Fangirl Report: The HEARTLESS Ball – Marissa Meyer’s Launch of the Prequel to ALICE IN WONDERLAND

*Spoiler alert for Cress. Skip asterisked sentence if you have not finished and plan to read!*
meyers7aI walked into The Heartless Ball with my daughter and her best friend, ready to celebrate the launch of Marissa Meyer’s latest book, Heartless. All around us were characters straight out of Marissa’s books and other fairy tales. Cress floated by in a dress with the yellow and orange wings of a monarch butterfly, her costume for The Lunar Ball (in the book bearing her name.) Alice, of Wonderland fame, and Little Red Riding Hood were in attendance. *spoiler alert* The girls I was with wore the formal, red gowns of Lavana’s ill-fated wedding to Prince Kai in Winter. And, of course, there were several Queens of Hearts in attendance to celebrate the launch of her very own story.
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Marissa Meyer (center) and two die-hard young fans.

Heartless is the prequel to Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. It’s the story of Catherine Pinkerton, a girl who dreams of opening her own bakery but who is pushed towards a royal match by her ambitious parents and becomes the Queen of Hearts.

Marissa told the audience of her start in writing as an author of fan fiction. She transitioned to creating stories of her own when she entered a writing contest which required including any two of ten prompts in a story. She chose the prompts: set the story in the future and include a fairy tale character. From there came the idea of making Cinderella a cyborg, and Cinder,

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“Cress” showing off her costume and talents

the first book in The Lunar Chronicles was born. It became a six-book, New York Times best-selling series.

Marissa entertained the audience by inviting fans to the stage to show off their talents, composing an impromptu love poem to the cute hat in one of the costumes in the front row, conducting the audience in singing Happy Birthday to one lucky audience member, and reciting a nursery rhyme while balancing a copy of Heartless on head to ensure perfect posture.

Heartless was released on November 8th and is available in bookstores near you, along with other books in The Lunar Chronicles series. Thanks to Northshire Bookstore for hosting this fun event!

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Photo by Pam Vaugh

REBECCA J. ALLEN writes middle grade stories that blend mystery and adventure and young adult thrillers with heroines much braver than she is. She’s on Twitter and writes for The Winged Pen here.

2016 CYBILS Awards!

The window to nominate YOUR

Favorite Children’s and Young Adult

books for prestigious Cybils Awards is open

now through October 15th!

What are Cybils Awards?

The first Cybils Awards were presented in February 2007. If you are really sharp, you probably just figured out that makes this year the 10th anniversary for Cybils! 10 points to your favorite Hogwart’s house for being a genius!

Yay! Congrats, Cybils!

Cybils Awards are given by the KidLit blogging community each year to the best books in the following categories.

This year, we have FOUR Winged Pen members who have been selected as second round panelists. We are honored and very excited to be able to choose the best of the best this year! During the first round, panelists read the books that are nominated by the public. They pick a handful of books to nominate for the second round. During the second round, judges select aWINNER in each category.

We’d like to introduce ourselves, the category we are judging, and give you a hint about what we’re looking for in the Best Book of 2016.

Rebecca Allen: I’m excited to be reading Middle-Grade/Young Adult Non-fiction. Truth is stranger than fiction so give me all the stuff too crazy to put in a novel! I’d love to find some books that make great learning opportunities for kids both inside and outside the classroom, and some narrative non-fiction. For a list of MG/YA Non-fiction books published this year that would make awesome Cybil nominees, take a look at this post by Kelly on Stacked Books. Nominate away!

Sussu Leclerc: Two thumbs up for the Cybils Literary Award. This idea comes from people like me, by bloggers, by lovers of books. How wonderful! And you must share the books you’ve enjoyed for a chance to get them nominated. In my opinion, each book is a garden that deserves to be explored. I will be looking especialy for books that talk about Peace, art and Diversity. Non-fiction has been my first love in the path to writing. And who doesn’t use non-fiction books as a base for their stories? I’m proud to be part of the world of writers who not only write books, but also think sharing and communicating with their readers is important. I have been doing it for twenty years. I will be judging Middle Grade/Young Adult Non-fiction with Rebecca this year. I hope to help some fantastic books to shine to the world. Thank you to the Cybils’ team for choosing me! And thank you for trusting us.

Michelle Leonard: I’m excited to read the Juvenile/Elementary Non-fiction short list entries this year. My favorite books have engaging voice and inspire readers to either try or learn something new. Anything related to science, math, technology, or interesting/obscure events, places, or people appeals to me! Check out this list of suggested titles by Jennifer Wharton or Alyson Beecher.

Katharine Manning: I’m thrilled to serve as a second-round reader for Poetry, which includes novels in verse. I love word play, rhyme, and silliness, as well as heart-wrenching, literary, and evocative. Send it all! If you’re looking for inspiration in nominating, see here and here. Learn from my mistakes: The publication date of the paperback may not be the book’s actual publication date. Look for the hardcover edition. I can’t wait to read all those beautiful words!

Who can nominate books?

You!

Cybils books are nominated by the public. Then a group of panelists reads and nominates books for the final round. The nomination window for the public closes on October 15th. Authors, publishers, and publicists have a separate window for nominations from October 16th-25th. You can nominate one book in each category. We know how hard it is to pick one book!

When are the awards announced?

On January 1st, the short list is made public. On February 14th, the winners are announced.

How do I nominate books?

It’s easy to nominate but first you must understand what type of books fit in each category. For descriptions of each category go here. Again, you can only pick ONE BOOK for each category. To be eligible, a book must be published in the U.S. or Canada between October 16, 2015 and October 15, 2016. Also, you can only nominate books that have not already been nominated. If your favorite book has already been chosen, you’ll get the opportunity to try another book. More info on the rules is here.

Once you have your list of dream reads ready, head on over to the Cybils nomination page to enter your picks. If you’re not ready to share your favorites yet but are curious to see what has already been nominated, just click on the categories above.

Click HERE to Nominate Your Favorite Books!

We hope you’ll take a few minutes to nominate your favorite books by the October 15th deadline!

Also, we’d love for you to share this post in your social media hangouts to spread the word. If you do, we’ll award 10 more points to your favorite Hogwart’s house!

Happy nominating!

This post was written by Michelle Leonard and has been reposted from The Winged Pen.

michelleMICHELLE LEONARD was born a math and science nerd. After spending ten years working with an engineering dream team developing commercial blue light-emitting diodes (LEDs), she escaped the world of seventy-hour workweeks. Nowadays, when she’s not tinkering on her teleporter for transporting her talented daughters to all of their important gigs and lessons, she’s writing down profound thoughts and turning them into stories for young readers. Michelle lives in North Carolina with her science-savvy husband, three inspiring daughters, and a border collie who hates numbers. You can also find her on Twitter .

Book Review: THE HUNDRED LIES OF LIZZIE LOVETT by Chelsea Cedoti

Lizzie Lovett’s disappearance is all anyone at Griffin Mills High School can talk about. Hawthorne Creely can’t believe all the attention Lizzie’s getting. She was a cheerleader and homecoming queen. Nothing bad ever happens to people like Lizzie. Plus,  she graduated and moved away three years ago. Don’t people have something better to obsess over? Hawthorne imagines Lizzie somewhere safe, laughing as hundreds of people show up for her vigil.the hundred lies of lizzie lovett

But as everyone else moves on from the gossip and the search parties, Hawthorn becomes more intent on finding the truth. She stumbles into Lizzie’s old job as a waitress in a diner, then starts hanging out with her boyfriend and searching for clues to the disappearance.

While book’s title and the search parties focus on Lizzie Lovett, this story is really about Hawthorne, a girl who’s disappointed by high school’s failure to live up to its billing as “the best years of your life” and unsure of her future. Hawthorne is the perfect combo of girl who doesn’t fit in and snarky commentator on high school life. She pulls the reader into the story with her keen insights on the shortcomings of the people around her as well as her obliviousness to her own shortcomings. She’s someone anyone in high school or who’s been to high school can relate too. The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett is a fun and absorbing read. Hawthorne will drag you with her on her search for the truth about Lizzie, and along the way, find the truth within herself.

The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett will be published January 3, 2017. You can find it here:

Goodreads
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Indiebound

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Photo by Pam Vaughan

REBECCA J. ALLEN writes middle grade and young adult stories that blend mystery and adventure. Her best story ideas come from her two crazy kids. She’s on Twitter and is also a contributor at The Winged Pen.

Birthday Shopping for My ‘Tween Bookworm

I love buying books as gifts. What else can provide so much joy for so little money? Okay, the best things in life are free, as they say. But for things that have a price tag, books are really high on the entertainment value/dollar meter. I’m reminded of this every Christmas and every August when my soon-to-be-twelve-year-old bookworm makes a wish list.

Her wish list was not only books, but it was dominated by them. It included:i read past my bedtime

  • A pre-order of Heartless by Marissa Meyer
  • An “I read past my bedtime” T-shirt (Thanks to Abby Cooper for rockin’ that shirt on Pitch Wars live!)
  • The Divergent Series in DVD (the books have already been read several times over)
  • The Sequels to Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson
  • LOTS OF BOOKS (all caps by the bookworm)

The first four of these are easy. The “LOTS OF BOOKS” request is a bit more challenging. My daughter reads so much it’s tough to keep track of what she’s read and to find something new. Luckily I have suggestions from buds at The Winged Pen, books by presenters at the New England SCBWI conference, and Twitter suggestions cataloged on my Goodreads TBR. I set out to spend $50 on books. How many books do you think that got my little bookworm?

The BFF Bucket List by Dee Romito – $6bff bucket listi'm with cupid

I’m with Cupid by Anna Stanizewski – $8

Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee – $8

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry – $7

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir – $8under painted sky

Firefight by Brandon Sanderson – $7the scandalous sisterhood

Six book, untold hours of fun and adventure, all for $48. It’s a bargain! If only everyone I give gifts to loved books as much as my daughter!

So here’s a shout-out to these authors, as well as the authors whose books already sit on her shelf, for the joy they bring to children! (And to me, ‘cause another thing about buying books for my bookworm is that I get to read them too!)

What books are on your kids’ book list? I need to recharge my TBR now. Help me out with some suggestions in the comments!

Photo by Pam Vaughan

Photo by Pam Vaughan

REBECCA J. ALLEN writes middle grade and young adult stories that blend mystery and adventure. Her best story ideas come from her two crazy kids. She’s on Twitter and is also a contributor at The Winged Pen.

Jen Malone Book Review Twofer – THE SLEEPOVER and MAP TO THE STARS

I picked up a copy of Jen Malone’s At Your Service at the 2015 New England SCBWI Conference after attending her great talk on middle grade voice. (Find the book review here.) I enjoyed the story and my 11-year-old daughter became a fan. She now knows to ask for Jen Malone books when I’m heading to the conference, so this year she got The Sleepover and Map to the Stars. Here’s what we thought:

Jen Malone’s The Sleepover is billed as The Hangover for the middle grade audience. It the-sleepover-9781481452618doesn’t disappoint! Twelve-year-old Meghan has never made it through the night at a sleepover, but she’s determined to make it through this one. Her two besties, Anna-Marie and Paige, promise it will be EPIC!

It turns out to be a little too epic. The girls wake up to a disaster of a basement and no recollection of what happened the night before. One of Meghan’s eyebrows is missing…and so is Anna-Maria! The girls need to straighten out the hijinks of the night before, all the while collecting clues about what happened to their missing friend, and they have only a couple hours until the parents show up for pick-up.

The Sleepover is great fun! Jen Malone nails the voice of her tween characters as well as their insecurities. The messes that the girls have gotten themselves into and their plans to fix them will make you squirm. The book ends with an invitation to another sleepover. Does this mean there will be a sequel? We hope so!

Find The Sleepover on:
Goodreads
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Indiebound

PrintI couldn’t help but dive right into Map to the Stars . Annie, the main character, gets dragged to L.A.the summer before her senior year of high school following her Mom’s career as a make-up artist/hairstylist. But she can’t spend the summer worrying about new friends and a new school because she’s drafted into assisting her mom on a round-the-world publicity tour for teen-heart throb, Graham Cabot, the boy plastered in posters all over her best friend’s walls and ceiling.

Annie is anything but a star-struck fangirl, but she finds it hard to keep her heartbeat from speeding up when forced into close proximity to Graham  – particularly after he rescues her from an attack by crazed fans at Harrods. Graham’s attention lingers on her, but a relationship between the them is complicated by paparazzi and a publicist set-against Graham having a girlfriend.

Jen Malone pulls you into the hearts and lives of Annie, a very likable and relatable character, and even Graham, who initially comes off as arrogant and annoying. She brings the reader along for a ride through heady emotions of a complicated first love. Map to the Stars is a page-turner, a great summer read.

Mom note: Map to the Stars is a young adult book, but is great for tweens who read up as it’s a step up from the world of middle school but doesn’t get more heavy than a couple kisses.

Find Map to the Stars on:
Goodreads
Amazon
Barnes & Noble

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Photo by Pam Vaughan.

REBECCA J. ALLEN writes middle grade and young adult stories that blend mystery and adventure. Her best story ideas come from her two crazy kids. She’s on Twitter and is also a contributor at The Winged Pen.

Secrets of a Great Author Photo: An Interview with Pam Vaughan

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Jennifer Jacobson. Photo by Pam Vaughan.

I met Pam Vaughan at my first NESCBWI (New England Society of Children’s Book Authors and Illustrators) Conference in 2014. At the time, I was overwhelmed by the awesome authors all around me and my mind buzzed with all I was learning from the great workshops on craft and the publishing industry. I kept catching glimpses of Pam running around everywhere with her camera.  I soon realized she was the conference photographer and was trying to get a picture of each of the 600+ attendees!

 

After the conference, I checked out Pam’s photos on the NESCBWI Facebook page. (I’m not sure she got all 600, but it seemed like she was pretty close!)  Her pictures were awesome! They let me relive the weekend. I even came across a picture of myself sitting at breakfast with another author (who was trying to turn a query letter I’d written into something that might actually get a request). This reminded me that I’d heard several times at the conference that I needed to be on Twitter. I liked the picture and with a download and a crop, BAM, I had a photo to replace the egg on my newbie Twitter account.

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Deb O’Brien. Photo by Pam Vaughan.

Fast forward to the 2016 conference – that picture still on my twitter account as well as my blog, The Winged Pen blog, and my Google+ account. When I ran into Pam again, I asked her if she’d be willing to take an “official” author photo of me since I was ready for an upgrade. I was psyched when she said yes!

I asked Pam if she could share some of her photography insight.

Rebecca: Your pictures are fantastic! How long have you been taking pictures? What types are your favorites to take?

Pam: I’ve been taking photos for years. My father has taken photos since I was young so I’ve learned so much from him. I’m constantly picking his brain about everything photography. I take pictures at sporting events; it’s great when I can capture the action and emotion of the athletes. I love to photograph nature; birds, animals, landscapes, especially things around the ocean. I was asked to be the NESCBWI conference photographer for 2014 & 2015. It was a wonderful experience!

Rebecca: When we met to take my photo you brought another author also. That was great! I find it hard to smile naturally with a camera pointed at my face. But Deb was so funny, she made it easy to ignore the camera and just smile. What other secrets do you have for taking great author photos?

Pam: The secret to taking great photos is, “Take a lot!” With digital cameras it’s easy to

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Rebecca J. Allen. Photo by Pam Vaughan.

take a myriad of pictures. I like to move around and take shots from different angles, and sometimes vary the poses. I never know which ones will end up looking good. I also think people look their best when they are relaxed and comfortable. Having someone else there doing the same thing makes the session so much better. People talking and engaging with each other makes the interaction less awkward and more fun, so it’s easier to take more photos. Plus, everyone enjoys meeting people this way, and we all walk away with new connections!

 

Rebecca: You mentioned that you were “working on the photos” on your computer. What kind of magic do you do behind the scenes?

Pam: Well if it’s magic, I probably shouldn’t divulge! Joking aside, compared to outdoors, taking pictures indoors is much more challenging. The lighting can be difficult.  Also, in a large conference like NESCBWI it’s hard to get just the right subject in my frame. The editing I do involves adjusting the lighting, cropping and sometimes cloning. That means if I see something distracting, like a fire extinguisher next to someone’s head, I’ll take that out. I have a few other tricks, but I can’t tell you all of them!

Rebecca: I heard in a talk on school presentations that it’s important to have an updated picture on social media so that the students and teachers recognize you. Are there other benefits to having a good author picture?

Pam: People are using photos in so many places now. Blogs, Websites, Facebook, Twitter, just to name a few. Authors and illustrators are also using their photos on their book flaps, business cards, and promotional materials. You don’t always want the same photo in all places, so having a few options is helpful.

Rebecca: I didn’t realize when I downloaded and cropped that picture that I should have been giving you a photo credit all that time! Sorry! What should be included in a photo credit?

Pam: No problem. For me, you can simply say, Photo courtesy of Pam Vaughan or Picture taken by Pam Vaughan. Or even a simple thank you often works. I can’t speak for everyone. I think it depends on the photographer and his/her individual policies.

Rebecca: How can people contact you if they’d rather entrust their photos to you than take their own?

Pam:  They can email me at pamvau11@gmail.com. I’m also on twitter @pamvau. I live in central MA.

Rebecca: When you aren’t taking picture what else do you do?

Pam: I attend the NESCBWI conference because I write middle grade and picture books. I’m on the Board of Directors at The Writers’ Loft (www.thewritersloft.org) and I’m one of the co-directors of the SCBWI Whispering Pines Writers’ Retreat (We’re working on our website). I’m planning on taking some author photos at Whispering Pines next year. I also present workshops on Leadership, Mental Toughness and Team Building (www.pvteamconsulting.com).

Rebecca: Thanks Pam! Thanks also to Jennifer Jacobson and Deb O’Brien for allowing us to use their photos!

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Photo by Pam Vaughan.

REBECCA J. ALLEN writes middle grade and young adult stories that blend mystery and adventure. Her best story ideas come from her two crazy kids. She’s on Twitter and is also a contributor at The Winged Pen.

Write Believable Heroes, Villains, and Emotions with The Positive/Negative Trait Thesauri and The Emotion Thesaurus

RebeccaThe Emotion Thesaurus has had its own special place on my writing desk forso long, I had to look on Goodreads to see when I’d first read it. January 1, 2014. I’ve been using it for a while.emotional thesaurus

When I first started using the book, it opened my eyes to conveying emotions through actions. Well, okay, I used the easy ones all the time. The shrugs, nods and raised eyebrows. But the thesaurus helped me think about a more diverse range of actions humans use to convey emotion, and more subtle ones. I mean, you can only have characters’ brows furrow so many times in one story, right?

As I continued my writing journey, I started making notes on the pages. The thesaurus isn’t exhaustive; it only lists as many expressions as can fit on one page for each emotion. It also focuses on adult, mainstream characters. Where are the fist bumps for my middle graders? The face palms? I created my own mini-Emotion Thesaurus with the frequently used quirks of for my characters. I did this partly for character consistency throughout a story, but also to make sure that different characters’ expressions are distinct enough. I don’t want all my tweens biting their lip every time they get nervous.

Even with my personal Emotion Thesaurus, I still turn back to the original. When I’m stuck on how a character might convey their emotions in a scene, I like to push back from the keyboard for a second and visualize the action like a movie. What feels like the natural expression? When doing this, a scan through the appropriate page in The Emotion Thesaurus starts the ideas flowing.

Laurel: When coming up with a new story, writers can use The Negative Trait Thesaurus and The Positive Trait Thesaurus as:

  1. Paint chips. To “shop” for character flaws and strengths. Sometimes I have a feeling about what’s going wrong for a potential character, but I can’t quite figure out what flaw or strength it is. When I read through the table of contents in either of these thesauri, my characters can try on a trait for size. My imagination doesn’t always call these traits by the same names so having a list helps me tease out what kind of positive traitscharacter I’m writing about. Without the thesauri, you have to hold two things in your mind at once: what your character is like and what possibilities there are. I love tools that free up my imagination.
  2. A Story Trap. The Reverse Backstory Tool in the appendix of The Negative Trait Thesaurus is the perfect trap to catch core of your story on the page. Take ten minutes to try it out and see what I mean. (Download it here.) For more, see my blog post here.
  3. A Ratchet For Conflict. The Negative Trait Thesaurus and The Positive Trait Thesaurus include a section for each trait called: “Traits in supporting characters that may cause conflict.” Let that sink in for a moment.

Laurel and I want to send high-fives and a big “Thanks!” to Angela and Becca for these great resources. I’m sure you can imagine why we’re excited about the new tools coming out this week, The Urban Setting Thesaurus and The Rural Setting Thesaurus. Find out more about them here.

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Photo by Pam Vaughan

REBECCA J. ALLEN writes middle grade and young adult stories that blend mystery and adventure. Her best story ideas come from her two crazy kids. Unlike many writers, Rebecca did not write her first story at age eight…at least not fiction. She was the editor of her high school yearbook and wrote for her college newspaper. But her first fiction course scared the bejeezus out of her! Having overcome her fear of fiction, Rebecca loves see how much trouble she can get her characters into, and sometimes back out of. She’s on Twitter and is also a contributor at The Winged Pen.

laurelLAUREL DECHER writes stories about all things Italian, vegetable, or musical. Beloved pets of the past include “Stretchy the Leech” and a guinea pig that unexpectedly produced twins. She’s famous for a nonexistent sense of direction, but carries maps because people always ask her for directions. When she’s not lost, she can be found on Twitterand on her blog, This Is An Overseas Post, where she writes about life with her family in Germany. She’s still a Vermonter and an epidemiologist at heart. PSA: Eat more kale! 🙂 Her short fiction for adults, UNFORESEEN TIMES,originally appeared in Windhover.