Publishing

Titles, titles, titles.

crumpled-paper It's freaking hard to re-title a project. For the last two or so years, the book I've been working on has been called Flame. It's the title we pitched it as, the title I told my friends and family about, the title I placed on the top of the Pinterest board of imagery for when I got blocked. The book is about burn victims and young love, and so it made sense, but it was always a working title. In the back of my mind, I always wanted something else.

Well, after about a million emails with my editor and agent, after some creative brainstorming with friends and family, after just about tearing my hair out while staring at the blank Word doc, I found a title just a couple of months ago, and I couldn't be happier.

Flame is now ...

The Last Time We Were Us

Beyond burning/love, the book is really about nostalgia, about getting to a place you'd thought you lost and how wonderful it is when you can, indeed, go home again. It's about how two people, over the course of a friendship and relationship, change so many times, and how that can be both good and bad. The title is long and nearly impossible to shorten, but I'm pretty happy with it.

So from now on I'll be talking about The Last Time We Were Us (TLTWWU). Dear goodness, I need a shorter slug.

P.S. In case you forgot, TLTWWU comes out in about a year. Can't wait!

Friday Writing Inspiration: Robert Graves Quote, Money and Writing

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Happy Friday! Today, I'm enamored by this quote by poet and novelist, Robert Graves. It reminds us that money can never be the end-goal of writing, but that that's okay.

Sometimes, I think it's almost easier to say you're not in it for the money before you get published, because even if it's a long-shot, you can always dream of your book going to auction, of that huge deal, of being the next J.K. Rowling right out the door (p.s. not even J.K. Rowling was J.K. Rowling right out the door), but once you get your first deal, you're faced with a number, a paper, a contract. You have a dollar amount that says: This is how much your art is worth.

While I'm working hard towards a time when that dollar amount is enough to be my sole income, it's important to remember that that is not the goal. The goal is to write something beautiful and of value to others--and to yourself. Some art will be rewarded monetarily, some won't. Some works that are not authentic hardly truly valuable will earn money in droves. It's a lottery ticket. But for now, at least, I feel very thankful that some people, during these crazy economic times, are willing to shell out a few bucks for The After Girls, something that is very special and important to me.

So here's to writing, and here's to day jobs, eating in, and all the other things that are a part of a writer's life.

New York Trip Part Three: My First Book Party. My first Reading. With VIDEO!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E3ZlkixlAx0&w=560&h=315] Well I meant to post this ages ago, but I guess life got in the way. I've already blogged about all the fun I had in New York at Book Expo America and my first author school visit, but the most fun had to be the book party!

I have to admit I was very intimidated by the planning/throwing a party for myself. I love planning things for others, but when it comes to celebrating me, I usually stick to casual meet-ups or low-key dinner parties. So planning a book bash in Manhattan was a BIG DEAL.

All planning worries aside, the party was a huge hit! It was amazing to be surrounded by so many friends, family and supporters. Thomas acted as my official bookseller, and I even ran into the problem of running out of books (a good problem to have).

The whole thing felt like what everyone says about weddings--that it goes by in a flash and you talk to so many people but can hardly remember it. For me, it was a flash, but a wonderful one. Old writing teachers, the authors who blurbed my book, former coworkers, even Thomas's extended family attended. I felt so blessed to have so many loving and supportive people in my life--and I can officially say that I couldn't have done it without any of them.

For those who missed it (or those who will enjoy a video of me stumbling over my own work), I've made a quick video of the main event--the reading. Enjoy!

New York Trip Part Two: Book Expo America (with lots of pics!)

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Since my return from New York, I have of course been way behind on everything, but I am belatedly getting to one of my favorite events there--Book Expo America (BEA).

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Let's be clear--I have never been to a book event of this magnitude before. It's thousands of square feet at Javits of ... BOOKS. Yes, it is truly, amazingly booktastic, and now they open it to the public one day, so you should def check it out next year.

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But anyway, my publisher had set up a half-hour signing for me in the autographing area. It felt super official (and super nerve-wracking). You had to go sign in at this special booth and then make your way through this behind-the-scenes curtain (where they stored boxes of everyone's books) to pop out just as the author before you left and make everything look super seamless. Then a bunch of people get in line and you just sign your book to your heart's content. Since I'm such a new, unknown, I was a little worried I'd have the sad empty line, but I didn't. It was full the whole time. I met a lot of cool people, and got some great practice on my autographing skills :) It was awesome to meet people who'd seen the book in the show catalog and had marked it down as one to pick up!

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After that, the publicist swept me back to the F&W booth, where we did another impromptu signing with my tower of books. See above. (It's not really allowed, so shhh, but it was really fun.)

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All in all, it was truly an amazing and humbling experience. I felt like a real author for maybe the first time. One of the women walking by even said, "You're the author? You look to young to be an author!" I'm going to take that as a compliment.

Other highlights included cool LEGO structures and getting a glimpse of the Ron Hubbard scientology booth. See below.

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I want these.

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Really bad.

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That's right, a book really is sold every 2 seconds... If that's not terrifying, I'm not sure what is.

New York Trip Part One: My First School Visit!

Creative writing workshop for teens, author high school visit Oh man, oh man. It has been exactly a week since I returned from New York, and I feel like I'm still recovering! All in all, it was an AMAZING trip, and I seriously don't even know where to begin. So I'll start with my first school visit (and first book event) ever ... my visit to Hudson High School of Learning Technologies. And what a great first event it was!

Creative writing workshop for teens, author high school visit

I met with two groups of students who LOVE creative writing to talk about The After Girls, share tips and do a couple exercises, and it was so much fun. I can't explain how exciting it is to talk to teens about writing. Speak to adults, and you get a whole slew of questions about getting an agent, getting published, royalties, advances, sales, business business business. Not to say that isn't all terribly important, but speak to teens, and you get questions about ... wait for it ... WRITING. How do you keep writing when you feel stuck? How long does it take to write a novel? How do you think up your characters? How much do you base your stories on real life? What music do you listen to while you write?

Creative writing workshop for teens, author high school visit

Needless to say, it was refreshing. It reminded me why I do this all in the first place. Because writing is a joy and a blessing--and I am so lucky to be able to share that blessing with others.

Creative writing workshop for teens, author high school visit

The best part? These bright-eyed teens were great writers! They were uninhibited, creative, observant. They were eager to learn more and to make their stories better. They weren't worried about how to get published. They were only worried about how to get down all the wonderful things they had to say.

After the workshop, I signed all the kids' books, probably the most fun of all! Above are a few photos. See them all on the school's Facebook page.

P.S. If you're interested in having me visit your school, just email me at leahkonen@gmail.com, and we'll try to work something out. I'm available in-person in many locations and also via Skype.

How to Make a Book Trailer (On a Budget)

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yCScxvk4V8I?rel=0] One day, I will be a fabulous, wildly successful author and not only will my publisher fly me all around the country (and world) to do a book tour, but I will have lots of publisher dollars to pour into a book trailer, but that day is not today.

Today, I am a debut author with a new imprint, and like many things in the publishing process (ahem, author photo), I have gone the DIY route. And that's okay. In fact, it's fun.

Full disclosure, I have never made a movie before. I am not a pro photographer, nor am I a director, nor have I done anything video-related besides a really nerdy Renaissance art project in high school, where my friend and I literally pressed play and record on two VCRs hooked up to each other and called it editing. I realize I just dated myself there.

But I digress.

The point is, you don't have to be a pro to make a book trailer. Or have endless resources. You just have to be a little scrappy and willing to learn. Here's how I did it:

I thought about trying to actually record footage, but I realized that by the time I got actors involved, it would already be way bigger than I was ready for, so I decided to go the stills route. If you are an author or a fan looking to make a book trailer, I highly recommend stills. There are plenty of fun things to do with them in iMovie, and if you get the right ones, they look a lot more professional than most amateur footage. How did I find them?

I have a Pinterest board that I have used for inspiration since I began writing my young adult novel, The After Girls. The very first (and most inspiring) photo on the board is from Lauren Maccabee, a young woman in the UK who has a cool blog and Flickr stream, Look Left and Look Right. Check her out. Her photos were eerie, wistful, ethereal and moody. They expressed the feeling of The After Girls perfectly. After a little Internet hunting, I tracked Lauren down. And when I saw the rest of her photography, I just knew she was perfect.

While it took me awhile to hear back from her, I decided not to reach out to anyone else--and I'm glad I didn't--when I did hear back, she had researched my book and said she understood why I'd be interested in her photography. It was a truly great fit. We worked out a modest price (please, PAY any artists you work with, it's good karma) for me to use 10 of her photos (non-exclusively, which makes it a lot more affordable), and she sent me the scans.

Seriously, I cannot recommend working with an independent photographer enough. There are tons of brilliant photogs out there who would love the exposure and the paycheck, even if it is small. And it's way more fun that just going with traditional stock.

Next I wrote a quick script. I toyed with the idea of using a quote, but I found there wasn't one quick quote that said all I wanted to say in the book trailer. So I hit on the high points, the mystery. I looked at the photos I had from Lauren and riffed off them. I got back into my character space (the one I hadn't been to since revisions) and imagined Ella, one of my main characters speaking again. By this point, I knew her well enough to do this rather quickly. I didn't mess with it. I didn't edit it. I just let her walk us through this quick glimpse into the world of The After Girls.

Then I headed into iMovie. I won't go into a detailed how-to here, as I'm sure there are loads of articles around the Internet, but I will say this--have fun. The program was designed for people like you and me who don't know what they're doing. Just drag your photos in and start playing around. Add transitions. Add text. See what fonts you like. Don't doubt yourself. You are the author, for goodness sake. You should know how to create the tone and mood of your book better than anyone else.

Once you have the main body of the video, you'll need a final slide. I recommend putting a blurb, your contact info, and of course, where you can buy the book. I also highly recommend designing this in something other than iMovie. You simply can't get the fonts small enough to fit in all the information you need on one slide. InDesign and Photoshop are great, if you have access to them (just set your canvas to 1600x900px), but Picasa is a great free editing service that can do many of the same things. And one more note about last slides--keep it at least 10 seconds to give readers a chance to pick up all the info.

Oh, and speaking of time, maybe it's just me but I think 1 minute is the sweet spot, but definitely don't go shorter than 30 seconds or longer than 2 minutes.

And finally, the music. I don't have much in the way of advice here, because my boyfriend is a brilliant composer, and I literally gave him a cut of my trailer and he composed the score, which is so perfect. It gave me chills the first time I heard it. So I guess my advice would be to date a composer?

Seriously though, there are talented people everywhere. There are indie bands looking for exposure. Go to shows, ask your friends, troll MySpace--you'll find someone whose track you can use.

Your book trailer may not be directed by Scorcese, but in the end, you can still have something amazing, even on a major budget. Which is good because the jury's still out on whether book trailers actually do anything for sales :)

P.S. My book trailer was featured today on I Love Book Trailers and YA author, Melissa Walker's awesome blog. Check em out!

The After Girls is officially out! A little on how it all began

the-after-girls So The After Girls is out today. I could talk about how nervous I am, but I already did that to excess yesterday. So I thought I'd share a little on how I got from an idea to a book that's out in the world and that I really hope you all love.

Around three years ago, I had an idea for a title--The After Girls--it came to me out of the blue, and I loved it. I immediately saw it as about friends, and I started to think about what would take a group of friends from before to after in an instant. The answer was suicide. And the story began to unfold from there.

I didn't start working on it in earnest then. I was finishing up another project, and I still wasn't sure how it would all pan out. Instead, I tried (rather unsuccessfully) to write an outline and started talking about the idea with any friends who would listen (a big thanks to my NY friends for listening to my ever-changing plotlines). I took a writing class in New York and shared my idea with my classmates and soon-to-be friends. I still wasn't sure where exactly the story was going.

I wanted to set it in the mountains of North Carolina, because, honestly, what setting is more fun or creepy than that? I had only been to the mountains a few times there, but I had it all laid out in my head. And the summer after I got the idea, I visited my sister in Boone, NC (in the picture above), and everything was exactly as I had imagined--only better. It was the perfect setting, the one that would become the fictional Falling Rock, NC.

I began to write, following Ella and Sydney, two best friends as they mourned and  tried to understand their friend, Astrid's, suicide. I probably knocked out about a hundred pages. Slowly but surely I was making progress.

It was around this time that I got a call at 4 a.m., learning that a friend from college had passed away. She'd had cancer for two years, and it was very progressed, but none of that matters. When someone dies at 26, someone who is strong and beautiful and full of life, it's a shock. It's horrible.

My roommate at the time and I flew down to North Carolina to attend the funeral with the rest of our college friends. We spent the weekend crying and laughing and getting sunburned or tipsy on the beach. Our friend would have wanted it that way. She was one of the most happy and fun-loving people I've ever met in life.

It was also that Spring that I met and fell in love with my boyfriend. And it was only about a month before I would leave my job and travel to California and decide that I wanted to make the move to the West Coast.

There were a lot of changes in my life, but more than anything, highs and lows, grief and joy were more real to me than they'd ever been before. The story I had thought up a year before became more than just a story. I'd seen how much friends mean to each other, especially during times of loss. I'd seen how sometimes the most wonderful and inspiring person in the world dies way before they should. I'd seen the hole that they leave when they go, all the people they affect, all the people that miss them and remember them and still think of them all the time.

These are the things I was thinking about while I was writing it. And that's what I want to share with all of you.

As always, thanks for the support.

Leah

My advice for up-and-coming writers in Sadie magazine

Happy Saturday! I'm excited to share a little piece I did for Sadie magazine, a very cool online pub for young women. Sadie asked me to share tips and tricks for breaking into writing/publishing, culled from my experiences getting my first book published. Here are a few:

1. Stop stressing about how to get published and just write. Before you bother yourself about the whole business angle, remember that the only people who get published are the ones who have a finished product to sell. Whether it’s a novel or a screenplay or a magazine article, put in the dirty work (the creative expression that inspired you to write in the first place) before you make your business plan.

2. Start calling yourself a writer. Assuming you’re ready to commit to the first tip, start backing it up by the way you speak about yourself. Long before I wrote The After Girls—long before I completed a full novel, I began to start to call myself what I was—a writer. I wasn’t yet published, but by telling people I met at parties and events about my ambitions, it not only helped in building contacts, but it gave me a reason to be accountable—and it reminded me to shut off the Hoarders marathon and write.

3. Chill out about your “contacts.” It’s time to ignore the guidance counselor again. When it comes to publishing, it’snot all about who you know. I signed with my agent by humbly sending my manuscript over to her slush pile. Then she did the rest. Even if you do have a connection, unless you’re famous enough to entice a publisher on your name alone (ahem, YA novelists Lauren Conrad and Hilary Duff), all your connection will do is move you to the top of the pile. Publishing is a business (and a tough one at that), and no agent or editor is going to take a chance on you out of the goodness of their heart—or because you went to college with their half sister.

4. Make friends with other writers. Now that you’ve stopped stalking agents and editors on their Twitter pages, think about making the contacts you will need—writer friends. They’re good for critiquing, discussing plot ideas, guzzling wine post-rejection, etc. Simply knowing them will inspire you to write—and very likely write better. (And when you do sell your book, they’ll all attend your launch party.) To find writer friends if you don't have them already, join a Meetup, start a critique group, email that girl from your college English course whom you haven’t spoken to in years, or take a class yourself. I made some of my closest and most dependable friends from a Mediabistro course I took in New York.

5. Use the tools the Internet provides. Once you’re ready for the business stage of the game, get thyself to AgentQuery.com. It’s basically the Facebook of literary agents. You can sort by fiction, nonfiction, children’s, sci-fi, chick lit—the list goes on. Each agent lists whether they’re seeking new clients and how best to query them. Plus, they’ve got helpful articles on how to write pesky things like query letters and synopses.

See the rest at Sadie.com.

Author copies of The After Girls are here!

author-copies-the-after-girlsThey're here! Delivered in two big boxes! With my name all over! It's definitely all very surreal. And when I open one up, it looks and feels like a real book. And it is. I don't really have much to say except for, wahoo! Oh, and I have a lot. So expect a giveaway in the very near future.

In the meantime, you can get yours here.

xo Leah

Getting that first bit of press for your novel

publishers-weekly-writeupSo about a week ago, I got two mentions in Publisher's Weekly (a clip from one of which is above). One was just an announcement of upcoming titles from different publishers and the other more of an in-depth feature about Merit Press, the new imprint of Adams Media that is publishing THE AFTER GIRLS (headed by the fabulous Jacquelyn Mitchard).  Both were small, but I wanted to share them anyway. When you're writing it's so easy to get into your head and imagine yourself, as Anne Lamott in Bird by Bird does, meeting ruin and having your "shitty first draft" discovered and mocked for the rest of time.

That said, there are bright points. And one is realizing that no matter what happens and how many copies your first, soon-to-come-out novel sells, and no matter how many good or bad reviews you receive, Publisher's freaking Weekly thought you were not such a horrible hack that they saw fit to include your book (and your name) in a story or two.

I know it's not that big of a deal, and most books get mentioned in one way or another there. But at the same time, it is. It's a good moment. And so I wanted to share.

You can see them, and hopefully more to follow, on my press page.

Parking spots and book deals

Puppy gifI was parking on Friday in my neighborhood and marveled at how I always seem to get a spot without much searching. And yet on the street where I park there is almost always only one spot left. Do I just have good parking luck? I don't think so. It's just that when I park I only need to find one spot. There only needs to be one person who has recently left theirs. I have a medium-sized car and live in a neighborhood where parking is, at least, a possibility. Odds are, in the two or three always-almost-full streets I go down, one will indeed be almost full and not full, and I will find my spot.

There are so many things in life like this, and so many ways to get discouraged when you look at the odds, when you try and try, and it seems like finding even one is impossible. But still, you only need one of them.

An agent, for example. You only need one person to really love your manuscript enough to want to sell it. And then you only need one editor to love it enough to convince all the people at the publishing house that it's worth taking a risk on. For each book, you only need one book deal (as much as we all may dream of being sold at auction). From Suzanne Collins to J.K. Rowling to many, many more, every literary success has had people in their lives and careers that believe in them--and people that weren't willing to take the risk.

Writing is difficult, yes, and there is absolutely no guarantee of success (though writing, in and of itself, is it's own kind of success) but lately, when I get discouraged, I find it's better to remind myself that I don't need to convince everyone I meet that my work is worthwhile. Just like I don't need to get offered every job in the world. And I don't need to find ten affordable apartments in New York or San Francisco. Just one.

Just like finding a parking spot, falling in love, making friends and almost everything in life, there is so much that you can't control or guarantee. But when I remind myself that every great success is made up of small victories--and a series of ones--it makes everything challenging seem a little bit more manageable.

Oh, and if that doesn't work, looking at puppies usually does.

Seeing Your Book for the First Time

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So ... these arrived. My official ARCs. I have never seen my name on/in a book before. Magazine, yes. Newspaper, yes. Book, no. It's weird.

The box came yesterday, and Thomas and I were trying to figure out what it was. "It must be one of your textbooks," I said.

"I already got all mine," he said.

"Are you sure?"

He cut the box open, looked at me, and smiled. "It's not my book."

It's crazy seeing them on actual paper--with an actual cover--and it they looked so great in ARC paperback, I can't wait to see the real deal.

I opened a read over the first page, flipped a few pages in. I read for a bit, and it's strange--it started to feel like an actual book, not like something I wrote or dreamed up. Not like an overly long Word document that I 've looked at and tweaked a million times. The words were closer together, more bookish. The background was the kind of matte white you only get on real paper. I kept on going, and I thought, wow, I would really read this. Which is the point, right? To write something you'd love to read yourself.

I can't wait to go through the whole thing, but for now, it's the best early xmas present I could get.

Cover Debut, Catalog, and Amazon Link (This is Really Happening)

The After Girls Young Adult Novel Friday was a good day. A day when it really finally hit me. I have a book coming out and it is really, truly going to be published ... on paper ... with a cover and everything ... with my name!

A lot of things happened at once. A good friend of mine requested a catalog from my publisher to see if my book was featured. We were both surprised to see that it not only was in it, but it was on the front page! You can see it here.

About an hour later, I got a text from another good friend saying he saw my book on Amazon--another pleasant surprise! I knew it was all coming up soon, but I had no idea it would be available for pre-sale already. That's the cool (and at the same time trying) thing about  publishing your first book--you really have no idea how it works and are just along for the ride. Needless to say I was thrilled to see it actually for sale somewhere. It really made it feel real.

All that led me to the conclusion that my cover, which had been through some back and forth, was finally ready to be shown to the world. There is it up top (and on the side, and in the header, as well--don't judge me). I really love it and hope you guys do, too. When I first saw it, it wasn't what I expected, but I instantly knew that it conveyed the mood and the heart of the story perfectly.

I think one of the coolest things about all of yesterday's revelations is that I got the news not from my agent, not from my publisher (they're busy doing about a million things to get it ready), but from my friends. It's so encouraging to have people in my life who are so invested and supportive, they're discovering developments about the book before I even have a chance to look for them.

Anyway, thanks to everyone for all the support along the way. Much love from the West Coast!

Inside the Publishing Process: How to Take an Author Photo

Leah-Konen-author-photoSo The After Girls is going to press soon, and I'm discovering that there are a LOT of steps to the publishing process. It's not just as simple as how to get a literary agent and how to get your book published. There is a ton more and, these days, more and more that falls on the author. So I thought I'd tackle some of the issues I've come across, in no particular order and from my limited experience only. So without further ado, a few tips on how to take an author photo for your book jacket cover. First off, you have a few options. You could plan ahead and and use whatever money as an author you can scrounge up to hire a professional. I'm sure that's what all the real big-wigs do, but if it's your first book, like me, that might not be a viable option. Second, you could find a friend who is a semi-professional photographer and offer them a small sum or beer or whatever you can find that's barter-worthy and have them do it. This would probably be ideal. Your third option. You could have a short deadline and have just moved across the country to a city where you know no one and do it yourself. That's what I did. You can see the result on the right.

1. Use a good camera. A DSLR is best (the one with changeable lenses), but in a pinch, I think you could even get by with an iPhone if you use the focus feature and take a lot of shots. I set mine to the lowest possible aperture and auto white balance (a professional photographer friend of mine suggested that this is the one thing that's okay to set to auto) and then had my boyfriend adjust the shutterspeed accordingly as the light changed. And don't forget to shoot on the highest resolution that you have.

2. Pick an awesome location. My advice here would be to choose something that expresses you, but just know that very little bit of your background is even going to show, and make sure you don't choose something too busy and distracting. Inside against a fairly blank wall with good light would work. Against a building with nice exposed brick. In the woods, in a park, at the beach. I chose the beach. I'd also consider the mood of your book and your writing. The After Girls is for teenagers and very moody, so a cloudy day at the beach was perfect.

3. Find good light. Contrary to popular belief, full sunlight is no good--it will make the shadows on your face appear really stark and harsh.  Morning and afternoon are better. Or overcast almost anytime.

4. Choose a friend/boyfriend/sister/etc. who has patience. Unless they're a professional, you're going to end up directing them. Show more of this. Take more photos. Not so close, etc. You'll probably have to take a lot, so just make sure they know, beforehand, that it's not going to be a matter of clicking the camera a few times and heading back. And be sure to thank them profusely once you're done.

5. Leave any self-consciousness or embarrassment behind. Or at least choose a semi-deserted location. You are going to feel awfully silly standing on a beach and watching people walk by while you do try to summon your most genuine and best faces. You just will, and you just have to decide not to care if anyone gives you weird looks.

6. Be yourself. I think this is the most important part. When you think of author photos, they tend to be ultra-pensive, serious, looking to the side, etc. I personally don't like the way I look when I try to be serious, and I'm not all that serious of a person, so I chose to smile and look at the camera. I tried doing it several other ways, but it just wasn't me. And that's okay. Plus, there are far too many book jacket photos out there already that are variations on Socrates's The Thinker. Basically, don't be afraid to let your personality shine through a little.

7. Look at the shots as you go, and keep going until you find something you like. You may feel stupid going through so many, but the perfect photo may be the next one you take. Don't feel like you have to stop just because you've been out there awhile. I suggest taking a break every few minutes to  look at what you've got. You can even bring a laptop with you so you can see them on a bigger screen. Don't stop until you've got something you're proud of.

8. Edit. Once you've got a few that you like, throw them on a laptop and go through until you find your favorite. There are lots of free photo editing programs if you don't have Photoshop. I use Picasa. Adjust the light and color if necessary, and clear up any blemishes using the clone function. Just make sure that you've got the originals saved in case you make a mistake. And don't go crazy.  It's a professional photo--not Instagram.

9. Share it with your friends. Get some honest feedback, because you're not always the best judge of yourself. I put mine up on Facebook and instantly had a ton of people saying that they liked it, and I also asked one of my more discerning friends what she honestly thought. She said that she loved it but it made me look a little young, which I was fine with because my target audiences is teens. It's always good to get a truly frank opinion.

10. Relax! Seriously, even if it doesn't come out perfect, it's going to take up about 2" of space on your book jacket. And very few people will even ever look at it, so don't kill yourself worrying about it. You can always hire a professional for the next one.

Book Deal!!!

I've been meaning to announce this for awhile, but between being superstitious/paranoid about telling too early and the little matter of driving across the country, moving into a sublet, and setting to work finding a new apartment, I've been a little preoccupied.

That said, the contracts are signed, the revisions (which I completed--I kid you not--in the passenger seat of a 16-foot Budget truck) are in and accepted, and my first official novel, The After Girls, will be coming out from Adams Media/Merit Press Books in hardcover in spring 2013!

Even after getting and accepting the offer, talking to my editor, the talented Jacquelyn Mitchard (of The Deep End of the Ocean fame--good book, if you haven't read it already), and embarking on a light revision, I don't think the news really hit me until I saw the cover, which was the exact thing I never knew I wanted, and I will share it here as soon as it's ready and I'm allowed to. As my editor said, seeing the cover of your book for the first time is like meeting a child--you feel like you've known them forever even though you're seeing them for the first time.

Well, all I can say was that she was right. I'm thrilled that this thing I've created is going to be real and on paper, but mostly I'm just thrilled that so many people decided to take a chance on my story, from my amazing agent, Danielle Chiotti, to my friends, family, and boyfriend  who supported me the whole time I was writing it, to my Mediabistro writing group who gave me amazing notes, to the editor and publishing team who are putting it on the shelves.

More than that, I'm blessed to be embarking on this new phase of my writing life in a beautiful new city with my wonderful boyfriend, and in a new apartment (we sign a lease next week)--I only have to figure out the little matter of finding a new job.

It's weird how the good and the bad always seem to come together. My boyfriend and I moved out of NYC literally two days before Hurricane Sandy hit. And even though the coverage has waned in the wake of the election, there are still so many without power, without homes, mourning loved ones, eager to get back to work, having two-hour commutes each morning. I've been hesitant to talk about all the good things happening to me during this time, but all I can say is, I'm incredibly blessed--and incredibly grateful--and I'm thinking of the brave people of New York every day.