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It was madness, but of the fun kind, when agents and editors offered their PITMAD or pitch madness contest on Twitter the other day. All we writers had to do was pitch our book ideas in 140 characters or less and add the hashtag #pitmad. If your Tweet was favorited by an agent or editor, that was an invitation to send your materials to them. Of course that meant doing some quick research on their submission policies, but most helpfully put that in a Tweet as well. It's a generous offer by those we ordinarily have to do quite a bit of research on to see if they are even accepting new submissions. But as one agent said to me, they want their query boxes to keep getting filled because each query has the potential to be "the next big thing." And that could be your book!

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I've wanted to read Rainbow Rowell's Eleanor & Park since last year when I bought it for my daughter. The buzz around the book was intriguing, and while I'm not one to follow trends for trends-sake, I do take seriously reviews of books in the category in which I like to write. I just devoured Eleanor & Park this week, and I must recommend it to all writers who hope that agents and editors will say yes to their manuscript. Here's why:

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Recently a literary agent’s assistant relayed to me how would-be authors sometimes treat assistants—and how potentially harmful to the author’s career that can be. The author had queried the agent, this assistant’s boss, via email, and wrote that she was sure his assistant was very nice, but she only wanted the decision-maker to read her manuscript. Little did this author know that the very same assistant is the one who reads all the agent’s emails.

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I just finished reading another amazing book for kids, Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan, written for middle grade readers. (Middle grade is considered to be for ages 10 and up or grades 5 and up.) This is the story of Willow Chance, a genius and misfit who loses her parents in an accident and then discovers an unexpected family. Her voice is so unique that you find yourself cringing at points for the way she interacts with those around her, but mostly because you want to protect her, and laughing at her cleverness at other points...

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Several years ago I interviewed Jon Scieszka, author of The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales and so many other wonderful books. He had just started his campaign to get boys—universally known among librarians, parents and educators as reluctant readers—to read more books. He launched the site, http://www.guysread.com/ and has since edited several books of short stories by authors just for boys.

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I recently attended the NYC Teen Author Festival at the New York Public Library where new and established YA authors talked about their genre. One of the topics was understanding what influences teens. If you know that, then you can create believable characters, conflicts and settings that teen readers will care about. Books for young adults are my main interest, but regardless, one of my mantras in How to Publish Your Children’s Book and my own speaking engagements is that you have to know your audience. That means that no matter what age group you write for, you must be able to tap into their worries,

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If you think Amazon is just for ordering books, DVDs and now household products, you haven’t heard about Amazon Publishing. First there was the opportunity for writers to publish their books on demand. Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing allows writers to publish direct to kindle. Many authors are getting discovered by mainstream publishers and agents through their successful kindle sales. In a future blog I will give you some success stories.

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I’m sad that the 100th webisode of the Lizzie Bennet Diaries—a clever adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice—has aired. It was developed by Hank Green—brother of the award-winning YA novelist John Green (who wrote The Fault in Our Stars, also amazing!)—and Bernie Su. And they are pure genius (the creators as well as the product). I have been watching these twice weekly, 5-minute YouTube episodes since last April and I have been very impressed. At every turn the writers have created a modern twist to the classic novel so that you want to root for Lizzie, Charlotte, Jane and Lydia, all modern 20-somethings with graduate school projects, first-job stresses, and even, in the case of Lydia, an online scandal so big that Twitter and Facebook were on fire earlier this year as we fans all watched in horror. You think that George Wickham can’t possibly be updated for the 21st century? Pullease!

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One of the most powerful young adult books I’ve read is Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, published in 1999. The main character, Melinda, is raped by a classmate, and the author does a powerful job of describing a victim’s inability to speak out about this crime against her and the peer pressure that silences her more.

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I'm a fan of Stephen Colbert, who seems to suceed at any cause he takes on. But I knew that as soon as I saw his interview earlier this year with famed children's author Maurice Sendak, that this time his cause would lead to a bad end. Colbert's complaint was that it's easy for celebrities to get their children's book published regardless of the quality, and he "wanted in." And so he presented Sendak with a ridiculous premise: I Am Pole (And So Are You), a silly little story about a pole trying to find a job. By Colbert's own admission, it didn't take long to write. Yet I'm sure I don't have to tell you that he quickly found a publisher, without even trying.

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