Writing quote

Sure, it's simple writing for kids...Just as simple as raising them.
— Ursula K. LeGuin

Friday, August 24, 2012


Welcome to Friday Features! This is where you'll find interviews and guest blogs with and by other authors of juvenile fiction. If you're interested in being one of my guest authors, please email me.

   Today's guest author is Editor and Young Adult novelist Deborah Halverson, who penned the teen novels Honk If You Hate Me (Delacorte, Random House) and Big Mouth (Delacorte, Random House). Her guide book for writing young adult fiction, Writing Young Adult Fiction for Dummies (Wiley Publishing) was released in 2011. Deborah was also a former editor with Harcourt Children’s Books (now Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) where she acquired and edited everything from picture books to young adult novels. Recently, Deborah was one of the keynote speakers at the SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) annual conference in Los Angeles where she presented on what she's learned about the market trends from a survey she conducted to compile the  "2012 SCBWI Market Survey: Publishers of books for young readers" report. Deborah will be serving as a judge in the upcoming Redwood Writers Club Young Adult Fiction Writing contest.

   In today's Friday Features, Deborah shares her thoughts with me about the current and upcoming trends in the YA market, her #1 tip for aspiring writers, and how she came up with the idea for her DearEditor.com blog.

Have you always wanted to write?

I have always wanted to write novels—but I didn’t reveal that dream to anyone until I sold my first manuscript, Honk If You Hate Me. I didn’t want to be someone who forever talked about writing a book but never actually did it. I didn’t even know if I could do it. One day I decided to find out if I did have what it takes—the ideas, the ability, and, perhaps most important of all, the discipline to be a Writer. I plopped myself down and just started typing: “The wrinkled checker kept looking up at me.” So begins Honk If You Hate Me

What led to the writing of Writing Young Adult Fiction for Dummies?
Having sat on both sides of the publishing desk as writer and editor, I planned to write a book about craft and industry … someday … some way. So when a team of agents approached me about the For Dummies project, I jumped. The For Dummies format synced with my personal philosophy of laughing as you learn, and because they gave me free rein to include whatever I wanted to include, and to write about my chosen topics and techniques in whatever way I thought best. Writing the book was a wonderful experience, and I get the warm fuzzy of knowing I’m helping writers improve and—fingers crossed—get published!

Recently, you did some research about market trends for your keynote speech at the SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) Los Angeles conference. Can you share a little of what you've found? Where is the Young Adult genre heading?

Editors and agents I surveyed are seeing a lot of derivative material that have been hot for a while now like vampires and paranormal. They’re also seeing a lot of “gateway” middle grade fantasy, where there’s some portal that takes you between worlds. What they want is more straight contemporary fiction, in both teen and middle grade fiction. Like Stephanie Perkins Anna and the French Kiss or Jandy Nelson’s The Sky Is Everywhere. The realistic contemporary stories should have believable characters to whom kids can relate…but the trick is to make something big happen in the story to create a big emotional impact that would raise the emotional temperature of the story and keep it from being too quiet. And if the manuscript is light and funny, well, so much the better.
How did you come up with your popular DearEditor.com blog? 
Writers would sit next to me at conference meals and say, “I just have this one quick question that I’ve always wanted to ask an editor.” With little to no access to editors, they couldn’t get answers to simple questions. I realized this was the case for many writers, and that I could be that point of access through a blog. Of course, to do that, I needed them to ask me the questions … and that’s where I got the idea for a Dear Abby-esque format. DearEditor.com now has over a thousand subscribers and is nearing a million page views. Writers now have access to an editor who can answer their questions, and I get to feel useful. Plus, I include wonderful writers, illustrators, and industry experts as guest editors, which is a lot of fun for me.
You are also a freelance editor and writing instructor. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

“Do, don’t talk.” Whether you call it writing or storytelling or simply “typing,” sit down and do it. Even the best ideas are nothing without the doing. I learned that firsthand. Let your fingers start tapping keys and see what happens. You never know, you might just be writing the opening line of your first published book. 


  1. Great interview, Natasha, and super helpful information. Thank you! ~Steffanie

    1. Thanks, Steffanie. Deborah always has a wealth of information and is a great resource.