Angie Azur is a YA Sci-fi Writer.
Writer for PALEO Magazine.
Former Intern at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.
SCBWI & COWG Member.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Interview with Kimberly Sabatini: Author of Touching the Surface

I met Kimberly via Facebook. I reached out to her for an interview after checking out her latest book, Touching the Surface

And, I also fell in love with Kimberly's smile. (see her picture below) How can you not want to get to know her better? I'm glad I did. She's full of helpful hits for writers at all stages in this game of words. 

Below are the questions I asked her:

      1.    You wrote this book after your father passed. What is the one thing you’d like him to know about this book? 
   Awwww great question. I'd like him to know I was brave. That in his honor I stepped outside my comfort zone to be a better person--I don't think I could have done it without him. 

   2.     Describe your book in 5 words: 
       What I NEEDED to write.
   3.     How does your background in teaching special education help your writing? 
   I'm not so sure that my background in teaching is a dramatic help, writing is more of an extension of what what drew me to teaching to start with. I've always wanted to be the kind of person who makes a difference in the lives of children. I want to have a positive impact on the people around me and the coolest people I know are kids. 

   4.     Why do you belong to SCBWI? 
   The SCBWI is my tribe. I've learned just about everything I know about writing from the members of the SCBWI--I am so proud to be a part of such an amazing group of people. I look back now and wonder how I made it through most of my life without these amazing people in it. Finding them was like coming home.

   5.     What time do you get up, and what do you eat for breakfast? 
   I get up way too freakin' early for a night owl. My oldest son gets on the bus at 6:20 so that means I need to be up at 5:31 in order to snooze for 9 minutes before I get him up in time to nag him to get dressed and eat. LOL! 
   It's not all bad--I usually get to see my husband for a couple minutes before he heads out and since my son still gives me kisses and hugs--completely worth it. 

   Breakfast depends on the day and the season. If I'm running, I might have a hot chocolate and and a ZICO coconut water before I go and eat when I get home. If it's summer, I've gotten into making veggie/fruit smoothies with the Vitamix. On a regular day I'll have a bowl of Kashi or oatmeal or yogurt crunchy, fruity thingy. On Sunday I love a good omelet. Yum!

   6.     How did you land your literary agent? Any secrets? Good connections? 
   My agent is the fabulous Michelle Wolfson of Wolfson Literary. *blows kisses to Michelle* She pulled me out of the slush pile. I sent her my query and she immediately asked for a partial and then I didn't hear from her for about ten months. 

   She had a very valid reason for being off the grid and we reconnected when I was in the middle of a big revision. I then sent her the revised manuscript and we had a call and then more revisions. All in all we danced around each other for almost a year and a half, but I signed with her on December 6, 2011 and she sold my book on February 11, 2011. 

   As for tips--I followed her and her clients on twitter for some time and it became obvious very quickly that she had a wonderful reputation and that I would be a great fit with her and her clients. Because of my research, when it came time to make a decision, I knew exactly what I wanted to do and I've never regretted it. Love her and the Wolf Pack. 
   So, do your leg work and make those personal connections ahead of time--in a nonstalkerly kind of a way LOL!

   7.     Any words of advice for other writers? 
   This is a hard business--no matter what stage of it you're in. You have to know how to find your own true north on your compass and be able to return there every time someone knocks you off course. The highs are incredible, but the lows are hard.
   8.     What was your acquisitions process like? 
   Once I signed with my agent, the acquisitions process went fairly easily. After a phone call with my editor-to-be I outlined how I would make some of the recommended changes and then very quickly I had a book deal. I was very lucky--this was the quickest part of the publishing process I've experienced so far. 

   9.     What did you do when you first heard you were to be published? 
   I know this sounds silly, but I jumped. I was home alone and I stood in the office and jumped up and down. Then I had to pick up my kids at school that day, so I jumped in the lobby with the kindergarten teacher and the school psychologist. They just "got" the whole need to jump and joined in. 

   My husband got my message and wanted to know if I wanted to go out to dinner and I declined--asking for a little more time to just jump. *grin* What can I say--it's the simple things. Besides I never could have sat through dinner at that point.

   10. Is there anything on your writing desk that is a MUST have for you? 
   LAPTOP!!!! My Mac Book Pro is like my 4th child, but with a lot less laundry and I don't have to feed him. 
  11. The day you finished the last word in your novel, did you cheers yourself? Cry? Scream? Call someone? Sleep? 
   I put my head down on my desk and cried a river. I hadn't known how it was going to end and I found my own answers right along with Elliot. I felt like I'd just finished running an emotional marathon. I was jubilant and wasted all at the same time. And I think I finally understood what it meant to finish something--something hard. I'd walked away from a lot of things out of fear and this--this I looked in the face and I stared it down. It felt brave and I was proud.

  12. Who is your biggest cheerleader? 
   I am lucky--I have a fleet of the biggest cheerleaders, but my husband NEVER gets enough credit. There are aspects of me that are so stinkin' easy to live with, but artistic, moody, writer me is not one of them. He also has more socks and underwear than anyone person should because the laundry is, at best, sporadic. But, despite living with the constant threat of no clean under garments, he is super supportive and proud and I can feel that. It's a lovely thing.

   13. If you could sit down with any author, dead or alive, who would that be and why? 
   I would love to sit down with Anne Frank--she wrote because putting words to paper saved her and I can relate to that. I am fascinated by that.

   14. Who are you reading right now? 
   Ummmm I'm an all over the place reader. I read up to four books aloud with my boys, they also have one going in the car on audio. I have my own two audio books going (one fiction and one on the craft of writing) right now. Additionally I have a book or two that I'm working on on my Kindle/iPad, plus a book on marketing and one I'm using to jump start some thoughts I have about the next book I want to write. But, I will tell you that what's attached to my book light right now is an ARC of MIND GAMES by Kiersten White and it's sooooo good!

   15. If someone said, “Your book changed my life.” What would they be referring to? 
   They would be telling me that they've discovered that they are not alone. I can't control "what" connections people make when they read my words but I'd like to think that I put enough of myself between the pages that they no longer feel alone with the things that resonated with them. The truth is that I wrote the book that I would have wanted to read when I felt like I was all alone in my thoughts and feelings.

   16. Are you a coffee, tea, chocolate, or strictly water writer?
   I'm a hot chocolate kind of a girl. *grin* Although I do drink all of the others too.

   17. How can my blog readers help you to become an even bigger success? 
   What a generous thing to ask. Thank you. In my mind the success of an author comes from word of mouth. All I could ever ask for is that if you love the book, feel a connection with what I've written, that you take the time to spread the word. You could ask your local or school librarian to buy it for their shelves. You could tell your friends about it--share your copy or give it as a gift. You could even write a review and post it on Amazon or Barnes and Noble. It comes down to this--no matter how much marketing I do, the book's voice truly comes from it's readers. What you have to say is just as important as what I had to say. 

   *If any of your readers would like some swag to share with their friends and community, they can reach me here... 

   18. Do you have any writer’s classes, or conferences that you would recommend to the newbie writer? 
   I know this sounds redundant--but join the SCBWI. And there are a lot of fabulous books out there. Right now I'm rereading ON WRITING by Stephen King and I love BIRD BY BIRD by Anne Lamott. Also a fan of THE FIRST FIVE PAGES by Noah Lukeman.

   19. What websites do you recommend for writers? 
   I'm a big advocate of Verla Kay's Blue Boards. 
   This is a fantastic online community with a trove of resources and an amazing support group. I also recommend following the agents, editors and authors you love--they are a wealth of knowledge.

   20. What one word best describes you?
   21. What’s your blog about? 
   *waggles eyebrows* 
    Come and find out...
   22. Any big news? 
   My book launches in about a doesn't get bigger than that. 

Angie--thank you so much for these questions. They were so thoughtful and I really enjoyed answering them. You are such a sweetie. (((hugs)))

(XO's back at ya Kimberly!! You rock!)

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Characters in Yoga Class

I've been thinking about great characters, and what small details authors use to bring them to life. So, during my yoga class this week, I paid close attention to the differences in the way each person grows in their practice.

This is what I found:

  • The older woman next to me had to keep leaving to get fresh air. She was flushed, but not breathing too heavy.
  • The younger woman in the front kept a beautiful smile on her face through the whole hour and a half class.
  • The older man to her left had yellowed-cracked feet, and grunted loudly each time we changed postures.
  • Two young men, looking muscular and strong, could not hold the poses and seemed disappointed in themselves - or competitive with each other.
  • The man behind me kept making horse-sounding breathing sounds - I found it very annoying and odd.
  • The woman in the far back left during our relaxation poses - disrupting the class with the bang of the door.
  • The rest of the room faded away - and those characters were barely noticeable.

After reading through this list of characters, which one would you like to talk to? Which one would you like to know more about?

I chose the horse-sounding guy. I mean, what is that? Why does he breath like that? Is this some sort of new animal yoga? I'm intrigued. He's a true character, right?

During a power yoga class once, there was this yogi that kept going upside-down. The rest of the class followed the teacher, but she did her own thing. She did headstands, back bends, dolphin - while we were in warriors and triangles. She mesmerized me. I mean, why was she doing this? Was it to show off? She was pretty amazing. Or did she just want the warmth of the room to practice her own style in? She was a character. I wanted to know more about her. Don't you?

So the next time you are in a yoga class, pay attention to the yogis around you. Who is the main character in the room? If you can't find one, maybe it's you. (smile)

Exercise: Things to notice for good character building:

  • breathing sounds: odd? fast? deep? croaky? raspy?
  • clothes: interesting yoga gear? shorts? pants? 
  • mats: what type of mat is the yogi on? old? new? thick? thin? bright? dark? dirty? clean?
  • jewelry: does the yogi wear bracelets? earrings? nothing? a watch? 
  • feet: good shape? nails painted? chipped? cracked feet? band aides? 
  • accessories: does the yogi need things like towels? water bottles? eye covers? yogi toes? double mats? 
  • props: sandbags? belts? blocks? blankets?
  • poses: do they hold the poses? do they fall over? are they trying or just relaxing? arms straight? legs? Straining or enjoying?

And if you are a writer, not practicing yoga, I suggest you sign up for your first yoga class today! Not only will you find some great characters, you'll get the much needed stretches for your writer's body. You know who you are, hunching over that keyboard. Get up and move!

Good luck! 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

90 Days to Your Novel: Week 4

The updates are coming in slower than I'm actually writing them. This is a good thing. I'm flying on this novel, where as on my first one, it took me months to get my thoughts in order. So thank you Sarah Domet!

So here I am talking about the 4th week. This is a brainstorming week. The assignment was to come up with my favorite moments as a child, my biggest fears, biggest upsets, and most embarrassing times. I also added most annoying things. I thought those tidbits might come in handy later on in this novel.

Below are my lists


·      Petting Jingles in the enclosed porch in the west Mayfield house
·      Eating watermelon with Ginger on her porch
·      Swinging
·      Riding bikes to the playground alone for the first time
·      Playing release with neighbor kids
·      Hanging out in the woods / eating wild blueberries and strawberries
·      Swinging on the rope swing
·      Finding a bunny at the end of a rope for Easter
·      Swimming in Nan’s pool
·      Riding horses with friends
·      Riding my bike to friends houses
·      Sitting under the bridge over the train tracks
·      Singing with Julie and playing in the covered bridge
·      Dancing with John
·      Dancing at the college hill dances
·      Singing in the rain with Julie / splashing in puddles
·      Spending the night at a friends house
·      Staying up late
·      Playing Santa for Lawny
·      Hiding Easter eggs / coloring them
·      Pushing Pap-pap in his wheelchair / getting rides
·      Shopping with mom, nan, & lawny
·      8th grade graduation in that favorite black & white dress
·      Holding baby brothers
·      Trying out for cheerleading / making the team
·      Becoming head cheerleader
·      Joining the fire department as a junior volunteer
·      Kissing / flirting with older boys
·      Art class with Mr. Gayle
·      Swimming in gym class
·      Lunch with friends
·      Football games / basketball games / cheering for the team
·      Field trips / Niagara Falls
·      Road trip and staying up late with dad
·      Playing with cousins / falling a sleep wherever
·      Lifeguarding at the lake
·      Kissing Jason in my white bathing suit
·      Long talks at night on the phone / dreaming
·      Going to parties / sneaking around with beer
·      Reading Melanie Rawn / learning more about sex
·      Hanging out with the twins
·      Going to the Zoo
·      Playing ouija board at sleep overs
·      Hanging out at Eat-n-park / playing with ketchup bottle
·      Hanging out at Jim’s barn / playing card games and drinking
·      Training horses with one of the trainers for barrel racing

Biggest Fears

·      Tornadoes / wind / blowing stuff around
·      Dad losing his temper
·      Grandparents dying
·      Sharks
·      Moving away from friends
·      Losing my friends
·      Not getting to go to college
·      Boyfriend cheating
·      Pet dying
·      Getting caught drinking
·      Friends finding out we were on government cheese
·      Shopping at walmart
·      Never having enough money
·      Dad finding out I dated someone of color
·      Dad finding out I had sex
·      Getting pregnant

Biggest Upsets

·      Losing the game when I was pitching
·      Not making the varsity cheerleading team
·      Getting a bad grade
·      Back stabbed by best friend
·      Moving away from best friend
·      Team losing in Hershey
·      Dumped and changing all my friends
·      Registering for college then being told I couldn’t go
·      Finding out a rich uncle wanted to pay for me to go to art school and parents turned it down
·      Not finishing my easter egg for the contest in time
·      Not getting to graduate 4th grade due to chicken pox
·      Best friendship ends with dating bryan
·      Finding a teddy bear and note in boyfriend’s room from another girl

Most Embarrassing Moments

·      Pants pulled down my uncle at thanksgiving with all the family there
·      Putting clothes on layaway at kmart
·      Watching chucky dance naked and his mom catching us
·      Farting in front of a boy I liked
·      Crashing my 10 speed with a boy I liked
·      Saying “your fat friend’s here” when the car was going backwards out the driveway and she was already in the house
·      Having to deliver papers to the senior classrooms / tripping and getting whistled at and clapped for
·      Getting pushed to the ground by someone I thought was my friend / other kids seeing it
·      Being dumped in the recycle bin by eddie
·      John kissing me at college hill in front of everyone
·      Getting caught smoking by mom
·      Dad telling me every bad word he could think of when I was going into 5th grade, so I wouldn’t say them
·      The sex talk with both parents
·      Talking to my parents about birth control
·      Boys taking pictures in the girls bathroom when we were changing
·      Boob falling out of bathing suit when diving
·      Falling all the way down at the gas station
·      Falling off a horse
·      Being seen naked by a parent
·      Jack walking in on my and clara stuffing our bras
·      Jack walking in on me changing – top naked
·      Mom freaking out on me in front of a friend

Annoying Things

·      People who whistle
·      Food stuck in teeth
·      Coffee breath
·      Loud nose blowing
·      Burping
·      Hang nails
·      Paint chips off nails
·      Someone who can’t allow silence
·      Kicking the back of the chair in a movie theatre/airplane
·      Muscle spasms
·      Hiccups
·      Allergy eyes
·      Gunk in the corners of eyes
·      Pee on toilet seats
·      Cracked dry feet in yoga class
·      People who pay money to have great hair cuts and color but never actually do their hair
·      People who push alcohol / let me drink my water without the peer pressure
·      Men with long fingernails / especially sharp thumb nails
·      Fingernails with tons of designs and bling
·      Moms dressing like their tween daughters
·      oily smelling hair
·      people that complain but never do anything different
·      the smell of dog food
·      someone who cleans up as soon as they are done with the last bite / can’t even take a second to breathe / overly organized
·      squeaky doors
·      locks on cars that don’t open
·      super muggy days
·      mosquitoes / itchy bites
·      biting flies
·      dropping red wine on white pants
·      bangs too short that fall into my eyes
·      band aides floating in a pool
·      hair balls
·      smokers who flick their butts like it’s not garbage
·      old men who blow their nose in restaurants
·      when fingers swell so rings can’t come off
·      wind blowing balloons
·      high-pitched cackling
·      someone who sings the wrong words to a song
·      underwear that rides up
·      having to shave
·      bubble gum snapping
·      people who chew with their mouths open
·      people who don’t take pride in what they have
·      teachers giving too much homework


What I learned:

  This assignment brought me back to those feelings as a child and teen that you are different, that people are always judging you, and that things are impossible. 

  I closed my eyes and put myself back in time. I could see my school. I could hear my friends. I could feel my embarrassment, or sadness. To write from true feelings is to allow others a glimpse of your true self. It will resonate with people.

  Now I chose to write from the child I was, and not the adult I am because I write for children. I need to be in touch with the feelings from that time period in my life. 

  I suggest if you write for adults, you come up with the lists that capture the age of your main character, or narrator. 

  I enjoyed this assignment so much. And I know that I will use these lists for future stories I will tell. 

  Good luck!