Chasing my crazy dream in the writing world…

W.O.W. – Writer Odyssey Wednesday with Rosalyn Eves April 6, 2016





Today I’m proud to share the writing journey of Rosalyn Eves. What I love most about Rosalyn’s story is her experience with Brenda Drake’s Pitch Wars and how that helped her tighten up her manuscript for querying. Writing can be a very solitary pursuit, but opportunities like Pitch Wars allows you to not only connect with the writing community, but to use other writer resources to polish your work.


Many thanks to Rosalyn for sharing her journey today…





Amy: When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?



Rosalyn: When I was in fifth grade, our teacher had us write in journals every day. Some days I would stay inside from recess (nerdy, I know!) to write very bad poetry or snippets of stories. My teacher said I ought to be a writer–it was the first time I’d thought about it, and I loved the idea. Of course, my journey to actually being a writer involved several long detours, from graduate school to parenthood.





Amy: What inspires you to write Young Adult fiction?



Rosalyn: I’ve always enjoyed reading Young Adult fiction, but I think what I love about the genre (and the age) is the expansive feeling of possibility–you can be anything, do anything! That, and the intense yearning that drove so much of my adolescence. I think that need to experience things really helps drive characters in YA fiction, and I love it.






Amy: I love the premise for THE BLOOD ROSE REBELLION. Can you share how the story idea came to you?



Rosalyn: Like most of my story ideas, it evolved gradually and involves a mash-up of other ideas. I was initially drawn to the idea of a character who was an anti-savior–that is, far from someone who possesses unusual power to save their world, someone who, in fact, had NO power in a world where most of her peers do. That was the start of Anna, and I think that feeling–of being outside a society or group you desperately want to belong to–is one that a lot of teens (and adults) resonate with. I also knew I wanted Anna to be a strong character–but strong in a way that was also in keeping with conventional expectations for women in her era. Much as I love reading about kick-ass heroines, I’m far from one myself, and I wanted to write about someone who could be strong without having to necessarily be physically strong.



Then, too, I’d lived in Hungary for a while and had fallen in love with the culture and the landscape and the people and it was a setting I haven’t seen much in YA fiction (or adult, for that matter). So I did a little more research and settled on a historical era when Hungary was in a lot of turmoil (1847-48) and the story itself was born. Of course, it went through a lot more revision and research to settle in the form it is today.






Amy: Did your first query for THE BLOOD ROSE REBELLION  come easy or did it go through many rewrites/edits?



Rosalyn: The query went through a few drafts and feedback from critique partners before I was happy with it. Then I got into Pitch Wars and my mentor also helped me revise the query before I sent it out widely. Though it took me a while to get wording I liked, the shape of the query wasn’t too arduous. I think that’s because, prior to querying, I’d been trying to review most of the books I read (particulary the ones I loved) and focused on trying to describe the plot succinctly. When it came to querying, that practice actually helped me figure out how to capture the heart of the story in a couple of paragraphs.






Amy: How laborious/frustrating was the query process for you?



Rosalyn: Querying wasn’t quite what I’d expected: previously I’d queried a contemporary middle grade for over a year in various iterations before shelving it, so when I started querying, I figured it was going to take a while. But I’d only sent out half a dozen queries or so before I got into Pitch Wars, so I stopped querying and settled into an intense period of revision with my mentor, Virginia Boecker. Her feedback led me to gut nearly a third of the story (the pacing was terrible) and rewrite it. I think that made a huge difference. (Incidentally, I’m a BIG fan of Pitch Wars!) I ended up with over a dozen requests from Pitch Wars. I also had a few requests from a contest at Adventures in YA Publishing before Pitch Wars, so when I started querying again a few days after Pitch Wars, I was fairly confident in my pitch and first pages and sent out a bunch of queries at once.






Amy: How many agents did you query for THE BLOOD ROSE REBELLION?



Rosalyn: Between Pitch Wars and Adventures in YA Publishing and a couple of other contests, I had about twenty requests. Outside of that, I sent another thirty or so queries.





Amy: Did you receive instantaneous response or did you have to wait for the requests/rejections?



Rosalyn: I had responses pretty quickly, I think because many of the agents reading knew that other agents had my manuscript from Pitch Wars. I started getting responses within a week or so–I had an agent call without warning to offer a revise and resubmit about ten days after Pitch Wars, which was terrifying, and my first offer a few days later. After a few more offers and many more rejections, I signed with Josh Adams of Adams literary.






Amy: What was your call like with your agent, Josh Adams? How did you know he was the right fit for you?



Rosalyn: Deciding which agent to go with was much harder than I had anticipated. As writers, we get so used to dealing with rejection that it’s hard to be the one dishing it out–especially to someone who loves your book and who has gushed to you about it over the phone! (Josh, however, does not gush–he’s very mellow. Luckily, one of my writer friends had told me this beforehand.) All the offering agents were lovely, and I could have been happy with any of them. I think the tipping point was partly Josh’s reputation selling YA, and also the fact that he had represented a good friend of mine through several failed submissions without ever giving up on her or her books. I wanted that kind of support for my story.







Amy: What one thing are you looking forward to most as a debut author?



Rosalyn: My first fan letter (assuming I get one!). I know how influential books were to me as a teen–how important they still are–and the idea that something in my head could have that kind of impact on someone who is not related to me floors me.





Amy: If you were doing a book signing and you met a writer who was about to give up on their publishing dream, what would you say to them?



Rosalyn: This is a hard question. I think sometimes there *are* legitimate reasons to take a break from writing–for life stuff, for mental health, etc. I still remember a publishing workshop several years ago with picture book author Rick Walton, where he said his advice is typically: “If you want to quit, do it. If you *can’t* quit, keep writing.” I think his point was a good one: writing is a hard business. If you’re in it because you want to make money (hah!) or be famous, that’s probably not motivation that can or should sustain you for the long haul. But if you’re writing because you can’t not write, because putting words on paper makes something inside you sing, because creating itself is a maddening and marvelous thing, then keep writing. Take a break from trying to *publish* if you have to, to rediscover the joy in writing for yourself, but keep writing. There are stories only you can tell, and those stories matter.




reves swanky seventeenRosalyn Eves grew up in the Rocky Mountains, dividing her time between reading books and bossing her siblings into performing her dramatic scripts. As an adult, the telling and reading of stories is still one of her favorite things to do. When she’s not reading or writing, she enjoys spending time with her chemistry professor husband and three children, watching British period pieces, or hiking through the splendid landscape of southern Utah, where she lives. She dislikes housework on principle.


Her first novel, THE BLOOD ROSE REBELLION, first in a YA historical fantasy trilogy, debuts Spring 2017 from Knopf/Random House. You can find her on her website (, Twitter (, Facebook ( and Pinterest (


QUITE THE QUERY: Caitlin Sinead and HEARTSICK December 19, 2014







If you ask any writer about the process of connecting with their agent (or publisher), the majority will say the most difficult part was querying. Not only the actual process of sending out the letters/emails, but formulating the query itself. In fact, I’ve heard more than a few authors say writing their query took them almost as long as drafting their book!


Some people have the talent of being able to summarize their book in a few sentences. But for those who don’t, I wanted to provide a resource so writers could learn what works, and what doesn’t, in a query.


With that in mind, I’m pleased to share today’s successful query from Caitlin Sinead. This great query connected her with her agent, Andrea Somberg at Harvey Klinger, Inc.



Even as a senior in college, Quinn is not so good at understanding the difference between bacteria and viruses or explaining to smitten men that she’d really just prefer a dash of random hookups.


Quinn is good at other things. Like drinking wine in the Virginia college town’s civil war graveyard and crafting plucky modern dance routines. But these skills aren’t exactly useful when she wakes up one morning with purple eyes.


They don’t hurt. In fact, the condition seems to spur speedy healing. After a religious group attacks her—the eyes are evil, obviously—her bloody coughs and broken arms become mere memories within hours. However, as more students’ eyes shift to purple, the violence increases. It becomes painfully clear that the healing disease can’t save you from a five-story fall. Or decapitation.


Thing is, the religious group isn’t responsible for the rash of killings. A small town plus an unknown serial killer is bad, but it gets worse when a quarantine is added to the equation. Once there is no escape, Quinn realizes she can’t rely on “smarter people” to save her and her friends.


Fortunately, she has a theory. She just needs proof, which demands that she study scientific terminology and hone her deductive reasoning skills. And she will also have to try to work with the local cops. Even if the young lead detective just so happens to be one of those aforementioned smitten men.


Caitlin’s Query Tidbit:


As for a fun tidbit, I broke a good rule with this query. The first few sentences are just setting things up. It takes a while to get to the hook. That is usually not good, but I took a chance and tried to show off my voice more than the plot. This was based on feedback I got on my first book in which agents said I had a strong voice.


In the end, I got more requests with this query (and obviously an agent!) than with my first query, which starts with a clear, one-line pitch covering the main character, her goal, the stakes, and the antagonist force.


I still think it’s a really good idea to know and generally follow query and writing rules–and if this hadn’t done well, I would have revised it and played it safe–but sometimes a little breaking of the rules still works.







(Available February 16, 2015)





CaitlinCaitlin Sinead’s debut novel, Heartsick, will be published by Carina Press in 2015. She is represented by Andrea Somberg at Harvey Klinger, Inc., and her writing has appeared in multiple publications including The Alarmist, The Binnacle, Crunchable, Jersey Devil Press, and Northern Virginia Magazine. She earned a master’s degree in writing from Johns Hopkins University. For more on Caitlin, follow her on Twitter or Facebook.









If you ask any writer about the process of connecting with their agent (or publisher), the majority will say the most difficult part was querying. Not only the actual process of sending out the emails/letters, but formulating the query itself. In fact, I’ve heard more than a few authors say writing their query took them almost as long as drafting their book!


Some people have the talent of being able to summarize their book in a few sentences. But for those who don’t, I wanted to provide a resource so writers could learn what works, and what doesn’t, in a query.


With that in mind, I’m pleased to share today’s successful query from Jessica Lawson. This great query connected her with her agent, Tina Wexler at ICM.


Mark Twain probably didn’t mean to be a big fat liar, but it’s about time somebody told the truth about whitewashing and treasure hunting (and a whole lot more, thank you very much). THE ACTUAL & TRUTHFUL ADVENTURES OF BECKY THATCHER is a 50,000-word middle grade retelling of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer written from Becky Thatcher’s point of view.


In 1860, 11-year-old Becky Thatcher’s immediate goals after moving to St. Petersburg, Missouri include never growing up and finding a way to keep the promise she made to her recently deceased brother, Jon. With a Mama still frozen by grief, Becky is free to explore the Mississippi riverbanks in a pair of Jon’s old overalls and spit all the cherry pits she can with new best friend, Amy Lawrence. Even the fact that the thieving, possibly murderous, Pritchard brothers are on the loose can’t keep Becky from sneaking out and causing mischief.


The girls decide to go up against the town charmer, Sid Sawyer, to win a bet on who can steal from Witchy Widow Douglas’s place (because it don’t count as stealing if a rumored witch is involved). With a plan as daring as the Mississippi is long, Becky might just get Mama to notice her again and fulfill her promise to Jon in a most dangerous and unexpected way…if that tattle-telling Tom Sawyer would quit following her around.



Jessica’s query tidbit:


Tina Wexler was one of the first agents I queried with The Actual & Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher. My query was tweaked throughout my process, so this isn’t the version that all agents saw. I remember cringing right after I sent this letter, because I was afraid it had too much voice and would come across as unprofessional. Everything worked out okay, though 🙂





The Actual & Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher


Now available via Simon & Schuster, Indie Bound, Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million.




JessicaLawsonJessica Lawson is a member of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of SCBWI and her work has appeared in Stories For Children, The Motherhood MuseThe Denver Post, and Parenting Journals. She enjoys living/playing in the mountains of Colorado with her husband and children, and has to seasonally inform the landlord about bear damage to the trash bin at the end of her driveway. She writes middle grade, lots of to-do lists, and songs about diapers. She blogs at Falling Leaflets, and you can follow her on Twitter at @JS_Lawson.


QUITE THE QUERY with Mary Elizabeth Summer and TRUST ME, I’M LYING October 17, 2014




If you ask any writer about the process of connecting with their agent (or publisher), the majority will say the most difficult part was querying. Not only the actual process of sending out the letters/emails, but formulating the query itself. In fact, I’ve heard more than a few writers say writing their query took them almost as long as drafting their book!


Some people have the talent of being able to summarize their book in a few sentences. But for those who don’t, I wanted to provide a resource so writers could learn what works, and what doesn’t, in a query.


With that in mind, I’m pleased to share today’s successful query from Mary Elizabeth Summer. This great query connected her with her agent, Laura Bradford of Bradford Literary Agency.



Julep Dupree is not a real person. In fact, Julep isn’t even her real name. She’s a grifter, a con artist, a master of disguise, and a sophomore at St. Agatha High. The downside of St. Agatha’s is that its private-school price tag is a bit higher than Julep’s father, an old-school grifter with a weakness for the ponies, can afford. So Julep makes up the difference by running petty scams for her classmates, while dodging the dean of students and maintaining an A+ (okay, A-) average.


But when she comes home one day to a ransacked apartment and a missing dad, Julep’s carefully laid plans for an expenses-paid golden ticket to Yale start to unravel. Even with help from St. Agatha’s resident Prince Charming, Tyler Richland, Julep struggles to trace her dad’s trail of clues through a maze of creepy stalkers, hit attempts, family secrets, and worse, the threat of foster care. With everything she has left at stake, Julep must tap all her resources and use every grift in the book to find her dad before his mark finds her.



Query tidbit from Mary Elizabeth:


After I wrote my query, I entered a weekly blog post query-critique contest and won the query critique! The author who hosted the contest and critiqued my query offered some suggestions for wording changes to my query’s plot summary that ultimately made the whole query sing. Her tweaked version became my final query. The author who critiqued my query was Michelle Krys, author of HEXED and CHARMED. And, as it turned out, we ended up landing the same editor from the same publishing house and debuting the same year. Though we’re now editor sisters and good buddies, with a lot of shared experiences, I will always remember that the first time I met Michelle was when she very graciously (and effectively!) critiqued my query.









Now available via Powell’s, Barnes and Noble, and IndieBound.




Mary Elizabeth Summer contributes to the delinquency of minors by writing books about unruly teenagers with criminal leanings. She has a BA in creative writing from Wells College, and her philosophy on life is “you can never go wrong with sriracha sauce.” She lives in Portland with her partner, their daughter, and their evil overlor-er, cat. TRUST ME, I’M LYING is her debut novel. For more on Mary Elizabeth, check out her website or connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr or Pinterest.







W.O.W. – Writer Odyssey Wednesday with Veronica Bartles August 13, 2014




Staying positive. It’s a hard thing to do as a writer. But as today’s interview with author, Veronica Bartles, shows it can be a very helpful thing. While publishing does have it’s ups and downs, putting your best foot forward can resonate in unexpected ways. And in Veronica’s case, it paid off by catching the attention of an amazing agent!


Many thanks to Veronica for sharing her writing odyssey today…



Amy: How long have you been writing Young Adult fiction?


Veronica: I used to write short stories, just for fun, back in high school and college, but I finally got serious about my writing and wrote my first novel-length YA manuscript in 2008.



Amy: Was TWELVE STEPS your first completed manuscript?


Veronica: No. TWELVE STEPS is actually a companion novel to my first completed manuscript (which was the story of Andi’s older sister, Laina). And I wrote two middle grade novels and a picture book in between, so I guess that makes TWELVE STEPS my fifth completed manuscript. I’d still like to come back to that first manuscript one day, because writing Andi’s story made me fall in love with those characters even more. But even if it never happens, I’m glad I wrote the other story first.



Amy: Did you have critique partners or beta readers that helped you polish TWELVE STEPS? If so, what did they add to the process?


Veronica: I had several critique partners and beta readers for TWELVE STEPS. Some read the full manuscript, and others read only a chapter or two, but each gave me valuable feedback and insight without which my story wouldn’t have been nearly as strong. My teenage daughter read the full manuscript many times over, looking for any kind of voice issues. (And she had no qualms about telling me when I started to sound like an old lady instead of a teenage girl!) Rachel Solomon read an early draft and pointed out plot holes that had been completely missed by my readers who already knew the back story from reading my first manuscript. Ashley Turcotte pushed me to dig deep beyond the surface to really bring my characters to life. She called me on it every time I tried to skim by with lazy descriptions, and she was great at catching my go-to gestures. Without her, there would have been far too much eye-rolling, shrugging and winking on these pages!



Amy: Are you one of those people who has an easy time writing a query or does it take several tries before you land on the one you want to send?


Veronica: Oh, I absolutely abhor writing queries! It feels like I take as much time revising my query as I do for my whole manuscript. I don’t even want to think about the number of drafts my query for TWELVE STEPS went through before I felt like it was ready to send out. Critique partners are absolutely essential for this part of the process. I actually had more CPs for my query letter than I did for my novel. Many of my query critiques came from people who had never read my manuscript, and that feedback was probably the most helpful, because it really made me see where I needed work to catch the attention of agents/editors who also hadn’t seen my manuscript yet. (Of course, it was also essential to have feedback from people who had read the manuscript, so I didn’t end up misrepresenting the story in my attempts to write an eye-catching query.)



Amy: How many agents did you query for TWELVE STEPS? Did you receive instantaneous response or did you have to wait for requests/rejections?


Veronica: Most of my querying for TWELVE STEPS actually came in the form of entries into online pitch contests. I received several requests for full or partial manuscripts from Pitch Madness, The Write Voice, PitchMAS, and Pitch-a-Rama. In addition to the requests from contests, I only sent out 18-20 queries, mostly to agents who had responded with encouraging rejections to my first manuscript. I got immediate responses from a handful of the agents I queried, but I had to wait for most of them. (They’re busy folks!)


And actually, I didn’t end up signing with an agent for TWELVE STEPS. I hadn’t realized that it’s frowned upon to query both agents and editors simultaneously for the same manuscript, so when I got a couple of editor requests alongside the agent requests from the contests I entered, I happily sent off my manuscript to everyone. And both editors who requested ended up offering on my book. When I nudged the agents who were considering my manuscript, most of them bowed out immediately, wishing me luck and congratulating me on my sale. Several of them asked me to keep them in mind when I had something new to query, but they didn’t feel right about offering representation on a manuscript when I already had an offer in hand.


It all worked out, though, because the encouragement I received gave me the push I needed to finish revisions on the most difficult novel I’ve ever written, LETTERS FROM HEAVEN, and that’s the one that caught the attention of my fabulous agent, Jessica Sinsheimer! One week after I sent my query, she requested the full, and less than an hour after I sent the manuscript her way, she was already tweeting about how much she loved it! A few days later, she offered representation, and the rest is history.



Amy: What can you tell us about “your call” with your agent, Jessica Sinsheimer? How did you know she was the right fit for you?


Veronica: Well, as I mentioned, I knew Jessica was excited about my manuscript, because she had tweeted about it and messaged me privately prior to setting up the call. I was thrilled beyond words, too, because I’d had a major agent crush on her for years. (I had desperately wanted to query her with my first manuscript, but I didn’t because I felt like a rejection from her would have been too crushing to my fragile ego at the time.) Add to this the fact that I have a major phone phobia, and as you can imagine, I was a little bit of a basket case in the hours before our call. But once we started talking, it was like chatting with my best friend, and I totally forgot to be nervous. We talked about all kinds of things, and we had so much in common! It was obvious from the start that we were destined to be friends. But getting along and being friends with someone isn’t really enough to make a great agent/author team.


I suspected that Jessica was the right agent for me, because when we talked about my manuscript, she pinpointed all of the little parts of the story that were still bothering me as “not quite right,” and she suggested revisions that could easily have come from my own brain. And she already had a growing list of editors in mind for subbing the manuscript. From the start, we had the same vision for LETTERS FROM HEAVEN, and I knew I wouldn’t have to fight her on the direction to take.


But I really KNEW she was the right agent for me when we started talking about my other manuscripts. She not only adored the middle grade manuscript that caught her attention, but she enjoyed TWELVE STEPS and happily agreed to help me through the confusing publication process for my debut. (I actually officially accepted Jessica’s offer the day my contract arrived from Swoon Romance for TWELVE STEPS, so she was able to help me through the contract process too. I’m so glad she was there to help me! – If you don’t have an agent to walk you through a publishing contract, I highly recommend hiring a contract lawyer to help you understand it all.) And she was excited about my other manuscripts and works in progress as well. I wanted an agent for my career, not just for one manuscript, and Jessica was (is) that kind of an agent for me. I love that we can chat as friends about fun, non-writing things, but we can also work together in a true business partnership.



Amy: As most writers know, publishing is a very difficult business. What was the one thing you think you did to garner agent interest?


Veronica: Other than writing a great book, one thing that Jessica mentioned was that she noticed my online presence. Specifically, she mentioned that before I even queried her, she saw this blog post that I wrote for Sub It Club, to encourage my fellow contestants in Brenda Drake’s amazing Pitch Madness contest: – And because this blog post had already planted my name in her mind, she noticed my query right away when it showed up in her slush pile.


I didn’t expect any agents to see my little blog post, and it definitely wasn’t written with the intent of getting myself noticed. I was simply going through a ton of contest anxiety, so I wrote a post for my fellow contestants, who were certainly as anxious as I was. But it just goes to show that agents may be more aware of us than we know. You don’t have to be everywhere or involved with every type of social media, but it really helps to have a positive online presence.



Amy: What one piece of advice can you impart to aspiring writers to encourage them to keep working towards their dream?


Veronica: Never give up! I know it’s totally cliché, and you hear it all the time, but it’s the best advice I’ve ever received. This business can be disheartening and crushing at times, and if you’ve never thought of giving up, you probably haven’t been writing very long. But every single good thing that’s happened in my writing career can be traced directly back to one of those major discouraging moments. In fact, those moments when I wanted to give up and didn’t pushed me to grow in ways I never would have otherwise.


Find a group of great critique partners, who will encourage you to grow beyond your current self, but who won’t let you quit when the going gets tough. These friends are golden!





 Twelve Steps





Sixteen-year-old Andi is tired of being a second-class sibling to perfect sister Laina. The only thing Andi’s sure she has going for her is her awesome hair. And even that is eclipsed by Laina’s perfect everything else.


When Andi’s crush asks her to fix him up with Laina, Andi decides enough is enough, and devises a twelve-step program to wrangle the spotlight away from Laina and get the guy.


Step 1: Admit she’s powerless to change her perfect sister, and accept that her life really, really sucks.


Step 4: Make a list of her good qualities. She MUST have more than just great hair, right?


Step 7: Demand attention for more than just the way she screws things up.


When a stolen kiss from her crush ends in disaster, Andi realizes that her twelve-step program isn’t working. Her prince isn’t as charming as she’d hoped, and the spotlight she’s been trying to steal isn’t the one she wants.


As Laina’s flawless façade begins to crumble, the sisters work together to find a spotlight big enough for both to shine.



Available now for purchase via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo & iBooks.




VbartlesVeronica Bartles grew up in Wyoming and currently lives in New Mexico with her husband and four children. As the second child of eight children and the mother of four, Veronica Bartles is no stranger to the ups and downs of sibling relationships. She uses this insight to write stories about siblings who mostly love each other, even while they’re driving one another crazy. When Veronica’s not writing or lost in the pages of her newest favorite book, she enjoys creating delicious desserts, exploring new places, and knitting with recycled materials.

TWELVE STEPS is Veronica’s first novel.

For more on Veronica, check out her website or blog. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Tumblr.









W.O.W. – Writer Odyssey Wednesday with A.L. Sonnichsen July 9, 2014



When you first start writing a manuscript I think one of the hardest thing to do is find the character’s voice. From the first page it has to be strong and distinctive, and as a writer you may have to get several pages, or chapters, into a first draft before you discover if it’s working or not. In today’s W.O.W., A.L. Sonnichsen shares how her debut, RED BUTTERFLY, started as Young Adult book, but along the way she discovered the story was much better suited to a Middle Grade voice. While it meant rewriting the entire book, it also meant she found the proper voice for her protagonist. A daring and brave choice that eventually paid off!


Many thanks to A.L. for sharing her writing odyssey today…



Amy: When did you first begin seriously writing with the intent of wanting to be published?


A.L.: I grew up writing books and even majored in writing in college, but it wasn’t until I was turning thirty that I decided to get serious. That was seven years ago now, so it took some time. I’ve learned a lot and I’m so grateful for those years of growth.



Amy: When did you complete your first Middle Grade manuscript?


A.L.: I wrote young adult novels for years. In fact, I was sure my passion was young adult. What I couldn’t understand, though, was why all my favorite books to read were middle grade, and yet, I couldn’t come up with a middle grade plot to save my life! One of my critique partners, in reading a young adult manuscript of mine, told me something that would change my life. She said, “I know this might be devastating to you, but the voice in this manuscript feels wrong. She seems way younger than a teenager!” So, I went back to the drawing board and completely rewrote the book as a middle grade novel. That was a couple years ago and the book turned out to be RED BUTTERFLY, my debut novel. The moral of this story is: listen to your critique partners. Another moral might be: if you’re hitting a brick wall with one genre, try another. Now that I’ve written one middle grade, all my ideas are middle grade and I can’t imagine writing anything else. Weird, huh?



Amy: I love that you’ve spent a good deal of your life living in Hong Kong. How has that experience influenced your writing?


A.L.: Growing up in Hong Kong has influenced my writing so much. When I was a kid I kind of hated that I lived there. Not that life was bad—I had a great childhood—but I felt so different from a “real” American kid and I didn’t understand why I couldn’t be normal (whatever that is). Now I’m so grateful for my upbringing. My novel, RED BUTTERFLY, is set in mainland China and I’m working on another manuscript that’s set in Hong Kong. My settings aren’t the only aspects effected. Because I grew up in Hong Kong, I was inspired to go back to Asia as an adult, and that’s where I gained the experiences and inspiration I needed to write RED BUTTERFLY.



Amy: When you were writing RED BUTTERFLY did you share it with beta readers and/or critique partners? If so, how did they influence your process?


A.L.: Yes, I have a trusted group of critique partners. I know everyone has a different system when it comes to polishing their work. For me, I finish a draft, hand it off to a critique partner, receive feedback, and then usually rewrite (or make changes if I’ve already written several drafts). If it’s later in the process, I might have several critique partners read at the same time, just to measure their reaction to see if I’m getting close to sending it out into the big world. With these last readers (who I realize are more like beta readers than critique partners), I gauge how long it takes them to get back to me. If it takes a month or more, I figure I need to tighten up the book and make it more interesting before sending it out. If I’m getting feedback that they can’t put it down, that’s a good sign.



Amy: How laborious/frustrating was the query process for you?


A.L.: Querying before I had an agent wasn’t so bad. I was able to develop a tough skin over time. My attitude was that if I was getting a lot of rejections it was because my book (or my query) weren’t ready yet; I tried not to blame the system. This attitude always kept me working hard on my craft and trying to improve. I also queried widely, but not desperately. I didn’t dredge the bottom of the barrel. I always forced myself to shelve the book that wasn’t going anywhere and write something new. In fact, while I was querying, I made it a point to work on something new. This gave me a forward momentum that helped preserve my sanity.


I will say, the toughest querying process I faced was after I signed with one agent and then had to part ways with her. I felt like I was back at square one and that was debilitating. But more on that in the next question….



Amy: How many agents did you query for RED BUTTERFLY?


A.L.: I did not query very many (maybe, five?) because, like I said in my answer to the last question, I was debilitated. I queried a few, received rejections or silence, and was about ready to give up and shelve the book prematurely. I almost made the mistake of listening to my first agent who told me she didn’t think RED BUTTERFLY had a chance. Usually I’m adamant that writers listen to critique (especially from agents!), but in this case, my gut told me she hadn’t actually given my book a good read because she was disappointed my first book hadn’t sold.


Thankfully, one of my critique partners came to my rescue and talked to her agent about me. I had received a previous offer from that agent, and my critique partner asked her if she might be interested in reading my newest books. That agent was willing, and, after reading, enthusiastic about my work. Her confidence in my books helped restore my mojo after that first-agent experience.



Amy: Did you receive instantaneous response or did you have to wait for requests/rejections?


A.L.: Querying is such a roller coaster, such a hurry-up-and-wait game! You can wait for weeks, then be scrambling to send someone a partial or a full that meet their specifications. My experience with RED BUTTERFLY was a little different because I already had my foot in the door, so to speak. But even with a foot in the door, the waiting seemed endless. I tried to fill my waiting time with as much writing as possible!



Amy: What was your call like with your agent, Kate Schafer Testerman? How did you know she was the right fit for you?


A.L.: That call was wonderful! *happy sigh* I felt very comfortable with Kate and was so happy that she loved my books. I also needed the assurance that she was going to stick with me whether my books sold or not. With my past agent experience, that was very important to me.



Amy: As many writers know the publishing world is very hard to break into. What was the one thing you did to help garner agent attention?


A.L.: The first time I heard about Kate, my agent, was when I entered a Miss Snark’s First Victim contest with my very, very first book. Kate was the Secret Agent and liked my writing and wanted to see a partial. This was a book that was getting nothing but rejections from EVERYBODY (because the plot stunk). Of course, she gently rejected me after the partial, but her interest kept me going, and it’s an awesome and ironic thing that she’s now my agent!



Amy: If you were giving a keynote speech at a writers conference, what would be the most important piece of writing advice you would share?


A.L.: Persevere! That means, finish the book you’re in the middle of writing. It also means, when querying, keep querying. And if it’s time to move on, get that new idea down on paper. Keep moving forward. Focus on improvement. You can’t control trends or agent/editor interest, but you can perfect your craft and develop good work habits that will help you so much when you do land a contract.





Front Cover - Red Butterfly




Kara never met her birth mother. Abandoned as an infant, she was taken in by an elderly American woman living in China. Now eleven, Kara spends most of her time in their apartment, wondering why she and Mama cannot leave the city of Tianjin and go live with Daddy in Montana. Mama tells Kara to be content with what she has … but what if Kara secretly wants more?


Told in lyrical, moving verse, Kara’s story is one of a girl learning to trust her own voice, discovering that love and family are limitless, and finding the wings she needs to reach new heights.



A.L.SonnichsenA.L. Sonnichsen is a Hong Kong-raised mom of five, football coach’s wife, and Brussels sprouts-addicted middle grade writer represented by Kate Schafer Testerman of kt literary. Her middle grade verse novel, RED BUTTERFLY (Simon & Schuster BFYR), will be out in February, 2015. You can find her at her blog, The Green Bathtub ( ), on facebook as A.L. Sonnichsen ( ), and on twitter at @alsonnichsen.


“Behind The Scenes” of a W.O.W. with Dahlia Adler June 25, 2014


When I first started my W.O.W. series in 2012 one of the first people who agreed to, and was very supportive of, the series was Dahlia Adler. But I’ll admit something to you all, I was terrified to reach out to her. Looking back now I laugh because Dahlia is the kindest and sweetest person, but I was afraid to approach her because she knew SO MUCH about publishing and I knew VERY LITTLE. Would she think I was some sort of newbie goof trying to pass myself off as a real blogger when I sent my request? Would she respond at all? If you know Dahlia, then you know my worries were completely unfounded. She was incredibly kind and very generous in offering up the story behind her writing odyssey.


Now, with the release of her book, BEHIND THE SCENES, I thought it would be fun to share her W.O.W. again. I hope it inspires you as much as it did me!






Social media is a crazy thing.  It let’s us promote our work to others.  It allows us to learn about images and ideas worlds away. But one of the most amazing things about Facebook, Instagram and Twitter is the ability to connect with like-minded people who share the same goals, ideas and dreams, especially when it comes to writing.


I first connected with today’s featured author, Dahlia Adler, via Twitter.  I loved her honest advice about writing and publishing, but also her keen insight into what it takes to perfect your craft.  If you haven’t read her blog already, The Daily Dahlia, you should.  She is always sharing tips on how to improve your work and  providing valuable information on the publishing world.  Just recently she posted a gem about what life is like after getting an agent. It’s a great and eye-opening read.


Many thanks to Dahlia for sharing her writing journey…



Amy: I know you’re a freelance editor, reading several manuscripts a week. How do you make time to write?


Dahlia: With great difficulty! Honestly, it’s a huge challenge, especially on top of having a full-time job, but I respond really well to goals and deadlines and that helps me a lot in terms of prioritizing and forcing myself to get things done. Also, my husband gets a huge shout-out here for being wonderfully supportive. There are days he gets me for maybe an hour at dinner and then I disappear into my office and he is never anything short of wonderful about it.



Amy: What drew you to write YA fiction?


Dahlia: I’m the youngest by a considerable gap so I started reading YA from an extremely young age because that’s what was around. I grew up with a somewhat unusual background, being Modern Orthodox Jewish and attending yeshiva for elementary and high school, so for me, it was a fascinating insight into the world at large that I never really felt a part of but loved watching on TV. Then I realized I could insert myself into that world in a way by writing. I was about eight years old when I started writing YA, and I’ve never looked back.



Amy: How many completed manuscripts did you query before one garnered interest?


Dahlia: I queried two manuscripts before the one that got me my agent. Both actually got a lot of requests but ultimately both now live solely on my hard drive.



Amy: If one manuscript was continuing to get rejected, how did you know it was time to move on to a new project?


Dahlia: I stopped querying my first one fairly quickly, because it was set in college and those were almost impossible to sell at the time. When you’re getting rejections that aren’t so much about the content of your manuscript but about the fact that they don’t fit into the market, it’s a pretty good clue that it’s just not the right time. I queried the other one for a lot longer, but some of the critique I got from agents on the full made me realize that it needed an overhaul I wasn’t quite sure how to do yet. Honestly, I’m still not, though I’d love to figure it out so I can revive it one day. I love that manuscript, deep flaws and all!



Amy: From reading your blog, I know you have a great circle of critique partners. How do they affect your writing process?


Dahlia: The wonderfulness of my critique partners cannot be overstated. They’re amazing about letting me talk things out and use them as a sounding board, and just at giving critique in general. They make my books better, period, and their wide variety of knowledge is super helpful, especially when it comes to those “normal” things I didn’t experience, like what high school football games are actually supposed to look like!



Amy: Did your query for BEHIND THE SCENES come easily or did it go through many drafts?


Dahlia: My query for BEHIND THE SCENES came incredibly easy to me, which has never, ever been the case for me with any other query letter. I wrote it before I wrote the actual book. After realizing how much trouble I was having with my previous manuscript being so character driven, I really wanted to write something with a strong, linear plot driving the manuscript forward, and BTS was my brain’s response to that desire. I wrote a really early draft on Evernote on my phone, long before I ever planned to start writing the manuscript itself, and then one night I was struck by the entire text of it while lying in bed. I got up, took my husband’s iPad, wrote it in an e-mail to myself, and went back to bed. Voila. It changed slightly during The Writer’s Voice contest thanks to critique from my team, but very, very slightly.



Amy: How many agents did you query for BEHIND THE SCENES? Did you receive immediate responses or did you have to wait a while for replies?


Dahlia: I actually only queried five agents for BEHIND THE SCENES, because its first entry into the world was in The Writer’s Voice contest, and that’s where my agent found it and requested on it, so it had an offer in its first two weeks. I got form rejections from two agents really, really quickly, and then two of the other three – plus one who had a full of my previous ms, and one who’d also requested from The Writer’s Voice – responded to my “I have an offer” nudge within the week, so all in all it was a very fast process.


Amy: Was there ever a time you thought about giving up on your writing dream? If so, what motivated you to keep writing?


Dahlia: I’ve always, always loved writing, and to me, the act of writing and the dream of getting published are very separate things. Are there times I think I’ll never sell? Yes, definitely. But selling isn’t why I write, so not selling will never be why I don’t!








High school senior Ally Duncan’s best friend may be the Vanessa Park – star of TV’s hottest new teen drama – but Ally’s not interested in following in her BFF’s Hollywood footsteps. In fact, the only thing Ally’s ever really wanted is to go to Columbia and study abroad in Paris. But when her father’s mounting medical bills threaten to stop her dream in its tracks, Ally nabs a position as Van’s on-set assistant to get the cash she needs.


Spending the extra time with Van turns out to be fun, and getting to know her sexy co-star Liam is an added bonus. But when the actors’ publicist arranges for Van and Liam to “date” for the tabloids just after he and Ally share their first kiss, Ally will have to decide exactly what role she’s capable of playing in their world of make believe. If she can’t play by Hollywood’s rules, she may lose her best friend, her dream future, and her first shot at love.



BEHIND THE SCENES is now available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes & Noble & Indiebound.



dahliaDahlia Adler is an Assistant Editor of Mathematics at an academic publisher, Copy Editor, and blogger @BNBuzz and YA Misfits. She is represented by Lana Popovic. You can find her on Twitter as @MissDahlELama and on her blog, The Daily Dahlia. It’s not really daily but it’s definitely her!



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