Friday, August 31, 2012

Beyond the Written Page

Recently, I came across the following article by Jeff Grabmeier that discusses the findings of a new study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology:

The study focuses on the phenomenon of “experience-taking,” which happens when the reader of a fictional story experiences the thoughts, beliefs, and internal responses of one of the characters as if they were the reader’s own.  Researchers found that when “you ‘lose yourself’ inside the world of a fictional character while reading a story, you may actually end up changing your own behavior and thoughts to match that of the character. . . . They found that, in the right situations, experience-taking may lead to real changes, if only temporary, in the lives of readers.”

I think this study reinforces what most avid readers have known for a very long time: when a reader becomes so immersed in a character’s world, a true emotional bond is formed, one that can have a formidable impact in the real world.

Still, it’s a neat idea that someone set about to scientifically prove it—and, I suppose, yet another argument for why authentic, relatable characters are so very important to any manuscript.

I hope you’ll check out the article.  It’s an interesting read.

photo credit: CollegeDegrees360 via photopin cc

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

AUDITION AND SUBTRACTION -- Interview and Giveaway!

Welcome to Amy Fellner Dominy, author of AUDITION AND SUBTRACTION, a tween novel releasing September 4! 

Audition & Subtraction

What inspired you to write this story?

In a word: Desperation. 

About five years ago, I was really struggling as a writer. I got stuck halfway through a book and felt lost, hopeless and wondered if I’d ever write anything decent.  It was in this mindset that I came across an article suggesting I search my mind for an emotionally charged memory and use that as a jumping off point for a story.  So I did.  

What came to mind was the day my best friend showed up to lunch with a guy.  It may sound small, but when he sat with us my world tilted.  Forever, really.  I was losing my best friend to a guy and relationships were starting to shift in scary (and exciting) ways.  I wrote that as a scene and though it never made it into the book, Audition & Subtraction had been born. 

What was your publication process like, from initial idea to sale?

I wrote the first draft in 2007.  It was a mess! I rewrote it again but before I could put the finishing touches on the book, my computer hard drive crashed and I lost the files.  After OyMG sold, my editor wondered if I had any other books that were similar.  Talk about good incentive!  I retyped the whole book and finished the edits. The book went to my agent near the end of 2010.  She liked it but she wanted some pretty major rewrites. I worked hard for about two months and sent back a new version early 2011.  My editor loved the changes and I was thrilled to get a contract with a release date of fall 2012. 

So, I guess you could say it was 5 years from start to shelf.

What books have shaped you as a reader and writer, from childhood to the present?

Growing up, I loved contemporary stories about girls like me.  Of course Judy Blume was my hero and maybe that’s why I still love reading and writing contemporary.  I also found myself drawn to books with strong characters.  One of my favorite books of all time is Watership Down. The characters are all rabbits, but to me they’re as real as any people I know.  Even now, I like books with strong characters I can relate to.  I also have to admit I’m a romantic at heart. Add an angsty romance to the mix and I’m hooked.  Favorites include Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre. 

What is one thing people misunderstand about writing tween fiction?

Sometimes I’m surprised when adults ask why I don’t write real books—meaning adult books.  It’s as if writing for kids isn’t important, or less important in some way.  I completely disagree.  Even now, when I think back to the books that changed my life, they’re the books I read when I was young. To me, those were the important books because they helped shape me…helped me to shape who I am today.  I wish more adults would read young.  I think they’d find themselves quite surprised by the depth and quality of writing out there. 

Are you working on anything new?

I just finished a book I’m calling BAD KAT. Think high-school theater, an old romance that never died, challenging the roles we’re told to play…and a black spandex catsuit. Keep your fingers crossed the book finds a home—I’m so excited about how it turned out. 


Bloomsbury has offered an advance reader copy (ARC) of AUDITION AND SUBTRACTION to one Project Mayhem reader. To enter, follow Project Mayhem and comment below, sharing one thing you'll take from this interview. Contest closes Thursday, September 6.

Connect with Amy here:

Monday, August 27, 2012

Pinning* for Middle Grade

“Are you on Pinterest?” When teacher after teacher asked me this last school year, I figured it was time for me to finally see what it was all about. After all, I’m supposed to be the tech person in my school building! I was more than a little reluctant, though, because I already am a neglectful blogger, sporadic tweeter, and half-hearted Facebooker. I really didn’t need the guilt of another social media account I couldn’t keep up with.

In Pinterest, if there are any of you not “on it” yet, you create pinboards of topics that interest you, then you “pin” pictures and links that you come across on the Internet. It’s social because people can follow you and you can follow others—whole accounts or just the “boards” of theirs that interest you. If you see something of theirs that interests you, you can repin it to your boards.

So…I joined. Back then you had to get an invitation to join. Now you can request an account. As I signed up, I read Pinterest’s tag line: “Pinterest is an online pinboard. Organize and share things you love.” 
Hmm, organize. I liked that. Sharing’s good. And visual is always a plus in my book.

Then I started creating boards--and I realized that Pinterest was really quite different than Twitter or Facebook or blogging. Rather than yet another stream that I felt obligated to contribute to and check, my Pinterest account had the capability of being something useful to me all by itself. As the months have gone by, as expected, I haven’t done a lot with the social aspect of Pinterest, but I have come to love it for the organizing and inspiring my reading and writing life.

I’m still definitely a fledgling pinner. But, if you’re a reluctant pinner like I was, here are some board ideas that might get you started pinning.
  • This one is less for me than for my readers, but I created a board for each of my books. For example, my upcoming middle grade mystery, MALCOLM AT MIDNIGHT’s board has pins of photos of old schools, sketches I drew as I wrote, articles about the amazingness of rats, my book trailer, interviews I’ve done, reviews, anything for anyone who’s looking for more about the book…it’s all there. Pinning a link or photo to Pinterest is SO much easier than uploading a photo or a link to my website. It looks better, too. And I can link from my website directly to this board.
  • A board of writing ideas. I’m constantly coming across things on the internet that fascinate me. I used to keep a private blog where I jotted down these story “seeds,” as I call them. Now, I pin them. It’s so fun to see an article on Ghengis Khan pinned next to one on the discovery of a new planet that might have water. It’s my favorite board to browse because the ideas can't help but percolate.
  • A board of writing tips. I’ve gotten a whole writing education off of the generosity of blogging writers. Many of these invaluable posts I’ve bookmarked through the years, but I didn’t often go back to them, because sometimes the titles are a little obscure and I’d forget what they were about. Now that I’ve pinned them, not only do I have the visual, but I can write a line or two about what I found valuable in that article.
  • A board of my favorite blog/articles I’ve written. I’ve blogged on and off for…eight years (?! ). While most of my posts are pretty forgettable, there are a few I’m kind of proud of. Pinterest allows me to highlight these, instead of having them lost in a jungle of posts complaining about my children and how they won’t allow me to write.
  • Boards of favorite books. I also blog at Sleuth, Spies, and Alibis, and recently, I used Pinterest to create a board of new young adult and middle grade mysteries coming out this fall. So much easier than typing them all out! And there’s nothing prettier than a page full of great book covers!
  • A board of research links for my work-in-progress. As I work on my new manuscript, I’ll be creating a board for that book even before it gets published. Kind of like my own scrapbook of inspiration—pictures of settings, characters, and links to research that I might need to refer back to.
And finally, if you want to really stretch yourself and tap into the social parts of Pinterest, you just might find some readers there. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, teachers and librarian are BIG users of Pinterest (check out the Education subject boards). By following their boards you can peek through the window of their worlds…and the worlds of your middle grade readers. And some of them just might follow you back.

Want to know more about Pinterest for writers? I found these articles and posts especially helpful:

*Not to be confused with PINING for middle grade (of which I am also guilty).

W.H. Beck ( is an elementary school librarian and the author of MALCOLM AT MIDNIGHT, a middle grade mystery starring classroom pets at midnight. It comes out on the first day of school (Sept. 4--next week)! Her Pinterest boards can be found at

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Winner of The Drover's Quest Announced

I reviewed Susan Brocker's The Drover's Quest last Monday, and has spoken.

The winner of my signed copy is (drum roll)

Julie, I'll be sending you an e-mail. Thanks for being a Project Mayhem reader, and Congratulations!!!

Friday, August 24, 2012

When Do You Start Reading Up?

That's my kid, Madi. She's in sixth grade now. I'm pretty sure she's reading Rick Riordan there. She's been going strong on MG books for a while now, probably since ... well, at least second grade. Sometimes it's hard to remember, life moves so fast. But anyway, I recently noticed that she was reading Eighth Grade Bites (Chronicles of Vladimir Tod, Book 1), by Heather Brewer. Her sister read it years ago, but I think she was in eighth grade at the time.

Now, I'm not the kind of dad who controls what his kids read. My opinion is that if a kid has a curiosity about a certain book, there is good reason they might be interested in it. Now, if she were wanting to read Lolita or Mein Kampf, I might be a little concerned, but in this instance, with her wanting to read what my understanding is a YA novel that is not too particularly dark or edgy, I can simply ask her sister, "do you think this is appropriate for her?" If her sister hadn't read it, I would probably just read it myself.

But this post isn't really about what we should allow our kids to read, I more so wanted to pose a question to our readers: when did you start reading up?

Personally, The Hobbit and then The Lord of the Rings were the first two (four) books I read, so while The Hobbit is somewhat a children's book, LOTR certainly is not, so I guess I started reading up right away. I did not get into the likes of Roald Dahl, Gary Paulsen, or Jack London until fifth or sixth grade. Then in middle school, I moved back to adult fantasy, and started reading spy and espionage books like Robert Ludlum and John Le Carre.

So what about you all? Were you aware of literary age distinctions when you were younger? Did you ever read above or below your supposed level by choice? Did you ever read adult novels as a kid? If so, what did your parents think of it? Did they know?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012



Does this happen to anyone else- you are working on your own book and suddenly, you discover that the book you’re reading gets stuck in your brain? It changes your ideas or even your language! I don’t mean in the way a new idea can grow from others, but as an unwanted guest who won’t go away. I am so aware of how influenced I am by the things I read. My internal voice can change, my characters’ voices change, the way I see my own story can even change.

This presents a problem since I am a bookworm. And I always have to be reading something. I have discovered that some books are more invasive than others. It has little to do with the quality of the writing or even the characters or setting. Some genres just seem to be more intrusive than others. Tragedies demand an emotional commitment and linger darkly. Sagas demand attention to a multitude of characters who are all evolving. Some modern and post-modern writing can demand tremendous effort just to read. What I have found is that mysteries, detective stories, and the like, are the best because they create a world in which something happens and is solved, the end. For some reason they don’t intrude as much as more complicated or esoteric tomes.  And I can reread (yes, I believe in rereading) some, like Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next books, over and over and always find something new. I don’t know why but they engage in a particular way that is both fulfilling and isolated from my own work. You can get lost in a good book without finding you’ve taken the book back with you when you’re in your own book again.

It’s weird but I tend to know a writing burst is coming on when I pick up a book and realize it’s the wrong book. Then I know it’s time to reach for my shelf of mysteries. Michael Jecks writes a great series that takes place in fourteenth century Devon, England. I’ve read twenty-seven of his books. His attention to detail is fulfilling and he gets the ideas from actual trial transcripts from that era. Susanna Gregory and Candace Robb also write great medieval mysteries.

I have read that many thinkers and writers have had a penchant for reading mysteries. Even Wittgenstein liked to read detective dimies. Perhaps we all find the same satisfaction with a driving force that concludes. The book becomes something of a question with an answer and that is satisfying. We are not left to dawdle and wonder. The demands are not those of a tragedy or epic saga or modernist literature. We are taken on an adventure and given a ride home. Then we can easily find the key to open our own writing and get back to business.