Shining the Light on THE TEXAS SWEETHEARTS

Hope all of you had a nice weekend! It’s been busy in my neck of the woods with lots of decluttering, cleaning, and writing. The kids finally have spring vacation and there’s little chance I’ll be allowed to do anything productive this week. The girls are determined to have interesting adventures to talk about in school–especially since “all” of their friends are jet-setting to Mexico, Aruba, Bermuda and Disney. And, we’re not. But, I think they’ll be pleased with our activities. *crosses fingers* Spy Girl checks out my blog, so I can’t divulge any information…yet.

The one thing I can share today is my guest bloggers! I’m pleased to welcome THE TEXAS SWEETHEARTSP.J. Hoover (one of my wonderful critique buddies), Jo Whittemore, and Jessica Lee Anderson — as my guest bloggers today. I asked them for some writing tips and they delivered! Use these tips well, my friends.

Yay for The Texas Sweethearts! Here’s a blurb from their website:

We’re from the awesome state of Texas—Austin to be exact.
(For you non-Texans, that’s the nice, shiny star in the center of the state.)
We’re entertaining, engaging, and we want to make a difference.
We love talking to kids, teens, adults, librarians, teachers, and writers. Actually, we love talking to anyone who will listen. There’s nothing like seeing the joy in the face of a child discovering a love of reading.
Our books target all ages, and our dreams go beyond the realm of imagination. We’d love to come share our experiences and creativity with your group!

Writing for Kids from the Heart of Texas…

P. J. Hoover:
First off, Vivian, thank you so much for letting The Texas Sweethearts guest post on your blog. Ever since I started blogging a few years back, I was in awe of the amazing HipWriterMama. She (you) was like this famous blogger [HWM: *snort* too kind], yet you made me feel so welcome to the kidlitosphere. And for that I will always be grateful!

So, my name is P. J. Hoover, and I write middle grade and YA fantasy. I have two books of a MG trilogy out so far. The first book, THE EMERALD TABLET, came out in 2008, and the second, THE NAVEL OF THE WORLD, came out in 2009. I’m totally looking forward to the third and final book in the series, THE NECROPOLIS, which comes out fall 2010. The books are aimed at the Harry Potter and Percy Jackson crowd and feature a boy named Benjamin Holt who finds out he’s from a continent hidden under the Pacific Ocean and he’s not even human. To top that off, he has to save the world.
If there’s one thing I learned while writing the trilogy, it’s to take as much time between your revisions as you possibly can. I was fortunate in that I wrote the entire trilogy before the first book came out, so I had plenty of time to let the manuscripts sit. For both NAVEL and NECROPOLIS, there was one point when I waited a year between revisions for each. Coming back to a novel after a year gives the most fresh, objective look at it one can possibly imagine. It’s like the things that need to be cut stand out in bold capital letters whether they are characters or plot lines or even the actual starting point of the novel. So, though waiting is painful at times, waiting is also our friend in revisions.

Jo Whittemore:
Hey guys! I’m Jo Whittemore, and my newest book, Front Page Face-Off, just came out March 9. It’s a change from my favorite genre (fantasy), as FPFO is a contemporary middle grade. In the story, twelve-year-old Delilah James goes from being star reporter for the school paper to second best after a rival journalist swoops in and steals her glory (and potential boyfriend). In order for Delilah to get what she wants, hilarious mayhem must ensue, and such silliness is what drove me to write this story in the first place.

Back in the day, I was all set to write another fantasy novel while my agent was shopping a demon story I’d written. The only problem was, I was stuck in a rut:

Me: How about if I write a demon book?
Agent: You just wrote a demon book.
Me: Yes, but in this one, the demon wears a hat!

Okay, so I didn’t REALLY mention a hat, but my agent had a point. She then went on to suggest that I try to write something contemporary, since I had a good sense of humor and grasp of my characters. I scoffed at first (“Fantasy is my life! I won’t betray the unicorns!”) but then I decided to give it a shot.

And you know what? She was right. I had so much fun writing contemporary and letting the jokes fly. Because cracking wise is what I do in real life. When things get tough, I spew one-liners like machine gun bullets. When people feel glum, I’m always there with a poop joke.

So my advice is to play to your strengths and always strive to write just like YOU. Your unique voice is what will win audiences over, not your imitation of someone else’s.

Jessica Lee Anderson:
PJ and Jo, what you both said resonates with me as I can be impatient when it comes to revising, and I strive to find my voice and play on my strengths. Howdy! I’m Jessica Lee Anderson, and my newest novel is Border Crossing, a story about a bi-racial teen named Manz who is on the border physically and mentally. He’s not sure who he can trust including himself as he’s schizophrenic. Border Crossing is a departure from my first novel, Trudy (2005 Milkweed Prize for Children’s Literature winner), about a girl who must accept her father’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis. I spent a great deal of time developing and tweaking the characters in Border Crossing (about four years). The biggest challenge was to make sure Manz came across as believable, especially the way he perceives things psychologically. I spent a great deal of time researching schizophrenia so I could better understand him. Given my limited experiences as an Anglo fem
ale, I brought several readers on board to make sure he came across as authentic. Also, in the many drafts of this story, I worked on strengthening the secondary characters so they would seem more three-dimensional. Characters need to be as real as possible to the reader as well as to the writer.

Thanks again for letting us stop by!
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Vivian Lee Mahoney

Consider yourself warned: I write books about rebels. I'm also a postergirlz for readergirlz, a literary advisory group for teens. Who knew going back to the teenage years would be so rewarding?

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