Monday, January 31, 2011

Outside Looking In

Have you ever felt like this?

And on the other side of that window, there's a serious party raging. Lots of people you know. You read their blogs. You follow them on twitter.

And they all got the party invite, and you didn't.

You're on the outside, looking in.

I've been feeling this way a bit lately. And I know it's ridiculous, because I do have a party I'm attending. Sometimes I feel like the door is revolving though. And people are coming and going and coming and going, and I'm always just there. Stuck.

I don't like feeling like I've missed the best party. I don't like feeling on the outside. And I know that I'm involved in some things that might make you feel left out. And some of you are involved in things I'm not. We can't be everywhere, do everything, with everyone.

But we can make sure that we don't act exclusive. So that's my new goal. If someone tweets me, I'm going to tweet them back. I don't want anyone to feel like they're on the outside, looking in.

Have you ever felt like this? What did you do about it?

Oh! And the League writers are having a party all week long on the Page Turners blog--and you're invited! Click here to join us.

Friday, January 28, 2011

In Which I Humiliate Myself Because I ♥ Beth Revis

First, have you noticed how long my blog titles are lately. What's with that?

Second, there's this:

Which led to... Third, THIS:

I only have one question: How come *I* have to be on the still-shot of that??

Thursday, January 27, 2011

THE LOST SAINT by Bree Despain

Okay, on the Bookanista feature today is THE LOST SAINT by Bree Despain. It's the sequel to THE DARK DIVINE, which I really enjoyed.

Description, with my comments:
The non-stop sequel to The Dark Divine delivers an even hotter romance and more thrilling action than Bree Despain's first novel. (True. ALL TRUE. I loved the action in this book. This isn't a pining-away-for-her-boyfriend novel. This is a I'm-gonna-kick-some-demon-butt book. Believe it.)

Grace Divine made the ultimate sacrifice to cure Daniel Kalbi (yum). She gave her soul to the wolf to save him and lost her beloved mother. When Grace receives a haunting phone call from Jude, she knows what she must do. She must become a Hound of Heaven. Desparate to find Jude, Grace befriends Talbot (swoon) - a newcomer to town who promises her that he can help her be a hero. But as the two grow closer, the wolf grows in Grace, and her relationship with Daniel begins to crumble. Unaware of the dark path she is walking, Grace becomes prideful in her new abilities - not realizing that an old enemy has returned and deadly trap is about to be sprung. (Chillz. I haz chillz.)

Readers, raveous for more Grace and Daniel, will be itching to sink their teeth into The Lost Saint. (Yes, you will. I started this book on Sunday night. Read for a bit. Went to bed. Finished it on Monday. AFTER I cleaned my house from top to bottom. So yeah. THE LOST SAINT is a must-read. And if you haven't read The Dark Divine yet, you should. The Lost Saint is a sequel, and it will be better if you read TDD.)

And today might be your lucky day, because I have sitting right here a SIGNED COPY of The Lost Saint AND a bottle of TLS nail polish! All you have to do to win is leave a comment on this post. Winner will be announced on Monday. (And you should know that my six-year-old doesn't understand why I have to give the pretty nail polish away. I've explained it roughly a billion times. Good times.)

Check out what the other Bookanistas are up to today:
Christine Fonseca freaks for THE FAMILIARS
Jen Hayley and Scott Tracey swoon over ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS
LiLa Roecker dies for DESIRES OF THE DEAD with a fabulous giveaway!
Shannon Messenger gushes some cover love for HOURGLASS
Shelli Johannes-Wells is over the moon for ACROSS THE UNIVERSE
Carolina Valdez Miller loves THE LIAR SOCIETY, complete with a signed ARC giveaway!
Shana Silver has fallen for FALL FOR ANYTHING
Kirsten Hubbard is blown away by BLOOD MAGIC
Myra McEntire reveals her amazing cover for HOURGLASS
Carrie Harris celebrates XVI
Jessi Kirby is mesmerized by A BLUE SO DARK
Rosemary Clement-Moore marvels over MATCHED

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

I Have No Post For Today

No, really, I don't. I had something else planned, well, let me back up. I had a title on this post. And then when I opened it to write said titled post, I couldn't remember what I was going to say.

I am that person.

So today, I thought I'd just throw something random out there. Not like I've never done that before. And now that I'm typing this, I realize that I could've just done this and not told anyone that I didn't have a post for today.

But I won't.

Because I am also that person. You know, the kind that lets you live inside my head. It somewhat cushy in here. Moist, but comfortable.

Anyway, I just wanted to toss out a couple of things. You get to answer, since I bared all yesterday, okay? Okay.

1. Starburst or skittles?
2. Favorite season?
3. Morning person or night owl?
4. Writer? Reader? Blogger? All of the above? In what order?
5. What book are you currently reading/just finished and did you like it?

ANSWER ME, people!

PS. My post was originally titled "School Visit Success." And yeah, can't remember what I was going to post. #lame

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Inside Elana: Everything You Maybe Wanted To Know

So I totally stole this post idea from Ali. She did a great one on herself, sort of as an introduction to new people on her blog.

Well, I thought, I have new people on my blog all the time! Maybe they're not used to my bacon obsession, and hey you haven't talked about Adam Lambert for a long time...

So here we go.

I am Elana Johnson.

I have lived in Utah my whole life. From as far north as Newton (pronounced New-uhn in a traditional hickville accent, about 5 miles from the Idaho border) to as far south as St. George (no accent neccesary, about 5 miles from the Nevada border).

I have been married for 14 years to the same wonderful man. I don't talk about him much here, except when he says/does funny things. (Remember that whole butt/bat incident? Hilarious.)

I attended four universities before graduating with an Elementary Education degree from Southern Utah University. It's not like I got kicked out or anything, my husband just moved me around a lot. The last year and a half of college, I drove 100 miles round trip with my 4-month old son in the backseat to attend classes.

Speaking of kidlets, I have two though I've been pregnant four times. One boy, one girl. Boy is 12. Girl is 6. I don't talk about them much here, except for funny things they say or do. I adore them most of the time.

I have many more kids in my life. About 700 more. At my elementary school of 11 years, where I am the technology specialist. That's code for "computer teacher" or "glorified babysitter who sometimes teaches typing and forces the kids to play math games." Take your pick. I don't talk about school much here either. I mean, how exciting can typing instruction be? (Don't answer that...)

I am religious, and serve as a leader in a world-wide women's organization. I don't talk about that much here.

So what do I talk about?
Bacon. Adam Lambert. Music. Survivor. Books. School visits. My hair. Friends. Writing. Not writing. Blogging. Query letters. Conferences. Twitter. WriteOnCon. Whatever I feel like. Sometimes all at the same time. With me, you just never know. Strap in.


  • I have a book coming out on June 7. It's called POSSESSION. It's dystopian. Brainwashing. 
  • I'm highly sarcastic. I need my own font, because sometimes that doesn't translate into type.
  • I love to laugh.
  • I cry at some commercials, the Food Network, and most songs.
  • I am not an animal lover. Anything with more legs than me freaks me out. All geese and ducks, and every known species of snake. 
  • I like to drive really fast.
  • I have one sister, and no brothers. I do not get boys.

So, did you learn something new? I know I did.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Smashing Writer's Block to Bits and Pieces

Okay, so today we're going to link THE DOG WHISPERER (best show ever, Friday night, National Geographic Channel) and writer's block.

Believe it. I'm like the dad on My Big Fat Greek Wedding, where he can bring anything back to the Greeks. I can link anything to a television show.

Okay, so Cesar Milan is an amazing person. He can take these ferocious, bad behaved dogs and within minutes, they're looking to him for what to do next. It's amazing. If you haven't seen the show, I highly recommend it.

Anyway, he talks a lot about energy. He says you can't teach or reason with a dog when they're in an excited state. You first have to get the animal to a calm, submissive state.

Well, human writers are like dogs. We can't write when we're freaking out about not being able to write. So we work ourselves into a frenzy, stewing about how we can't write, and we read/hear that we should...

...write more.

This freaks us out even more. Our excited state is now a panic. [begin sarcastic font] Sounds like a great time to pen words. [end sarcasm]

Believe me, I've been in this holy-mother-of-great-Danes-if-I-don't-write-something-soon-I'll-never-get-out-of-this-writer's-block.

The panic is now hysteria. Not a good place to be.

Cesar would calm the animal first. He wouldn't even proceed without making the dog submit to him.

And how does he do it?

He remains calm. He is in charge. He projects his energy to the animal. Let me say it again. HE REMAINS CALM.

So in order to smash your writer's block to bits and pieces, you need to calm yourself.

DON'T write more.
DON'T force yourself to write.
DON'T power through.

(This is where I got in trouble at the school visit. I told them what I'm about to tell you, which was the complete opposite of what their teacher had said. Oops.)

Instead of writing in this super-hysterical state, you need to find your calm, submissive self.

Here's what I do:
  • Clean my house.
  • Do the dishes.
  • Take a long shower.
  • Play a video game.
  • Watch TV.
Pretty much, I do something mindless. Something I can do without having to think at all. I call them my mindless pleasures, and it's when I'm in this calm, submissive state that my mind does it's best thinking.

I've always been able to then think of what I should write next. Sure, sometimes I have to maintain the mindlessness longer than other times. That's okay. And yes, you should always have a goal to come back to with your writing.

Because writer's write. But they also have to have time to think about what they're writing. Don't be afraid to take the time to think it through. Don't pressure yourself so much that you've got this huge stumbling block in your way.

Go play video games instead. Ha!

What do you think? How do you overcome writer's block? Aren't we just like badly behaved dogs when we work ourselves into a frenzy? I so think so.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Seven Mind-Blowing Things

1. This is fabulous:

2. And this is frawesome:

3. Then there's this that made me smile all over. It epitomizes my WiP:

4. And this sort of made me weepy:

5. This is freaking me out at Kayla Olson's house:

6. And this I loved more than I want to admit:

7. And finally, best of all, Beth Revis, author of ACROSS THE UNIVERSE, debuted at #7 on the NYT list! Congrats Beth!

What things have you seen this week that blew your mind?

Thursday, January 20, 2011


Dude, you guys, today we have the amazing Michelle McLean and her amazing book, HOMEWORK HELPERS: ESSAYS AND TERM PAPERS.

I have never been more excited. Except for when I had bacon at IHOP... No, no this beats even that.


The Twitter version: tell us about your book in 140 characters or less:

It’s a fun guide on writing essays and term papers that explains step by step, with examples, in plain English, exactly what you need to do

What made you think, “I need to write a book like ESSAYS AND TERM PAPERS.”?

I’ve always been the “go-to” gal for when family members or friends need help writing a paper or essay. I actually really like writing essays and papers, and I’m good at it. So I decided to do a few How To posts on my blog. I looked up some rules one day as a refresher for some of the posts I wanted to write, and the information I was finding was so technically worded and confusing even I, with all my experience and degrees, had a hard time understanding it. It drove me nuts that there wasn’t one site or book I could find that just said “Look, this is what you need to do and here is exactly how you do it, oh and here are a bunch of examples so you can see what I’m talking about.” Seriously, why do people have to make it so confusing?

So, I took the info and wrote a series of blog posts, in plain English, easy to follow directions, with examples. And I got a great response. A few friends told me I should write a book…and kept at me until I agreed :)

What else are you working on? Secrets? Inside scoops? Give us the juicy stuff!

I’ve got two more guidebooks in the works, one on poetry and one on literary analysis and criticisms. And I also write YA historical fiction and always have a novel in progress. And a few children’s picture books for fun :D


Have you always wanted to be a writer?

It was always sort of in the back of my mind, but I didn’t think it was really a career option for some reason. I wanted to be an astronaut for a while, but I’m claustrophobic, afraid of heights and terrible at math, so that was pretty much out of the question. I settled on archaeology for a long time, or archiving…majored in history and everything.

But I’ve always written. I’ve got stories from when I was little…won a young author contest when I was in 5th grade. No matter what path I thought I was going down, being an author was always the big dream.

What made you decide to go that “extra step” and seek publication?

I just had a “why not” moment one day. I’d written a children’s book that my family was raving over. My mom, always my loudest cheerleader, kept telling me I needed to get it published. I’d just started working on my first novel and had always had visions of my name on a book, and just figured I had nothing to lose. It was what I’d always really wanted but it wasn’t going to happen unless I tried…so I did :)

Quick! You’ve been chosen to be a contestant on Survivor. What luxury item do you take?

Ha! I was a huge Survivor fan for years (THANK YOU!) so this is something I’ve considered before…probably flint and steel…you always need fire and a lighter would eventually run out of fluid (cause you know, I’d of course be on the island long enough for it to run out)

Tell us something about yourself we don’t know.

I still sleep with a nightlight in my room :D Overactive imaginations can be a pain sometimes ;-)

And the most important of all: bacon or chocolate?

I almost hate to say it, knowing how you love bacon, but I have to go for the chocolate (It's okay. We can still be friends) …though I’m not averse to putting those hands together and dipping a few crispy morsels in some chocolate deliciousness :D (She's not lying. She sent me some bacon-dipped chocolate. It was delish.)

Awesome, yes? Go visit Michelle here:
Operation Awesome Blog
Facebook Author Page


And if you're feeling lucky today (and even if you're not), you can leave a comment here to WIN A COPY of Michelle's ESSAYS AND TERM PAPERS!! I so could've used this book in high school. College. Heck, I need this book now. So comment. Enter. Win.

Check out what the other Bookanistas are up to today:

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

WriteOnCon Awesomeness Coming in 3...2...1...

We hope you’re ready for WriteOnCon 2011 (we have dates--watch the main site for an epic announcement), and a full year of live events–-because we’ve been VERY busy behind the scenes, planning some New Awesome. We thought we’d start the year off with a bang and announce our amazingly fabulous January Live Event.

Are you ready for this? Got your shiny, new calenders out? Here are the details!

We’re SO excited to announce that we’re bringing in the amazing ladies at Pippin Properties, Inc for a special live chat/panel discussion!

Holly McGhee, Elena Mechlin, and Joan Slattery of Pippin Properties, Inc. will be joining WriteOnCon to discuss query writing do’s and dont’s and what they’re looking for!

When: Monday, January 24th, 2011 at 5:00 PM EST

In case you didn’t notice, the event is scheduled a little earlier than you might be used to, so make sure you make a note of the time and don’t miss out.

The chat will go up about 15 minutes early on the WriteOnCon homepage, and can also be found under the “live events / chat” tab.

Make sure you come armed with plenty of your most pressing questions about query writing and what Pippin is looking for. We’ll be spending 30 minutes on each. And to help you better figure out what to ask, here’s a little more info about these lovely ladies:

About Holly:

Holly McGhee founded Pippin Properties in 1998, after seven years as an Executive Editor and Associate Publisher at HarperCollins, and four years in adult trade marketing. She still can hardly believe that she gets to work with books every day, and she firmly believes that you can learn just about everything you need to know in life from children’s books. She is honored to have spent more than a decade representing talented authors and artists such as Kate DiCamillo, William Steig, Harry Bliss, David Small, Doreen Cronin, Kathi Appelt, and her very own sister, Alison McGhee, as well as many other amazing people. In her personal life, Holly writes under the pen name Hallie Durand and she likes spending time with her three kids and husband, going bowling, grocery shopping, and taking care of her nineteen year old dinner-plate aurelia tree, the best plant on Earth!

About Elena:

After a few years of bopping around the publishing industry, Elena finally found the perfect position from which to pursue her love of all things children’s literature at Pippin Properties. At Pippin, she loves reading queries and loves the treasure hunt that ensues! A uniquely collaborative agency, Pippin represents publishing greats such as Kate DiCamillo, David Small, Peter H. Reynolds, Kathi Appelt, and Doreen Cronin, among many others. Elena loves funny picture books, is typically averse to rhyming texts, likes goofy middle grade, and is on the hunt for some hot YA! She spends much of her free time enjoying New York City on foot.

About Joan:

Joan Slattery joined Pippin Properties, Inc., as a literary agent in November 2010. Prior to that, she spent nearly twenty years editing fiction and picture books for Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers (Random House). As an editor, she had the pleasure of working with Philip Pullman, Jerry Spinelli, Jane Smiley, Cynthia Voigt, Adele Griffin, Shelley Pearsall, Jen Bryant, Laura McNeal, and Tom McNeal, among many others. She also holds great admiration for librarians (and their sway over the children’s book industry) and received her own Masters in Library Science while working as an editor. Joan lives with her husband and twin five-year-olds in a suburb of New York City.

You can learn more about Pippin and their fabulous clients at

We’d like to kick 2011 off with pizzazz so please spread the word! We’ll see you Monday, January 24th!

And I'm not gonna promise anything, but who would you like to see in a WOC Live Event? At the annual conference?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

What We Can Learn From Katy Perry

No, really, hear me out. So I was driving to my school visit a couple of weeks ago, and this song came on the radio. Firework by Katy Perry. Yeah, I know she has her issues, but I really like this song. It's catchy, and dude, have you ever really listened to the words?

Here you go:
Do you ever feel like a plastic bag (yes)
Drifting throught the wind (yes)
Wanting to start again (yes)

Do you ever feel, feel so paper thin
Like a house of cards
One blow from caving in (YES)

Do you ever feel already buried deep
Six feet under scream
But no one seems to hear a thing (heck to the yes)

So right here, I just wanna pause and say that so far, I'm with Katy. Sometimes we're just down, just drifting, being blown here and pushed there. So what do we do? Sing on, Katy, sing on.

Do you know that there's still a chance for you
Cause there's a spark in you
Maybe your reason why all the doors are closed
So you can open one that leads you to the perfect road

Dude, THIS IS IT EXACTLY. Sometimes all these doors in our lives close, and we think that's it, the end, nothing more. We get rejected from an agent we think we'd work well with. We get notes back from a crit partner and we feel like revisions are impossible. We don't get the job we want, we don't get the apartment, we get passed over for a promotion.

We feel like all around us, doors are closing closing closing.

But really, there's another door that will open that will be perfect for us.

I love this. I may or may not have gotten a little misty-eyed in the car. I sucked that back real quick when I realized that hey-I'll-be-in-front-of-25-teenagers-in-less-than-ten-minutes. So yeah.

What do you think? Are all your doors closing? Or are some opening?

Monday, January 17, 2011

School Visit Fail

Okay, so I'm going to break my school visit reports down into bite-size chunks.

First up: the fail that is Elana.

Let me just say that I really liked talking to high schoolers. You should do it if you get the chance, see if it's for you.

Tip #1: Talk to the teacher.

No, really. You should find out what kind of school you're visiting. Ask the teacher what kinds of things they've talked to the class about as pertaining to writing.

Find out how many kids will be there. Find out if the teacher's told them you're coming. Find out if what they've been assigned to read, what they like to read for fun. The teacher should know all this.

My biggest failure? Not asking these questions.

If I'd known the teacher had counseled her students to write through writer's block, I wouldn't have told them to play video games when they're stuck. (No lie. And there's a whole post on this coming up. Get excited.)

If I'd known the teacher had told them they have to learn vocabulary even though they don't like it, I would've talked about the importance of vocabulary in YA/dystopian/fantasy writing.

If I'd known the school focused on leadership, and the teacher taught her students about showing leadership in their writing, I would've been able to touch on that during the visit.

I didn't know any of these things. And while the visit still went well, it could've been better if I had known.

So my biggest tip for anyone planning a school visit is to ask questions. Find out as much as you can about the school/class/students, and tailor your lecture to meet their needs. After all, it's always best to teach people, not content.

And there you go. My failures laid bare. I can't even think of a question to ask about this. So, uh, yeah.

But the ACROSS THE UNIVERSE prize package winner is Michelle Merrill! Email me at elanajohnson(at) for instructions. Congrats!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Things You Should Know

Oh, my heck. Where do I even start? While last week was the week of "What else can go wrong?" this week was the week of "Awesome!"

It's all about the ups and downs, you know?

So let's dive in.

1. I bought a new car. Okay, *I* didn't buy the new car, nor do I get to drive said car. But "we" got a Dodge Charger for my husband!

And I am jealous. But hey, he's been driving this for 5 years:

Complete with multiple dents.

He probably deserves to drive this:

Complete with racing stripes.

2. Teenagers are terrifying. Until they start laughing. Then they're just like normal people. Pretty much I made fun of myself (and vampires) and they let me keep talking. Good times. (And, yes, I'm planning to torture you with full details and tips for school visits. Patience, my pretties.)

3. If I worked near an In 'N Out Burger joint, I would eat a double-double every double-day. Holy double-yum.

4. I got a package from my wonderful friend, Christine. It was busted to bits.

Inside, it held three items she had mailed me, and three she had not. Veeeerrry interesting. Whoever was supposed to get these, I'm sorry.

5. As of Tuesday, I have now been married for 14 years. Yay me! (PS. We picked up the Charger on our anniversary. I totally counted it as my gift to my husband.)

6. My six-year-old daughter might be more excited about POSSESSION than I am. She told her kindergarten teacher that I'd written a book. Her teacher said that was exciting, and that Daughter could bring it in. So she begged me to let her take my ARC to school.

Did I do it?

Uh, yeah. I let her take the book in a large ziplock bag. Daughter showed the class. They talked about how many pages it had (404, said "forty-oh-four" if you're six and just learning that numbers go above say, 10). Then, in the words of my kidlet, "We made our own books. Mine had 5 pages."

7. Did you miss the Across the Universe giveaway on the blog yesterday? You wanna get on that, because I'm announcing the winner on Monday, and you have until 10 PM Sunday night to enter. Go buy AtU!

8. Let it be known that I steal blog ideas. You've been warned.

Got anything I need to know today? Lay it on me.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


Holy icy frozen people, Captain Picard!

I could go on and on about how amazing Beth Revis's debut, ACROSS THE UNIVERSE, is. I could. I won't. I'm just gonna give you the basics.

1. Go buy it. Online somewhere. At your bookstore. Maybe at her launch party tonight (I hate you if you're there). Wherever. But GET IT.

2. Clear your schedule. Trust me when I say you'll need to block out a few hours. No distractions. Take a sick day if need be.

3. Begin reading.

4. Do this: 

5. Then this:

6. Then some more of this:

7. And finally this:

8. Enter to win amazing Across the Universe prize packages.

9. Start stalking Beth.
On twitter
Her blog
Across the Universe website
The League of Extraordinary Writers (where she blogs on Mondays)
Her website
The AtU Facebook Fanpage

10. Tell everyone you know that they need to read Across the Universe ASAP.

11. Discuss the awesomeness of AtU.

My Twitter Review: With strong storytelling, brilliant writing, creepy characters, and a budding romance, ACROSS THE UNIVERSE has everything to satisfy readers. (Okay, so sue me. I have one extra character.)

Have you read it yet? Ordered yours? If you have, without spoiling it for everyone, tell us what you thought.

If not...boy, do I have something for you.

1. A copy of Across the Universe
2. AtU bookmark
3. AtU pins, set of 3 (small)

All you have to do to enter this amazing giveaway for an amazing book is A) leave a comment here B) make sure you're following my blog and C) tell me my hair looks great. Ha!

Other Bookanista love today! Check 'em all out!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Without Blogging

Ah, the blogosphere. The biggest timesuck known to man. Oh, wait, that's twitter. But seriously, couldn't you blog all day long? Reading, commenting, reading, writing, commenting...

Anyway, I just wanted to throw out a post on the value of blogging too. Some things that I wouldn't have without blogging:

1. WriteOnCon. The organizers, of which I am one, met through blogging.
2. My beta readers. Yup, mostly met on blogs.
3. The Bookanistas. I've never met a single one of them, yet they send me sweet stuff in the mail and are a huge support to me through email. All done through blogging.
4. Sleep deprivation. Okay, so I sometimes miss my bedtime to write/read blogs. I'm cool with that.
5. The reason I check my email and smile. All those comments, and people I can email back? LOVE that.

I was going to try for ten, but man it's been a long week, and my brain is all fried from Sinutab.

What have you gained from your participation in the blogosphere?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Tell the Truth Tuesday: Confessions

Okay, so not really confessionS. More like just one. And it's pretty amusing, I think.


Confession for today: When I read, I imagine everything as a cartoon. Everything. The ghosts in Harry Potter? They're like Casper. Fluffy and white and shapeless.

The people? Mostly I see Manga-type people.

I don't know why I do this.

But it makes seeing movies made from books I've read a real shocker. I seriously have to have a little session of self-talk when I go to the theater.

Elana: This isn't a cartoon. You know that, right?
Elana: I know, sheesh. Don't talk down to me.
Elana: Just wanted to make sure you know the ghosts are going to look like real people.
Elana: I know! Stop badgering me.
*settling into the movie, previews over, feature film about to begin, opening scene flashes onscreen*
Elana: Wait a second...
Elana: This isn't animated. I told you that.
Elana: *pouts* This isn't at all what I imagined.

Le sigh. Embarrassing, yet true.

Any confessions from you today? Do you imagine in cartoon characters too?

Monday, January 10, 2011

School Visit + Possession In The Wild = The Complete Breakdown of Elana Johnson

Ack! Dude, today, I'm speaking to a group of high school students in a novel writing class.

I'm terrified. I stand in front of children every day. But not TEENAGERS.

I talk about writing all the time. But not to TEENAGERS.

Class begins at 9 AM.

Tips? Topics? Help?

Maybe just send bacon. And good vibes.

Oh! And double ACK! POSSESSION and some other 2011 debuts were spotted at ALA Midwinter over the weekend! Check out the pics taken by my amazing friend Kirsten Hubbard (LIKE MANDARIN, March 2011).

And here's one Shannon took of Kirsten WITH MY BOOK:

I'm not sure if I should celebrate or puke...

Friday, January 7, 2011

How to Start Your Book

Okay, so recently, I turned in a novel I'd written to my agent. She read it (loved it--phew!) and gave me some feedback. Her only comment? It's going to blow your mind. Are you ready? Mind-blowing tarp all set up?


She said: "It starts too fast."

Okay, stop the pony. Starts TOO FAST?? Isn't that what we're always told? Toss the reader into the action? Grip them with the first word, the first sentence, the first scene??

Now, I'll admit that I'm very sensitive about the way my novels start. I don't like it when someone tells me to start my novels in a different place. Since I don't write in order, I don't write the beginning first, and I feel like I have a really organic process for finding the opening scene of my books.

So my agent told me this particular book was opening too fast. I re-read my first chapter, and saw her point.

Then I proceeded to write a different book for a different deadline. The problem of this other novel went into the notebook of Impossibilities I'm Going To Figure Out (see Monday's post)--which is really just my brain.

Then I finished the deadline novel. Sent it to betas.

And I had to face the opening-too-fast novel. So I read through it. Made some light edits, etc. Could not for the life of me see a different way to start it. So I did what any writer would do: I opened a blank document.

I was going to write a new first chapter, dang it!

And I did. Like 10 times. They all sucked. None of them were right. Or even close.

I could feel the haze coming, the need for sour patch kids and bacon and a good long vacay from writing.

Then the fabulous girls in my critique group gave me a book that changed my life. CHANGED MY LIFE.

I think they were skeptical that I would actually read the book. But I proved them wrong! Ha! I even filled out NOTE CARDS and MADE A FREAKING STORYBOARD.

That's right. Believe it (picture proof, FTW!). Now, those of you who've been here a while know that I simply don't do this. I don't outline. In fact, the mere thought of it makes me shudder and throw salt over my shoulder to ward off evil spirits.

Well, guess what? This book that changed my life? It showed me how to outline in a way that makes sense to me. MAKES TOTAL SENSE!

I know by now you're all screaming: How?! What book??! Spill, Johnson!!

SAVE THE CAT by Blake Snyder. It's about screenwriting--and there's something magical about relating outlining and story construction to movies. I can "see" it. I can watch a movie and "see" everything laid out in only a matter of hours. I can't do that when I read.

So I read SAVE THE CAT, and voila! Just like that, I realized the missing piece of my book: Beat One.

That's right. Out of 15 beats, I was missing the first freaking one! And since The Fabulous Blake Snyder tells you what should have in each beat, I could suddenly "see" how my book needed to start.

I wrote the first chapter the next day.

SAVE THE CAT people. It will save your sanity. Buy it for all your crit mates. Get it yourself. Read it. Love it. Cherish it.

And I made my own Blake Snyder beat sheet for novels using the resources Blake has on his website.

Do you have a book on writing that changed your life? Do tell.
(This may or may not but definitely is the one I've read the most of... I don't like to read to learn. So sue me.)

Also, I wrote a letter to my teen self, and it's up on the Dear Teen Me blog today. I will seriously send you good karma and kiss your babies and/or critique your query letters if you'll go comment on it so I don't look like a complete tool. Deal?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Education of Hailey Kendrick by Eileen Cook

About the Book:

The Twitter version: tell us about your book in 140 characters or less: When Hailey Kendrick loses it all she has to decide how much to risk to get it back- and if she wants it back at all. (Ooh, intriguing. She doesn't want it all back? I must read this, stat.)

Reviews: "Hailey may be an A student headed to the Ivy League, but when it comes to taking a chance on life, she’s clueless. She’s also enormously appealing and great company throughout this breezy read. Yes, it’s chick lit, but of the highest quality—like a gourmet truffle. Cook has whipped up a real treat.” --Kirkus starred review

"Cook effectively builds both Hailey's (justified) feelings of rebellion and the social dynamics of her ostracism, especially in her growing friendship with a challenging townie, Drew, who supervises her punishment working with the janitorial staff....Cook coaxes considerable empathy for the otherwise privileged Hailey as she abandons the achievement treadmill to explore her independence." --Publishers Weekly

About the Author: Eileen Cook is a multi-published author with her novels appearing in six different languages. She spent most of her teen years wishing she were someone else or somewhere else, which is great training for a writer.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?
I’ve wanted to be a writer as long as I can remember. I grew up in a family that loved books and reading. As soon as I understood the concept that someone was responsible for making up the stories in books I knew that was what I wanted to do. Then in college I decided that wanting to be a writer was like wanting to be a princess, a nice idea, but not realistic. Years later I would decide that was stupid and I should go for it.

What made you decide to go that “extra step” and seek publication?
I took a writing course and my instructor encouraged me to send my writing out. When I told her I was worried that I might be rejected she told me “I hate to be the one to tell you this, but you are already not published. The worst thing that is going to happen to you is that you still won’t be published.” (OH MY HECK. I LOVE THIS.) That’s when I decided to stop letting my fears be more important than what I really wanted.

Quick! You’ve been chosen to go on Survivor. What luxury item do you take?
I would never make it on Survivor. I would be that person that no one remembers in the reunion show because I got kicked off or stung by killer bees in the first five minutes. I would bring my iPad so I would have access to a lot of books and could book a flight home on the internet.

And the most important of all: bacon or chocolate?
This is like Sophie’s Choice! I’m going to go with chocolate, but only if it is dark. (Foiled again.)

You can read more about Eileen, her books, and the things that strike her as funny at Eileen lives in Vancouver with her husband and two dogs and no longer wishes to be anyone or anywhere else.

I am so excited to read this one! I loved Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood, and I may or may not be biased toward Simon Pulse novels.

Other Bookanista reviews going on today:
Michelle Hodkin gushes about The Near Witch
LiLa Roecker celebrates XVI's book birthday
Christine Fonseca raves about Wither
Shannon Messenger travels Across the Universe with a special giveaway
Shelli Johannes-Wells gets Lost in the River of Green
Scott Tracey falls in love with Across the Universe
Beth Revis is captivated by Prisoners in the Palace
Carolina Valdez Miller is mesmerized by The Healing Spell
Megan Miranda takes a peek through The Marbury Lens
Shana Silver digs Delirium
Jamie Harrington tells the truth about The Liar Society
Jen Hayley dies for A Touch Mortal
Bethany Wiggins dotes on Paranormalcy

Man, the Bookanistas are rockin' 2011! So, what did we miss? What have you read lately you want to gush about?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Inside Elana: Preparing for the Apocalypse

So I've been evaluating my food storage (that's right, people. When the apocalypse hits, I'm going to have rice and pancakes. And Ramen noodles. Get excited), and I realized that my beverage selection stunk.

Water. I mean, seriously. Just water? Even after the end of the world, I'm pretty sure I'm going to want more than water.

So as I was pondering what drink I'd like most, I came to the conclusion that there's nothing better than Welch's grape soda.


I bought a case, and now I can't stop dreaming about the Grape-soda-induced coma I'm going to be in at the end of the world.

Good times.

What drink would you take with you into the apocalypse?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Two Thousand Eleven

Oh my heck, you guys. I feel like I've been waiting for 2011 my whole life. It just feels that way, or something.

So since I’m an Elevensie, I thought I’d take a day once a month to alert you to some new voices in YA and MG: fellow Elevensies.

I’m going to ask each of them a Elana-style random question so you can get to know them better. You can feast on the eye candy of covers, and you can order the books by clicking the release date.

So without further adieu, I give you some amazing releases coming in January!! For a full list, check out the Elevensies blog, and look at all those gorgeous books coming in Two Thousand Eleven!

Maurisa Guibord’s WARPED, out January 11:

Fess up...what's the first thing you go for before writing? Soda? Chocolate? Music? Something else? This might be weird but before I start writing I have to be really cozy and warm. I live in Maine though- so it's not the easiest thing to accomplish these days. Layers are involved, including warm socks, a comforter, and sometimes even those gloves- the ones with the fingers cut off? Why yes, I do look like Bob Cratchit when I write. Then, when I'm all warm and Cratchitty... I'm almost ready to write.

The only thing I need is a hot drink! I like coffee but I usually find myself drinking tea. My latest addiction is this fabulous tea from Trader Joe's called Jasmine Pearls. It smells like heaven and I do believe it makes my brain work better. At least, I'm hoping it does!

Julia Karr’s XVI, out January 6:

When planning the "perfect party" what's your go-to menu item? When planning the "perfect party" I simply must make "cheddar cheese olive balls."

TerryLynn Johnson’s DOGSLED DREAMS, available NOW!:

When faced with the vast array of apples at the store, which variety do you buy? Each time I purchase apples I buy a different kind. I like variety.

Danette Vigilante’s THE TROUBLE WITH HALF A MOON, out January 6: and the moon. What's your favorite moon phase? My favorite moon phase would be ... drum roll ... the crescent moon aka (in my world at least): Toenail moon!

Jeff Sampson’s VESPER, out January 25:

Besides "author," what's your dream profession? The ideal job for me is anything creative, really! Though I love being an author, my second love would be graphic design. I do a lot of image editing and design work just for fun!

You can also check out a lot of amazingness coming in 2011 on the Goodreads 2011 Debut Author Challenge list. Yeah, okay, Possession is on there, and no one would mind if you, you know, voted for it or anything. *wink*

What book are you excited about in this, the year of Two Thousand Eleven??

Monday, January 3, 2011

What I Have Learned

Okay, so 2010 was an amazing year, filled with amazing things. Those 365 days seemed to fly by in a blink, while at the same time laboring on and on. And on.

Today, I wanted to spill a little bit of what I've learned by doing edits with an agent and then an editor. Maybe it will help someone realize something that will make their 2011 the year of years.

I learned that the impossible is possible. No, really, keep reading.

You know how you get notes from someone, or feedback from an agent or whatever? And the first thing you think is, "Uhh...I don't know if I can do that."

24 hours later, you're full-on screaming through the house: "I can't do this! How do I do this?"

And 72 hours later, you're crying at weird moments while watching The Office and/or curled up in bed, fully clothed, eating Oreos, chanting, "I can't do this. I can't do this."

Or maybe that's just me.

All because your beta/crit partner/agent/editor made a little comment in the margin of your novel. Surely they didn't intend for you to freak out, right?

But you, the author, have no idea how to do what they've suggested/asked you to do. You know you *should* do it. It would make the novel/story better.

But, but HOW??

*insert screaming, freaking out, crying, eating, watching more TV*

If you've ever found yourself in this situation, raise your hand. And then read this: The impossible is possible.

Here's how I learned that: I did it. That's right--I achieved the impossible!

You can too. Here's how:

1. When you come across said panic-inducing note, write it down.

That's all. Don't try to fix it. Don't immediately reach for the sour patch kids. Don't go turn on Two Weeks Notice, and then proceed to be depressed for the rest of the day. Just write it down in your trusty notebook of Impossible Things You're Going to Conquer.

2. Work on the easy stuff. You know, the commas and voice and blah, blah, blah. Periodically check your List of Doom Impossible, just to keep those things fresh in your head.

I guarantee that as you're working on the other stuff, you will find the exact spot you need to fix exactly what your beta reader/crit partner/agent/editor said.

I guarantee it. If you don't, well, I'll send you a pound of bacon and a DVD to help you through this hard time.

And that's the biggest thing I learned last year re: my writing.

What about you? Tell me you've curled into a ball and watched your favorite shows. Tell me how you achieved the impossible. Or tell me what you do when you get a comment you know you need to fix, but you don't know how. How do you go about solving it?

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