Sunday, July 31, 2011

Interview with debut YA author Emily Hendricks Jensen

Emily, thank you so much for being a guest on the blog today! What would you like readers to know about you as an introduction?

I have a pretty uninteresting bio. I was born in Missouri and was an only child until I was 12 and now I have 8 siblings (halves and steps.) I majored in Journalism and I loved it, though I don’t use the degree in the conventional sense of working for a newspaper. I do, however, use all the courses I took on researching and investigating to find information for my writing. I moved to Wyoming in mid-July and will be getting married in mid-August. I’m already writing under my future married name. I love that.

Tell us about Fault. What was your inspiration/motivation behind this book?

The plot came from a writing prompt I saw on a website when I was in high school. It was started it as a short story, but before I knew it I had written one young adult novel that I eventually split up into five different novellas. The story is about Cecelia, a 15 year old drug addict who will do anything for acceptance, love and drugs. Her parents send her to a facility to help her with her drug problems, but they won’t acknowledge the abuse she had in her past that started all of her drug problems in the first place. It is written in verse.

What have you learned through writing this book?

How cathartic writing can really be and the what all the things you write can tell you about yourself as a person. I didn’t realize how much of myself I poured into the story until my fiance told me he saw certain people in the characters. I’m not a drug addict and I’ve never been to a rehabilitation facility, but I’m the only child of a bitter divorce and I understand what it feels like to be shuttled from house to house. I know what trying too hard to be perfect feels like.

How did you get started writing?

I’ve always been some sort of writer. Short stories when I was younger, then poems (that were awful) in high school. I never had the confidence to write a book, but one day I sat down and started one. Finished that one, tried to get an agent. Didn’t happen. Tried again with my second book. Nothing. At first I felt like a terrible writer, then I realized that those two books were absolutely not my best pieces of work. After that I wrote Fault. I sent it around to agents and small presses, and everyone who read it “loved the concept” but said it would be a hard book to market. That is why I went through the self-publishing process.

What is your writing process like? Do you write on a computer? In a spiral notebook? Do you draw illustrations?

I write everything on either my computer or my iPhone. I do a lot of traveling (both in the US and internationally) and I think I do my best work on planes and trains. My books don’t have illustrations, probably because I can barely draw a stick figure.

How do you get ideas for what you write?

Mostly the news. I’m a huge news junkie, especially entertainment news.

What is your biggest advice for young people reaching for their dreams?

Never ever give up. I know that’s what everyone says, but it’s so true. If you give up, all you will have is regrets and regrets get you nowhere.

What are some of your favorite books?

My two favorite books ever are The Saving Graces by Patricia Gaffney and Wish You Well by David Baldacci. I also love anything by Ellen Hopkins, Melissa Senate, and Maureen Johnson.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I am so excited about my novella series! A new novella will come out every two months. Next summer I intend to publish a full length young adult novel. I have other things in the works as well, so stay tuned!

Contact Emily:

Friday, July 29, 2011

Guest Post by Barbara Jolie

Outlining to Move Your Story Forward
by Barbara Jolie

Ever since high school, I've dreamed of writing a teen fiction book that would excite and inspire young people as much as my favorite authors excited and inspired me. Before, during and after college, I started the book numerous times and had even gotten several chapters deep before losing focus and giving up only to start over again.

After speaking with other writers, I think I've finally figured out why I'm having trouble keeping my book on track: I lack an outline. Like trying to reach a destination without a map, writing a book without an outline can lead to writing that meanders and rambles in a stream of consciousness and never forms a coherent whole. I've decided that before my next attempt at my book, my first step will be to write an outline, and I'm in the middle of that process right now. Here's what I've learned about the outlining process so far.

1. Outlines Are Adaptable
I used to be afraid of outlines because I thought using them would box me in to a formulaic, pre-packaged storyline with no room for my own creative liberties. In reality, all an outline is doing is keeping me walking forward in a straight line with my book. In the past, I've known how I want my story to begin, I've known how I want it to end, and I've known the key conflicts that must take place, but so far I have had trouble putting them all together into a whole. With an outline, how the characters "get there" is up to me, but I do know I have certain chapters that I must devote to arriving at the conflicts, dealing with them, and overcoming them if I'm to write a good book. I can change and adapt my outline all I want to suit the changing whims of my mind, as long as I still stay on track and push the story forward.

2. Outlines Give You More Manageable Goals
Writing an entire book is an intimidating task, but breaking it down into outline form section by section and then chapter by chapter gives you more manageable goals for writing your book. Establishing that I'm going to finish this book in a year may or may not get me there. But by establishing a set number of chapters in my outline that I will finish each month, I have given myself a more do-able goal, and a step-by-step plan for completing the entire work.

3. Outlining Is an Opportunity for Brainstorming
While creating my outline, I've started asking myself questions like, "Ok, so how does the main character actually GET herself in this tough situation?" and "Does it actually make sense for her to make that climactic decision, given her personality and past behavior?" The outlining process has forced me to get creative in the way I push my story forward and has led me to flesh out my characters in greater detail based on the major events in their lives and how they respond to them. So the outlining process is actually leading to a better overall book!

Has outlining helped you in the past? How could it help your writing process in the future?

* * *

By-line: This guest post was contributed by Barbara Jolie, who writes for online classes. She welcomes your comments at her email:

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Flash Fiction Story Published

Exciting news! My flash fiction piece "Wedding Day" is featured today on the wonderfully zany new lit zine Dr. Hurley's Snake-Oil Cure. The goal of this literary journal is to "attack tedium in all its forms" and it is meant to be a "course of healing that will lead [readers] back to vitality, interest, health and youth." I am honored to have my story published by them!

Here is the opening of my story:

A bride, dressed in white gown and flowing veil, totters in high heels down the uneven pavement past Simone's CafĂ©. She holds a bouquet of red and orange chrysanthemums. Three men, wearing black tuxes, accompany her; one of them holds up the hem of her dress so it doesn't drag on the ground. 

"Congratulations!" I call out, raising my paper cup of coffee in a toast.

They stare at me, confused. Maybe they don't speak English? They are Asian, all of them, perhaps not born in America, perhaps immigrants from Japan or China, Taiwan or Korea. Or Thailand, maybe? Is Thailand an Asian country, or is it South American? My wife always had a thing for Thailand. Some friend of hers traveled there in college, for spring break or something, and wouldn't stop gushing about how beautiful it was, and ever since then Molly got it into her head that she wanted to go there...

# # #

You can read the rest at I'd love to hear your comments!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Interview with April Ball

Today we are delighted to continue our Dancing With The Pen blog tour with an interview with young writer April Ball. April is an eleven-year-old sixth grader from Thousand Oaks, California. In addition to writing, she loves to sing and act. She has three cats, who she says she "absolutely adores." Order your copy of Dancing With The Pen: a collection of today's best youth writing on Amazon here.

April reads her story at the Dancing With The Pen 
panel at last summer's Ventura Book Festival.

Can you tell us a bit about your piece that appears in the book?

My piece is a short story titled "The Explosion." I actually wrote it in the 4th grade. I had just finished reading The Series of Unfortunate Events and I was inspired by its plot and theme.

What do you love about writing?

I have been writing since the 4th grade. So, in some words, yes, I have been writing a long time. I like being able to make up the characters and what they do. They are all my invention. I love being able to do what I want with them.

What does it feel like to have your piece published in the book?

It's very exciting to have my piece included. When I got the news I was so surprised! I didn't think I had a chance because I was up against people much older (I was only 9 at the time). To celebrate, I called my Grandpa. He's my biggest supporter.

What is your advice to other young writers?

My advice is to never stop. Personally, when I start writing the ideas just spill out. Take something ordinary, like an "F" on a science test, and turn it into a maze of ideas to write about. That way you're able to create your own realities and escape the real world.

What are some of your favorite books?

Harry Potter (JK Rowling). Wanderer (Sharon Creech). Bloomability (Sharon Creech). Year of the Hangman (Gary Blackwood). The Giver (Lois Lowry). Anything by Jerry Spinelli, Patricia Polacco, and Sharon Creech.

What are you up to now?

Working on finishing a story. I always seem to write a strong beginning, but I fizzle out by the end.

  • Order Dancing With The Pen on Amazon. (It rose to a #2 ranking on in the "literature anthologies" category in its first week of release!
  • Please take a few seconds to "like" our Amazon page!
  • And, if you have a few minutes and could write a review on Amazon, that would be fantastic! 
  • You can also follow Dancing With The Pen on Facebook and Twitter. We're now featured on Goodreads, too!
  • Discounted bulk orders are available at the Write On! website:

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Writing to Please Yourself

A couple weeks ago, I was delighted to be the keynote speaker for the June meeting of the Ventura County Writers Club. I had an absolutely wonderful time and met so many fun, friendly, creative and driven people! I focused my talk on "writing to please yourself," which was inspired by a piece of advice I received from novelist Elizabeth Berg, who I met a few years back at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference. My brother Greg was kind enough to record the first part of my talk, so now I can share it with you! Please spread the link to anyone you think would enjoy it!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Interview with Daniel Williams

Today we continue our Dancing With The Pen blog tour with an interview with young writer Daniel Williams. Daniel is an eighteen-year-old 12th grader from Fort Wayne, Indiana. In addition to writing, his hobbies include reading, dancing, singing, and riding his bike. He is passionate about giving back to his community and is very active within the youth antiviolence movement. He is a featured young writer in Dancing With The Pen: a collection of today's best youth writing. 

Your piece "Water-Bio Poem" was published in Dancing With The Pen. How did you get your idea for this poem?

It is a sort of autobiography poem I wrote about water where I describe what water is like. It comes naturally to me and I write how I feel. I write mostly about my life.

Have you been writing for a long time?

Yes, I have been writing for eight years. One thing I like about writing is that I can express myself the way I write and feel.

What books do you enjoy reading?

Sharon M Draper, Walter Dean Myers and the late E. Lynn Harris are a few of my favorite authors.

What are you working on now?

I’m publishing my first book titled Brothers Stand Strong. I will continue writing short stories. I plan to down the road do my own writing reality show on YouTube.

Do you have any advice for other writers, or for other young people going after their dreams?

Write what you know and write from your heart. In general, follow your heart with what you want out of life.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Thank you for giving young writers like myself a chance to share our works with the world.

  • Order Dancing With The Pen on Amazon. (It rose to a #2 ranking on in the "literature anthologies" category in its first week of release!
  • Please take a few seconds to "like" our Amazon page!
  • And, if you have a few minutes and could write a review on Amazon, that would be fantastic! 
  • You can also follow Dancing With The Pen on Facebook and Twitter. We're now featured on Goodreads, too!
  • Discounted bulk orders are available at the Write On! website: