Teen Writers Bloc

A Blog by the New School Writing for Children MFA Class of 2012

Totally Biased Review: The Broken Lands by Kate Milford

Posted by Mary G. Thompson On September - 3 - 2012

The Broken Lands Totally Biased Review: The Broken Lands by Kate MilfordI’m admitting it right in the title: Kate Milford is a friend of Teen Writers Bloc, and I’ve personally mentioned her before in multiple blog posts. She hosted my book release party and saved my day at BEA. AND we have the same publisher, Clarion Books. Now that that little disclaimer is out of the way, go buy her new book because it’s awesome!

The Broken Lands is a prequel/companion to Kate’s first novel, The Boneshaker, which took place in 1913 and starred 13-year-old Natalie Minks, who had to save her small Missouri town from the evil Jake Limberleg and the devil himself. Of course, everyone should read The Boneshaker just for the fun of it, but you don’t need to read it to understand The Broken Lands. Though both books take place in the same alternate-history world where folklore is real, the The Broken Lands stars different main characters and stands alone.

The setting is 1877 New York City, a time when the country had yet to recover from the Civil War and tensions were thick. Into this come the mysterious and evil Walker and Bones (a literally-derived name), who want to turn the city into a new kind of hell. I don’t want to give away too much, so let’s just say there are a goodly amount of evildoers, a well-laid-out and diabolical plan, and a need for heroes! Enter Sam and Jin, a 15-year-old Coney Island card sharp and a Chinese girl who is a pyrotechnic genius. With the help of a few “uncanny” good guys and their own wits and spunk, they must save the world by beating the bad guys at their own game. Kate renders the setting, characters, and folklore in exquisite detail and makes the New York of 1877 feel as real as New York today. Anyone who likes historical fiction, fantasy, or historical fantasy will love this book!

Aaand … Kate is having a book release party on September 6, 7:00–9:00 P.M., at McNally Jackson Books in Soho (52 Prince St.). The party is for The Broken Lands and the companion novella The Kairos Mechanism (which I can’t wait to read!). I guarantee a good time.

Cover image courtesy Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Cover Reveal: Escape from the Pipe Men!

Posted by Mary G. Thompson On August - 22 - 2012

9780547859057 web 400x600 Cover Reveal: Escape from the Pipe Men!Hello, Teen Writers Bloc Readers!

I’m so excited to unveil the cover for my second novel, Escape from the Pipe Men! And yes, the exclamation point is part of the title. Take that, exclamation point haters!!!

The book is about a couple of kids who have grown up in an alien zoo and go on an adventure across the universe. Here is the official summary by the nice folks at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt:

Ryan has spent his life as a human exhibit in the Pipe Men’s intergalactic zoo. But when his father is accidentally poisoned in a separate alien exhibit, it is up to Ryan and his sister, Becky, to escape and search the universe for the cure. As they travel across the galaxy, Ryan and Becky are shocked to find out that their benevolent overlords, the Pipe Men, are reviled by scores of alien species plotting to rebel. Caught up in an interstellar revolution, Ryan and Becky must play the diplomats among a spectacular and imaginative cast of aliens, staving off a war they know nothing about, all in the hope of finding the antidote to save their father’s life. In her second novel, Mary G. Thompson brilliantly captures the inception of a revolution by delving into the conflicting motivations of oppressed factions, in this fast-paced adventure sure to delight science fiction fans and mainstream readers alike!

I always knew I had to write a book about aliens and space travel some day. After all, my first love as a reader was science fiction. The first part of the concept was the alien zoo — what better excuse to come up with all sorts of crazy creatures? But the zoo was only the first part. My characters also needed to travel around the universe and discover what there was to see, because that’s exactly what I want to do once someone in the real world finally gets around to inventing faster-than-light travel! I’m so excited that Ryan and Becky are getting the chance to live out my personal fantasy, and I hope you enjoy it too!

Escape from the Pipe Men! will be released on June 11, 2013, and is available now for pre-order!

Oh yeah, and !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

For Amy, Post-MFA Means Jumping Into Life As A Writer!

Posted by Amy Ewing On June - 12 - 2012

revision 300x209 For Amy, Post MFA Means Jumping Into Life As A Writer!School is over, and before I really had a chance to process how two years could go by so quickly, I found myself facing an entirely new life. One as a writer. An actual, we-will-pay-you-for-your-writing writer.

Yes, last month my agent called me and I heard the most amazing four words an aspiring writer can hear. “We have an offer.”

Barbara Lalicki, an editor at HarperCollins, was offering me a three-book deal. I was stunned. I was speechless. Once I got over the initial shock, there was lots of laughing and crying and celebratory beverages and then more laughing, and a little more crying. How had I gotten so lucky? I couldn’t believe it! (And to be honest, sometimes I still can’t.)

Then I met with Barbara to discuss edits and receive my notes for the manuscript. There is nothing more exciting and terrifying than holding your book in your hands and flipping through pages covered in red pen. My first thought was, “Oh, God. She thinks it’s terrible. It is terrible. Why did I ever write this? Whyyyyyy?” This is generally my first reaction to critiques. Then I took a deep breath, and remembered that her job is to make the book as good as it can possibly be. Her notes were designed to help, not demean. If she didn’t like the book, she wouldn’t have bought it in the first place. So I swallowed my pride and sat down with a large cup of coffee, a pen and paper, and went through the manuscript again.

The funny thing is, once I got over the initial shock of seeing so much red pen, I found that I really enjoyed myself. I could absolutely see what Barbara thought would be best for the story, and I agreed with her. It was exhilarating!

This summer, I will be living in South Africa with my boyfriend. I had initially thought it would be like a very long vacation. Not anymore. My delivery date for this manuscript is August 1st, which is a lot closer to this side of June. So I’ll be spending most of my summer knee-deep in revision. And I couldn’t be happier about it.

And after that? Well, I sold a trilogy. So I guess I better get started on Book Two!

Wuftoom: Book Release Events and Giveaway

Posted by Mary G. Thompson On May - 4 - 2012

9780547637242 hres 400x600 Wuftoom: Book Release Events and GiveawayHello Teen Writers Bloc readers! I’ve plugged it at every opportunity, to the point where you are probably thinking, yes, Mary, we know about the stupid book. But for realz, y’all, it’s almost here!

To celebrate the release of Wuftoom on May 8, I’m having a public book release party at the fantastic McNally Jackson Books, here in Manhattan. Please come and bring your friends, family, children, and any random people you meet. Subterranean monsters are also welcome, though if they stink up the place, we’ll charge a special cleaning fee.

  • What: Wuftoom Book Release Party
  • Where: McNally Jackson Books, 52 Prince St. New York, NY
  • When: Sunday, May 13, 2012, 4:00 p.m.
  • Details: I will be reading from the book and having a conversation with The Boneshaker and The Broken Lands author (and friend of Teen Writers Bloc!) Kate Milford. Then we will be eating fun and gross worm-themed desserts, drinking wine/soda, and generally having a good time.

If that’s not enough for you, I’m also reading THIS SUNDAY, MAY 6 at Books of Wonder along with several fantastic teen sci-fi/fantasy authors.

  • What: Teen Sci Fi/Fantasy/Dystopian/Supernatural Event with me, Paolo Bacigalupi, David MacInnis Gill, Alethea Kontis, Galaxy Craze, Kate Klimo, and Elizabeth Norris
  • Where: Books of Wonder, 18 W 18th St., New York, NY
  • When: Sunday, May 6, 2012, 1:00 p.m.
  • Details: Come meet some fabulous teen sci-fi and fantasy authors, including Hugo and Nebula award winner and National Book Award finalist Paolo Bacigalupi.

Finally, I’m running a giveaway on Goodreads from now until May 15th. Enter to win a signed copy of Wuftoom!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

12351901 Wuftoom: Book Release Events and Giveaway


by Mary G. Thompson

Giveaway ends May 15, 2012.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Cover Image courtesy Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Giveaway! Wuftoom by Mary G. Thompson

Posted by Mary G. Thompson On April - 6 - 2012

9780547637242 hres 400x600 Giveaway! Wuftoom by Mary G. ThompsonToday we’re proud to announce Teen Writers Bloc’s first ever giveaway EVENT!

I just received my copies of my first novel, Wuftoom, from the UPS man, and I can’t wait to share it with the world. In fact, when I got my box of books, I was so excited about sharing it that I had to take a picture and immediately post it on Facebook. Then I had to mail off copies to my parents and my best friend. Then I had to take a copy of the book with me to peer group to show it to my awesome classmates. I still have the book in my backpack, just in case the slightest opportunity to bust it out arises. I’ll probably carry it around for the next year until my second book comes out. And then I’ll be carrying two books around everywhere. Twenty years from now, if all goes well, I’m going to be dragging around a cart.

But my friends and family aren’t the only people I want to share the book with. So … I’m giving away one brand new, signed, hardcover, hot-off-the-presses copy of WuftoomThe book won’t be officially released until May 8, so the winner of the contest will see it before it’s available in stores!

Here is the summary from the front cover:

Everyone thinks Evan is sick … Everyone thinks science will find a cure. But Evan knows he is not sick, he is transforming. Evan’s metamorphosis has him confined to his bed, constantly terrified, and completely alone. Alone, except for his visits from the Wuftoom, a wormlike creature that tells him he is becoming one of them.

Clinging to his humanity and desperate to help his overworked single mother, Evan makes a bargain with the Vitflys, the sworn enemies of the Wuftoom. But when the bargain becomes blackmail and the Vitflys prepare for war, whom can Evan trust? Is saving his humanity worth destroying an entire species, and the only family he has left?

Want to win your own, signed, hot-off-the-presses copy of Wuftoom? To enter: Leave a comment on this post, and make sure you include your email address in the appropriate field (don’t worry, we will NOT make your email address public).


*Ends April 18, 2012, 11:59 p.m. EDT.

*You must be 13 or older to participate.

*You must have a US mailing address.

*Winner will be chosen at random from those who commented and notified by email.

Photo courtesy Clarion

Debut Author Interview: Aimee Agresti Talks ‘Illuminate’

Posted by Sona Charaipotra On March - 23 - 2012

illuminate 400x600 Debut Author Interview: Aimee Agresti Talks IlluminateWay back in the day, when I was just starting out in journalism, I worked briefly with Aimee Agresti, who was then an editor at the since-shuttered but always fabulous Premiere magazine. So when I heard that Aimee was releasing her first novel, the hotly-anticiapated Illuminate, the first in a trilogy, I knew we had to nab her for a quick chat for TeenWritersBloc.com. Thankfully, she graciously agreed! Herewith, Aimee!

Tell us a bit about yourself and how you became a writer? 

Hi there! Thanks for having me! Before Illuminate, I was a writer firmly entrenched in the world of facts, so the leap to fiction has been a great new adventure. I majored in journalism at Northwestern and spent years writing for entertainment magazines, which was just as fun as it sounds! Most recently I was a staff writer for Us Weekly, a fabulous place full of great people. But I always dreamed of writing novels. I grew up reading everything in sight so writing Illuminate and seeing it on the shelves now has all been such a thrill!

Can you give us a quick synopsis of  Illuminate? How did you come up with the concept for the book? 

Sure! Illuminate is about a teen angel who’s forced to battle a pack of gorgeous, soul-stealing devils and ends up falling in love with one of them. But, of course, there’s so much more to it than that! Illuminate is a wonderful stew of so many things I adore. The first germ of the idea came from my love of The Picture of Dorian Gray. I thought it would be fascinating to update it and kept thinking, What would you have given your soul for when you were in high school? Then I added a few twists, some angels and devils, and, most importantly, a strong heroine. I grew up on Nancy Drew mysteries and loved Nancy’s fearlessness and confidence. I wanted my protagonist to be a girl who didn’t necessarily start out so sure of herself, but who became a force to be reckoned with by the end.

The book is set in a hotel. How did you decide on that for the setting? And you’re writing about angels and devils — did you dig into the canon on this?

I went to college in Chicago and I always knew it would be the perfect place to set a mystery. I loved its wild history — Capone, prohibition, and all those amazing tunnels beneath the city. What better place to serve as a backdrop for all sorts of sinister goings-on?

To get access to those tunnels AND to give my characters a fun place to call home, I decided to resurrect the Lexington Hotel — which is no longer standing. I liked the glamour element that came with living in a hotel. Dorian Gray is full of beauty and luxury, he lives in a pretty posh pad, so I wanted the setting to be special. I did look at old pictures of the Lexington but, since it no longer exists, I gave myself carte blanche to modernize it and make all sorts of changes. Illuminate‘s Lexington is a newly renovated version. (Capone sure didn’t have a spa when he lived there!)

As for the angels and devils: I wanted my characters to be angels because I thought learning to fly was a great metaphor for growing up. Since these are my particular angels and devils, I created some new myths and legends and history for them. I’m hoping readers come to the book ready to watch a whole new world unfold!

If I’m not mistaken, Illuminate is the first in a series. Can you talk about the challenges of planning ahead for books two, three, and so on?

I always envisioned Illuminate as the beginning of a trilogy. There are three tests these characters need to complete to earn their wings, so each book represents one of those tests. I’ve, of course, never written a series before, so I have a whole new appreciation now for all those authors who have done it so well!

There’s a lot of planning involved. I always need to map everything out, that’s just how I roll, I tend to outline like crazy before I start writing. But even so, there are certain little bits that I had planned for Book Two that went into Illuminate. And now, as I’m working on Book Two, there are certain bits that I was saving for Book Three that I can’t resist using now. Even with so much planning, you still have to let a book lead you sometimes!

What’s your writing process? What does a typical writing day look like? 

Good questions! When I’m in Total Writing Mode, I have to admit, I become a little anti-social! I tend to stay tucked away in my apartment pretty much chained to my laptop from morning until mid-afternoon and I try to stay off of email, too. At some point, to prevent from becoming a complete recluse, I’ll emerge for a coffee break. And when I need a change of scenery, I’ll head to a museum to write. I live in DC, surrounded by the Smithsonians, and I absolutely love to write in the courtyard of the Portrait Gallery.

I tend to stop working in the late afternoon/early evening, but if it’s going especially well then I’ll pick things back up again at night, which can be the most wonderful, peaceful time to write.

Of course, this is my schedule in theory. It doesn’t always go so smoothly! I’ve had to amend it a little bit while working on the sequel to Illuminate because I had a baby boy a few months ago! He calls the shots!

Aimee Agresti new website photo 333x465 214x300 Debut Author Interview: Aimee Agresti Talks IlluminateWhat has your path to publication been like? What’s been the most surprising part of the process for you? 

The most surprising part of the process has probably been how well-cared for I’ve been. My editor is absolutely fantastic and I’ve learned so much from her. My agent is actually a friend of mine and she’s been so wonderful guiding me through every step of the way. And the whole team at HMH has been tremendous — from the fabulous cover designer to the publicist, who has been such a true champion of the book. I’m a lucky girl!

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever gotten? What advice would you yourself give aspiring authors?

Write, write, write! The great thing about writing is that the more you do it, the better you get. I wrote so many unpublished stories before this, but I know that all of that work made me better. And I like to think that every time I sit down at my laptop, I continue to get better.

What was your favorite book when you were a teenager? What are you reading now?

The Catcher in the Rye was my all-time favorite as a teen and it still is. I still reread it all the time, I love Holden Caulfield! But I had so many favorites as a kid: Alice in WonderlandLittle Women, the entire Nancy Drew series, Roald Dahl’s The Witches, so many!

Right now, I have a towering to-be-read pile and I’m always hopelessly behind. I just took a tiny break from YA to finally, finally, finally read The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. (I know, so late, forgive me!) And now I’m back to YA and just started The Catastrophic History of You and Me by Jess Rothenberg. A girl who dies of a broken heart?! Such a brilliant premise.

What’s next for you writing-wise (and otherwise!)?

I’m working on the sequel to Illuminate right now. It should be out next year! You can keep tabs on it at aimeeagresti.com!

Do you believe in being part of a “bloc” of writers? Are critique groups and writing communities helpful to you?

I love writers supporting each other in any way or form — whether it’s championing each other’s work in the blogosphere or whether it’s actually taking a critical look at something before it’s a finished product. For me, I find it comforting to connect with folks who are sharing an experience, and, though it isn’t any formal group, I’ve been lucky to have a few individual writers I go to to compare notes on navigating the world of publishing and to talk about our work. We tend to share our writing before it’s out in the world, but after we’ve done a good amount of revising and feel it’s in pretty good shape.

When it comes to getting real, solid constructive criticism on early drafts, I turn to my trusted first reader: my sister, Karen! She’s extremely well-read, has a sharp eye, and is honest. She’ll tell me if certain things aren’t working. She’ll pinpoint what I need more or less of. She asks great questions and gives me the kinds of notes I need to hear. I listen to her, and I’m always glad that I do! Our deal is that she reads a draft, prepares her notes and then I take her out to dinner and we talk about it all. It’s a good time!

Thanks Aimee, for taking the time to chat with us! We’re so excited to check out the series! 

Cover Image courtesy Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Author Photo courtesy Aimee Agresti/Rouse Photography Group

Mary Salutes Anne McCaffrey

Posted by Mary G. Thompson On March - 5 - 2012

AnneMcCaffrey Dragonflight 204x300 Mary Salutes Anne McCaffreyWhen I heard that this month’s assignment was to write about our favorite groundbreaking female author, I knew I had to write about Anne McCaffrey, the fantasy pioneer who paved the way for so many of the rest of us female authors. Unfortunately, she passed away last year on November 21 at the age of 85. I don’t know if McCaffrey really considered herself a YA author, but I first discovered her books in my middle school library, and they immediately drew me in. The first book I read was Dragonflight, which was about a plucky woman who was really good at something. That may not sound all that extraordinary to people now who’ve grown up reading fantasy, especially when the The Hunger Games is about the biggest thing going, but at the time, it seemed like a really awesome twist. A woman who was the star of a fantasy book! And her story was about how she was better than the men at something, not about how she could find a man to love her. I ate up a bunch more of the books in the Dragonriders of Pern Series, and then I moved on to Crystal Singer. That series was about a plucky woman, too, someone who had the courage to travel far away from home and work under dangerous conditions.

There was no room for weak and fragile ninnies in Anne McCaffrey’s world! To me, a physically weak and fragile person who was nevertheless determined not to be a ninny, these books were an important validation of the idea that I could be good at something, and that that could matter more than anything else. I haven’t had a chance to go back and read McCaffrey’s books over again to see if I’d still feel the magic today that I felt when I read them back in middle school, but I’m not sure that I want to. I want to remember how I felt back then when I discovered something that I found wonderfully imaginative and inspiring. McCaffrey’s heroines were often born with amazing abilities, but they always had to work hard to achieve their goals, to do something with what they’d been given. That’s a theme that works great for driving an absorbing novel, but also a theme that I can still keep in mind in the context of my real life. So thanks, Ms. McCaffrey, for being a pioneer, thrashing your way over the same ground we young authors humbly attempt to walk on. I would say “you will be missed,” but since your books will be around forever, there’s no need. Let me say this: Thanks, we owe you.

Book Review: My Favorite Band Does Not Exist by Robert T. Jeschonek

Posted by Mary G. Thompson On August - 17 - 2011

my favorite band does not exist Book Review: My Favorite Band Does Not Exist by Robert T. JeschonekDo you want to be surprised by something weird? If you answered “yes,” then you’ll love My Favorite Band Does Not Exist, out last month from Clarion Books (full disclosure, my publisher). Author Robert T. Jeschonek isn’t trying to be realistic here. Instead, he gleefully gives his characters outrageous names like Idea Deity (whose parents are named Vengeful and Loving) and Reacher Mirage. But nothing comes off as too clever—every weird, impossible character and event fits perfectly into the world Jeschonek has created. Of course there’s a character with a face tattooed on the back of her head. Why wouldn’t there be?

Idea has created a fake band and enjoys creating buzz for it by posting about it on the Internet. But now other people are selling the band’s merchandise and even selling concert tickets. How dare people profit off Idea’s idea! Meanwhile, Reacher can’t understand how somebody is posting all sorts of information on the Internet about his secret band. Due to a crippling fear of failure, he’s not ready to go public yet, and someone is trying to force him out! While stewing over these unexplained happenings, Idea and Reacher are both reading the same terrible fantasy novel, Fireskull’s Revenant (the cover of which appears on the back of the book).

I have to admit that I wished the selections from Fireskull’s Revenant, though already short, had been a little shorter. But that’s a minor complaint. It’s rare for someone to come up with something totally original that’s weird enough to surprise me and yet actually makes sense. I don’t know if this is because people aren’t writing those books, or because publishers are afraid to give them a try. Whatever the reason, I think we don’t see enough weird and wonderful books. If you think so, too, you’ll appreciate this one.

Cover Image Courtesy Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company

Amy Finishes Her Novel and Starts the Query Process

Posted by Amy Ewing On August - 12 - 2011

sb10069767o 0014 300x245 Amy Finishes Her Novel and Starts the Query ProcessI feel a great sense of accomplishment mixed with panic. I’ve completed my YA fantasy novel, and now, this is the time when all the hard work is tested — when the waiting game begins. I am starting the agent query part of the writing journey.

Being ignored, rejected, and criticized is all part of the querying process, and, let’s be honest, it’s not a particularly fun prospect. But I am proud of what I’ve achieved this summer. My biggest fear was not actually finishing this book and querying, it was the dreaded question of what will I write next?

True, this book is part of a larger story, but I needed to write something different. And there is no point in writing a second book if no one reads the first. But I had lived with this girl, with my protagonist, for so long, that it felt strange to think of being in someone else’s head.

But thanks to a few choice in-class writing assignments from Susan Van Metre’s seminar class, I had one spunky character and one creepy scene to get my imagination started. Now I have not one, but two new story ideas to work on this fall, and let’s face it, I’m going to need them. Because if there’s one thing that is sure to distract me from the hard realities of life, it’s getting lost in a really good story.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Mary and the Pig Do Summer

Posted by Mary G. Thompson On August - 8 - 2011

Pig and Sunscreen 448x600 Mary and the Pig Do SummerAh, summer! That time of year when I … act the same way as I do during all the other seasons. I had a whole paragraph written about how the Pink Pig and I spent the summer in the Hamptons lounging in our bikinis and sipping cocktails. But that would be dishonest. Pigs don’t drink. And I don’t take breaks from my writing. It’s what makes me, for better or for worse, prolific.

Summer has a lot of sun. This bothers me. Not because I’m a vampire, but because I’m what I like to call a “porcelain princess.” In other words, white as a kite. I burn and the pig fries. So we both like to stay inside where it’s nice and dark (someday I’ll get around to changing that light bulb) and live by the glow of our computer screen. I’m happy to say, we get a lot done this way.

This summer I made a deal for two more middle grade books to follow Wuftoom, which, lest I skip an opportunity for a shameless plug, will be released on May 7, 2012! My second book, Escape From the Pipe Men!, is about aliens. It’s got something for everyone, and by that I mean an alien for every type: small, large, powerful, funny, and even mutant. It’s also got spaceships (of course), and a couple of kids who have a pretty cool adventure. My third book, Evil Fairies Love Hair, is about … you guessed it! Prepare for a hair-eating fairy extravaganza! As if all that wasn’t enough, I worked on revising my first older teen novel and am making great progress on a second one. All in all, it’s been a fantastically productive summer.

But even though I had a great summer holing up in my apartment and pretending that my stuffed pig was talking to me, I think I’m ready to get back to The New School and interact with some actual human beings. Between myself, the Pink Pig, and the character I’m currently writing, who is a little bit off her rocker, I’ve been under the spell of some strange influences. Believe it or not, the other members of Teen Writers Bloc, despite being writers, are reasonably normal. I can’t wait to see what everyone’s been working on—especially as summer turns into fall and I can get out from under that pesky sun!

pixel Mary and the Pig Do Summer

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