The Girl with the Green Pen

I’m so excited to welcome my friend Taryn Albright to the blog today! In addition to recently taking a job as Editorial Assistant at Spencer Hill Contemp, she’s just launched an independent editing venture called The Girl with the Green Pen, and she’s graciously dropped by to answer a few questions about it…

Hello, my lovely friend! To start, can you tell us a little about yourself — your writing background, your critiquing/editing experience, etc…

Hi, I’m Taryn 😀 I’ve spent a year and a half interning with 3 superstar agencies including Andrea Brown Literary. I’ve also spent sixteen months as a freelance editor, and during that time, I’ve worked with over 60 authors. Nine of my clients have signed with agents and five have signed book deals, four with major houses. I’ve been writing since I was young, but I really got serious about publishing my freshman year of college. My sophomore year, I signed with an agent, so I have plenty of experience in both the querying trenches and the submission process.

I’ll pause here to vouch for your utter brilliance, Taryn. –> (I’ve been lucky enough to have both my query AND manuscript critiqued by Taryn, and she’s so incredibly savvy. Here suggestions and feedback are fantastic, and her enthusiasm for publishing and young adult literature is unmatched!) Now, can you tell us what your mission statement for The Girl with the Green Pen is?  

My mission is to guide writers through the daunting task of revision. From idea development to editorial feedback to general publishing advice, I love working with stories and those who create them. As a nationally ranked swimmer, I know the value of time, so I believe in quick responses from the first email to the last.

I am not just another freelance editor. Beyond providing an experienced and thorough critique, my secondary goal is to establish a relationship with my clients. I want to support you throughout the stressful submission process and celebrate with you upon any and all good news. Writers may put pen to paper alone, but it is through a community that the book gets finished, polished, and submitted.

I can’t agree with the community bit more. 🙂 Will you describe the services The Girl with Green Pen will provide?

One of my main goals with starting The Girl with the Green Pen was to expand my editing services. I’ll still offer Evaluation services (a critique for big picture things, a critique for the details, and a critique for both big and small), but I also now offer Development services. Development means that I’ll be with you a little longer, for more than one pass of the manuscript. I also have a fun set of Other services, like Submission Packages, that can help prepare your query and opening pages for submission.

And why the GREEN pen?

Most edits are made with a red pen. If someone critiques your manuscript, they’re most likely going to cover it with red ink, right? Not so much here. I make all my notes in green because I like to reflect the idea of moving forward. Green means go, it means spring, it means new life. These are all ways to think of your revisions, and they’re how I like to think of the editing process.

I love that! When will you begin taking on clients? And what is your turn-around time for different services The Girl with the Green Pen will provide?

Now! I never stopped taking on clients for Teen Eyes, and I’m working with a handful of authors right now. My editing hasn’t change–only the banner above it. Like Teen Eyes, turn around times for The Girl with the Green Pen will be fast, usually within 7 days depending on the critique.

Where can interested writers find you? 




You’ve been successful at Teen Eyes. Why have you decided to branch out now? 

Well, it’s 3 months until I turn 20, and then the “teen” part won’t work. When I started brainstorming what I wanted to do without the teen label, I got the idea for The Girl with the Green Pen and got really impatient. I wanted to expand my services and do something bigger, and I didn’t want to wait!


Thanks so much for giving us the lowdown on The Girl with the Green Pen, Taryn. I wish you great success! 

(Guys, if you have any editing needs whatsoever, please do consider contacting Taryn. She’s a superstar!)


Five on Friday

1. WriteOnCon begins August 14th! Never heard of WriteOnCon? Well, you’re missing out! From the website…designed to give attendees many of the features of a live writer’s conference, but in an online environment. Thanks to technologies like blogging, vlogging, livestreaming, and chats, WriteOnCon connects writers with both industry professionals and fellow peers from the convenience of their own homes. Critique forums allow writers to receive feedback and exposure for their work, and the entire program is designed to be both informative and entertaining. 

Guys. There are tons of authors, writers, and agents involved with WriteOnCon. It’s a fantastic opportunity to meet like-minded people, get your work critiqued, and learn from some of the best. Oh, and WriteOnCon is FREE! Click on the image below for more information…

2. I have the world’s best CPs. Not only have they provided me with amazing feedback on my WiP this summer (thank you, TarynTemreChrista, and Alison!), but their writing… Holy hell these girls are amazingly talented! Over the last few weeks, I’ve had the privilege of reading work by Alison (upper-YA contemporary with a wicked twist of magic and a male narrator who has all kinds of issues and still manages to rock) and Temre (middle grade contemporary with the most charming magical thread and an absolutely adorable protagonist who I can’t wait to share with my daughter in the future). While the stories of these two writers couldn’t be more different (seriously–they’re worlds apart), they’re both utterly engaging, unputdownable, with voices that are unique and enviable. And, if reading Alison’s and Temre’s incredible manuscripts isn’t enough, I get to read Christa‘s next week. Lucky me!

3. YA Book Club, brain child of brilliant Tracey Neithercott, has an official August selectionThis is Not a Test by Courtney Summers. I’ve read this book, therefor I can say with supreme certainty that it’s amazing. We’ll be discussing This is Not a Test via our blogs and blog comments on Monday, August 27th, so you’ve plenty of time to hunt it down (like you’d hunt down a zombie), read it, ponder it, and write about it. I can’t wait to blog hop and check out everyone’s thoughts on this astonishing book. For more info, click on the image below…

4. I have agent-suggested revision notes! You might recall that, with great trepidation, I sent my WiP off to Agent Vickie a few weeks ago. Then I waited nervously and ate a lot of chocolate and tried not to bug her while she read the manuscript I’ve been working on for more than two years. Well, Agent Vickie has now read it and she’s on board with it (yay!), and she recently sent me an email full of shrewd feedback and invaluable suggestions for improving the story. Mostly, this revision will consist of digging deeper, strengthening character motivations, and fleshing out backgrounds. This is the phase of writing I enjoy most (drafting = yikes!), and I’m currently letting all that feedback simmer in the depths of my mind so I can start brainstorming and dive headfirst into the work next week. Can’t wait!

5. Kindergarten. My girlie started school on Wednesday. First of all, how am I old enough to have a school-aged child? And second, how am I going to fill my days now? I’ve been a stay-at-home mama since the day my daughter was born. Now I’m just a stay-at-home… person? I mean really. One can only do so much grocery shopping and cleaning. Luckily, I have plenty of CP reading and regular reading and revising (see above) to keep me busy. And thankfully, my girlie is doing fantastically at school. So, I guess I should just be grateful for all the extra writing time and stop watching the clock, counting the minutes till pick-up. Right? RIGHT?!

Pretty girl all ready to go!

A little nervous and a little sad once reality set in. Luckily, she pulled it together and let me leave with minimal fuss. (Thanks to my dear friend Meghan for acting as paparazzi and snapping this photo through the classroom window… I love it! ♥)

A successful first day! (Again, my sweet friend Meghan… She brought my girlie flowers at pick-up time!)

Tell me: What do you have going on this weekend? Reading? Writing? Fun in the sun? (We’re cooking out with neighbors and going to a professional soccer game… Fun!)

BE HERE NOW ~ An Auction

YA writer and lovely blogging friend, Kathy Bradey, is heading up an auction starting this coming Wednesday where you can win query and manuscript critiques. More details will be on her blog, so be sure to visit (and follow!) her for up-to-date info. Here’s a rundown of what the auction is all about:

What is “BE HERE NOW”?

“Be Here Now” is an inspiring documentary about the actor Andy Whitfield, who put the same determination and dedication that he brought to his lead role in the hit television show, “Spartacus: Blood and Sand,” into fighting life-threatening cancer.

It was Andy’s hope that by opening his story up to a documentary, he might help or inspire others facing similar challenges, while pushing to accelerate the pace of cancer research around the world.

“When Andy was told his lymphoma had returned and that without treatment he had 3 – 6 months to live, he was compelled to share his exploration into the unknown. He selflessly invited a film crew into our lives, who followed us through out the last year of Andy’s magnificent and courageous journey. We now need your support to finish the documentary and fulfill Andy’s legacy.”
~ Vashti Whitfield (

What are “BE HERE NOW” Critiques?

“Be Here Now” needs funding for additional filming and editing, or else the documentary will not be completed. The following writers have come together to offer various manuscript, chapter and query critiques in exchange for your pledge/donation to the “Be Here Now” Kickstarter campaign. Writers participating so far:

E.K. Henry
Debra Driza
Michelle Painchaud
Laura Tims
Kathy Bradey
Mindee Arnett
Melanie Santiago
Angie Spartz
Rachael Allen
Beth Light
Susanne Winnacker
Kaitlin Ward
Jenn Walkup
Kara Taylor
Dawn Rae Miller
Stephanie Kuehn
Rebecca Rogers

How does it work?

• Each critique item is an auction and will have its own post.

• You bid on the critiques by posting in the comment section on Kathy’s blog. (Don’t forget to include your email address in your comment!)

• You may bid as many times as you like.

• The length of the auction will be included in the auction post.

• When the auction is over, the highest bidder is the winner and will be notified by email.

Additional Details

• The minimum bid is $1.00.

• Winners must pledge their winning amount to within one week of winning their auction item. Please note: A pledge is not a payment. It is a promise of payment.

As per the rules of Kickstarter, you will NOT have to pay any money (even after you have pledged) unless the “Be Here Now” funding goal is met within the specified timeframe. Let me say that again. IF THE FUNDING GOAL IS NOT MET WITHIN THE TIMEFRAME, YOU WILL NOT BE CHARGED YOUR PLEDGED AMOUNT. Unfortunately this also means that you will only receive your auction item if the funding goal is met. However, with a funding goal of $200,000 and $37,000 already pledged in 2 days (with 43 days to go), you can make up your own mind whether or not to participate.

• If the funding goal is met, your credit card will be charged on Monday Jul 23, 4:04pm EDT. You must send me the confirmation e-mail sent by Amazon Payments as a record of donation to receive your critique.

• If you would like to pledge without partaking in the auction, do so here:

The first auction items will be posted on Kathy’s blog on Wednesday, June 13th, 2012. (Sydney, Australia time). You can post any further questions you may have in the comments of Kathy’s blog as well.
Any help in spreading the word (Twitter/Facebook/blogging) about this awesome cause would be greatly appreciated!

Surviving Revising…

Ah, another round of revisions is coming to a close. Good news: I just have this feeling that I’ve made some super successful changes… yay! Sort of bad news: The whole thing has been quite a challenge. As I’m sure most of you can attest to, the revision process is full of musing, second-guessing, doubt, and tons of hard work. I feel like I’ve been staring at my computer for ten days straight, and thinking about this story nonstop.

Oh, how to deal? Well, there are a few things I  do to survive the madness of revisions. I’ve compiled my best tips and tricks to share with you today…

Sleep on it. Feedback, I mean. If you’re anything like me, the first reading of a revision letter is met with a certain degree of mental resistance. We want to believe our work is perfect as-is, but deep down we know it’s not. That’s we why ask for feedback in the first place, right? I find if I take a night or two (or a week–whatever works) to absorb and ponder revision notes, they feel a lot less personal and a lot more helpful. My mind starts to mentally work out the problems that need addressing, and suddenly I’m excited to dig in.

Set a completion goal date. If I don’t give myself a deadline to work toward, I’ll procrastinate for hours (or days!) before I ever get down to being truly productive. When I’m really struggling with motivation, I take goal-setting a step further and break my workload into days, like: Revise 30 pages on Monday, or Address supporting character (Chelsea) on Tuesday.

Draft a scene-by-scene To-Do List. I’m intrinsically organized and an enthusiastic list-maker, so seeing all the work I need to do in bullet points makes the revision process a lot less daunting. If I can trick myself into thinking it’ll be easy, that it’s totally manageable, then I’m able to dive in with a whole lot more confidence. Also, I make a point to highlight each scene on my list as I compete it. It’s so encouraging to watch each item on my list transition to bright yellow, one by one!

Tackle the big stuff first, but keep a running list of “little things” to go back to later. This works for me because it keeps me on task. I find as I’m revising overall story elements (theme, pacing, character arc, whatever), little things consistently pop up that also need altering. But it’s a serious waste of minutes and momentum to stop, back up, and take care of a tiny detail. Still, I don’t want to forget about these important bits, so I keep a separate list  at the bottom of my scene-by-scene To-Do List. It’s something of a reward to run through and change each one as the revision comes to a close.

Sign off. Like, from everything BUT your manuscript. I know, I know… it’s so hard NOT to check Twitter and email and Facebook. It’s no fun to cancel social engagements because you have to work. It’s annoying to see all your favorite TV shows backed up on your DVR. It sucks to watch a fine layer of dust accumulate on your coffee table (okay, that might just be me). But I have to let go of all those outside distractions in order to get into my revision mindset. The only real “breaks” I give myself are quality time with my daughter (obviously), exercise, reading (but just a little!), and the occasional blog post.

Enjoy that final read-through. When I’m “done” and it’s time to begin my last overall read-through, I try to ditch Revising Writer Katy and settle into Casual Reader Katy. This way, I’m able to catch problems I might not have noticed otherwise. Little things, like a slight voice inconsistency or an overuse of a character’s name. Also, it’s an incredibly pleasant and gratifying experience to read through all my hard work as an eventual book-buyer might.

When all else fails, have a treat. This healthy little faux brownie got me through this latest revision. I ate one nightly, and I didn’t gain even a pound!

1. Spray a microwave safe bowl with Pam.
2. Combine 2 egg whites, half of one mashed banana, and 1/4 pumpkin puree.
3. Add 2 T almond meal, 1 T Stevia, 2 T unsweetened cocoa powder (I love Hershey’s Special Dark!), and 1/4 t baking powder.
4. Mix all ingredients thoroughly.
5. (Optional) Add a sprinkling of bittersweet or dark chocolate chips. (I love the Ghirardelli brand). Combine.
6. Microwave for 2 to 3 minutes, depending on your machine and altitude.

This recipe yields one enormous faux brownie that can be enjoyed on its own, or topped with peanut butter, almond butter, whipped cream, or ice cream (depending on what kind of day you’re having :)).

So, how do you endure the challenges of revising? Any tips to share?

RTW: *Mistakes are the portals of discovery…

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where the ladies at YA Highway post a weekly writing- or reading-related question for participants to respond to on their own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody’s unique take on the topic.

This Week’s Topic: What’s the biggest writing/querying/publishing mistake you’ve made so far?

I’ve yet to do anything colossally stupid or embarrassing (I’m sure my time will come), though I have made mistakes that have slowed my progress. I’ve neglected to research (which explains why my first YA manuscript [a tragically low-concept contemporary] clocked in at approximately 130,000 words). I’ve queried too soon (yes, that same first manuscript), and I’ve entertained the wildly unproductive belief that I am the exception. But my biggest mistake, the one I’ve since remedied and will never, ever make again, is trying to make it as a writer all by myself.

Good news: That first manuscript? The tragically low-concept contemporary? It somehow snagged me a critique partner (the amazingly talented Heather Howland), who tore it up in the kindest of ways . In the process, she taught me all about voice, word choice, and plot, and also hooked me up with some of her writing friends (including my other two amazingly talented critique partners Jus Accardo and AE Rought).

In the interest of inserting myself further into the YA writing community, I started blogging and tweeting and interacting with all kinds of fantastic people (both online and local). Can you guess what happened next? I’ll tell you: Writing became easier. And more fun. I felt less crazy. Less alone. I also learned a lot, and my writing improved in the process.

I’m not sure what I would do without the YA community, and I’m not sure how my sanity survived that first manuscript without my critique partners and writing friends. (My husband might say it didn’t survive. Hmm…).

For more, check in Friday. I’ll share some of my favorite online writing communities. Also, stop by YA Highway to see how other participants answered this question.

Do tell… what’s the biggest writing/querying/publishing mistake you’ve made so far?

*The wise words of James Joyce.

On Querying:

(I’m slowly making my return to blogging. My husband recently deployed and I have a bit more free time on my hands. Happy to be back!)

A few weeks ago I got an email from a fellow writer who’d read my Holy Crap: I Have an Agent! post. As well as offering congratulations, she asked for advice on querying. At first I was surprised and flattered, but not long after opening her email I started to get a feeling of… I don’t know. Unworthiness? I’m so not qualified to be doling out advice! When I told my husband this, he said, “Uh, why not? You’ve been querying off and on for the last year and now you’ve landed an agent. You’re totally qualified.”

Shouldn't everything in life be this cut and dry?

The more I thought about it, the more I realized he might be right. While I’m certainly not an expert on querying (is anyone?), I have had a fair amount of experience and I’ve gained some wisdom that’s probably worth sharing. 

Below are the top ten things I’ve learned regarding the query process. Of course, the following advice only applies once you have an edited, critiqued, revised, sparklingly clean, complete manuscript, as well as a compelling query letter…

1) You won’t know if you’re truly ready to query until you send out a few letters. Of course you shouldn’t  send out your first batch of query letters the same day you type The End at the bottom of your first draft.  It goes without saying that there should be much critiquing, editing and revising before you ever contact an agent about your manuscript. But, you can theoretically spend ages  seeking feedback and tinkering with your story. At some point, scary as it is, you have to be DONE. That isn’t to say you won’t want to revise again (and again) sometime down the line–especially after you start receiving replies on that first batch of query letters.

2) Put a blurb about your manuscript (and possibly a short excerpt) on your blog, and don’t forget your easy-to-find email address. Last fall I had an agent (one who is legit and respected, but isn’t open to unsolicited queries) happen upon my blog. She read the blurb and excerpt I’d posted about a previous WIP, and emailed me to request pages. Talk about surprising! While most agents probably don’t spend a lot of time trolling writer blogs, it does happen. Why not entice them any way possible?

3) Take advantage of helpful agent-focused blogs like Casey McCormick and Natalie Aguirre’s Literary Rambles, Krista V.’s Mother. Write. Repeat., and  Jay Eckert’s Sharpened Pen. These people have graciously put hours and hours of time into their agent lists, databases and interviews. They are amazing resources! I learned about new agents, agents’ tastes, current clients, sales, query pet peeves, and more from sites like these. Querying is incredibly time-consuming, and accurate information on agents and agencies is sometimes hard to find online. Don’t reinvent the wheel. It’s quicker (and easier) to cross-check information that’s already been compiled for you than it is to start from scratch.

4) Stay organized. Be on top of outgoing queries and incoming replies. Know which agents you’ve queried and when. Know the name of their agency. Know their usual response times, or if they’re of the no reply is a no school. And keep querying! I tried to have about eight queries out at all times. When I received a pass, I sent out a new query letter. Rejection is easier to take when you know you’ve got other options out there. On the flip side, when I received a request for pages I sent them immediately, PLUS a new query letter to a different agent.

5) Follow the blogs of agents who interest you well before it’s time to query them. More often than not, they post wish lists, favorite published books, and/or general hints about their tastes. This is a fantastic information to reference when personalizing query letters, and also a great way to gauge whether an agent might be interested in your concept.

6) Follow agents who interest you on Twitter. I reluctantly joined Twitter about a year ago (I did NOT need more social media to suck up my time!). Now, I’m so glad I did. Not only is Twitter is an excellent way to connect with other writers, but it’s taught me so much about querying and literary agents. Many agents tweet tons of helpful publishing information, plus hints on what they’re seeking in their slush. I also made a habit of following the clients of my top-choice agents. A lot can be revealed about client/agent relationships (or lack thereof) through social media interactions.

7) Participate in blogfests, contests and online conferences like WriteOn-Con, especially if they relate to query letters, pitches, voice, or opening lines/pages. Not only are blogfests, contest and many online conferences free, they are a great way to get feedback and connect with writers in the same stage of the journey as you. Plus, they keep your mind occupied while you obsessively refresh your email. Added bonus: Contest finalists often receive prizes like critiques and/or requests.

8 ) Keep an open mind about feedback from CPs/betas, blogfests/contests, and agent replies. Not all critiques are good critiques, but there’s room for improvement in any work. I tried to keep a flexible attitude about my pitch, query letter, and manuscript. When I received a critique, I truly considered it (sometimes for days) before deciding whether to make the suggested revisions. At the end of the day, this is your work. You don’t want to have eventual regrets about making changes you aren’t truly comfortable with.   

9) Make friends at all stages of the game. I’m the last of my CPs to snag an agent. At times, this sucked. They were all moving forward, finalizing agent-requested revisions, going out on submission, and making sales(!) while I was stuck in the query trenches. However, when I ended up with two offers of representation and needed to make a choice, I was so thankful to have friends with experience who could offer sound advice. That said, while having writing friends who’ve progressed farther than you on the path to publication is fantastic, it’s also great to know people who are flailing in the same stage as you. Commiseration is a powerful thing, and sometimes it’s nice to know you aren’t alone.   

10) Know there are no guarantees, but that everything happens for a reason. Personal story time: A few months ago I had a phone call with an agent. We had a nice little chat during which she told me she torn and wasn’t ready to offer representation, but offered some revision notes and asked me to resubmit. I was ecstatic. All I had to do was revise to her notes (which were good) and I’d have an agent. I poured my heart into that revision and was so pleased with how it turned out. I sent my manuscript back to her and spent the next week vibrating with excitement: I was positive I was going to get an offer! Imagine my disappointment when I received her reply and another comment about being “torn,” accompanied by an additional list of new issues she had with the story. She wanted me to revise and resubmit AGAIN. At that point, I had to make a decision. Would I revise indefinitely for an agent who didn’t seem to truly love my story, or would I consider her feedback and continue my search for an agent who “got” what I was writing? I decided to move on, and that turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve made. Sure, I was discouraged at first, but I eventually realized that had I not completed the original revision for that first agent, my story wouldn’t be what it is today. I might not have received the offers of representation I eventually did.

There are no guarantees, but every query, every request for pages, every revision, every NO…

What about you? Do you have any fantastic querying advice to pass on?

Query Letter Blogfest

I love blogfests, and this one is awesome! Hosted by Alicia, Erinn, Holly, and Pam, & Quita, the Query Letter Blogfest is meant to help writers perfect one of the most vital marketing tools in their arsenal: the query letter (or, The Most Important First Impression You’ll Ever Make). So, check out the query letter I’ve posted below and, if you’re so inclined, leave a comment letting me know what works and what doesn’t.

DISCLAIMER: I’ve only just started to draft this story. While the summary  is the basic gist of what will happen, I’m still ironing out the details. Also, I am inherently wordy. I suspect this query letter has fallen victim to my wordiness. Please do point out fluff if you choose to critique. Also, please do not hesitate to be brutally honest. I’ll probably cry and eat a gallon of ice cream while reading comments, but I’ll handle it and come to greatly appreciate any thoughtful feedback. 🙂 

***Updated to add: I’ve edited the summary of my query letter based on some excellent feedback I’ve received today. The version below is new and hopefully improved…

And on that note:


I’m writing to query your interest in my contemporary young adult novel, Insert Fabulous Title Here, told in alternating points of view and complete at 60,000-ish words. PERSONAL BIT… I hope Insert Fabulous Title Here will intrigue you.

Brilliant loner Lia Bonelli and over-achieving doctor’s son Jace Bryant have been competing to be Valedictorian since freshmen year, but petty rivalries vanish one autumn afternoon when two masked men storm their school bus, hijacking it without explanation. Jace has no idea that the kidnappers are Lia’s cousins, the sons of her recently deceased crime boss uncle. Uncle Ray was the victim of a botched surgery, and Lia’s cousins hold Dr. Henry Bryant, Jace’s father, responsible.

Lia is a secret accomplice to her cousins’ plan—of course she is; duty is everything to her relatives. Plus, her cousins have promised her a cut of the ransom money, exactly what she needs to escape her corrupt family once and for all. But as the abduction drags into days, Lia and Jace grow unexpectedly close. Her audacity gives him courage he’s never had, and his unwavering honesty is more authentic than anything she’s known. Then word comes that the Bryants can’t produce the payment Lia’s cousins demand. When it becomes clear that they’ll do anything to secure the ransom money—even kill—Lia is forced to choose between family allegiance and the very real affection she’s beginning to feel for Jace.

I am a member of The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, YALitChat and Savvy Authors. I have a BA from Washington State University and a background in teaching. Per AGENCY NAME’S submission guidelines, I have ATTACHED/PASTED WHATEVER of Insert Fabulous Title Here to this email. Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

Katy Upperman

Can’t wait to see what you think, and thank you in advance for any feedback you offer! Also, you can click HERE to check out the list of participants. Please do take a moment to drop by to offer critique on a few of their query letters.


Today I’m posting my entry for Brenda Drake’s Show Me the Voice blogfest/contest. For more information (rules, prizes, etc…), check out my previous post, or visit Brenda’s site.

Here are the first 250 words from Where Poppies Bloom. I would greatly appreciate it if you would take a moment to critique it honestly in the comments after you read. 🙂 

TITLE: Where Poppies Bloom
GENRE: Contemporary Ghost Story, YA

            I never used to be the type of girl who hotboxes her bathroom.       

            Sitting perched on the countertop next to my sink, I slip a joint between my lips and lose myself in a haze of pungent smoke that distorts the flower patterns dancing across my shower curtain. My bare feet bounce against the cabinet below, drumming out a staccato beat. I zone in, a microscope focused crisp and clear, absorbing the irregular thudding until it permeates through flesh and muscle and organs, vibrating right into my bones.

            Joint to lips. Deep, deep inhale. Hold the smoke until my chest sizzles. Exhale.

             Smoking is a solitary thing for me. Something I started doing six months ago, the first time grief clenched my chest, squeezing air from my lungs the same way one might wring out a wet rag. Trapping blood in the chambers of my heart until I’m certain they’ll explode. Stinging my eyes with hot, salty tears, telltale tracks racing down my cheeks. It’s during these times, when the hurt becomes too much to bear, that I steal a moment to lock myself away in my bathroom. Only then can I truly breathe.

            The irony doesn’t escape me­­—polluting my lungs with illegal herbal smoke shouldn’t comfort me the way, say, a warm hug used to. But the smoke—the simple, methodical act of smoking—kneads otherwise suffocating thoughts from my brain and calms me like nothing else.    

            I’m drifting today—more so than usual. A wisp of cotton caught in an unpredictable summer breeze.

Show Me the Voice!

Brenda Drake is hosting a blogfest/contest, and Natalie Fisher of The Bradford Literary Agency has agreed to judge the finalists. How cool is that?! Here’s how it works:

On March 20 and 21 (tomorrow!), post the first 250 words of your finished manuscript (any genre) on your blog to get critiques from your followers and then hop around to the other participants’ sites and give critiques. Polish those 250 words and email them to with CONTEST in the subject line by (12:00AM EST) on March 22. If your 250 words ends in the middle of a sentence, please go to the end of the sentence. All entries submitted before the cut off time will be considered. The first round will be judged by a chosen panel of your peers (agented and unagented). We’ll pick the best 20 entries and post them on my blog by March 24. The 20 entries we pick will be judged by Natalie. The winners will be announced on or before Monday, March 28.

Bet you’re wondering what prizes Natalie is offering, right? Well, here they are:
1st place – a critique of the first 20 pages
2nd place – a critique of the first 10 pages
3rd place – a query critique

For more information (or to sign up!) please visit: Brenda Drake Writes…  

Critique Update & A Tuesday Christmas Tune

In case you’ve been waiting with bated breath for an update on my last post (the whole fear of critique thing), here it is:

Mentor’s critique of my manuscript was AMAZING! 

Seriously! Flattering enough to remain motivating, but full of valuable feedback that’s forcing me to take a critical look at a few flawed aspects of the story. She pointed out plenty of things she loved, and, conversely, some problem areas that I myself was unsure of. She contributed some really awesome ideas for how to address the issues. Plus, she pointed out little symbloism/motif things that I sprinkled throughout, wondering if they were right and enough. What a relief to know that they are AND that they’re doing their job. Oh, and she loved the ending–yay! 

So, today I’m going to begin my revision and I can honestly say I’m excited about it.     

I have the time to begin revising today because… I’m done Christmas shopping AND wrapping gifts! I don’t think I can properly express how happy I am about this. At the risk of sound Grinch-like, this is not my favorite time of year. I always feel so rushed and stressed and like I’m not spending equal or enough time with family and friends. Not only do we have Christmas Eve and Christmas Day festivities, but my parents’ anniversary and my husband’s birthday also fall during the next few days. Needless to say, it’s a busy time. So, the somewhat mundane tasks of gift buying and wrapping are items I check from my To-Do list with a flourish. Now, I feel like I can relax a bit and actually enjoy myself.

In that spirit, I leave you with a Tuesday Tune. And, it’s not a country song! It’s my favorite Christmas song, Oh Holy Night. While I think Mariah Carey does it best, Eric Cartman’s version always makes me laugh. 🙂