Wednesday, June 29, 2011

What's the Best Writerly Advice You'd Give Your Younger Self - Erin Bowman

The contest to win a copy of The Near Witch ARC is still going strong, but please post only in the comments of the the contest blog post below. It will stay open for one week and I'll announce the winner on or about July 4th.

 Today's guest post is by Erin Bowman who is a fellow HarperCollins debut author whose fabulous new book The Laicos Project will be released at the same time as mine, in Winter 2013. Do you want to hear how good it is? Here's her PM announcement:

Erin Bowman’s THE LAICOS PROJECT, about a 17-year-old who has grown up in a primitive town where boys are Heisted on their 18th birthday never to be seen again, and who is determined to find out the truth behind the disappearances, to Erica Sussman at Harper Children’s, in a significant deal, in a pre-empt, in a three-book deal, by Sara Crowe at Harvey Klinger (NA). 

Yeah, how good does that sound? It sounds like "who do I have to kill to get an advanced copy" good! So I'm absolutely thrilled to turnover the blog to Erin today!

While I’ve been a storyteller my whole life, I have not been writing my whole life.

I wrote like a maniac when I was younger. It started with crayons and that old-school, pre-lined handwriting paper. In middle school, for three years in a row, I went to writing camp during the summer. Yes, writing camp. While other kids were roasting s’mores and swimming in lakes and telling ghost stories, I was inside, scribbling writing prompts into a spiral notebook.

I wrote with that level of undying fervor until high school, when something changed. From high school up until a few years ago, I didn’t write all that frequently. I churned out a short story here or there, but I didn’t dream big. I didn’t want to take on a story with subplots and layers and complexities because I was so busy. With sports and SATs and college applications. With college classes and resumes and job searching. With moving and commuting and a career and a wedding and a husband and moving again. I had a lot going on and I didn’t have the time to write.

But here’s the thing: We all have the time, and the same amount of it. Each and every author to have ever put a book into this world has written it page by page, piece by piece, day by day. Twenty-four hour increments, that’s all anyone has. No one has a magical 25th hour. No one.

You make the time. You carve it out. You shave off the minutes and seconds and gather them up. You squeeze the writing in when you can. Some days will be more efficient than others, and that’s OK, so long as you’re always looking to make more time.

I wish I’d realized this when I was younger. It makes me wonder where I’d be in my writing career now had I carved out the time then.

Ironically, I “found” the time to write again after being laid off a job. It was a crappy way to learn my lesson, but it gave me a much-needed kick in the butt. I tackled the story that had been lurking in my mind and I didn’t let up. Not even after getting a new job. Not after moving and adopting a two-hour commute. Not ever. When I finished the first story, I started a new one. And then another. And another.

The clock had not been my enemy. I was my enemy. For giving myself excuses and taking the easy way out and blaming “time” for my inability to prioritize.

A day is a decent chunk of time: 24 hours, or 1,440 minutes, or 86,400 seconds. No matter how you slice it, it’s the same. So if you love something, start carving and shaving and gathering. Round up that time and make it happen. The only person holding you back is yourself.

Even though Erin is now a pro at time-carving, she is still on the lookout for that elusive 25th hour. If you stumble upon it, please let her know. When not writing, Erin enjoys hiking, camping and staring at the stars. She drinks a lot of coffee, buys far too many books and is not terribly skilled at writing about herself in the third person. Erin is represented by Sara Crowe of Harvey Klinger. Her debut YA novel, THE LAICOS PROJECT, will be published by HarperTeen (Winter 2013). Erin tweets @erin_bowman and maintains a blog at

Monday, June 27, 2011

Near Witch ARC Giveaway!

On July 13th over at the Enchanted Inkpot, I will be posting an interview with YA author Victoria Schwab for her debut The Near Witch. I'm going to give you a taste of what to expect in the interview:

There are certain books you hear about and just know that you have to read because you are going to love it. The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab is one such book. A powerful witch, a stranger, missing children, and a tricky wind blowing over a dangerous Moor bring to life a beautifully written story that will leave you feeling like you’ve actually entered the world of Near. 

I was really fortunate enough to receive two ARCs of the Near Witch. So I get to give one away to help spread the word out for this lovely book. To win a copy, all you have to do is leave a comment right here on this post. that's it! This contest is open internationally so help spread the word that the Near Witch is coming!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

What's the Best Writerly Advice You'd Give Your Younger Self - Caroline Richmond

Today's guest post is by my very good buddy Caroline Richmond. We are big foodies together and have found some of the best "hole in the wall" places to eat in our neck of the woods. She's also a fabulous YA/MG author repped by the amazing Jim McCarthy of DGLM and I love the advice she has for other writers. So here's Caroline:

I've always wanted to become a writer but I didn't take it seriously until the spring of 2007. Back then, I was 24 and newly married and—whoo boy!—I had stars in my eyes.

I'd get an agent within a month of querying!
I'd get a book deal for a gazillion dollars!
I'd land on the bestsellers' list and go on a book tour in my new yacht! 

We all go through this phase, right? I mean, haven't we all dreamt about owning a book-tour yacht?

No? Only me?
Anyway… Sometimes I wish I could sit down with my former self just to save myself from a little heartache. If I had a time machine, I’d take my younger self out for some ice cream and I'd offer her some unsolicited advice.

1. Learn to deal with rejection. 
If you really want to be a writer—and I know you do—then you have to find a way to live with rejection. Right now, your way of dealing with rejection consists of crying for an hour, pulling out your hair, and researching other professions. Not only is this immature, it also gives you bald spots. (Okay, not really.) But you gotta stop this!

I'll be honest: getting rejected never gets easier. It's always gonna sting. But if you want to succeed in this field, then you have to stop letting rejection cripple you. You have to keep forging ahead—even if your heart hurts like hell.  Eventually the pain does ebb away and you'll be all the stronger for it. 

2. For the love of God, please make some writing friends! 
I know you're scared. You lurk on writing boards every day, but you're too shy to say anything. You're afraid to admit that you want to become a writer. You're afraid that people will laugh at you if you fail.

Oh, honey. Writing friends are the best! They encourage you, cheer for you, and buoy you up when times get tough. They're the only people who truly understand what you're going why are you depriving yourself from such a rich support system?!

3. Finally, yet most importantly, learn to find balance. 
Look, I know that you love to pursue things at full warp speed. When it comes to this writing thing, your mind is screaming at you to, "Get Published or Bust!" But this kind of mentality makes your emotions go haywire. For example, in December 2009, you spend over two hours crying over a rejection from an agent. Two hours! You could've spent that time watching a movie or baking cinnamon bread or, you know, revising your book.

So please find a couple hobbies outside of writing. Like painting. Or photography. Or signing up for that baking class you've always wanted to take. The key here is to balance out your life. Right now, you focus so much on writing that it blinds you from the other good things in your life. And that isn’t healthy.
Well, I really should get going—I have to get back to the future to record the newest episode of So You Think You Can Dance—but I want to wish you good luck and I hope you'll keep your chin up. There are going to be some tough times ahead but you’re going to get through them just fine. 

Oh, you might also want to invest in a company called “Twitter.” Trust me. It’ll be for your yacht fund.
Caroline Tung Richmond is a freelance writer living in the great wilds of the Washington, D.C. suburbs. Her work has been featured in the Baltimore Sun, Highlights, and Along with freelancing, Caroline also writes MG and YA fiction, mostly of the speculative sort. She’s represented by Jim McCarthy of DGLM, and she blogs regularly at

Monday, June 20, 2011

Random Funny Things My Kids Say - Part 51

If you follow me on Facebook then you know that my sister just had a baby and that I am a proud auntie once again! I have to admit, it was love at first sight. My little nephew is so cute and so sweet. It is amazing how much you forget about what babies are like. My 3 girls and I keep fighting every minute over who gets to hold him.

Having a new baby in the family reminds me of how quickly time flies. My oldest is now 12, Angus turns 10 this month, and youngest is 7 years old. But it doesn't feel that long ago when they were all this small. It's bittersweet. I'm so proud to see my girls growing up, turning into great people. But I also miss them being small and defenseless - where I could pick them up and hug and kiss them as much as I want. Oldest is exactly my height and Angus is not far behind. And Youngest is too heavy to pick up anymore. But no matter what, they will always be my babies.

So I'm in the kitchen, cooking dinner, and I overhear the girls talking about babies and how cute Sebastian is. And then the conversation veered into when they grew up and if they would have kids.

Oldest - Babies are cute but I don't want to be pregnant. Yuck.

Angus - I think it's more painful than getting a tattoo!

Youngest - Let's just have dogs and cats. They don't hurt.

Angus - But then you have to clean up their pee and poo. Too much responsibility!

Youngest - Hey, when the baby is in the Mommy's stomach, what happens when it pees and poos?

Angus starts cracking up.

Youngest (laughing) - And what about when the baby farts? Where does it come out?

Angus - I bet when the baby farts the mother burps or farts it out too.

Youngest - So when the baby poos...

Both girls shriek making grossed out sounds.

Oldest - This is a disgusting conversation. I'm leaving. (runs upstairs)

When they grow up, I'm going to miss these conversations.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

What's the Best Writerly Advice You'd Give Your Younger Self - Mike Jung

Today's guest post is by the other member of the Ninja Triad, the great and all powerful Mike Jung, who my kids like to refer to as Zombie Mike. This is because for some odd reason when they were on a zombie kick, they all delighted in drawing pictures of Mike as a zombie. Mike is also hysterically funny and wildly talented (yes being hysterically funny was a requisite for being a member of the Ninja Triad.) So I take special pleasure in welcoming Mike to guest post for me!

Hey there Ellen Oh’s blog readers! You may or may not have read my post for DEAR TEEN ME, where I first said what I’m basically gonna say here – I, uh, don’t get too worked up about what I could have done differently in the past, just because it’s done, ya know? And when we’re talking about my nascent career as a writer, well geez, I like how things are going these days. I’m working with the best people, having fun, meeting other writers, feeling as confident of my creative abilities as I ever career feels like it’s off to a pretty good start.

So I’m halfway inclined to make my advice nothing more than “you know what, just keep doing what you’re doing – the letters, off-the-cuff short stories about alien rabbits, bizarre explanations of art projects, song parodies, actual songs, inappropriately handled essays, weird one-act plays, and all those emails about nothing at all – keep it up, yo, because it’s gonna happen. You’ll be a writer.”

But of course who can resist the siren song of what might have been? And there ARE moments that have stayed with me over the years. For example, there was that guy I met during orientation, right at the start of my freshman year of college – the one who said he was writing a novel. I remember saying “cool, dude,” or something equally inane, but I also remember thinking “a novel? Really? Who does that? No way can this guy write a novel.”

Yep, that’s right, my advice isn’t something as standard as “don’t listen to those asshats who insist you can’t follow your bliss,” although it IS good advice, and not just because I enjoy saying “asshat.” Don’t get me wrong, though, “disregard the haters” is an integral part of my advice - in fact, you could rightly call it prerequisite advice. Disregard the haters, because if you don’t, you will become one of them.

THIS! Avoid making this kind of doubting asshat face!

“But Mike!” all of Ellen’s blog readers squeal in protest. “You’re not a hater! …um, are you? I only know you via the internet, after all, so maybe you are? I don’t know…” Well, I like to think I’m not, but to be frank I’ve indulged in my share of bad attitude. And maybe there’s not all that much to be done about it in the end, because, well, life is just much bigger than any single piece of 20/20 hindsight. Still, advice aimed toward one’s younger self can be relevant to one’s future self too, right? And “don’t be a hater,” despite my fondness for the verbiage, is reductive.

Ah yes, it’s taken me this entire blog post to figure out how to say it. What I really, really mean to say is learn to cope with fear. Fear that you’re not good enough, fear that the haters are right, fear that you’ll try and fail and end up feeling worse than when you started, fear that your insecurities will prove to be cast-iron truth…fear that you’re a loser. The haters? They’re just barfing up their own fear all over you, buddy, trying to force you to carry that burden for them instead of learning how to cope with it themselves.

Don’t forget the fear – yeah, right, like that would ever happen, but seriously, the fear is a really nutritious kind of mulch for your future creative efforts. Just…learn to cope with it without turning into a hater yourself, and that’s tricky, chump. As we’ve already seen, you’re eminently capable of it. I could say “if only in your own mind,” but that’s the most important component of it, because that’s where you unleash the hate on yourself. That guy you met in college? Who knows where he is, but your internal skepticism didn’t affect him at all. The only person it affected? YOU, CHUMP. And damn, boyo, it’s so backward, because you’re good at this! You can write like hell!

Which I guess brings me full circle. Learn to cope with fear, ignore the asshats, don’t become a hater…sounds good, right? Sure it does. Keep cranking out the weird little stories, oddball letters to friends, song parodies, bizarre one-act plays, inappropriately fictionalized school essays, slightly unprofessional work emails, and so on. In fact, you know what, just keep doing what you’re doing, because it’s gonna happen. You’ll be a writer.

Mike Jung still writes all kinds of strange and random stuff, but these days he does it mostly via blog posts and Facebook updates. Oh yeah, he also got past the hater barrier and wrote a middle-grade novel called GEEKS, GIRLS & SECRET IDENTITIES, which is forthcoming from Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

What's the Best Writerly Advice You'd Give Your Younger Self - Martha Flynn

Today is the start of a regular series I'm doing called "What's the best writerly advice you'd give your younger self?" (When I say regular, I mean once or twice a month.) I'm starting with a guest post from one of my NinjaTriad critique members, Martha Flynn, who is not only an incredibly talented writer, but she is just an all around fabulous human being that makes me laugh til I pee and loves food as much as I do.

So here is the fabulous Martha Flynn in her own words:

Like many writers, I can't remember a time when I wasn't telling a story.

I've taken crayola to scrap paper. I've lied through my teeth to rivet a cafeteria of classmates. When met with language barriers, I've taken a stick to the playground sandbox.

But after high school, I got my head up my ass.

I debated whether to write every day or when the muse strikes.
I was sidelined by plotting versus pantsing.
I experimented with banging out a draft versus editing along the way.
I formed opinions on adverbs because all the cool kids had one.
I wavered on whether to be well read or to come in fresh to a genre.
I crapped my pants on how to blog, tweet and facebook.
I spreadsheeted the pros and cons of traditional versus self publishing.
I looked for patterns in what's hot and what's hype.
I angsted over whether I should angst and whether I was angsting enough.

I spent an enormous amount of time and energy forming opinions, seeking the advice of others, reforming my thoughts, and beating a lot of dead, mutilated, practically cremated horses.

Worst of all, I thought I had the holy grail: answers. I become a naysayer. Nay to opening a query with a question. Nay to having a character look in a mirror to describe herself. Nay to telling and exposition. Nay to any font that isn't times new roman. Worst of all, nay to things I knew nothing about.

I'm not saying I shouldn't have explored my craft and debated the businesses and worked networking mojo and followed industry standards. A writer should do all those things.

But I shouldn't have cared so much.

The only thing I need to know, the only thing that matters, the only thing to care about, the only thing that will satisfy a true storyteller at the end of her life is story. Whether its crayola on scrap paper or an auditory show or sand carvings with a stick.

Story matters.

Everything else is noise.

Martha Flynn's love of young-adult literature is second only to her love for her family, her friends, delicious food, San Francisco, action-adventure movies, surviving the apocalypse and...well, okay, she loves a lot of things. Her contemporary young-adult fiction with paranormal flair is represented by Jennifer Mattson of The Andrea Brown Literary Agency.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Fountain of Poo

There is a fairly new town center development in the town over from mine that I've only been to a few times. In the middle of the town center is a large water play area which in the summer is filled with kids running in their bathing suits. Water sprays up in about 50 little geysers. Last summer when I took the girls up there, we had the great pleasure of watching as a young boy decided to pee right in the middle of the water while his mother just stood by watching him. The girls and I decided to leave immediately.

This year we met some of our friends for lunch and afterward the girls and their friends went to run around in the fountain area. After awhile they got tired and lay out in the sun. I was standing with my friend and suddenly noticed a pile of brown stuff on the left side of the water area, right between a few geysers.

"That's not what I think it is, right?" I asked my friend.

"I don't know, I don't think so, but I'm not walking over to find out!" she said. "Besides, if it were what we think it was, our kids would have definitely said something."

"Yeah, you're right," I said. Then our friends had to leave. We said our goodbyes and then as we walked away, Angus and Youngest start to shriek.

"Mommy! There's poop in there! And it definitely wasn't there before!"

"It is? Are you sure? I mean it could be a leaf or a pile of dirt?"

All three girls walk closer and then run back to me. "That's POOP!!!!! And those kids just ran through it!!!"

I then noticed that some of the brown stuff was definitely smashed now. But still a big turd was left untouched. I quickly walked over to a group of parents who were watching their kids play in the water and I warn them about the poop. They all thank me and call their kids over - but not to come out, just to stay on the right side of the play area. I'm a bit shocked. So I walk around the square until I notice a security guard and then tell him about the poop. He calls over a cleaning person and ask me to show them where the poop is. By now everyone with kids in the water area can see that I'm pointing to a big brown pile of poop and the woman who is cleaning is making the nastiest face of disgust. I mean I don't know how much clearer it could be. THERE'S POOP IN THE WATER AREA!!!! But the kids are still allowed to play. They are still running around. At that point, the girls and I are so grossed out we once again run away.

As we are leaving, Oldest said, "Boy, Mom, we have really bad luck there. Last year we see a boy going number 1 in to the water, this year we find number 2, what will happen next year?"

Angus - Diarrhea, definitely, diarrhea.

Youngest - I say vomit.

Oldest - I say we don't go back to the fountain of poo again.

All in favor said aye and the ayes have it. No more fountain of poo for the Oh family.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Random Funny Things My Kids Say - Part 50

Angus, the 9 yr old has decided that tattoos cannot be trusted. This is because my nephew was over the other day and since he was only wearing a tank top, his shoulder tattoo was on full display. Now this is a beautiful creation and when he was researching what he wanted last year, he talked it out with both his parents as well as me and Da Man. He wanted something that captured both his New Zealand roots as well as his Korean and American ones. The resulting tattoo is truly a work of art that he got done by a wonderful tattoo artist in New Zealand. But Angus is afraid of it. She somehow believes that tattoos are scary.

Me - Why are they scary?

Angus (looks at me like I'm crazy) - Do you know how they make a tattoo? They use a needle and the needle pokes paint into your skin! Your skin!!! That's crazy!

Me - Well they are definitely painful, but why are they scary?

Angus - Because they make you look scary.

Me - You think your cousin (N) looks scary now?

Angus nods vigorously.

Me - Remember your old favorite preschool teacher? She had a tattoo and you didn't think she was scary.

Angus - But her tattoo was of flowers and butterflies!

Me -  But what about Uncle Stu? You don't think his tattoo is scary, do you?

Angus - Uncle Stu is funny and awesome! That's why he's not scary.

Me - I'm confused.

Angus (sighs deeply) - Mom, don't you see? Ever since N got a tattoo, he isn't the same person anymore. He's changed. He's taller and has more muscles and grunts a lot and he even has a yucky beard cause he forgets to shave. And stupid girls all like him and write on his arms. He's not the same anymore and it's all because of the tattoo!

Me - Oh honey, it's not because of the tattoo, it's just because he's a grown up now.

Angus - Well, I don't want to grow up then! I don't want to change.

Me - That sounds good to me. Let's put off growing up for as long as we can.

Search This Blog