Archive | October, 2010

Book Recommendation: FIRELIGHT by Sophie Jordan

31 Oct

“Just surrender to the sizzle.” (Kirkus Reviews )

With her rare ability to breathe fire, Jacinda is special even among the draki—the descendants of dragons who can shift between human and dragon forms. But when Jacinda’s rebelliousness leads her family to flee into the human world, she struggles to adapt, even as her draki spirit fades. The one thing that revives it is Will, whose family hunts her kind. Jacinda can’t resist getting closer to him, even though she knows she’s risking not only her life but the draki’s most closely guarded secret.

I truly enjoyed FIRELIGHT.  From the first page I was unable to put the book down. Firelight is book full of vivid prose and description!  The characters seem to materialize right in front of you and drag you into their story with them. Jacinda and Will were favorite characters of mine, but I couldn’t help but feel drawn to by Jacinda’s sister, Tamra, as well.

Jacinda is a draki. As a descendant of dragons, she has two forms: her human one, and her truer draki form, complete with shimmering skin and dragon wings!  What makes her even more unique among her kind? She has the ability to breathe fire, thought to be lost among her species.

I really only had one issue with Jacinda, and that was her lack of decisiveness.  She see-sawed back and forth about Will a bit too much for my taste.  However, Will is a hunter, and what’s more, a hunter of her own kind.  So maybe Jacinda has a right to her indecisiveness.  It only interrupted my enjoyment of the story in spots.

In general, I would say that this series is very intriguing and Sophie Jordan has definitely brought a fresh voice to YA paranormal!



Julie Eshbaugh is represented by Natalie Fischer of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency. You can follow her on LiveJournal here and on Twitter here.



Saturday Grab Bag: Mashup

30 Oct


Here are some great links on writing, the industry, and all things book related. Some are serious, and some are just downright hilarious. We highly recommend you read them!

  • Children’s Author Eva Ibbotson dies at age 85
  • – Sad news in children’s publishing. R.I.P. Eva Ibbotson.

  • Eva Ibbotson: Ogres, Aunts and Happy Endings
  • – Another article from The Guardian from a few weeks earlier where they talk to Eva Ibbotson and her writing.

  • Editor Help for Jane Austen
  • – See, even Jane Austen wasn’t perfect.

  • Pride, Prejudice and Poor Punctuation
  • – Another post about Austen. She is renowned as a pristine literary stylist; but her semicolons were not her own – instead she scattered dashes through her prose (among other things).

  • Kids Lit vs. Adult Lit
  • – Here is another article about kids lit vs. adult lit. But this one is more about the lack of respect kids lit gets – how writers of kids lit aren’t respected as much, or thought highly of – and why people who look down on kids lit book and authors are wrong to do so. Loved this article.

  • 100 Best First Lines From Novels
  • – We love opening lines. So here’s a list of the 100 best first lines according to The American Book Review.

  • Coverspy
  • – We also love book covers. Coverspy is a tumblr of – you guessed it! – book covers. It’s a visual feast for your eyes!

    Notes from the Twittersphere:

  • Don’t put the first paragraph of your query in the subject of your email.
  • Don’t send pages from the middle of the book. The BEGINNING needs to grab me.
    – @ WolfsonLiterary



“Some readers have found children’s literature to be a rack of hats: didactic, useful books that keep us warm or guard us against weather. I find children’s literature to be a world of snakes: seductive things that live in undergrowths and that may take us whole.”

— Seth Lerer, Children’s Literature: A Reader’s History from Aesop to Harry Potter


What We’re Reading:

Vanessa: The Healing Wars Book 2: Blue Fire by Janice Hardy

Sammy: Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler

Sarah: Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld

Savannah: The Witching Hour by Anne Rice

Julie: Whisper by Phoebe Kitanidis

Susan: Travels With My Aunt by Graham Greene

Mandy: Prisoners in the Palace by Michaela MacColl


If you’ve come across any great links/quotes, share them in the comments! And let us know what you’re reading, too! 😀


QOTW: Writer Munchies

29 Oct

In honor of Halloween this weekend, we thought we’d answer this QOTW about treats from Angela!

After following a lot of writers on twitter, I realized that we all have something called “writer`s munches”. For example, mine is chocolate. I can`t write a single word without a bite of my chocolate-y goodness.

What food or drink do you like to snack on when you write? I think this is also a good time to exchange recipes, lol.


Cheesy popcorn is my snack of choice. I may or may not have eaten an entire bag during one rather furious writing session a week ago… It’s like I eat it without thinking, and when I finish a chapter, the bag is gone. I’m convinced a ghost came and ate half the bag when I wasn’t looking.

As for my drink of choice, I firmly believe apple cider makes any writing session a million times better.

The Writer and Former Intern Currently Querying


CHOCOLATE COVERED RAISINS. They’re just so damn good. I don’t like raisins alone or raisins in bread or anything but when they’re covered in chocolate, it’s just the perfect mix of sweet and tangy and fruity and YUM. If that’s not available, any kind of small finger food that doesn’t leave your hands greasy/sticky/grimy is awesome because I don’t have to worry about picking up utensils. It’s faster to use fingers, pop it in your mouth, and continue writing :P.

Drink of choice is just water. I always have water on my desk.

The Writer Editing Her First Novel!


Coffee first and foremost.  Then, I tend to eat cookies…  Any kind will do, but usually I end up with something called “Karamellgebäck” (caramel cookies).  They’re pretty AMAZING, and you can’t eat just one.  Plus, they go perfectly with coffee — an amazing taste bud combination.

Next, I go crazy over candy — specifically sour gummy bears.  Germans are known for their amazing gummy bears, and my particular favorites are soooooo delicious and sooooo addictive.  Strangely, though, this one brand is really hard to find.  I can only ever get them at this one Bauhaus (like a Home Depot), and then only when they happen to have them in stock.  Needless to say, when they are available, I LOAD UP.  I look like an idiot — going to a Bauhaus only to buy ten giant packages of gummy bears.  But my cravings shall not be denied!

I’m actually giving away all my favorite munchies for my giveaway extravaganza.  What a crazy random happenstance!

The Newest LTWF Contributor!


I like rice crackers, sometimes and tea. Lots and lots of tea (I’m very seriously addicted to tea, I drink like six-seven cups a day and if I try to cut back and drink four I get the worst headaches. Withdrawal symptoms from tea, I kid you not). I’m also a fan of chocolate. But I don’t really eat very much when I write — usually I just forget to eat because I get all caught up in the story.

The Other Writer on Submissions


I don’t have a go-to snack… I think I usually take food breaks because the part I’m writing is tough and I just don’t want to deal with it. Eating is an avoidance tactic, lol. I usually go for leftovers, but something sweet definitely has more appeal. I’ll eat energy bars, little ice cream cups, potato chips… anything bad for me, really. And let’s just say that we have way less Halloween candy for trick-or-treaters today than we had when I first bought it (note to self: NEVER by Halloween candy until the day before!)

Does anyone else like to munch but also resent it cause then your hands get icky and you have to wipe them on something before you type again? I wish I could eat and type at the same time, lol.

-The Writer Converting Three Books Into One!


It’s a toss up between brownies, or toast with Nutella. Actually, since brownies require time to actually make (time I don’t really have these days), I’d say it’s more often than not toast and Nutella. I swear I have a serious addiction to that stuff. I sometimes even eat spoonfuls of Nutella straight from the jar! I mean… bread and choclate/hazelnut spread? HEAVEN!

The Writer in the Publishing Industry Working On Her First Novel!


I really don’t snack while I write, because, like Savannah, I use snacking as an excuse for a “get-up-from-the-laptop” break.  I love gummy bears, and at Easter, I could (and practically do) live on marshmallow Peeps.  Susan’s story about going to the store just to buy massive amounts of sweets hits home with me.  At Easter, I’ll get in the check-out lane with a cart FULL of Peeps. (They last for months, but you have a very short window in which to stock up.)  I usually try to make some fraudulent chit-chat with my husband to deceive the cashier – something like, “Do you think this will be enough Peeps for all the kids at the party?” but he always tells the cashier that I’m full of crap and they’re all for me!  Ah, well, I couldn’t be too embarrassed; I just confessed the truth of my addiction on the internet!

Beverage of choice?  Easy – Diet Coke with Lime.  🙂

The Writer on Submissions!


I require Diet Coke. Beyond that, I love gummy bears or baked sour cream and cheddar chips. Mmmmmm.

I also love skittles.

The Writer and Literary Agent


I definitely need some form of caffeinated beverage, preferably coffee, diet coke, or diet mountain dew. But if it’s late enough in the day (past 6), I need a pot of caffeine-free tea sitting on my desk. As for food…I’m pretty much prone to eating everything from dumplings to cheetos, though I DO have a soft spot for ravioli…

The Writer With Her First Book Deal!



Like Vee I need tea, lots and lots of hot tea, or in the middle of summer, good, southern sweet tea. I don’t tend to eat when I’m writing because I forget, and food just gets in the way, it makes my hands sticky and crumbs get on the keyboard. A nice big mug is much easier to deal with!

The Other Writer Currently Querying


Add me to the list of people who can’t eat while they’re writing. I can’t really do anything while writing. I have to completely be in the zone, which is hard enough with my gnat-sized attention span. However, I eat all the time while staring at my manuscript and willing it to write itself 🙂 Munchies of choice are cereals–anything that’s satisfyingly crunchy and at least a little sweet. Right now, I’ve got a bit of an obsession with Raisin Bran Crunch. I don’t know what’s up with the raisin hate, Billy–raisins are awesome! And the cereal is really good. Really. You should try it. Just don’t blame me once the addiction takes hold.

-The Writer Who Just Signed With an Agent!


What are YOUR go-to writer munchy foods?

The Dangers of the Thesaurus

28 Oct

By Sammy Bina


As writers, we have loads of tools available to us. From traditional encyclopedias and dictionaries, to sites like Wikipedia and the Chicago Manual of Style, any information you could possibly want (and then some) can be found somewhere nearby. Some of us like it old-school and on paper, and others like a keyboard and a computer screen. But no matter what your preference, I think we can all agree that these resources are indispensable.

However, I’ve found that there’s one tool writers need to be careful when using, and that is our trusty consultant, the thesaurus. It’s great for those times when you’re stuck and can’t think of an appropriate word, or when you need a different way to describe the color of someone’s eyes. The trick is making it seem like you didn’t actually reference your thesaurus a million times.

I think, in this instance, an example would be best. We’ll use a paragraph from my current WIP to demonstrate:

The picture was taken in July of 2002 – the summer you moved in next door. I remember how excited I was when Mom told me there was a kid my age moving into the old brick house, the one Mr. Bukowski died in. Heart attack, they said. There hadn’t been kids in our neighborhood for years, and I thought you’d be a boy who’d want to watch spy movies with me, or play sports, or help me dig a hole to China. Turns out you were a girl, but at least you didn’t mind playing in the dirt all day. Since you had an older brother, you didn’t mind watching football with me, even though you liked soccer better. You even offered to be goalie. It was love at first sight.

Thesaurusized (Yup! Made that one up!):
The portrait was developed in July of 2002 – the summer you moved in next door. I recall how energized I was when Mom informed me there was an adolescent my age moving into the aged brick dwelling, the one Mr. Bukowski expired in. Heart attack, they said. There hadn’t been adolescents in our locality for decades, and I considered you’d be a lad who’d want to view espionage motion pictures with me, or play sports education, or help me excavate a fissure to China. Turns out you were a lass, but at least you didn’t mind playing in the muck all day. Since you had a grown-up brother, you didn’t mind surveying football with me, even though you were keen on soccer instead. You even offered to be goalie. It was adoration at first sight.

Obviously the second paragraph sounds ridiculous. But why? Probably because every word I could replace with something from the thesaurus, I did. Some of the choices don’t even make sense. The pacing is clunky and awkward, and you might have to stop and think once or twice about what’s actually being said. The whole thing is, essentially, a mess. Whereas the meanings in the original paragraph are clear, those in the thesaurusized version are confusing and really pull the reader from the story.

That’s the risk you run when over-using a thesaurus (or any resource, really). I’ve seen quite a number of submissions where it’s obvious that the author couldn’t think of a better word, and arbitrarily picked something out of the thesaurus. It seems awkwardly placed, and I was forced to stop reading to consider why the author had chosen that word in the first place. The original meaning is lost, and in some cases, something entirely different is being said.

My advice? Read the sentence out loud. Like with dialogue, if you can read it out loud and it sounds fine, then you’re probably doing okay. But if you can read a sentence where you substituted a word from the thesaurus and it sounds awkward, then it most likely is. This method generally works for me, but in cases where I’m still not sure, I just ask whoever’s close by (try not to ask strangers, though. They might look at you funny!). Trust me, friends aren’t afraid to tell you if a sentence sounds strange.

So the next time you get stuck trying to find another way to describe chiseled abs, know that there’s a resource out there just waiting to help you! Just don’t let it get the best of you. Spicing up your language is great! Killing language is not.


Sammy Bina is a fifth year college senior with a BA in Creative Writing. She is currently querying THE AGE OF NEVER GROWING OLD, an adult dystopian romance, and working on OBSESSION, a contemporary YA. She is an intern with the Elaine P. English Literary Agency, and can be found on twitter, or at her blog.

Introducing the newest LTWF contributor…Susan Dennard!

27 Oct

So, in case you missed the chat last night, we have a BIG ANNOUNCEMENT!

After many weeks of deliberating, we’re beyond thrilled to welcome Susan Dennard to our ranks! We were blown away by Susan from the moment we read her application–she’s funny, smart, and all-around awesome. From her first email, she gelled with us so well that it actually was a bit of a shock! Not to mention she lives in Germany and can see a freaking CASTLE from her window (we all died of jealousy when we heard that). Susan also recently signed with Sara Kendall at Nancy Coffey Literary & Media (after only querying for two weeks)!

We don’t want to hog her intro post, so we’ll end this here, but we just wanted to extend a HUGE welcome to Susan! We can’t wait for you guys to get to know her, too!

-The LTWF Team





by Susan Dennard


I am so excited to be writing this intro I have to force myself to avoid all-caps, italics, and clapping with giddy joy.

My hands tremble as I type.

I’m Susan. I’m a 26-year-old American living in Germany. I have the luxury of writing full-time, eating wiener schnitzel to my heart’s content, and listening to alpine yodeling on the radio (no joke).

I’ve been writing since I was a kid, and though I went to college to study creative writing, I foolishly dove into marine biology and statistics as majors. Then I went to the Arctic to do my M.Sc. research. Yeah, I lived in a tent on the sea ice while catching sharks and halibut (there’s actually a Dirty Jobs episode about our research!).  Then I even more foolishly fell in love with a Frenchman, got married, and moved to Germany last year. That move prompted me to hunker down and learn to Write For Real.

Many nibbled-nails, revised drafts, and beta readers later, I finalized my young adult steampunk novel, The Spirit-Hunters. I sent it out to agents’ inboxes a few weeks ago, and I was lucky enough to garner a lot of interest in a short amount of time. Two weeks later, I had several offers of representation, and just last weekend, I SIGNED WITH NANCY COFFEY LITERARY! (Sorry about the all-caps – the excitement just couldn’t be contained.)

The Spirit-Hunters is about Eleanor, a high-society 16-year-old in 1876 Philadelphia, who — to save her brother from a necromancer — must join forces with a rag-tag spirit-hunting team.  Now, Eleanor has to kick undead butt and deal with her growing attraction to the team’s exasperating but gorgeous inventor.  You can learn more about it here.

While I’m polishing Eleanor’s story for submissions, I’ll also be NaNoWriMo-ing (don’t you love how I just created a verb?) with a YA sci-fi.  Screechers tells the tale of Echo, a 17-year-old on death row who is the only survivor after “screechers” — government created monsters — attack her outpost.  But when Echo sets out to warn the other outposts of impending doom, the government and the screechers set out to kill her.

I look forward to getting to know the other ladies of LTWF, and more importantly, all the readers! It’s a pleasure to “meet” you, and if you ever have questions about writing, living in Germany, or fish (I am still a marine biologist, after all), don’t hesitate to ask.  I’ve been following LTWF for a while — absorbing their words of wisdom, words of comfort, and words of AWESOME.  I can’t wait to give back in the same way.

One final thing before I go: I’m having a Giant Giveaway Extravaganza on my blog! This entire week, I’m giving out free stuff for readers and writers alike. It’s to celebrate signing with NCLit, to celebrate my introduction to LTWF, and to help everyone prepare for NaNoWriMo.

As we say here in Deutschland, auf Wiedersehen!


Susan Dennard is a writer, reader, lover of animals, and eater of cookies. She recently signed with Sara Kendall of NCLit. You can learn more about her writing process, crazy life-thoughts, and crippling cookie-addiction on her blog or twitter.

Querying Live Chat in 15 min!!

26 Oct

Remember guys–9PM EST…or about 15 min from the time this post was…posted. 😀

Come chat and ask questions about all things querying related!

Click Here

How to … Submit a Graphic Novel Proposal!

26 Oct

A Guest Post by Hayleigh Bird


What do you think of when you hear the term graphic novel? I’m willing to bet that images of Spiderman, Batman, and Wonder Woman pop in to your head. But graphic novels aren’t just for superheroes and villains anymore. The audience for graphic novels has been expanding rapidly over the past few years. These days you can find graphic novels about space cats, political and philosophical issues, circuses, and yes, even vampires. Graphic novels are no longer targeted only at teenage boys. They are being created for boys and girls alike, for kids as young as six, and for adults too.

So why is this trend interesting to you, the writer? Publishers are very hungry for good graphic novels. That’s good news for anyone aspiring to be published, particularly if you have a fondness for art, sketching, and drawing. This post won’t tell you how to create a graphic novel, because there is really no guideline for that. And if you were to follow a guideline, your graphic novel would likely look the same as your next-door neighbor’s graphic novel, and as such not be as stand-out-fantastic as it could be. The best thing you can do if you’re creating a graphic novel is to create straight from your own head, from your own imagination. Different equals interesting, so go for it.

What you may need a little guidance with, however, is how to create a graphic novel submission, and what to include. Most publishers (and agents) do have a section on their website stating the regulations for submitting to them; however very few tell you what to include in a graphic novel submission. And submitting a graphic novel is very different than submitting a novel. For starters, you will submit a proposal rather than a partial.

What do editors and agents want to see in a proposal? You will need to include a document describing the book’s concept and specs. This means a plot summary, character and setting descriptions, proposed extent (how many pages?), trim (what size of pages?), and colours (full colour? Black and white?). This document should also include a biography, listing previous work. This part of your proposal expands on what you might say in a query letter. There are a few reasons that this document is important. First, an editor or agent wants to know that you have a clear idea of what your graphic novel is going to look like. If you don’t know the extent, trim size, etc, it means you haven’t really planned out what you are going to create. That’s not to say that these numbers won’t change as you continue creating – they might. But you should at least have a clear starting point, and plan.

If you are planning to write and illustrate your graphic novel, you will also need to include some sample spreads of finished, typeset artwork. I would suggest including spreads from your opening scene, and a climactic moment. Whatever you choose should be an important part of your plot, as whoever is reviewing your proposal will be most interested to see how you plan to illustrate and create those moments. In addition to the spreads, you also need to include character designs for each of your main characters. This means a couple pages of that character doing different things. You’ll want to portray them in a variety of poses and situations, so that there is a visible and clear sense of who that character is.

It is possible to submit a graphic novel proposal even if you are not an artist. Your chances of having your proposal accepted are likely lower, but if you have a stellar idea for a graphic novel then there are many agents and editors out there who would want to know about it. Your document containing a plot outline, character and setting descriptions, etc, will look the same as a proposal that includes illustrations. Your proposal, however, won’t include sample spreads, or character designs. What you will need to include is a scene of sample script. Again, it is advisable to choose either your opening scene, or your climax. The script should be just that: a script. It would look similar to a play, or screenplay script.

Lastly, if you are proposing a series, you should include a series outline, so that the editor or agent can see what the overall narrative arc will look like. They will also want to know how many books are being proposed. It is important to have a clear arc in mind, and not to plan to leave it open ended. Editors and agents want to know how you plan on ending your novel or series, not just how it starts.

If creating a graphic novel is something that interests you, I would definitely suggest giving it a try. The market is hot right now, especially with the appeal that graphic novels have for reluctant readers. Even schools are starting to use graphic novels in their curriculum, and their classrooms. Good luck in your endeavors, and as always, post questions or comments if you have them! I will try to answer all of them. 😀


Hayleigh Bird is a children’s book fanatic and enthusiast. She works in the children’s publishing arena as a Sales Assistant at Kids Can Press, and is currently working on several manuscripts for children and young adults. You can find her on Twitter and on her comedic blog, Peculiar Amusement.

Livechat: Querying!

25 Oct

Hey guys! Don’t forget about the livechat on querying tomorrow at 9PM EST. We hope to see all of you there!

You can click on the link below to enter the chat tomorrow. There’s nothing there now (though you can sign up for an email alert, which is pretty cool).

Click Here

Spread the word! Tweet and blog about it. The more people, the more information we have, and the more we all get out of it. 😀

See you tomorrow!

Symbolism – How to Make it Work in Your Writing

25 Oct

by Julie Eshbaugh


Symbolism is an aspect of literature that makes a lot of people groan. Perhaps it takes us back to those days of high school English class when we were told about symbols that seemed to exist only in the mind of our teacher. For instance, I loved THE GREAT GATSBY, but I snickered when my teacher told us that Gatsby was a Christ figure. Really? I scoffed. Only an over-analyzing English teacher would come to that absurd conclusion! (By the way, I now realize that Gatsby is, in fact, a Christ figure, and I apologize wholeheartedly to my English teacher, who will remain anonymous.)

Just to demonstrate how symbolism can enhance widely varied books, let’s look at two books that employ symbols to the great advantage of the story. The first is THE LORAX, by Dr. Seuss. The second is THE HUNGER GAMES, by Suzanne Collins.

In THE LORAX, Dr. Seuss tells us about a fantastical place where the beautiful Truffula Trees grow. Soon the Once-ler arrives, and begins to chop down the trees to use their foliage to knit “Thneeds,” a product that is apparently incredibly versatile. The Lorax is a creature who takes up an argument with the Once-ler, in an attempt to stop him from destroying the Truffula Tree forest with his efforts to make innumerous Thneeds.

If anyone ever attempts to convince you that symbolism only exists in the minds of English teachers and literature professors, steer him or her directly to Dr. Seuss’s THE LORAX. The symbolism is fairly impossible to miss. The Once-ler symbolizes industry, the Thneeds he makes (Thneed=The Need?) represent consumerism, and the Lorax symbolizes the environment. Despite the heavy use of symbolism, THE LORAX succeeds as a piece of fiction (just ask any pre-schooler!) because it is an entertaining story first and foremost. The symbols are there; the theme is there.  But you don’t have to “get it” to enjoy the book.

THE HUNGER GAMES is another book that is enjoyed by many readers regardless of the theme or the symbols that enrich it. I’ve discussed the theme of the HG trilogy with many writers and readers, and some have stated the theme and the symbols made the book richer, while others have said they’d rather not analyze the books, because it takes away from their enjoyment of the story at the trilogy’s core. I won’t argue that analysis makes the books better or more interesting, (although looking at the symbolism does increase my own appreciation of the books,) but I will argue that symbolism is undeniably present in the series.

With great pains to not “spoil” the story for any readers who haven’t gotten around to reading THE HUNGER GAMES yet, I think I can mention a few symbols that Suzanne Collins employs in the first book. One of these symbols is right on the cover – an arrow. The book’s main character, Katniss, is very skilled with a bow. Arrows and archery are a major component of her character. Looking at an arrow as a symbol, it can be argued that they are only effective if they are straight, and shot with accuracy at the proper target. Those of you who have read the book will see that this symbol certainly fits Katniss. Another symbol exists in Katniss’s own name. She tells the reader that her name, Katniss, is also the name of a wild, edible plant that her father taught her to recognize when foraging for food. Her father told her that, as long as she can find “herself,” she’ll always survive. Lastly, I’ll mention the oppressive President of the country of Panem, President Snow. Katniss describes how she realized, one early spring day, that her family could survive on her skills at hunting and foraging when she saw the yellow of an early dandelion (another edible plant,) emerging from the snow. The fact that this memory contains a reference to the name of the President is more than coincidence and is arguably quite symbolic.

Symbolism is a fantastic tool for enhancing and clarifying your story’s theme. It can weave subtle shades of meaning into your writing, turning what began as a simple rug into a rich tapestry. So why does it seem so difficult to incorporate symbolism into your own writing? Perhaps the answer is in the fact that most of us start a new project based on a new character we’ve created or a plot idea that we feel compelled to explore. I would venture that few of us start a new project because a theme is keeping us awake at night.

By the way, this is a good thing! Starting with theme rather than character or plot sets you on a path toward a moralistic, preachy story faster than almost any other technique. That’s not to say it would be impossible to start with theme and finish with a wildly entertaining and fascinating story; I’m just saying you may be taking the more difficult road with that method.

So how does a writer incorporate meaningful symbols into a piece of fiction? By being patient. By waiting out the first and maybe even the second draft. By getting a piece of writing to the point where the theme begins to emerge and resonate louder with each new revision. Perhaps for the first time, you, the writer, might have that moment of epiphany where the real meaning of a piece of your own writing becomes clear to you. Finally you know why your subconscious pushed you to write this story to begin with. A theme has revealed itself. Now, with the next round of revisions, you have the tools to add the symbolism you didn’t have when you started the first draft.

You may find that symbols that had lain unseen until your theme became clear are already present in your piece. If you realize that the theme of renewal is woven into your work, you may discover that you already, perhaps subconsciously, have included references to the leaves budding on the trees in spring. You may decide to incorporate more specific references according to the progress of your main character’s journey, perhaps mentioning the drips falling from melting icicles, the greening of the grass, and the return of songbirds to the trees. You may decide to alter the names of characters during a revision that is focused on symbolism.

In my own novel, FIREFLY, I originally had only one scene that mentioned the insect referenced in the title. At that time, the novel was called STAR-CROSSED. When I had to find a new title, I immediately looked at the theme. I settled on FIREFLY because, like one of my main characters, fireflies stay for only a short time each summer, and they are impossible to keep. This realization inspired me to re-work the existing scene that mentioned a firefly, and to build extra layers of symbolism into the text.

Does symbolism in the books you read interest you or turn you off?  Do you use symbolism in your own writing?   Have you ever discovered a symbol you hadn’t consciously intended to include?


Julie Eshbaugh is represented by Natalie Fischer of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency. You can follow her on LiveJournal here and on Twitter here.


Book Recommendation: Lessons from a Dead Girl

24 Oct

An unflinching story of a troubled friendship — and one girl’s struggle to come to terms with secrets and shame and find her own power to heal.

Leah Greene is dead. For Laine, knowing what really happened and the awful feeling that she is, in some way, responsible set her on a journey of painful self-discovery. Yes, she wished for this. She hated Leah that much. Hated her for all the times in the closet, when Leah made her do those things. They were just practicing, Leah said. But why did Leah choose her? Was she special, or just easy to control? And why didn’t Laine make it stop sooner? In the aftermath of the tragedy, Laine is left to explore the devastating lessons Leah taught her, find some meaning in them, and decide whether she can forgive Leah and, ultimately, herself.


I learned about LESSONS FROM A DEAD GIRL during Banned Book Week. It’s a complicated book, one that’s hard to say you “liked” or “enjoyed.” In the end, though, it’s a book that made me think and feel, and really, I think that’s just what such a book sets out to do.

The topics in the book were covered tastefully. It’s not as brutal a book as LIVING DEAD GIRL is, but neither does it shy away from Leah and Laine’s twisted relationship. I appreciated the fullness of the major characters and the mixture of love and hate that defined the girls’ relationship. Knowles did a good job showing how complicated a friendship can be, how sometimes, you can love someone even as they hurt you. Often, in books, this sort of love/abusive relationship is portrayed between a couple, so having two friends experience it was a fresh view.

The supporting characters were well-drawn, and though I didn’t personally recognize some of the situations Knowles’s teenaged protagonists got themselves into, I can fully believe that they happen.

LESSONS FROM A DEAD GIRL is an intense book that doesn’t give its characters neatly tied up lives. But it’s a look into a life that unfortunately, doesn’t only exist in fiction.


Kat Zhang is a Spoken Word poet and a Creative Writing major. She has recently signed with literary agent Emmanuelle Morgen and spends most of her free time whipping HYBRID–a book about a girl with two souls–into shape for submission to publishers. You can read more about her writing process and books at her blog.