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About Devine Intervention

"Frequently hysterical ... devastatingly honest writing that surprises with its occasional beauty and hits home with the keenness of its insight." 

—Kirkus Reviews, starred review


"So much fun... an insightful story about seizing life for all it’s worth while you have the chance."

—Publishers Weekly

"It is a pleasure to read a writer who so delights in language, and who writes so captivatingly in a teen voice with such imaginative description."

— Los Angeles Times

“This is a love story. Not a romantic love story, but a story of the development of a deep caring relationship with another being. Humorous and sad at times, it brings us to ask ourselves what we think about heaven and how we get there. Believable and fast-paced, it keeps us reading to the end.”

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The best writing advice Judy Blume ever got: an #LA14SCBWI interview

It's hard to imagine a writer with more influence over young readers than Judy Blume. It's not just that her voice is true and appealing. It's also that she writes about the things kids hunger for (which is probably why she is often in the sights of book censors). 

More than 80 million copies of her books have been sold, and they're available in more than 32 languages, making her beloved around the world.

You probably have your own Judy Blume moment: that time you found yourself inside the safety of a book with characters experiencing exactly the things you feared, struggled with, or wondered about.

Mine came when I read the book DEENIE during a swim meet when I was in sixth grade. A friend had lent it to me, because that is the way of Judy Blume books. They are passed hand to hand, as secrets are from mouth to ear.

I read it straight through in the hot, chlorinated air of that swimming pool, lying on my damp towel as I waited for my events to be called. And as it is with the books we loved when we were young, that one twisted itself into my DNA and lives there still. When I see things that remind me of those characters and their struggles, when I smell a hot blast of chlorine, back I go into that story. I'm not that same kid anymore, and so the story isn't the same story. It's better, and this is the genius of Judy Blume.

Judy is a big supporter of the children's writing community and serves on the SCBWI board of advisors. What's more, a fellow SCBWI member, the unstoppable Debbie Ridpath Ohi, illustrated a brilliant new series of covers for her classic books

Judy will be at the sold-out SCBWI conference in Los Angeles next month, and even though she is on a book deadline (with her adult novel coming out next year), she took the time to answer a few questions for us. 

Did you ever have a moment in your career when you thought you'd never get the hang of it? 

Not so much in the beginning because I didn't know anything—as now, when I know too much. And in between I've had a lot of moments when I wanted to quit.  

How did you move past that?

Don't over think it and just let it come. If it doesn't come today it will come tomorrow. Sometimes I just have to take long breaks between books.  
What's the best piece of writing advice you ever got?

From my daughter, this week.  (I'm having a hard time with revisions due the end of summer).

"Mother, just get up every morning, sit at your desk and write down anything and everything and it will come." And that's exactly what I'm doing. Sometimes, even when you know what to do, it helps to hear it again.

Every woman my age I know (including me) credits you with helping us navigate adolescence. Are there any authors who did that for you?

There were no YA book when I was a teen.  I was reading from my parents' bookshelves at 13.  Those books may not have helped me navigate adolescence but I learned a lot about life from them.  

Visit Judy's website
Follow Judy on Twitter
The New Yorker on Judy Blume


Newbery winner Linda Sue Park on writing: #LA14SCBWI interview

Linda Sue Park, photographed by Sonya SonesLinda Sue Park is one of the most beloved authors writing for children today. Her many awards include a Newbery for 2002's A SINGLE SHARD, which I saw performed on stage in Seattle, where it was every bit as powerful as on the page. Her recent title A LONG WALK TO WATER was a New York Times bestseller.

In addition to being a top-notch writer and storyteller, Linda Sue is also a fantastic speaker and teacher. I took one of her intensives a few years ago at a summer conference, and the revision I did based on her advice became my first published novel.

She'll give a keynote this summer in Los Angeles on how we can make every word in our manuscript count. I can't wait to hear what she has to say.

If you haven't signed up yet, and you're thinking about it, the earlybird discount ends June 15. You can register here.

On the fence? I get it. These conferences are a big commitment in every way. But they're worth it. I also came up with the idea for THE DINOSAUR TOOTH FAIRY after my first Los Angeles conference. At another LA conference, I heard my agent speak for the first time (and thought then how much I would like working with her). And, as I mentioned earlier, Linda Sue showed me exactly what I needed to learn to sell my first novel. In all, six years after my first national conference, I have five children's books either on the shelves or under contract. I know that would not have happened had I not taken that leap of faith.

Linda Sue was kind enough to answer a few questions. Here's hoping you find some useful information and inspiration to tide you over until August. 

What's the best piece of writing advice you've ever received?

I’ve read and received all kinds of wonderful *inspirational* advice, but by far the most important tip was PRACTICAL. From the great Katherine Paterson: When working on a novel, write two pages per day. Every day. That’s it. Idiot simple. I actually begin my daily writing session by editing the two pages from the day before (sometimes throwing away the whole dang thing), but I don’t get up until I’ve written two new ones. They don’t have to be good. They just have to be done. Because I’m going to start my next session by editing them, right? I’ve written all of my novels that way—two pages at a time—and if I hadn’t read Paterson’s advice way back when I first started out, I’m convinced I never would have finished even one of them.

How do you know when your writing is working?

When I feel excited to get to work every day. I’m not saying it’s ice cream and balloons every time I sit down to write, but if I don’t have an overall feeling of eagerness to get at the story, I know something isn’t working.

What sort of research do you do before a project, and when do you stop with that part and start writing?

I try to do the lion’s share of the research before I start writing. Of course, there are always holes I have to fill in along the way (hopefully small ones…). But I think of research as revving up my engine. It helps create excitement for the project (see above). I let the story itself guide me regarding the question of when to start writing. I reach a point where I feel I have a good handle on the topic, and I know this by the fact that my use of post-its slows considerably. (I stick post-its in place while I’m reading, then transfer that info later to typed notes.) At the same time, my eagerness to start writing grows until I can’t rein it in any longer. Reaching that stage has varied for every book I’ve written. Sometimes a couple of months, sometimes years!

Linda Sue Park online 
on Twitter: @LindaSuePark 




The award-winning Cynthia Kadohata: #LA14SCBWI interview

There are lots of reasons to attend a national SCBWI conference. Among the best, though, is the chance to hear wisdom and inspiration from today's finest authors.

This August, we'll hear a keynote from Cynthia Kadohata, a National Book Award winner for The Thing About Luck, and a Newbery Medalist for Kira-Kira. The author of eight books for young readers, Cynthia was kind enough to answer a few of my questions. Curious about diversity in children's literature, Cynthia's best writing advice, and her favorite kind of taco? Read on!

Conference registration is open and conferences tend to sell out, so if you'd like to give your career a boost, sign up soon.

There's been a lot of discussion lately about diversity in literature. What are you trying to bring the world with the stories you write? 

Apparently books by authors of color represented about 7 percent of all children’s books published in 2013.  That makes my heart sink. That said, I don’t have a particular agenda when I write a book. I pick something I feel passionate about and I write it.  My book Half a World Away, which comes out September 2014, has a white protagonist. 

I want the stories I write to feel universal to readers whatever race is the main character. My mother once told me, “The more specific, the more universal.” I really agree with that and think if you write something as specifically as you can, the result will almost magically be universal. 

For instance, my father’s life of hard labor inspired both Kira-Kira and The Thing About Luck.  I wrote specifically about the hard work by a Japanese-American family in those books, but I hoped hard work by blue-collar employees is something relatable to all races.  But I never, ever think about these things when I’m writing.

The emotional scenes in your book are so clearly drawn and resonant. In The Thing About Luck, for example, the grandmother's illness is so potent you can feel it progress. How do you prepare to write scenes like that? And how do you make them powerful and restrained at the same time? 

As I write, I have to feel the way the character must feel.  It can be almost a self-hypnosis kind of thing where I focus really hard on each scene until I can “catch” the feelings of a character. 

Sometimes I can rely on my personal experiences, but other times I need to do research, and research is a big part of my process.  

With Kira-Kira, I wrote a draft and put it in an envelope for my editor. Then something happened that devastated me and shook me to my core on the same day as I put the manuscript into an envelope. My boyfriend suggested I write down everything I was feeling.  So I did, and later I put it verbatim into the manuscript, which I ended up sending to my editor after I’d worked on it further for a month.  If there’s no personal experience involved, then once I’ve done the research, I have to catch the character’s feeling and write it down as quickly as possible before I lose it. There’s urgency involved, because I don’t have much time before I lose it—I feel like it’s a matter of a few hours, sometimes less.  This probably sounds wacky … Anyway, that’s part of what I’m going to speak about at the conference.

What's the best piece of writing advice you ever got? What's your favorite writing advice to give? 

The best advice I ever came across and the same advice I would give is “Make a mess, then clean it up.”  That’s how I always write.  For my first draft, I just rush through it in a month or so, and then I edit it over and over and over. Then my editor edits it over and over and over. So the “cleaning up” part takes much longer than the “make a mess” part.

Cleaning up can take two years. I absolutely cannot try to perfect each sentence in a first draft. It would take so long, and I don’t think what I wrote during the cleaning up phase would be very good. The rush of emotions I get in that first month of writing a book wouldn’t come to me if I tried to perfect each sentence.  That’s probably a personal matter—some writers might feel differently.

Another way of interpreting “Make a mess, then clean it up” is that when you’re plotting, you can put the character into a mess, and then you clean up his/her mess.

Three tacos at a time, eh? What are your favorite kinds? 

I only like beef ones!  I’ve tried fish or chicken tacos a million different times, and I’ve never liked them.  But beef ones—I LOVE them!


More about Cynthia:

Her website

A National Book Award interview

School Library Journal interview