Thursday, July 30, 2015

Chasing Sparks--by Ellen Jensen Abbott

This has been a great month at YA Outside the Lines! I’ve gotten so much good writing advice through my fellow bloggers’ exploration of the idea of sparks. My two cents comes from thinking about the sparks you need when you’re in the midst of writing. You know, those days when it’s just not happening, no matter how long you sit in that chair and try to write through it. When that happens to me, I have a few techniques I use to reignite those sparks. Maybe some of these will help you!

  1. Go for a walk or a run. I find that moving my body can spark new ideas, new insights or new pathways through a problem. I try not to actively think about the problem while I’m running; I let my subconscious work on it. But I don’t listen to music! That keeps my subconscious just busy enough to ignore the problem.
  2. Journal. Sometimes I just do a mind-dump, writing down (long hand) all the issues that are on my mind: shopping lists, tasks I have to complete, a new idea for a lesson I have to teach. Getting all the clutter down on paper clears my mind and leaves room for my story to stretch.
  3. Write from prompts. Sometimes I get stuck because I don’t know my characters, main and secondary, well enough. Lately I’ve been working from Alan Watt’s 90-Day Novel. The goal of the book is to walk you through the writing of a first draft of your novel in 90 days, but the first third of the process leads you through getting to know your characters and world. Watt gives you 277 prompts to help you do just that. Yup--277. His advice is to do stream of consciousness writing for five minutes in response to prompts like “Something I tend to avoid is…”; “The last time I betrayed someone was when I…”; “My most painful memory is…”; “I feel safest when…” and on and on. You can respond to these prompts as your hero or antagonist or any character you think may appear in your work. In these prompts, I have found innumerable sparks to help me know and understand my characters and to know and understand the world of my story. Some of them are contradictory. Some of them are rich with images. Some of them are just plain weird. But all of them offer potential for what my story might become.
  4. Take a shower. I often write first thing in the morning, skipping my shower to get at my computer. But if I get stuck, getting into the shower can get the ideas flowing again. Something about the plain white of the tiles and the rhythm of the water can help spark my creativity.
  5. Research. Although I am a fantasy writer, I do a lot of research. For the Watersmeet Trilogy, I researched edible plants and medicinal herbs. For my WIP, I’m reading a lot about life in the 1900s both in England and America to inspire my setting. Reading about entailment or barouche carriages or the advent of the locomotive can spark new images for my story.
  6. As part of my research, I often also look at pictures. I love those DK Eyewitness books for kids that are more pictures than text. I have Titanic and Trains in my desk right now. As a fantasy writer, I don’t need to be historically accurate, but I like to use photos to spark ideas for my world.
  7. Read. If my trouble comes from structure, I reread parts of The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler. His distillation of Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey gets at the archetypal elements of storytelling and I often use his descriptions to diagnose issues in my work and to send me in a new direction.
  8. Take an artist date. This is an idea from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. I don’t remember exactly how Cameron spoke about the artist’s date--it’s been a long time since I’ve read The Artist’s Way--but the way I’ve come to interpret the artist date is doing something that feeds the artist in me that is NOT writing related--going to a museum, having lunch with a friend who’s an opera singer and talking music, going to a movie or symphony or exhibit. It can even be taking time out to appreciate the sunset. 
  9. Sleep. Sometimes when I’ve written and run and taken a shower and read and researched and still nothing is sparking, I let myself sleep on it. I have great belief in the role of the subconscious. I feed it all I can and then let it digest--and sometimes that digestion needs a full night. I only let myself “sleep on it” if I’ve worked for a least two hours--or else I might be sleeping all the time!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Can't Start a Fire Without a Spark--Brian Katcher


When speaking to groups of readers, I often find myself fielding the same questions: Did you always want to be a writer? Where do you get your ideas? Does it bother you that John Green makes so much more money than you? How do I know that's a real Rolex? Have you been drinking? How did you get into my house?

Well, most of those questions are easy to answer. But not the one about inspiration for my ideas. I think most people assume my book plots come directly from God, delivered on parchment scrolls by the winged beings from the book of Ezekiel. But that's only part of the process.

You see, I often don't remember where my books come from. One moment I'm not writing a book, and then suddenly I'm on fire. And after I stop drop and roll, there's an idea in my head. Sometimes I'll go back and read my manuscript and be surprised at some of the stuff I wrote. Sometimes scenes I've thought about for years will find a home in a new work. Sometimes I wake up in a strange city handcuffed to a park bench with no memory of the past week. It's an involved process. 

I did once come up with a book idea while attending my wife's family reunion. I'm not sure what this says about my mind her or family.

The best way to get a book idea: My editor comes up with it.

I once went to the estate sale of an author I admired. I bought one the books he owned, which was called 'Plotto', and contained a thousand and one contrived plot ideas. I guess I discovered his secret.

So in conclusion, kids, stay in school. And only losers use drugs. 

"The question I'm most often asked is 'Where do you get your ideas?' 'WHY do you get your ideas?' is a close second." -Gary Larson

Monday, July 27, 2015

Spark (Jennifer R. Hubbard)

Spark is the zap of energy I need to start a book ... and continue it.

Spark is the bright spot I look for when I get lost in the dark twists of a messy draft.

Spark is the perfect first line, or the right scene falling into place.

Spark is the theme that gives meaning to the plot. It lights the fire that keeps burning.

Spark is conflict, desire, competing interests.

Spark overcomes fatigue.

I think spark is what editors look for when they hear pitches for stories, and it’s why pitches don’t have to be long. One sentence can be enough for you to know whether you want to hear more.

It’s what I look for when I’m browsing for books, too, and it doesn’t take me long to know that I want to read something. Two boys take a cross-country bicycle trip, and only one returns (Jennifer Bradbury’s SHIFT). Girl meets boy for one magical day in Paris ... but what comes after that day? (Gayle Forman’s JUST ONE DAY). A boy is haunted by mysterious pictures and clues to the reasons behind his friend’s disappearance (David Levithan’s EVERY YOU, EVERY ME). Each of those summaries strikes a spark in me. These were books I wanted to read--and did.

I tend to find sparks in stories about secrets, losses, disappearances. About getting over a difficult past, about guilt and forgiveness and hope.

Those are the subjects that spark the books I write, too.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Strange Sparks (Courtney McKinney-Whitaker)

Lord Charles Cornwallis in the early 1780s

As a writer of historical novels, I find sparks of inspiration in lots of places, but especially during the research process. With THE LAST SISTER, I already knew the story I wanted to tell, and the mostly forgotten Anglo-Cherokee War was my spark of inspiration for how I wanted to tell it. My process for my current work-in-progress has been rather different. Instead of starting with a story, I started with a setting: the Carolinas at the end of the American Revolution, in 1780, a year that doesn't get much play in popular culture. (I'm hoping the Revolution itself will help readers—and, uh, people in publishing—find a point of connection.)

Finding a story I wanted to tell was a struggle, so I dove into the research in order to learn everything I could about the Carolinas in 1780. The spark of my story came from a surprising place: Lord Charles Cornwallis, who, bless his heart, had no idea when he was off on the Continent learning everything he could about military theory, serving for decades in the British army, and later governing India, that he would be the inspiration for a YA author's novel.

It's strange, the way time and art bring very different people together.

The book isn't about Lord Cornwallis, but he showed me the way into it. He fascinated me. I found myself wanting to know more about him. And through that process, I met a character who also wanted to know more about him.

I think the reason I became so interested is that the man I found in the historical record is so different from the man portrayed in most fictional interpretations. I paused. I said, Wait, this is Lord Cornwallis? He's not ancient. He's forty-two. (Not even for the time as ancient as you might think.) He's not a stodgy old British officer who hates rebels at all. He's a grieving widower seeking escape in his work. He's not crushed by the loss at Yorktown. His career is just getting started. He looks nothing like Tom Wilkinson.

Tom Wilkinson as Lord Charles Cornwallis in The Patriot

Cornwallis is a strange spark, I'll admit. But through him, I began to hear the voice of my main character, and I haven't stopped hearing it because she does not shut up often and she gets what she wants, I suspect by badgering people until they give in. Hers is not the story I planned to write at all. She's not like the characters who typically attract me. She's wealthy, fashionable, entitled (though not in the way she wants/plans to be), and from the Lowcountry, and despite all this, I like her very much. Just kidding, Lowcountry. You know I love you and your delicious seafood. But I'm not going in the water until this shark situation is resolved.

Now I've gone and talked about it, so I have to write this book.

I have Lord Cornwallis to thank for this new story, and for reminding me that popular memory often lies and that we don't usually know people as well as we think we do.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Let's start a fire! by Patty Blount

All throughout July, we outsiders are blogging about spark. As you read this, I am in New York City attending the RWA National Convention, where my novel, Some Boys, has finaled in two contests -- the Greater Detroit Bookseller's Best and the Rita Awards, and recently won this year's Firecracker Award. This was a story that began with a spark. 

Spark has many connotations. It’s the lightbulb that propels you to work when an idea strikes. It’s the moment when you look at someone and know that person’s soul is the missing half of yours. For authors, it’s the life essence we breathe into stories and characters.

Some stories start with an idea…a concept. Others start with a person…a character. We start writing, playing little what-if games and if we’re lucky, the spark ignites and a story takes shape. If we’re extraordinarily lucky, that story is read and the sparks spread to readers – lighting up emotions, memories, inspiration, respect, or simply a new perspective. 

I was extraordinarily lucky. A few years ago, the Stuebenville rape case sparked something in me. Outrage at a community who vilified the victim. Disgust at the blatant disregard for welfare displayed by the rapists. Fury with members of the media who suggested we should feel sorry for the rapists whose lives are now ruined. Those emotions, in turn, birthed a character named Grace… a girl who’s not so perfect. She drinks while under age, she wears clothing some consider too sexy, she's disrespectful to her parents, and she's also a rape survivor. 

In other words, she's a girl who’s real.

She is the heroine in Some Boys. Some Boys was published and since then has collected comments from readers ranging from “Nobody deserves this” all the way to “OMG, this happened to me and reading this book gave me the courage to fight for justice.”

As proud as I am of the awards, I'm prouder still of comments like these. As an author, I can tell you nothing is more gratifying than seeing our tiny spark catch and spread into a blaze that can't be extinguished. Maybe, just maybe, we'll see an end to rape culture because of all the sparks spread by stories like Some Boys. 

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Too Many Sparks (Alissa Grosso)

Right now the office supply stores are having their annual Back to School sales, despite the fact that it's a full month and a half before schools (at least around these parts) are back in session, and even though I'm not a student, teacher or parent, I still get excited for this time of year. It's time to go out and stock up on shiny new notebooks. As a writer, I love notebooks, especially shiny new ones. 

You would think that in this high-tech world of ours a writer would have no use for a paper notebook, and maybe there are some who don't bother with them, but I'm a bit old fashioned. I don't write out any of my books longhand. (I'm old fashioned, but not insane!) But I do like to sketch out ideas, outlines, character descriptions and other assorted notes in notebooks. When I get a spark for a new idea, I try to corral my thoughts with the help of one of my trusty notebooks.

My current notebook stash.

But you're probably wondering why I need so many notebooks. I mean, how many books can I possibly write in a given year, right? Well, here's the problem, I find myself with a whole lot of sparks, too many of them, really, and unfortunately most of them don't become full fledged conflagrations. 

Because, as anyone who has ever tried to deliberately start a fire knows, getting it to take can be a tricky thing. First of all, you need to make sure you have some decent kindling, and you've got to get that all set up first, a sort of foundation for your fire. Then you need to make sure your wood is good. If it's too wet or too green, you're going to get nothing but smoke. Then you'll have to have the patience to fan the flames and coax the fire along. Once you do get it going, you need to keep feeding it, or it's just going to die out. Building a fire, like writing a book, is hard work.

To me the spark is the easy part, it's the whole rest of it that takes work. My problem is I don't have the patience to fan those flames. Or maybe when I do try to fan them, I find myself getting a face full of metaphorical smoke when I find out that I've got nothing but lousy wood. Depending on my mood I'll persist in building my fire and hammer out a first draft, but often I find myself giving up and starting over from scratch.

An assortment of sparks await some fanning on my desk.

I know there's plenty of sparks, and so I set that idea aside and dive into a new one. So, that's why I went out to Staples and stocked up on 25 cent notebooks. I've got more sparks than I know what to do with, but one of these sparks is going to turn into the biggest bonfire you ever saw. 

Just below my blank notebook drawer is a drawer filled with abandoned  (ahem, smoldering) notebooks.

And just to be clear, I'm talking metaphorically here, I'm not actually going to burn my notebooks. Not even the duds, because sometimes those lackluster fires just need to smolder for a really long time before they're ready to dazzle us with orangey red flames.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Turning A Spark Into Fire (A Metaphor in Cavewomen)

By Natasha Sinel

Cavewoman A bangs two rocks together, and a few tiny orangey-red things fly out. She drops the rocks immediately, scared, says “ugga-bugga,” and runs away.

Cavewoman B comes along, picks up the two rocks, bangs them together, and a few tiny orangey-red things fly out. She holds the rocks up to her face, staring at every crevice, fascinated, says “ugga-wugga,” and then sits down and continues gazing at them. She bangs the rocks together again and again, making sparks, watching them fly and land on the ground. She touches one of the rocks—ouch, hot! What would happen if...she thinks. Then she scrambles up and shuffles in her cavewoman way to a pile of dead branches that had fallen the night before during a ferocious thunderstorm. She thinks about her family and how they’d huddled up in their cave, freezing their caveman butts off in the pitch black, eating shreds of raw mammoth meat.

Now she bangs the rocks together right over the pile of dead branches. The sparks fly and land on the ground, on the branches. Nothing happens. What if...she thinks. She bangs the rocks closer to the branches, and one spark lands on a branch and stays lit up. Tiny and orangey-red. She sits. She watches. What if... She blows on the spark a little to see what will happen. Smoke rises. “Ugga-wugga-wugga!” she shouts in disbelief. She turns to find someone, to show them all, but she’s alone. When she turns back to the branches, the spark has turned into a small oval thing that dances—orange, red, yellow, a bit of blue. She touches it. Ouch—very hot! She holds her hands above the colorful thing, close to it but not touching. It’s warm. The cavewoman’s eyes go wide as the thing spreads slowly over the branches and turns into fire. She rests back on her haunches and smiles. She knows that she has created something—something dangerous, yes, but also useful, life-changing, life-saving, something beautiful.

At one point in my life, I may have been more like Cavewoman A. I’d make the spark and think it was cool, then I’d run away, scared. But I grew up some and realized that a spark can be cool, but it’s nothing if it's not fire. I wanted to be like Cavewoman B, sticking with the spark, studying it, thinking about it, staring at it, being fascinated by it, touching it even when it was too hot. I wanted to join the spark and a pile of branches to see what would happen. I wanted to ask What if... I wanted to make a fire.

Anyone can make a spark. But only a few brave souls will take it to the next level and make a fire.

So I did. It wasn’t easy. It was time-consuming, and it was scary. I worried about things—was it bad, would I finish, would everyone hate it? And I considered running away. But I didn’t. I kept What if-ing that spark until it became fire.

Be Cavewoman B. Turn your spark of an idea into a fiery story. It’s worth it.

Natasha Sinel writes YA fiction from her home on a dirt road in Northern Westchester, NY. She drives her kids around all afternoon, but in her head, she's still in high school, and hopes that no one near her can read minds. Her debut YA novel THE FIX will be out from Sky Pony Press/Skyhorse Publishing September 1, 2015.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Spark-less by Jody Casella

Yesterday, after a huge rainfall, our backyard filled up with water. I watched from the back porch as our lawn became a pond became a lake. When my husband got home from work, we opened a bottle of wine and sat outside on the patio, clinking our glasses together and listening to the waves lapping gently at the shore.

The sun came out and everything was sparkly. It was weirdly beautiful.  I dunno. Maybe it was the wine.

"All we're missing is an alligator," my husband said. "And this could be the Louisiana Bayou."

"Or I shark," I said.

We both laughed. But then we looked at each other.

Next thing we knew, we were tearing into a piece of cardboard. My husband disappeared into the house to find tape. The neighbors peered over the the fence to see where all the splashing was coming from. That was me. Tromping around in the water, the shark fin skimming toward me, my husband circling around snapping pictures.

The Ohio Bayou

Yeah. Okay. It was the wine.

The truth is it's not typical of me to be so nonchalant about backyard flooding. To be silly. To be outside when it's still light out.

The truth is I'm kind of a workaholic. I don't know why I said "kind of." I am a workaholic. When it comes to writing, I don't know how not to be. I start out each writing project with the best of intentions. This time I won't go overboard and burn myself out. I'll clock regular hours. I'll take breaks. I'll take weekends off. I'll write a certain numbers of words each day or pages or sections and then I'll stop. I mean it. I will shut down my computer by the time the kids get home from school. Or by dinnertime. Or by bedtime.

And then, inevitably, at some point I break all of the promises.

My latest project-- a revision of a revision of a revision--a book that for whatever reason I could not get "right," and yet could not let go of--it happened again.

In the final months I stopped reading for pleasure. I stopped cleaning. Cooking. Um... showering. Every morning I holed up in my office, set myself off, and just went, like an energizer bunny on fire. Some days I worked until nine or ten at night and probably would've kept going, if my eyes didn't burn and my fingers didn't cramp up.

Seven days a week. Nine months straight.

I finished the book, something I'm proud of and hope to see published. But I'm wondering why I had to break all of those promises to do it.

I went way beyond burning myself out for this one.

This one, I ended up gray ash in a fire pit.

Six weeks later and I still have no desire to start a new project. I've got a couple of sticks-- see Tracy Barrett's post, but I've got no energy to rub them together. Whatever sparks I need to set myself back onto the crazy-making energizer bunny track are just not here.

And maybe that is a good thing.

Maybe every once in a while it's perfectly fine to be spark-less.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Unexpected Sparkle (by Nancy Ohlin)

This month we are blogging about sparks.  I’ve taken the liberty of writing about sparkles instead, as “sparkle” is a Middle English relative of “spark.”

Today is a big holiday in France—La Fête Nationale—which brings to mind a very French memory. 

Years ago, my boyfriend, now husband, took me to Paris for my 40th birthday.  We had little money, so this was a huge extravagance.

The night before my birthday, we had dinner at a tiny bistro in the 7th arrondissement called Le P’tit Troquet.  After a lovely meal, we went outside into the warm spring night.  We wandered for a few blocks, not knowing exactly where we were.  Then we turned a corner and encountered a most surprising sight:

This happened right at midnight.   Jens kissed me and wished me a happy birthday.  The Eiffel Tower continued twinkling above us.  It was a movie-perfect moment.

I couldn’t have imagined a better birthday.  Here I was, starting a new decade under all that serendipitous sparkle, and with the man I loved.   I told myself that no matter how the rest of my life might unfold, I would always, always have this moment.

And I still do.

I hope you find some unexpected sparkle the next time you turn a corner.  

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Sparks Flying (July theme) by Tracy Barrett

The great Newbery medalist Sid Fleishman used to say that you can’t write a book based on just one idea. He said that an idea is like a stick: You can use it to poke holes in the ground or play fetch with your dog, but otherwise it’s not of much use. You need two ideas—two sticks—and when you rub them together, you get a spark. Out of that spark grows a fire, which is the story.

So when I get stuck, I sometimes throw together two things that wouldn’t normally be in the same place at the same time and let them rub against each other. I put two unrelated characters in a room and let them talk. I introduce a plot point at an awkward point in the story. I turn a castle into a house and see what difference that change makes in its inhabitants; a boy into a centaur, with all the difficulties of having your best friend have hooves; medieval Scandinavia into ancient Pompeii.

If I’m lucky, when the new element rubs against what I’ve already imagined and written, sparks fly. Sometimes they fizzle out without lighting a fire, but that’s okay. I don’t have to use what I write—I’m just playing and exploring.

Give it a try sometime! Your spark might catch and make a cozy campfire—or maybe a full-on blaze that changes everything.


Thursday, July 9, 2015

A little spark here, a little spark there (Jenny O'Connell)

With Fourth of July just over, how can I help but think about sparks? There are the good kind (boy and girl hit it off) and the bad kind (conflict with enemies) and they're both fun to write. The thing is, the big, explosive blowouts are the easiest - the huge, colorful, awe-inspiring Fourth of July fireworks. For me, those scenes seem to write themselves. What's more difficult? The smoldering flame of a match, the little sparklers that burn over time without any single huge burst of light or sound. It's the difference between smashing a window and discovering over time that the little nick in your windshield has grown day by day without you even noticing.

So what's the difference when it comes to writing, and why is one more difficult than the other? Because one is obvious and begs for your attention. The other seemingly happens without even asking for you to notice. It's the difference between a character walking in on her boyfriend cheating with another girl, and a character realizing that the relationship that once seemed perfect now feels broken but she can't put her finger on why. Subtlety. It's a heck of a lot harder to write because it's quiet. As a writer I worry about something being so quiet a reader doesn't notice, and being heavy handed.

The sequel to my book The Book of Luke will be out shortly and it was just this "quietness" that I live like that. It would be exhausting! So in the sequel, The Next Chapter of Luke, I found my characters had reached a state of homeostasis - in fact, I never even thought about writing a sequel precisely for that reason. Where would the sparks be? Hadn't all the sparks burned out or been put out in the first book?
found difficult about the sequel. In the first book it was all conflict, events, big moments. But people don't really

So I had to find the sparklers, the matches, and, eventually, the finale of colorful bursts. There's a reason July Fourth fireworks happen only once a year. It makes them really matter, it makes them something to pause for and watch. But every single day? Like sequels, sometimes it's the quiet following all that flash and noise that makes that single spark really have an impact, on characters, readers, and writers, too.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Sandwich Your Spark--Kimberly Sabatini

When I write a story--I start with a spark. There's always one small idea that captures my attention and makes me think I should explore some particular character or concept in more depth. This ignition of thought is usually sugary sweet and utterly delightful. I shall call it jelly.

No matter how freaking fabulous jelly is, I don't know a lot of people who just eat it by the spoonful. Okay, there may be a few of you out there. In fact, now that I think about it, my mother might be one of them. But the truth is, most of us want our jelly on warm buttered toast, or stuffed in a light and fluffy donut or married to peanut butter on soft pieces of bread. Jelly, as fabulous as it is, needs something to support it.

Story sparks need this also. Imagine the Hunger Games. Kids fighting to the death in an arena is the jelly. Pretty awesome jelly, I might add. But that's not why we stay in that world. It's not why we flip the pages. The thing that contains and supports the spark is the nuanced characters and their relationships. It's watching a reluctant hero rise. She takes us up with her.

Looking back at my own book, TOUCHING THE SURFACE, I can remember my spark. The first spread of jelly was the idea that Elliot has died for the 3rd time. It's a concept that set my mind on fire. It set of new ideas in a dominos effect. The minute I allowed my self to fall outside of the typical box of ideas and grab a fist full of jelly, was the moment everything changed in my writing. Of course that was only the start. It took me a long time to concoct the perfect peanut butter and jelly sandwich of a book. On early attempts I ended up with sandwiches that had too much jelly or too much peanut butter. I had stale bread and sometimes even the wrong bread. Cinnamon raisin is not a good choice for my PB&J. And Jalapeño jelly might not be for everyone. But if you practice enough, you'll eventually learn the best way to sandwich your spark to create your best writing.

I'm tempted to stick around a little longer and talk about this in more detail, but I'm suddenly a little hungry and I should probably get back to my jelly manipulations. But before I go, I'd like to remind you that not every spark gets out of the romantic, brand new relationship dollop phase. And that's okay. If you're smart, you'll learn something from that little glob of goo, that will still inform your writing and give you hours of entertainment on blogs and at speaking events. My favorite spark (that fizzled out) was a PB robin that fell out of his nest and wouldn't get back in because he's afraid to fly...making him a Rob-out instead of a Robin. <3 I adore that little fella, especially because he taught me a lot about what not to write.

Time to share your jelly globs before you head out to sandwich your next spark into something that everyone must get a taste of.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

SPARK! (Joy Preble)

My very first novel, which readers know as DREAMING ANASTASIA, began its life titled SPARK. That was actually the name on the contract and the name when the deal was announced in Publisher’s Marketplace. Here’s that original 2007 deal announcement:

Joy Preble's SPARK, a contemporary fantasy of Anastasia Romanov's disappearance, in which a teen ballerina's line of descent becomes her destiny as she joins forces with a mysterious boy, battles those who betrayed the royal family, and rescues the princess from a legendary Russian witch, to Lyron Bennett at Jabberwocky, in a nice deal, by Michelle Andelman at Andrea Brown Literary Agency (World).

I took the title from the magic sparks that lit up Anne and Ethan’s hands, the spark that signified both their connection and that she was ‘the one’ Ethan had been searching for since 1918, the one who could save Anastasia from the hut of the legendary Russian fairy tale witch Baba Yaga.

So yes, I totally own that in 2007, I was a fan of the ‘chosen one’ plot line. But so were a lot of us.

So many things have changed since that original ‘spark’, including many things from that original deal announcement. The title became DREAMING ANASTASIA, for one. My editor, Lyron Bennett, left before the book was published in 2009 and was replaced by Dan Ehrenhaft, who was there when the book released and is now my editor at Soho Press. The book was published through Sourcebooks’ Jabberwocky imprint (which is their children’s/MG imprint) because the wouldn’t even launch their young adult line, Fire, until spring of 2010. So DREAMING ANASTASIA (originally Spark) was their first YA title even before their was a YA imprint! And my agent at the time, the delightful Michelle Andelman, left the following year to try a different job and I was matched up with my current amazing agent, the brilliant Jennifer Rofe. Spark/Anastasia, did well enough that it became a trilogy, all three of which are still in print!

That’s the thing about those sparks in publishing. You never know where they’re going to lead you. Spark was the start of everything that came after: Six books on shelves and a seventh (and hopefully more after that) coming next year. A whole new world of fascinating writers and readers and bloggers and librarians. And a chance to tell the stories rattling in my head. Like Anne in the book, I found out that I had a different destiny than the one I was living.

What are your sparks?