Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

  • Bethany Weaver Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 6/26/2024
  • Rebecca Williamson Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 7/8/2024
  • Sheila Fernley Agent Spotlight Interview, Critique Giveaway, and One-Hour Zoom Call on 7/29/2024
  • Erica McGrath Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 8/12/2024

Agent Spotlight & Agent Spotlight Updates

  • Agent Spotlights & Interviews have been updated through the letter "K" as of 3/28/2024 and many have been reviewed by the agents. Look for more information as I find the time to update more agent spotlights.


 Happy Friday Everyone! Hope you are having a great summer!

 Today I’m thrilled to be part of the Beach Reads in August Book Giveaway Hop sponsored by Stuck in Books. I always love this giveaway hop. I’ve got lots of newly released YA books that I've read or want to read. Several I just reserved at the library. And if you’re reading a different book in the series listed or want a different book by one of the authors listed, I’m glad to get you that book instead as long as it doesn't cost more than the book I've chosen.

Don’t see a book you like? You can win a $10.00 Amazon Gift Card instead. I hope you'll all enter to win a book or gift card for yourself or as a gift for someone.

So here are your choices. Click on the title to read a blurb from Goodreads.



If you haven't found a book you want, you can win a $10 Amazon Gift Card.

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 August 15th telling me the book you want to win or if you want to win the Gift Card instead. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must 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. International entries are welcome as long as The Book Depository ships to you for free.

Here's all the other blogs participating in this Giveaway Hop:


Happy Monday Everyone! Hope you're having a great summer.

I have a few winners to announce.

The winner of the I Just Couldn't Put It Down Giveaway Hop is Soudha Parsan who picked the Amazon Giftcard!

The winner of THE LEVELLER is Eileen!

The winner of WITCH HUNTER is Book Attict!

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

Today I'm excited to have debut author David Fulk here to share about his MG adventure Raising Rufus that I bet will appeal to lots of kids.

Here's a blurb from Goodreads:

Readers of The Enormous Egg will dive right into this adventurous story about what happens when an average eleven-year-old boy becomes the parent of a giant T-rex!

In the unremarkable town of Menominee Springs, Wisconsin, lives a twelve-year-old explorer named Martin, who one day stumbles across something remarkable.

It’s an egg. But not just any egg—a dinosaur egg. And a week later, Martin becomes the proud parent of . . . a Tyrannosaurus rex!

As the summer unfolds, Martin finds it harder and harder to keep Rufus hidden from rest of the world.

And then it gets ugly.

Can Martin save Rufus from his parents, his neighbors, and most importantly, the owner of the town carnival? With the help of his best friend, Audrey, and his science teacher, Mr. Ekhart, Martin must uncover his inner hero and find Rufus a home, even if it means losing the one thing he’s come to really care about.

Now here's David!

The Many Mysteries of Middle-Grade Marketing

You sold your first middle-grade novel! Congratulations—you’re “in the club.” How can you resist imagining what comes next—publisher-paid book tour, signings with long lines of adoring fans, NYT bestseller list, awards up the yingyang, lucrative speaking gigs, best tables at chichi restaurants, hobnobbing with J.K. and Neil and Kate.

It’s fun to fantasize, of course, but in the back of your head you know the reality: That’s not going to be your trajectory. A gazillion books just like yours come out every year, and even though your publisher is doing all they can behind the scenes, more than ever it’s up to you, the author, to find ways to make your “baby” stand out. So, congratulations again: You’re a book marketer!

Volumes have been written on how to sell your children’s book. Bookstore events. Social media. SCBWI. School visits. Library events. Book trailer. Mass mailings. Giveaways. Blog tours. Book fairs and festivals. ALA, BEA, AWP, NCTE (OMG!). I can’t even begin to list all the possibilities here (though Alison DeCamp comes pretty darn close with her excellent earlier LR post).

All well, all good. But here’s the problem: There’s only one of you. Unless you’re married to a

professional publicist, don’t believe in sleep or having a personal life, or have the multitasking capabilities of a supercomputer—and don’t get me started on the perils of having the dreaded Day Job—odds are you’re going to have to pick and choose your marketing strategies. But which ones work best?

If only there were some master database somewhere that could tell you exactly which of your efforts led to exactly how many book sales, the answer might be a whole lot clearer. Even resources like WorldCat (library sales) and Bookscan (retail sales) don’t give you much in the way of cause-and-effect. For example, I did a mass postcard mailing to public libraries in Massachusetts, where I live, and Wisconsin, where my book is set, and there seemed to be slightly more library sales of my book in those regions than in some (but not all) others. So, was the time and expense I put into the mailing worth it? Hard to say.

I also did a big mailing to natural history museum and dinosaur park gift shops, in keeping with the dinosaur theme of Raising Rufus. Sounds like a pretty good idea on paper, but how would I know the result without visiting, or at least calling, all those shops? Sorry, not doing that. Besides the added time suck, it just seems so . . . well, unseemly.

I did an informal canvass of my fellow Fearless Fifteener middle-grade authors to find out what they were doing to market their books and what they felt was working. One said it was helpful to be well reviewed by book bloggers. One said to make sure your book is submitted to as many awards and list committees as possible, because even if you don’t win, you get read by some important people. One stressed the importance of networking with booksellers, teachers, and librarians. One said it’s good to try to get on panels at conferences. And another mentioned school visits, book festivals, SCBWI events, postcard mailings, and friends and family. Great ideas all, but in almost every case they qualified their responses with something along the lines of “Then again, it’s hard to know for sure how much of a sales boost I really got from that.”

Which seems to bring us back to Question Zero: Who’s got the time for all that? Just tell us what works!

A writer friend with several MG books under her belt told me that she has done next to nothing in the way of marketing, and her books do just fine—while some other writers she knows are tireless marketers, but have struggled to move their books. And another multi-book friend says that your best bet is to have a high-buzz book—which is generally decided by the publishing potentates before your book even comes out. But if that’s not you, well, you’re pretty much on your own, and good luck.

So does that mean the whole thing is really out of our hands? Wow, maybe. It’s an oddly comforting thought, in a way, since if that’s the case there’s no need to feel guilty or frustrated that we aren’t doing more to push our book. But it’s a scary one too, unless you’re impervious to existential angst (and what writer can make that claim?).

In trying to make sense of it all, I’ve found that all roads lead to the same conclusion. Though I’m far from the first to say it, and it’s a piece of conventional wisdom that borders on clichĂ©, the truth of it seems to me to be unavoidable: The best thing you can do to sell your book is to write another one. And after that, another one. And write the best books you possibly can, because you’re likely to find that your later books help sell your earlier ones, and vice-versa, in one big virtuous circle. Congratulations: You didn’t just write a book; you have a career. You are—yes, I’m going to use the dreaded word—a brand.

Not surprisingly, I couldn’t find anyone who disagrees with that one. So I believe I’ll just go with it. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go take my own advice.
You can find David at: 

Twitter: @davidfulkwrites

David generously offered a copy of RAISING RUFUS for a giveaway.  To enter, you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through August 8th. I'll announce the winner on August 10th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter either contest.
If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. This is for U.S. and Canada.

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday was started by Shannon Messenger. Find all the participating Middle Grade Monday bloggers on her blog.

Here's what's coming up:

On Friday I'm participating in the Beach Reads in August Giveaway Hop. I'll have lots of great books to choose from.

Then I'm off until September 2nd when I have a guest post by debut author Ronald Smith and a giveaway of his MG Southern Gothic HOODO. I just didn't see any great books to spotlight in August and it tends to be a quiet month. I will be stopping by your blogs though. I just won't be posting.

Hope to see you on Friday!  


Today I’m thrilled to have debut author Amanda Panitch here to share about her YA thriller DAMAGE DONE. It sounds like a real page turner that’s gotten great reviews from readers. Amanda is also an associate literary agent at Lippincott Massie McQuilkin.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

22 minutes separate Julia Vann’s before and after.

Before: Julia had a twin brother, a boyfriend, and a best friend.

After: She has a new identity, a new hometown, and memories of those twenty-two minutes that refuse to come into focus. At least, that’s what she tells the police.

Now that she’s Lucy Black, she's able to begin again. She's even getting used to the empty bedroom where her brother should be. And her fresh start has attracted the attention of one of the hottest guys in school, a boy who will do anything to protect her. But when someone much more dangerous also takes notice, Lucy's forced to confront the dark secrets she thought were safely left behind.

One thing is clear: The damage done can never be erased. It’s only just beginning. . . .

Hi Amanda! Thanks so much for joining us.

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

I can't remember a time when I wasn't a writer - I have piles of handwritten stories in notebooks from elementary and middle school, and a folder of Microsoft Word documents from high school and college. When I'm not writing or editing manuscripts, I work in book publishing, run in Riverside Park, and cultivate a respectable cookbook collection in my tiny kitchen.

2. That's awesome that you always wanted to write and did it consistently. Where did you get the idea for DAMAGE DONE?

I was reading an article about a suicide bomber, and the article mentioned, in passing, the bomber's siblings. That got me thinking: what would it be like to grow up with someone who had done such a terrible thing, and to balance your grief at their death with your guilt and horror over said terrible thing? My protagonist, Julia, grew from there.

3. I'm always amazed at how ideas like yours are in our every day world. I read that you’ve written about seven trunk novels before DAMAGE DONE. What did you learn from this process, and how did it help you in writing this book?

I learned a lot about plotting and revising, but the most important thing I learned from those trunk novels was when and how to set something aside when it just isn't working. Sometimes, for whatever reason and no matter how much you keep editing it, a book isn't going to be a commercially viable project. I'm by no means saying you should give up easily or not try a bunch of agents and/or publishers, but if you stay stuck on one book for years and years and forgo other projects, you might never get the chance to grow as a writer and write the book that WILL work.

4. I have one of those books.  DAMAGE DONE is a thriller and keeping the tension up in the plot seems critical. What are your tips for doing this and writing a thriller in general?

My general rule was that if I was bored writing a scene, the reader was probably going to be bored reading it. Any time I felt myself stalling a bit, I'd drop in a piece of new information or insert a twist.

5. That's a good rule of thumb. Share about the character development of Lucy (Julia) and her relationship to her twin brother. What challenges did you face in creating both of them?

It's tough to answer this question without spoilers! The hardest part, I think, was figuring out Julia's
complicated feelings toward Ryan: she loves him, because they're twins and they were often all each other had growing up, but she's also frightened of him and afraid of what he's capable of. Even once he kills their classmates, including her boyfriend and her best friend, she can't bring herself to hate him or completely disavow their relationship.

6. Even though you’re an associate literary agent, I read that you didn’t tell anyone you were a writer too and didn’t try to use your agent contacts to get your own agent. Share how Merrilee Heifetz became your agent and how you got your book deal?

I queried a couple of books (unsuccessfully) in college, and started working in publishing soon after. The thought of querying while working in publishing made me queasy - I didn't want anyone to feel obligated to read my book, and I didn't want anything (like, if they didn't like it) to taint my working relationships with colleagues. I ended up participating in an online pitch contest, where my name wasn't attached to my submission, and ended up receiving a few offers of representation through that. I also sent the book to Merrilee, who I'd interned for in 2011-2012, and the rest was history.

7. I didn't think about how querying someone you work with could be awkward, but you're right.  What are you planning to do to help promote your book? What advice do you have on this for other authors who are planning out their book release?

I'm taking it one day at a time. I'll be having a launch party at Books of Wonder in NYC on release date (all are welcome!) and I'm participating in blog interviews and guest posts. I have a more-than-full-time job right now so it's hard to carve out space to go on tour or do events far away, but I'm hoping to take some vacation days and do some more readings or panels. My advice is not to stress too much over the little things, and don't feel like you have to say yes to everything - better to give your best efforts to a few things than stretch yourself too thin.

8. I like the don't stress out advice! What are you working on now?

I'm working on edits for my second YA novel, NEVER MISSING, NEVER FOUND, which will be released in Summer 2016. It's a stand-alone psychological thriller inspired by my summers working for Six Flags: Great Adventure (though there's significantly more kidnapping and murder in the novel than there was in real life).

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Amanda. You can find Amanda at:

Author website: www.amandapanitch.com
Order links for signed/personalized copies:

Amanda has generously offered a copy of DAMAGE DONE for a giveaway.  To enter, you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through August 1st. I'll announce the winner on August 3rd. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter either contest.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. This is for U.S. only.

Here's what's coming up:

Next Monday I have a guest post by debut author David Fulk and a giveaway of his MG adventure RAISING RUFUS.

Next Friday I'm participating in the Beach Reads in August Giveaway Hop. I'll have lots of great books to choose from.

Then I'm off until September 2nd. I just didn't see any great books to spotlight in August and it tends to be a quiet month. I will be stopping by your blogs though. I just won't be posting.

Hope to see you on Monday!  


Today it’s my birthday and I’m thrilled to have debut author Virginia Boecker here to share about her debut YA historical fantasy THE WITCH HUNTER that was released last month. Reading about her book again for this interview has made me really want to read it this summer. And I’m excited that my library is getting it in. I’ve already reserved it!

FYI, I'm going to the Art Fair and having dinner with Anna Li and her boyfriend tonight. I have to work some, so I may get to your blogs a bit late this week.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

Your greatest enemy isn't what you fight, but what you fear.

Elizabeth Grey is one of the king's best witch hunters, devoted to rooting out witchcraft and doling out justice. But when she's accused of being a witch herself, Elizabeth is arrested and sentenced to burn at the stake.

Salvation comes from a man she thought was her enemy. Nicholas Perevil, the most powerful and dangerous wizard in the kingdom, offers her a deal: he will save her from execution if she can break the deadly curse that's been laid upon him.

But Nicholas and his followers know nothing of Elizabeth's witch hunting past--if they find out, the stake will be the least of her worries. And as she's thrust into the magical world of witches, ghosts, pirates, and one all-too-handsome healer, Elizabeth is forced to redefine her ideas of right and wrong, of friends and enemies, and of love and hate.

Virginia Boecker weaves a riveting tale of magic, betrayal, and sacrifice in this unforgettable fantasy debut.

Hi Virginia! Thanks so much for joining us.

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

Thanks for having me, and happy birthday to you!

I was an English lit major in college (University of Texas-Austin) and wanted to get into publishing upon graduation, which I did - working for a trade division of Harcourt developing textbooks. (Which sounds like a boring job…but it was actually so much fun!) Years later I took a bit of a diversion into technology - an Internet start up hired me to write marketing copy for them, then they taught me to code HTML, and before I knew it I was headlong into the madness and fun of the tech scene. Years later, I took a sabbatical to move to London with my husband, where I spent all my free time obsessing over English medieval history. When we moved back to the US, I never did get back into tech…I decided to use that newfound obsession to write a book, something I’ve always wanted to do but never had the time/energy/courage. (Insert standard excuse here.) Now I’m back in publishing, a nice bookend to my career path.

2. Thanks for the birthday wishes! And OMG, I'd love to live in Austin and London. I read you are a huge fan of medieval England. Share a bit about your research into this time period and the mix between the historical time and your own fantasy world building.

Like I mentioned above, I spent four years obsessing, literally, over medieval England. I’ve always been interested in history, and to live near so many places of historical significance made this particular obsession inevitable. To walk into a bookstore, pluck a book about, say, William Marshal or Lady Jane Grey or Katherine Howard or Mary I or Anne Boleyn (or or or, the list is endless) and be able to hop a tube and visit the place where this person was interred/beheaded/born/crowned is a heady experience, and it really helps to drive the history and the story home. Also, many of these historic palaces do a great job of providing hands-on experiences: Tudor cooking exhibitions, jousts, hedge maze runs, prison and torture chamber tours, costume shows, I even went to an exhibit where I got to lie on mattresses filled with different materials (feathers, wool, hay, rags, etc.) to demonstrate how different classes from different time periods would have slept. Things like that all help to ‘fill the well’, so to speak, and really help with world-building.

As for the fantasy element of it, I started out by elevating what people from that time period and place (16th century England) would have viewed as witchcraft into actual witchcraft. The use of certain herbs, plotting astrological charts, unexplained weather, scrying, even astronomy. (NB: I based the character of Nicholas Perevil - and much of the magic he uses - on John Dee, a mathematician, astrologer, occultist, and consultant to Queen Elizabeth I, who was arrested but later freed on charges of witchcraft.)

3.Wow! It sounds like a fantastic hands-on research project. I heard a podcast interview where
you talked about your first draft and how you really completely changed the story in draft 2 and later drafts. Share about what made you decide to take such bold steps and what advice do you have for other aspiring authors struggling with a first draft that’s not working?

I don’t like to plot my first drafts. For me, I feel that the magic of writing (and it is magical) comes from the unknown, and that my best ideas come from what I don’t know yet; things I stumble upon while trying to figure something else out. It’s not the most expedient way to write a book, I know: it causes a lot of work to be thrown out and redone (see: draft 1 and 2 of The Witch Hunter…) but for me it’s the only way and I don’t see it changing any time soon.

The advice I have to give here is: don’t be precious with your words. The phrase that’s often used is “kill your darlings”, and the spirit is the same. I’ve deleted some of my very favorite scenes and yes, it’s painful. But if you hold too tightly to something, you miss out on that opportunity to move on to something different, something better, something you never would have thought of before.

4. Yes, I've had to do that too. Learned it the hard way. I know you’ve been working on book 2 in the series. What have you learned about writing a second book in a series, and was there anything you wished you had done differently in writing THE WITCH HUNTER to prepare for book 2?

Second books in series are difficult. You lose a bit of the freedom you have with a first book, where you can do anything you want. Now you have boundaries and dependencies set by Book 1, and sometimes that can work against you when you’re trying to solve a problem you didn’t foresee those years ago when you wrote it. I am frequently cursing my three-years-ago self. That said, it’s nice to have an already existing framework, characters with existing problems and personalities and backstories, and it’s wonderful to be able to build upon that, and to watch them grow even further.

5. So in the podcast interview, you also mentioned that you wrote THE WITCH HUNTER without any intention of getting it published. Share how that changed and your road to getting your agent, Kathleen Ortiz, and your book deal.

When I first started writing, my goal was simple (albeit not easy): write a book. To me, that seemed monumental enough without the codicil of “and get that book published.” Writing a novel had been a life goal for a while, something I always wanted to achieve. But at the time, I didn’t know if I’d enjoy writing, if I’d want to make a career out of it, if I was any good at it, if the book itself would be good. After that first draft I found that I loved writing, but alas, the book I wrote was terrible. So I set a new goal: write good book. And that took time - three years of writing, deleting, writing again, deleting again, rewriting and revising over and over and over.

Impatience is an impediment in this industry, and I see people make it a lot. They want to be published so badly that they don’t take the time to do what is almost always necessary: throw a book out and start over. (Yes, from scratch.) People want the agent, they want the book deal, they want to reach the end of the road without first taking the time to walk it. Believe me, I’m no different - impatience is one of my worst qualities. I think - no, I know - if my immediate goal had been publication, I wouldn’t be published today. I wrote a book to please and entertain myself, and for any writer, I think that’s a good place to start.

6. I saw on your website that you had quite a few book signings and presentations scheduled throughout the country and more set for August and September. How did those get scheduled, especially the ones at bigger events? What have you learned from doing these events?

Yes! I love doing signings, presentations, panels, conferences, all of it. Unlike many writers, I’m definitely an extrovert, and I love meeting people and talking books, writing, history, magic, anything! Kristina Aven, my wonderful publicist at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers is responsible for all the places I go. I’m also assisted by my fantastic agent and agency, Kathleen Ortiz at New Leaf Literary, and she and the team there have been instrumental in a lot of these events as well.

I’ve learned to relax and have fun at these events. You’re in a unique position where people have come to see you, to hear about you and your book, and it’s such a wonderful, thrilling thing. I don’t tend to get nervous speaking in public (see that tech career again!), my only goal is that people are entertained by the stories I have to tell.

7. That's great how your publisher set this up.  It’s been about a month since your book released. What do you think worked well so far and is there anything you would have done differently?

I was working on revisions for Book 2 during the month leading up to launch (and several weeks after) and if I could do anything differently, I would have made sure that was done beforehand. Launching a book and promoting it while writing is not a mutually symbiotic relationship. But I’m still new in this particular job, still learning. I think making yourself available to do whatever, wherever, to meet people and talk to them about your book is great, and I wouldn’t change that, even if it does make life a bit more difficult.

8. That's a really good point not to have to work on the next book while one is starting to release. What are you working on now?

I’m working on a sequel to The Witch Hunter (the title is a closely guarded secret, to be revealed soon!) and the outline for a Book 3, which is also a closely guarded secret. I’ve also started tinkering with a second novella in The Witch Hunter world, told from Schuyler and Fifer’s POV. (The first novella in this world, The Healer, comes out August 11, and it’s told from John’s POV.)

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Virginia. You can find Virginia on her website

Virginia has generously offered a copy of THE WITCH HUNTER  for a giveaway. To enter, you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through July 25th. I'll announce the winner on July 27th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter either contest.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. This is for US.

Here's what's coming up:
Next Monday I have an interview with debut author Amanda Panitch and a giveaway of her YA thriller DAMAGE DONE.

The following Monday I have a guest post by debut author David Fulk and a giveaway of his MG adventure RAISING RUFUS.

Hope to see you on Monday! 


Happy Monday! Hope you've all had a fantastic July 4th holiday weekend and a good start to summer. Before I get to my fantastic guest post, I have a bit of news to pass on.

In celebration of Pride Month, Penguin Young Readers and Listening Library are teaming up to provide resources for LGBTQ teens, parents, teachers, and librarians. Resources include book recommendations and audiobooks highlighting LGBTQ issues and highlighting good role models. You can find more information at www.readproudlistenproud.com.

Today I'm excited to have debut YA author Julia Durango here to share about her science fiction story LEVELLER. It sounds like an exciting book set in part in a virtual world. Here's a blurb from Goodreads:

Nixy Bauer is a self-made Leveller. Her job? Dragging kids out of virtual reality and back to their parents in the real world. It’s normally easy cash, but Nixy’s latest mission is fraught with real danger, intrigue, and romance.

Nixy Bauer is used to her classmates being very, very unhappy to see her. After all, she’s a bounty hunter in a virtual reality gaming world. Kids in the MEEP, as they call it, play entirely with their minds, while their bodies languish in a sleeplike state on the couch. Irritated parents, looking to wrench their kids back to reality, hire Nixy to jump into the game and retrieve them.

But when the game’s billionaire developer loses track of his own son in the MEEP, Nixy is in for the biggest challenge of her bounty-hunting career. Wyn Salvador isn’t some lazy kid looking to escape his homework: Wyn does not want to be found. And he’s left behind a suicide note. Nixy takes the job but quickly discovers that Wyn’s not hiding—he’s being held inside the game against his will. But who is holding him captive, and why?

Nixy and Wyn attempt to fight their way out of a mind game unlike any they’ve encountered, and the battle brings them closer than either could have imagined. But when the whole world is virtual, how can Nixy possibly know if her feelings are real?

Gamers and action fans of all types will dive straight into the MEEP, thanks to Julia Durango’s cinematic storytelling. A touch of romance adds some heart to Nixy’s vivid, multidimensional journey through Wyn’s tricked-out virtual city, and constant twists keep readers flying through to the breathtaking end.

Now here's Julia!

            If you haven’t seen the new Pixar-Disney film Inside Out yet, go see it. Right now! I’ll wait.
            There. Wasn’t that a great movie?  So clever. So sweet. Bing Bong Forever! But my favorite part

by far was the visual representation of the brain and how the different parts of it – imagination, memory, subconscious, emotions, thoughts – work together (or fight each other) to determine how we engage with the world. It also reminded me of what my writer friends and I often refer to as “writer brain,” a separate place in our heads that functions both as repository and think tank for every book we write (and many more we won’t write).
            If I were to depict “writer brain” as a room or location a la Inside Out, I’d show you a messy attic with a big telescope in the window. File drawers, old trunks, wardrobes, map stands, and costumed mannequins cover the floor. Little scraps of paper, photographs, and post-it notes litter every surface. A secret passage behind the bookcase leads directly to the heart. Sometimes the room is awash in sunlight, other times a single searchlight scans the room, and every now and then a candle flickers in the window when “writer brain” pulls an all-nighter. So what does “writer brain” do anyway? And why the big mess?
            First of all, whether they mean to or not, most writers I know keep a constant warehouse of sensory data at their disposal. When I was writing The Leveller, for instance, I found myself paying much more attention to the teen girls around me—what they wore, how they spoke, how they expressed themselves physically—so that my main character, Nixy, would seem more “alive” on the page. I did the same for my setting descriptions. Because the first part of the book takes place in a neighborhood much like my own, I began to look harder at my surroundings, to catalog small details, like a weedy patch of lawn, the gray chill of November, the aroma of fresh-brewed coffee in the kitchen, the play of light across a room.
            Not only does the “writer brain” function as a storage facility for sensory details, but it also provides instant access to our emotions – the good, the bad, and the ugly. While most of us would rather forget negative emotions and push them to the darkest corners of our brain, most writers recognize the value of keeping them close to the surface, even when uncomfortable. In The Leveller, Nixy experiences a range of emotions: fear, anger, exhilaration, boy angst (!), betrayal, and more. Everything she felt came from my own memories, my own inventory of similar feelings: a breath held too long, a stomach turned upside down, a heart on the sleeve.
            Most of the time “writer brain” works on auto-pilot, constantly observing, analyzing, and archiving like a trustworthy assistant. Just recently I walked down to the railroad tracks with my son to watch 4th of July fireworks over the river of our small town. While we sat there, my senses were on high alert, soaking up the details for a potential scene in a future novel. I watched fireflies twinkle in the long grass while fireworks boomed overhead. I slapped at mosquitoes, smelled the charred wood of a nearby bonfire, and listened to dogs howl in the distance.  I noticed the comfortable silence my son and I shared sitting side by side on the tracks, both of us lost in our own thoughts. I filled my attic with new images, new feelings, new senses. And then (and listen up, because this part’s important), I softly closed the attic door, turned off the lights, and let “writer brain” go to sleep for the day.
            Because life is always better than fiction.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Julia! You can find Julia at:
Julia has generously offered a copy of THE LEVELLER for a giveaway.  To enter, you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through July 25th. I'll announce the winner on July 27th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter either contest.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. This is an International giveaway.

Here's what's coming up:
On Wednesday I have an interview with debut author Victoria Boecker and a giveaway of her YA historical fantasy THE WITCH HUNTER.

Next Monday I have an interview with debut author Amanda Panitch and a giveaway of her YA thriller DAMAGE DONE.

The following Monday I have a guest post by debut author David Fulk and a giveaway of his MG adventure RAISING RUFUS.

Hope to see you on Wednesday!