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Sweet 16! – An Interview with Steph Bowe

4 May


Vanessa Di Gregorio


Hey everyone! Meet Steph Bowe – a sixteen-year-old author living in Victoria, Australia. She is represented by Ginger Clark of Curtis Brown Literary and Talent Agency; and her debut novel, GIRL SAVES BOY, is set to be published in Australia and New Zealand in September 2010, and in the US in 2011. She blogs at Hey! Teenager of the Year; and if you haven’t checked it out yet, I suggest you do! I got the chance to talk to her about herself, her writing, and a few things in between.


Vanessa: Thanks for joining us Steph! The first thing I was wondering is, how long have you been writing? Have you always known that you wanted to become a published author?

Steph: I’ve been writing since I was seven years old, and I vowed to write and publish a novel, then buy a house with the royalties. I haven’t bought the house yet – I think I overestimated how much money authors make, and houses were a lot cheaper in 2001 – but I’ve realised my dream of being a published author. It’s something I’ve wanted to do since I was very young. I finished my first novel when I was fourteen.

V: Could you tell us a bit about your upcoming novel, GIRL SAVES BOY?

S: My debut novel, GIRL SAVES BOY, is a story about life, death, love… and garden gnomes. Sacha Thomas is dying of cancer, and has lost all hope – then a girl called Jewel Valentine saves him from drowning; a beautiful, mysterious girl with secrets of her own. Adventures, involving lobster emancipation and quirky teenage prodigies, ensue.

V: You’re also a part of the YA 5 – tell us a bit about it and how you became a part of it.

S: I was invited to join by Georgia McBride. It’s a group blog by a number of YA authors, written for teenage readers. We aim to blog about things that’ll interest teens – so that involves school visits and interviewing kids in libraries. It’s a bit different to other blogs out there because of this.

V: You were 15 when you got your agent. I know your agent, Ginger Clark, was aware of your age from reading your blog; but you also had 2 other offers of representation from other agents. Were they aware of your age? Many young authors worry that their young age will hinder them from finding an agent and getting a book deal. Would you agree with them?

S: One of the other agents who offered representation thought I was older, but when I told her I don’t think it bothered her. You really have to demonstrate you have the maturity of an professional writer. Your age won’t hinder you from getting an agent and a book deal, but it’s super important your parents are on board with it (since they will have to sign everything and drive you everywhere), that the agent knows from the start, and that you’re mature about it! Being a young author can be a good marketing angle, but writing a good book is more important.

V: You also found your agent through a contest on the blog Miss Snark’s First Victim (which, funny enough, is also how one of our soon-to-be-announced contributors got her agent). What was your querying process like, in regards to both the contest, and the queries you sent out to other agents?

S: It was very quick! I sent out three queries at the beginning of September ’09, entered in that contest, then sent out fulls and then a fortnight later I had three offers. So it happened very quickly and it was very overwhelming. I was very surprised by the response! I was expecting to wait months.

V: Many aspiring authors around the world are worried that agents from other countries won’t represent them. But you’re proof that they will! What is it like working with an agent who lives overseas in the U.S.? Do you think it makes it any more difficult?

S: I don’t think it makes it super difficult – there are just some limitations. Like, nighttime here is daytime there, so I tend to get email responses at night from her, and phone calls have to be scheduled so one of us is up late at night. There are some tricky tax issues and it’ll be difficult for me to promote my book in the US (unless I fly over there. Which I won’t. People have guns!). But apart from those things, it’s pretty much the same as being in the same country.

V: What is it like, working with two different editors (both Australian and American)?

S: My Australian editor is my main editor, so I’ve been almost entirely working with her. I haven’t done much editing with my US editor yet.

V: What do you enjoy most about writing? Do you have any writing must-haves for inspiration?

S: I love creating… the part where I’m typing out words is the best. It’s a great feeling. As for inspiration? It’s too abstract, so I can’t really look at a photo and be inspired, though I find image collages and playlists can help when I’m first starting a novel.

V: Your blog seems to hint at the fact that you’ve dropped out of high-school; so I was wondering… have you? If so, how has it affected your ability to write, time-wise? Are you considering going to college?

S: I’m currently doing Year 11 (the Australian equivalent of Junior year, I think) by correspondence (I receive schoolwork, complete it at home, post it back to teachers so it can be marked). So I can get my high school certificate, but I also have time to manage my writing and the business side of that. After I finish high school, I’ll definitely be going to university.

V: What do you want to do for the rest of your life?

S: I’d love to be able to write full-time, but I’m aware that’s next to impossible, so my second choice is working in the publishing industry. I’d love to be an editor.

V: Why gnomes?

S: Because gnomes are awesome! They’re so cute.

V: Are you working on any other projects?

S: I’m working on my second novel at the moment. The working title is Signs & Wonders, it’s contemporary YA, and it’s about a girl discovering dark secrets in the pasts of her parents. I’ve also got a lot of ideas and novel beginnings and lots of plans for more books…

V: You’ve shaved your head, gotten a book deal, and have a huge online following, all by 16! So the questions is… what HAVEN’T you done?

S: I haven’t played a whole lot of sport. I’m thinking I might take up tennis…

V: Thanks so much, Steph!!


Vanessa is a Sales Assistant at Kate Walker & Co., a book and gift sales agency located in Toronto. She is also enrolled in a publishing program. Currently, she is working on a YA fantasy novel and a Children’s non-fiction series.


Steph Bowe is a 16-year-old YA author, whose debut novel, GIRL SAVES BOY, will be published by Text Publishing this September in Australia & New Zealand, and by Egmont USA in America in 2011. She represented by Ginger Clark of Curtis Brown.


Interview with Plagiarism Haven

21 Apr


An Interview of the PH ladies

By Rachel Simon


I had the pleasure of interviewing the girls at Plagiarism Haven, a Livejournal community of eight FictionPress alumni whose work was plagiarized when it was on the website we all know and love.

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1. Have your feelings about plagiarism cooled, now that there is some distance between you and the incidents, or have they strengthened?

It seems as though we are split on this topic. Some of us have cooled down slightly, and some of us are still seething. At the time of the plagiarism fiasco, it was comforting to see so many readers up in arms about the injustice of it all. Though Meg wasn’t plagiarized, she was upset, and even wrote an article about what constitutes plagiarism, and what our legal rights are, as authors. Still, the whole situation stunk. Quite a few of us lost the will to write for a while. Lou, Simmy, Mi, Kendal, and Cheri all struggled to regain their footing. We all took a hit, but some of us managed to spring back easier than others. The fact remains that we were all stolen from, and betrayal hurts. On any level. To have something you’ve worked so hard on, turn up under someone else’s name? It’s a low blow. You see their authors notes, about how hard they worked to write this or that chapter, or how they struggled with keeping so-and-so in character. Struggles *you* had while *you *wrote it. You just want to slap them, honestly, for being so selfish. The most work they did was copying and pasting our work into a Word document, and later uploading it under their own name.

For some of us, bouncing back wasn’t so difficult. We still continued to be bombarded with ideas for new projects, and we tried to regain our footing by challenging each other to write one-shots of varying genres. We traded stories, and forced ourselves to put pen to paper. Plagiarism acted like writers block, in a sense, and sometimes the best thing to do in that situation is to just keep writing, even if whatever comes out is utter crap.

For others, it took time. The rest of us just tried to be supportive and encouraging. We forced them to do the challenges, and tried to offer advice where it was needed. Sometimes, all you can do is be supportive, and we all grew closer because of that. Like everyone at LTWF, we’ve made some incredible, lasting friendships throughout this entire experience.

2. Given your experience, would you ever feel comfortable if your books were sold as e-books?

Most of us haven’t given e-books much thought, to be honest. We’ve all been so focused on seeing our stories in print, that we never really bothered to consider the digital aspect of publishing. There’s just something about being able to hold a book in your hands, you know? It’s the way a book smells when you flip through the pages, or the way the spine cracks when you first open it. You can’t experience that with an e-book, and that makes the whole thing slightly less appealing.

Still, we are aware that e-books have become increasingly popular as of late, especially with Amazon’s Kindle, or B&N’s Nook. The books are cheaper than buying them in the store, in many cases, and that has great appeal to readers. E-books are also more convenient for some. If more people would have access to our work through e-books, it’s definitely something to think about. Meg said she would consider it if she were already an established author, and a few of us are kind of in the same boat, though selling books solely through the e-book market is not something most of us would be interested in.

Cheri, on the other hand, has done a fair amount of research on the subject, and is considering going the e-book route, strictly out of curiosity.

3. How did you take action against your plagiarists? Did anyone ever apologize? Why do you think your work was plagiarized?

In every case, we made sure to either contact the author, or the website (or both), asking them to remove the plagiarized work. Our readers would find out, and more often then not, would leave these people messages, also insisting they take the story down. This system generally worked, save for a few instances of stubborn teenagers who believed they had done nothing wrong. Sammy’s original copy of Don’t Make a Scene is still being posted on Blogger, and hasn’t had any success in removing it. Jen had a really difficult time getting one girl to remove her story as well.

Apologies have been far and few between. In most cases, the story was simply taken down, or the author deleted from whatever site. A few people argued that they hadn’t done anything wrong, and one girl claimed that she was mentally unstable, and that’s why she’d done it. We heard a few excuses, all of which were moot. For the most part, our plagiarists just slunk away with their tail between their legs. Save for one of Mi’s, who randomly popped up again, on a different website, assuming we’d never find her. Silly girl.

It’s hard to say why our work was plagiarized. Maybe it was their initial popularity on FictionPress, or just one person who really enjoyed it. Everyone who’s posted on FP has been jealous of other people’s review counts, and maybe that was why they did it. It’s hard to say. What one author may consider their worst work might look like a great opportunity for someone else to take advantage of. There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme of reason to who or what got plagiarized, and we doubt we’ll ever really know why they did what they did.

4. There have been some complaints from the FP community that your exclusivity is more to boost your egos than to keep your stories safe–do you think your strict requirements and rules might be over-doing it?

We can see how people might think that, but that really isn’t the case. A lot of people were upset when we transferred our writing over to PH, and we don’t blame them. But we really did it as a safety precaution, and it isn’t like we’re keeping our work exclusively for the eight of us who post our work there. Right now our membership is over a thousand, and we still have people applying to join. It’s really daunting, the amount of people who joined LJ in order to continue reading our work. We’re still flabbergasted, every time we look at our inbox. We’re incredibly appreciative of everyone who’s applied, regardless of whether we’ve been able to let them in or not.

As for the rules and requirements, we don’t think we’ve overdone it. We don’t ask for much – just one act of participation a month. It doesn’t have to be a review; it can be an email, a response to a poll, helping put together a playlist. Anything to let us know they’re still around. People who tend to be more involved in something are generally less likely to sabotage it. So far, there hasn’t been a single plagiarism incident since we formed PH that was due to any of our members.

Because we do insist that people fill out an application, it’s easy to see how people might think we’ve gone overboard. It was something we wondered about at first, but then realized it was kind of necessary. People just started friending us, and we had no idea who they were. They just expected to get in, but anonymity was the problem on FP, so we tried to counteract that. Most people have been perfectly willing to provide us with some details about themselves, which helps to bolster our trust. It seems like a fair exchange. And we *have* let in silent readers, and some people who have never read us before. Being nice gets you a long way, especially if you consider the loads of angry emails and applications we’ve gotten. We can understand why some people might be upset, but yelling at people never gets
you anywhere, no matter what the situation.

Having gotten to know each other really well over the past ten months, we’d have to say ego has about as much to do with our website as cutlery. AKA, nothing. We really are there to help each other out, and to improve our writing. Some of the feedback we’ve gotten has been *incredibly* helpful, and has really helped to expand our writing. Sammy’s been posting her thesis, and her rewrite was done based on the changes suggested by PH readers. Kendal has posted various versions of a story, and asked our readers to select which ones to turn in for class. Other writers have based their rewrites and edits on suggestions as well. Everyone in the community, both readers and writers, have worked really well together, and in turn, have learned a lot. We try to interact with everyone as much as we can, and as far as we’re concerned, everyone is very self*less*. None of us think people *not* in PH. When we made the decision to leave FP, LJ just seemed like a logical place to go, since we were all previously members. Our need for convenience may have come across as us being egotistical, but that just isn’t the case.

5. When you made the decision to leave FictionPress, was it in part to protect a future goal of publication? How many of you (those who share their stories on PH) plan to pursue publication?

Not necessarily. Mi, Lou, and Sammy had initially joked about creating Plagiarism Haven, and then got to thinking – why the hell not? Lou had already created a new livejournal for the purpose of posting her writing, and Sammy had considered it. We figured it would just be easier to get a bunch of us together, and keep everything in one place. If we’d removed our work from FP, why *not* put them somewhere else? We don’t think our decision had anything to do with wanting to be published or not. We just wanted to continue sharing our work.

In terms of future publication, we all seem to be aiming in that direction. Some are closer than others, but it’s definitely on everyone’s minds. Cheri’s been looking into e-publication, and Sammy’s just begun querying. Jen sent out query letters a few years ago, but is currently revising her work before making another attempt. Meg’s also got it on her mind. Everyone is still writing furiously, but whether that particular piece is for publication or fun has yet to be determined. Only time will tell!

6. How did you find out your stuff was plagiarized? Did you look for it? Did somebody tell you?

In most cases, our readers were kind enough to inform us that our work had popped up on other sites (deviant art, quizilla, watpad, etc.). After that, a majority of us began using tools like Google Alerts to help track some of our work down. Sammy found one of her plagiarized stories that way, so the system does work. The wonderful people over at FP Watchers were also incredibly helpful in tracking down a few of our plagiarism cases.

7. Do you think there’s a way to keep your stories from being plagiarized, or protecting them in some way, without removing them from FP?

Until FP disables the copy and paste function, no. Just recently, we found out a few of our own members were still sharing our stories outside of PH. It was disappointing, to say the least, but not entirely unexpected. No matter what, someone will always find a way. The same goes for FP. Someone is always going to find a way to make your work their own. It isn’t right, but is often times inevitable. If your writing isn’t absolute trash, there’s always the chance that it will be stolen. Some people are brave enough to stick it out on FP, dealing with hundreds of thousands of anonymous readers. The smaller numbers of PH has kept problems at a low level, but we’ve still had some. The only truly safe place for your writing, without fear of plagiarism, is on a bookshelf in Barnes & Noble.

A few of us have considered returning to FP, but the interaction we’ve had with everyone at PH has made the decision to stay incredibly easy. Everything is so much more personal, and it’s easier to interact with all of the readers. Some of them have become really good friends, and we’ve gained a few new friends as well. Some of our members even went so far as to start their own site, where they could post their own work. It can be a challenge, keeping everything organized using LiveJournal, but both sites function incredibly well, and we’re all really proud of what we’ve done. There’s also the added bonus of posting artwork alongside our stories, a feature we wish FP would consider. Book jackets are what catch a reader’s eye at the bookstore, and it’s been fun having that little extra something to share with our readers.

You can find the Plagiarism Haven girls at their Livejournal community.

Rachel Simon is a sophomore in college, majoring in Creative Writing with a minor in Literature. When she’s not surfing the web for celebrity gossip or the latest publishing industry news, she’s hard at work studying. You can find her blog here.

Until further notice, Rachel is on a hiatus from LTWF.
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Publishing Abroad – An Interview With Gabriela Da Silva

8 Apr

Vanessa Di Gregorio

Ever been curious about what publishing is like in other countries? We sure have! So what better way to get a glimpse into the world of foreign publishing than with an interview with someone published in another country? It’s my pleasure to introduce to you Gabriela da Silva (or Gaby, as she often goes by); an author who resides in Mexico. She is also someone who encouraged me to keep writing when I was still on Fanfiction.net (oh, the good ol’ days), and I can’t thank her enough.  Amazingly, she’s agreed to be poked and prodded by us while we question her about her experience with publishing abroad. Her first novel, a fantasy titled “Los Doce Sellos” (The Twelfth Seal), was published by Itaca on December 17th, 2009 in Mexico.

Want to know more? Well, here’s a little synopsis of “Los Doce Sellos”:

In the Empire of Lavinia, a group of orphans were adopted by a sorcerer…

Life with him wasn’t easy. They traveled with no respite, assisting the old man in the magic shows he offered in every village they came across. Even if the Teacher had never been kind or loving to them, he gave them clothing, food and a home during the long winter. They lived as a family, and Umberto was happy like that.

But when the group is invited to a princely court nearby, the youth’s placid world starts to corrode, with nothing they can do to stop it. With one of his sisters in the threshold of death and all of his friends in danger, Umberto finds himself in a bizarre place between two worlds, trapped in a battle between forces he never could have imagined.


Front and back cover of Gaby’s book

Gaby is currently translating her book into English, and so we thought we would ask her not only about her experiences with publishing abroad, but her plans for the future.


V. Thanks so much, Gaby, for being able to offer us your time! We’ll start with some questions from me! So, to start off: what was your first reaction when you signed your book deal?

G. Anxiety, perhaps? I didn’t exactly “sign a deal” – it was mostly talking with the editor one afternoon.

By that time I pretty much knew it was going to get published, and I was getting nervous – how long would it take? Would I get a lot of corrections? Would I be allowed to mess with the cover design? (I was!)

Also, most of my friends work in the area of literary criticism – I, too, specialized in that. So I was very nervous as to how they would receive it, since some of them can be downright mean when doing their job. Luckily, most of them liked it, and the mean ones didn’t comment too much…

V. That’s amazing that you were able to get a say in your book cover design! So, how did you get to that part when you realized you were getting published? Did you/do you have an agent?

G. One more figure that doesn’t exist in Mexico! Literary agents sound like a dream come true here. I don’t have one, though I’d love to. Both my parents worked a little as agents, introducing me to what friends they had in the publishing business (they turned me down anyway).

V. No agents?! That must’ve been daunting! So, with no agents around to help you out, how did you go about getting your book published?

G. At the end of the day, the same editorial who had published my mom’s book on women’s writing, and who I hadn’t considered because they published only academic essays, turned out to be looking for novels in order to widen their appeal. I turned the manuscript in and finally, someone was willing to take the risk of publishing a first time writer…

V. How long did it take?

G. From the moment I started writing to when it was published, it took a little over four years. The publishing in itself took around six or seven months, with the editor correcting, me correcting the corrections, him correcting again and me agreeing.

V. Ah, editors. Gotta love them. The next few questions are from Savannah and Sarah. They wanted to know: did you go on a book tour?

G. There’s really no such thing as a “book tour” in Mexico. Famous writers sometimes tour, but it’s not the most common thing. However, I formally presented my book to the public during the National Book Fair.

V. Does Mexico have a popular best sellers list, or any other distinctive honors like that, and were you on any of them?

G. There are several lists; mostly, each bookstore has their own. I figured in one of them for January (16th most sold) and February (17th), right along Orham Pamuk and Paul Auster!

V. What’s your plan for your novel in the future?

G. As soon as I can I’m moving to a bigger editorial. There are only four or five editorials that distribute to the entire country – most work only within the city they were born in, as my editorial right now distributes only in Mexico City. So yes, first I’ve got to reach the rest of my country.

Also, I’m translating it into English, and with a little luck (and much more hard work) I’ll try and get in published in that language too.

V. I definitely think you should get in published in the U.S. and Canada. You know I would be the first one to buy it! The next few questions come from Biljana. She wanted to know: Can you tell us briefly how somebody would go about translating a book into a different language?

G. Sorry, I can’t really say I know the usual process… if your work is famous most of the time a foreign editorial will pick up the rights by themselves and have it translated. For us, I believe we need to see to the translation by ourselves and find an agent who doesn’t mind working with someone outside of the country.

V. Do you feel any bitterness to the fact that English seems to be more read that other languages? How do you deal with knowing that if your book were translated, it might not have the same beauty or meaning as it does in its original language?

G. Not bitterness! I love the English language. It’s beautiful and flexible, and it has so many pretty verbs… I love Spanish just as well. It has more degrees of feelings, and allows latinisms.

If I feel bitter about anything it is about my own fate, of being born in a country were writing doesn’t pay (literally. I didn’t get one dime for my book) unless you’re OMG famous, and famous writing means “about social struggle”. For an aspiring fantasy author, the prospect is just bleak, you know?

As for the translation, I don’t worry about that because I’m translating it myself 😛

In all seriousness, I would hope that the one to translate the book would see it as more than just another chore, and would do his/her best to take some of the beauty I put in and imitate it in the new language. Something will be lost – but something will be gained as well, and that’s the beauty of translation.

V. Didn’t get paid?! Well, you definitely need to finish translating and get it published here too then! Now, I just have one more question (technically, two, I suppose). Would you say Fanfiction.net or FictionPress helped you in your goal of becoming a writer? How much of an impact did these sites have on you?

G. I wouldn’t be where I am if it wasn’t for Fanfiction.net and FictionPress! First of all, writing for those sites helped me practice. I know there are plenty of people out there who look down on fanfiction as petty wish-fulfillment, and for some people that’s what it is.

But for me, it was always about practice: you have a set of characters in a set of circumstances, and you inject a second set of circumstances. You have to combine both without breaking any of them – as a writer, that’s one great challenge.

As for FictionPress, well, I didn’t publish much there precisely because it made me realize two very important things:

1) It was time I started writing in my own language. After years and years of writing in English, switching back to Spanish was so difficult, I couldn’t believe it. I felt humiliated when I needed to use a dictionary for my native language.
2) Most importantly, it was time I got myself a good critique partner, someone I had to see face to face. Internet reviews are good, of course, but most comments in both FictionPress and ff.net are of the “OMG this is so kewl!” kind, which are encouraging but don’t help with your writing.

I believe those websites can be extremely valuable to any fledging writer, first of all because of the feedback, but also because they’ll give you the courage to actually go and show your work to others. This might come easier to some – but for me, it wasn’t. Showing my writing was like stripping down to my barest, most intimate me… I wouldn’t have had the courage to go through publishing if I didn’t start with the internet first.


So again, Gaby, we’d like to thank you so much for letting us interview you about publishing abroad. I know you’ll have a bright writing career ahead of you!


Vanessa is an intern at The Rights Factory, a literary agency located in Toronto. She is also enrolled in a publishing program, and is trying to figure out where in the world of publishing she wants to end up in. Currently, she is working on a YA fantasy novel and a Children’s non-fiction series.

Gaby is the author of “Los doce sellos” (The Twelfth Seal), a fantasy story which was published in Mexico on December of last year. She is currently translating it into English in hopes of finding an agent and is already hard at work on her follow-up novel. She tweets @huesodeliebre, both in English and Spanish