Welcome to Literary Rambles! While you’re rambling around and exploring the site enter for a chance to win:

ACID through April 26th here

AGENT TINA WEXLER QUERY CRITIQUE & CAMISAR giveaway through May 3rd here

SALVAGE through May 3rd

KINDLE & ELECTED giveaway through May 31st


Today I’m excited to have debut author Rori Shay here to share about persistence on the writing path. And she’s giving away a copy of ELECTED, her YA sci-fi story that released yesterday. Details of the giveaway will be at the end of the post.

So here’s Rori!

Perseverance from Potter

Any author who plans to get published will have to deal with rejection, at least once—by an agent, an editor, or maybe in book reviews. How does one persevere through rejection, especially if we’re supposed to be sensitive, artistic people? One author said she tries to be like a roasted marshmallow (soft and squishy on the inside with a crackly hard exterior).

Throughout my writing career, I’ve been fascinated by the myriad of successful authors who’ve received rejections. Part of me can’t help smiling as I picture the agents or editors who turned those authors down early in their careers. I bet they feel duly regretful now! But part of me knows it’s all just part of the process. Agents and editors can’t say yes to everything.

So over the years, I’ve collected a few choice perseverance stories that I like to keep in my back pocket for a rainy day.

Let me start with my own story. I started out querying, not knowing exactly how to do it and not even having a polished first draft. I got a lot of requests for the full manuscript, but it wasn’t until I’d queried 100 agents that I actually got an offer. A hundred! Whew! The agent who eventually offered me a contract and signed me with a publisher was number 82. Now my book, ELECTED, a young adult sci-fi thriller, is releasing with Silence in the Library Publishing.

There are others like me—much more famous—who have similar rejection stories. I thought I’d list just a few here to help inspire all of us and remind us to keep persevering, no matter what!

Beatrix Potter: She was…gasp…self-published! She was rejected by so many publishers, she decided to self-print 250 copies of Peter Rabbit just for her friends. It was sold in a few bookstores, and through word of mouth, it gained popularity. Only then was it picked up by a traditional publisher. In Beatrix Potter’s own words, here’s what she said about receiving rejections.

Tuesday, March 13th, 1900: “Another rejection today for my “Tale of Peter Rabbit and Mr. McGregor’s Garden”. The publishers Frederick Warne and Co. seemed interested and I went today by appointment to meet Mr. Harold Warne. But he wants a bigger book, which I cannot do, and we had arguments. (It is odious to a shy person to be snubbed especially when the shy person happens to be right). If no one will accept the book as it is, I will get it printed myself.

Carl Sandburg, the poet, was so forlorn by all the rejections he received, that he vowed not to write
again. However, unbeknownst to him, his wife kept on submitting his poems…and finally they were accepted in one tiny magazine. And then the man went on to win MULTIPLE Pulitzers Prize for his writing! (Makes you think that maybe your significant other should be sending in your query submissions for you, doesn’t it?)

Jodi Picoult, best-selling author of over 18 books, didn’t get any attention for her first book. I met her at a talk she gave in Washington D.C. and asked her if she had any advice for new authors. That’s when she told me this story and said, “keep writing.” After her first novel didn’t get picked up, she put it down and wrote a second one. That book became a bestseller, and after she was duly famous, publishers wanted her first book too.

Thus, the moral of the story is… persevere! If you are passionate about writing and getting your novel
out to the public, keep going no matter what. Even if you have enough rejection letters to wallpaper a room, remember that it only takes one YES to make your dreams become reality.

Thanks for sharing your advice, Rori.

Rori Shay is an author living in the Washington, DC area with her husband, daughters, black lab, and cat - just not quite in the same exciting circumstances as ELECTEDs main character, Aloy. She enjoys running, gardening, reading, doing yoga, and volunteering with the Dwelling Place non-profit.  Rori is a member of the Society of Childrens Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI).

Social Media: 

And here's links to purchase her book:

Kickstarter:  for printed copies, a free ebook, and a lot of special limited-edition items and other free books.  

Here’s a blurb of ELECTED from Goodreads:

It’s the year 2185, and in two weeks, Aloy will turn eighteen and take her father’s place as president of the country. But to do so, she must masquerade as a boy to avoid violating the Eco-Accords, four treaties designed to bring the world back from the brink of environmental extinction. Aloy hopes to govern like her father, but she is inheriting a different country. The long concealed Technology Faction is stepping out of the shadows, and as turmoil grows within her country, cryptic threats also arrive from beyond their borders.

As she struggles to lead, Aloy maintains her cover by marrying a woman, meanwhile battling feelings for the boy who knows her secret – the boy who is somehow connected to her country’s recent upheaval. When assassination attempts add to the turmoil, Aloy doesn’t know whom to trust. She understood leadership required sacrifice. She just didn’t realize the sacrifice might be her life.

Don't forget to enter the giveaway! 

~Items seen in ELECTED such as a marriage binding (temporary tattoo)
~Hemlock soap
~Necklace as seen in ELECTED
~Signed paperback copy of ELECTED
~Optional FaceTime or Skype session with the author for 1/2 an hour (can be used one-on-one or at the winner's book club, etc.)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Here’s what’s coming up:

On Monday, I’m interviewing Dianne Salerni and giving away a copy of THE EIGHTH DAY, her new middle grade fantasy. This is a fantastic, well-plotted story that I couldn’t put down.

Next Wednesday I’ll have a guest post by Holly Webb and a giveaway of ROSE AND THE LOST PRINCESS, her MG fantasy.

Next Saturday I’ll be participating in the Amazing Book Giveaway Hop. I’ll have lots of great choices for you.

The following Monday, I have an interview with friend, follower and now debut author Jessie Humphries and a giveaway of KILLING RUBY ROSE, her fantastic YA mystery/thriller.

And don’t forget Casey’s Agent Spotlights.

Hope to see you on Monday!


Happy Monday Everyone! I hope you had a great weekend and that many of you got Friday off. Anna Li and I had a three day weekend and it was nice.

Thanks to all of you who were part of my being blitzed on Wednesday. Last week was one of those hard weeks and all the sweet comments lifted my heart up. And don't forget to enter the contest for a query critique by Tina Wexlter if it would help you. I'm picking the winner by random.org.

I have one winner to announce. The winner of DEAR KILLER is Medeia Sharif!

Congrats! E-mail me your address so I can send you your book. Please e-mail me by the end of Wednesday or I'll have to pick another winner.

Today I’m thrilled to have debut author Alexandra Duncan here to share about SALVAGE, her YA sci-fi story that released on April 1, 2014. I first heard about this through a recommendation I read by Rae Carson, another favorite author of mine, and knew I had to read this. It’s a fantastic story with a contemporary feel to it in terms of Ava’s emotional growth through the story. The world building is amazing with completely different worlds and societies on the space ship where we meet Ava and then on Earth. And I loved how the story explored the different roles women have in different societies. I couldn’t put this down. Loved it!

Here’s a description from Goodreads:

Ava, a teenage girl living aboard the male-dominated deep space merchant ship Parastrata, faces betrayal, banishment, and death. Taking her fate into her own hands, she flees to the Gyre, a floating continent of garbage and scrap in the Pacific Ocean, in this thrilling, surprising, and thought-provoking debut novel that will appeal to fans of Across the Universe, by Beth Revis, and The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood.

Hi, Alexandra! Thanks so much for joining us.

1. Tell us about yourself and how you became a writer.

I’ve wanted to be a writer since before I could spell. When I was a kid, I would draw pictures in a notebook and then beg any handy adults to write down the stories I made up. After college, I started out writing short stories. About two years after I sold my first story, I took a deep breath and jumped into the novel pool. Today I work as a librarian and write whenever I’m not wrangling books. Salvage is my first novel.

2. I know other authors who started writing short stories. Where did you get the inspiration for SALVAGE?

As strange as it sounds, a lot of the inspiration came from my own life. I grew up in a small church in rural North Carolina where there were very strict expectations about behavior for girls and women. That close-knit society where everyone knew everything about everyone inspired the merchant crews in Salvage. A lot of my version of future Earth came from traveling in Haiti and Nicaragua as a teenager and seeing people making a living from what others had thrown away.

3. So interesting how you drew from your own life and travel experiences. I loved your world building and the different roles women have in different societies that you explore through your story. Share about your world building process and your decisions on creating the different societies in your story.

World building is a two-way street. Sometimes you drop something into the plot or description just because you think it’s neat, and then it becomes a bigger part of the narrative. For example, at one point I thought, “Oh it would be cool if these characters wore metal jewelry.” But then I reasoned that it wouldn’t make sense for them to wear metal jewelry all the time. It would get in the way of their work. So maybe they only wear metal jewelry on special occasions, like weddings. And they wouldn’t choose something incredibly difficult to come by for such a common celebration, so they must have metal lying around. Maybe that metal is part of the cargo they’re shipping to other planets. It would be heavy to wear, though, and that made me start thinking about the difference in gravity on Earth versus other planets or ships, which turned out to be a major plot point.

It can also run the other way, too, though. For example, I knew that I wanted Mumbai to be a major setting in the book, but I had established that the Earth’s sea levels had risen enough to cover whole island nations. How could Mumbai still be around when it’s a coastal city? A massive seawall with a system of pumps would work. But it would have to have been developed when the water first started rising, which might indicate that India was both technologically advanced and ecologically conscious enough to realize what was happening and act in time to save its coastal cities. If you extended those attributes out many years into the future, you might reach a highly technologically advanced society where combustion engines are illegal and people have adopted trains, bicycles, horses, and pack elephants as means of travel.

4. What you shared shows some of the reasoning that has to go into world building so it makes sense. One of the many things you did well was show how Ava would realistically view all the new technology she was exposed to once she got to Earth. How did you get that so right? And she has a distinctive way of speaking from her life on the ship that’s really different from people on Earth. What made you decide to have her speak differently and what the process of creating the different dialect?

Some of Ava’s reactions to new technology on Earth came from my own feelings on visiting large cities
or traveling outside the U.S. for the first time. It’s utterly overwhelming to come from a place where, at most, you see two or three hundred people gathered together, and then go to a major city like Port au Prince or New York. In college, I studied abroad in Spain and passed through the Munich airport on my way to Madrid. At the time, self-flushing toilets were a new thing that hadn’t reached the U.S. yet (or at least not the medium-sized city where I lived) and I remember seeing one and thinking, “This place is like The Future!”

As far as Ava’s speech, I’ve always been really interested in linguistics and things like pidgin languages and creoles. Part of that likely came from being exposed to Spanish, Latin, and Haitian Creole as a teenager. I visited Gibraltar on that same study abroad trip I mentioned before, which is a British territory in the south of Spain. The people there have a language that’s truly a combination of English and Spanish, nothing like the jokes we make about “Spanglish” in the U.S. It’s so entirely its own thing that even though I speak both of those languages separately, I couldn’t understand some of the people there. It was a mind-blowing example of how language is alive.

Several years after that trip, I read a short story called “The Fishie,” by Philip Raines and Harvey Welles in The Best of Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet. (Which is the greatest literary magazine on Earth, as far as I’m concerned.) It’s stunning. The authors basically made up a pidgin and wrote the story entirely in their invented language. Once you read for a few pages and begin to recognize the patterns and context clues, you can grasp what’s happening, but you have to work at it. I thought that was an amazing way of conveying the foreignness of a culture. I wanted to try my own, more accessible version of that technique in Salvage.

5. I read that you only wrote short stories before writing SALVAGE. What were some of the challenges you faced in making the leap to writing a novel? 

Writing a novel requires a whole different type of mental architecture than writing a short story. With a short story, I can hold the whole plot in my head and trust myself not to forget any part of it, because it usually only takes a month or two to draft. With a novel, I find myself going back over what I’ve written multiple times to make sure I’ve connected all the loose strands. I take more notes and write rough plot outlines, because the drafting process takes closer to a year to a year and a half. I actually wrote a 30,000-plus word novella called “Rampion” before beginning work on Salvage to prove to myself that I could handle something longer than a short story. I was intimidated at first, but it turned out to be something I could do.

6. Yes, I have to go back and reread parts of my story all the time too. Your agent is Kate Schafer Testerman. How did she become your agent and what was your road to publication like?

I feel so lucky that Kate is my agent. After I wrote Salvage, I wasn’t shopping it around very extensively, in part because a different agent had read my short stories and expressed interest in my novel before it was finished, and also in part because I was nervous. I had a friend who was one of Kate’s clients, though, and she happened to mention what I was working on to Kate. Kate was interested, so we started talking, and it all clicked. I still worry that she doesn’t know how truly excited I was when she called to tell me Salvage had sold to Greenwillow. I had the flu, and even though I had to lean against the wall to keep from falling down out of pure excitement and disbelief when she told me, I think I sounded strangely calm and quiet. Too much NyQuil will do that to you.

7. Awesome how that worked out for you. Reflecting back on the year leading up to your book release, what advice do you have for aspiring authors as they plan for their debut year?

Don’t be afraid to ask for advice, either from your agent and editor, or from any writer friends you have. No one’s debut year is exactly the same, so don’t feel bad about admitting that you don’t know where to go to order bookmarks or who is going to be contacting your local bookstore about a signing.

8. Great advice to go to others for advice. I know you’re a librarian too. How do you recommend debut authors connect with librarians with the hope of getting the library to purchase their book? And do you have any MG and/or YA librarian blogs you’d recommend we follow?

Every library system is a little bit different, but in general, two good things to know are 1) libraries don’t have much money, and 2) librarians usually have a selection policy they have to follow when buying books for their collection. Often that policy says they can only buy books that have received positive critical reviews from an industry source like PW, Booklist, VOYA, or School Library Journal. However, the policy will sometimes allow a loophole for local authors who don’t have those reviews. If a librarian doesn’t commit to buying your book immediately, don’t freak out. She likely has to check review sources and make sure she has the money to buy it.

A good way to connect with your local librarian is to e-mail the person in charge of YA purchasing, introduce yourself, and arrange a time to meet her. That will help you avoid the awkwardness of showing up unannounced and finding that she’s on her way to a meeting or swamped with other duties. When you show up, bring some bookmarks. We librarians love bookmarks, because we can give them away to our patrons. Make sure to mention the name of your publisher and where the librarian can find critical reviews. Keep it simple and friendly.

My blog-reading habits are all over the place. Because I’m a librarian, I get a lot of my YA book news from places like Booklist, VOYA, and School Library Journal, but I’m also addicted to Goodreads, Beth Revis’s wonderful blog, and EpicReads. My favorite librarian blog has nothing to do with YA. It’s Awful Library Books, which is all about the terrible books librarians find when they’re weeding, i.e. clearing outdated books from their collections. It sometimes skews a little adult, but it’s mostly things like Latawnya the Naughty Horse Learns to Say “No” to Drugs and Be Bold with Bananas. Maybe stay away if you have an aversion to late-‘70s Burt Reynolds’s chest hair, though.

9. Thanks for the tips on librarians. They are so important to connect to. What are you working on now?
Right now I’m working on a companion novel to Salvage which follows a teenage Miyole on her adventures in deep space.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Alexandra. You can find Alexandra at her website, Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.

Alexandra has generously offered a copy of SALVAGE for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through May 3rd. I’ll announce the winner on May 5th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, please leave it in the comments.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. You must be 13 or older to enter. This is for US & Canada only.

Here’s what’s coming up:

On Wednesday Rory Shay will be sharing a guest post on persistence on the path to publication and giving away a copy of ELECTED, her new YA sci-fi story.

Next Monday, I’m interviewing Dianne Salerni and giving away a copy of THE EIGHTH DAY, her new middle grade fantasy. This is a fantastic, well-plotted story that I couldn’t put down.

Next Wednesday I’ll have a guest post by Holly Webb and a giveaway of ROSE AND THE LOST PRINCESS, her MG fantasy.

Next Saturday I’ll be participating in the Amazing Book Giveaway Hop. I’ll have lots of great choices for you.

And don’t forget Casey’s Agent Spotlights.

Hope to see you on Wednesday!


Hi Everyone! Today I’m thrilled to have agent Tina Wexler and debut author Skila Brown here to share on revising for agents. I’ve been excited to share this post with you since Skila contacted me about it. She had such a creative idea to include Tina’s thoughts in the guest post and it’s fantastic that Tina has also offered a query critique as part of the giveaway. This is creative marketing at its best.

Skila’s MG novel in verse CAMISAR releases on March 25, 2014. It sounds like a fantastic story set during Guatemala’s civil war. Details about the book and the contest will be at the end of the post.

So here’s Skila and Tina!

Querying agents can be stressful. Let’s just admit that. And one thing that can be particularly difficult is receiving feedback from an agent—revision suggestions—with an offer to resubmit instead of an offer of representation.

If you’re in this boat, I’m offering up four five tips today on what to do next. And I’ve asked the spectacular Tina Wexler, Literary Agent at ICM, to chime in with thoughts of her own.

TW: Tina here. Thanks for asking me to join in the conversation, Skila. Hope you don’t mind my adding a fifth tip to your list. Hey, we’re talking revision, aren’t we? It only seemed appropriate. 

Four Five Tips on Revising with Feedback from an Agent

1. Drop your defenses. Think the agent doesn’t get what you were trying to do? Maybe that’s because it wasn’t clear enough. Think the feedback was overly-critical? Maybe that’s because you’re thinking this is about you and not about your story. Either way, you’re on the right track if an agent connected with so much of your story that s/he wants to help make it stronger. Celebrate that.

TW: This is a great first step. I know it can be disappointing to receive an offer to revise instead of an offer of representation, but if a writer can shake off that disappointment and welcome the creative feedback, oftentimes an offer of representation will follow. My relationship with several clients started this way, and I’m grateful they were able to drop their defenses and let me share my thoughts on their work.

2. Listen. Before you begin revising, listen to what the agent is suggesting. If you’re lucky enough to have more than one person weighing in, search for commonalities in their feedback. At first glance, it might seem contradictory. One agent says, “I think the romance needs to be stronger,” while another says, “I think you should lose the romance.” The commonality? Both think that your book is teetering on romance without deciding if it is or it isn’t. Which means you need to make a decision – cut it or enhance it. Maybe the agent’s comments are prescriptive in a way that you don’t really like, but listen hard to what problem s/he is identifying and see if you’ve got another idea on how to fix it.

TW: I often try to suggest solutions when pointing out problems in a manuscript, mainly because they
help illustrate what my concerns are. But I’m not a novelist, and it’s not my story. As such, I really appreciate it when an author is able to come up with their own way of fixing a problem. It’s almost always a better solution than the one I’ve proposed.

3. Don’t lose (the) heart. Think long and hard about what is sacred for you in this story. This can sometimes be the spark that initially drew you to the piece. Maybe it’s the relationship between two characters or the setting or the fact that you’re telling it in a specific way – like verse or multiple points of view. These sacred seeds might not be something you’re willing to alter. And that’s okay. If this story, in your heart, is really about a girl on the brink of suicide and an agent tells you, “I think you should lose the suicide bit,” this might not be the right agent for this novel. But be careful labeling something as sacred. Most things shouldn’t be.

4. Give it a try. You might not be on board with the agent’s suggestions right away, and that’s okay. But what’s the harm in trying? If you spent time researching an agent, if you felt s/he might be a good match for you and your work, then you must already respect this person, right? So keep that in mind as you read over the feedback and have some faith in the professionals. Give these suggestions a try and just see where it leads. You might be surprised that things work out better than you hoped.

TW: Yes! I love this advice, especially for writers who are asked to change the story’s point of view. (It’s more common than you may think.) A rather daunting task, with or without an offer of representation in hand. So, you take baby steps. Rewrite the first page. Is it working? Yes? Rewrite the first chapter. Still like it? Keep going. As you say, there’s no harm in trying.

5. Remember--it’s your manuscript. No one should revise to a specific agent’s taste in the hope of landing representation. An invitation to resubmit doesn’t mean “If you make these changes, I’ll sign you.” If you’re going to invest the time in revising your manuscript, make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons: first and foremost, to get a stronger manuscript out of it. And if that stronger manuscript also gets you an agent, bonus. 

Thanks, Tina! I like that last tip. Natalie, we thank you for letting us stop by Literary Rambles today. It was loads of fun!

Thank you, readers! To celebrate the launch of Caminar, Candlewick is giving away one free copy of this newly released novel in verse. And Tina is generously offering her time to critique one lucky winner’s query letter.

Thanks so much for your advice, Skila and Tina! Details of the giveaway are below.

Here’s a blur of CAMISAR from the book jacket:

Set in 1981 Guatemala, a lyrical debut novel tells the powerful tale of a boy who must decide what it means to be a man during a time of war.

Carlos knows that when the soldiers arrive with warnings about the Communist rebels, it is time to be a man and defend the village, keep everyone safe. But Mama tells him not yet—he’s still her quiet moonfaced boy. The soldiers laugh at the villagers, and before they move on, a neighbor is found dangling from a tree, a sign on his neck: Communist.

Mama tells Carlos to run and hide, then try to find her. . . . Numb and alone, he must join a band of guerillas as they trek to the top of the mountain where Carlos’s abuela lives. Will he be in time, and brave enough, to warn them about the soldiers? What will he do then? A novel in verse inspired by actual events during Guatemala’s civil war, Caminar is the moving story of a boy who loses nearly everything before discovering who he really is.

Links for ordering:

And you can find Skila at her website.

Skila’s publisher Candlewick is generously offering a copy of CAMISAR for a giveaway and Tina Wexler is offering a query critique giveaway to one winner. So there will be two winners—one for the book and one for the query critique. The book giveaway is US only but the critique giveaway is International.

To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through May 3rd. I’ll announce the winner on May 5th. Please tell me in the comments which giveaway(s) you’re entering. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, please leave it in the comments.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. You must be 13 or older to enter.

Here’s what’s coming up:

Next Monday I’m interviewing debut author Alexandra Duncan and giving away a copy of SALVAGE, a YA sci-fi story with fantastic world building and a contemporary feel.

Next Wednesday Rory Shay will be sharing a guest post on persistence on the path to publication and giving away a copy of ELECTED, her new YA sci-fi story.

The following Monday, I’m interviewing Dianne Salerni and giving away a copy of THE EIGHTH DAY, her new middle grade fantasy. This is a fantastic, well-plotted story that I couldn’t put down.

Wednesday that week I’ll have a guest post by Holly Webb and a giveaway of ROSE AND THE LOST PRINCESS, her MG fantasy.

Saturday that week I’ll be participating in the Amazing Book Giveaway Hop. I’ll have lots of great choices for you.

And don’t forget Casey’s Agent Spotlights.

Hope to see you on Monday!