Wednesday, June 30, 2010


I love writing make-out scenes, although (strangely enough) I have a hard time reading what I wrote when I'm editing! But, there's just something about writing that first kiss. There are so many emotions and sensations involved, and I think that's the key to crafting a good kiss scene ... using the five senses.

Touching: What is your Main Character feeling - with her hands, her lips, her legs, her skin, her stomach? Are his lips chapped? Is the material of his shirt rough underneath her fingers? Is her stomach rolling? Is the grass itchy beneath her back? You can do so much with the sense of touch!

Hearing: What does your MC hear? Perhaps the little moan escaping the back of his throat, or her sigh. Maybe a soft rain is patting a rhythm on the roof, or there's a jazz song in the background. The sounds can help set your mood, whether it's romantic or intense.

Seeing: If your MC opens his eyes, what does he see? A flush on her cheeks? Her eyelashes fluttering closed? The sights can really create an image in the reader's mind.

Smelling: What does your MC smell? It could be cologne/perfume, the smell of his breath, or even the air around them. The scents add a heightened sense to your reader, drawing them into the scene.

Tasting: What does your MC taste during the kiss? It could be minty, fruity, or something else altogether! The taste adds the last dimension to your scene, fully immersing the reader.

When you tie in all the senses you can prolong the scene without having your characters mashed together in a long ... drawn out ... kiss.

Do you have any other tips for writing a make-out scene?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

AMERICA: My Beautiful

In honor of America’s greatest holiday, the Fourth of July, I thought it’d be fun to compile a group of songs fit to celebrate our independence. I also wanted to keep with the theme of summertime, BBQ’s, and the beach. Or in my case, the back fields. I grew up in the puck-a-brush.

We did have The Cove, where we’d stupidly leap off a 10, 30, or 60 foot cliff. Eh…yeah, I never made it past the 10 footer. But that really can’t compare to the warmth of a sandy beach or the salty breeze wafting off the ocean water.

Stupid human info: Is the Pacific Ocean warmer than the Atlantic Ocean? Any answer gets a round of applause by the Oasis ladies. Maybe we’ll even to a happy dance.

When I began combing the catacombs of my brain for related songs, the first one that hit me was “Born in the USA” by Bruce Springsteen. It reminds me of grit and grime, and what it truly took to make this country work.

Neil Diamond’s “America” was next. This is one of my ultimate favorite songs. I can picture myself guitar in hand, hips gyrating, and the crowd going wild. Oh, sorry. That was my dream last night. Erase visual please.

And how could we celebrate the Fourth without Don McLean’s “American Pie”? Can’t be done.

Bye, bye miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
And good ol' boys were drinking whiskey and rye
Singing this will be the day that I die
this will be the day that I die

You can hear it as you read it, huh?? Love that.

One of my personal faves is from Phil Vassar, “American Child”. I think we all can relate to this song. It captures the true essence of growing up in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.

(Supporting a wonderful artist.)
And here are a few great songs to upload onto the iPod and jam to while barbecuing this weekend.

American Woman” The Guess Who
Back in the U.S.A.” Chuck Berry
Born to be Wild” Steppenwolf
Blowin’ in the Wind” Bob Dylan
Independence Day” Martina McBride

Of course there are songs like “America the Beautiful”, “God Bless America”, and even “Take me out to the ballgame”. Yeah that one is different but it’s all American.

May we be thankful to those who have come before us and ensured our way of life. May we also celebrate the wonderful culture we have in our music, how it carries us and inspires us.

Happy Fourth of July, everyone.

Monday, June 28, 2010

All the Small Things

Yesterday, I was chomping at the bit to have some piece and quiet. I wanted to go out and do something with the hubby. I wanted…well I honestly didn’t know what I wanted. But what I was getting, wasn’t it.

So, in a fit of desperation, I hauled out the slip ‘n slide, hooked up the hose, and then shoved my kids into swimsuits and out the door.

I brought a book and a chair and sat outside to make sure they weren’t hurt, but I was still determined I was getting something for myself.

It didn’t take me long to be lured in by their incessant laughing and splashing. Before long I was not only smiling at them, but egging them on.

The smiles on their faces were addictive and I couldn’t get enough of it. Before I knew it, I was not only pushing them to keep going, I was an active participant.

They started egging me on to do stupider and stupider things and I felt myself regressing. I wasn’t a 29-year-old mother of two. I was now 12 and playing with my friends.

Then reality hit when I did something really stupid and tore something in my knees, but in those 20 or so minutes, I was having fun. A lot of fun.

And I realized that I wasn’t craving alone time away from them. I was craving time WITH them.

And it helped. Not just my mood, but with my writing. My kids are an endless fount of inspiration. From the things they do, to the things they say or don’t say.

So if you have kids, relax and spend time with them. They may just be what the doctor ordered.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Freestyle Friday: Interview With Literary Agent Kathleen Ortiz!

 Today on the Oasis we have the pleasure of our guest agent Kathleen Ortiz! 
Kathleen Ortiz began her career in publishing at Ballinger Publishing as an editorial assistant and interactive media designer for the young adult section, working to boost the magazine’s online presence through social networking. She then moved on to as online editor for the features, art & entertainment sections. She has also taught high school classes as a visual media instructor.

Kathleen is currently Associate Agent and Foreign Rights Manager at Lowenstein Associates. She is seeking children's books (chapter, middle grade, and young adult) and young adult non-fiction. While Kathleen enjoys everything from light-hearted and humorous to dark and edgy, she'd love to find an amazing romance from a male point of view or a steampunk with fantastic world building.

Lowenstein Associates believes with the continued demand for online marketing in publishing, a strong online platform is essential for today's authors. Kathleen uses her background in interactive media design to assist Lowenstein Associates’ clients with branding themselves. She maintains a blog on tips for querying and publishing at Neverending Page Turner and may also be found on Twitter.

How did you become an agent?

I was the one who knew exactly what she would do with her life since age four. I was going to be a veterinarian and work with marine mammals. ::strikes superman pose:: I worked at a veterinary clinic for six years (through college), moved up from secretary to assistant nurse to surgery nurse, attended a special high school magnet program for pre-veterinary students, took pre-veterinary courses at the local college while I was a senior in high school and skipped off to college to work toward my pre-veterinary B.S. I even volunteered regularly for the Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Florida in their food prep, sea turtle show (I was the girl who stood in the tank giving facts to the audience) and even got to work with an adorable dolphin named Nicholas.

I was convinced that was my track (did I mention since age four?) and did everything to gain experience. Then I had the most amazing composition teacher freshman year of college who flat out told me, “If you don’t go into some field of publishing, it’ll be a waste of talent.” I had always loved reading (I was the kid who always had a book in my purse) and editing (friends put up with a lot of my spelling corrections senior year), so I took some English electives, hated them (that whole poetry/classics thing? Not really for me) and thought she was crazy. She sent me to the journalism building to prove me wrong. I talked to the dean, signed up for some magazine/newspaper publishing electives and poof! I was in love.

Just like with veterinary medicine, I wanted to gain experience in publishing. In four years I worked (simultaneously, for the most part) as an online editor for’s arts/entertainment section (claim to fame: I interviewed Joss Whedon ::fist pump::), an editorial assistant in charge of the teen section of Ballinger Publishing, a tutor (and co-creator of the online portion) for our university’s writing lab, a writer for Get ‘Em Magazine, a resume/cover letter critiquer, and a writer for our university’s paper.

After that I moved back to my hometown, got my own place and started teaching. I knew I wanted to work in publishing, but I really wanted to take a few more classes on interactive media design before I broke into the book publishing industry. I had the most amazing mentors in college who told me flat out “in five years you’re going to be grateful you did this. You won’t have the time if you work now in the business so take a year or two, brush up on your interactive and online skills and then go for it.”

Best. Advice. Ever.

I taught high school for a couple of years (English, Web Design, Yearbook, TV Production, list goes on), LOVED my students, but had to keep true to my goal.

Applied for grad school and some internships. I landed two internships with the amazing Caren Johnson Literary Agency and Nancy Coffey Literary & Media Representation. Moved to NYC, worked my butt off at the internships and prepared for the new semester. Applied for a lot of jobs and was called in for three interviews. Got the job with Lowenstein Associates and am now Foreign Rights Manager and Associate Agent.

I think the most fascinating part, to me at least, is that every single job I had since high school has helped lead me to where I am today. Even working at a veterinary clinic helped, because I used to be an incredibly shy person and it forced me to interact with a variety of people on a daily basis. Agenting is a lot easier when you’re not shy :) 

Tell us about a recent project you’ve sold.

I’m a new agent (started signing clients in November 2009), so all of my projects are currently on submission.
Note from the Oasis: That’s great for the aspiring authors out there then.  New agents, mean good opportunities, folks. 

Are there any books coming out that have you excited?

There are three main books I’m super excited to see when they’re finally on the shelves:  MOCKINGJAY for sure – who ISN’T excited about that release? J ; THE DUFF by Kody Keplinger (I have my signed copy!  ::snuggles::); and DELUSIONS OF GENDER by Cordelia Fine, which is a book our agency represents.  She’s brilliant, and it’s non-fiction, but it delves into how it’s society, not science, that causes the difference between men and women.  Very smart book with good info to ponder.

What are you looking for right now when tackling the slush pile?

I'm currently looking for children's books, specifically young adult, middle grade and chapter books. I'm open to both fiction and non-fiction. While I enjoy a variety of genres, I'd especially love for one of the following to cross my desk:
Young adult: I tend to skew toward darker/edgy YA. I'd love to see a romance from a male POV. I'm all about voice and an authentic teen voice. I'd pretty much do a happy dance if an awesome thriller were to come by - especially if it's creepy enough to keep me up at night, afraid to turn out the lights.*
Middle grade / Chapter books: I'm a sucker for light-hearted, funny or adventure. Family/sibling relationships (think RAMONA) or slightly serious (think MANIAC MAGEE).*
Non-fiction: Something different than what's already out there. Not really into "how to find the perfect guy" or "how to apply makeup" or "100 awesome things of being a teen." Anything with technology thrown in is a bonus. You must have a strong platform or be considered an expert in your field for me to consider a non-fiction project.*
*Note that these are just items I'm really hoping cross my desk. I have a variety of tastes, so if you're unsure if it's something for me, feel free to query me anyway (be sure, however, it's a children's book). 

What are you sick of seeing in queries that come across your desk?

I’m not really sick of any genres, specifically. If there’s a unique twist, strong writing and captivating plot, then I’m sold; however, there are a few items in queries I’m seeing a lot of that are just not professional.
·      You don’t follow submission guidelines: if you e-mail me a query instead of filling out that form we require, you’re getting deleted. I get at least five a day, and it just makes me shake my head because there isn’t a web site out there that says “e-mail me your query!” (and if you find one, let me know).
·       You query me with a genre I don’t represent: it really amazes me how many screenplay and picture book queries I get. I don’t represent either of those and I’m not looking for either of them. Do you want an agent to take on your work if they’re not only not passionate about your genre but also completely out of the loop on the world of your genre? If an agent says “middle grade, only,” then it means their connections are in that age range only. They probably don’t have editor contacts or know what the market is for your non-fiction historical proposal. Go for agents who represent what you write – you want them to not only like it but also be up-to-date on what’s going on.
·       Calling me “sir.” Last I checked, I’m female. I’m quite VERY certain there’s no question to that. If the fact that “Kathleen” is a female name doesn’t tip you off, at least do your research. Check out my blog, Twitter, Publisher’s Marketplace page or agency’s web site. All pronouns about me are “she.”

Seriously, though, while I know the “Dear Sir” isn’t meant as an insult, it’s a red flag you were too lazy to type in my first or last name. I’m not looking for lazy clients. I want hard-working, I’m-gonna-do-my-research, passionate clients who want to reach their publishing goals. If you’re not willing to start at the query stage, then I’m not the agent for you. 

Name three things that make you stop reading every time they crop up in a submission.

Wrong audience: writing a YA in an MG voice or vice versa. It shows me that not only are you confused about who your audience is, but you’re also not very well read in that age group.

Unoriginal beginning: tons of backstory, waking up from a dream, looking at yourself in a mirror are all ways to open a story that have been done time and time again. While I’m not saying it’ll *never* work, I am saying that I much rather you be creative and unique with the way you open your story.

Too much telling, not enough showing.

How do you know when you’ve got “the one” sitting in front of you?

When I want to forget about everything else on my to-do list so I can finish reading it right then and there. If you trigger some form of emotional reaction from me then it’s an extra bonus – my clients’ manuscripts have made me laugh out loud on the subway (scared the woman next to me), shut my laptop from being angry at the plot – then rushed to open it again so I could finish reading, and actually made me cry just a little.

Will you be at any upcoming writers’ conferences where writers can meet and pitch you?

I’ll be at the Rutger’s University Council on Children’s Literature on October 16; the Backspace Writers’ Conference in NYC on November 11 and 12 (I’ll be teaching a 2 hour course the evening of the 11th); and the Missouri Writers Guild Conference April 8-10 in St. Louis (I’ll be teaching a 3 hour course).

Do you have any advice on how writers can maximize their success in this changing industry?

If this is what you want, don’t stop practicing your craft and gaining experience. Conferences, critique groups (sometimes), even Twitter chats like #kidtlitchat and #yalitchat can be SO much help when you’re starting out. Use all the tools available to you to help improve your craft. 
However, take care to always remember that this is a very subjective business. Opinions vary widely so seek advice/tips from a variety of credible resources.  
I think, for a writer, social media is a huge advantage. Too many writers focus on “must build my audience!”, which is important but not necessarily the first thing you should go for – especially if you haven’t landed an agent or sold your book, yet. Social media is great for networking with others who are in the same boat you are and also who can become a support system for you. 
If you find your normal writing process interrupted by the need to Tweet, blog, check a discussion board obsessively or Google random, non-writing related things, then either give your Ethernet cord to someone to hide (if it’s a desktop) or ask someone to lock the wifi function on your laptop. It’s good to network and connect, but if it affects your job (writing), then it’s doing you a disservice.  Reading all the blogs and Tweets in the world on how to get published won’t help you if you’re not actually writing something to publish. 

What is something about you writers would be surprised to hear?

I’ve been the same height since 5th grade J

Best piece(s) of advice we haven’t talked about yet?

Critique groups aren’t always a good support team. It takes people you trust, people who are well read in your genre, and people who are going to give you the most transparent feedback possible to be an effective team. However, they must be willing to receive the same type of constructive criticism; if they can’t take it, they shouldn’t be dishing it.

How hands-on are you in terms of editing? How much input do you expect to have with your clients’ work?

I've never signed, or seen for that matter, an MS that is ready to go from the start. I don't believe a manuscript like that will ever cross my inbox, and that's ok. It's a really subjective business and even if it's something as minor as a few comma issues, everyone's going to read it differently and have input. 
Short answer: yes. I edit. 

Best way for writers to submit to you? 

Go to and click on my name. There’s a form at the bottom of the page. You may submit via USPS, but I prefer electronic queries. Please do not query me directly via my email address.

Bonus Question: If you could live any where in the world(ie your Oasis), where would it be?

Ireland. I have some amazing family members who live there; I love the rich history; I love the weather; I love the open spaces; and I love the food!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Versatile Blogger Award

We at the Oasis have been graced with the Versatile Blogger Award. It's our first blog award and we are honored, humbled and just plain excited!! A huge thank you to Joanne Brothwell at Thoughts Interred in Phrase and Cara! at From My Head Reviews for recognizing us. Please check out their blogs.

The award comes with a few small conditions, and we're happy to oblige:
1. Thank and link back to the person who gave you this award.

2. Share 7 things about yourself.
3. Pass the award along to 15 bloggers who you have recently discovered and who you think are fantastic for whatever reason! (In no particular order...)
4. Contact the bloggers you've picked and let them know about the award.

Seven facts, huh? Well, there are 5 of us, so you get one fact from each of us and 2 group facts.
1. Group: We met at YALitChat and are group moderators there. If you live, breathe & write YA, you should check it out.
2. Group: We all like (er.. LOVE!) chocolate.
3. Sheri: I was a speaker at my high school baccalaureate and made everyone cry--in a good way.
4. A.E.: I've given speeches to Career Day students at the local college about being a writer, and I wore my Grinch head slippers. Kids loved them!
5. J.A.:  I'm extremely shy.  I mean to the point that people think I'm rude because I'm too nervous to say anything, but I have no problems getting up in front of a group of people I don't know and giving a speech or acting in a play.  :D
6. Nikki: I was extremely active in theater during high school and contemplated majoring in theater in college (a far cry from my actual major!)
7. Jessie: I fidget constantly if I have to sit for long periods of time (which includes car rides, work, seminars, and even just TV watching).

And now, the 15 blogs that we recommend. In an effort to pass on the love to other collaborative bloggers out there, we've selected the following (in no particular order):
1. Mundie Moms
2. Merry Sisters of Fate
3. YA Highway
4. YA Know
5. The YA 5
6. League of Extraordinary Writers
7. YA Fresh
8. Got YA!
9. Supernatural Underground
10. YA Authors Cafe
11. Page Turners
12. Reading Teen
13. YAY! Reads (not collaborative, but a teen reviewing YA - how cool is that?)
14. YA Book Central
15. And in tribute to the amazing woman who brought us together and the founder of YALitChat, check out Georgia McBride's personal blog.

There you have it. We hope you like these blogs as much as we do.  As always, thank you for reading!!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Writing dialogue that sings

**snitched as always from a DeviantArtist. This time, delillama.**

I've always been a reader. In kindergarten (yes, kindergarten) I started reading the Little House on the Prairie series. Books and series uncounted followed, and in the past couple years, it's been the Twilight Saga, the Darkest Powers trilogy and many many MANY more YA paranormal novels. (Have any suggestions?? I'm looking for my next 'literary love.')

One of the things to turn me off in a book, and stop me reading before hitting THE END?

The dialogue.
If it jumps off wrong, feels contrived, or just doesn't sound like something a real person would say...Sorry Author, but I am done. There are too many other shiny, pretty books in the YA sea for me to waste my time or money on a book like that.

So, as writers, how do we make our character's dialogue sing? How do we make it timely enough to sound like real teens would say it now, but not date our work so badly that ten years from now it won't be relevant?

Well, in my upperclassman level Creative Writing course in my first year of college, my professor gave my favorite writing assignment EVER. "Realistic dialogue." Her homework? EAVESDROP. That's right, in the 80s and 90s those of us trying to sound cool called it dipping, it's what we'd suggested in the Writer's Corner here on OFY. My professor gave us permission to listen in on other peoples' conversations. "Take notes if you can," she said. So, I did. Fraternity boys playing a video game and talking about a road trip. I included the video game noises, their swear words...all of it. And got an A+ out of it, too.

So, go on, be sneaky. If you have teens, linger outside the door (and away from the light pouring beneath it. You don't want your shadow to give you away *wink*). Or go to a mall and pretend to browse near teens. The things they say when they think no one is listening...

Real, spoken dialogue has a give and take, an ebb and flow. Words are put together certain ways. Some words are used, other are not--which can give a definite nod to your locale. Somethings are never said by boys/girls. Somethings are said in lieu of what they mean. Kids do swear. The list of lessons learned goes on and on.

Another tip for making your dialogue sound real? Read it out loud.

Agents and editors say this all the time. Read it out loud. (repeated bold for emphasis) If it doesn't sound right, then it isn't. So how do we deal with the "they say what I want them to" syndrome? Drag your friends into it. Assign friends characters from your piece, and another person listen. Then you hear your dialogue from other speakers, and they will stumble if it isn't right. And you have a guinea pig to squeal for you when you ask them what they thought, what they got out of the conversation.

Dialogue is a great tool to show character, to give information, to move the plot forward. If a picky reader, like me, parts the pages of your book and doesn't like that dialogue, it can also be the tool that buries your book back on the shelf. And none of us want that.

So, work with your dialogue. Listen to real conversation. Read your character's conversations aloud. Sometimes it takes listening to make it sing.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Happy Birthday A.E.!

Wishing a very Happy Birthday to A.E.!!!

From Nikki:
Happy Happy Birthday A.E.!! Thanks for sharing this journey with us, and may it continue for many years to come :)

From Jessie:
A Birthday Limerick:

There once was a writer, they say,
Whose nerves just could not be frayed.
She could write a fight scene,
That's incredible mean,
But she hid from her 40th birthday.

Happy Birthday, A.E.! And just kidding, by the way. I know you're way tougher than any birthday!
Thanks for sharing this wonderful YA journey with us.

From Sheri:
Wishing you the best birthday, AE. So happy to celebrate it with you! Take some time for you, today. *grins*

From Jessica:
Happy Birthday, AE. May the saddest day of your future be no worse than the happiest day of your past.

Sing along with us now (and leave your own birthday wishes below!)

Monday, June 21, 2010


I woke up this morning to find we're out of creamer. Ugh. How am I supposed to have a soothing cup of joe without my French vanilla creamy cream that floats on the top until I swirl it with my spoon?

I contemplate. Hmm....

My hand reaches for the ebony knob of a cupboard. It opens, creaking at each joint. I reach for another and another, until I'm practically ripping them off their hinges. The wood groans. I think it's angry, but don't care.

I find nothing. Nada. Zilch. 

Not even a sugar packet, although I don't use sugar. (useless info about me~) 

There is no way I can drink my coffee black. I search high and low, around and behind, in and out. Grr....nothing to use. 

But wait. 

I think I see... 

Oh, yeah...a ray of hope from the dank doldrums of an unlikely cabinet: the pantry where cookie sheets and metal baking dishes are kept. Like a leather belt coiled up for months, my arm unfolds, anticipating. Before I can think, I plunge it into the darkness.

Bingo: a container of ancient dry creamer hidden behind a can of minestrone soup and an over-sized can of stewed tomatoes. (Yeah, I'm sure I put those there,

Although I'm not a huge fan of sand in my coffee, I'm thankful that the dry creamer is at least French vanilla flavored.

After a few shrugs and a nasty sounding huff, I settle for milk and the flaky creamer. Better than nothing, I think.

The dry creamer sprinkles the bottom of my empty mug. Then goes the milk. Lastly, I pour in the steaming black coffee that tints the whiteness of the milk to a caramel hew. Warmth caresses the underside of my chin as I lift the mug to sniff.

Mmm...not bad. 

I reach for my spoon to stir but don't really need to. Cold has met hot and blended nicely, melting the powder. Hmm...I ponder.

And yes, I find inspiration from the horror of having no cold creamer. I think about my favorite words, those I enjoy using most--sometimes too much--as I amble toward my laptop. I know this morning will be good. I know no matter what I write, the right word will be there as long as I open myself up and let creativity flow. 

Of course I'll have my handy-dandy thesaurus--all three of them--piled up next to me. 

So the next time you're without the essential writing tools take another look around. That inspiration you need might be found in the least likely of places. 

I 'd like to give a special SHOUT-OUT from our Oasis to all the dads out there. Hope your Father's Day was a joy and know your efforts in all you do are appreciated. 


Friday, June 18, 2010

Friday Freestyle with Riley Carney

We are very excited to welcome an amazing teen writer to our Oasis today.

She's the author of an amazing five-book middle grade series, the first of which was released in January of this year. A leader to her peers, she's a huge advocate for literacy and spreading the love and importance of reading to every child everywhere.

Oasis Seekers, we are pleased to introduce you to Riley Carney, author of THE FIRE STONE.

Riley, you are such a huge advocate for reading and writing. Where do you think that conviction came from?

I think that my love and appreciation of reading and writing has come from the constant presence of books in my life. From day one, my mom would read to me and I associated reading with a happy, safe place. Also, we rarely watched television. For entertainment, we read or we played Legos and Star Wars and other games where we were about making up stories. Now that I’m older, I see that the benefits of reading and writing are more than just as a form of entertainment; they provide us with the tools we need to lead happy, healthy lives.

How do you think it can be passed on to others?

I think that the most important thing is to surround kids with books and help them unlock their magic. The best way for parents to do that is to give them books that they actually enjoy reading. Parents should spend time with their kids at libraries and bookstores to find genres and authors that tweak their kids’ imaginations and make them excited about reading.

Often teachers and parents try to make kids read books that they think are good for them, but kids are frequently bored by those books and reading becomes a chore. For example, if you were a twelve-year-old boy, would you rather read the Percy Jackson series and the Harry Potter series, or would you rather read Pride and Prejudice?

That’s not to say that there’s not a place for the classics, especially in school, but pleasure reading should be gratifying.

Libraries are great promoters of children's literacy. How do you think we can raise awareness in this country to bring more children to visit our libraries?

That’s a difficult question. Unfortunately, I think that the desire to read, and therefore, the desire to seek out places that have books, like libraries and book stores, begins at an early age. If a teen is a reader, enticing them to the library could be as simple as having appealing programs and activities at the library, like a Hunger Games/Catching Fire event, etc. If a teen is not a reader, it becomes very difficult. Time Magazine just had a story about an extensive research study that showed that the best way to improve kids’ performances in school is to bribe them to read. Ironically, once they start reading, kids often keep reading, even without the bribe, because they begin to enjoy it. So, I guess the goal has to be finding a way to get kids to read, and they’ll seek out the library.

How has your life changed since THE FIRE STONE: book one of THE REIGN OF THE ELEMENTS SERIES was published?

My life has certainly gotten a lot busier, but I’ve loved every minute of it. It’s really been a transformation for me, both in daily routine and in my own personal outlook. I’ve always been pretty disciplined, but now I have to balance schoolwork, writing, my literacy nonprofit, and speaking to schools around the country, and it has made me very conscious about how I spend my time and about enjoying every minute.

How did you develop the setting, the storyworld for this story? Some people have dreams, others think of it while driving in a car or taking a shower. Any weird stories like that?

The world in my book didn’t just pop into my head one day. It was more of a culmination of many ideas over a long period of time. I am always careful to jot down notes when a thought comes to me, and to later revisit them. The world of Mundaria is the result of many notes.

It is our pleasure to spread the word about the nonprofit literacy organization you've started:
Breaking the Chain. How did you first come up with the idea for such an amazing organization?

For as long as I can remember, my mom read to me. I grew up surrounded by books, and the importance of education was emphasized by my parents. When I was fourteen, the summer before going into high school, I learned that over 120 million kids around the world are denied access to a basic education, and that over 126 million kids, ages 5-17, work in hazardous conditions. Additionally, in the United States, 1.2 million kids drop out of school annually. I believe that the way to break the chain of poverty and exploitation of children is through education. I wanted to do whatever I could to change those statistics so I created Breaking the Chain with the goal of breaking the chains of poverty for children through education.

What countries are you most involved with?

Internationally, Breaking the Chain has built three schools in Africa, two in Sierra Leone, and one in Kenya. Currently, we are focusing our efforts on children’s literacy in the United States.

Could you tell us a little about what you and those who've joined you have been able to do through this non-profit organization?

Breaking the Chain has built three schools in Africa, and provided water purifications systems and alternative income for two of those villages. In the United States, we created a children’s literacy center at a Women in Crisis shelter in Colorado, and bought thousands of books for different reading programs around the country. Now, we are dedicating all of our efforts and resources to our program Bookin’It, which puts books into classrooms in low-literacy/high-need elementary schools. I am very excited about this program because it can have such a significant influence on children’s literacy. Most of these children do not have books in their homes, so it is imperative that they have books at school or they will never learn to read. We focus on elementary schools because that is the most critical time for literacy; if a child does not learn to read by the fourth or fifth grade, he/she will probably remain illiterate.

What is your hope for Breaking the Chains organization in the future and where do you see it going?

I hope that Breaking the Chain can continue to promote education opportunities for at-risk children for many years to come. I hope that we can expand to affect as many children as possible, since literacy is the most important component of breaking the cycle of poverty, and currently 3 billion people around the world live in extreme poverty.

Is there anything you'd like to say to your young readers?

I would tell them to keep reading, nothing is more enjoyable than reading, and to keep dreaming, because anything becomes possible if you dream.

As always, Oasis Seekers have a desert question for you.

If you were stranded on a desert island, what book would you most miss?

I would most miss Harry Potter and the reading snack I would most miss would be popcorn.

Thank you, Riley, for sharing yourself with us that we may share you with others. Best of luck to you always, and we look forward to watching your career grow in the future.  

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Thankful Thursday: Books that Made a difference

Books are a part of every writer's life.  Most of us grew up begging for books for our birthdays, unbirthdays, and Holidays.  We'd spend hours in bookstores and libraries.  If you were like me you were jonesing for another book shortly after finishing one.  We carry books or e-readers in our purses or pockets.   But for each of us there was THAT book that said, "You need to write."  

Since the characters we were thankful for last week have a book they came from, I decided to take a look at the books we're thankful for.

AE said, "The one book series I am grateful for has to be the House of Night. I learned so much about what did and didn't work for me, what I loved and, sadly, have grown to dislike in a series. The pacing and tone throughout, is awesome. Very little down time. In the beginning, probably the first three books, I LOVED Zoe--the characterization made me love and/or hate the characters in this series with equal relish. Then, the authors started tinkering with a formula that had me reading their books like literary crack. They introduced secondary characters POVs, which I'm sure was meant to broadened the scope of the over-all story arc, but for me just watered things down. I found myself skimming some secondaries, searching for the MC's voice again. I felt as though they were shoving certain characters down my throat. Honestly, I haven't even picked up the recently released sequel."

Nikki said, "I'm going to go with Wacky Wednesday by Dr. Seuss, because it's the first book I remember loving as a child.  I've been an avid reader since I was very little, and I recall going to the library during the summer, checking out ten books (which was the maximum I could check out), and reading at least one on the way home in the car!  I used to read a book while riding my bike home from middle school (yes, I was a multi-tasker even back then).

Jessie said, "I'm going to reach way back into my reading memory and pick The Mummy or Ramses the Damned by Anne Rice.  This was one of the first books I remember just gushing over because the love story wrapped around me so completely.  It was a paranormal romance novel before its time and it embedded a love for the genre in me.  I have to be grateful for any book that led me, consciously or not, to the dark, mystical and beautiful world of YA paranormal romance."

Sheri said, "This is a hard one for me. I have to admit; I wasn't an avid reader as a kid. I was in the studio dancing or the sports field pretty much all of the time. I did read, but never let anything grab me. I did, however, read DANCING ON MY GRAVE at a younger age and it resonated with me. I'm not a big nonfiction or biography buff, but Gelsey Kirkland's true life is one a storymaker would dream to write. It's poignantly written, revealing the true sacrifice of a dancer and her personal struggles with life and her two loves--dance and Mikhail Baryshnikov."

And me, I'm choosing Twilight, because when I first started reading it, it made me go, "I can write better than this." (I didn't like it very much in the beginning, but about 3 chapters in I couldn't put it down.).  While my thoughts on the book changed and I loved it, for many reasons, not least of which is Ms. Meyers' ability to tug on the emotional strings of her readers, it got the ball rolling on making me want write for more than just my friends, family and the drawer in my desk.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Writer's Wednesday: A Juggler's Life

We developed Oasis for YA with the idea that it would be a sanctuary for YA writers. Lord knows we need it. Most of us are spouses, parents and maybe some other career first, authors second. We lead busy lives and what little time we can eek out of each day we spend pursuing our love of the written word. The problem is, if we've got too many balls in the air, something's bound to drop. So this week, we wanted to pass on some stress-relieving tips for juggling your life and your WIP(s).

1.  Use Your Senses.  Your five senses can be powerful tools.  Ever catch a whiff of something and you're transported back to a years-old memory?  The same thing happens with music too. You hear a song and all of a sudden you're back in high school, driving around on the wrong side of the tracks while your crazy friends hang out of the sunroof.  (Maybe that one's just me.)  Use these powerful memory-jogging tools to get you back into your writing groove as you switch between WIPs, or just writing and life. Create a book-specific playlist. Choose a signature scent and light candles in that fragrance to put you in the right mindset. You'll transition more smoothly into your writing and probably ease a little tension along the way too.
2.  Set Goals and Be Accountable.  Don't go all crazy and set yourself up for failure, but set some goals. And make yourself accountable to someone else for getting your goals accomplished. Nikki and I decided a few months back that we'd hold each other accountable for 50 pages of revisions each week. Knowing that I had to explain myself to someone else if I didn't get through those pages lit a flame under me. Perhaps as importantly, by getting the pages edited, I was able to shed the guilt I'd been carrying about not finishing. And shedding guilt can be a huge stress reliever too. That being said...

3.  Allow Yourself a Day Off.  The wonderful thing about being authors is that our manuscripts will always be there tomorrow. Hopefully we'll all have some agent or editor-imposed deadlines to meet, but for the most part, we work at our own pace. If you need to go get a manicure (or for guys, catch a quick 9 holes) instead of writing one day, give yourself permission. Take an hour to catch up on your favorite TV show, or really talk to your significant other or kids. Sometimes our brains cry out for a break -- so they can recharge with more creativity and energy -- and instead of heeding the call, we press on. Unless you have to, don't. The burn out is just not worth it. As Donna Tartt said: "But it's for every writer to decide his own pace, and the pace varies with the writer and the work."

How do you juggle writing and life? We'd like to know your tips for getting it done while staying stress-free.

Images borrowed from: and

Monday, June 14, 2010


Keeping with the Nikki's hijack theme, and goodness knows I love alliterations, I give you... Talking with Teens Tuesday: The HE SAID/SHE SAID edition. This week I posed two, two-part questions to my local teen test readers, one boy and one girl. The questions?
1) Who's your favorite YA heroine, and why?
Who's your least favorite YA heroine and why?

2) Who's your favorite YA hero, and why?
Who's your least favorite YA hero, and why?

18 year old Lexie and 17 year old Austin both ponied up and answered the questions. Some of their answers might surprise you, some might not...


1) Who's your favorite YA heroine, and why? Who's your least favorite YA heroine and why?

Favorite: Chloe Saunders of Kelley Armstrong’s The Darkest Powers trilogy, Rose Hathaway of The Vampire Academy and Dru Anderson of Lili St. Crow’s Strange Angels series (Echo Miller of AE Rought’s Foresight). They are strong, confident characters that grow in the story. They aren’t whiny and they don’t put up with shit. They also don’t run away from danger and they kick ass and take names later.

Least favorite: Bella Swan of the Twilight Saga, Zoey Redbird of The House of Night series, Ever Bloom and Grace Divine of The Immortals series and The Dark Divine. They are whiny bitches that don’t go anywhere in their stories. They never grow into something better and learn from mistakes. They had potential in the beginning of their stories but back tracked for the worst.

2) Who's your favorite YA hero, and why? Who's your least favorite YA hero, and why?

Favorite: Patch of Hush, Hush, Aden Stone of Intertwined, Jace Morgenstern of The Mortal Instruments series (Thorn and Chael of AE Rought’s Drenched and Foresight). They are confident, manly, cocky, annoyingly handsome and stubborn. They take charge when needed, they can also be emotional with the heroines and not be embarrassed by it

Least favorite: Edward Cullen of the Twilight Saga, Erik and Heath of the House of Night series, Daniel and Jude, and Damen of The Dark Divine and The Immortals series. They are annoying pushovers, and possessive bastards. They feel sorry for themselves and it pisses me off that they won’t man up and grow some balls. They are flat lined, meaning they have no growing space and just fail. It’s not fun to read a book that you want the main hero to just die already.


1) Who's your favorite YA heroine, and why? Who's your least favorite YA heroine and why?

My favorite YA heroine is Max, from the Maximum Ride series. She’s a take-charge, ass-kicking girl who does what she has to. Instead of running from the big bad corporation, she attacks it head-on, like a bad-ass. I’m way more attracted to girls that fight back than the ones who sit there and whine about it. Max is connectible too, she has her flock, she can fall in love, and she can make jokes.

My least favorite YA heroine is Bella Swan. It seems like Stephanie Meyer just took the same quirks and personality traits and mixed them together, creating Bella. So she’s tipsy, well guess what? So is over 50% of the female teen population. Bella Swan is marketable because so many women can relate with her. For a female MC, make a character who doesn’t have the usual traits. Maybe she has asthma, really short hair, maybe she’s a tomboy, just make the character more human, because that’s what they are.

2) Who's your favorite YA hero, and why? Who's your least favorite YA hero, and why?

Jace, from the Mortal Instruments series, has to be my favorite YA hero, because he’s so sarcastic. He thinks he’s the shit, and time and time again, he proves it. Jace can walk and talk, whereas most people just talk, then run away when the action starts. Oh, and he drives a motorcycle. Yay!

My least favorite is Edward, from Twilight. If you really look into his character, you’ll see that his relationship with Bella is abusive. He keeps secrets from her, and doesn’t let her out of his sight. He is more of a plot tool than a character, just like most of the characters in the Twilight books. Stephanie also doesn’t see that Edward is a guy. He is a 100+ year old vampire, who happens to be a virgin, yet finds the strength to push Bella away every time she comes on to him. I don’t care how much self-control you have, hormones will eventually win.

Two teens giving input, but I have heard similar comments through the other teens cycling through my house. We usually have at least one extra teen on any given day, and because we are readers, the great majority of our teen visitors are too, and these opinions have echoes in this house. so, in summation: Though the Twilight craze is due to descend on theaters nationwide at the end of the month (and Yes, I will be there a 12:05am to watch Eclipsed) Ms. Meyers' writing and characters have fallen out of favor with a good portion of the local teens here in Michigan at least. Both guys and girls appreciate characters who grow from cover to cover and one book to another. Both guys and girls like the heroes and heroines who are strong, and independent, who take charge rather than taking a backseat. Whiners are disliked as are abusive characters.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed are those of two teen readers, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the ladies of the Oasis for YA, the Oasis for YA, Blogger or the YA community at large.

Gratuitous linkage:

Stephenie Meyer's website is currently unavailable)

House of Night

The Immortals

Mortal Instruments

Maximum Ride

The Vampire Academy

The Dark Divine

The Darkest Powers

Strange Angels

AE Rought

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