Sunday, September 29, 2013


As some of you may know, I recently sold my debut, RUNNING ON EMPTY, to Tulip Romance—Spencer Hill Press’s newest imprint. (For more info on that journey, Bethany Griffin interviewed me here on YA Fusion a couple months ago.) The sale was finalized June 12, 2013 and the release date is scheduled for November 25, 2013. Yes—only 5 ½ short months from the sale date! Talk about a crash course!J

So for those of you who are pre-sale or have recently sold, I thought I’d offer some insight on what happens next…

 First of all, I advise anyone who is hesitant about joining the twenty-first century with the whole social media thing, to ease into this world BEFORE the sale!! I’m pretty sure I was one of the last hold-outs on planet earth to join Facebook and I still find it quite overwhelming. With the help and guidance of one of my amazing critique partners and my techno-savvy nephew, I now have a website/blogsite—on Blogger (still learning terms). I’ve also had to learn to maneuver Goodreads and link my blog etc. Thankfully, my smart writer friends wore me down and convinced me to join the Twitter-verse a few months before I sold. Oh, did I forget to mention that I’m one of the regular contributors to YA Fusion as well…
Needless to say, there’s a lot to learn about social media. If only I’d listened sooner to those who forged the path ahead of me… Learn from my mistakes; the sooner you master social media, the sooner you’ll have time for what comes next…

Second word of advice: it takes awhile to receive that first editor letter so use your time wisely. After you take a few moments to let the happy settle in—all those hours, months, years that it’s taken to turn your dream into a reality deserves to be celebrated—then jump back into work!
Start that next project if you haven’t already. It will keep you distracted from worrying about what kind of revisions you might be facing or imagining scenarios of your editor calling you up and saying they’ve changed their mind about buying your book, or wondering with each passing day that you don’t hear any news if all of this sale-business was just another story you’ve conjured in your head…

Third: the editor’s letter; deep breaths. When you receive round one revisions, take a couple of days to thoroughly absorb the good and the bad before you dive in. This can be overwhelming at first; I had no clue about how I was going to fix some of the things that needed to be fixed, or added. I started with smaller things and things I knew exactly how to fix while my mind worked consciously and subconsciously on how to fix some of the bigger problems.
Revising for an editor was incredibly hard work and I put in MANY sixteen-hour days over the course of my month-long, first round revisions, but I finally pulled it off. After many restless nights, lots of hair pulling, nail-biting, and random dry-heaving, I am happy say to that after adding approximately seventy pages, tons of revisions, and even cutting a character, I was happier than ever with my book and finally managed to push the SEND button, (not to be confused with the EASY button.)J

More anxious waiting, then came ROUND TWO… three more pages of edit notes that my editor lovingly called “minor”.  I could probably think of a stronger word…J After another grueling week of sifting through nearly a 400 page manuscript and stretching my brain until I thought it would snap, I finally managed to push SEND again...

The manuscript is off to copy editors now, so I’ll let you know how it goes from here. But honestly, this process has been amazing and nothing feels better than being able to work with an editor who loves and believes in your manuscript as much as you do, and to have a whole team willing to stand behind you and help push your book to that next level! :)

Sunday, September 22, 2013


Who hasn't wanted to lose a few pounds? Joining us today is K. A. Barson, YA author of 45 POUNDS (MORE OR LESS) which debuted in July. Before we get to my interview with Kelly, here's a reminder that you can still ENTER THE GIVEAWAY explained in last week's post! And now, on to Kelly! Here's the book in a nutshell, courtesy of her website:


Here are the numbers of Ann Galardi's life:
She is 16.
And a size 17.
Her perfect mother is a size 6.
Her aunt Jackie is getting married in 10 weeks
and wants Ann to be the bridesmaid.
So Ann makes up her mind:Time to lose 45 pounds (more or less)in two and a half months.

Welcome to the world of infomercial diet plans, endless wedding dance lessons, embarrassing run-ins with the cutest guy Ann's ever seen--and some surprises about her not-so-perfect mother.

And don't forget the last part of the equation: It's all about feeling comfortable in your own skin--no matter how you add it up!

Here's my interview with Kelly herself:

Please tell us a little about your everyday life.

I write in a series of sprints and rests. When I’m writing that’s pretty much the only thing I do. When I’m resting, I don’t write at all. I teach part time at a local university, so I work in my writing and resting around the academic schedule. I also spend time with my kids and grandkids whenever I can.


What inspired you to write 45 pounds (more or less)?

I wanted to write a story about a girl who is overweight, but that her struggle is mainly internal—how she viewed herself or imagined others saw her more than how they actually saw her. I didn’t want her to be a social outcast. I also wanted the story to be about family and self-discovery and realizing that not everyone is as they seem.


Besides your main character, who is your favorite character in this book and why?

Gram! I love Gram. She is a mash-up of my grandma, my mom as a grandma, and myself as a grandma. Much of the over-the-top personality of Gram is based on my grandma. She was a quite a character.


Do you have a favorite scene in this book?

My favorite scene is a dressing room scene, but not the one that people talk about the most. For me, my favorite was the one where Ann’s mom crawled under the door to get to Ann and comfort her. Ann’s mom takes a lot of heat; people think she’s a bad mom. But she isn’t. She loves Ann and wants the best for her. She just has her own demons to battle.


Did you always know how this book would end, or did it change as you wrote it?

I didn’t know what would happen, but I knew how I wanted it to feel.


Is there anything you can tell us about how your cover was designed?

I don’t know very much about it. The only input I had was that I didn’t want a super-thin, beautiful girl depicted on the cover. I think Viking did an amazing job with it. I really like the colors and the font. I never thought I’d get so excited about a font.


Can you tell us a little about your path to publication?

45 POUNDS is not the first book I’d finished and tried to get published. I wrote and submitted and took a lot of classes and workshops—ICL, SCBWI, Highlights Foundation, VCFA—and wrote some more and submitted. In short, I kept trying, even when one manuscript didn’t seem like it was going anywhere. Eventually, I got a “yes.”


What’s next for you?

My next book is another contemporary YA. It’s about a high school cosmetology student, and it takes place in the same town as 45 POUNDS—a fictionalized version of my own town, Jackson, MI. Ann and Raynee, characters from 45 POUNDS, make a cameo appearance.


Do you have any marketing advice for other writers?

Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and meet people. Go to conferences and workshops. Make friends with other writers. They’re the best people in the world—they “get” what you’re going through, they love to talk about books, and they’re generous. There are so many marketing opportunities. Do what you can, but don’t feel like you have to do everything. Always make sure you leave yourself enough time to write.
Thanks, Kelly, for joining us!


Sunday, September 15, 2013

Songwriting and a CD giveaway

Our YA Fusion group blog is all about reading and writing, especially young adult fiction, but I'm trying something new today and exploring a parallel path - songwriting. Many of our blog followers are writers who listen to music while they work, and it's now common for authors to share playlists for their stories. I prefer to write in quiet, and I usually listen to music when I'm cooking or driving, but still, music lyrics often help me develop a theme I'm exploring in a story.

Read on for inspiring words from a songwriter friend of mine, enter to win a CD, and help me spread the word about an amazing local Detroit band, the Corktown Popes. I guarantee their music will feed your muse.

The Corktown Popes lead singer, Terry Burns, lives in my neighborhood and has one of those wonderful front porch swings where he reads or plays guitar.  He always has a cheerful greeting, and his laugh is infectious.  I first met Terry as an artist who made a living painting houses, and it was some time later that I learned of his music career.  He recently revived/recreated his band, and the Corktown Popes have burst onto the Detroit music scene.  I saw them in concert and was blown away by their energy. Every time I hear them on the radio, my mood brightens.  Watch the video below to see what I mean.

Here's my interview with Terry.  His responses were surprising, inspiring, and enlightening.

1.  What inspired you to rekindle your music career, and what helped you to persevere?

I finally felt I had something worth saying.  If you feel passionately about something, you can usually go through what you need to in order to end up on the other side of the obstacle(s) you are presented with.

2.  How does songwriting differ from other types of writing (poetry, fiction)?

If you hope to have a chance at radio airplay, you have the limitation of brevity placed upon you.  You have exactly 3 minutes (plus or minus) to say exactly what you want to say.  You have to allow space for sound (instrumentation) and you have to establish a chorus which presents itself repeatedly between verses. 

The chorus has to be interesting enough to withstand repeated listenings.  I like the verses to make statements which support the chorus, or ask questions that the chorus answers.  Sometimes even asking questions that the chorus seems to make ambiguous.

3.  I'd love to have you dissect one of your songs to show me exactly what you mean - we'll have to continue this thread when we have more time. What comes first - melody or lyrics?

I have no strict rules when it comes to the start of writing a song.  Whatever comes first - chord progressions, lyrical phrase, or melody.  I follow the one, as Daniel Lanois says, "...that raises its hand."  I build around whichever device says something worth listening to.

My job as a songwriter seems to me is to build a strong and attractive "skeleton."  One that the musicians I surround myself with can place their own bit of "flesh and muscle" on.

A composer would chart everything out.  I don't have that much formal knowledge yet.  Some bands will all gather at the same time and work on ideas as they come to them.  We may do some of that with the next recording.

4.  How do you feed your creativity?

Work.  Constantly.  Read about your art form.  Watch movies about your art form.  Practice your art form.  Be consumed by your art form.  Blow your art form up.  Start again.

5.  This is an intense side of you that I don't usually see!  But I know that if I were interviewing you in person rather than through writing, you would have ended that answer with your boisterous laugh.  What influences or inspires your songs?

My songs always begin with this --
They all begin as a feeling that I feel I MUST express.

Cheers, Terry!  Thanks for giving us a backstage glimpse into your music world.

To learn more about the Corktown Popes, go to their website and Facebook page.

Terry and the Corktown Popes have generously offered to give away 3 CDs, and one extra lucky winner will also get a t-shirt.  Yes, you could be just like this lucky tween:

Oh, and they have bumper stickers, too!  Here's how to enter: simply leave a comment below by Friday, September 27th, and include your email if it's not listed in your Blogger profile so I can notify you if you're one of the 3 winners.  Because I love this music, and I wish Terry and the Corktown Popes all the success they deserve, please share this contest via Facebook, Twitter, etc.  Let me know that you shared this post, and I'll give you an extra entry for the giveaway.

Terry is recovering from a torn pectoral muscle from his performance at the recent Arts Beats & Eats festival.  (Ouch.)  He's happy the chest pain was not a heart attack, but he'll be hurting for awhile.  Please wish him a speedy recovery!

Thanks for listening-
Kristin Lenz


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Making Mistakes and Writing.

I'm human and I make mistakes.

I know that this isn't ground shattering news, but for me, the perfectionist, it can be hard for me to swallow.

For instance, today I had a high school visit and left very early in the morning and I forgot to mention to my husband that my daughter had choir practice before school. While, once again, not earth shattering, but for my daughter, being late to practice was upsetting.

To top it off, when I got home from the the visit today, I realized I was supposed to post this blog on Sunday and had completely forgot.

I make mistakes. I've been sloshing through deadlines and sometimes I get caught up in whatever is in front of me at the time that I accidentally let something drop.

So what does this have to do with writing?

A lot actually.

Today, I told a group of high school students that they can't be afraid to make mistakes. That it is by pushing away our inner perfectionist that we discover our stories.

Before I wrote Pushing the Limits, I wrote 3 other manuscripts that were awful and completely flawed. In order for me to figure out how to order for me to figure out how to craft a story, I had to be okay with not writing it perfectly.

More often than not, I learn more about my stories and my characters by not attempting to be perfect in my first drafts. As I told the students today, my cut files are typically larger than my stories. Sometimes the most interesting things I learn about my plot and characters comes from scenes that never make it in my book, but will forever be tucked away in a cut file.

So long story short--here is what I learned today:

1. Go over the calendar the night before hand with my husband when I'm going out town
2. Double check my writer's calendar every morning before I go on with my day.
3. Whenever I feel the urge to try to be perfect in my writing, let the urge go. In order for me to be a great writer, it's best to be okay to write things that will never make it into the finished product.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Labor Day

Before I try to tie Young Adult fiction and Labor Day together in a meaningful post, I’d like to brag about my own labors.

For the past three years, I have been the Critique Group Coordinator for SCBWI Midsouth.  The job was occasionally frustrating, but wildly rewarding, if for no other reason than I sounded vaguely credible when I asked to join one of the groups I was supposed to track down and document.  That group took me in, and I now share manuscripts with some seriously talented people.  Volunteering as coordinator also got me nominated for this year’s SCBWI Tribute Scholarship, which I somehow won, entitling me to a trip to the August 2013 SCBWI conference in Los Angeles.  I take no credit for the award, and can only say “Thank you.”  Well, that and, “Check it out, I got my picture taken with a spitting dinosaur.”  (Yeah, I know, a dimetrodon wasn't a dinosaur, but the metaphor I'm about to make doesn't sound right with "non-mammalian synapsid." )

With my return from LA, I am stepping out of the role of crit group organizer and into a new role as Midsouth Co-ARA.  In that job, I will be responsible for the all-new Midsouth website.  I’ve got to learn something new, which is why that drooling dinosaur picture is so appropriate.  Of course, I’ll still be writing too, which brings me to today's thought about Labor Day.

With a nod to the amazing Bruce Coville, who has said many wise things about the place of children in this world, I note that for most of our history children were a source of cheap, disposable labor.  Teenagers had already worked for years on farms and in crowded factories, putting in long, dangerous days and nights.  Those kids didn’t have time for school, to learn to read, to sit down with a book.  Or to put it another way, my target audience didn’t exist.  Until recently, I wouldn’t have been able to do what I do.  One of the reasons for that change is the Labor movement.  So as I pause for the holiday, I will be saying, “Thanks,” not just to the folks who made my LA trip possible, but to the folks who made my audience possible.  And then I’ll get back to work.