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HELLO all of you loyal Class of 2k9 followers!
Just wanted to let you know we are still blogging (we writers can never shut up, can we?)
and our new blog address is:


We are planning to open our blog up to more YOU ASKED questions,
so put on your thinking caps and get ready to ask us your burning questions.
Thanks so much for your continued support.

The Class of 2k9

p.s. And a big shout-out to the amazing Class of 2k10!

"You Asked!" #36: Target Audience

brimfulcuriosities.com asked: So many books include praise from various kid lit experts and authors (all adults). While your book is in the ARC stage, do you also try to get a view point from your target audience and use that in your promotions?

2K9 authors answered:

Suzanne Morgan Williams: No, I didn’t try to get kids opinions for promotion of Bull Rider but I did use kid experts in writing my skateboard portions of the book. I sent those sections to four skater volunteers who read them for accuracy. And now that the book has come out and I have responses from readers, I sometimes share those as part of my presentations. I think the difficulty with using kids for blurbs is somehow “this is the best book ever – Bobby M. sixth grader” just sounds like, who is this and does he love everything? Of course the same can be asked about adult blurbers too, but generally they are from people whose names readers recognize and presumably trust. So give me a teen celebrity to blurb my book and we’d have something!

Lauren Bjorkman: Yes!! First off, I always hand over the second or third draft of my WIP to a teen reader to make sure I'm connecting with my audience. And when I got my first ARCs in the mail, I sent them to YA book bloggers. Many of these bloggers are teens. I love their reviews because they are honest, personal, and heartfelt. I posted many of them on my blog and website. Yay for bloggers and their passion for books!

Donna St. Cyr: I did not send ARC’s out to kids, but I did get plenty of kid feedback while writing. Mostly I had my son read my chapters and comment – he was pretty honest when he didn’t think something worked – and didn’t hesitate in telling me. I was very grateful for the honest criticism.

J.T. Dutton: I share drafts with my college-aged creative writing students. Most of them aren't teens anymore, but they are helpful. Maybe they only pretend to know when to laugh. Maybe they know the grade book is in my hands. In any case, it's been my tradition to make my last class a group reading and social event. I usually bring doughnuts.

I'd consider using their feedback as promotional material if I didn't think I had slightly coerced them (with the doughnuts).

S. Terrell French: I read drafts of Operation Redwood to my kids and had several kids read it, mostly just to see if they were absorbed enough to finish. But I didn't send ARCs to kids or use them for publicity. I have occasionally seen books with quotes from kids on the jacket -- "I love this book!" (Sarah W., age 10). It would be interesting to know if potential buyers find this compelling!

Joy Preble: I didn't actually plan to get feedback from my target audience when I was drafting Dreaming Anastasia, but it ended up that way. I had a wonderful group of girls in my lunch time class that year, all of whom loved to read YA. That year, we had an extra 30 minutes of "flex time" tacked onto that class. So one day without giving it too much thought beforehand, I shared the first chapter with those girl readers.To my pleasure and surprise, they wanted more. And so it was that these 5 girls read the entire first draft of what was still called Spark. Their enthusiasm - and their love of Ethan - truly did spur me on to keep querying agents. I've even thanked them in the acknowledgements. And many of them were there for my launch party. I think they look at Dreaming Anastasia as "their book." This makes me very happy!

Ellen Jensen Abbott: My publisher does send ARCs to various library groups to get some feedback from the target audience, and I did put a quotation from one of the readers on my book jacket. These responses have been really wonderful--often more meaningful than the "expert" critics. One of the tensions in writing for kids is that you are writing for *kids* but virually all of the reviewers are adults! The blogosphere has been great for getting kids' opinions on books written for them.

Kathryn Fitzmaurice: My editor would send me what people were saying about the book from time to time, but she didn't include a quote on the back of the book from anyone who was in my target age of 9-12 years old.


This is the last "You Asked!" of the year. I hope you've all enjoyed reading our thoughts on your many questions!

The Class of 2K9 is proud to announce...

Our forthcoming second and third novels in alphabetical order by author:

  • Ellen Jensen Abbott, author of WATERSMEET, has a contract for the sequel (as yet untitled) with Marshall Cavendish, due out in fall of 2011.
  • Lauren Bjorkman, author of MY INVENTED LIFE, has a second book, MISS FORTUNE COOKIE, due out in spring of 2011.
  • J.T. Dutton, author of FREAKED, will release her second novel for young adults, STRANDED (HarperTeen), on June 8, 2010.
  • Kathryn Fitzmaurice, author of THE YEAR THE SWALLOWS CAME EARLY, will release her sequel/companion book, A MAP TO THE MIDDLE (HarperCollins), in the summer of 2011.
  • Lisa Greenwald, author of MY LIFE IN PINK AND GREEN, has sold two more books.   SWEET TREATS & SECRET CRUSHES will be released in fall of 2010.
  • Danielle Joseph, author of SHRINKING VIOLET, will release her second novel, INDIGO BLUES (Flux Books) on July 1, 2010.
  • Ann Haywood Leal, author of ALSO KNOWN AS HARPER (Henry Holt), has a second novel to be released in 2010.
  • Rosanne Parry, author of HEART OF A SHEPHERD, will release her second novel, SECOND FIDDLE (Random House Children's Books), in the spring of 2011.
  • Beverly Patt, author of HAVEN, will release her second book, BEST FRIENDS FOREVER: A WWII Scrapbook (Marshall Cavendish), in spring 2010.
  • Joy Preble, author of DREAMING ANASTASIA (Sourcebooks), has big news coming soon!
  • Sydney Salter, author of MY BIG NOSE AND OTHER NATURAL DISASTERS and JUNGLE CROSSING, will release her third book, SWOON AT YOUR OWN RISK (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/Graphia), in 2010.
  • Lauren Strasnick, author of NOTHING LIKE YOU, has a second book coming out with Simon Pulse in fall of 2010.
We hope you'll continue to follow us on our Sequel Blog.  More details to come soon!
In alphabetical order by title:

ALSO KNOWN AS HARPER, by Ann Haywood Leal, is a Scholastic Book Club and Book Fair Pick starting in January 2010.

BREATHING, by Cheryl Renee Herbsman, will be released in paperback on June 10, 2010.

BULL RIDER, by Suzanne Morgan Williams, is a Junior Guild Selection for 2009.  The paperback edition will be released in the summer of 2010.

Albert Borris has sold the Italian language rights for CRASH INTO ME.

HEART OF A SHEPHERD, by Rosanne Parry, is available from Listening Library and was read by voice artist Kirby Heyborne.  The option for film rights is being held by Tashtego Films.

MY LIFE IN PINK AND GREEN, by Lisa Greenwald, is a Scholastic Book Club and Book Fair Pick, and audio rights have been sold.

NOTHING LIKE YOU, by Lauren Strasnick, will be released in paperback in fall 2010, and the French language rights have been sold to publisher Albin Michel Jeunesse.

ROAD TO TATER HILL, by Edith M. Hemingway, will be released in paperback in spring 2011.

Danielle Joseph has sold film rights for SHRINKING VIOLET to the Disney Channel for a TV movie.

THE YEAR THE SWALLOWS CAME EARLY,  by Kathryn Fitzmaurice, is available as an audio book.  It will also be released in paperback in the summer of 2011.

WHEN THE WHISTLE BLOWS, by Fran Cannon Slayton, is a Scholastic Book Club and Book Fair Pick starting in January 2010.  The audio book will be available January 20, 2010 from Brilliance Audio, read by Peter Berkrot.

Stay tuned for more to come from the Class of 2K9!

"You Asked!" #35: Reader Age

whereistheluv asked: When writing your books, did you actually think about the intended age of your readers and write specifically for an age range, (if so how did that influence you original idea) or did you just write a story and then realize it was a YA novel?

2K9 authors answered:

Donna St. Cyr: My book is midgrade and in the beginning I just wrote what was in my head without evaluating readership. Later, when it became clear that the story’s interest level and complexity pointed toward upper elementary and middle school, I was more cognizant about scenes and whether I needed to tweak them for the age group who would be reading my story.

Rosanne Parry: I tend not to think in terms of reader age specifically, but I usually do have one reader in mind, a child I know fairly well. If I can write a story that will delight this one child, then I have an idea of what age the book will be suited for. 

I do know a fair amount about reading levels as my degree is in education, so I know that the reading level for Heart of a Shepherd is on the easy side for a middle grade novel. What has come as a pleasant surprise is the number of older readers I've heard from. One of my school visits this fall was to the Adult English Language Learner Program at a local community college. The average age in that class was 45, but they loved the book, in part because it had such a positive portrayal of the Spanish-speaking hired man on the ranch. 

Kudos to the team at Random House for making a book cover that looks grown up enough for an adult to read it on the city bus with pride!  My editor, Jim Thomas worked with art director, Jan Gerardi and artist, Jonathan Barkat on the jacket. If there is something about that lovely image of a soulful young cowboy with lots of open land around him that seems vaguely familiar, it's because Jonathan Barkat is also the cover artist for Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson. Look at those two books together, and you'll see what I mean. Different images, but very evocative of the American west and the spirit of people who live here.

Suzanne Morgan Williams: I definitely wrote for the age range. And I wrote for three of them! The Bull Rider manuscript started out as a younger middle grade, had a stint as an older YA, and turned out to be kind of tween. Each revision of the novel was different, depending on what I thought the readers were interested in and more than that, what they could understand. Suzy

J.T. Dutton: My territory as a writer at least at this phase of my career, seems to be adolescence. I like wrestling with how human beings psychologically turn themselves into free thinking individuals. I am attracted to the idea of rebellion and I admire and respect the courage it takes for teens to find themselves as people.

My readers may sometimes be younger than me, but they are not less complex. In fact, it seems to me that "coming of age" represents one of the hardest of human experiences, so describing how people cross the threshold into adulthood demands the fullest and deepest measure of my skills and a no-holds barred honesty about the challenges involved.

I try to be entertaining because if f I employed only adult forms of distance and irony to my subject matter, few kids would want to make the journey with me. I try to "be" my audience, in snarkiness, rebelliousness, passion, intensity, humor, and attraction to all that causes snickering. I'm senstive to the difference between how kids are and how we (adlults) want them to be. I work at the "are" level on the theory that this acknowledgement and approval is a more enduring gift than a wishing away of true and hard realities.

Cheryl Renee Herbsman: I knew that my book was YA when I was writing it. I think the teen years are such an intense part of life, an era that stays with you always in some way or another. It’s a time that’s so tumultuous. It never ceases to draw me in. So I write with a mind to my inner teen. And I still love reading YA. So I don’t think of it as writing only for teens, just the teen within all of us.

Kathryn Fitzmaurice: I wrote The Year the Swallows Came Early with 9-12 years old in mind right from the beginning. I remember I had to drop out of my adult book club because the adult books we were reading were messing up my "child" voice! These days, I try to fit in adult books when I can but typically read mostly middle grade novels.

Sydney Salter: I do write with an age group in mind--I think it's important to get
the character's voice right even in a first draft.

Joy Preble: I always knew that Dreaming Anastasia was a YA novel since Anne is sixteen and in high school. But beyond that, high school is the period of time I associate with some of my more intense experiences and emotions so I guess that's why YA just seemed a good fit for me.

Edith M. Hemingway: I don't write with a specific age in mind, but I do try to write the type of story I would have been drawn into at the age I fell in love with reading. My editor has never told me I need to simplify or complicate the voice, so I guess I'm hitting the right median.

Ann Haywood Leal: I don't think I ever start with the audience in mind--I always start with a story, and the audience hopefully follows!  I naturally gravitate toward higher MG and lower YA--maybe because the books that continue to be my favorites, the ones I read over and over again were from when I was that age.  (ARE YOU THERE, GOD? IT'S ME. MARGARET., THE WOLVES OF WILLOUGHBY CHASE, FROM THE MIXED-UP FILES OF MRS. BASIL E. FRANKWEILER....)  It sounds sort of cliche, but I think I may actually be writing for the 12 or 13-year-old me!

Blowing Our Own Horns!

 As our debut year draws to an end, we thought it would be appropriate to post a list of awards, nominations, and recognition our various books have accrued through the year.  And please keep an eye out for future news from our fall releases, just now making their way into the literary world.

In the order of launch dates:
  • HEART OF A SHEPHERD by Rosanne Parry
    • Kirkus Reviews Best Books of 2009
    • ABC Best Books for Children 2009
    • Washington Post Best Books for Children 2009
    • Horn Book Fanfare List 2009
    • Nominated for Cybil Award in Middle Grade Category
  • THE YEAR THE SWALLOWS CAME EARLY by Kathryn Fitzmaurice
    • A Bookpage Best Book of 2009
    • A Booklist Top Ten First Novel for Youth in 2009
    • Nominated by SCIBA for their 2009 Annual Book Awards
    • A California Readers Collection List Selection for 2010
    • A Best New Book listed by Scholastic's Instructor Magazine
    • A Booklist Starred Review
  • BULL RIDER by Suzanne Morgan Williams
    • Texas Lone Star List 2010, recommended by Texas Library Association for Middle School Readers
    • Texas Tayshas List 2010, recommended by Texas Library Association for High School Readers
    • Nominated for Nevada Young Readers Award List 2010/2011
    • Nominated for YALSA's Best Books for Young Adults 2010
    • Nominated for Cybil Award in Middle Grade Category
  • JANE IN BLOOM by Deborah Lytton
    • Nominated for the Texas Lone Star List 2010
    • Nominated for a Cybil Award in the Young Adult Category
  • MY LIFE IN PINK AND GREEN by Lisa Greenwald
    • Spring 2009 Indie Next List Top 10
    • Borders Best Books of 2009 List
    • Nominated for a Cybil Award in Middle Grade Category
  • ALSO KNOWN AS HARPER by Ann Haywood Leal
    • A Good Morning America Summer Reading Pick for Teens
    • Indie Next Top Ten Books for Summer
    • Nominated for a Cybil Award in Middle Grade Category
    • Nominated for a Cybil Award in the Young Adult Category
    • YALSA 2010 Popular Paperbacks Bodies (Theme) List
  • BREATHING by Cheryl Renee Herbsman
    • Received a VOYA's Perfect Ten and a Starred Review
    • Nominated for the Cybil Award in the Young Adult Category
  • OPERATION REDWOOD by S. Terrell French
    • Summer 2009 Kids' Indie Next List--Top Ten
    • National OUtdoor Book Awards 2009, Children's Category, Honorable Mention
    • New York Public Library: Children's Books 2009--"100 Titles for Reading and Sharing"
    • Horn Book "newcomers" selection
  • WATERSMEET by Ellen Jensen Abbott
    • Nominated for the YALSA Best Books List
    • Nominated for the Andre Norton Award from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America for best Sci-Fi/Fantasy Book for Young Adults
    • Nominated for the Amelia Bloomer Project Award for Best Books for Girls ages birth to 18
    • Nominated for the Cybil Award in the Science Fiction/Fantasy YA Category
  • SHRINKING VIOLET by Danielle Joseph
    • Nominated for the Cybil Award in the Young Adult Category
  • INITIATION by Susan Fine
    • Nominated for the Cybil Award in the Young Adult Category
  • WHEN THE WHISTLE BLOWS by Fran Cannon Slayton
    • Indiebound Kids' Next List, Fall 2009--#6
    • ABC Best Books for Children 2009, Teen Category
    • Nominated for YALSA's Best Books for Young Adults
    • Kirkus Starred Review
    • School Library Journal Starred Review
    • Nominated for Texas Lone Star List, 2010
    • Nominated for a Cybil Award in the Middle Grade Category
  • CRASH INTO ME by Albert Borris
    • Nominated for YALSA's Best Books for Young Adults
    • Nominated for a Cybil Award in the Young Adult Category
    • Nominated for a Cybil Award in the Middle Grade Sci-Fi/Fantasy Category
    • Nominated for a Cybil Award in the Teen Sci-Fi/Fantasy Category
    • ABC Best Books for Children 2009, Teen Category
  • ROAD TO TATER HILL by Edith M. Hemingway
    • A 2009 Parents' Choice Gold Award
    • WNC Top 100 List--#18
    • Nominated for a Cybil Award in the Middle Grade Category
  • GIVE UP THE GHOST by Megan Crewe
    • Nominated for a Cybil Award in the Teen Sci-Fi/Fantasy Category
  • MY INVENTED LIFE by Lauren Bjorkman
    • Nominated for a Cybil Award in the Young Adult Category
Stay tuned for our next list of special print runs, film, audio, and foreign language rights, as well as forthcoming second and third books!

No Tears, I Swear

As a kid, I would cry each year on my birthday. The idea of aging - six to seven, ten to eleven - seemed heartbreaking and cruel. I would never again know five! Junior high and I were so over. Ninth grade? A blurry memory! Now, at thirty-three, i'm trying for a more reasonable perspective: each year brings possibility! Potential for good change! Instead of clinging woefully to what no longer is, I do my best to look forward.

Fellow 2k9ers: I've learned loads this year. Having twenty-one other debut MG/YA novelists in my life has been huge. You've held my hand while i've contemplated book trailers and launch outfits and twitter accounts and blogging (here I am... still contemplating...). And even though I no longer weep with each passing year, I still can't help feeling a tad mopey and nostalgic as 2010 draws nigh (never again will we know the thrills and spills of first books! Sad, right? So very sad...)... Farewell, 2k9! Together we've been up, down, and all around.

Lauren Strasnick, Nothing Like You, Simon Pulse

Finding our Voices

I think for many of us the journey of becoming a writer has been one of finding the voice of our character and polishing that voice to perfection. Then when that magical moment occurs and we realize our characters no longer belong just to us, but become travelers in the world of books, we are faced with decisions to make about our author voice. How will we represent ourselves off the page?

In many ways we are in a golden age for this. There have never been as many venues for promoting books as there are today. Websites, blogs, twitter, book trailers, pod casts, email list serves, and many others, offer a writer a place to speak off the page. One of the benefits of this class has been the yearlong fellowship of writers searching out just this issue. How will we as authors speak to our readership and in particular to booksellers, librarians, and teachers--our beloved BLTs as we have come to call them.

From the start our champion of voice-finding has been Albert Boris. He is Bev's co president and from the start was the one who helped us forge a group identity by making space in our business meetings for water cooler chat. It was that bonding over the silly and sometimes heartfelt pieces of our writing lives that we really found our voice as a group.

As some of our faithful blog readers know, Albert suffered a stroke almost exactly a year ago, and as a result temporarily lost his voice. I confess this is something I greatly fear. Communication is my world and to lose it is almost too painful to contemplate. For weeks I simply could not believe that our young, vibrant, energetic, Albert was not chiming in on our group emails. It broke my heart to have him miss out on the joy of launching the class when he had been at the heart of our group’s formation. In his first few messages to the group after his stroke, a string of disjointed letters was all he could manage. But our Albert didn’t give up. His year has been one of learning to find his words again and it has been nothing short of inspiration to me. The first time he wrote an email with a whole sentence that made sense, I cried with relief and joy and pride.

He joined the group of 2K9 authors who presented their work at Andersons Bookshop over the summer. He had made enormous progress in his speech and we found him as warm and funny and generous as the Albert we’d met in all of our hundreds of emails the year before. A few weeks later I was very honored to read an excerpt from his book Crash Into Me at the Maryland SCBWI conference as a part of the panel the Class of 2K9 was presenting. It is a remarkable book about the difficult topic of teen depression and suicide. Albert handles the material with the wisdom of a person who has served as a school counselor for decades and the humor of someone who wears that wisdom lightly. Crash Into Me is not a book I thought I would like, but I was won over by the strength of Albert's writing and the importance of the topic.

If I lived closer I would have spent the year bringing Albert's family casseroles and offering car pools for his kids and all the other things a community does. Unfortunately, a hot dish does not carry well from Oregon to New Jersey, and I have never met Albert in person. But every time I visit a bookstore, for an event or just browsing, I chat up the book seller and bring out my handy 2K9 post card with all of our beautiful covers on it and say, "Have you read Crash Into Me? This is a voice you just have to hear."

It's not dinner but in my opinion, of all the things we have done as a class this year, it’s that one-to-one conversation that matters. “Read this. It’s a voice you should hear.”

"You Asked!" #34: Timing

stephsureads asked: How long did it take you to A) write your story, B) get an agent, and C) sell your book?

2K9 authors answered:

Megan Crewe: For GIVE UP THE GHOST, it took ten months to write (from starting the first complete draft to finishing the final revision before I queried agents--I had a false start several months earlier), six months to get an agent (from first query sent to offer of representation accepted), and one year to sell it (from manuscript first sent out to offer that we ended up accepting received).

J.T. Dutton: I wrote Freaked during my last year of graduate school. I had 8 short stories ready to defend as my thesis project, but I decided to hang out an extra semester and expand the one my workshop said would make a funny novel. After that, I poked at it a little, but life  intervened. I developed a semi-debilitating illness (menier's disease), embarked on my teaching career, married, had a couple of kids. Ten years slipped by. I pulled the manuscript for Freaked from the drawer, spent 4 months revising it and three months sending queries to agents. Once I found someone to represent me, the book sold in two days.

The ten year period of seeming nothingness in the middle was important to process. I was still reading and taking writing classes and writing sometimes.I applied myself to the last draft and was more confident about what I was doing and more open to the idea of rejection--because heck, life was good just as it was.

Donna St. Cyr: One year to write it – another year to revise it – another year to sell it.

Rosanne Parry: Like Jen, my book took a very long time. From first idea to sold manuscript was almost 8 years and at Random House we spent 2 and a half years on moving from manuscript to book on the shelf. If that seems dauntingly long, don't be discouraged. I worked on Heart of a Shepherd intermittently for those first 8 years. In addition to the book, I raised 4 children, worked part time and wrote 3 other novels and a dozen or so short stories and picture book manuscripts. Of the 2 and a half years my novel spent at the publishing house pre-publication, about 9 months was spent on revision and the rest on cover design, copy edits, proofing, distribution of advanced review copies and a thousand other unsung tasks that go into launching a book. In retrospect, I'm glad it took that long. I needed every one of those years to develop as a writer and to prepare my family for the somewhat chaotic work patterns of a professional wrier.

I found my agent at the beginning of my search process. I submitted my work to him on the strength of the recommendation of a person I've known for many years. He responded to my query letter in about a week. He asked for a full manuscript. About a week later he said he was part way through the novel and wanted a bio from me. It should include previously published work, my career goals and a list of other finished manuscripts. He offered representation a week or two later, and following a few phone calls, we had a signed agreement in a month. From there it was a little more than a year before we had a sold novel.

Joy Preble: One year to write first full draft.7 months from there - maybe 8?- to sign with agent. A full year after that to sell the novel because we revised for a long number of months. Sounds long when I write it out but I think I'm probably about average.

Kathryn Fitzmaurice: Three years to write it, (though I didn't work on it full time), then eight months to find my fabulous agent, Jen Rofe, then we revised it for another ten months, (I say we because she really gave me amazing input) then she sold it in one week!

Lauren Strasnick: First draft in six weeks, three months of re-writing, a month & a half 'til i'd signed w/ my agent, two months of rewrites, & sold in two weeks. HOWEVER -- this came after a year of querying on a book i'd spent two years writing... a book that went no where. And the reason i got read so quickly w/ Nothing Like You...? I'd re-queried an agent who had been very encouraging the previous year (ultimately, i ended up signing w/ her). Oh, and writing a draft of anything in 6 weeks? Completely atypical for me.

Lauren Bjorkman: It took me about a year to write my book...and another TWO to revise! My agent hunt was a rather circuitous process, so I can't really put a time line on it. My agent found a publisher for my novel in less than two months. And that felt like forever :D


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