Things Starting to Come Together

Hi Tuesdays!

You get me bookending the week this go ‘round! I know, I’m excited too!

Anyway, welcome to Friday and the weekend! Today really was a Fun Friday for me. I got to speak to my publicist for the very first time. The fun part, was during the conversation, it hit me . . . I have a publicist! How cool is that?

Each step of this, is a new one for me, and I’m trying to take everything in and savor each moment. So, the whole time I was talking today, I was in awe, that this charming, nice person on the phone was there for the sole purpose of making sure something that I created, succeeds. It was quite surreal.

She went over all the things that are planned in the timeline between now and August 1, the release date for Night of the Living Cuddle Bunnies. (Mentioned in the third paragraph, for those of you keeping score at home!)

We discussed press releases, reviews, interviews, and with each step she mentioned, I couldn’t stop myself from picturing them. People actually holding and talking about my book. Every part of the conversation today was a fun one. For one day, at least, I didn’t allow myself to think about anything but the fun aspect of this.

No worrying about reviews. No worrying about whether or not people will buy it. No worrying about the very controversial aspect of deciding to use bunnies and not caving to the powerful dog and cat lobbyists. All of those worries could wait for another day. Today, was just for dreaming and the satisfaction of all the hard work put into something and having others enthusiastic about it.

Next week, I’m going to get to work on all the things my publicist, (Still love saying that) asked me to do. But, that’s next week. Today, and through the weekend, I’m just going to savor it, think about what it took to get here, and dream, just a little, about all the possibilities ahead.


Jonathan Rosen

One Thing On Our Bucket List

Faran Fagen

Faran: One thing on my bucket list (other than becoming a published author) is to visit my favorite major-league baseball stadiums. If I had to pick one stadium, it would be San Francisco’s AT&T Park. The park stands along the San Francisco Bay, a segment of which is named McCovey Cove in honor of former Giants great Willie McCovey. I just love the idea of baseball right along the water, and the thought of a home run splashing into the Bay. I’d take in a day game with my wife, Kara, and then we’d explore the beautiful city of San Francisco. Just love that whole part of the country.

Cathy Castelli

Cathy: I’m currently obsessing about taking my child to Europe. He is ready and would love to see the British Museum, The Louvre, and visit the market on Portobello Road. I don’t see us doing this soon, but thoughts are things! I’m putting it out there for the universe to make it so.

Joanne Butcher

Joanne: One thing on my bucket list is sky diving. I’ve wanted to sky dive for many years. Once I had children, I decided that I would wait until after they were grown to try it out. Well, they’re grown. I’ve found a couple of places in Florida that take first timers up. Now I have to convince my husband to go with me.

Melody Maysonet

Melody: I recently did an Ancestry DNA test, and it turns out that I have more European DNA in me than the average native European. So… I’d really like to do a tour of Europe. I’ve been to England—London, Bath, Stonehenge—and it was amazing, but there are so many European historical landmarks still to visit.

Jonathan: This is a tough one, because there are soooo many things on my bucket list. I’m not sure which one thing I’d want more than any other. Going spur of the moment, without putting too much thought into it, since then I’d constantly change it, I’m going to go with visiting Australia. I’ve always wanted to go and have been to so many other places, that Australia is the one place left for me, which I feel like I need to see. So, if any of you want to make that happen, please feel free!

Revision checklist keeps me in check

Tuesday Tips
By Faran Fagen

I’m about halfway done with a revision I started in January, and thus far my new chapters have been well-received in Tuesday critique class.

In addition to attending the Friday Intensive at the January SCBWI workshop, I’ve gotten a lot of advice from my fellow Tuesdays. Also, many published writers were kind enough to give me some pointers.

Back when I rewrote chapter 1 in January, on the advice of fellow Tuesday partner Jonathan Rosen, I created a list of tips from all this input. Each time I’ve sat down to revise a chapter, I’ve read over this list to keep me centered in what I want to accomplish in the revision. I call this list a revision checklist.

I’m happy to share that list with you now:

-Get rid of all slang speech. Both Jonathan and Stacie Ramey of the Tuesday’s have pressured me to do this for a while. In a critique with agent Lorin Oberweger at the January SCBWI conference, she urged me to do the same. So that has been a priority in the revision, although I didn’t have as much slang to fix as I thought.

-In the same way, I also eliminated all pop culture references unless it adds to the narrative. For instance, there’s a reference to Bon Jovi’s “Livin on a Prayer” that comes in as a moment of desperation for the main character. That stays. But any random show, song, or movie goes.

-A big series of questions I ask at the start of each scene is: Does the protagonist have agency? What forces him to act? What is he in pursuit of? Is the main character the central figure and does the narrative push his pursuits/desires? These are questions that were explored by Oberweger and Jacqueline Mitchard in the Intensive I attended at the SCBWI conference.

-Does tension, apprehension, and temperature escalate throughout each scene? As I’m revising I make sure each scene rides a roller coaster of emotions and plot. I make sure the characters are happy, sad, fearful, elated, excited and disappointed. And that the plot reflects that.

-Does the story give out information through an eye-dropper? Meaning information is revealed a little at a time so the reader is not overwhelmed. Got this one from author Donna Gephart, and love it.

-Make sure characters sound different (dialogue should not need attribution).

-Baseball is just a vehicle. The relationship between the characters is the heart of your story.

-Search for the sticky stuff (uncomfortable, controversial stuff that sticks with the reader)

-More tech! (Kids hide things in cell phones)

-I’ll end with a technical tip: New character action gets its own line (something I sometimes forget, but am eliminating in this revision)

I hope these tips were helpful to you just like they have been to me.
There are many more, and if you’re writing a revision, you may have a totally different list for your WIP.

But I do encourage you to make a revision checklist that suits your needs. I know it’s helped keep me in check.

Tuesday Tips Promo like a Pro

Before I was published I thought I knew what marketing and promoting my books would entail. In my mind, it went a little something like this: I’d set up fun events at bookstores filled with guests. We’d chat about my books. I’d sign a bunch. I’d try to be funny. It would work, mostly. The my being funny part, I mean.

And truth be told, I have done those things with my books and we’ve all had a lot of fun, but I knew I’d have to do more than just invite people to help launch my books. It can’t be all about puppies and cupcakes can it?

Promoting your work is one of those tireless tasks. It’s never ending. For every hour you spend on Social Media, there are more hours needed for working on my website, setting up blogs and interviews, participating in scavenger hunts (more on that soon). And creating and writing for a daily blog. Which means that even though I certainly didn’t anticipate you, Tuesday Readers, you are my little promotional darlings.

YA Fest before the fest!

the most peaceful place in the Easton Library and where I would work if I lived there!

my books at YA FEST

But I also didn’t even know about the awesomeness of book festivals. Where you could meet people you’ve grown to know on Facebook and Twitter. Where you could meet teens who’ve read your books.

Or how much fun attending a book club featuring your book could be.

Learning to make videos. Podcasts. Newsletters. All of these are part of the ways you promote your work as an author. It’s like owning your own business (I had a private practice for years). You’ve got to be in charge of all of the details. Some of them are tedious. Some are like cleaning the toilets, necessary, but not so sexy. While others are fun and inspiring all rolled into one. Like developing programs for teen authors. It doesn’t get any better than that. But the whole time you realize speaking in front of people is getting easier. Reading your work is getting easier. Planning events is getting easier. Somehow, without even realizing it, you’ve inched your way to becoming an actual real life author.

So here’s my pro-tip: as slow as the publishing business is, this all happens in a blink of an eye. Overused and cliche? Maybe. But still true. So try not to blink.

Interview with Sara Biren, Debut Author of The Last Thing You Said

Hello Tuesdays!

Today, I’m pleased to be joined by my fellow 2017 Debut member, Sara Biren, whose book, The Last Thing You Said, is scheduled to come out April 4,  from Abrams/Amulet Books

JR: Hi, Sara and thanks for joining us today.

SB: Thanks for having me!

JR: Before we begin, can you tell us a little bit about The Last Thing You Said and the impetus behind writing it?

SB: I started The Last Thing You Said the summer I followed the online journey of a local teen with a very aggressive form of cancer that would eventually take his life. I began to think about his friends and family, and then about the times I’ve experienced loss throughout my life. I wanted to write a book about grief, but it was a tough book to write, and it took several years. Throughout the writing and revising processes, I returned to my journals, especially from my sophomore year of high school, the year that my friend and classmate Nicole died. I realized that I was angry at the adults at school and church who’d said that it was okay to be sad, but that we needed to move on, get over it. I wanted to write a story to let people know that it’s okay to take your time.

JR: I read on your site, that you wrote in your third grade autobiography that you wanted to be an author. Congrats on making your younger self look good! So, how many of the other things that you wrote then come to fruition?

SB: In that same autobiography, I wrote that I would attend the University of Minnesota-Duluth, and I did. I do not, however, have a lot of cats, because my husband is allergic.

JR: Spouse or pets? Tough choice. Could go either way.

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

SB: You know that Beatles song, The Long and Winding Road? That should sum it up. I studied the craft of writing in high school and college and earned an MFA in Creative Writing in 2003. I was writing literary short stories, a handful of which were published, but was drawn to young adult fiction. In 2006, I started my first YA novel, but it wasn’t until NaNoWriMo of 2009 that I completed one. I queried that thing for two and a half years, to its last breath, while writing The Last Thing You Said. I didn’t land an agent with that first book, but found one in six weeks with The Last Thing.


SB: Unfortunately, that agent left the industry three months later, and I had to start the process over. That’s when I signed with Steven Chudney of The Chudney Agency, and I couldn’t be happier to have him in my corner. The Last Thing You Said was on submission for fifteen long months when Abrams – Amulet Books expressed interest, and I’ve loved working with my editor, Erica Finkel, and the staff at Amulet.

JR: What’s your writing process like?

SB: My process is not one that anyone should emulate. I’m a total pantser, but not only that, I don’t have a scheduled writing time or routine, and I don’t write in chronological order. That makes for a very messy, surgery-like revision process.

I can tell you that I usually write late into the night, whenever I can (NOT every day), sitting on my couch with a laptop, with coffee and music. I also like to fit in a few long writing days at a local coffee shop when I can (with coffee and music), and any time I need inspiration, I head to a lake. My favorite is Lake Superior, but any lake will do – and that’s pretty easy here in Minnesota.

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

SB: How can I possibly answer these questions? My all-time favorite book has been Gone with the Wind since I first read it in fifth grade. I used to read it every summer until I had kids. My favorite YA book is Anna and the French Kiss. I can’t even count how many times I’ve read it. Stephanie Perkins is one of my favorite authors, along with Jane Austen, Anne Tyler, Kate Morton, JoJo Moyes, Jessi Kirby, and Sarah Ockler.

JR: What’s your favorite movie?

SB: Another tough question! Gone with the Wind is my all-time favorite, but I have to mention That Thing You Do! – no movie makes me feel happier.

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

SB: I’m Minnesotan through and through, but I have never been a Vikings fan. My blood runs blue for the Buffalo Bills. I’ve been a fan since the mid-80s and the glory years of Jim Kelly, Andre Reed, and Thurman Thomas. It’s not always easy, but #GoBills.

(That’s a very ugly side to you, Sara, but I’ll overlook it, since you’re a guest. Go Jets!)

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

SB: Absolutely. Most of my books are set in the Brainerd Lakes area of the state or on the North Shore of Lake Superior, and I occasionally need to be reminded of details of a certain place. For The Last Thing, I researched a great deal of things, from weeds in central Minnesota lakes to heart conditions that often go undetected. I also lean on real life subject matter experts when necessary.

JR: 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?

SB: Until the last couple of years, I was part of a critique group in the Twin Cities called MNYA Writers. I had to leave the group when my schedule got too busy, but I loved the monthly meetings, camaraderie, and encouragement. Two of those authors are still my critique partners, along with a couple of others outside of Minnesota. I’d love to be in a group like that again.

JR: 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?

SB: The best piece of advice I received was that I should try writing YA, because I had the voice for it. This came from Terry Davis, author of Vision Quest and one of my instructors at Mankato State, where I earned my MFA. He was quite right. For writers looking to break in, keep moving forward. Do one thing every day that will keep you on the path to your goal, even if it’s just jotting down some story notes on a receipt from the gas station as you shuttle your kids from one activity to the next.

JR: What are you working on next?

SB: I’ve completed another contemporary YA novel, Cold Day in the Sun, and am working on a manuscript called If You Were Here. It’s another dual POV, this one about a rock star’s son and the girl who inspired the song that relaunched his father’s career.

(Not the actual Rock Star’s son)

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

SB: I’d love to connect on social media! Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. And add The Last Thing You Said on Goodreads.

JR: Before we go, I always like to ask, who’s your favorite member of The Tuesdays? Is it, let’s just say, someone like me, or someone like Faran, who as everyone knows, spends weekends holding magnifying glasses to ants, just so he can hear the sizzle?

SB: Duuude, it’s Faran, because I, too, can sing all the words to Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” The Storm Front tour is still one of my top concert experiences. And, as a former Media Manager at Best Buy, I agree that Tuesday is the very best day of the week (that’s when all the new release music and movies dropped, and I got first crack at them).

JR: I guess frying ants has become socially acceptable now. Whatever. Anyway, thanks again to Sara Biren, and best of luck with The Last Thing You Said!


Sitting Can Kill You

Have you ever been at your desk so long that your bum feels numb and your hips are stiff when you get up? Sitting for prolonged periods is required for many jobs, but a sedentary lifestyle leads to heart disease, diabetes, cancer and of course obesity. The phrase ‘sitting is the new smoking’ really catches one’s attention. According to the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta eighty percent of Americans don’t get enough exercise. Our desk jobs contribute to that considerably.

Not to worry, fitting small things into your routine can make a big difference. You can park on the far side of the parking lot. Your car will love you for protecting it from door dings. Take the stairs, two at a time if you can. It will raise your heart rate, and work your quadriceps. Walk to lunch or walk to get the mail. Do your best to walk three hours a week. That’s only half an hour a day, with one day off.

Having poor posture while sitting at your desk can lead to neck or back pain. With proper alignment, bones, muscles and ligaments are positioned to work without stress. Keep your desk chair so that you have a 90-90-90 position. Ninety degree angles at your elbows, at your hips and at your knees. Keep your lower back against the chair for alignment and support. Your computer screen should be positioned with your eye level at a level that’s one third down the screen so that you don’t stoop forward.

According to chiropractor, Dr. Sarah Vadeboncoeur, stretching your neck and shoulders during the day is important. Twenty-five percent of the population has neck pain, much of it caused by hunching over our computer screens and phones. Simple stretches can reduce tension and help prevent chronic problems. You can work your upper trapezius by stretching your ear toward your shoulder. Stretch your pectoral muscle in your chest by standing in a doorway with your arm at a right angle to your torso and elbow are at ninety degrees, then press your upper arm into the door frame. Side stretches can be done holding one arm over your head and reaching for the knee of the opposite leg.

Tim Cook, CEO of Apple sets his watch to vibrate once an hour to remind him to get up, move around and stretch every hour. Put it on your calendar for a pop-up reminder hourly. Prolonged sitting can actually shorten your psoas and hip flexor muscles creating back pain. Some people have the capability to switch their desk from sitting to standing. If you’re not one of those, the stretches below can help.

Hamstring stretch

       Quadraceps stretch

Tabletop pigeon pose




                                                                               Psoas Stretch

As writers we may need to sit for long periods of time, but remember to watch your posture while you work, and get up to walk as well as stretch to maintain your good health.

The First Book We Bought With Our Own Money

Joanne Butcher

Joanne: Trixie Belden and the Red Trailer Mystery was the first book I bought with my own money. I had heard from a friend the books were good. At nine years old, the back cover sold me: “Would you like to – solve mysteries? Belong to a secret club? Ride, swim, travel and go to parties with the best friends in the world?”  I still say yes to all those questions, although my secret club has changed. Now it’s The Tuesday Writers! As you can tell from the photo, I still have the book. Might be time to read it again…

Faran Fagen

Faran: The first book I bought with my own money was Garfield at Large, the first of Jim Davis’s popular comic collections, about an oversized, sarcastic, lasagna-loving cat. I was about 10 years old, and every Sunday, I couldn’t wait to pick up the overstuffed newspaper and read the latest Garfield comic strip in color. So it was with great excitement that I bought a book full of those comic strips. I saved my allowance of $2 a week for taking out the trash. I collected many of the Garfield books. My favorite was Garfield and His Nine Lives, about all the different versions of Garfield over the years. There was even a Viking Garfield.

Melody Maysonet

Melody: The first book I bought with my own money was Trixie Belden: The Secret of the Mansion. I got five dollars’ allowance every two weeks, so every two weeks (after Dad’s payday), my sisters and I got to go to K-Mart to spend our hard-earned cash. Over time, I had a pretty big collection of Trixie Belden books, but I read that first one (the first in the series) many, many times.

Cathy Castelli

Cathy: I can picture the cover. It was published by Scholastic. It was a skinny girl on a beach towel, and I’m pretty sure it was titled, Confessions of a 98 Pound Weakling. I bought it somewhere downtown La Salle, IL, but I don’t know where since there wasn’t a book store. Perhaps it was at Bowman’s Toy and Hobby Shop. It was thrilling to have made the purchase. I soon discovered buying paperbacks at garage sales for ten cents. It was awesome!

A Good Nose for Writing

Jonathan’s dog, Parker, knew Stacie was out of town on book promotion this week, so he sat in her favorite seat and thumped his tail when he liked what was read. Faran was away this week too. He was waiting for trim carpenters to install new doors at his house.

Melody is at the beginning of a new layer of revision. She had a scene with a lot of conflict that caused plenty of tension and dropped clues for a plot twist at the end. We learned about the family dynamics of the characters. Her main character expressed a lot of emotion throughout the chapter. Jonathon pointed out there was a bit too much exposition mixed in with all those thoughts and feelings.

Cathy is also working on the revision of the beginning of her novel. She’s working hard to perfect it, so she can submit to a contest. She took last week’s critique and really put it to task, making significant changes to her opening scene. Cathy raised up her main character, showing her bravery and her upcoming challenges, making readers want to learn more.

I read third. I’ve been working on page one a lot, trying to change the tone at the start of my novel.  The Tuesdays liked the new layer of change, but felt like it should have a smother integration with everything that was unchanged. I’ve been trying to fit in changes here and there, but I have a feeling I need to murder more of my darlings and do an entire rewrite of my first chapter.

Joanathan’s narcissistic character had us all laughing again. There was a lot of nostril flaring in Jonathan’s chapter. His character thought it was a great attribute for girls. Parker was particularly impressed with how it helped him imagine various scents in each scene.

Can’t wait to see what next Tuesday brings.

Commas Made Easy, Part 1

Let’s talk about commas. Yeah, I know they’re not glamorous, but they’re important. So if you’re one of those people who sort of guesses where to put them, here’s a simple rule.

If you’re connecting two independent clauses with a conjunction, use a comma before the conjunction. 

Example: I went to the store, and I bought some milk. 

By the way, an independent clause has a subject and a verb and can stand alone as a sentence. “The dog ate my homework” is an independent clause.

And if you forgot what a conjunction is, here’s an easy way to remember them. Call them FANBOYS.








Here’s another example: I didn’t do the homework, but I still managed to get a good grade.

Notice the conjunction (but). Notice that both sides of the sentence are independent clauses—that is, they each have a subject and verb and could stand alone as a sentence. Therefore, you need the comma before the conjunction.

In this sentence, which is very similar to the above, you don’t need the comma:

I didn’t do the homework but still managed to get a good grade.

You don’t need a comma because the second half of the sentence (still managed to get a good grade) can’t stand alone as a sentence.

Easy, right? So now you know a basic comma rule.

This message was brought to you by a former English teacher.

Media Monday

Welcome to Tracy Clark, an author I met while I was attending the Nevada Mentor Program several years ago.
Hi Tracy!

Tracy is the author of The Light Key Trilogy, Mirage, and Chalk Houses. Remember the SCBWI Work in Progress Grant I wrote about in my last post? Well Tracy won that in 2009. Cool, right?

What’s the hardest part about writing for you?

The hardest part of writing for me comes down to “choice.” At every step of the process you must make choices that can change the outcome of story in a profound way. To start with, you must choose what concept excites you enough to tackle for the length of time it takes to write a book. There are the nuts and bolts decisions like whose POV to use or what tense the book will be in and of course there are a zillion story choices. Like life, you don’t always know which one will best serve the characters. (Hint: it’s usually the tougher road!) There have been many times I’ve felt paralyzed by the different paths my story can take and at some point, you just have to pick one and go for it!

I get it, Tracy. I sometimes have to force myself to just type it.

When did you first want to write?

The first inklings of desire to write came around 8th grade when I wrote an assignment for school that made someone cry. There was a feeling of power in being able to make someone feel strong emotions with what I’d written. In my early twenties, I started keeping a journal and began writing some poetry but it wasn’t until my late twenties that I tried in earnest to write a book. Writing came in fits and starts with raising children and when they were both in school full-time, that’s when I really buckled down and took my writing seriously.

Of all your book, which is your favorite?

Every book I write teaches me something new about my craft and about myself. My Light Key Trilogy has themes that are very important to me about energy between people and balance in our energies and hence, in the world. I loved writing that series! But I have to say that the most fun I had writing was MIRAGE. www.tuesdaywriters.comWhen I began that book, I was at a place where I wasn’t sure I’d ever sell a book. There’s freedom in writing just for yourself, and I think that freedom generated some of my best work. That book sold in two weeks, much faster than any other project.

Which I think goes back to your Light Key Trilogy – about exchanges of energy. Sometimes you don’t have to push to sell. Just let it happen.

We’re a critique group, so we’d love to know your experience with them.

 Critique groups and crit partners are so invaluable to craft! My Nevada SCBWI chapter was my first introduction to a critique group and I learned as much from listening to others give critiques as I did giving and getting them. Funnily, I don’t think I’m very good at giving critiques (though I’ve been assured otherwise.) I tend to ask a lot of character motivation type questions and to read for “feelings” and really appreciate when a crit partner can tell me places in my work where they were bored, confused, excited, etc. It’s really important to have a supportive group but also one that pushes you. Equally important is to not be too defensive about your own work. It’s a balance of being open to the opinions of others but also knowing when to disregard some opinions that just don’t feel right or mesh with your vision of the story. I recall Holly Black saying once that she always makes sure have at least one writer whom she feels is vastly better than her. Makes her work harder to improve!

From meeting you in Nevada and following you on Facebook, I know that you are passionate about many things including writing. How do you see yourself and your writing as a way to make the world a better place?

Yes, anyone who follows me knows that I’m a mixed bag of passions! 🙂 Art has always been an avenue for the free expression of ideas, whether those ideas be of love, or dragons, or politics. I think that storytelling in particular, is a way to flesh out themes without bashing people over the head with them and I find that “theme” is something that must be present in a story concept or I have no interest in writing it. Theme gives me a touchstone to come back to again and again so I don’t get lost on tangents in my story or so that it doesn’t feel pointless. Stories have such power: to make people feel less alone, to encourage, to spark minds, or to offer a much needed escape. If we write with the intention of making the world a better place, then that intention will inform our work and come through in our stories. It’s probably why I write for teens, as the kids are our future!

What are you working on…that you can tell us about?

This has been an odd writing year for me. I’ve got a book out on submission that’s a historical YA with a paranormal aspect to it. After that book, I found myself in need of a break, a fallow time. With the series and the sale of my thriller, MIRAGE, followed by writing the above historical, I’d worked really hard for about three years. Some aspects of the business had me feeling less than positive and so I tried to put less press on myself to “produce” (this notion that you must have a book a year is crazy-making to creativity!) and just played. I ventured out of YA and began an adult romance series, and I also ventured into self publishing for the first time with my latest release, CHALK HOUSES. www.tuesdaywriters.comIt’s YA contemporary that won the SCBWI Work in Progress Grant a few years back and had a near-miss sale this winter. I decided to go for it and that’s been a whole other learning curve. Another unexpected turn is that I began writing my first nonfiction project! So currently, I’m juggling the nonfiction, the adult romance, and playing with a YA idea.

That’s all very exciting! You can find Tracy on her website If you haven’t read any of Tracy’s books, what are you waiting for?