Finger Pointing Helps. Who Knew?

pointing-finger-clipart-panda-free-clipart-images-IEgKts-clipartI’ve studied enough craft that I consider myself a fairly knowledgeable writer, but it’s funny how you can see things in other people’s work that you can’t see in your own.

This week in critique group, I pointed out to Joanne that the scene she read from her magical realism novel needed to escalate the tension—it had moments of tension and conflict, but it wasn’t building to a peak. Then when Jonathan read from his middle-grade time travel book, I pointed out that the scene started off a little slow because the characters were spending too much time talking about one subject. I don’t know whether Joanne and Jonathan agreed with me (I like to think they did), but I did realize something as I was driving home.

The scene in my YA contemporary that I’ve been trying to write for a few days is falling flat because (a) I started the tension at a peak instead of ratcheting it up, and (b) my characters were spending too much time talking about something they’ve already argued to death. Weren’t those the same two problems I pointed out in other people’s work? Why yes! Isn’t there a saying about pointing your finger at someone and having three fingers point back at yourself?

Faran, Joanne, and me (with pen in mouth) pretending to critique something when really we're just posing.

Faran, Joanne, and me (with pen in mouth) pretending to critique something when really we’re just posing.

Also in critique group, Faran read us the first five pages of his brand-new YA contemporary, and it really is amazing to see how the quality of his writing has improved. Even though it was a first draft, these pages were smooth. That’s not to say they were perfect. He knows they weren’t. He came to hear us tell him what needed work. And we did. Which made me realize something else. When the main character’s motivations aren’t revealed in those first few pages, it’s hard for readers to identify because they don’t know what the stakes are. I think maybe I already knew this, but once again, seeing problems pop up in someone else’s writing makes me more sensitive to those same problems in my own writing. When I revise my first chapter (which I’ve promised myself I won’t do until I complete my current draft), sufficient character motivation is something I’ll be watching for. Thanks, Tuesdays!

Tips and Tweets – What Media Specialists Want

Joining us today is Margie Rohrbach,What Media Specialists Want media specialist at Atlantic Technical College Technical High School. I’ve known Margie for thirty-one years as we used to teach together at Coral Springs High School. Years later, when she was the media specialist there, she helped me with my own course work to become a media specialist, too. Margie also mentored me through National Board Certification. I like to think I do a lot, but Margie is one of those people who make me feel like I’m standing still.

Margie is a true lover of books who encourages students to find a book to love, so she’s answering questions today so we can improve our end of the book deal. 

  1. We hope to write books that people love. What can you tell us about your experience of matching up students with books that they love?


“Matching up students with books that they love” is an apt description of one of a librarian’s most important jobs. We are kind of like “matchmakers,” and it can be a challenging task! I like to teach a lesson to freshmen where they explore a variety of “readers’ advisory” tools – things like YA blogs, book trailers, Gale’s Books & Authors Database, YALSA’s award winners and recommended reading lists, etc. After this lesson, I ask students to tell me which tool helped them the most. The general consensus is that they like something that allows them to search by genre, and that gives them a good summary of the book. They also MUST see a picture of the book cover. These really do influence their selection, as well as the short summaries or “blurbs” that are on the book. For example, an excellent book that students will generally not pick up on their own is I am Princess X. what media specialists wantHigh school students shy away from it because of the cover (to them it looks childish) and the title (maybe the word, “Princess”). If I tell them about the book and say the right words, I can get some to read it. So, Booktalks by teachers and librarians can be tremendously influential. When I take a cart of books to an English classroom, and booktalk say, 10 of the books, it is without exception that those ten books are the ones that the students will rush up to the cart to see. And of course, the MOST influential booktalk is the one given by their friend. I have students who will drag their friend to the library, and pick up a book, saying, “You MUST read this book”! To my surprise, this happened today when a sophomore convinced a freshmen to read, All the Light We Cannot See.what media specialists want


When a student comes in the library asking for help in selecting a book, most librarians will do the customary “reading interview,” and ask a question such as, “What was the last good book you read?” So read-alikes are a good way to go. Many students cannot name a recent book they read and some have difficulty articulating what type of book they would like. They ask for “something will keep my interest,” or a “fiction” book – which doesn’t help me much.


Which brings me to the topic of genres – and reading trends. Many students stick with one genre – still popular are fantasy & science fiction. This year’s big favorite so far is An Ember in the AshesAn Ember in the Ashes What Media specialists want


I have one student who asks for books with “a strong, female protagonist.” I find that now there are so many books with female protagonists, it is more difficult to find books that appeal to guys. Of course, usually only girls will read a romance. Mysteries and adventure books are usually a safe bet, especially with a non-reader. I am actually surprised that realistic teen fiction is not always their first choice, even though books like The Truth about Alice, and Eleanor and Park are loved.what media specialists want the truth about alice



  1. I know you taught English before becoming a media specialist. What made you interested in becoming a media specialist?


Being a media specialist allowed me to relate to students in a totally new way. I felt like I was more of an ally with them. I was a person whose job was to help them. I could share my love of reading and technology. I could collaborate with teachers to create fun and exciting projects. I could plan reading events like author visits, trips to museums, movies, other libraries. I could work with the public librarians to motivate my students to read, to seek information about whatever they needed or found interesting. I didn’t have to follow any prescribed curriculum, or limit myself to discussing only two novels (not selected by me) per school year. I could work with students across the school.

3.  When you have an author visit, what are you hoping for?


We hope that the author will be able to relate to our students and share with them, what inspired them to write their books. In turn, we hope the author will inspire our students to love reading, writing, and just love “words” as we do.


I think students hope that the visit will be an extension of the world created by the book(s) they love. Authors are like rock stars to us – if you’ve read Something Rotten, there’s a scene where Shakespeare is standing on a stage in a park with all his adoring fans chanting his name, and swooning as he recites a sonnet! We don’t go that far, but really, sometimes, when I meet a favorite author, I cannot speak!

4.  I also happen to know that you go to lots of conferences and meet authors. Can you tell us your biggest “fan” moment?


My biggest fan moment was when I met Louise Penny at the Book Expo in New York a few years ago. Louise Penny What Media Specialists WantI was just gushing all over her about her books, her characters, and she was soooo gracious and kind. I had held out my hand, saying, “Oh, Ms. Penny, it is so exciting to meet you,” and she said, “Oh please, call me Louise!” She spoke with me like chatty, old friends!


Another big moment, which at the time, was not THE moment it would have been a few years later, was meeting John Green at AASL in Pittsburgh– just after I had read Looking for Alaska. Of course, he was not yet the rock star he would become after A Fault in Our Stars, so I had him all to myself. Wonderful experience!what media specialists want

5.  What is the best thing you ever learned at a conference?


I have gotten a lot of mileage out of a presentation I saw at FCTE many years ago. The project was called, “American Author Dinner Party.” The students each read a different American novel, researched the author, wrote and presented a speech as if they were the author. Groups of students went on “speaking tours” to classrooms dressed as their authors, and talked about their books. They created “make-a-plates” decorating the plates with symbols, themes from the book they read; created a recipe based on the book, and then all the authors brought their dishes to a giant celebration.

6.  What would you like writers to know about the students they are writing for?

Overall, I feel that my teens appreciate a book that is well-written, while still being approachable. They definitely do not like books that seem to “talk down” to them, have too much “street talk,” or seem to be trying too hard to relate to them.

7.  Years ago you started the Broward Teen Reader’s Choice Award ( Alix Flynn won for Breathing Underwater which eventually turned into Florida Teens Read. What can you tell us about the impact of reading programs like this?

what media specialists wantI am so thankful that we have Florida Teens Read and YALSA’s Teens’ Top Ten. Programs like these give us a type of YA canon. They give us a starting place for other reading motivation projects, like our Battle of the Books. Students who don’t know what book to read or where to start, can pick one of these, and then expand to other books by that author, other books in that genre. I think it provides the seed for students learning to love reading again.

Thanks, Margie! For the rest of you, comment below if there is something else we should know!


Interview with TE Carter, Author of, I Stop Somewhere

Hello Tuesdays!

As some of you know, I’m also a member of The Swanky Seventeens, which is for authors whose debuts are scheduled to come out next year.

So today, I’m pleased to be joined by TE Carter, a fellow Swanky Seventeen, whose debut, I Stop Somewhere, is now scheduled to come out Winter of 2018 from Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan

Hi, TE and thanks for joining us today.

Thanks for having me!

J: Before we begin, can you tell us a little bit about I Stop Somewhere and the impetus behind writing it?

TE: Well, the short version is that it’s a story about what happens to girls and how we let these things happen to them. Given the news of the last year, that was a huge factor in writing it. Sexual assault is too common and the punishment, especially for “good kids,” just doesn’t seem to fit the crime in this case. I was angry when I wrote the book and I’m still angry about the way things happen. Ideally the book makes other people a little angry, too.

J: With two daughters, that’s an issue that’s very important to me also. I agree with you wholeheartedly, that more needs to be done.


J: I read that you’re a big Walking Dead fan, so…who do you think Neegan killed?

TE: This is a tough one, because while I am a Walking Dead fan, I kind of hate the show. And the finale last season is an example of why I hate the show. They have this fabulous source material that they don’t really seem to know what to do with when writing the show. The story arcs on the show veer in all kinds of odd directions. I don’t mind making changes, because that keeps readers engaged in the show, too, but a lot of the choices don’t make sense. Why is everyone always roaming around by themselves? Why are the characters so stupid on the show? They make terrible choices constantly, but we’re supposed to believe they can build and maintain a civilization in Alexandria? AND defend themselves against the Saviors? I don’t see it on the show. Also, I’m bitter because Andrea is my favorite and the show ruined her. As they’re starting to ruin Carl. My answer, I guess, is the show will kill whomever will affect their ratings the least. If Norman Reedus decides to pursue his acting career elsewhere, they’ll kill him to accommodate. If they get enough backlash, they’ll kill Glenn, since he was supposed to be killed. If they want to play it safe, they’ll kill Abraham, since he’s been dead for a while anyway, or another side character. I don’t think it’ll be anyone major unless they follow the comic and kill Glenn or unless Norman Reedus wants out of his contract.

J: I just have to say that if they kill Norman Reedus, I’m done!


J: Can you tell us a little bit about your writing journey getting to this point?

TE: This is also a complex answer. Technically, this book took about a month to write, around another month to revise, and four days to land an agent (and Mandy was my first response to my first query batch), then three weeks for the book deal. Which sounds great and easy. Of course, it’s also the 18th (I think, since I’ve lost count now) book I’ve finished writing. I completed my first novel in 2002, I believe it was. I’ve queried several other books that went nowhere. About a year or two ago, I gave up completely. I actually stopped writing for about six months or so, because I just couldn’t take more rejections. I sent around 200-250 queries on the last MS I queried. I even had a decent number of requests for partials and fulls, but it didn’t work out. I had started to feel like it would never happen. And even while Mandy was reading in those four days, I regretted querying this one, because I was getting rejections from other queries. Then it all turned around when she offered. I had multiple offers, most of the outstanding queries turn into requests, and everything happened fast this time around. From the first query letter send to offer, it took exactly a month. Via 15 years.

J: That’s incredible. I hear of so many frustrating journeys like yours. You just have to think that it all happened for a reason and you were meant to be with the agent you got now.


J: What’s your writing process like?

TE: I’m a terrible writer, I admit it! I have no system or process. Sometimes, I write for 10-12 hours a day. And then I’ll go three months without writing anything. I’ve been trying lately to stick to a schedule more, but I don’t feel like the story is coming out with the same energy or passion I like to have when I write. Still, that’s not always possible. I’m going to be doing a great deal more revising with this, though, because it’s not full of the same enthusiasm I’ve had for past books. For I Stop Somewhere, I wrote it all, then opened a new Word document and wrote the book again from the start without using any of the first draft. Then I revised using both versions (although it’s mostly the second draft since the best stuff is the stuff I automatically knew to keep).


J: What’s your favorite book and who’s your favorite author?

TE: This is so hard! My favorite books (because I can’t pick one) change frequently because I often just list the first five I love that I can think of when asked. Right now, I will say Catcher in the Rye, Lovely Bones, 13 Reasons Why, Before I Fall, and Jellicoe Road. I also love most of the classics. My favorite author is probably Gillian Flynn, because I’ve loved everything I’ve read of hers. 

catcher in the rye13 reasons

J: And your favorite movie?

TE: These questions are so hard!! My favorite movies that I can think to name right now are Midnight in Paris, Atonement, Equilibrium, Before Sunrise, and Pitch Perfect.

J: With two daughters in the house, I think I’ve seen Pitch Perfect far more than I should’ve or wanted to.

pitch perfect

J: Something people would be surprised to learn about you?

TE: It’s not really surprising, but I love comics. However, I only read series from Image (except for Harrow County), so it may not be obvious. I’m not a big fan of superhero stories.

J: Don’t know many from Image, I’ll have to check them out. I’ve always been a Marvel fan.



J: Do you do a lot of research when you write?

TE: Not a ton, but I write contemporary. I research what I need to, of course, like legal procedures or locations. But I write stories set in fictional versions of places I know and about topics that affect me personally one way or another, so I come into writing with some experience in the subject matter. However, I believe research is important and I would research anything I wasn’t sure on before adding it.


J: Here at the Tuesdays, a big part of our success and the purpose of this site, has been being involved in a critique group. Are you involved in one and if so, how has it helped you?

TE: Kind of. I have new critique partners thanks to my agency contacts and the Swanky 17s and Natalie Parker’s agented authors groups. Before sending out I Stop Somewhere, I had a few people look at some scenes. But only my agent, editor, husband, and one friend had seen the complete MS until just recently, when another Swanky read it. When I queried, only my husband had seen it. I wouldn’t recommend this to someone just starting out, but in the past, I was in a very active writers’ group, but I think it sometimes made my writing worse because I had a hard time filtering out so many voices and perspectives. I also majored in writing, so I’ve been in plenty of workshops and critique groups during my life. I’m definitely in a different place now writing-wise and I’ve sent my current WIP to multiple people, as well as my agent, to gather feedback for moving forward. I recommend feedback and critiques, but I think it’s important to find the right people and to learn how to identify what you agree with and what is subjective.

J: I agree with you. Finding the right group is very important, as well as filtering out what suggestions to keep and what to stick with your instincts.

critique group


J: What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve received and is there any advice you can give to writers looking to break in?

TE: Probably to just get words on the page. There are going to be so many times you won’t like what you’re writing or someone else won’t like it. You’ll want to give up. You may even think you are giving up for good. I went through that myself. But in the end, all the other stuff doesn’t matter, because if there aren’t words on the page, you can’t move forward as a writer.

J: I think that’s very good advice.



J: What are you working on next?

TE: Right now, I’m fighting through a WIP that isn’t coming together as I would like, but it’s only the first draft stage. It’s another YA contemporary about the way we try to hide our pasts, but how they shape us. It’s also about relationships with people and judgment of others. I’m also playing with ideas in a few other genres, notably a mystery and a science fiction story.


J: Is there anything else you want to share with our readers or perhaps tell them how they can follow you on social media?

TE: All my links can be found at, and I am most active on Twitter (@tecarter7).



J: Before we go, I always like to ask, who’s your favorite member of The Tuesdays?

TE: Faran, obviously.


Um…okay, that’s a little awkward. Can whoever’s turn it is for editing, please change the answer to that or delete the question before we publish this?



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Hoping for change for the batter

Fun Friday

By Faran Fagen

So this week is my first Friday post and I was told by Jonathan that I can write about “literally anything”. Kinda dangerous but here goes:
About 13 years ago, I wrote an article for the SunSentinel about a stud shortstop and pitcher at Spanish River High school in Boca Raton going to UNC-Greensboro on full ride scholarships.
Not only did they grow up on the same street – and celebrated all their birthdays together since age 3 – but they were going to be college roommates as well.
The shortstop was Jewish, like me, and as an assistant coach at Spanish River I took infield with him and hit him grounders. I remembered thinking as I caught his throws that I just played catch with a future Jewish major leaguer.
The article was glowing, but there was one small part about the shortstop’s short temper, with a quote from his mom, that said sometimes his temper gets the better of him, but it helps with his intensity on the field.
Earlier this week, I needed some pop in my fantasy team so I picked up Danny Valencia (he’s hitting just over .300 so why not?)
I was dismayed when I clicked on him Tuesday and saw he struck a teammate in the head for something he said. The story made national news.
In my writing about teen athletes (both in the media and in my novels), anger and frustration and their impact both on and off the field are a constant theme.
In my writing, there’s often hope for reckless and volatile athletes. We teach each other in our Tuesday critique group that our characters have to change and grow.
In the case of Danny Valencia, who I knew to be intense, but still a person who believed in honor and high morality, I’m not sure what to think of this latest incident.
I do know the player he hit, Billy Butler, has since apologized in a public statement. But Valencia has yet to make any public remarks about injuring his teammate.
I guess the Oakland A’s have decided to move on. I suppose I did too. I dropped Valencia, who I took infield with 13 years ago, from my fantasy team yesterday. I had to make room for AJ Pollack, who was coming off the disabled list. Besides, I need someone who could hit for better average.

Themed Thursday: Our Favorite Childhood Books

Because all of us here at the Tuesdays are huge readers (kind of prerequisite if you want to be a novelist), we decided that our debut Themed Thursday topic should focus on the books that made the most impact on us growing up… And in case you haven’t noticed, we love talking about books, so drop us a note in the comments section below and tell us about your most cherished childhood books.

Cathy Castelli

   Cathy Castelli

In third grade, Mrs. Carson used to read to us every day after lunch. I LOVED it. She read us Fantastic Mr. Fox and James and the Giant Peach. I was mesmerized. james-peachI didn’t want her to stop. Interestingly, when I taught middle school, I read to my students, too. Before Holes  by Louis Sacher was made into a movie, I used to read that book every year. Before the warden was revealed, I would ask the students what they thought the warden was like. They NEVER guessed a red-headed female. I used to paint my nails red, too, like the warden using her rattlesnake venom nail polish. Mrs. Carson instilled in me a love of books I hope I passed on to those middle graders.


Jonathan Rosen

Jonathan Rosen


I was always a voracious reader. Finished one book and then right on to the next. But, there are two that stand out for me. The first is The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I’d read many books before, but when I read that, I asked my parents to go out and get the rest in the series right away and I devoured them in no time. hitchhikersguideBut, the book that really wowed me was Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I laughed straight through the book. Right at the beginning, you had an alien race coming to destroy earth so they could build a bypass. Once the book made the destruction of the earth funny, I was hooked. Oh, and always remember, the answer is 42.




Faran Fagen

Faran Fagen

My mom used to take me to the library once a week and we would pick out two books. After “graduating” from Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein, Mom said it was my turn to pick. I found these little white soft books with neat covers like Loch Ness Monster and Dragons. They were called Choose Your own Adventure books and there were rows of them. chooseadventureThe best thing was that each chapter let you choose a different ending by selecting different pages. You could choose to drink a potion, or turn the key in the door. I liked being in control of my own destiny. I had so much fun with these stories that I memorized a lot of the endings of my favorite books. Whenever I’d go to the library with Mom, I’d try and find a book of the series I’d never read for a new journey. Wanna know more? You can choose to click on any of the other Tuesdays’ posts for your own adventure.




Melody Maysonet

This is what the Trixie Belden covers looked like when I was a kid.

One of my favorite childhood memories is getting to buy a new Trixie Belden book. Unfortunately my local K-Mart had a limited selection so I’d end up reading the same books over and over. I remember lying in bed for hours at a time reading about Trixie and her best friend Honey and wishing my life was more like theirs. Is it any surprise that the first book I wrote (at age 10, called Stacy and the Mystery of the Mansion) was a rip-off of Trixie Belden? Stacy book coverI even drew my own cover. And yes, there’s a reason I didn’t become an artist.




Stacie Ramey

Stacie Ramey

I was going to write about my usual first books I loved piece, but then I found out it was Pooh Bear’s birthday and I was like, how did I forget about my favorite stuffed-with-fluff and honey bear? So I will say, as I always do, that Where the Wild Things Are was my first favorite book. I clearly remember picking it up in the library, turning the pages, and being blown away by the amazing feelings and beauty that Max and his Wild Things evoked. Where_The_Wild_Things_Are_(book)_coverMaurice Sendak was my hero. True story. But after that first book, it was a highway of amazing discoveries. Pooh Bear. Little Bear. Lassie Come Home.  Judy Blume’s books. All of them. C.S. Lewis’ amazing series. How can you choose? So I guess if I have to pick just a few, it started with Wild Things and Pooh Bear but moved quickly to John Steinbeck’s  Of Mice and Men and East of Eden, which opened up the world to me, and then to horror, specifically Stephen King and Peter Straub’s The Talisman. And lest I forget, Go Ask Alice.

Joanne Butcher

Joanne Butcher

The first book I loved as a child was The Little Engine That Could.  It ingrained in me the concept that I could do anything with enough determination.  enginethatcouldThe Trixie Belden series held the books that ignited my love of reading though.  I would read and reread them until I had enough allowance money to buy a new one. I loved the character of Trixie. I was a tomboy, I got scraped up, I got in trouble. My Mum was into gardening like hers.  I thought her glamorous sidekick, Honey was amazing and their friend, Jim so dreamy. Now that I think about it, the picture I had in my head of Jim at that tender age actually looks a lot like my husband.

Is Social Media Your Friend? (Everyone’s watching!) aka Wrap-it-Up-Wednesday Stacie style

Have you ever made a writing plan? Laid out a trail of mini M&M’s to follow to your path to publication? Ok, so maybe that was just me?

Well, the Tuesday Writers crafted a simple (chocolate free) plan years ago. Meet every Tuesday. Read out loud. Get critique. Give critique. Go home feeling like real writers. Rinse. Repeat.

But recently  we got a better plan. Do all of that, and include you, the blog reader, in the process. Give you an inside look at all that we at TuesdayWriters do.

confetti(this is confetti from the concert I attended this weekend btw)

You’re welcome.

But then last week, we Tuesdays (who are given to listen to critique and make revisions), sort of shook up some of our programming on this blog. Still, some things were going to stay the same. Yay! (I secretly hate change)


So it was for Wrap-it-Up Wednesday. It was going to be one of our mainstays. Our bread and butter, if you were. You’d get the NEW live Tweet Tuesdays where you could be part of the critique group AS IT WAS HAPPENING and then someone would do a wrap up about it on Wednesday. Kind of like watching a football game, knowing your team won, then watching the replay the next day. (Go Gators)

Boy was I excited(about Wrap it up Wed), because for some reason I haven’t done this feature yet. And I was going to do the BEST WRAP-IT-UP WED ever.



And then this happened: meeting cancelled. cancel

First one out? Faran had to get his kids’ school schedule worked out so he wrote that he wouldn’t be able to make group this week. Then Cathy’s  rock star husband had gigs. You don’t mess with rock stars or gigs. The next domino to fall was me, Stacie, with a bout of nausea so intense I had to leave my day job mid-day to crash on the couch. A lot less sexy than gigs. For reals, but soon it seemed no one could make it today.  So what’s a critique group to do when we don’t actually critique?

Well, Jonathan swore that he worked all day on his writing but I have it on good faith that he was also working on other projects. Ahem.



As for Melody? Was she going to slave away on her WIP? Or maybe work on that other project she mentioned on our blog a few weeks ago. The emotional one that made her dig super deep and made all of us cry as she read. Even me. Even Jonathan. (No matter what he says). Well, based on this post, Melody was planning a whole lot of partying this week. (By the way, Happy Bday, Melody!)


Cathy assured all of us she was working steadily. Let’s take a look.



So I’m guessing that she’s either going to go on a state wide tour of restaurants, enter an all you can eat contest, or she’s a food critic in disguise (except I just outed her. Sorry, Cath).

I’d show you what Faran was up to, but he’s not exactly big on social media yet (but we are going to SHAME him into it.) I couldn’t post a picture of his FB timeline because he doesn’t have one yet. Booooo!!!! But I think this pic sums it up nicely.



Joanne was the ONLY Tuesday who was on point today. She actually showed up for critique despite the rest of us Tuesdays dropping like flies. And I bet she didn’t use silly cliches in today’s planned read like I just did. Sigh. Sadly, the rest of the Tuesday slackers will never know.

joanne star (this is how we salute the people who get it right at The Tuesdays!)

I will ready admit that I didn’t do much on the writing front to wrap it up about. I did still write some words today despite being all sickly. Are they good enough? Only time will tell. A week’s time actually. Which is how long I’ll have to wait to get feedback from my fave critique group, The Tuesdays.

And also next week I will be following through on that promise of posting an embarrassing picture of one of The Tuesdays. Only it won’t be Joanne because she’s won immunity.   Obviously.



Media Monday – When an Editor becomes an Author

I’m super excited to have as our guest today Marcy Beller Paul, author of UNDERNEATH EVERYTHING. Marcy is a Harvard grad who worked in publishing for several years. I asked about how this helped her when she switched from editor hat to author hat. What I love about this interview is not only the insider info on publishing but Marcy’s passion and understanding of what it means to write for teens.

when an author becomes an editor

UNDERNEATH EVERYTHING is a contemporary YA about friendship and the manipulation that comes with toxic ones. Marcy talks about her book in her answers, so let’s get to it!

When an editor becomes an author

  1. Since you worked in publishing before writing Underneath Everything, I imagine people assume it would be easier for you to write and then get published, but I suspect that’s not the full story. How did your publishing past affect your work?


Oh, absolutely. People think I learned how to get my own book published by working in publishing, or that I used my connections. But here are the real things I learned while working in publishing: there are limitless pages of beautiful prose and fantastic stories that never get published. There are hundreds of books that do get published and nobody knows about. There are books that editors absolutely love that don’t get bought for any number of reasons. I could go on. I wrote my entire life, with one exception—the time I worked in publishing. After a year or two I couldn’t stomach adding more words to the slush pile. I wondered how I could ever get published if so many things I loved got passed over. I wondered how any books ever made it when so many were published. I was overwhelmed. Then again, I didn’t know the basics of fiction writing then either. It wasn’t until my children were 1 and 3—until I’d gotten some distance from the industry and needed something for myself—that I took a YA novel writing course through MediaBistro and got back into writing. When I started taking my writing seriously, I did it in spite of my publishing past, not because of it. And because I knew how fickle the industry was, I harbored no hopes of publishing my first book. I just wanted to finish the manuscript, which was something I’d never done.

My time in publishing didn’t help my agent search either. I did my research just like everyone else, and submitted just like everyone else—though after I’d signed with him, my agent and I did realize that early in our careers we had talked on the phone about publishing contracts!

The one place my publishing experience really helped was when I was on submission. This is not to say it actually helped me get an offer, it’s just to say I was familiar with the publishing process. Since I’d sat in acquisition meetings, created P&Ls (profit and loss statements), and seen a managing editor’s schedule before, I didn’t have anxiety about what was happening behind the closed doors of the publishing house. Don’t get me wrong, I still had anxiety about whether or not I’d actually get an offer—but at least the process that led to whether or not I got that offer wasn’t a mystery.

when an editor becomes an author

2. We’re a critique group, so how have they impacted your writing?

Since I met you in class, I’ll start there! The YA Novel Writing course I took online through MediaBistro was the first formal teaching I’d ever had in fiction writing. I learned the basics in terms of structure and character and plot. But more importantly, I developed a writing habit, and I found my critique group, and all of those things gave me permission to think about my own writing critically and seriously for the first time.

After the class ended, we still traded work each week, which kept me accountable until I finished my first draft—something I’d never done. The further I got into the writing and editing process, the more important my critique partners became. Not just for my writing, but for me. Writing is such a solitary process. Publishing can often make you feel invisible or helpless. But my writing community—and especially my critique partners—got me through the massive highs and lows of the publishing process, and gave me advice that changed my life. I wouldn’t have my agent, and probably wouldn’t have been as true to myself if I didn’t have you guys.

3.  What drew you to writing YA?

when an editor becomes an author

I had an internship in the Arrow and Teen Age Book Club division at Scholastic the summer after my junior year in college. That’s when I discovered YA. Part of my job was to read books for content and note any bad words and behavior. I tore through all of Ellen Hopkins’ and Laurie Halse Anderson’s books, and a bunch of others. I couldn’t believe books like that were being written. I couldn’t believe how well they were selling. That also happened to be the summer the first Harry Potter book came out (in paperback), so every day in the elevator you’d see some new article about how adults were buying children’s books, and how Harry Potter had hit the NYT adult bestseller list (there was no children’s list back then). It was pretty cool.

Though I did work in adult publishing for a few years after college, I was always drawn to YA, which is how I ended up back at Scholastic.

when an editor becomes an author

But why was I drawn to it? I think it has a lot to do with firsts. First loves. First friendships. First best friendships. First breakups. First independence. When you do something for the first time you have no template, no experience. You’re not sure what’s right or wrong. And to make things even more complicated, as a teenager you’re doing things for the first time while also trying to define yourself.

I mean, how are you supposed to know how much to give when you don’t know how much you’ve got to begin with? How are you supposed to know how vulnerable is too vulnerable? How much compromise crosses the line? When love is healthy and when it isn’t? Why so many songs and books and movies make love out to be this amazing thing when the reality feels like such a sucker punch? What that means about who you are?

You’ve got to go through it and come out the other side. You’ve got to try things and take risks and follow your heart and give up too much and take it back again. That’s how you figure out who you are and where your line is. That’s what Mattie, the main character in UNDERNEATH EVERYTHING does. That is how she eventually finds and defines herself.

The process is excruciating and scintillating. The emotions are strong. The experience changes you. My question is: how could you NOT be drawn to YA?

4.  What is the best piece of fan mail/fan art/ fan stalking you’ve ever received?

My first school visit was in Pennsylvania at William Tennent High School. I met with different students over four periods with lunch in between. At the end of one of them a student gave me a pen drawing of the cover of Underneath Everything. It’s fantastic. I keep it on my desk.

5.  In Underneath Everything Mattie collects maps. How did you come up with the idea?

I’m a pack rat. I still have all the notes I passed in high school and the letters I got from friends while I was at summer camp. So although I’m not officially collecting anything, I definitely don’t like to get rid of things. But the inspiration for Mattie’s love for maps really came from my brother Bryan. Part of our family lore is that Bryan directed my parents out of the Watchung Reservation (which is prominently featured in Underneath Everything!) when he was three years old. He had a thing for maps. He still does.

when an editor becomes an author

6.  What did you learn about yourself by writing Underneath Everything?

I had a very difficult friendship in middle school and high school, and just like Mattie, one day I walked away. Unlike Mattie, I never looked back.


In my first draft, Jolene was not a main character. I think I wanted to tell Mattie and Jolene’s story, but I wasn’t quite ready. Part of me still wanted to bury it. But during the revision process Jolene took center stage, as those kinds of girls often do. I could no longer look away. Mattie’s story isn’t mine, but it helped me face what I’d gone through—what I had escaped. It helped me figured out why my friend may have treated me the way she did, and why I let her.


Since Underneath Everything was also my first book, I learned that I could finish a draft, finish a revision, and survive copy edits. I learned that I could get a book on the shelves, at least once ☺


Exciting Changes!

Hello Tuesdays!

Hope all of you are doing great!

Normally, today would be Friday Favorites, but instead I’m going to go over some changes we’re going to implement here at The Tuesdays. You see, we started this endeavor roughly two months ago and have really enjoyed doing it. As I stated in our very first post, the purpose was for everyone to get a peek inside a critique group. The different personalities, the different writing styles and the different ways we each went about our process.

once upon

Those differences in each of us are really what makes our particular group work. After all, if we all had the same views and perspectives on things, we wouldn’t get much out of this. I can look at someone’s work and see it one way, while the others in The Tuesdays might see it another. I like to know if what I’m writing is being received the way that I intended it to mean, by different people and that’s why I enjoy group so much.


So now that we’re two months in and figure that people have at least a basic idea of what we’re like and got to know each of us a little, we decided that now would be a good time to change things up a little. Starting next week, our format is going to be slightly different. On Mondays, we’re going to have Media Mondays. We’d like to go over books or people that we’d like to spotlight. Perhaps some author interviews or just things that we’re excited about in the world of writing. If anyone has a book coming out or wants to talk about their writing process or just things in the field, we’d love to hear from you. But don’t be surprised if you hear from us first!


On Tuesdays, the day of our critique group meeting, we’re still going to talk about our writing, perhaps some tips we’ve come up with, and also what our process is. Also on Tuesday, we’re going to do something fun, which Stacie started last week. We’re going to Live-Tweet our meetings. Look at our page or under the hashtag #TheTuesdays and follow along and feel free to join in!



Wednesdays, we’re still going to do our Wrap-It-Up day, where we discuss what we learned during our group.

Thursdays, we’re going to do Themes, where all of The Tuesdays chime in on a particular topic.

And finally, on Fridays, it’s going to be a fun day, where we get to discuss anything we want.

Before I go, I want to say thanks to all of you who have been with us from the beginning and wish a big welcome to the people who have just joined us recently.

If you think anyone else might enjoy our site, please feel free to send them over to our pages on Facebook or Twitter. And if you haven’t liked our pages yet, what are you waiting for?

Again, thank you and hopefully, you’ll all enjoy what we do for a long time to come!

Wrap-It-Up-Wednesday, Back from Vacation

I was on vacation last week wedding planning with my daughter and her fiance in Atlanta and visiting friends in the north Georgia mountains. It was great to cool down from the hot Florida getting up on slalomsummer. We often talk about breakthroughs in writing, well I had a breakthrough in water skiing!

Having snow skied for years, water skiing on two skis was an easy transition. Every time I tried to slalom ski, I would be able go a short way but always wiped out.This time slalom skiing, I was able to stay up. I gained better balance with a different ski.

Slalom on Lake Burton

Reading for The Tuesdays today I found I was struggling with cause and effect.  When I wrote this draft, I included things that could happen to my main character that would create action, not propel the story forward. Stacie suggested I look at a little bit of the entire arc of the story in each chapter while I solve the issue set forth and propel the story forward.

Melody mentioned that I had a bit of  an information dump. Not regarding a character, but something I’d looked up and wanted to include. I like to write suspense with magical realism. I’m still figuring out how to seamlessly integrate the information I find. I am admittedly a research junkie. When I do my research, I want to share it with everyone. When we talked about the information I felt I needed to include, it was suggested I err on the side of not enough and if the group doesn’t understand the concept I’m trying to portray fill in the blanks.

I’m hoping that looking at my story from a different vantage point give me the same success as using a new ski. The elation of making it work after so many attempts is awesome.