more to come next week!

Thursday, December 16, 2010


Just a reminder that you have until 10:00 pm MST to enter the contest to win one of two query critiques! Click here to read the details and enter. It's super easy, just comment to win. The odds are pretty good right now that you could win, so hurry and enter before it's too late.

Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

What to look for in an agent...

So, on Monday I promised you a post about some of the things to look for in an agent. I'm not going to attempt to talk about EVERYTHING there is to know on the subject in one post, because it would take waaaay too long. There are some great resources out there if you do your research, including agency blogs. But I will touch on some of the "big" ones (at least for me). Also, thank you for your comments and questions - there were some really good ones. I will definitely have a lot to think about for Friday's answer post. And make sure and spread the word, you can still enter the contest by commenting on Monday's post for the chance to win one of two query critiques!

So, on to the post. Here are some of the important things to look for in a prospective agent.

First of all, make a list. Actually write it down, figure out what questions you want to ask and have them with you. On paper. Not just in your head. I had a list of questions printed off for when I got the call, and I'm glad I did! I never would have been able to remember everything I wanted to ask otherwise. Having all of those answers was very important when I was trying to make my decision.

Now that you have your paper and pen (or laptop) handy, here are a few things to think about asking:

What are your thoughts on my book? What did you love? What didn't you like and think needs revising? (Or something like this... basically, you need to know what his/her vision is for your book and what they have in mind for revisions.) If you sign on the dotted line without even knowing what you're getting, the revision process with your new agent might end up being brutally painful. You need to agree with your agent's vision for the book--or rather, he/she needs to have a similar vision to yours. If you feel extremely uncomfortable with what they think you need to do with the story, they might not be the right fit. When I say uncomfortable, I mean as in they don't understand my book at all -- not, whoa, that makes sense but it's going to be really, really hard. If you agree with what they have to say, even if it's hard, that's not a deal killer. Their job is to make your writing better so it will sell.

What is your communication style? (prefer email, phone, etc.) How often can I expect to hear from you while we're revising, or on submission? You need to be honest with yourself about how much communication you need from your agent, and how you want it to happen. If you really only like to talk on the phone, and want updates often, but your agent is all about emails and only when absolutely necessary, that might cause you a lot of stress and put a strain on your professional relationship. Make sure your agent communicates in a way that will keep you calm and satisfied. Now, obviously, you can't expect to have their whole world revolve around you. They actually have a job that involves (gasp!) many other authors that also need their time and attention and you might not always be the top of the list. But when it's really important, you should be. Knowing what to expect up front can really help you plan on what will work best for both of you. Your agent will appreciate knowing what you like and hope for as well, so he/she can do their best to communicate well with you.

What are you plans for revising my book? Where do you envision yourself submitting it? How widely do you plan to do your submissions? These type of questions will help you get an idea of what the agent's plans are for your book. If he/she doesn't really have any editors/houses in mind already, that should be a warning sign. Most agents will already know who they're planning on submitting the book to when they offer to sign an author. The reason they want to sign you is because they believe they can sell it. Also, by asking how widely they plan on submitting, you can get an idea of their submitting style. Do they like to submit to only a few editors at a time? Or to 10 editors or so every round? What would you prefer? Talk it over with them, to make sure you feel good about their plan.

So, these are just a few of the things that I would say are the most important things to find out about a prospective agent. Remember, at this point, you are "hiring" them. You are choosing the person who will work with you, and hopefully fight for your book(s) until they sell. Choose wisely. So what do you think? How's your list coming along?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Thinking postive for 2011

So, all you out there in the query trenches (or hoping to enter them soon), let's step back from all the fears and worries that accompany hitting send on those emails (or putting the stamp on the letters). Let's assume that 2011 is going to be YOUR year! The year you get an agent! The year all your dreams come true! How many more exclamation points can I use?!

Ahem. Anyway, so yes, let's think positive, shall we? Good. Now, what do you do when that call comes--the one where an agent tells you why they love your book enough to offer to represent you? Do you immediately scream, "Yes! Yes! Please, please send me the contract right now, I will Fed-Ex it back to you tonight!!" (See, don't ever doubt my ability to throw in more exclamation points.) By the way, the answer is NO. Big N. O. As tempting as it is to just accept the first offer you get, you need to take some time and truly make sure this agent is a good fit for you. You should have some questions prepared to ask them, and you should be prepared to give the other agents who are considering your partials or fulls a week to see if they also want to offer or not. To many of you this will be familiar territory, but to some, you might be hyperventilating right now, thinking I've lost it.

I promise I haven't. So this week, I'm going to do two posts relating to this subject: one on Wednesday about what to look for in a prospective agent, and on Friday I am going to be announcing the winners to my contest and answering some of your questions. Wait--"what contest?" you might be asking. This one:

As my Christmas present to you, I am going to offer to critique two follower's query letters. Because let's face it, you're not going to get to that agent call, if your query doesn't generate some requests, right? I'm not claiming to be an expert, but after a couple of years in those trenches I got pretty good at queries. I'm making it really easy to enter this time. Just comment on this post with one question you'd like me to answer about queries or picking an agent or something else about the query process, and you are entered! The random number generator will pick two lucky (well, hopefully my critique will be good enough to make you think you're lucky) winners to email me their queries on Friday morning. You have until Thursday night at 10:00 pm MST to enter. I know it's not as cool as a gift card, or a Kindle or something, but hopefully it will be helpful.

Happy Monday and good luck!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Friday Five

1. Christmas wrapping paper is irritating me this year. It seems to be tearing with very little provocation and it's making me crazy! I have a gift almost perfectly wrapped, when bam! Huge tear right in the middle. What the...? Grrr. Thank heavens I'm done wrapping now (finally) except for the presents I still need to get my hubby.

2. As I was wrapping all the gifts, I realized my kids are getting a lot of books this year. Strange how that happened. He he.

3. I was remembering this week back to when I was a teenager, (which wasn't THAT long ago... ahem) and what I usually asked to get for Christmas. I almost always asked for books and music. Not clothes, or make-up, or whatever else I probably needed. I loved getting books and CDs to listen to while I read those books. Or wrote my own books.

4. That thought spurred another memory. When I was eight or nine, my paternal Grandmother (who we called Far-Mor, because she was from Sweden and that's what you called her there), used to invite each of me and my sisters down individually to spend weekends with her and Far-Far (my paternal grandfather). When it was my turn, we'd go to dinner, and watch movies. Then I'd get to sleep in the "pink room" that she decorated just for all of us grand-daughters. We'd get up in the morning and make breakfast, and then she'd always take me to the mall to pick out some little gifts for her to get me. Without fail, I'd go to the book store. She usually ended up buying my two or three books because I could never make up my mind. Then she'd take me to lunch at the cafe at Nordstrom's, and we'd talk about all the books I loved. She died when I was fourteen, because of cancer. I know she's in a better place and with us still, but I can't help but wish sometimes that she was here on earth with us.

5. Which made me think of this last thought. At this time of year, I miss Far-Mor the most. After she and Far-Far moved to UT, it became our tradition to have a Swedish Christmas Eve every year. She would cook and bake and prepare for days and days. They lived in Pleasant Grove, up on the hill, so on Christmas Eve, we'd all pile in the Suburban (necessary with five kids), and head down to Pleasant Grove. We'd walk into her house, and the smells were just divine. Mashed potatoes, Swedish Meatballs, fresh Pepparkakor (these amazing Swedish cookies she'd make), little smokies, more cookies and desserts and food and mmmmm.... And there in the middle of it all would be Far-Mor, her Swedish Christmas music playing on an old tape player in the warm kitchen. Her cheeks were always a little rosy from the heat of the stove, and because as she cooked, she'd dance around the little kitchen, singing along in Swedish. She was tall like me, and strawberry blonde--your typical Swede. We'd devour our Swedish Smorgasbord, and then go to the tree (decorated in swedish flags and fake candles--for safety), and open all our presents from Tomten (the Swedish Santa Claus). She and Far-Far always spoiled us silly, giving us tons of presents. Then on top of all the store bought gifts, she always knitted us these beautiful sweaters every year (and it usually took her all year to make all five sweaters). I loved her intensely, as did my whole family, and after she died, she left a huge void in all of our hearts. Wow, I'm going to make myself cry. Anyway, my family keeps this tradition alive every year. My mom now has the Swedish Smorgasbord at her house, and makes almost all of the same food that Far-Mor did, even the Pepparkakor. Now that we're older, we all pitch in as well. It's something we all look forward to every year, and even after we've gotten married and have to try and juggle all the in-law's schedules too, the Swedish Christmas Eve is non-negotiable for all of us. I know that even after my parents leave us (which better not be for a LONG, LONG time), my sisters and I will carry on this tradition.

So, tell me, what are you Christmas (or Holiday) traditions that you prize the most?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Tis the Season...

To be way behind on everything. Including posting today. Whoops. Sorry about that!

I found this quote today, and it seemed an appropriate one for me. Maybe you will find it inspiring as well.

"There is only one way to happiness, and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will." - Epictetus

I have said it before, I tend to be a worrier. I used to worry that I worried too much. The older I am, and the more things I "get" to worry about (two children, mortgages, bills, health, etc., etc.), I've slowly begun to learn not to worry so much. It was either that, or go insane. I can't control everything. In fact, there are very few things I can actually control at all. That are "within the power of my will." I have to focus on doing my best with the things I can control and have trust and faith that everything else will work out the way it is supposed to.

Even in writing, we have a lot we can control, but there is so much that we can't. Elana Johnson did a fabulous post about "luck" in the process of getting published and it really hit home for me, and probably a lot of you. We all have to keep working hard, honing our craft (no matter what stage we're at--querying agents, on submission with editors, or published author working on subsequent books), and moving forward. But there are always things we can't control that could cause us worry. Will this agent/editor love my writing enough to offer to represent me/buy it? Will my book sell well? Will I get another deal? Will I be able to write another book as good as my first one? There are always worries. But I'm trying to learn to let them go.

I've yet to read a study telling us how good worrying is for our mental or physical health. So I am consciously trying to worry less--to do what I can do, and let go of the rest. How about you? What are you worried about? And can you do anything about it or not?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Ally's book launch for MATCHED!!

I've had this post kind of planned out since last year, when Ally told me about her book deal. I can't believe it's already been a year, and her book is now out! Here are my thoughts then and now:

I am so lucky to be friends with Ally. She is one of the nicest, most generous, kind people I know. Even though she's already published with Deseret Book, Shadow Mountain and soon will be nationally (I KNEW IT!), she never makes me feel inferior for not being published yet. In fact, she makes me feel like I am an equal with her, and sometimes even more knowledgeable. (Which was only true pretty much when it comes to querying agents, because let's face it, I have TONS experience when it comes to that. Ha!). I just knew MATCHED was going to get snatched up, and I was right. I love this book so much, and am so excited for Ally. She deserves this, and I just want to tell every person I know about her book!

Ally and me at Bombay House (her fave), celebrating when she signed with her agent, just over a year ago. We were kind of funny- she took me to dinner when she got her agent, to thank me for helping her so much. Then when I got my agent in the spring, I took her to Benihana (my fave), to thank her for helping me so much! You'd think it'd be the other way around, but we're silly like that.

She has worked so hard, and never given up, despite some truly difficult obstacles on her path to publication. She's written some amazing books for DB and SM, but I know MATCHED is going to be something beyond her wildest dreams. I am so, so happy for my friend, and can't wait to see what happens next.

Now, here we are, a year later, and boy was I right! MATCHED is pretty much the most talked about book of 2010, and her launch party was a HUGE success. Since I couldn't find my usb to download the pics I took, my friend (and book blogger: My Pile of Books) Stacey let me use some of her pics instead.
Stacey and I at lunch at Mazza's

The gang at Mazza's! The Utah author community is so fabulous, I am very lucky to live here.

Ally is so funny, I love listening to her speak. She always has the crowd laughing and is very open about her journey. Someday I hope to be like her. :)

Ally signing MY book! This was such a huge moment, owning my own copy of MATCHED, and having her sign it! (That unfortunately got rushed--I waited to get in line, so that I'd have time to talk to her without a lot of people behind me, but instead, they let her talk to all the people ahead of us and then told her she had to rush through the end of the line. Bummer. That's okay though, I'm glad I got to talk to her for a minute at least.)

Stacey, me and Ally (Yes, I'm gigantaur. I'm even crouching down a little bit.)

Ally is such a lovely person, and even though she's way busier now than she was a year ago, I'm still grateful to call her my friend. This kind of success couldn't have happened to a better person. I'm so, so happy for you, Ally! I hope you had a wonderful time celebrating the release of your book!

The post I was supposed to do...

Well, this is supposed to be a post about Ally's book launch at TKE last Saturday for MATCHED... but I can't find my usb to download my pictures with. So, I'm going to keep looking for it, or else have to go buy a new one (double grrr!!), and I promise to have the true post up later today.

Suffice it to say for now that it was awesome!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Friday Five

1. SHH is amazing. Besides being super hot, he's also super sweet. (Sappy, I know, sorry.) But I had to say something. I'm sitting in a completely clean kitchen, with a clean family room, and the boys' room is clean, and... yeah, EVERYTHING is clean! That is remarkable because I've been pretty sick recently, and the house had descended into complete disarray. (Two young boys + one sick mommy = pandelerium.) He surprised me last night and cleaned ALL of it. I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. A heaven where I still felt like throwing up, but at least I wouldn't have to trip over 8 zillion toys and piles of crap to get to the bathroom. Man, I love that man. Okay, sap over.

2. Seeing your friend's book come out is really amazing. To have read a manuscript on a computer, seeing it evolve and then watching her get an agent, a deal, seeing the ARCs come out--all of that was amazing. But nothing compares to walking into the bookstore, and seeing that beautiful, shiny book on a shelf. (Or actually, in a special display case.) I am so excited for Ally, and can't wait for her launch party tomorrow!

3. I need to stop buying books. Wait! Before you try to jump through the computer and attack me, let me explain. I just need to stop for right now. Because I keep buying myself all the ones on my Christmas List. If I keep getting them, what will I have Santa get me?

4. There's only a couple of weeks left (starting on Monday) until SonA is on break from school for 2 WEEKS. I'm not really sure how I feel about that. Any ideas on what I can do to entertain him?

5. You've just got to love Utah weather. Last week, they practically shut the state down because the "blizzard of the decade" was headed for us. It was going to be The Day After Tomorrow x10. And then it wasn't. It was just a normal snow storm with some really cold temps attached. Then, the beginning of this week, we actually have a blizzard that lasts for almost TWO DAYS, dumping almost two feet of snow (at least where I live), and nothing happens. School goes on like normal, no road closures, nothing. Welcome to Utah. You know what they, if you don't like the weather, just wait until tomorrow. Or a couple of hours. Now it's so warm, half the snow has melted away. ("Warm" relatively speaking right now, means above freezing.)

So what are your thoughts today?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Just in case you hadn't heard...

So, I decided to wait a day. Yep, I'm unique like that. Go against the flow. Ha ha.

What did I wait for?

In case anyone out there somehow hasn't heard that MATCHED is now available IN STORES!!!

That means you should get off your chair, grab your keys (and wallet), and rush to your nearest book store and buy it. Now! I'm serious! I'll wait....

Seriously though, I am so excited for you Ally, and want to wish you a fabulous debut week! All your hard work and dreaming and hard work and effort and wait, you guessed it--more hard work--has paid off. Woohoo! (Ahem, excuse my sudden bursts of yelling and jumping up and down.)

I would post a picture of my copy of it, but my computer is being a spaz. Ah, well, such is technology.

Now, what else can I write about to top the release of the most talked about book of 2010? Um, yeah, nothing. So, yep. That's all folks. Congrats again Ally!

Monday, November 29, 2010


"Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out." - Robert Collier

I hope everyone had a great week! We sure did. I missed staying in touch with all of my online friends and blogs, but it was also kind of nice to unplug for a while. I honestly didn't even think about checking my email for a couple of days. That was like some sort of miracle. Ha ha. Thanksgiving was fabulous, my family rocks, I have so much to be thankful for, and yep. It was a great week! How was yours? What did I miss out on?

So, on to the quote. Or, back to the quote, as the case may be. Success. It's what we all want, right? Our definitions of success are probably different--one person may think just getting a book on a shelf somewhere, ANYWHERE is success. Others may not feel "successful" until they are a bestseller. Those are just two examples, and obviously not all the success we want necessarily applies to getting published. There are many other successes I worry about and hope to achieve, the top of the list being my desire to successfully raise my children into honest, happy, independent (yet still family oriented), confident, loving, caring, wonderful people. Is that too much to ask? Yikes. I hope not.

When I start to feel overwhelmed in my efforts to be successful, this quote is very comforting. It's the little things, the small efforts, repeated day after day that will get me there. With my kids, with my life, with my writing, with anything I'm striving for. By writing every day, by revising, by reading, by learning and applying and moving forward. I. Will. Make. It. And so will you.

So what little things do you need to be doing each day?

Monday, November 22, 2010


Today I wanted to focus on a few things I am thankful for, considering that Thanksgiving is this week. So often it seems like all we can see or think about is what we don't have--what we haven't achieved yet. Or at least there are times when I find myself doing this. But really, I am very blessed and have SO much to be grateful for. This is only a short list of some of those things.

I am thankful for my love of writing. I'm grateful for the ability I have to do something I love so much. It can lift me when I'm down, or let me escape when I need a break. It takes me to places I've never been, and to meet people who are so very, very interesting. I love to write!

I am grateful for my incredible agent, Hannah. She is so supportive and believes in me 110%. She encourages me, helps me, guides me, and so much more. I couldn't have asked for a better agent and friend.

I am thankful for the amazing online writing community. I am constantly amazed at how kind and generous and amazing you all are. I've met some truly incredible friends through blogs and twitter and other places. Seriously, you guys blow my mind. Thank you for everything. Wow.

I am grateful for my friends--those who I've known for years and years, who have supported and believed in me no matter what, through everything. And for friends I've met more recently who have kept me going when I doubted, or kept me strong when I was weak, or who make me laugh whether I'm happy or sad. All of you who cheer for me and make me feel like I am special and important in someone else's life. Thank you. I hope you feel as though I return the sentiment and favors, at least in part.

I am thankful for amazing family: for parents who taught me to go for my dreams and gave me wings. For a mom who is one of my best friends. For my sisters who cheer , and read my books, and give me advice and love, and who are also some of my dearest friends. I may be the oldest, but I learn from all of you. For my aunts and uncles, cousins, and grandparents--all who believe (or believed when they were alive) and share their love and friendship. I am truly blessed.

And most of all--I am grateful for my husband, who is unwavering in his faith in me. His support and belief has lifted me when I was sinking. He mends my wings when they are failing, he gives me the strength to always move forward. And my two boys... they are my reward for everything. I couldn't have asked for two cuter, sillier, smarter little guys who love me so much. And since I am a person of faith, I hope no one will be offended by this, but I must express my gratitude to my Savior. I am nothing -- and can aspire to be nothing -- without Him.

There is so much more I could list, but I will let that suffice for now, especially since this already sounds like an epically long acceptance speech or something. (No, I haven't won any awards or anything. I just am feeling very grateful right now.)

I am going to take a small break for the rest of the week to enjoy the holiday and catch up on some other projects and work. I hope all of my friends in the U.S. have a wonderful Thanksgiving. And everyone else, I hope you have a great end of November. ;)

Now it's your turn! What are you thankful for this week?

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Friday Five...

that didn't happen. Because, let's face it--my F.F. today would consist of: Harry Potter is amazing. The movie actually stuck to the books, woohoo! It rocked! I am exhausted. And the movie was SO good. And I'm super tired. I love these books so much. I can't wait for the next movie to see how they do with the last half. But I'm so tired right now, I think I have sand under my eyelids. Oh wait, I have kids--no falling asleep! Must. Stay. Awake. Plus I have lots of writing to do, and cleaning, and you know... Life waits for no tired Mommy.

So, instead, here is an inspiring quote and a suggestion:

"Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of."

-- Benjamin Franklin

Even though I'm tired, I'm not squandering the time I have been given today. But I might be going to bed nice and early tonight. Let's hope anyway.

My suggestion is that you go check out my guest post on the lovely, fabulous Carolina Valdez Miller's blog. (Who I am now calling Cuteness, because she really is cute, and also SO sweet, but she already decided to call me Sweetness, and I can't call her the same name back. C for Carolina and Cuteness. Yep. Perfect.) Okay, I got off topic there. Back to my post. Do you worry about following the "trends" in YA? Find out my thoughts!

Happy Friday, everyone! What did you think of the movie? Or crazy adults who go see it at midnight? (or 12:35 if you want to be really accurate.)

In the meantime...

I am guessing my Friday Five might be up a little bit later than normal today, since I will have been up until 3:30 am or later. (Yes, I'm doing this on Thursday night.) So, in the meantime (and in case you'd like to read something coherent, relevant, and well thought out), make sure and check out Carolina Valdez Miller's blog where I am guest posting about trends in YA. Should you try and write what's trendy... or what you really love? Find out my thoughts on that and there's even an inspiring story. Hope you'll check it out! Click here (While you're there, if you don't already, I HIGHLY recommend following her. She's the definition of awesome, sweet, caring, yeah pretty much she rocks.)

Thursday, November 18, 2010


Go check out My Pile of Books today, where my good friend interviewed me about why I write YA, what books inspire me, and more!

So, anyone else going to the midnight showing of HP7 tonight? I know, I know, I'm crazy (as are all of my friends), but it sure is fun! Maybe I'll even post some pictures from our party for your viewing pleasure (horror?) tomorrow. Hmm.... Who else out there just LOVES Harry Potter?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Where in the world...

am I posting next? I have the very great privilege of doing a few different guest posts this week! I'd really love it if you'd check them out:

Today, I am over at the lovely and talented Elle Strauss' blog, discussing the importance of learning to love revisions. Sound like an oxymoron? I promise it's not! Hop on over and see for yourself: click here.

Tomorrow you can check out my interview on My Pile of Books (and become a follower while you're there, it's a great book review blog). Find out why I write YA, and lots more.

Since I am going to be majorly sleep-deprived on Friday (midnight showing/party for HP7 on Thursday night, WOOT!) (Yes, I am an adult, why?), be prepared for quite the Friday Five. I can only imagine what I'll come up with. Anyway, I can't wait to see this movie... please let it be at least CLOSE to as good as the book. Please? Pretty please? Also, I will be talking about trends in YA and whether aspiring authors should try and follow them or not on the fabulous Carolina Valdez Miller's blog, so be sure and check that out on Friday as well! (Luckily that post is already written and will not suffer from my sleep-deprived mind.)

And to close out this rambling post, what books are on your Christmas list this year? I'm trying to come up with mine, and though I already have a loooong list, there's always room for more. So tell me, what books am I missing?

Happy Wednesday!

Monday, November 15, 2010

When do you dream?

Yep, not WHAT but WHEN?

"All men dream but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity; but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes to make it possible." -- T.E. Lawrence

I proudly dream during the day, and yes -- I do intend to act upon my dreams until they become my reality. I have been doing so for years, and will continue to do so.

How about you? Are you a "Day Dreamer" like me? What are your dreams--and are you acting on them NOW?

P.S. I will be doing a couple of guest posts this week. So in case my blog just isn't enough Awe-Sara-ness (which is a way cooler word than "awesomeness") for you, stay tuned for more information on that! :D

Friday, November 12, 2010

Friday Five

1. Anyone else watch DTWS? I admit that it's one of my guilty pleasures. I usually don't have time to watch it (or any other shows), but ever since I started working from home at night (doing fairly mindless stuff), I get to watch lots of TV. DWTS is one of the only reality shows I'll watch. But this season is really making me Mad. Yep, mad enough to deserve a capital M. Seriously America, SERIOUSLY?? Bristol is still semi-walking around the ballroom looking dazed and confused while Rick and now Kurt are voted off? Seriously. Grrr. (She's nice and all, but seriously. Can't. Dance. At. All.) (That was a lot of seriously's. Obviously I am upset about this. Seriously.)

2. I love getting the chance to read ARCs, I really do. Except for one thing. That whole "oh no, it's a cliffhanger, and it hasn't even been published yet, so that means I have to wait HOW LONG to read the next one?!?!?!" That part can be rough. But still, totally worth it. For some reason it makes me feel special to read an ARC, something the rest of the general public doesn't get to read yet. So, ya know, if you ever feel like making my day, feel free to send me an ARC. I'll even give it back, I don't have to keep it to be happy. Just read it. He he he.

3. Boys are exhausting. I'm not talking about the ones you are dating and/or married to (although they can be too); I'm talking about the pint-sized ones that you give birth to after the dating leads to marriage and then that baby in the you-know-what. I grew up with four little sisters, and so far I have two boys. Can you say gender shock? In case you were wondering: Little boys? VERY different than little girls. I'm still trying to figure out when my boys are actually being naughty, as opposed to just being, well, boys. Any hints?

4. I'm tall. Not turn-your-head, jaw-dropping, amazon woman tall (I seriously saw a woman that had to be 6'4" without heels the other day. She made me feel short -- something I haven't experienced since 4th grade). But, anyway, pretty tall "for a girl." I'm 5'9" - and I still love to wear heels. I married tall, so I can get away with it. I love shoes. Like a lot. I kind of have a fetish for finding awesome, unique heels. If you ever meet me in person, chances are you'll see what I mean. Unless I'm tired, and feeling too lazy to walk in heels. Then not so much.

5. I LOVE Mystic Mints. They were the most amazing treats ever. Then, one day, I couldn't find them anymore. Oreo had bought them out or something, and poof! Gone. Sadness reigned supreme for many days. Oreo tried to make a copy-cat, but they were like getting generic Kroger brand mac&cheese when you're hoping for Kraft. Those eventually disappeared as well. I mourned the loss of a favorite treat. (The thing is that they're just normal oreos on the inside, but they come inside a thick shell of mint fudge. The best way to eat them is to bite off just enough of the top so that you can stick a fork into the white oreo filling [without breaking the cookie apart], and then set the whole thing in a cup of milk for about 30 seconds. Just enough to let it soak into the cookie, and permeate the fudge coating. Then you eat the whole thing at once. It. Is. Heaven.) Why did I tell you all that? Because Oreo brought them back for a limited time and this time, THEY'RE ACTUALLY GOOD!!!! Celebration! The only downer is that they charge $2.50 or more for a little box of 12 cookies. What a rip off! But, I love them, so I bit the bullet and bought a box. I am rationing my cookies. No more than 2 at once. I have to try and make it last.

How was that for random thoughts on this lovely, cold Friday? How about you? What are your thoughts today?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


"Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt." --William Shakespeare

Anyone here ever struggle with self-doubt? Um, ME! ME!

How do I overcome doubt? By forcing myself to take the next step forward. The only way to completely erase your doubts is to prove them wrong. I had many, many times when I doubted if I would ever get an agent. When it got the worst, I would send out ten more queries, or start a new book so I had something new to query soon. I would Keep. Moving. Forward. No matter how paralyzed I wanted to be by my fear, I forced it back by acting like I believed it was going to work. Even when I actually didn't. Does that make sense? It did for me. Did it work? Yes! Eventually. It took time, effort, faith, hard-work, more time, more effort... you get the idea. It took SIX blog posts about "my path to get an agent" worth of time to get there. But I did get an agent.

Now, I have all these doubts about finding an editor who will love my work enough to buy it. So, what am I going to do? Work hard, move forward, do what my agent needs me to do, and keep going until it happens. Then I'm sure I'll have new doubts. Woohoo! So much to look forward to! Ha ha. (Actually, I do look forward to it!)

How about you, what do you do to overcome your doubt?

Monday, November 8, 2010

And the winner is... (plus a confession)

(Sorry for the delay, SonB needed me, then my computer froze, and yeah. Fun times. Anyway, without further ado...)

The Random Number Generator has spoken, and the lucky winner is.....


*Tosses Confetti!* Woohoo!

Congrats on your win! However, you didn't specify what package you wanted, so please email me at sarablarson21 (at) gmail (dot) com to let me know which one you want and also include your mailing address please (even if you want the critique, because you still get some REAL Swedish chocolate!). Congratulations again!

Thank you all for entering and for spreading the word. I really appreciated it!

If FOKXXY doesn't respond by Wednesday November 10 by midnight, a new winner will be drawn and announced.

How is your Monday going? I've actually been cleaning this morning (I know! I'm probably more shocked than you are) and... well... okay, I'll confess. *looks surreptitiously to the left, then the right, and whispers* I've started putting up Christmas decorations.

Hey! Don't give me that look! We're not having Thanksgiving here, and last year we ended up having to move the day after Thanksgiving and I barely got to decorate for Christmas at all. I think I deserve a little bit longer to enjoy the season this year, right? (This is where you say "Yes!")

So, what's your guilty confession today?

Almost done...

Sorry this is taking me longer than I thought it would, but I promise to have the winner of the contest posted later today. Stay tuned... !!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Friday Five

1. My kids have decided to start waking up around 6:30 the last few days. This is not conducive to my well being. I need a longer night than that. Can someone please give them the memo that if they want nice, happy, rested, patient Mommy to stick around (or, okay, let's be honest, TRY to stick around), they need to sleep longer? Or at least stay silent for another hour if they have to wake up. Is that too much to ask?

2. I got the chance to read an ARC of ACROSS THE UNIVERSE by Beth Revis. My only complaint is that it doesn't come out until next spring, which means I have to wait FOREVER to read the sequel. Gah! Seriously though, wow. What a ride. I can't wait to discuss this one with... well, anyone who's read it! Anyone?

3. In exciting news for you, guess what??? Remember how I tantalized you all with the promise of Swedish Chocolate for prizes in my super awesome giveaway that happens to end tonight at midnight MST? And remember how I was sorry no one in my family had been to Sweden in a while, so it wouldn't be super fresh because I was going to have to buy it at Ikea? Well, hot diggity dog, my dad is going to Sweden on MONDAY!! (He was born there, plus he is the manager for a #1 band called Renegade Five over there, that he's working on getting a record deal for worldwide. Their music is awesome if you want to check it out!) Anyway, why is this good news for you? Because when he gets back a week from Tuesday, he's bringin' me some real, honest-to-goodness, straight from the source Swedish Marabou Chocolate to use for my giveaway!!! That means the winner will have to wait a little longer to get their package, but I'm hoping they're okay with that to get real Swedish chocolate, fresh from the actual country of origin. Oh man, I'm totally salivating right now just thinking about it... (I promise not to drool on the chocolate I'm giving away, don't worry.)

4. I have a love/hate relationship with really amazing books. I LOVE them because, well, hello. They're amazing! Which inherently means I adore reading them, that I want to marry them, then I want to tell everyone I know to go buy and read them. The hate part comes in when I go to write again after reading such a book as this, and think, "I hate you for writing a book that amazing because now I realize that I'm never going to write something as good as ________. Why the heck am I even losing sleep to do this? My kids are going to start yelling 'Mama!' at me at 6:30 in the morning, I should just go to sleep." Then my computer electrocutes me, and I snap out of it and keep writing. (No, actually, I'm just kidding. I don't actually hate anyone who writes amazing books, my computer doesn't actually electrocute me, I don't actually think I suck that bad or I would have quit a long time ago. However, I do have a hard time believing anything I write could ever elicit a response of love that strong in anyone else. Maybe once an editor buys one of my books, I'll be more inclined to hope for that. Ya know, that at least one or two people might think that. Besides my husband. And a couple of friends of mine that I've bribed with desserts and stuff.)

5. I ramble a lot when I'm sleep deprived. So here's a short one. Giveaway ends tonight at midnight MST. Don't forget to click here to enter! It's easy, you get to pick your prize, and the chocolate is to die for. Also, useful for consoling yourself if you ever suffer from #4.

Happy Friday! What are your thoughts today?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


"When one door of happiness closes, another opens, but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one that has been opened for us." -Helen Keller

I had a "door of happiness" close for me at the end of last week, and I'm determined not to stare at it. I might have kicked it once or twice, but stare? Nope. Not me. I am moving forward, determined to find the new door that has opened. Somewhere. Or maybe it's still in the process of opening. Or maybe I'm going to have to go find it and yank it open. But I'm determined to find it.

Have you ever spent so much time and thought and energy dwelling on a door shutting, that you didn't notice a different chance of happiness? Or are you really good at looking for the positive? If Helen Keller could find happiness in her life, surely we can, too. Right? No matter how many doors it takes to get there. And maybe the trick is learning to be happy in the journey--not always just wishing to arrive at some predetermined destination. Because you know what? That destination might not turn out to be everything it was cracked up to be anyway, and if we can't learn to be happy with where we are at now, how will we ever be truly happy? There will always be something bigger, better, brighter out there if we get stuck in the rut of comparing (or staring at those shut doors). I, for one, am trying to learn to really enjoy where I'm at now. To love the beauty of today and everything it gives me.

Also, I'm planning on taking a nap because I got about two hours of sleep last night. So if this post seems somewhat rambling, disjointed, and/or incoherent, blame the lack of sleep. (Unless you've been a reader for a long time, then you know that sleep or no sleep, I'm just random sometimes.) Happy Hump Day! What's making you happy today?

Monday, November 1, 2010


November is a month that everyone looks forward to and yet dreads at the same time. Nope, not because you have less than sixty days until Christmas--because it's the month of NaNoWriMo. (National Novel Writing Month)

For two years in a row, I've wanted to participate, but unfortunately both times I haven't been in a place to start a new book. Hence, this year I am participating in "NoWayMo" in which I am strong and resist joining in NaNoWriMo. No matter how much I'd love to.

I do want to wish everyone participating good luck and can't wait to hear how it goes! I will still be working on a new, fun WIP I've been playing around with off and on, and continuing to work with my agent on a few projects. I already know what I'm asking Santa for this year... if I haven't already gotten it by Christmas. *wink*

What are your plans this month? Are you joining in the madness of NaNoWriMo? Or are you working on other things?

Also, don't forget you have until Friday at midnight to enter my contest to win your choice of prizes! Click here to see the details.

Happy November everyone!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Giveaway Time!

I am so excited to do this giveaway! I had lots of awesome comments and thoughts on my last post; many were in direct opposition to each other, so that was extremely helpful. Ha ha. Just kidding. Sort of.

Anyway, back to business. Since I'm doing this giveaway to celebrate the fact that I have 200 followers, I decided to ask you to list 200 of your favorite things about my blog to enter the giveaway! Woohoo!


HA HA, I'm TOTALLY kidding!

All you have to do is comment to enter, and tell me which "prize package" you would pick if the random number generator gives you some love. Yep, after all those conflicting thoughts on my prizes, I decided to leave it up to you to pick! So, in case you missed it last time, here are your options:

1. A package that includes anywhere from 1-3 books (depending on which ones I buy and other factors like how loudly SonB is or isn't screaming in the book store, or grabbing things off of the shelves, or how loudly or obnoxiously SonA is begging for everything in sight, therefore giving me more or less time to shop for you). And yes, I'm aware that was the longest, most rambling parenthetical sentence ever. But I'm giving you books, so no complaining, a'ight? Anyway, this package also includes CHOCOLATE!!

2. A gift card to Barnes & Noble, or Amazon, or maybe a surprise retailer, and... CHOCOLATE!!

3. A 10 page critique of your manuscript, and hey, because so many of you seemed quite keen on it, I will even throw in some CHOCOLATE!!

Hence, you do not have to make a choice that will limit your options of chocolate. And I may even be willing to get you the best chocolate known to mankind, called Marabou from Sweden. Trust me when I tell you it will make Hershey's taste like dog food. Okay, not quite that bad, but you get the idea. Although, I have never eaten dog food, and maybe it's not as bad as I imagine it tasting. Uh, a bit sidetracked there. What was I saying? Oh yes, the point is that Swedish chocolate is amazing and you will be happy you won. As for what comes with the chocolate, that is up to you!

So comment away! This giveaway is open until next Friday, November 5 at midnight. (MST) If you are really craving that Swedish chocolate and want some more opportunities to increase your odds of winning you may add:

+2 for already being a follower
+1 for new followers
+4 if you refer a new follower (they must credit you in the comments)
+1 tweeting/FBing contest (please provide link)
+3 for putting it in sidebar on your blog (again, please add link)
+4 for dedicating a blog post to the giveaway (once more, all together: link please!)

(and Melody for that amazing, sweet totally unrequested post you did on your blog, you may add +5 to your entry. Seriously, what a sweetheart! Don't know what I'm talking about? Go check out her blog and the post "covert operations" right now. Totally unexpected and about the sweetest thing EVER!)

Also, I'd really appreciate it if you tally up your points for me in your comment. Good luck, and thank you again for taking the time to read and comment on my blog! You rock!

P.S. Happy Halloween this weekend! Any fun plans?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

You know what 200 means...

*note: well, when I checked my blog earlier on Tuesday, I had reached 200... but apparently someone decided to unfollow me. *sad face* Apparently my rambling answers about loving Benihana and desserts and lots and lots of books and movies was too much for someone. Now I'm down to 199. But, you know what? It's close enough. So...

It's time for a contest! Woohoo! Thank you all for caring enough about what I have to say to follow me and comment on my posts. It means more than you know. As a way to say "thank you" I am going to do a contest. The only thing I'm having trouble deciding is... what to give away?

So now is your chance to let me know. What would you--my lovely, wonderful, awesome readers--like to win? Please vote in the comments and I will announce the contest prizes and what to do to enter on Friday!

1. A package that includes a book (maybe two or three depending on which ones I get) and some chocolate or candy.

2. A package that includes a gift card to Barnes & Noble or Amazon or something like that, and some chocolate and candy.

3. A ten page critique of your manuscript.

Let me know which one sounds the most appealing to you (and if you have any requests, let me know!) and I will announce the actual contest on Friday.

Thank you again; all of your support and kindness has been astounding.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Q&A answers!

Thanks for all of your questions! Here we go with my super-awesome answers.

Carolina asked: How many revisions did you go through before you got your agent, and how many after?

Well, my whole journey to getting an agent took me 6 posts to do, and it explained a lot of that, so I will try to condense the answer. I did tons of revisions on different books, but the book that actually got me an agent I did a couple of rounds of revisions before sending out to agents (with my CPs). It was a fairly clean draft because I was more careful while I wrote it and didn't have to do as much revising. After I got my agent, I did two rounds of revisions, one was a little bit more involved and one was mostly just line edits (change a word here or there, or move this paragraph around, etc.).

Carolyn asked me to let you all know how the signing went, which I did in my last post!

Christine also wanted to know the same question as Carolina (she loves hearing about other people's journeys). Again, I did a big series of posts about "my path to getting an agent" a couple of months ago. If you haven't checked those out yet and want to know more about my path, that's where to get the low-down.

Janiel asked: How many other projects do you have in the works? How's your heart? The kids? Is YOUR agent going to agent your future works?

I have four projects at different stages, two are done being revised with my agent, one needs more revising and one is my current WIP. My heart is doing so much better, I decided not to use the beta blockers or anything, and so far, so good. I'm very grateful for that, especially after the way my last couple of weeks have gone, ha ha! My kids are doing awesome, Kid A decided to join his K-3 elementary school Christmas choir and has his first practice in the morning. His last soccer game got rained out unfortunately, but he did great this season and loved having SHH (otherwise known as his dad) be his coach. Kid B is too dang smart for his own good. He's really beginning to talk a lot, which is so fun. One of my favorites is when he says "boat." He sticks his lips way out, in a huge pucker, to enunciate the 't.' So cute! And yes, I'm planning on my agent being my agent for a LOOONG time to come (preferably until the end of my career. When I die. Ha ha). I love her and we work together really well. I'm so happy to have her as my champion in this business and as a friend.

Jennie asked: how do you balance it all: mother, wife, blogger, author?

Oh man, it's really hard sometimes. Okay, all the time. My friend Ally and I have often joked about how we don't "have time" to write (as many people, usually people who aren't writers) like to assume (you know the ones who say, "boy I wish I had time to write a book!" ha ha. Yeah. Right.); we have to "steal" the time. I steal time from housework, from sleep, from relaxing or TV, or any number of activities. I try very hard not to steal the time from my kids or my husband, but let's be honest, sometimes they probably get the short end of the Mommy/Wife stick--especially if I'm on a deadline. I just have to cut out anything superfluous, and I have learned to work very quickly in the time I have. Especially now that I work from home at nights, too. (Which unfortunately does cut into my prime writing/reading time.) I try to think about ideas during the day, so when I sit down to write, I'm ready to go.

Sometimes the blogging part is the hardest part for me. Blogging, and reading other's blogs, and commenting can take up SO much time. But it's so wonderful, and the online community is so amazing, that I am determined to make the time for it. Usually late at night, or maybe if my kids are playing and happy I will jump on my laptop and try and hurry to sneak some blog reading in.

Really, it's just hard, but I do my best to juggle it all and make it work.

Elana asked: Your favorite food? Treat? Season? Give me some faves!

Ooh, boy. Food. One of my passions. I ADORE cooking and baking, so you have to be more specific if you want faves for food. As a teen I would have immediately said "steak and mashed potatoes" (which is still a favorite), but now I have categories. Favorite ethnic food: Thai, especially with Mangoes and Sticky Rice for dessert. Favorite restaurant overall: Benihana. Oh man, I'm salivating just thinking about it... Favorite dessert: super tough because I'm a huge dessert junkie. But my number one standby is an amazing brownie sundae. But, as any of my friends or family will tell you, I have a huge list of incredible desserts I make. I just love dessert. I could keep going, but I should stop. My stomach has started to growl.

I really love all the seasons (except the middle and end of winter, when everything's dead and ugly and it's not Christmas anymore so snow, and coats, and boots, and cold aren't fun anymore, and I just want it to warm up again), but to narrow it down, my absolute favorite Holiday Season is Christmas. Hands down. I just love Christmastime.

Colene asked: Your fav book? Movie? Fav guilty pleasure? Fav thing to do when you aren't writing, reading, mom-ing, working?

Oh boy, hard questions. I really love a lot of books. My over-all favorite book as a teenager was THE POISONWOOD BIBLE by Barbara Kingsolver. That book really made me want to not just be a writer, but an amazing writer that could do something like she did with that book. My favorite book series of all time is definitely Harry Potter. J.K. Rowling is my hero, and as I've said before, I would die if I could meet her. I love MATCHED, and PARANORMALCY, and THE DARK DIVINE and Julie Berry's books and Shannon Hale's books, and oh dear this could go on and on, so let's stop there. Just know there are many, many, many more. You can friend me on goodreads if you'd like to know more about my tastes.

Same thing with movies. I miss going to the movies all the time like I used to, but there just isn't time. The movies that I've absolutely loved the most this year are INCEPTION (by the way, I know for sure how it ended, if you want to know...!) and AVATAR in IMAX 3D. They were both so incredible. All time favorites would be super hard to narrow down, but a couple that come to mind are THE ULTIMATE GIFT (a smaller movie that was so powerful and beautiful and I love it), I loved all the LOTR movies, especially RETURN OF THE KING. I'm also a sucker for great chick-flicks, some classics are HOW TO LOSE A GUY IN 10 DAYS, ENCHANTED (kind of a kid's movie, but I love it), THE NOTEBOOK, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, THE SCARLET PIMPERNELL, MADE OF HONOR, you get the idea. Can you tell I love books and movies? And that I can't make decisions?

As for a favorite guilty pleasure... hmmm, probably eating all those desserts I mentioned before. And my favorite thing to do besides writing, reading, mom-ing, working? Probably taking a hot bubble bath, except that usually involves reading, so um, sleeping? No, no, I know! Going on a date with my SHH. That doesn't happen nearly enough for my liking. I love going on dates with my guy--just us, no kids, no stresses, just relaxing and being together. Usually eating good food. And indulging in my love of desserts.

Carolina asked: When do you write?

I think I pretty much answered that already. Whenever I can steal the time, but especially at night, or during naptime for SonB (and if SonA is watching a movie or playing happily).

Thank you so much for all of your questions, I hope you enjoyed reading my (sometimes really long) answers!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Julie Berry Signing: In which I channel Halloween early

On Wednesday I had the opportunity to go to a signing for my friend Julie Berry and we had the bonus of Jessica Day George being there as well! They are both very fun and interesting to listen to, and I love both of their books.

Jessica is ADD (or so she claims), hence the knitting while answering questions.

Now, the reason why I "channel Halloween early" in this post, is because 1. I have bloody hair in all the pictures (dried, don't worry, I wasn't dripping or anything) and 2. I have staples in my scalp.

Yep, the hits keep on coming. In this case, in the form of cracking my head open on my granite countertop when I was standing up too fast without making sure I was far enough away from the ledge. I spent the afternoon in the Instacare, but I wasn't going to let a little thing like that deter me from seeing Julie. She was here from Massachusetts, hello! I haven't been allowed to wash my hair since the injury, hence the dried-on-blood-hair in the pictures. I finally get to wash it today. Hallelujah! (Can you say hat days?) So, ya'll wanted to see pictures of me looking not-so-great? Then read on--or look on, rather.

I went with my friends, book blogger Stacey (Aubrey) at My Pile of Books, and Jena. Since I rarely get to see Julie, when she said she was coming to Utah for some signings, we decided to go to dinner after one of them.

We hit up Cheesecake Factory, yum yum! (And yep, still rockin' the bloody hair. Luckily the staples are on the top/back of my head and not easily visible. Though that would have been kind of cool....)

Yeah, I look about like the day I'd had. But Julie is so adorable, I had to get a picture with her! I love her YA books, and have heard so many great things about her "boy books," The Splurch Academy for Disruptive Boys, that I got one for my sons. If any of you have any little boys or know any little boys (probably age 5-12) these books would be a great gift idea with the Holidays coming up. They are funny, inventive and have amazing illustrations her sister did all throughout. The illustrations actually further the story, so they aren't just for fun to look at. Check 'em out!
Anyway, despite my injury and the fabulosity (yep, that's so a word) of my bloody, stapled self, it was an awesome night!
So, what books are you hoping to get for Christmas? Or which ones are you going to give to others? I need some ideas... :)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Ask for it...

Thank you all so much for your comments on my last post - it really is gratifying to know that the things I'm sharing and the knowledge I've gained is useful to you. I will admit there are days that I think, "why am I spending so much time on this blog? Does anyone really even care about what I have to say? Especially when there are so many other blogs out there, written by authors who are more experienced/funny/knowledgeable/etc." Your comments on Monday (and many of my other posts as well) made me feel like I have something to offer, too. And I appreciate that more than you know.

Okay, warm and fuzzy moment over. I promise.

On to business. I happened to notice I'm at 192 followers right now. Wow, that is amazing! And I also noticed I haven't done a giveaway for a little while... hmm... 192 is pretty close to a nice, even number that starts with a 2 and ends with an 00. I'm thinking a contest will be showing up in the near future, most likely when I hit that nice even number. Wink, wink. Yeah, I know, totally subtle. Now, what to do for that contest? I will have to think about it. Stay tuned for what I come up with.

As for the title of today's post, I also realized it's been a long time since I've done a question and answer post. I usually try to do one every couple of months, just to mix things up and see if any of my new (or old) followers have thought of any questions they wish I'd answer. So have it: what are you just dying to know about me, or from me? Feel free to ask in the comments and I will do an answer post on Monday! (Friday is reserved for my recap of my friend Julie Berry's signing tonight at The King's English here in SLC! Go check out her new book, SECONDHAND CHARM. She is SO talented, trust me!)

Hope you are all having a great week!

Monday, October 18, 2010

What to ask an agent

I got quite a lot of responses on my post about making sure you're picking the best agent for you. Many of you expressed interest in what my list would be in what to look for/ask a prospective agent. So here is the list I came up with when I was trying to decide on my agent:

1. What did you like the most about my book?
2. Do you see or want any major edits done before submitting it, or is it ready?
3. What is your editing style?
4. What is your agenting style? (Hands on? Phone calls, emails, lots of communication or minimal?)
5. How often will you be updating me regarding the status of your submissions?
6. How many editors do you plan to pitch to in the first round?
7. What editors/houses do you have in mind to pitch it to?
8. Are you interested in repping just this, or all of my future projects?
9. Do you handle subsidiary/foreign rights?
10. Do you have someone on your staff who checks royalty statements for accuracy and errors?
11. Do you have a written agreement?

Those were the main questions I came up with, and actually printed off with a pen handy for my phone conversations with agents. It helped me find out some major points to expect in our professional relationship: What are his/her thoughts on my book? Are we going to be doing major/minor/no revisions? and how does he/she prefer to revise/edit? Is this agent going to be very personable with lots of contact by email and phone, or very distant--just the basic communications, only when absolutely necessary? What is their plan for my book and my career? Is this book the only one they are interested in or do they want to be an advocate for my whole career? How will all the details of a deal be taken care of? You should have a very clear idea of what your relationship and career would be like with this agent after you get the answers to all of these questions.

However, the most important part of these questions is knowing what YOU want. What kind of agent do you want/need? If you're not sure, try answering the questions how you wish an agent would answer, and that will help you figure it out. I hope this was helpful! Any additional thoughts or questions, let me know and we can continue the discussion on Wednesday if you'd like. Hope you had a great weekend!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Friday Five: The car accident edition

1. I've never been in a car accident before. Until yesterday. Car accidents suck. Especially when they're not your fault, but state law still says it is.

2. Teenage drivers suck. Okay, not all of them, but ones that have only had their license for a week, and slam on their brakes at a green light because his mom yells at him to let a car in. He, in particular, sucks.

3. Apparently when you go from accelerating because the light turned green to suddenly slamming on your brakes (in a construction zone with nowhere to go because the road is all torn apart so you can't swerve or anything), things don't always end well. Especially when you are a Nissan Altima and they are a Toyota Land Cruiser.

4. I was planning on getting in some writing yesterday, during my son's naptime. I had new music all ready to go on my iPod, my laptop was charged, the kids were happy and tired from going to a cornmaze/pumpkin patch/farm for the whole morning. Instead, he fell asleep from sheer exhaustion in my smashed up car while we waited for the police, and my MIL had to come get SonA because he had to go potty so bad he was almost in tears. A very nice police-man explained that even though it was the other person's fault, the law is that the person who rear-ends the other car is always cited and considered at fault. Which also sucks. He really was so nice, and I am grateful for that. Because the other people that caused the accident? Not so nice.

5. This wasn't even the worst thing that happened this week. Yeah, it's been one of those weeks.

Therefore, I didn't get anyone's blogs read in the last two days, and I'm really sorry. I will try to catch up over the weekend. Also, there were some great responses to my last post in the comments, so I think I will go ahead and continue that conversation on Monday. Something to look forward to! I'm sure your week has been better than mine (at least, I hope so!), so what have you all had going on?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Look before you leap

Aspiring authors who've yet to get one all dream of one thing (or person as the case may be). Their future agent. They want an agent, and they want one now. But there is wisdom in making sure you don't just find the first agent who will say 'yes.' You need to find the agent who is right for you, and for your career.

I've spoken with a few different authors/aspiring authors who have had to part ways with their first agent at different times. Does that mean the agent was a "bad agent?" No, it doesn't. In fact, not at all. In one case, the same agent represented two different authors I know. For one author the agent did a great job selling the author's work and working together, but in the second case after about a year, it just didn't work out. Same agent. Same skills. Different authors. Different results. So again, does it mean the agent was 'bad?' Obviously not, the agent did a great job for one of the authors. What it means is that every agent is a person, not just a means to getting you published. They have personalities (gasp!), they have editing styles, they have agenting styles. And what is a perfect fit for one author, might not be for you.

So, when you are querying and get to the stage where you are getting interest in your mss, make sure you take the time to really talk to the potential agents. Talk to their authors even, if you're still not sure. Write out a list of questions that mean the most to you. If you don't know what those questions should be, sit down and write out what factors/traits are most important to you in an agent. Not sure what they should be? Maybe I'll make that a future post. Off the top of your head, what do you think is the most important factor in choosing your agent?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Goal: accomplished!

There's nothing quite like setting a really hard goal, and then actually accomplishing it. I know a 10k wouldn't be very hard for quite a few people out there. But for me? It was a Big Deal. I've never really ran more than maybe 2 consecutive miles in my life before. I've done hard classes at the gym and things like that, but for some reason, running outside has always been incredibly hard for me. Part of it is my bad knee (I had major surgery when I was 16), so I used that as an excuse and never pushed myself.

Well, last weekend, I finished my first 10k -- 6.2 miles! (Actually, they messed up and it was actually 7.2 miles apparently!) Was it hard? Yes. Did I contemplate quitting during the training? A few times. But I didn't. And now I accomplished that goal, and I'm thinking about setting another, bigger one... like a half marathon. We'll see!

How many of us short-change ourselves, because we're afraid? Or don't think we can do it? Or use excuses to keep us from pushing ourselves? In the publishing world, there are going to be lots of ups and downs. (For most of us anyway.) You have to find the willpower and determination to push through the hard times, to not let your "bad knee" be the excuse that keeps you from becoming better, stronger, and accomplishing your goals. So much of anything in this life is mental--the power of our mind is immense. Believe you can, and you will. Continue to write and query and revise and write and query, and you will get that agent. (Even if it takes 2 and a half years like me!) Force yourself out of bed, push yourself on distance, on getting past the pain and exhaustion, and you'll finish that race.

I'm living proof!

Right before the last turn to the finish line! (SHH and my boys were there to support me... and document it.)

Me, my aunt DiAnne, and my mom right after the race - the 10k girls! :)

Signing my contract with my agent last April!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Friday Five: the hair, goals, JK Rowling and more edition

1. Okay, some of you wanted to see a few examples of my changing hair styles, well... here you go! (I won't be offended if you don't, feel free to scroll down to the rest of my random thoughts.)

I only went back about two and a half years, because this is going to be "pictures of Sara's hair" overload. Just warning you. That's why I added some with my boys, they are waaay cuter than I am. And SHH is waaay hotter than me. So, yep. (SHH, for those who missed that post, is "Super Hot Hubby.")

Here we go (and I skipped quite a few stages, that were different, but not drastically) :

March 08: natural color (almost), side bangs, pretty long!

September 08 (22 or 23 weeks pregnant, hence the strange pose hehe): highlights, LOTS of bangs, cut off about 4-5 inches.

October 08: cut off even more, darkened the highlights (often when I change my hair, I take "new hair" pictures to send to friends/family because they're always afraid--ahem, I mean EXCITED -- to see what I've done...)

December 08 (month before I had my second son): totally darkened it, with some red highlights, minimized the side bangs, just a trim since I didn't want to change too many things right before the hormonal craziness of having a baby.

March 09 (two months after baby): went WAY dark, no red. Almost black. This picture doesn't do it justice, but I wanted to post it because I have an exciting #2 thought that pertains to this photo. So the montage isn't over but:

2. I am with some of my friends at Julie Berry's signing at TKE in this picture. The exciting news, is that her new book SECONDHAND CHARM and her "boy books" THE SPLURCH ACADEMY just released, and she's coming back to UT for some more signings! Come out and support her. She is the most wonderful, kind-hearted person and SO talented. I loved THE AMARANTH ENCHANTMENT, and can't wait for her new book. I'm also going to get THE SPLURCH ACADEMY books for my boys. Yay! The signing at The King's English in SLC is on October 20, so don't miss it!

Okay, back to pics...

A little bit better shot of how dark it was, plus it shows my natural curl. And also, isn't my baby so cute? (He's 2 months old. I can't believe he's going to be 2 in January! Where did that time go??)

Summer 09: (I got professional shots done by my amazing friend/aspiring author/incredible photographer Erin Summerill at our critique group). My husband said if we're going to pay for me to get my hair done, I should do something drastic. So, I did! I hadn't cut my hair this short since third grade (because I hated it back then). But I kept toying with the idea and finally just went for it! It was a fun change, but I decided I didn't love my curly hair short. When it was straight I liked it more, but I still decided to grow it out. I also hadn't been this blond in a long time. The shadowbox was fun (light on top, dark underneath) and I kept it in varying degrees of lightness on top for over a year.

September 09: I started growing it back out and darkened the blond a little bit.

Spring 2010: Another awesome picture by Erin Summerill. My hair is getting longer and darker again...

My newest "professional shot" taken by my insanely talented hubby in August. A little longer, a little darker...

Present 'do: cut straight bangs, all over dark again, still letting it grow out.

So there you go! I change my hair a lot, huh? But it's fun.

3. I want to be J.K. Rowling. Or just steal her brain. Or at least her writing skills. It would be my dream come true to meet her. I think she's a genius. Watching her on Oprah only made me want to meet her even more. I think we could be best friends. Really, I do. Okay, not really. That makes me sound like a stalker, and I can't even afford a ticket to Edinburgh, so no worries Jo. You're safe for now. But, I do think you're amazing and I can only hope to have 1/10 of the talent you have someday...

4. I am running my first 10k tomorrow morning. My training hit a few snags (those lame heart troubles, my running partner [my cute mama] fell during one of our runs and hurt her knee and couldn't run for a couple of weeks, etc.), but I'm determined to do it and finish the race, and so is she. I will definitely not be vying for the top spot, but I'm excited to accomplish this goal. Many times life is like that, isn't it? We set a goal (or dream) and start on the path to accomplish it. We may think we're going to cross that line first, but hit some bumps on the road. Or major cliffs. You just never know. But as long as you keep going and reach that goal, does it really matter if you were first? As long as we finish with dignity and a sense of accomplishment, that's what counts, right?

5. I love fall! Curling up with an awesome book (or a laptop to keep writing what I hope will become an awesome book), a mug of hot cocoa, and a fire crackling behind the glass cover on the fireplace as the gas feeds it instead of wood... ah, a perfect evening at home on a crisp fall night. Except, I wouldn't mind a real fireplace, but hey, they're messy and who can beat the ease of flipping a switch to get fire? We finally got some real fall weather this week, and I'm loving it. I actually got to wear a sweater today! Now I just hope the fall weather can last, and not nosedive right into winter.

What are your thoughts on this beautiful, fall Friday?