Guys, I’m so excited to tell y’all that NONE OF THE ABOVE now has an official release date:

April 28, 2015

…which means that my book will be published WITHIN A YEAR, which makes me feel a combination of this (credit maxafax):

excited baby

and this (credit

which basically adds up to this (credit wondermentsofme):


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Laura Plus Books

I’m totally embarrassed to come into LGBTQ YA month so late, but as you saw from my previous post, #amrevising. As usual, I was clued into this terrific corner of the blogsphere by Dahlia Adler, whose QUILTBAG compendium I’m still referring readers to.
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The lovely Heather Marie has tagged me in the Writing Process blog tour! I’m taking it as an opportunity to write about Diversity in YA, which has been a topic that’s taken up a lot of my Twitter feed lately, and for good reason:

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side effects coverI am so very excited to celebrate the launch of Julie Murphy’s much-anticipated YA contemporary novel, SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY. Julie’s a fantastic, nuanced writer, and we share the same editor, the amazing Alessandra Balzer. At the recent ALA midwinter conference, I was thrilled to see SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY presented at the Harper Book Buzz, where it was described as “fearless and funny,” with the panelists saying “we can’t recommend it highly enough.” I completely agree.  Continue reading

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I’ve been going to writers’ conferences for years, but this past weekend’s NY SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers) conference was particularly fun: It was the first one I attended as a contracted author.


It was a great time. Inspiring as always, and surprisingly stress-free when you’re not going in with high hopes for a critique. At the same time, attending the conference was somewhat bittersweet, because I saw myself in the hundreds of aspiring writers who weren’t in my position. The hope in those conference rooms was palpable, and as I met person after person who was in the querying trenches, or agented but not yet published, I couldn’t help feeling some survivor guilt.

It’s the flip side of professional jealousy, which has been wonderfully documented in essays by Philip LopateBonita FriedmanAlison Cherry,  Susan Adrian, Suzanne Ferrell Smith with Cheryl Wilder and Donna Gambale, among others. Instead of feeling left behind, I worried about being the person leaving people behind, especially when I hung out with my new Fearless Fifteeners friends. I didn’t want to be THAT PERSON.
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We only have what we give.  ― Isabel Allende

I am very excited to announce that my agent Jessica Regel and I are contributing to KidLit for the Philippines, an on-line auction to benefit survivors of Typhoon Haiyan.
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You write a book and it’s like putting a message in a bottle and throwing it in the ocean. You don’t know if it will ever reach any shores. And there, you see, sometimes it falls into the hands of the right person.    – Isabelle Allende

Everyone knows that going on submission is one of the most emotionally stressful experiences of a writer’s life.  Questions abound: Will editors love it? Or will they hate it and use the pages of my manuscript for an effigy to burn in their weekly cathartic editorial ritual? If they do love it, how long will it take for them to read it? Why is my e-mail refreshing so slowly?

Everyone knows that the third trimester of pregnancy is one of the most emotionally stressful times of a woman’s life.  Questions abound: Will the baby be healthy? Is the labor and lead-up to delivery going to suck? Will my epidural work? baby-and-books

I had experienced both of these trials (I almost wrote traumas) before, but never at the same time.  So you’ll understand my trepidation when my book went on submission to editors in early September – when I was eight months pregnant. In preparation for a long, neurotic submission process, my husband, with admirable forethought, made a reservation for me in a local psychiatric ward. Just kidding.
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The profession of book-writing makes horse racing seem like a solid, stable business.   -John Steinbeck

If you were to go back in time and tell the nine-year-old me I was going to be a urologist when I grew up, the conversation would go something like this:

9-YEAR-OLD-ME:  (stares blankly) What’s a urologist?

Ilene kid b&w 001

YOU:  Here, look at this Wikipedia article…

9-YEAR-OLD-ME:  Eeew. That’s gross!

YOU:  Actually, it’s pretty fun. You get to take out cancers and kidney stones, make people’s lives better…

9-YEAR-OLD-ME:   But you have to touch people’s… (giggles) Besides, I can’t be a urologist. I’m going to be a writer when I grow up.

When I was a kid I used to live and breathe books. They were an antidote to an only child’s loneliness – books were brothers and sisters who never stole your clothes or messed with your stuff. They were a ticket out of my insular, central New York hometown, exposing me to faraway places and people. By the time middle school rolled around, I read almost a book a day, and my favorite day of the week was Thursday, when my grandfather took me to my place of worship: the local library. There, I would stare at the glossy plastic-coated spines, and devour the works of my favorite authors: Ellen Raskin. Susan Cooper. Madeline L’Engle.

I’m really bad at names. As he is only one month old, I sometimes forget my own son’s name for a second or two (it’s mommy brain, really it is). But I will never forget who wrote The Bridge to Terabithia, Taran Wanderer, and Fahrenheit 451.  Some people dream of their name in lights; I dreamed of one day having my name on one of those glossy plastic-coated spines.

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A person who publishes a book willfully appears before the populace with his pants down…   – Edna St. Vincent Millay

My first writer’s conference critique still stands out in my mind, probably much in the way one’s first colonoscopy leaves a lasting and visceral impression, except that people undergoing a colonoscopy have the advantage of being sedated.

I can still feel the odd melange of sensations I felt as I waited for my critique with a well-respected author: The Mojave-like dryness of my mouth. The tiny, irrational flutter of hope in my chest. The apprehensive pit in my stomach…

OKAY. Before we go any further, let me say: I KNOW. I KNOW. You’re not supposed to go into conference critiques with any expectations. You’re going there for the knowledge of craft, for the connections, for inspiration, blah blah blah. But let’s get real. We’ve all been newbies, and newbies (before they’re initiated into the cold, hard world which is publishing) all dream. We’ve all read Thirty-Four Shades of Purple* and thought, “Man, my book is totally better than that, so it’s guaranteed to TAKE OVER THE WORLD.”

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