Saturday, May 29, 2010

Wisdom from the Children's Author Breakfast at BEA

I'll have a full report from BEA on Monday or Tuesday, but I wanted to share a little bit of my experience at the Children's Author Breakfast on Wednesday morning.

I decided that since I was paying my way to go to BEA, I wanted to completely milk my experience and do everything. (And as of right now it looks like I actually will be paying for all of it. I got word that the State of Illinois probably won't be fufilling their obligation to pay out my grant award which is BEYOND irritating and makes me not want to pay any sort of taxes to the state until we're even.) So despite my night owl nature, I bought tickets to both of the breakfasts knowing I'd have to get up at 6 am (ie. much closer to when I usually go to bed). It was totally worth the sleep deprivation, especially the Children's breakfast.

I guess the Children's breakfast got a bunch of news coverage because Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of whatever was appearing the day after some big scandal. I could care less. I don't know the whole scandal, though do know it involves her stealing or bribing or something unethical, which is definitely appalling, but honestly I'm not surprised. I'm very cynical when it comes to wealthy people/the royals/celebrities because we treat them like gods, so they think they can do anything. Scandal or not, I had no interest whatsoever in seeing her. I was interested in the *real* authors who had published good books on their own merit and not because they have a famous name (can you tell this is a serious pet peeve? few things piss me off like celebrity book deals.). And those guys did not disappoint. They were massively inspiring to the point that I took notes. So I wanted to share what I jotted down. It is paraphrased, not exact quotes, but these were wise and inspiring words.

From Cory Doctorow, author of For The Win and Little Brother (who I had an event with Wednesday night and he is seriously the nicest, coolest guy):
"Adolescents are nature's daredevils. They are doing things for the first time without thinking of consequences." --Hell yes, this is why I love writing teenage characters. So much more adventurous.

"YA has the most serious audience. They want their books to be a call to action and the books become a part of their personality." --Again, yes, this is one of the main reasons I enjoy writing YA. I remember being that type of teenage knowledge seeker and writing for them is sooooo rewarding!

"Live and work like it's the first day of a better world." -- I think I'm going to put this above my desk. A great motto.

From Mitali Perkins, author of (most recently) Bamboo People

The gist of her talk was how good stories function as mirrors or windows or preferably both. Sometimes we are seeking the stories that mirror ourselves in some way, whether it be the main characters race, class, gender, or personality. And that is why it is so important to have books that represent all types of people and all voices, because we all yearn for that and we're not all the pretty blond, white, upper middle class cheerleader from suburbia. But we also need to learn how others who are not like us experience the world, we yearn for that too, having a window into other worlds. I strive to write books that will do both... or at least I hope my books will do both, maybe be a window book for some people, or a mirror book for others, or preferably a little bit of both. Like BALLADS, I really wanted to give voice to the kind of kid I was because it was rare I could find a voice in literature at the time, but I also wanted to give a window into the experience, particularly of self-injury, so those who didn't relate could at least understand.

From Richard Peck, who has published way too much to list & if you love children's lit, you know him:

"The English invented childhood. Americans invented adolescence." HA!!! We are so angsty.

"No one grows up until they have to and in our books *someone* has to."--Another thing I love about YA and I knew it but didn't really realize it until he put it into words. The same with the following quote:

"No one grows up in a group. They grow up one at a time despite the group."-- This made me think immediately of BALLADS. It was so true for those characters. They needed the group so badly and then they needed to leave it to grow. And the same was true for me as a teenager. I can't tell you how much I anguished about this when my group of friends started to grow apart in high school. It broke my heart. It crushed me. I felt like I'd finally found my people and then a year later I was losing them. But they taught me things--we taught each other things--and then we had to put those things to test on our own. And we did come back to each other in the end. We have grown and now have so much more to give each other.

All three talks were so brilliant. I wish I could have recorded them. Thank you so much Cory Doctorow, Mitali Perkins and Richard Peck for making me think and inspiring me. As for The Duchess.... *shrugs* Whatever.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

NYC & BEA: Teen Author Carnival

Last night I was part of the fabulous Teen Author Carnival! It really did have that electricity in the air like you feel on the midway of a real carnival as well as tons of candy!

And I was overwhelmed just like a little kid might be at the sight of so many big, scary looking rides and so many sweet treats. There were thirty authors there, many of whom make me feel like a total fangirl. And bloggers, I am just as much of a fan girl when it comes to you. It still seriously astounds me to hear when people love my book. I'm a huge fan of all the book bloggers. And I got just a tongue-tied around them as I did around Elizabeth Scott who was standing across from me, talking to someone I knew and I couldn't bring myself to introduce myself for fear I might start babbling incoherently.

I got the same way when bloggers came and said hi to me. I finally met Steph Su and Alea, for example and wanted to say more about how much their support meant to me, but I think with the noise of the conversation around us, I was probably barely comprehensible and didn't say nearly as much as I wanted to. And there were a couple people where I messed up which events I met them at before and was all, Umm, that was cool and.... So yeah, excuse the social awkwardness, my dear bloggers. It's because I'm incredibly starstruck by you, who read and review my books. But some of us took pics together and I hope you'll send them to me at stephanie at stephaniekuehnert dot com. My camera was acting up and making everything blurry (or my nervous hand was) so I didn't take as many as I should have. I wanted to take pics with everyone who came to talk to me and I have this little book that I like to have people sign when I sign things for them that I thought I'd forgotten but found my bag this morning. *headdesk* I'll have it for my Wednesday Books of Wonder event though and I promise to get my shyness out of my system.

Okay, enough about my failings. Let's get back to how awesome the Carnival was.

As soon as I walked in, I met my Teen Fiction Cafe sister, Linda Gerber. It was such a thrill to finally meet the Gerb in person!!!! I love love love her mysteries. And in true woman of mystery fashion, she took me and Amy Brecount White to see the basement of the Jefferson Market Library which used to be a dungeon! You can tell by the thickness of the walls.

Unfortunately I didn't get a picture with Linda and Amy in the Dungeon (d'oh!). I did meet and take a pic with Holly Cupala though, who lives in my dream city, Seattle and I hope to be neighbors with her someday. I am also super excited because I got a little sneak peek of her forthcoming book TELL ME A SECRET which looks amazing and she agreed to do a Women Who Rock Wednesday interview in the future, squee!!! So here is me and Holly.

When I was on the "Real Teenage Life" panel, I think I managed to string together some coherent thoughts and maybe even give some good answers on the topic of character development and why I write YA. Amy Brecount Whit, Barry Lyga (love being on panels with Barry, he's a blast), Courtney Sheinmel, Jon Skovoron, Lauren Oliver (she is sooooo beautiful it is almost intimidating and add in her incredible talent, totally intimidating), Melissa Walker (another TFC girl I finally got to meet, squee!), Ned Vizzinni, Sarah Darer Littman, and Sarah Mylnowski. Yeah, it is a shock I didn't get tongue-tied around these folks!

Here are some of the groups we spoke to. They asked amazing questions!

Here is half of our panel. That is the lovely Korianne at the far end, next to Sarah Darer Littman, Ned Vizzini, Melissa Walker, Jon Skorvon, and Lauren Oliver:
Here are Sarah Mylonowski, Barry Lyga and Amy Brecount White mid-conversation and totally blurry (sorry guys!)

Then we went downstairs and did the signing. The room was just buzzing with excitement and it made me so happy to see so many people in love with reading. I may be a shy bookish girl but I love being around my people, even though sometimes I can barely talk to express this!

Here's a view of the crowd:

And here I am with Devyn Burton. I wanted to get Mitali and Korianne to pose with me too, but with the combination of the chaos and my shyness....

I hope I'm able to come back again another year and be much more outgoing and daring. This year I almost felt like I just wanted to observe the gloriousness of all these YA book lovers and awesome YA authors together! I will definitely remember to have my book for everyone to sign and I'll also probably bring something other than lemonheads. I was trying to be vegan friendly, but as chocolate clearly goes over best, I will bring vegan chocolate :)

After the event, I went out to dinner with Marie, the Jefferson Market YA librarian who helped organize the TAC and is another facebook friend I was dying to meet in person (She is such a sweetheart and helped me navigate the subway. I wish we lived near each other because we'd make excellent friends I think!), Jolene Siana (the author friend of mine who I am working with on a soon-to-be more action packed blog/website Paper Cuts Zine), and Melissa Walker (who is so fashionable and fun and sweet and I was totally being a fangirl on the inside). Here we are after our feast of Indian food.

I think Jolene got some better pictures and like I said, if you were at the TAC and have more photos, please send them my way to post because my camera was too blurry and I was too excited to remember to take photos with everyone.

But this is the photo that sums up how honored, I was to be a part of Teen Author Carnival. Mitali came and wrote this on my name sign:

Seriously I almost cried. Thank you so much Devyn, Korianne, Mitali, and all the other bloggers involved (and Marie and the librarians!) for hosting such a stellar event. I hope I can come back again!

Now I'm off to have lunch with a friend from high school and then I'm checking out the Class of 2K10 at Books of Wonder tonight.

If I get home early enough I will try to blog again and post some pictures from that, but um.... I have to get up at 6 am tomorrow. 6 am is not a time I usually see unless I'm just going to bed so.... And tomorrow is jampacked for me.

I head to BEA early to catch the Children's Authors Breakfast. Then at 11 am, I am on a panel about crossing over between YA and Adult with Melissa Marr, Michele Jaffe, and Jennifer Donnelly on the Midtown Stage. (It's only for BEA attendees, but if you are attending, please come and see us.) Then lunch and a bunch of author signings and panels that more than likely I will not be able to cram in (but I will try to hit everything, dammit!)

Then it is my turn to rock Books of Wonder! I'm appearing with a bunch of other fabulous authors at the Suspense, Magic & Romance for Teens and Tweens Event! Read all of the details here and come to meet us from 6 to 8 pm tomorrow (Weds May 26) at 18 W. 18th St!

Afterwards I'll have to head home to bed so I can get up and do it all again. Thursday starts with another breakfast (Jon Stewart is the Master of Ceremonies, hubby will kill me if I miss it!) and then another bunch of signings and trolling for free books :)

Yep, this is one of those times that being an author is sooooooooooo much fun!

Monday, May 24, 2010

NYC & BEA Day 1

I landed in New York City last night (though I had the usual leaving O'Hare and arriving at La Guardia delays, my flight was fine) and my agent and her lovely husband brought me back to their place. I spent the night surrounded by books. Soooooo many books. Books that I've been dying to buy for myself. It was hard to sleep. I seriously pondered skipping all of my plans and just holing up to read.

And look at all of those copies of my books that she will use to try to sell foreign and film rights. Cross your fingers!

I painted my nails green just for this trip (Okay my fingers aren't crossed in this photo, but I am wearing my lucky stars tights). I'm thinking ALA will be blue...

Today I've been planning my schedule for the next few days. So much to see! Too little time!

I'm at the Teen Author Carnival in a few hours. It runs from 5 to 8 pm at the Jefferson Market Branch Library, 425 Avenue of the Americas in NYC. You can check out the panel and other information here. I'll be on the real teen life panel, which definitely suits what I write about. There are three panels and you have time to see them all and then come to the autographing session where I will be signing out books, handing out swag and Lemonheads candy fresh from the factory in my home town!

Afterwards I get to hang with some of the authors and librarians before heading back to my agent's place and trying to sleep among all those books.

Tomorrow's plan is to get my BEA (Book Expo America) badge, have lunch with a high school friend and then bum around til the Class of 2K10 reading at Books of Wonder (18 W. 18th St) at 6 pm. I'm so excited to see my pal Jeri Smith-Ready and meet the other tenners!

I'm going to try to get up and blog about the carnival before I head out tomorrow. This getting up early thing.... I have to get up at 6 am on Wednesday and Thursday for BEA. That is equal to 5 am my time. And I usually go to bed at 3 am. Yikes! Last night I forced myself to go to bed around 1 am (midnight my time) and get up at 8:30 am. Tomorrow I'm aiming for 7:30 to get myself used to this. I have to take ambien in order to sleep. Sleeping in a strange place throws me for a loop anyway, but obviously going to bed/getting up wayyyyy early does a number too. Hopefully this doesn't mess me up too much when I get home because I'd finally gotten that insomnia mostly under control.

Anyway, sleep rant aside, I am sooooooo pumped to be here. I can't wait to devour all the literary energy. I will blog whenever I can (like I said hopefully tomorrow morning), but since both Weds and Thursday will be such looooooooooong days, I probably won't get a chance, however, I'll definitely keep a live feed from BEA and all my events and NYC craziness going on my twitter, so be sure to check that out!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Current Obsessions

Since I've been in the writing cave, I haven't had much time to share my current obsessions with the blogosphere, so here's the stuff that's been sustaining my creativity and exciting me lately.


You guys all know I'm obsessed with SHADE by Jeri Smith-Ready. But in case you missed it, I lavished praise on it here and interviewed the main character here. Seriously, I wish I could go back in time and give this book to my teenage self. It is everything that I wanted back then: edgy, punk, mysterious, spooky, and engaging.

Another book I wish I could back in time and give myself is HARMONIC FEEDBACK by Tara Kelly. I reviewed that one here a few months ago, but it is FINALLY coming out on Tuesday, so you absolutely must buy it. If you like my books, I can tell you for sure that you will adore this one. It's about a girl with "a touch of Asperger's" who is moved around a lot by her mom and definitely feels like an outsider, but she has an incredible love of music that sustains her and helps her connect to others. It just captures the feeling so many of us had as outsiders in high school and makes you question what "normal" really is. Seriously, buy it now. You'll probably read it in one day like I did and then you will be all ready for Tara's Women Who Rock Wednesday interview which is coming on June 2nd!

I just finished THE CINDERELLA SOCIETY by Kay Cassidy. Kay was so funny when I told her I loved it because apparently she thought I would hate it. She said it's very different from my books and she was afraid since it includes cheerleading and makeovers it might get dismissed as fluff. Don't let the cover fool you. It is not fluff. It's a light read, yes, but that's perfect for summer. And yes it is very different from the two books I mentioned above and from my books in some respects. Though the main character Jess is a cheerleader, she still feels like an outsider and she still deals with all the image issues so many of us face. Most important, like the other two books I mentioned, this is an incredibly EMPOWERING read. As I told Kay, I wish The Cinderella Society existed in our world where there are far far too many Wickeds or mean girls. I wish the cheerleaders in my high school had been like Jess and her friend SJ because maybe I wouldn't have felt such a division between them and me. Would I have read this book in high school? Probably not. But I cheated myself out of a lot of things in high school because I was concerned with image in my own way. I embraced being an outsider to such a degree that everything I did had to be in line with my outsider image. And that's just as silly as doing everything you do in order to fit in. So now I embrace everything that appeals me, from pop like P!nk to hardcore punk like Refused. My favorite movie may be City of Lost Children but the TV show I watch every day? One Life to Live. So that is why THE CINDERELLA SOCIETY fits in just fine for me with these other two books. It was a really fun, light read that had a very serious empowering message.

Breaking with the YA/female writer mold, I also just finished by a memoir, The Tender Bar by J.R. Moehringer. It was suggested by a friend when I was looking to change up my reading and because I've been working on my bartender book. As much as it sometimes frustrates me, I do love my night job bartending at the Beacon Pub. It's a neighborhood pub and it fascinates me to no end the different stories that I hear there, the way people who probably wouldn't even acknowledge each other on the street become friends there and how I have developed so many friendships with a variety of people while working there. This memoir is about a boy who grew up without a father and in his search for one, he found a group of men at a neighborhood bar. I knew I would love the book from the first paragraph of the prologue, which sums up my experience of five years working at The Beacon and why I wanted to write a book set largely in a bar:

“We went there for everything we needed. We went there when thirsty, of course, and when hungry, and when dead tired. We went there when happy, to celebrate, and when sad, to sulk. We went there after weddings and funerals, for something to settle our nerves, and always for a shot of courage just before. We went there when we didn’t know what we needed, hoping someone might tell us. We went there when looking for love, or sex, or trouble, or for someone who had gone missing, because sooner or later everyone turned up there. Most of all we went there when we needed to be found.”


I need to read a book every night before bed or I don't sleep well. (I have noticed this on the nights when I work and try to go straight to bed.) But my other form of unwinding is definitely TV. During my outsider teenage years, I swore off TV (except my secret One Life to Live obsession). I thought TV was a braincell killer, a poor substitute for a book, mindless entertainment that was making us more stupid as a society. And there still is a lot of crap on TV. (But some of it is just too funny, like Rock of Love.) But there is also a lot of good guilty pleasure unwind drama stuff for me like OLTL, 90210, and Melrose Place. And then there are some shows that are telling incredible stories. Honestly, now I'd watch more TV if I had more time. And I love how you can get shows on DVD and catch up on what you missed out on now.

In addition to my regular viewing, I am in the process of watching two series. My husband and I get Netflix and we have one queue for movies and one for TV on DVD. Recently we watched Deadwood and Freaks & Geeks, both of which I adored. Currently we are watching Battlestar Galactica. I resisted this for a long time. I don't know why. As a kid I adored Star Trek: The Next Generation. I wanted Jean Luc Picard to be my dad. I wanted to live on the Enterprise. But for some reason I denied my inner geek. But then several different friends told me how much they loved it. They were all quite different people, but all had taste I trusted, so I caved. I was addicted from the first episode of the mini-series. I love sci-fi that raises philosophical questions (Blade Runner is one of my all-time favorite movies) and I love suspense and drama. BSG has it all and it freakin' rules. I'm only on season 2 though and I hear it goes downhill in the last season, so that's unfortunate.

My friend Jenny and I also have TV watching club that started with Veronica Mars (soooooooo good). Currently we are watching The Gilmore Girls. This is where I get my girly fix that I can't get my husband into. I love this show. The mother/daughter relationship is so much fun. The characters are so unique and I love the small town where it's set. I also love dramaedys. The bartender book is definitely inspired by my love of dramaedys and since it is a mother/daughter story in a small town, The Gilmore Girls has been an inspiration. Though my mom and daughter are very different from Lorelei and Rory. My mom, not nearly as responsible. My daughter, a lot more punk. My small town, a lot more boring. But it still gives me food for thought. I'm also on season two of this one. It's gonna take us a while. We try to watch an episode or two when we meet for our writing group, but we have to be careful not to watch it instead of writing.


Even though Courtney Love was my heroine in my early teens, I have to say I had my doubts about this one. I'm not gonna lie, I've always wanted a Live Through This II. Yes, I want the musicians I love to evolve. I wouldn't want to be pigeonholed myself. But Live Through This is just sooooo good and it's become my standard of measurement for Hole. Celebrity Skin was pretty damn awesome, but there was something about polished Hollywood Courtney that felt a little empty. Don't get me wrong, I loved seeing her successful. Loved it much much more than seeing her drugged out and crazy like she was during the early 2000s when I felt embarrassed to call myself a fan. Her solo album, America's Sweetheart had potential. There were some real gems on there... but they were really overproduced and then there were also some tracks that clearly she had to be on drugs to allow out into the world (*cough* Uncool *cough*). So I was kind of scared that Nobody's Daughter might be the final nail in Courtney Love's coffin for me. And when I heard she was calling it Hole without Eric Erlandson and Melissa Auf der Maur (who I know is not an original member, but her harmonies were what made Celebrity Skin for me), I was really on high alert.

On first listen, I wasn't entirely sold on the album. But part of that was all of my doubts preventing me from full enjoyment and I knew it, so I kept listening. The songs "Honey" and "Pacific Coast Highway" really stuck out. And then I started to see past the obvious in "Skinny Little Bitch" and "Samantha." And then I found myself humming bits and pieces from all the parts of the album. And before I knew it, I could not STOP listening to it. Especially "Someone Else's Bed." The became the theme song for my work in progress (the bartender book). It is a woman hitting bottom, losing all of her ideals, everything she believed in. It's about getting "down to your bones" and watching the world as you know it fall to pieces, knowing that you are largely responsibly for it. But there is still this sense that you/she will claw her way out. I've been there. My characters are headed there. And Courtney Love has definitely been there.

It's the emotional honesty of Nobody's Daughter that ultimately won me over. When I played it for my husband, his first impression was the same as mine: *shrug* I'm used to her songs sounding more angry. And yes, I was looking for that. I'm always looking for that bloodcurdling "It's not yours, fuck you!" from "I Think That I Would Die" off of Live Through This. I still crave the raw guitar sound of Pretty On The Inside. But in terms of raw emotional truth, Nobody's Daughter is my sequel to Live Through This. I wish it had come out in my early twenties when I was down to my bones. I miss Eric Erlandson, no doubt about that. But say what you will about Courtney Love's antics over the years, she is still an incredible poet.

I don't have to miss Melissa Auf der Maur though. I'm glad she's solo. My other musical obsession:

I don't even have words for this one yet. It is so epic. So visceral. It's a whole multimedia presentation that comes with a very cool comic book and a DVD that I haven't gotten to watch yet. Melissa is like this beautiful other worldly creature. If I hadn't interviewed her for Women Who Rock Wednesday (where she talks about OOOM), I wouldn't believe she was real. She's like a Francesca Lia Block character to me, which is really one of the highest compliments I can give. This album is going to be on repeat as I dive back into my paranormal YA (with a mixture of angry punk... Civet needs to put their new album out right now!) because it has the dark fairytale feel that I'm going for. It's just masterpiece. Music that you can see, taste, and feel as well as hear.

This is currently my fun dance-around-the-house music. I'm extra excited about this band because they are local and I love finding Chicago bands that I can really get behind, not to mention go out and see at tiny little bars. They remind me of Yeah Yeah Yeahs meet Veruca Salt with a little touch of Siouxsie Sioux. I also hear hints of the Go-Gos which is not surprising considering Jane of Go-Gos fame produced some of the songs.

The single, "My Head is a Bomb" is the most fun song I've heard in ages. Gorgeous harmonies (this is where my Veruca Salt comparison comes in) and you can't help but bounce around as you listen. And my other favorite is "Blue Line" which is a tribute to the L line I've been riding since I moved here, so I love hearing a musical ode to it. It's also beautifully and appropriately bluesy. The five songs on this EP show so much versatility, I think this band is going to be huge. They need to get a full-length out NOW!

So that's what I'm loving lately. I know the movies category is lacking, but I haven't seen many lately. If you have some to recommend go for it and let me know what your current obsessions are too!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Writing Wednesday

Yes, I know, I changed up the theme. It's supposed to be Women Who Rock Wednesday. Just bear with me this week (and probably next week as well since I'll be at BEA). Since I was in the writing cave for awhile I didn't get a guest lined up (but I've emailed a really good one who I am hoping to interview next. She's got a music-driven debut YA that comes out next week....)

And I'm in talking about writing mode because I just taught a class at StoryStudio tonight (well, technically last night, but I'm back to the blogging at 2 am routine) and I think it went pretty well despite my teaching anxiety that I blogged about at Teen Fiction Cafe.

But before we get to the writing talk, I have a winner to announce for Jeri Smith-Ready's fabulous YA debut SHADE....Amygdalia! You are the winner. You didn't leave an email addy so please contact me at stephanie at stephaniekuehnert dot com.

So in case you missed it, I poured my heart out on the MTV Books blog this weekend and talked all about my struggles with writing as of late and my breakthrough. You can read the whole thing here, but I wanted to focus on the things that really helped me shake my funk and getting writing. Hopefully some of these tips can help my fellow writers out there and well, otherwise I have documented them so I can come back to them.

1. Writing is your number one job. Not blogging, not tweeting, not email-replying. These things are all great procrastination tools and, if you are like me, you feel terribly guilty for not doing everything on a timely basis. (I was not raised Catholic or religious in any way, but somehow, I totally got that guilt thing.) I'm a people pleaser and a perfectionist. I want to do everything at once but it is not possible and....

2. Multi-tasking is evil. I truly am starting to believe that everyone thinks they have A.D.D. because we are encouraged to do so many things at once. There are some things I can do at once, such as workout on the elliptical and watch TV. Sometimes I attempt to do email and watch TV, but I'm even trying to break this habit because then I do not enjoy my relaxation time nearly as much. And dammit, I deserve a little bit of relaxation time because I am overly stressed and the main reason for that is...

3. Overscheduling yourself is stressful. Because of my perfectionist tendencies and need to please everyone, I push to the limits and am always in a rush to get things done. So I had to teach myself...

4. Breathe and focus. Time to slay the multitasking impulse and the need to cram so much into one day. It really isn't the end of the world if you don't reply to any emails or blog and only tweet to update on your writing progress for a week. I did this. It was quite refreshing actually and helped me realize that writing is my number one job.

Now that we've come full circle, let's get to some of my techniques for doing this because it was really really hard to break the multi-tasking, overscheduling habits, not to mention overcome all my doubts about my writing and get back to #1 on the list above.

My first step was creating a schedule that forced me to have at least two hour-and-a-half periods of pure writing focus a day. I woke up in the morning, answered quick emails/tweets, then had my tea and settled in for an hour-and-a-half of uninterrupted writing. I turned off my wireless connection, tried to hide the BlackBerry so I could not see it's little blinking light telling me that I had messages and wrote. Then I took a fifteen minute or half hour break. Then on to another hour-and-a-half of uninterrupted writing time. Then another break and on it went until I had to go to work or make dinner.

This was pretty good, creating a time of focus. Except my doubts still would creep in and I'd often sit there, staring at the screen, frozen because I couldn't nail a certain scene or figure out the perfect first line.

So my second step was giving myself permission to write the shitty rough draft. I hate first drafts. I really do. I like revising and that is where I tend to figure out structure and theme and all of that good stuff. I knew the general plot of what I thought would be roughly the first hundred pages, so I just started writing as fast as I possibly could. I kept track of word count at this point trying to see how much I could do in a day or an hour-and-a-half block. Even if I felt my writing sucked, I could be proud of the quantity. Now as a warning, at least for me, this only works up til a certain point. If I go too fast, I veer dangerously off path and the story can take a wrong turn. Once I sensed that happening, I stopped and went into revising mode.

Third step, for me at least, is BINGE. Once I was in revising mode, I was excited about the story. And once that was happening, I let nothing stand in my way of writing when I felt like writing. The hour-and-a-half thing went out the window. I had to remind myself to stop and eat. I neglected loved ones. I definitely forgot all about the internet. And that's fine because of rule #1, writing comes first. I knew I'd be binging for roughly a week and that wouldn't put me too behind on other things/make my husband forget what I looked like.

Now I'm in catch-up mode. I'd take a few days to do that and go straight back into binge mode, but I have to tackle a different project and I have a week in New York for BEA. I may have to start back at the beginning of my steps when I get back, but that's fine.

The main thing is you have to establish a routine that works for you. For the most part the routine that works for me is that hour-and-a-half of focus thing during the day and dealing with my email, blog, etc at night. But now I know if I get into that binge mode, I should just go with it, then take a couple days to catch up afterward.

So yeah, if I disappear for a while, you should know it's a *good* thing. Those are my writing tips for this week. Like I said, look for an entirely writing focused blog next week as I visit NYC and attend my first BEA. But we'll be back with rocking ladies soon, don't fret.

Oh and if you have future writing topics you are curious about hearing my take on, feel free to comment and I will consider blogging about them in the future when I'm in writing reflection mode. Feel free to share your writing tips as well!

Now off to read because when I am in my regular routine, that is how i like to cap off my nights!

Monday, May 17, 2010

NYC & BEA, Here I Come!

*blink blink* I have emerged from my writing cave!

I haven't been blogging much lately or really doing anything but writing for a week. On Saturday, I wrote a long blog entry over at the MTV Books blog that talks about my struggles with writing for the past year or so and my breakthroughs and rediscovery of my love of writing through this new manuscript I'm working on. So if you've been wondering why I wasn't online much and what I've been up to, check it out here. I may blog some more about those things this week, but we'll see. I've got some live blogging planned for next week because.... I'm going to New York!!!!

Yep, when I finished up the 100 pages that I sent to my agent on Thursday, I realized that my trip had completely sneaked up on me!

I leave to New York on Sunday the 23rd and I'm actually staying with my agent (yes, I realize this is unusual, but that's just how Caren and I are.) and she pointed out that I can and should live blog from my trip, so barring any unforeseen technical difficulties, that's the plan!

Here are the details of the events I'm doing. This is my first trip to New York or the East Coast at all since my books came out, so I would love to see/meet as many of my NYC/East Coast friends/fans as possible :)

Monday May 24th from 5 to 8 pm, I'll be at the Jefferson Market Branch of the New York Public Library (425 Avenue of the Americas [at 10th St.]) as part of the TEEN AUTHOR CARNIVAL! I cannot tell you how excited I am about this event. There are going to be at least 30 YA authors there and I'm going to be having some major fangirl moments. I'll be on a panel at some point during the evening and then I'll just be hanging around, signing, talking to people, handing out swag, and swooning over the other authors who I still cannot think of myself as on the same level as.

Wednesday May 26 from 6 to 8 pm, I'll be at Books of Wonder (18 West 18th Street) as part of the Suspense, Magic, and Romance for Teens and Tweens event. Again, cannot express my excitement because it's another loooooong list of cool authors that I'll be hanging out with including Linda Gerber, Melissa Walker, Erica Kirov and Jessica Burkhart my sisters from Teen Fiction Cafe (Jess no longer blogs with us, but will always be our sister!). I see in the description that I was mistakenly referred to as an L.A. Times bestseller (I wish! They just reviewed me), but regardless it will be a blast and I'll be signing copies, talking about my books and doing Q&A with the other authors.

And then there is Book Expo America (BEA):

This is the main reason I'm going to New York. I have never been to BEA, the premier North American publishing event, so this year I applied for a grant so that I could attend. I can't wait to wander the exhibit hall, looking at all the forthcoming titles from all the publishers. In fact, I'm so overwhelmed by the magnitude of BEA, I'm not entirely sure what I'm going to do with myself.

I bought tickets (since I had grant money) to the Children's Book & Author Breakfast and the Author & Book Breakfast on Thursday (because Jon Stewart is the master of ceremonies!) even though both are at ungodly early hours for me (8 am... which is 7 am my time... sleeping pills will have to be used), but um, what else to do???

So BEA experts (or newbies who have had more planning time than me), what are the must-do's/must-see's at BEA this year or in general?

And if you are going to BEA, I hope you will add my event to your list. Melissa Marr was kind enough to invite me to do a panel with her. Here are those details:

“YA Authors Crossing Over Panel, Wednesday, May 26th at 11 am (Midtown Stage)

Participants: authors Melissa Marr (WICKED LOVELY series, GRAVEMINDER forthcoming from William Morrow in 2011), Jennifer Donnelly (REVOLUTION and THE WINTER ROSE), Stephanie Kuehnert (BALLADS OF SUBURBIA and I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE), Michele Jaffe (ROSEBUSH and BAD GIRL); moderated by Elissa Petruzzi (Romantic Times Magazine)

Young adult authors are branching out to write novels for adults, while many successful adult authors are taking a crack at writing for teens. How do these authors write responsibly for both age groups, and how far is too far when it comes to promoting their adult novels to teens? And how do these authors tell a good story while also being mindful of a potentially younger than intended readership?

NYC Suggestions?:
So those are my three events. And I'm sure I'll be kept pretty busy at BEA on Wednesday and Thursday and meeting up with my NYC friends, agent Caren, and my author friends who will be in town for BEA, but...... On the off chance I do get some free time, does anyone have any fun, punky shopping recommendations in NYC? How about vegan-friendly food? Cool rock 'n' roll dive bars? I really don't expect much free time at all (though I do expect to meet up with people over food and drinks so those last two things are probably the most important), but I am happy for recommendations just in case. Or for other quirky must-sees in New York. I've done all the touristy stuff (Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building & Coney Island) on previous trips.

Radio Interviews:
Oh and I did two interviews a few weeks ago that you can listen to online now and since I was in the writing cave, I didn't get a chance to tell you about them.

Rick Kogan, who is like a freakin' legend and writes for the Chicago Tribune and does a radio show on WGN Radio called the Sunday Papers interviewed me at a very early hour one Sunday and we had a lot of fun. He also called BALLADS "a masterpiece" and I nearly fainted. You can listen to that here.

Brandon Wetherbee interviewed me in front of a live audience for his You Me Them Everybody podcast at the Hungry Brain a few weeks back. Since he's an Oak Parker, we talked a bit about the real locations in BALLADS, and about bartending and the interview is just generally ridiculous and hilarious. You can find that here.

Okay, I think that is it.... now to tend to that email I neglected for so long!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Women Who Rock Wednesday: Aura from Jeri Smith-Ready's book SHADE!

Well, it's been a while since I blogged, so I have two contest winners to announce. The winner of Jessica Brody's book, The Karma Club is I heart Book Gossip and the winner of my last WWRW interviewee Cheryl Rainfield's book Scars is Llehn. You guys can contact me at stephanie at stephaniekuehnert dot com if you read this before I catch up on email (which will hopefully be Friday after I turn in this manuscript that's been keeping me so busy to my agent.)
The last time I did blog, it was about SHADE by Jeri Smith-Ready. She's one of my favorite authors on the planet. And SHADE is her amazing YA debut. In case you have heard about it yet. Here are the details:

Love ties them together.

Death can't tear them apart.

Best. Birthday. Ever. At least, it was supposed to be. With Logan's band playing a critical gig and Aura's plans for an intimate after-party, Aura knows it will be the most memorable night of her boyfriend's life. She never thought it would be his last.

Logan's sudden death leaves Aura devastated. He's gone.

Well, sort of.
Like everyone born after the Shift, Aura can see and hear ghosts. This mysterious ability has always been annoying, and Aura had wanted nothing more than to figure out why the Shift happened so she can undo it. But not with Logan’s violet-hued spirit still hanging around. Because dead Logan is almost as real as ever. Almost.

It doesn't help that Aura’s new friend Zachary is so understanding—and so very alive. His support means more to Aura than she cares to admit.

As Aura's relationships with the dead and the living grow ever complicated, so do her feelings for Logan and Zachary. Each holds a piece of Aura's heart…and clues to the secret of the Shift.

And here is the trailer:

Intrigued? You should be. In honor of the release of Jeri's last book, BAD TO THE BONE, the second in her WVMP rock n roll vampire series, I "interviewed" her main character Ciara for Women Who Rock Wednesday. After reading SHADE , I realized that the main character Aura is a woman (or teenage girl) who rocks just as hard, so I decided she deserved the same treatment for SHADE's release. Let's meet her, shall we?

Q: Aura, your life is being chronicled in a book called SHADE , can you tell us a little bit about what you had to deal with that time period that author Jeri Smith-Ready wrote about?

Aura: The words “it sucked” can’t really describe it. My boyfriend Logan died and became a ghost. It wasn’t just that he died, it was how and why. I don’t think I’ll ever really get over it or ever stop feeling like it was my fault, even though I promised him I wouldn’t blame myself for what he did.

But it was pretty cool having him back as a ghost. It meant he could spend the night without my aunt Gina knowing, since she can’t hear or see ghosts (neither can anyone else older than me). At first it was kinda fun, like we were kids again, camping out in his family’s basement. It took us a while to remember that we’re not kids anymore.

Q: I was born before the Shift and so were many of my readers. Can you explain what the Shift is (what you understand of it at least) and how a post-Shift woman who rocks like yourself deals with seeing ghosts?

Aura: There are things we can do to keep them away, like wear obsidian jewelry or the color red, but that totally pegs you as being sixteen and under, so we never wear that stuff anywhere important like the mall or a club.

Besides, you can’t avoid ghosts all the time, so you have to learn to deal with them. Some people just ignore them, but that doesn’t always work. I usually try to talk them down from whatever freakout they’re trying to have. Usually we just end up arguing. And of course to any post-Shifter, it looks like I’m yelling at air.

Q: Obviously not all ghostly encounters are bad. So if you could host a tea party with some ghostly Women Who Rock(ed) who have passed over to the other side, who would you invite?

Aura: First would be my mom, obviously. I have soooo many questions about what happened before I was born, in Ireland with my father. Plus I can tell from all the photos of her and from what my aunt Gina says, that she totally rocked. Sometimes I wish I were as carefree as she was. Not giving a shit what other people think would be really nice.

Then I guess I’d also invite Amelia Earhart. She was so brave, and I’d love to find out what happened to her after she disappeared. It’s too heartbreaking to think that she just crashed and died.

Q: Going along with that question, who are some of the woman in the world (living or dead) who inspire you the most?

Aura: I’ll be a dork and say my aunt Gina, who is also my godmother and guardian. She overparents sometimes—okay, all the time—but she’s a really strong woman who has a job she cares about that makes life (and death) better for other people.

I just wish she’d knock before coming in my room. It’s not enough just to open the door slowly.

Q: Music is clearly a big part of your life and your story in SHADE. You have a full soundtrack, but can you talk about a few of the songs on it that mean the most to you and why?

Aura: Wow, how to pick? Every song is really meaningful to me. I mention a couple of them in SHADE, like Logan singing me to sleep with Flogging Molly’s “If I Ever Leave This World Alive” and Snow Patrol’s “Chasing Cars.” But I should probably talk about some of the soundtrack songs that aren’t in the book.

One of my favorite new bands—like OMG-pass-out-from-the-beauty favorite—is the XX. They have a totally unique sound, real minimal and haunting, with these vocals that weave in and out and around each other. Hypnotizing. When I first heard “Crystallised,” I played it over and over and over again. But then I bought the album and loved “Infinity” even more. That song is so gorgeous and sensual, it almost hurts. Jeri put it on the soundtrack to go with the part of the book where Logan and I—um…never mind.

So! Anyway, moving on! I discovered another really cool band earlier this year. They’re called the Nevermores, and they’re a garage band from St. Louis, although it feels like they should be from Baltimore, because most of their songs have to do with Edgar Allen Poe. The song that really grabbed me was “I Lost Lenore.” If you don’t want to dance when you hear it, you’re probably already dead.

“I Lost Lenore” isn’t on the playlist (not available L), but it is on the iTunes iMix, and you can also hear it at the Nevermores’ Facebook page.

Jeri put it on the part of the soundtrack where Megan and I go to a club and I’m missing Logan like crazy. Then I find out two of his former bandmates are playing in the band at the club—obviously they had no problem moving on, which made me sad. I think Jeri thought the Nevermores sounded like the band in the book (Something Wicked). Plus the song is all about moving on from someone that you’re kind of sick of, anyway.

Here’s the playlist:

Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones

And here’s the link for the iTunes iMix. Make sure to warn people that it will open up iTunes on their computer.

Q: Have you met Ciara, the other rockin' lady whose crazy vampire-filled life Jeri is chronicling in the WVMP series? What was it like? Do you guys get along? If you haven't met her, would you like to?

Aura: I haven’t met her—I think she lives in another universe where there aren’t any ghosts but they do have vampires, which sounds a lot scarier. But they have most of the same bands as we do, so it would be really cool to hang out and talk music. I would kill to meet some of those vampire DJs! Maybe they would let me intern in the studio—not that I’d want to be alone with any of them.

I think Ciara and I would get along great, since we’re both sort of weird, but in different ways, and not by our own choice.

Q: You and Ciara are keeping Jeri busy and readers very happy. I read your story, SHADE, in a day and now I'm dying to know what is next. Any little teasers as to what it is to come in SHIFT? When does it come out? And if we need something to tide us over in the meantime, when will the next WVMP book be out?

Aura: Well, you won’t BELIEVE what happens at the end of Chapter One. I couldn’t believe it. As Zachary says, we have to start redefining the word “impossible.”

As for teasers? I go to the Prom (I won’t say with who) and some lacrosse games (practically mandatory at my school—Ridgewood is insane about that sport). And then…I learn some stuff that pretty much shatters me. About my mom and dad, mostly. But in the end, I get some help from a really surprising source.

Q: Now for my standard questions for my women who rock.What was the first album you bought and what was the first concert you attended?

Aura: My first album was FALLEN by Evanescence, when I was nine. I played that thing CONSTANTLY. I wanted to be Amy Lee. My best friend Megan and I would dress up like her and take turns singing the songs into hairbrushes.

But my first concert was Green Day’s AMERICAN IDIOT tour. It was amazing! Megan and I went with the Keeleys down to the Verizon Center in DC. The band and the crowd had this explosive energy that was almost scary. Frankly, nothing since then has measured up, but I’m learning to lower my standards for other bands.

Thanks for having me on your blog, Stephanie! Me and Megan love your punk-girl books—you rock!

Awww, it's really cool to know that Aura loves my books. Well, I really love the story that Jeri told about her and Jeri has kindly offered to give away a signed copy.

To win SHADE :
-Leave a comment, that's all you have to do to enter, but if you want extra entries:
+1 for tweeting/posting on facebook about this interview or about SHADE
+3 for posting the trailer on your blog or facebook page
+3 for posting the soundtrack on your blog or facebook page.

-Just note your extra entries in your comment and leave me a way to contact you if you win. I'll draw the winner next Wednesday!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Buy this book NOW! (Happy release day, SHADE!)

This past week I have practically been too busy to breathe between events and not meeting my (fortunately soft because she knows I overschedule myself) deadline on the partial I wanted to get to my agent. Since I currently don't want to do *anything* but write, it means a lot that I am taking out the time to blog. I'm doing it before bed instead of hanging out with my husband, which means I'm gonna make this quick. But I absolutely had to do it.

Today is a book release day that is practically as exciting as my own book release days. Today SHADE by Jeri Smith-Ready comes out and you need to buy it.

You can read the summary and info on it at Jeri's site and find my babbling attempt at a review here. It has all the elements I love most: music, a strong female main character who is the kind of girl I always wanted to read about as a teenager but rarely found and most importantly DAMN good writing and storytelling. Irish punk... Irish punk in a book. That is freakin' sweet. And it's a whole new take on ghosts, as Publisher's Weekly said in a starred review this week "Perhaps even more impressive is the understatement of the paranormal premise--Smith-Ready changes the world completely by simply changing our ability to see."

Jeri and I met because we had the same editor. I completely fell in love with her WVMP series (rock n roll + vampires--a Kurt Cobain type vampire no less and another kick-ass heroine= surefire hit for me). We became friends and she has really been a mentor to me. She listened to me babble the idea for the book my agent is currently shopping and helped me find direction for it. She consoled me as the rejections roll in and if (no, when, let's be positive), it does sell, I'm sure we'll celebrate together. She's also listened to my numerous cat woes.

Basically what I'm saying is this woman is amazing. She's become a damn good friend to me and she is a really fucking awesome writer. She's kinda like my idol and SHADE is a brilliant book. Since it is not my book, I can tell you GO TO THE STORE/ORDER IT ONLINE NOW!!!! You won't regret it. This book deserves to land on all the bestseller lists. Because punk girls who have their own personality, make their own decisions and are truly inspiring characters deserve to be on the bestseller lists.

Okay, I'll be "interviewing" Aura, the book's main character later this week. Now back to my writing cocoon (except I have to go get my hair cut, usually a pleasure, but this week an unwelcome distraction). I don't feel bad for abandoning you because you shouldn't be online anyway. You should be reading SHADE!