Monday, May 26, 2014

Something To Look Forward To

Hi YA Fusion friends,

First a pause to acknowledge that today is Memorial Day.   Thank a veteran--but not just today.

As many of you know, I am a Co-ARA for SCBWI Midsouth (along with fantastic YA author Courtney Stevens--whose debut was discussed here by Bethany Griffin ).  My ARA duties largely revolve around setting up and maintaining the new Midsouth website, though I am also on the committee for the 2014 Midsouth Fall Conference.  Those duties overlap in the form of the conference registration.  After a looooooooooong and frustrating month of trying to early-adopt the new SCBWI registration system, I am pleased to report that the Midsouth conference brochure is live now, and registration opens on June 1st (albeit using an older system).  Massive credit for the conference and brochure go to others, I am just a conduit here.  Well... I'm gonna take credit for some of conference work, but really, it's almost all being done by the other folks you'll find listed in the brochure.


The faculty, as you will see, includes some fine YA authors, including our own Fusionista, Katie McGarry.  The keynote speaker is none other than Gennifer Choldenko.   And, Midsouth RA and YA author, Kristin Tubb, will teach an intro to publishing class.

But wait, there's more.  I've attended the conference for years, and I can promise you that many fine YA authors will be in the building, either helping to put on the conference or attending.  

Not looking to attend a conference?  Don't forget the book store where faculty sell and sign their books--a great chance for a little one-on-one with a great author.

Here's a  link to the website, where you will find a link to the brochure.  Happy browsing.  Hope to see you in the fall.

2014 Midsouth Fall Conference

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Character Interview for TAKE ME ON

Acclaimed author Katie McGarry returns with the knockout new story of two high school seniors who are about to learn what winning really means. 

Champion kickboxer Haley swore she'd never set foot in the ring again after one tragic night. But then the guy she can't stop thinking about accepts a mixed martial arts fight in her honor. Suddenly, Haley has to train West Young. All attitude, West is everything Haley promised herself she'd stay away from. Yet he won't last five seconds in the ring without her help. 

West is keeping a big secret from Haley. About who he really is. But helping her--fighting for her--is a shot at redemption. Especially since it's his fault his family is falling apart. He can't change the past, but maybe he can change Haley's future.

Haley and West have agreed to keep their relationship strictly in the ring. But as an unexpected bond forms between them and attraction mocks their best intentions, they'll face their darkest fears and discover love is worth fighting for.

**Bonus Content** The novella, Crossing the Line, will be included in the back of Take Me On (both print and e-book editions).

I am so excited to have the main characters of TAKE ME ON here for an interview today!

  1. When did you start training to be an MMA fighter? I started training after I accepted a fight in Haley’s honor. When I first met Haley, she got into a scrape, I tried to help out, and she ended up helping me. I pay my debts and Haley is definitely a girl worth fighting for.
  1. What do you like about it? MMA is like the ultimate chess game. It’s not always the stronger fighter that wins, but often the smartest. You have to know when to go on the offensive and when to choose defense. It’s an amazing sport.
     3. What was your first impression of Haley? Haley is a walking talking inferno and I have no problem being burned by her flames. That was my first impression of her and it’s still what I think of her. Good thing I don’t mind playing with fire.

  1. When did you start training to be an MMA fighter? I leave the MMA fighting to West, my brother, and cousin. I’m actually a kick boxer. My father was a kick boxer and he trained at my grandfather’s gym. It’s where he and Mom met. The kick boxer fell for the trainer’s daughter. It’s all love storyish!                                                                                                                  Anyway, I grew up in the gym with my dad and grandfather. Some of my earliest memories are of me and my brother and cousin swinging each other on the punching bags. Fighting has always been a part of my life.
  2. What do you like about it? Kick boxing is empowering—no question about it. I can’t explain the zone I go into when I’m training. This feeling that I can do anything, that I can push myself beyond what I might believe I can do and succeed. It’s an amazing feeling.
     3. What was your first impression of West? My first impression of West is that he was cocky…and hot. He’s still cocky and he’s undeniably hot, but he’s my type of stubborn and hot.

 West, in one word or phrase…
  1. How would you describe your family? Complicated
  1. How would you describe Haley? Strong
  1. Junk food or health nut? Junk food
  1. Baggy jeans or skinny jeans? Baggy
  1. Combat boots or tennis shoes? Tennis shoes
  1. Boxers or briefs? Boxers 

Haley, in one word or phrase…
  1. How would you describe your family? A mess
  1. How would you describe West? Loyal
  1. Junk food or health nut? A mix between the two
  1. Jeans or skirt? Jeans
  1. Flats or Chucks? Chucks
  1. Bikini or one-piece? One piece 
Katie was a teenager during the age of grunge and boy bands and remembers those years as the best and worst of her life. She is a lover of music, happy endings, reality television, and is a secret University of Kentucky basketball fan.

Katie is the author of full length YA novels, PUSHING THE LIMITS, DARE YOU TO, CRASH INTO YOU, TAKE ME ON, and BREAKING THE RULES and the e-novellas, CROSSING THE LINE and RED AT NIGHT.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Journeys You Make

"Out of all the things that happen, on all the journeys that you make, in only a few will you ever see a meaning. You take them, if you can or you must, and let the rest go. The ones you keep, they're yours."--Dianne Highbridge
Those turning point moments?  Beyond the normal measuring points, a baby being born, a parent dying. Always profound, but expected. But that one moment, when it could have gone one way, but you made a different choice, so it went another.
My husband and I grew up, five years apart, going to the same summer place. He used to see me, walking with my father, and say to himself, much to his own surprise,  "I might marry that girl."
He asked me to play tennis once, and I said no. He was gorgeous, and I'm terrible at tennis, and I was trying to forestall his inevitable disappointment.
"Are you crazy?" the friend I was walking with hissed at me, as I walked away.
I wasn't crazy. What I was was scared. But every time I've ever gotten anywhere, it's been by ignoring that.
I went to my tenth high school reunion, and that was where I saw it. The people who were happy were the ones who dared. Who just left their fears in the dust, crashed on through the barricades.
I made up my mind then and there to do everything differently than my first instinct told me.
When he asked again, I said yes. When a publishing company offered me a job without pay, though we needed the money, I said yes again.
I wrote a book, my first, and my husband told me to mention that to an agent. I was scared, sure she wouldn't care, and quite sure that wouldn't go anywhere. He dared me.
I did it anyway.
I wrote another book, and then another and now I know that comfort zones pretty much only exist to push past them.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Swoon Reads, part 2, submission tips

Yesterday, I shared Katie Van Ark's success story through Swoon Reads

If you're considering submitting your manuscript to Swoon Reads, Katie shares her tips below.

●    The Swoon Reads team is looking for young adult and new adult romance. Research them to see if they're the right fit, just like you would with any publisher, and check out their FAQ.

●    There's a lot of manuscripts on the site. Make sure yours is as ready as possible and that you've carefully edited your pitch and short description – these are your best way of attracting readers already on the site. Also, take time to think about cover design and check out the covers of popular works on the site. Not fair, maybe, but we all know the one about judging a book by its cover...

●    If you post your manuscript and delete it or replace it, you lose your ratings. So as soon as you post, I recommend clicking through your work on the e-reader to make sure it's properly uploaded. That way you can repost it if needed before you've gotten any ratings. Mine had a few formatting issues that I wished I'd changed while I still could.

●    Enlist a couple writer friends who are familiar with your work to write comments, both to ease the “what did I just do” factor and help attract more readers to your manuscript.

●    Remember that unlike the slush pile, you can remove your work and repost. Gotten a few comments that you really should change such and such as well as less than five heart ratings? Revise and resubmit – this is ALWAYS an open invitation at Swoon, you don't need an editorial letter first.

●    Give a little thought to your publicity plans. Been dragging your feet on an author web site? Not sure about the best use of Twitter/Facebook/Tumblr/Pinterest? Now's a good time for those thoughts.

●    Remember that the highest ranked manuscript isn't necessarily the winner. Swoon is looking for writers, not homecoming queens.

 Katie Van Ark's YA novel, The Boy Next Door (formerly titled Pairing Up), will be a February 2015 release from Macmillan's Swoon Reads imprint. Visit her online at and follow her on Twitter @kvanark.

For more writing tips, the Swoon Reads blog has a Tips Tuesday feature:

And tonight at 9 pm EST, Katie and other Swoon Reads first listers will be doing a #SwoonReads twitter chat.

If you've submitted your story to Swoon Reads, let us know in the comments so we can check it out!

Best of luck!
Kristin Lenz

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Swoon Reads Success Story

I met Katie Van Ark a few years ago during a peer critique session at an SCBWI-MI conference.  We kept in touch and swapped manuscripts via email, providing feedback and encouragement.  When Katie told me she had posted her YA manuscript to Swoon Reads, I was so impressed with her courage, and I crossed my fingers for her success.  And success she found!  Read on as Katie shares her Swoon Reads publication journey.  Maybe it'll be the right path for you, too.

(This article was first written for the SCBWI-MI spring newsletter and is partially reprinted here with Katie's permission.)

Here's Katie:

So you think you can write? Are you ready to appear on The Voice? The writing voice, that is? If you write YA or NA romance, you might be ready for Swoon Reads.

Headed by Jean Feiwel, who admits she took the idea from her own Voice obsessions, Swoon Reads is a new crowd-sourced path to publishing that you may have read about in previous issues of the Bulletin. The premise is simple: put manuscripts online and let readers rate and comment on them to bring them to the publisher's attention. What is emerging, though, is so much more. Swoon Reads is becoming an online writing community that provides not only feedback through comments but writing advice and book clubs through its blog.

In addition to leaving heart ratings of one to five stars, readers on the site can also rate manuscripts as having heat, laughs, tears, or thrills. So here's a little bit about my experience on Swoon and how it fulfilled each of those categories.

Heat: I had a lot of doubts in the beginning. My initial relationship with Swoon was more of the “he loves me, he loves me not” variety. At first, it felt like any other submission. I'd done my homework. I knew what they were looking for and I had a polished manuscript. Easy, right? But then I could see my MS laying in the slush pile and not getting any attention – ouch! Several of my SCBWI critique friends who'd helped me with the manuscript left comments and ratings. Some other Swoon members liked my description and took a look. I got more daring and asked a couple book-loving relatives to read it as well as a couple skating friends. They liked it enough to pass on the recommendation to their friends, and my novel took off. Note to self: Breathe and remember it takes time for people to actually read.

Laughs: The road to publication can be frustrating and lonely, but traveling with the Swoon Reads community has been wonderful. I've enjoyed meeting other writers. Commenting on each other's manuscripts led to back and forth e-mail discussions and tweets, shared laughs over common writing issues, and the discovery of new blogs and new friends. As a bonus, the Swoon experience forced me to confront my avoidance issues with social media. I've since overcome my #fear of @Twitter and I ended up developing a basic author web page with a blog about my experiences in the writing for children and young adults program at Vermont College of Fine Arts. In March, my blog was even selected to be featured on SCBWI's home page blog roll.

Tears: Robert McKee in Story suggests considering how a character's dream could turn into his or her worst nightmare. My greatest fear about using Swoon Reads by far was unscrupulous behavior of others online. This fear was realized. Another user on the site created false accounts to boost her own ratings – and trash mine. When my ratings suddenly began to drop while hers skyrocketed, I reported the suspicious behavior. Swoon investigated and found the fraud was legitimate and she was banned from the site. Swoon also promised to remove the fraudulent ratings. The Swoon team is committed to making this a positive experience for authors and malicious behavior is not tolerated.

Thrills: My manuscript was chosen as one of three first round winners, so I was privileged to receive one of the biggest thrills of all – a phone call from Jean Feiwel, who is my editor for The Boy Next Door. Hello, happily ever after! In the end, a swoon-worthy experience? Definitely.

Katie Van Ark's YA novel, The Boy Next Door (formerly titled Pairing Up), will be a February 2015 release from Macmillan's Swoon Reads imprint. She is eternally grateful to all the SCBWI-MI members who helped make her story swoon-worthy! Visit her online at and follow her on Twitter @kvanark.

Think you're ready to Swoon?  Stop by tomorrow to read Katie's tips for submitting your manuscript:

Also up tomorrow: Katie and other Swoon Reads first listers will be doing a #SwoonReads twitter chat at 9 pm EST, Monday, May 5th.

In the meantime, check it out for yourself at

Here's to taking risks!
Kristin Lenz