Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Day 3: YA Books that influenced Marissa Doyle

Marissa Doyle, debut young adult author of Bewitching Season reads. A bunch. Just ask her family and friends and neighbors and pets. Yes, she has a reputation.

(Marissa also likes to curl. But that's another post for another blog for another time.)

We cornered Marissa in study hall to ask this burning question: Which young adult book influenced you the absolute most?

And this is what she said...

Nope. Can’t name just one. There are dozens, actually, but I have to mention these three…all of which are historicals. How coincidental.

1. The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare. I read and re-read this book to pieces in sixth grade. It had everything: an outsider heroine (and oh, was I an outsider in sixth grade!), fascinating historical details (I love the scene where Kit starts unpacking her trunks and pulling out her jewel-colored dresses in the middle of that drab Puritan kitchen), a New England setting that I already knew so well, excitement, romance…it was the perfect book as far as I was concerned. Then in seventh grade I found...

2. The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope. Again, an outsider heroine who comes into herself over the course of the book, more amazing detail (this time about Tudor England, which already enthralled me), more romance and peril and excitement…and paranormal elements, too, that didn’t take over but meshed seamlessly into the story line.

It took me a while to find another book that stood with these two…in fact, it wasn't published until I was already an adult. But that didn’t stop me from loving...

3. A College of Magics by Caroline Stevermer. A rich, well-realized alternative early 20th century setting, magic, romance, sly humor, and supporting characters who are as real and fully developed as the main ones. This book really should be more widely read, because it’s wonderful.

2k8: Pop back tomorrow when Marissa chats about the teachers who inspired her.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Day 2: Interview with Marissa Doyle

We're back with Marissa Doyle, debut young adult author of Bewitching Season. Our goal on this second day of Marissa's book launch week: a hard-hitting interview that gets to the heart of this talented author. Let the interview begin...

2k8: Where do you do most of your writing? We want a picture. And please don't tidy up before snapping the shot.

Marissa Doyle: It used to be the guest bedroom…and there is still a bed in there, so I suppose technically a guest could still sleep there. But first they’d have to remove the stacks of papers and reference books for the story I’m currently working on and albums of nineteenth century fashion plates and pile of fluffy bunnies and my Jane Austen action figure from the bed. They could always put it all on the other side of the room, but that’s where my boxes of fabric and sewing machine and quilts in progress are. It’s a good thing my family are all relatively nearby and don’t need to stay overnight very often.

The room is very cozy and very mine, full of things (books and rabbits and antique china on the walls) and colors (periwinkle blue and yellow) that I love. I’m a nester, so I can go in and close the door and lose myself in my work-in-progress and feel secure and happy.

2k8: You revealed yesterday that you began writing Bewitching Season from a prompt at a RWA meeting. More details, please.

Marissa Doyle: The prompt, “Oh my God, you killed him!”, worked very well for an opening. After that, the story mostly just came out like a ribbon unrolling from a spool. I write very linearly, and almost never skip around writing scenes as they occur to me though I will jot down notes if I have an idea for later on in the action. And I always know what the end will be when I start a book. It’s so much easier to write if you have something to aim at.

2k8: And how did it find a publisher? Give us the *real* dirt!

Marissa Doyle: It was all very boring and textbook, actually. I researched and queried agents and signed with one, and she sold the book a couple of months later. It always bemuses me when people say, “The only way to get an agent/sell a book is to have connections! It’s all a matter of who you know!” Umm…maybe sometimes having an “in” somewhere will help. But it’s certainly not the only way. Utter newbie authors sell. Most of us in 2k8 will attest to that.

2k8: Did anything surprise you or catch you off guard when you were writing your book?

Marissa Doyle: Oh, you bet. Before selling, I was very fond of entering writing contests. The RWA has dozens of them, with finalists having their entries judged by editors and agents. It’s a great way to get feedback on your work and possibly get it in front of an acquiring editor. Bewitching Season did pretty well on the contest circuit, winning contests and getting requests from editors, but one anonymous first-round judge whom I will forever bless wrote on my entry something along the lines of, “This reads more like a young adult story than a romance.”

Well, it was like sirens and klieg lights suddenly switched on in my head. I was writing young adult? Really? I’d had no idea! So I could focus on my heroine’s character growth and not force the story into romance conventions and have fun!
This was a major moment for me, though I feel like rather an idiot for not having figured it out myself.

2k8: Imagine you have an offer from your dream press to publish your dream book, no matter how insane or unmarketable it might be (though of course it might not be). What story do you want to write next/someday and why?

Marissa Doyle: My secret dream book is already written and on my hard drive--I just haven’t asked my agent to try selling it yet because the end needs work and I’m up to my eyeballs in other books. It’s a contemporary fantasy for adults and begins with the premise that the Greco-Roman pantheon is (secretly) alive and well and teaching Classics at a large, prestigious New England university. I LOVE this story, and hope to sell it someday. But for now I’ll be focusing on young adult books.

2k8: What question won’t most people know to ask you? What is your answer?

Marissa Doyle: “Were you really once an avid curler?”

Okay, the answer is obviously yes…but first, how many of you know what curling is? ☺

2k8: To recap, we uncovered that Marissa Doyle mostly writes in a cute converted periwinkle blue + yellow guest bedroom. Bewitching Season began with a writing prompt from a Romance Writer's meeting. She realized she was writing young adult thanks to a comment on a contest entry. Her dream book is already written. She was an avid curler.

Not too shabby an interview. If we do say so ourselves. :)

Psst. News that's hot off the press! Bewitching Season is an Editor's Choice pick for this quarter at the Historical Novel Society, a review mag dedicated to historical fiction. And it's a super nice review too. :)

Monday, April 28, 2008

With pomp and fanfare and circumstance, enter Marissa Doyle!

April is a VERY VERY VERY VERY busy month for the Class of 2k8 with FOUR, yes, count them, FOUR book launches. Last, but certainly not least, is Bewitching Season by Marissa Doyle.

2k8: Okay, Marissa, give us the scoop on Bewitching Season. What's it about?

Marissa Doyle: In 1837 London, young daughters of viscounts pined for handsome, titled husbands, not careers. And certainly not careers in magic.

Shy, studious Persephone Leland would far rather devote herself to her secret magic studies than enter society and look for a suitable husband. But just as the inevitable Season is about to begin, Persy and her twin sister Pen discover that their governess in magic has been kidnapped as part of a plot to gain control of the Princess Victoria. Racing through Mayfair ballrooms and royal palaces, the sisters overcome bad millinery, shady royal spinsters, and a mysterious Irish wizard. And along the way, Persy discovers that husband hunting isn’t such an odious task after all, if you can find the right quarry.

So, let us give you the 411 on Marissa. She's been obsessed with history since seeing The Six Wives of Henry VIII on Masterpiece Theatre when she was nine. Her first (uncompleted) novel was begun when she was thirteen, and of course was a Tudor time travel. Several history-soaked college years ensued, followed by several years dedicated to motherhood…and now she’s back into the history again. Some people never change.

2k8: How'd Bewitching Season come to be? What's the story behind the story?

Bewitching Season is the result of a serendipitous writing prompt. My local RWA (Romance Writers of America) chapter decided to do a just-for-fun writing exercise: any member who wanted to participate had to take the sentence, “Oh my God, you’ve killed him!” and write the first few paragraphs of a story using it as the opening. The point was to show that even with the same first sentence, all our stories would differ in subject and voice. So after I forced myself to stop thinking about references to Monty Python (“Lovely plumage, the Norwegian Blue!”), I got a picture in my head of a girl in long skirts standing over a boy lying on the floor. Who was she, and what had happened? Well, she’d been practicing her magic, and her little brother had gotten in the way…or had she been practicing on him, and he decided to play a trick on her?…and it went on from there.

The royalty part came in because I was reading a biography of Queen Victoria while the above was going on. I was at the part of the book that told of Victoria’s years of struggle against her mother’s household comptroller, Sir John Conroy, who had ambitions of becoming the power behind the throne when Victoria became queen. But Victoria loathed him, and as it became clear that she would probably become queen in her own right and not require a regent, he got desperate and actually contemplated locking her up and forcing her to promise him a position as her Private Secretary. And again, it just popped into my head: what if Sir John had resorted to magic to try to subdue the Princess, and my young witch had to rescue her?

2k8: Well, Marissa, with thoughts like those, this is going to be one interesting week!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

2k8 Classmates are turning heads...

There are ONE, make that TWO, make that a whopping THREE starred reviews from Kirkus Reviews. Let's hear it for:

Shift by Jennifer Bradbury

A Horse of Her Own by Annie Wedekind

The Magic Thief by Sarah Prineas


Marissa Doyle's Bewitching Season is an Editor's Choice pick for this quarter at the Historical Novel Society, a review mag dedicated to historical fiction. Here's the really nice review.

Fantabulous news from the class of 2k7!!!

Hitting the New York Times Best Seller list are:

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare
City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

Jo KnowlesLessons from a Dead Girl was chosen as a YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers and was selected for the New York Public Library's 2008 Books for The Teen Age. And she sold her second novel Jumping Off Swings.

S.A. Harazin’s Blood Brothers is included in the New York Public Library's annual list, Books for the Teen Age, 2008. And Blood Brothers was nominated for an Edgar, selected as an AKA quick pick and made the the 2008-2009 Taysha Reading list.

Suzanne Selfors’ first Young Adult novel, Saving Juliet came out in Feb and received a starred review from Publishers Weekly.

Sarah Beth Durst’s Into the Wild is a finalist for the 2007 Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy. It was also a finalist for a Cybils Award in the Fantasy and Science Fiction category. The sequel, Out of the Wild, will be released June 19, 2008.

Joni Sensei’s second book, The Humming of Numbers, was named a Jr. Library Guild Selection. Publication date is May 27, 2008.

Sundee Frazier’s Brendan Buckley's Universe and Everything In It was awarded the ALA 2008 Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award. It was also included on the Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People 2008 Bank Street College of Education's Best Children's Books of the Year 2008 (starred).

Julie Bowe is happy to announce the follow up to My Last Best Friend, titled My New Best Friend. Look for it August 1, 2008.

Woot! Woot! Woot! Class of 2k7, we're so proud of you!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Aurevoir Debbie Reed Fischer!

2k8: This is the last day of Debbie Reed Fischer's launch week. And, after a small amount of arm twisting, she's agreed to dish up the dirt on her personal brush with modeling. We appreciate her candor!

So, Debbie, did you ever do any modeling yourself?

Debbie Reed Fischer: Never! Although I did have a sexy pout when I was a baby. However, the elephantine proportion of my giant bobble head to the rest of my body may have prevented a modeling career.

2k8: Yowzer, Deb!

Debbie Reed Fischer: (grin) Later, I could've been a hair model. My hair was so perfectly feathered, the back of my head looked like a tush.

Next, I modeled western wear. Note that I was way ahead of my time wi the waiste-under-the-armpits look. Everyone thinks Apoo from the Simpsons popularized that fashion, but as you can see, it was me.

2k8: In the modeling world, fashion obviously plays a big part. Has fashion payed a big part in your life?

Debbie Reed Fischer: Nowadays, my uniform is a tank top, jeans and flip flops. When I was growing up, though, I used clothes to sort of figure out my identity. Sadly, I have the photos to prove it.

2k8: (chanting) Where? Where? Where? Come on. Debbie, you promised.

Debbie Reed Fischer: (sighing) Fine. Here are photos of my deranged fashion experiment of the 80s. Uh, for the first pic, please lean back from your monitor. The image may cause blindness due to the glare of hella-big rhinestones.

Beware the bedazzler gone mad. What was I thinking with that flashing booger-green rhinestone in the middle of my shirt? Was I signaling the mother ship? Guiding boats into the harbor? And, personally, I don't think I have enough accessories. I could have used another sequined headband or two to complement those disco pirate hoops.

Look, everyone! It's a mullet AND a Chanuka bush. Happy Holidays!

I really think this look should come back, don't you? Thighs look so attractive all shrink-wrapped in white spandex. And I especially love the yellow stocking ankle socks. Beyond sexy.

Now, we've come to the take-me-seriously-because-I'm-a-film-maker-and-screenwriter-and-suffering-poet look. I must dye my hair black, refuse to comb it and wear a black leather jacket every day. (With nine layers of shoulder pads and a string of pearls. Natch.)

Okay, I'll spare you the Sally-Jesse-raphael-red-glasses phase and the surfer-with-woven-tunics phase. So, I had a bit of an identity crisis for a few years, probably resulting from moving every two years and having to reinvent myself at every new school I attended. Is it any wonder I'm a writer?

2k8: No, Debbie, it's no surprise you're a writer. And after reading Braless in Wonderland, we're so glad you took some of that fashion-statement energy and fueled it into writing. :) Thank you for a great week on the blog!

Hey, peeps, don't be sad. Don't be glum. Even though Debbie's launch week is over, you can find her all over the place online and off. Check out the following:

Debbie will be the deubt author in Alice Pope's upcoming newsletter CWIM blog.

And you can catch Debbie next week on K.L. Going's forum.

She'll be the featured guest author on Dutton Writers Room soon.

On May 1st, Debbie'll be appearing on her NBC affiliate on a program called South Florida Today!!

Click on Debbie's website for signing dates. She's part of a Trio of Tropical Reads tour with fellow young adult authors Dorian Cirrone and Gaby Triana.

Also, stop by Debbie's blog and her myspace for contests and givewaways.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Day 4: Debbie on Alice in Wonderland

2k8: Welcome, peeps, to the Class of 2k8's blog. We're celebrating the launch of debut young adult author Debbie Reed Fischer's Braless in Wonderland. Yup. Braless in Wonderland is out in the world and making friends everywhere! 

So, Debbie, how does working in the modeling business compare to working as a writer?

Debbie Reed Fischer: Aside from inspiring the characters and plot, every day in the agency is a race. You’re racing other agencies to get the best models before anyone else signs them, you’re racing to get models to their castings on time, you’re racing to make sure the model arrives at her booking before the photographer loses light. Every situation in the modeling business is a deadline situation, just like publishing. It’s excellent preparation for doing any job well under pressure, I think. It’s also a very creative, artistic environment, which inspired me a lot. I still enjoy feeling that vibe when I visit my friend Allee at the agency.

2k8: Allee? You mean like your main character?

Debbie Reed Fischer: Yes, there is a real Allee, and she’s a modeling agent. She and my character are not the same person, though. It’s just a name thing.

2k8: Ahhh.... And just how important is the South Beach setting in your book?

Debbie Reed Fischer: Very. I wanted elements of Alice in Wonderland to be woven throughout the story, and there is no place more Wonderland-esque than Miami Beach. The art deco district is dream-like. Candy-colored hotels look like cruise ships, graffiti murals, plastic flamingos, modern art galleries, neon lights in the palm trees, retro cafes. And where else do you have pink sidewalks? It’s kooky gorgeous.

The Delano Hotel (featured below) appears several times in the book, because the interior design is based on Alice in Wonderland. Guests enter the hotel through a hedge, then walk through a breezy, tunnel-like lobby with mismatched furniture and harlequin patterns. The back garden has furniture submerged in the pool and an oversized chess set on the lawn. South Beach is not your random tourist beach. It has a soul and a history. Not to mention it’s the perfect metaphor for a transformation story. There was a time no one would go near the art deco district because it was run down and dangerous. Now it’s America’s Riviera.

2k8: Tell us about Allee’s transformation.

Debbie Reed Fischer: Posing in front of the lens allows Allee to express herself in new ways, forcing her to take a close look at her goals and her values. As Allee re-discovers what it means to be a feminist and to be happy with herself, she also learns that there is more than one way to be a woman. It’s a classic geek-to-chic story, but also raises questions about stereotyping, independence and family. As Allee’s appearance changes with the rise of her modeling career, her beliefs change too . Views about her sister, her model roommates, and ultimately, herself, are turned on their head.

Not your average Alice in Wonderland...

2k8: Superstitions: Athletes have wacky superstitions, but writers have some too. Do you have any?

Debbie Reed Fischer: I have to buy a new skirt from the same store the day before every SCBWI conference. The reason is because the first time I did that, I was signed by my agent at the conference. The following year I did it again, and I met my editor. Now I have to buy a skirt from that same store the day before every conference. It brings me luck.

2k8: Any model tips for us?

Debbie Reed Fischer: If you need to hide your belly, put a baby on your lap.

2k8: Thanks for stopping by, Debbie. How would you feel about organizing a 2k8 reunion at the Delano Hotel? :)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Day 3: Debbie: On writing and reality shows

2k8: We're back with Debbie Reed Fischer, debut young adult author of Braless in Wonderland. Yup. That's her above. What a cutie patootie child model! 

So, Debbie, inquiring minds want to know. Where do you do most of your writing?

Debbie Reed Fischer: We have a wood-paneled library in our house and I love to write in it when I’m home. I also write at Dunkin Donuts, caf├ęs in South Beach, and when my kids are with me, at Chuck E. Cheese. There must be something fundamentally wrong with me because I actually feel relaxed at Chuck E's.

2k8: (whispering) Do ya think she tidied her office for this picture? Because, if not, then the rest of us are just, uh, messy, messy writers.

Debbie Reed Fischer: For writing longhand, I love the beach. The only downside is discovering sand in your notebooks when you get home. Or the occasional seaweed.

But, my number one Mac Daddy place to write is the library. Any library. When I really need to buckle down, that’s where I go. I love the boxy, little study rooms. I even love the arctic sub zero air conditioning when it’s 99 degrees outside. I bundle up in sweats and keep thick, wooly socks in my backpack to wear with my flip flops. It’s sexy.

2k8: Did anything surprise you or catch you off guard when you were writing Braless in Wonderland?

Debbie Reed Fischer: Yes, I was and still am completely gobsmacked by how many librarians watch America’s Next Top Model and all those model reality shows. Teens I can understand, but literary ladies and gentlemen? Any time I mention my book, they tell me how much they love to watch models on TV, but they whisper it, like it’s a dirty secret. They actually filmed an MTV reality show about models and bookers at an agency where I worked. It was called Eighth and Ocean. The photo above is from the show.

2k8: So, dahlings, join us again tomorrow for more scoop on Debbie Reed Fischer...

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Day 2: How Debbie became a model booker...

2k8: We're back for the second day of debut author Debbie Reed Fischer's launch week. Her young adult novel, Braless in Wonderland, is available everywhere.

Debbie, you've got to tell everyone that great story of how you became a model booker. AND explain the strange pic at the top of today's post!

Debbie Reed Fischer: Well, I sort of fell into it. Or rather, it fell into me.

During my senior year of college, I had an internship at a model and talent agency. On my first day, I was told to file head shots and resumes in these huge, floor-to-ceiling filing cabinets. There were six of them. Wildly curious about the talent repped by the agency, I spent more time reading the resumes than filing. So I wasn’t paying attention to the fact that I had pulled open every single drawer on this one filing cabinet.

Until I heard a strange creaking sound.

And jumped out of the way just in time.

The entire filing cabinet tipped over, knocking into the one next to it, then into the next one, and so on and so on and so on, until the last mammoth filing cabinet crashed into the wall. It was like giant dominoes.

The owner actually had to hire a moving company to set the cabinets straight again!

Certain I was fired, I sneaked out early. Later, I received a call from the owner. “You’re the best intern we’ve ever had,” she said. “I want to hire you.”

I took the job, and the next day, told the story to this stunning model lounging in the waiting area. “Don’t you think it’s weird I got hired?” I asked her.

“No,” the model replied. “That’s the business. It’s crazy.”

And she was right. It was glamorous AND crazy.

2k8: How did get from being a model booker to writing Braless in Wonderland?

Debbie Reed Fischer: I’m a graduate of the University of Miami’s screenwriting program, so my plan was to write screenplays. Although, as fate would have it, I fell into the business side of the film industry, starting out as a talent agent for TV and film.

And then I did the model booking thing in Miami. The modeling world provided me with a treasure chest of material to write about. I usually felt like the blonde on The Munsters, scratching my head and wondering what planet I’d landed on. I kept notebooks on everyone and everything while I worked there, and years later, those notes came in very handy when I sat down to write the Braless in Wonderland. The book is fiction, but the notes make the scenes really authentic.

2k8: Thanks, Debbie!

Oh, yeah, and about those modeling terms from yesterday's post--

backdrop: whatever's behind the model at a photo shoot (eg. seamless paper)

clean-clean: clean hair (as in washed), clean face (as in no makeup), how you might be instructed to show up at a photo shoot

cyc studio: a photo studio with no corners

(From Model Business)

Join us tomorrow for the inside skinny on where Debbie does her writing!

Psssst! In the meantime...hop on over to Nineteen Teen where M.P. Barker, author of A Difficult Boy, is guest blogging today. You don't want to miss it!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Introducing the one and only Debbie Reed Fischer!

The Class of 2k8 is thrilled to announce the release of Braless in Wonderland by debut young adult author, Debbie Reed Fischer!

Braless in Wonderland is a humorous, fast-paced teen story about a girl who falls into the world of modeling.

And Debbie Reed Fischer was the perfect person to write this stay-up-all-night-to-finish-it book. She's definitely no stranger to the modeling business, having worked for many years as a model booker in Miami, where she experienced the daily dramas of the weird and the beautiful.

Other job adventures from her past include hosting a cable TV show for teens, picking melons on a kibbutz, teaching middle and high school English, and singing in a USO troupe. Talk about multi-talented!!

Debbie grew up in a sleepy Florida town much like Cape Comet (where her protagonist, Allee Rosen, grew up) and has also lived in England, Greece, and Israel.

In high school, she spent a lot of time in math class writing stories, songs, and long notes to her friends. Now you know why we don't let her figure out the tip in restaurants!

A graduate of the University of Miami's screenwriting program, Debbie currently lives in Boynton Beach, Florida, with her husband and two kids, where she feeds them a steady diet of take-out. Her second teen novel, Swimming with the Sharks, will be released in September. Debbie is our class Energizer Bunny!

And here's a head shot (just to throw a little modeling lingo your way!) of our very own Debbie Reed Fischer, author of Braless in Wonderland.

About Braless in Wonderland...

Allee Rosen is a lot of things: high school senior, overachiever, feminist, brainiac. The one thing she’s not is super model material. She leaves that to pretty people like her little sister (a.k.a. “The Fluff”). That’s why it’s a complete shock when Allee, not her sister, is the one spotted by modeling scouts at the mall and signed by a major modeling agency in Miami.
It’s classic GEEK-to-CHIC – but it’s not like it’s going to change her, right? She’s just doing it for the money that will pay her way through college. Very soon, however, Allee is swept up in the whirlwind of go-sees, designer labels and photo shoots. Will her elusive “It Girl” status lead Allee to drop her dreams and forget who she really is?

Issues of body image, feminism and personal growth are woven throughout the story as readers enjoy a funny, honest insider’s peek at what really goes on behind the cameras.

“The book gets inside of the mind a new model, especially her insecurities and her misconceptions about what models are like,” Fischer commented in an interview in the March issue of Portrait magazine. “It’s also about holding on to the core of who you are, but being willing to grow and change.” In the world of fashion, nothing is ever what it seems, and much like Alice in Wonderland, this novel is a surreal adventure full of self-discovery and transformation, with plenty of glamour and fun along the way.

We're not the only people who love Braless in Wonderland. Here's what others are saying...

"Detailed and realistic . . . Fischer has worked for many years as a booker in Miami, and she really knows the business." --KLIATT

"Such a page-turning book, you might sweep through it as quickly as you can say ‘go-see.’ This book is like watching a fast-paced teen drama . . . you can't help but root for Allee Rosen, in all of her unglamorous glory.” --Today’s Teen of the Palm Beach Post

"Braless in Wonderland thrusts the reader into the world of modeling . . . pick up this book!" *****

"A good book for growing up and seeing people for who they really are . . . worth the read.” --Romantic Times Book Reviews magazine

"Braless in Wonderland is an unexpected delight . . . I found myself drawn into the character’s adventure . . . an accurate and enticing peek into the real world of modeling, which includes not only the glitz and the glamour, but the downsides and pressures. There is a fun array of characters and scenarios, and I was left feeling that unlike many books, this one didn’t fail to live up to its own plotlines potential."
--Portrait magazine

Populated with a fun vibe, an inside look at the world of Miami modeling agencies, and some great secondary characters, Braless in Wonderland is well worth picking up for some by-the-pool summer reading. I look forward to reading more from Ms. Reed Fischer.

Join us tomorrow for how Debbie Reed Fischer became a model booker and got to use cool terms like "clean-clean" and "backdrop" and "cyc studio." See, Deb, we really do listen to you!

Sunday, April 20, 2008


Raising hand. Waving hand. Frantically. We have some Totally Important Posts!

Brooke Taylor's Undone and Lisa Schroeder's I Heart You, You Haunt Me have been nominated for ALA Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Readers. Double congratulations!

What Shelf Elf has to say about Elizabeth C. Bunce's A Curse Dark as Gold: "Highly recommended." And, Shelf Elf, thanks for posting the video too!

Others adoring fans (in alpha order) of A Curse Dark as Gold: Bookshelves of Doom, Bookwyrm Chrysalis, Miss Erin, Sarah Miller,

And Jennifer Bradbury's Shift is a Richie's pick.

Wow! Go Class of 2k8!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Our Last Day With M.P. Barker...

As her launch week for A Difficult Boy comes to an close, we're getting ready to bid a fond farewell to M.P. Barker. She'll still be in class with us. Natch. She'll just be moving over to make way for our next debut author launch.

Before leaving, M.P.'d like to talk to us about setting. And who are we to argue with a published author?! Take it away, Classmate!

Since my book is set in an imaginary town, the best I can do is give you a tour of a similar imaginary town—Old Sturbridge Village, where I worked as a costumed interpreter during the 1980s and 1990s. (For those of you non-New Englanders, Old Sturbridge Village is a re-created early 19th-century (circa 1830-1840) New England village.) That was a real stroll down memory lane. I had to dig through my attic to find photos of my days at OSV. Oh, my!

Actually, I didn't start out working in costume at OSV. I began working here.

Yes, my first job at OSV was as a horticultural assistant working behind the scenes in the greenhouses and planting all the modern ornamental gardens at the entrances and around the visitor center, etc. I had one of the best bosses ever, got a great tan, and was probably in the best shape I’d ever been in by the end of the summer.

The next year, I went from wearing shorts and working in the flower gardens to wearing this.

And working in gardens...

If I thought I worked hard the summer before…well, there’s nothing to get you buff like digging, weeding, milking cows, making cheese, chopping kindling, hauling wood and water…

Not that I’m complaining. It wasn’t always down and dirty. I also got to...



And run around with men.

One of my co-workers used to say that even back then the guys with the wheels got all the women.

I got to play with my food…

Okay, I’m being facetious…but only a little. One of the perks was getting to eat all the food that we cooked, which included our own chicken, turkey, beef, and pork. Okay, maybe I could have done without making the head cheese…with a real head. It’s a seriously scary recipe that begins with: Boil one pig’s head until the eyes fall out… Better than cleaning sausage casings, though, I’ll tell you that. You haven’t lived until you’ve sloshed a couple miles of pig intestines through a pan of salt water.

My favorite time of year was the spring, with all the new baby animals. During my time there, I got to see two calves born, including this one. (He was given the not particularly period-appropriate name of Fred A. Steere…)

The weird thing is that I swore I’d never write historical fiction because after working at OSV I realized just how many details there were to get wrong—and how much work it is to get it right.

So what did I end up writing? Yeah, that’s right. And in spite of getting my manuscript reviewed by no fewer than five Village people (hey, we had the name before YMCA!), now I live in terror that my former co-workers will catch all the mistakes I missed…

M.P. Barker, thank you, thank you for spending your launch week with us!  We're so proud of you! And we wish you the absolute best.

Oh yeah, besides being a time traveler, M.P. is also a blog hopper. You can catch an interview with her today over at Nineteen Teen, a fantastically informative blog about being a teen in the nineteenth century.

Thanks again, M.P. You're a published author now! Go forth and prosper!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

M.P. Barker and The Great Agent Quest

This is the face that got me my agent. No, really. This is Tie-Dye the Wonder Dog (1989-2005). He was the best little guy, and I was missing him terribly in spring 2005 when I was on my Great Agent Quest.

So there I am, going through lists of agents, and I’m looking at John Hawkins and Associates, the oldest literary agency in the country. And I’m seeing names like James Clavell and Alex Haley and Joyce Carol Oates. And I’m saying, “Yeah, right. Like these guys would really represent a nobody like me.” But what the heck, I read the agent profiles anyway. And in the profile for William Reiss, I see that he represents Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, author of

I see that cute little beagle snout, big brown beagle eyes and floppy beagle ears as an omen. Fate. Kismet.

A message from Tie-Dye and the beagle gods in the Great Beyond. I say, “This is the agent for me!” So off I send my query—zip! And zip! the next day I get an email requesting fifty pages. The fifty pages get sent, and zip! an email comes back asking for the rest of the story. The beagle gods are plied with burnt offerings of bacon and cheese and yea, verily, they are pleased.

Three months go by. In the meantime, being on a self-help-book kick, I’m reading about these affirmation things, where you’re supposed to keep saying what you want to happen and that’s supposed to make it happen. Sounds pretty hokey, but what the heck, it can’t hurt, right? My affirmation: “This guy is my agent.”

So it’s been three months, and I ask Mr. Reiss what’s the status on my MS. Nicely…professionally…definitely NOT telling him about the beagle gods and affirmations. I mean, really, you can’t let your prospective agent know you’re certifiably insane, can you?

I get a polite: “I'm going to decline, even though there is a good deal that I like about the novel.” UGH. What have I done to offend the beagle gods? Have I not been forthcoming with the bacon? Have I looked covetously upon cats? No I have not. I have been faithful to the beagle gods as a good and loyal supplicant should be. So I do what any logical, rational person would in this situation. I yell at the computer: “You can’t reject me! You’re supposed to be my agent! It is the divine will of the beagle gods!”

But I am a professional and so I do not call the wrath of the beagle gods down upon this goodly man, but instead I thank him for reading the MS and ask him if there’s anything I might do to get him to reconsider—assuring him that I am a reasonable person not wedded to my deathless prose, and quite open to making changes if he so desires. And yea, verily, there is hope, for he replies “Give me a week to think about it.” And at the end of the allotted week, lo, the beagle gods have smiled and gifted me with an agent. A very, very good agent, with whom I am well pleased.

M.P. Barker is the debut YA author of A Difficult Boy.

Set against the exciting backdrop of New England history, this stunning first novel from a talented new voice shows what it takes to be a friend.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Totally Important Post!

People out and about have been talking about 2k8 classmates! And here's what they're saying...

Brooke Taylor’s Undone is a Top Choice at Flamingnet Book Reviews!

Click on the graphic to read the review:
Flamingnet Top Choice Award Book: UNDONE by Brooke Taylor

Daphne Grab's Alive and Well in Prague, New York received a terrific review at Teens Read Too.

And Kirkus First Fiction Special Issue said wonderful things about M.P. Barker's A Difficult Boy. Here's the abridged version:

"What was the life of an indentured servant but that of a slave? M.P. Barker brings it ringingly, cringingly to life. ..A Difficult Boy hinges on the efforts of two boys—one social, one circumstantially remote, soon to be friends—to escape their brutalized existence. ..Then there is Ivy, a horse that bonds the boys and provides their ticket out.

Couture's Fashionable Reads gave a great review of Regina Scott's La Petite Four.

Last, but not least, Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Review has a very nice write up on us!