CURRENT GIVEAWAYS

Here are my current Giveaway Contests

The Mutant Mushroom Giveaway through November 28th



Tori Sharp Query Critique through December 8th

Reeni's Turn through December 8th

Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews and Guest Posts w/ Debut Authors & Query Critique Giveaways

Maria Vincente Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 12/7/20

Amy Brewer and Dana Swift Guest Post and Query Critique Giveaway on 1/18/21

Tricia Skinner Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 1/20/21

Pam Gruber Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 2/17/2021

Allyson Hellegers and Sam Taylor Guest Post and Query Critique Giveaway on 2/22/2021

Caryn Wiseman and Merriam Sarcia Saunders Guest Post and Query Critique Giveaway on 3/15/2021

Jennifer Herrington Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 3/17/2021

Agent Spotlight Updates

All agent spotlights and interviews have been updated as of 7/15/2020, and many have been reviewed by the agents. Look for them to be fully updated again in 2023.

KIM SMEJKAL INTERVIEW AND INK IN THE BLOOD GIVEAWAY


Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author Kim Smejkal here to share about her YA fantasy INK IN THE BLOOD. It explores ink and tattoo magic, which sounds fascinating.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:


A lush, dark YA fantasy debut that weaves together tattoo magic, faith, and eccentric theater in a world where lies are currency and ink is a weapon, perfect for fans of Leigh Bardugo and Kendare Blake.

Celia Sand and her best friend, Anya Burtoni, are inklings for the esteemed religion of Profeta. Using magic, they tattoo followers with beautiful images that represent the Divine’s will and guide the actions of the recipients. It’s considered a noble calling, but ten years into their servitude Celia and Anya know the truth: Profeta is built on lies, the tattooed orders strip away freedom, and the revered temple is actually a brutal, torturous prison.

Their opportunity to escape arrives with the Rabble Mob, a traveling theater troupe. Using their inkling abilities for performance instead of propaganda, Celia and Anya are content for the first time . . . until they realize who followed them. The Divine they never believed in is very real, very angry, and determined to use Celia, Anya, and the Rabble Mob’s now-infamous stage to spread her deceitful influence even further.

To protect their new family from the wrath of a malicious deity and the zealots who work in her name, Celia and Anya must unmask the biggest lie of all—Profeta itself.
 

Hi Kim! Thanks so much for joining us!

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

I’ve been a writer since I was a kid! That’s a dull answer, but it’s true. I’ve always been a reader, a writer, a poet. I stepped away for a while in my twenties to focus on my education and my kids, but I inevitably came back to it. Being a book nerd is just part of who I am.

2. Where did you get the idea for INK IN THE BLOOD?

The initial seed of inspiration came from a conversation I had with my father. He left Czechoslovakia in 1968, and told me that the worst part of living under a communist regime wasn't the lack of freedom, but the constant flow of lies from those in charge. I wondered, how big could one lie get? What would happen if people wanted to believe that lie over the truth? If one lie could become so powerful, what would it take to expose it? As I played around with those ideas, the antagonist in Ink in the Blood was born. Then from there, I added everything I loved: theater, masks, tattoos, a fierce friendship, and of course, MAGIC.

3. What a great way to get a story idea. I love your magical system, which is based in part on ink and tattoo magic. What was your world building process like?

My world-building process included a lot of experimentation! It always made sense in my head, but I had a lot of back-and-forth conversations with critique partners, my agent, and my editor to make sure what was in my head translated to the page. I have a huge document with rules, examples, and information that I updated constantly, and now it serves as an INK encyclopedia. Much of my revision process was answering questions like Why? and How? and even though it was a process, I think it worked out really well in the end!

4. That sounds like a good way to tackle world building. You have a content warning on your website where you warn that your story contains violence, torture, blood, violence against children, and other difficult issues. How did you balance the need to tell a story that is violent and addresses other hard issues with the fact that you are writing in part to a young adult audience?

I’m always cognizant of my audience, and I make sure that I stay far away any gratuitous violence.
Every difficult scene serves a thematic purpose. That said, I don’t believe in censoring tough topics from children and young adults. I think young people are good about censoring themselves, and generally only read what they’re comfortable with. With Ink in the Blood, I made sure to introduce the world authentically right from the beginning. The fact that it's a dark book is obvious from chapter one, and this gives readers the opportunity to close it and put it aside if they feel it might be too much for them.

5. Celia, Anya, and the other characters have been described as complex, well-developed characters. Character development is difficult for many writers. What are your secrets for creating memorable ones in your story?

I’m thrilled people are reacting so strongly and warmly to Celia, Anya, the plague doctor, and the other characters. For me, every story begins with the characters. I imagine fully realized people and—very importantly—how they relate to one another. I was a social worker for many years and empathy might be my superpower? I think that in order to create complex characters, a writer needs to be able to put themselves in their characters shoes and show authentic needs, wants, and behaviors. That’s really my only secret!

6. It's a great secret. Thanks for sharing it. Dan Lazar is your agent. How did he become your agent and what was your road to publication like?

My road to publication is a long story, involving many manuscripts, many queries (and so many rejections!), many contests I didn't get anywhere in, an agent I parted ways with, and a two-year sanity hiatus where I stepped away from trying to be traditionally published altogether. It was rough. With INK though, I knew I had something special. When I began querying Ink, I submitted to Dan because I’d always submitted to Dan in the past. It had become a bit of a joke between my writer friends and I that I wasn’t truly querying until I got my lightning-fast rejection from Daniel Lazar. :D But then he took my by surprise and requested the full, loved it, and after his offer of representation came other offers. After about 8 years of writing/querying/repeat, no one was more surprised that I was about how quickly things came together in the end! He was able to sell INK super quick and I’m so grateful he’s by my side on this journey.

7. I love your road to publication story. How are you planning to promote your book? Are your plans different because you live in Canada and your book is being published in the United States?

It is really difficult to be in another country, and on an island at that! The expenses of travel means options for conferences, conventions, and signings are limited. Sending swag and arcs through the mail is that much more expensive, and that’s the main reason I didn't do a preorder campaign. I do have a wonderful Canadian distributor, Raincoast Books, and they've been great at finding me opportunities for promotion in Canada though, so that's a win!

8. How have you been building your social network platforms and connecting to other writers, authors, and readers? What advice do you have for those who don’t have a publishing contract yet?

Well, like I said above, I was deep in the querying trenches with other projects for years, and I was lucky enough to meet some brilliant writers, cheerleaders, and critique partners along the way. Many of the same people I connected with years ago are still some of my best friends. Twitter, Instagram, and mentoring opportunities like Author Mentor Match and Pitch Wars are excellent ways to find people at the same stage as you. My own experience taught me that the biggest key to any kind of success is perseverance, and it helps to have people cheering for you and supporting you on what can often be a long road.

9. What are you working on now?

I’m currently putting the finishing touches on the sequel to Ink in the Blood! CURSE OF THE DIVINE is set to release in early 2021, and I’m excited for people to read the continuation of the inklings’ story. After that, I have an older fantasy project I’m excited to revisit, as well as a new story idea I can't wait to draft. Too many projects, not enough time, which is relatable for many writers, I’m sure!
  
Thanks for sharing all your advice, Kim. You can find Kim at

 Kim has generously offered an ARC of INK IN THE BLOOD 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 February 8th. 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 or follow me on Twitter, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. This giveaway is U.S. and Canada.

Here's what's coming up:

Wednesday, February 5th I have an interview with debut author Adalyn Grace with a giveaway of her YA fantasy All the Stars and Teeth and a query critique by her agent Hillary Jacobson and my IWSG Post

Monday, February 10th I have an interview with author Katya de Becerra and a giveaway of her YA fantasy Oasis

Monday, February 24th I have an agent spotlight interview with agent Megan Manzano and a query critique giveaway 

Hope to see you on Wednesday, February 5th!



AGENT SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW WITH KATELYN DETWEILER AND QUERY CRITIQUE GIVEAWAY


Today I’m thrilled to have agent Katelyn Detweiler here. She is a literary agent at Jill Grinberg Literary.

Hi­ Katelyn! Thanks so much for joining us.

About Katelyn:

1. Tell us how you became an agent, how long you’ve been one, and what you’ve been doing as an agent.

I worked for two years in the marketing department of a big children’s publisher, which was a great intro to the industry, but I craved a more direct, deeper working relationship with writers and their work. I was lucky enough to find the position at Jill Grinberg Literary Management as an assistant to Jill in 2010, helping to support her fabulous list of authors, and began building my own list a few years after.

About the Agency:

2. Share a bit about your agency and what it offers to its authors.

JGLM is a hands on, full service literary agency—small but mighty, we like to say, big business with a boutique feel. We work with authors writing across the spectrum, picture books through adult fiction and non-fiction, with an emphasis on strong voices, quality writing, and compelling story telling.

What She’s Looking For:

3. What age groups do you represent—picture books, MG, and/or YA? What genres do you represent and what are you looking for in submissions for these genres?

I represent picture book, MG, and YA (as well as adult). This range feels important to me and JGLM generally, as we aim to grow with our authors throughout their career, and their interests and goals might change as they develop and evolve in their craft.
I’m drawn to stories of all stripes—contemporary, magical realism, speculative, historical, and light sci-fi, as long as the characters feel relatable and grounded in the kid/teen/coming-of-age experience. I care more about voice and style than plot when taking on a new client. A good hook is important, yes, but I want to have faith that I’ll connect with not just this one manuscript, but all the projects we’ll hopefully collaborate on together in the span of our working relationship.

4.  Is there anything you would be especially excited to seeing in the genres you are interested in?

Honestly, I never really know what I’m looking for until it lands in my inbox. But I’m always hoping to really feel all of the weird/funny/sad/hard/awkward/beautiful moments that come with growing up. Bonus points if I tear up—especially a good happy cry! And in all submissions across the board, I’m very interested in reading work from diverse and underrepresented voices.

What She Isn’t Looking For:

5. What types of submissions are you not interested in?

I hate to say I’d never consider a certain genre—I like to keep an open mind. As long as the characters feel grounded in whatever world the author has created, I’m on board to consider.

Agent Philosophy:

6. What is your philosophy as an agent both in terms of the authors you want to work with and the books you want to represent?

So much of the author-agent relationship is about chemistry, and a shared vision and passion. It’s a deep bond. I’m selective about the authors I take on, very much focused on quality over quantity. A good author-agent relationship, in my opinion, is about communication and transparency and respect—being able to voice our thoughts and concerns and strategies in an open dialogue. While the types of projects and writers I represent varies widely, every author on my list has valuable things to say about our world.

Editorial Agent:

7. Are you an editorial agent? If so, what is your process like when you’re working with your authors before submitting to editors?

Yes, most definitely. The amount of back and forth varies with each project, but I tend to dive in deep with authors on the editorial process. The project doesn’t have to be perfect by any means to go out to editors, but it does need to feel strong and competitive—the bones in place enough for an editor with a vision to fall in love.

Query Methods and Submission Guidelines: (Always verify before submitting)

8. How should authors query you and what do you want to see with the query letter?

Please send your submission to info@jillgrinbergliterary.com addressed to my attention. For a novel, please attach the first 50 pages to the email. Full text for picture books, including art if you’re also the illustrator. For more detailed instructions, please refer to our (brand new!) site: https://jillgrinbergliterary.com/contact/.

9.  Do you have any specific dislikes in query letters or the first pages submitted to you?

I don’t love when queries are written in third person, or from the POV of a character. Be yourself. But mostly I’m looking for a good teaser synopsis, and enough of a bio to give me a sense of who you are and why you wrote this story. (And perhaps don’t say that you’re SURE this project will become a bestseller! J)

Response Time:

10. What’s your response time to queries and requests for more pages of a manuscript?

While I’d love to say that I respond to each and every query, due to the volume of the submissions I receive and my prioritizing of existing clients, it may not always be possible. If I decide to pursue your submission, I’ll be in touch. And if your timing changes due to an offer of representation or otherwise, please do send a follow up note.

Self-Published and Small Press Authors:

11.  Are you open to representing authors who have self-published or been published by smaller presses? What advice do you have for them if they want to try to find an agent to represent them?

Absolutely. I’m focused on an author’s current project, and what lies ahead in their career. While it’s good to have a full picture of past publications—and this should certainly be included in your query—this kind of history wouldn’t influence my decision to offer/not offer on a new manuscript.

12. With all the changes in publishing—self-publishing, hybrid authors, more small publishers—do you see the role of agents changing at all? Why?

I think as agents we need to be open to all avenues of publication, and sometimes this might include considering smaller houses, self publishing, etc. It’s dangerous to get too stuck in the idea of the “traditional route” and what that might look like, and I believe authors and their books can find success in different ways, and this might evolve through phases of their career.

Clients:

13. Who are some of the authors you represent?

Some of my published children’s and YA authors include: Nafiza Azad, Nora Raleigh Baskin, Peter Bunzl, Matt Burns, Lori Goldstein, S. Jae-Jones, Alycia (Lee) Kelly, SA Patel, Ambelin and Ezekiel Kwaymullina, Sarah Glenn Marsh, Kara McDowell, Shivaun Plozza, Addie Thorley, Jenn Marie Thorne, Lili Wilkinson, and Fiona Wood.

Interviews and Guest Posts:

14. Please share the links to any interviews and guest posts you think would be helpful to writers interested in querying you.


Links and Contact Info:

15. Please share how writers should contact you to submit a query and your links on the Web.

Our agency website has all of the necessary information, and also gives a good snapshot into our overall philosophy and mission. Please visit https://jillgrinbergliterary.com.

Additional Advice:

16. Is there any other advice you’d like to share with aspiring authors that we haven’t covered?

Keep writing. Keep querying. And remember that it’s all wildly subjective. What one agent or editor passes on, others might love. I say it constantly to my authors on submission, but it’s true: it only takes one. That one person who wholly understands you and your words and your intentions. There are no guarantees in this career at any level—that can be disappointing, but it can also be inspiring and motivational. One project didn’t sell? Okay. Maybe the next one will. Or the one after that. Keep working on what inspires you, and keep trusting in the process.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Katelyn.

­Katelyn is generously offering a query critique to one lucky winner. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follower button if you're not a follower) and leave a comment through February 1st.  If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter either contest. If you do not want to enter the contest, that's okay. Just let me know 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. This is an international giveaway.

Have any experience with this agent? See something that needs updating? Please leave a comment or e-mail me at natalieiaguirre7@gmail.com

Note: These agent profiles and interviews presently focus on agents who accept children's fiction. Please take the time to verify anything you might use here before querying an agent. The information found here is subject to change.




BEST OF 2019 GIVEAWAY HOP


Happy New Year Everyone! I hope you're excited for the new year. I am looking forward to some good changes this year that will give me more time to write, read, and work on this blog. I'm really excited for all the MG and YA debut authors I'm featuring with book giveaways in 2020. I hope you'll enter contests for books that interest you.

Today I'm excited to participate in the Best of 20119 Giveaway Hop hosted by BookHounds. I've got a combination of MG and YA books that I hope you're looking forward to reading. Some are from 2019 and others are current releases.

Remember, if you want an earlier book in any of these series, you can pick that instead as long as it doesn't cost more than the book here. You can find descriptions of these books on Goodreads. Here are your choices:

 
 


 


 


 


 

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 of this blog and leave a comment telling me what book you want or that you want the gift card through January 31st. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the 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. I will also give you an extra entry if you follow me on Twitter and let me know this. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. This giveaway is International as long as the Book Depository ships there for free.

Here's what's coming up:

Monday, January 20th I have an agent spotlight interview with Katelyn Detweiler and a query critique giveaway

Monday, January 27th I have an interview with debut author Kim Smejkal and a giveaway of her YA fantasy Ink in the Blood

Wednesday, February 5th I have an interview with debut author Adalyn Grace with a giveaway of her YA fantasy All the Stars and Teeth and a query critique by her agent Hillary Jacobson and my IWSG Post

Monday, February 10th I have an interview with author Katya de Becerra and a giveaway of her YA fantasy Oasis

Monday, February 24th I have an agent spotlight interview with agent Megan Manzano and a query critique giveaway 

Hope to see you on Monday!

Here are all the other blogs participating in this blog hop








JANAE MARKS INTERVIEW AND FROM THE DESK OF ZOE WASHINGTON GIVEAWAY

Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author Janae Marks here to share about her MG contemporary FROM THE DESK OF ZOE WASHINGTON. It sounds like a fantastic mystery, and I’m anxious to read it.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads

From debut author Janae Marks comes a captivating mystery full of heart, as one courageous girl questions assumptions, searches for the truth, and does what she believes is right—even in the face of great opposition. A perfect book for fans of Front Desk and All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook!

Zoe Washington isn’t sure what to write. What does a girl say to the father she’s never met, hadn’t heard from until his letter arrived on her twelfth birthday, and who’s been in prison for a terrible crime?

A crime he says he never committed.

Could Marcus really be innocent? Zoe is determined to uncover the truth. Even if it means hiding his letters and her investigation from the rest of her family. Everyone else thinks Zoe’s worrying about doing a good job at her bakery internship and proving to her parents that she’s worthy of auditioning for Food Network’s Kids Bake Challenge.

But with bakery confections on one part of her mind, and Marcus’s conviction weighing heavily on the other, this is one recipe Zoe doesn’t know how to balance. The only thing she knows to be true: Everyone lies.
 

Hi Janae! Thanks so much for joining us.

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

Hi Natalie! Thanks so much for having me on Literary Rambles.

I’m an author, wife and mom living in Connecticut. Growing up, I was always interested in writing. As a kid, I loved writing and illustrating my own stories. I still have the books I made in the second grade – one of them featured a hamster with magical powers! I was also into journaling and letter writing. (My summer camp friends and counselors were my pen pals!) I didn’t think about writing seriously until I got to college, where I took some creative writing classes. Then I decided to get an MFA in creative writing from The New School in NYC. By then, I’d figured out that I enjoyed writing for kids, so I chose to enter the Writing for Children program. I graduated with my MFA in 2010, so it still took many more years for me to get an agent and book deal, but I learned so much about writing and publishing in that program, and had a wonderful time.

2. Where did you get the idea for FROM THE DESK OF ZOE WASHINGTON?

I was inspired by true stories! In 2014, I was obsessed with the first season of the podcast Serial, which tells the story of a man serving a prison sentence for murder, who may actually be innocent of the crime. I also watched the Netflix documentary Making a Murderer, which tells a similar story. I started thinking about wrongful convictions, and did some research. I read about The Innocence Project, an organization that helps overturn wrongful convictions. Then I started to wonder what it would be like for the child of one of those inmates. Zoe Washington was born from there.

3. That's awesome that you got your idea from true stories. And there are sadly innocent people who are convicted of murder and other crimes. Your story is a mystery and contemporary. What was your plotting process like? What tips do you have for other writers writing MG who want to write a mystery?

With my previous manuscripts (all contemporaries), I struggled a bit with developing a high-concept plot. Those stories were more character-driven. But with ZOE, the mystery helped a lot with plotting, because I knew there were certain plot points I’d need to hit. Zoe would need to uncover the mystery, start her investigation, try and fail a few times, and so on. The “try/fail” cycles helped me keep readers in suspense. I came up with different plans that Zoe could try to implement in order to uncover the truth. With each one, she’d get a tiny bit closer to her goal, but she’d also experience some sort of setback or new challenge to solve.

For other MG writers who want to write a mystery, I recommend plotting out at least the main story points. I like starting with Dan Wells’ Seven Point Plot system. There are a series of YouTube videos where he walks through the process. I usually start with a short plot using his method, and flesh out my outline from there.

4. I've heard a lot about Dan Wells' system. I am going to check our his YouTube videos. Zoe has been described in reviews as a memorable character who is determined and full of heart. What was her character development like?

Zoe turns twelve-years-old at the beginning of the book, and makes it clear that she doesn’t want to

be treated like a little kid anymore. She wants more agency and, when she receives the letter from Marcus, she wants to be able to decide for herself whether or not she has a relationship with him. Up until this point her mom has decided this for her. A lot of Zoe’s determination comes from wanting to do things for herself. This also plays out in her baking internship. She’s determined to prove that she is good enough to audition for a kid baking competition show. What Zoe has to learn, however, is that there’s nothing wrong with accepting help from the adults in her life. She can’t do it all alone.

As for her heart, you see that through the relationship she develops with Marcus through their letters. She also shows a lot of passion when she’s baking.

5. You worked for a Big 5 publisher at one time. Did you learn things from working there that’s affected your writing? What?

Working in publishing didn’t affect my writing per se, but it was super helpful to have that insider
knowledge of how publishing works. It was also really motivating to work with books every day. I kept writing, even in the face of rejection, because I really wanted to be traditionally published like the books on the shelves at my job. And once I got my book deal, I felt more prepared for what was to come while working with HarperCollins.

6. Your agent is Alex Slater. How did he become your agent and what was your road to publication like?

FROM THE DESK OF ZOE WASHINGTON is the fourth book I wrote and the second book I queried. Back in 2013, I queried my first book—a young adult manuscript—and while I got a bunch of requests, I didn’t end up with an offer.

While writing ZOE, I learned about Alex through one of his clients, a friend of mine. She told him about me and my book, so I got on his radar and he followed me on Twitter. I also grabbed his attention when my manuscript won the 2017 Tassy Walden New Voices in Children’s Literature award—a CT writing award for unpublished authors. By the time I queried him, Alex replied right away and requested the full. Then he read my book quickly, and offered representation! I was lucky enough to get four more offers of rep, but I decided to go with Alex, and I’m so happy to be working with him.

As for selling ZOE, Alex sent it to editors at the beginning of 2018, and it quickly went to auction! After speaking to a few of the editors who offered, I decided to go with Katherine Tegen Books. While this part of my journey was fast, it took a lot of years of writing, querying, and picking myself up after rejection to get there.  

7. Thanks for reminding of us of how long the journey can take.  I saw on your website that your book will be sold in the United Kingdom too with a different cover and title—THE FARAWAY TRUTH. How did your sale and cover and title change happen?

I have the amazing foreign rights team at Trident Media Group to thank for this! They were able to sell my book to Chicken House Books in the UK not long after the book sold in the US. The team at Chicken House Books decided to change the title since the phrase “From the desk of…” isn’t commonly used in the UK. THE FARAWAY TRUTH ties in well with the story, so I’m happy with the change. As for the cover, they decided to give it their own spin, and I love how it came out! I’m thrilled with both of my covers.  

8. Your book launch party is at Book of Wonder in New York City. Wow! What else are you doing to promote your book? What advice do you have to other debut authors from your years working in publishing and your own experience?

I’m super excited to have my launch at Books of Wonder! My publisher has been amazing with promoting my book in a lot of ways, so I haven’t had to do as much on my own. They’ve helped get my ARCs into the hands of a lot of educators, booksellers and librarians, and have done some online promotions like giveaways and ads. The two main ways I’ve promoted my book are through social media (Instagram, Twitter and Facebook) and through my newsletter.

I also tried something fun to promote ZOE. Since Zoe is an aspiring pastry chef, and I don’t usually bake much myself, I decided to do a baking challenge. Leading up to ZOE’s release, I baked one cupcake recipe a month. There were four different cupcake recipes, and I shared photos on Instagram under #ZoeWashingtonCupcakes. I also shared the recipes in my newsletter for my subscribers. It was a lot of fun, and those posts on Instagram got a lot of engagement.

One piece of advice I have for debut authors is to learn how to create pretty graphics for your social media pages and website. Canva is a free tool with a ton of templates. It’s pretty simple to use, and putting together graphics with teasers, blurbs, reviews, etc. will make your book stand out on social media. I also recommend creating a newsletter and building a mailing list. With all the algorithms on social media, it’s easy for content to get lost, so a newsletter is a great way to connect with your readers directly.

9.  That's great advice.What’s your favorite social media site? Why?

I love Instagram! I enjoy taking photos and find the platform less overwhelming than Twitter. I also love getting to know other authors through their photos and Instagram stories.

10. What are you working on now?

I’m currently revising my second middle grade book with Katherine Tegen Books, which will be out in 2021! I can’t wait to share more about it soon, but I think fans of Zoe will love my new heroine.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Janae. You can find Janae at janaemarks.com, and on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook under @janaemarksbooks.

Janae has generously offered a hardback of FROM THE DESK OF ZOE WASHINGTON 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 January 258th. 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 or follow me on Twitter, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. This giveaway is U.S. and Canada.

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is hosted by Greg Pattridge. You can find the participating blogs on his blog.

Here's what's coming up:

Tomorrow I'm participating in the Best of 2019 Giveaway Hop. I'll have some great 2019 and January 2020 new release MG and YA choices

Monday, January 20th I have an agent spotlight interview with Katelyn Detweiler and a query critique giveaway

Monday, January 27th I have an interview with debut author Kim Smejkal and a giveaway of her YA fantasy Ink in the Blood

Wednesday, February 5th I have an interview with debut author Adalyn Grace with a giveaway of her YA fantasy All the Stars and Teeth and a query critique by her agent Hillary Jacobson and my IWSG Post

Monday, February 10th I have an interview with author Katya de Becerra and a giveaway of her YA fantasy Oasis

Monday, February 24th I have an agent spotlight interview with agent Megan Manzano and a query critique giveaway 

Hope to see you tomorrow!

ISABEL IBAÑEZ INTERVIEW AND WOVEN IN MOONLIGHT GIVEAWAY AND IWSG POST

Happy Wednesday Everyone! I hope you had a happy holiday season and are looking forward to a great year. I am! Today I’m thrilled to have debut author Isabel Ibañez here to share about her YA fantasy WOVEN IN MOONLIGHT. It draws on Bolivia’s history and politics and sounds like it has strong characters and great world building. I can’t wait to read it. 

WriteOnCon Is Back in February

First, I want to let you know about WriteOnCon, a wonderful online conference for writers of picture books through YA, that will be happening Friday, February 21 through Sunday, February 23. There are 122 events and 41 of them are live. Registration costs $10-$25 depending on the level of admission you want. Even if you write for adults, I recommend checking out the schedule because there may be something there for you too. I've been going since it started up again and found many helpful presentations by authors, editors, and agents.


Before I get to my interview, I have my IWSG post. 

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!


Posting: The first Wednesday is officially Insecure Writer's Support Group Day.

The co-hosts this month are T. Powell Coltrin, Victoria Marie Lees, Stephen Tremp, Renee Scattergood, and J.H. Moncrieff! First, here is some awesome IWSG news:



The next #IWSGPit  will be in January 15, 2020
8:00 am - 8:00 pm Eastern Standard Time

Create a Twitter-length pitch for your completed and polished manuscript and leave room for genre, age, and the hashtag. On January 15, Tweet your pitch. If your pitch receives a favorite/heart from a publisher/agent check their submission guidelines and send your requested query.


Optional Question: What started you on your writing journey?

I started writing two easy readers when my daughter was three years old with her as the star so I could use pictures to illustrate them. That was about 20 years ago. But then I put it all aside and didn't really consider writing until I read the first Harry Potter book about four years later. I had an idea for a middle grade fantasy and just decided to start it. 

Back then, I was really inspired and wrote my first draft quickly. I probably made every mistake there was. I have been writing since on and off. My day job as an attorney, care giving for my late husband, and being a mom made it hard to write. Then this blog took a lot of my writing time. I stopped writing for about five years after my husband died and had no interest in. I'm just starting to get back into it again.

What about you? What started you on your journey?

Now, here's my interview with Isabel. Here’s a blurb about WOVEN IN MOONLIGHT from Goodreads


A lush tapestry of magic, romance, and revolución, drawing inspiration from Bolivian politics and history.

Ximena is the decoy Condesa, a stand-in for the last remaining Illustrian royal. Her people lost everything when the usurper, Atoc, used an ancient relic to summon ghosts and drive the Illustrians from La Ciudad. Now Ximena’s motivated by her insatiable thirst for revenge, and her rare ability to spin thread from moonlight.

When Atoc demands the real Condesa’s hand in marriage, it’s Ximena’s duty to go in her stead. She relishes the chance, as Illustrian spies have reported that Atoc’s no longer carrying his deadly relic. If Ximena can find it, she can return the true aristócrata to their rightful place.

She hunts for the relic, using her weaving ability to hide messages in tapestries for the resistance. But when a masked vigilante, a warm-hearted princess, and a thoughtful healer challenge Ximena, her mission becomes more complicated. There could be a way to overthrow the usurper without starting another war, but only if Ximena turns her back on revenge—and her Condesa.


Hi Isabel! Thanks so much for joining us.

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

I’ve always loved writing and when I went to college, I majored in Creative Writing! I took a detour in graphic design and illustration, but found my way back when a Latina pirate story wouldn’t leave my mind! I participated in Pitch Wars and my mentor helped sharpen my writing skills. Afterward, I landed an agent through #DVPIT (on Twitter) and then sat down to write my next book: Woven in Moonlight.

2. That's great you majored in creative writing. I wish I had taken some courses in this in college. Where did you get the idea for your story?

I had the idea to write a revolution story because of what was going on in the political stage in Bolivia. The present government was causing a lot of fear for my family there (my brother and I were the only ones born in the USA, everyone else is in Bolivia) and so the story began with wanting to write an alternative story involving Bolivian politics.

3. It sounds like you have great world building and food in your story. Yum! What was your world building process like? How did you balance creating a new world with the Bolivian influences you used?

Great question! Writing a Bolivian fantasy actually took very little research—because I know the country, it’s culture and traditions, the food and atmosphere. We have a house there and growing up, I spent three months out of the year living there during the summer, up until I was 18. So writing about Bolivia felt like I was writing about home, a place as familiar to me as my own face. When building a world, my general rule is to always be specific. Don’t say pepper when I can say locoto (a kind of pepper in Bolivia). As much as possible, I included the dishes I grew up eating, described the clothing used by Bolivians around Cochabamba.

4. That's a great tip to be as specific as you can in your world building. Xiemena and your other female characters have been described as strong characters. Xiemena starts out having the motive of revenge, which could make her unsympathetic but didn’t here. What was your character-building process like and how did you balance Xiemena’s motives with making her sympathetic?

More than anything, Ximena is driven by the keen sense of loss. She’s lost her family, her home, and
her identity. In her inner core, I believe she yearns to experience emotions and experiences that aren’t ruled by the scorching anger she feels. I worked hard for the real Ximena to shine through—her artistic ambition, her love of food, her desire to be outdoors. Ximena is more than her desire for revenge—even though it’s taken up more space in her life than anything else. For the first time in years, she leaves the Illustrian keep and gets to spend time with herself in a way that she never did before. It’s hard to learn who you are when you’re constantly being told what you believe, what you’re fighting for, and who you are. When Ximena is in the Castillo, I really was able to slowly peel back her layers to show her sympathy and compassion, and the ability to think for herself without hearing another loud voice telling her what to do.

5. What was a challenge you had in writing WOVEN IN MOONLIGHT? How did you overcome it?

By far the biggest challenge I faced while writing WIM was the beginning. It nearly did me in. For the life of me, I could not figure out the best way into the story. I wrote several false starts, and none of them rang true. There’s so much pressure with getting the beginning of a story exactly right. The early chapters have to pull so much weight: introduce the characters, explain the world without info-dumping, establish the status quo, etc. There’s so much you have to do exactly right, and that pressure really got to me. I finally had amazing feedback and that outside perspective worked wonders. I was able to edit the beginning and it read one hundred times stronger.

6. Beginnings are hard. I always work on them more too. Your agent is Sarah Landis. How did she become your agent and what was your road to publication like?

Sarah Landis is my current agent, but it was actually my previous agent who sold WOVEN IN MOONLIGHT. She submitted the manuscript in waves and while we had some initial interest and an R+R, it didn’t sell. Months later, we got one more R+R—from Page Street—and they offered publication afterward!

7. What have you been doing to build your social media presence and contacts since you signed your publishing contract? What advice do you have for debut authors on doing this?

Pick one platform and stick with it. You don’t have to do all the things, but you might consider doing one medium consistently. Initially, I spent a lot of time on Twitter but I am SUPER visual and so I transferred my energy and time to Instagram. This is a much better fit for me. I have certain rules that I follow and it seems to be working, but I’m no means an expert.

Rule One: Post one photo a day.
Rule Two: Keep in brand (color scheme, topics, composition and content)
Rule Three: As much as possible, be responsive. This isn’t always possible but at minimum I will try to like every comment I get.
Rule Four: Support others.

8. Great advice to pick one social media platform you like. How are you planning to promote your book when it releases? How did you celebrate your cover release?

I’ve been on Instagram mostly! This is a great platform to share news and updates, all things WOVEN IN MOONLIGHT, and to talk about the preorder campaign. All my celebrations involve the dinner table. ;)

9. What are you working on now?

I’m hard at work revising WRITTEN IN STARLIGHT, the companion to WOVEN IN MOONLIGHT with my editor! I can’t wait for everyone to read this story. It takes place a week after the events of WIM.

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




Isabel has generously offered a hardback of WOVEN IN MOONLIGHT 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 January 25th. 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 or follow me on Twitter, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. This giveaway is U.S.

Here's what's coming up:

Monday, January 13th I have an interview with debut author Janae Marks and a giveaway of her MG contemporary FROM THE DESK OF ZOE WASHINGTON

Tuesday, January 14th I'm participating in the Best of 2019 Giveaway Hop. I'll have some great 2019 and January 2020 new release MG and YA choices

Monday, January 20th I have an agent spotlight interview with Katelyn Detweiler and a query critique giveaway

Monday, January 27th I have an interview with debut author Kim Smejkal and a giveaway of her YA fantasy Ink in the Blood


Wednesday, February 5th I have an interview with debut author Adalyn Grace with a giveaway of her YA fantasy All the Stars and Teeth and a query critique by her agent Hillary Jacobson and my IWSG Post


Monday, February 10th I have an interview with author Katya de Becerra and a giveaway of her YA fantasy Oasis


Monday, February 24th I have an agent spotlight interview with agent Megan Manzano and a query critique giveaway 


Hope to see you on Monday!