Wednesday, August 3, 2011


My blog has moved!!

My website has launched and I've moved my blog:

If you are a faithful follower of this old blog PLEASE come by and click the RSS feed on the site so you don't miss anything!

See you over there :)
Laura Ellen.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


 I have now integrated my blog into my BRAND NEW WEBSITE :) :) -
Please find my posts now at: 

Thank you!
Laura Ellen

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Lyrical Long and Short of How I Found My Agent

Today on The Nightstand I am blogging about how I found my agent, but I get asked the question so often, I thought I'd post the blog simultaneosly here too.

I am represented by the awesomely brilliant agent-extraordinaire, Jill Corcoran of Herman Agency. My friend and fellow critique group member, author Jacqui Robbins, introduced me to Jill at the SCBWI LA conference in August 2009. At the time, BLIND SPOT was a chaotic mess; I was rewriting it in first person and destroying plot lines (see my post 'Oh The Places I had To Go') and it was nowhere near ready for submission. So I tucked Jill's name away in a list of agents I'd like to query and continued working.

Eight months later, when I felt BLIND SPOT was ready to be seen again by people other than my critique group, I queried two agents who had read all or part of my previous version and had asked to see it again. The first was no longer taking new clients. Bummer. The second, who I'd had a manuscript consultation with at the 2009 SCBWI LA conference, not only requested the full - she asked for an exclusive.

I was oober excited. I'd never been asked for an exclusive and thought this was  a sign that I was on the right track. I tried to focus on a new project while I waited to hear from her. Six weeks later, she sent me a short and sweet email that basically said she loved my writing, enjoyed my novel, but just didn't feel 'connected' enough to the manuscript.

I won't lie. I was disappointed, but I knew from the bizillion agent talks I'd attended over the years, that not feeling a connection didn't mean she thought it was crap. She just wasn't in love with it. I pulled out my agent list and picked the three I wanted to query the most, one of which was Jill. As I prepared my queries, however, I hesitated with Jill's. In her 'what I look for' description she said she liked lyrical writing and I was afraid that wasn't me. Ellen Hopkins and Tracie Vaughn Zimmer - they were lyrical. Me? Not so much. So . . . I shelved Jill's query.

I queried three other agents instead. All three requested partials. All three responded back, again with the 'you are a talented writer but I am just not compelled enough to offer representation.'

That nay-sayer who sits on my shoulder began whispering that maybe my novel sucked, maybe it wasn't ready after all. I had sent in the first chapter for a manuscript consultation at the 2010 SCBWI LA conference - so I told myself I wouldn't query anyone else until after my consultation. I also decided that if I saw Jill again while in LA, I would talk to her, kind of do a mini-pitch, to see if BLIND SPOT might interest her despite its non-lyrical-ness.

I didn't see Jill. However, I did have an awesome consultation. The agent I met with only talked about the positives in BLIND SPOT; she asked me about its history, who had seen it, etc. She asked me what else I wrote; she basically interviewed me, and then asked me to send her the full. I was ecstatic. THIS WAS IT! Woo-hoo! I went home, frantically went over my novel one last time, and then, pressed send.

A few weeks later, I got the very long, very disappointing rejection. She and her assistant had read it, and although there was a lot they loved about it, there were things they just didn't feel worked (which she went into detail about) and, therefore, it was a no. Not a 'fix this and send it back'. Just a no.

I was devastated. I had been so sure that this was it. I felt crushed and deflated. I popped off an email to my critique buds. They all responded with sympathy and support - then helped me wade through what I thought were all negatives, to discover the truth in that long rejection. They helped me see what I needed to fix.

Then Jacqui said, "have you queried Jill yet? I really think she would like this."
 No, I hadn't, I thought. But . .  what the heck? Forget lyrical! I was going to query Jill right now! Well, as soon as I fixed the manuscript.

I powered through the stuff that the other agent had questioned, pulled up the query I had written Jill before but had shelved, and sent it off with my first ten pages. It was September 16th, 2010 at 2:00 pm.
27 minutes later I received an email from Jill requesting the full.

Woo-hoo, I said. Then stopped. I wasn't getting my hopes up this time. And even though she said she didn't want an exclusive because the industry is tough enough for writers these days, I gave her one. Because, who was I kidding? She was going to hate it anyway and then I'd know this novel was just drivel.

October 25th, I found an email from Jill in my inbox, sent at 3:04 am (she's west coast, so that was only midnight for her!): "I am loving BLIND SPOT. 100 pages to go . . ."

Again, I said "woo-hoo!" And again I stopped myself; I'd heard that before.

Same day, 3:21 pm, Jill emailed me: "It is a bit long.....hopefully, you haven't read it for awhile. perhaps you can see if there are any places to cut. I'll be back to you soon."
3:31 pm, she added:  "Man, I'm loving this!"

Hmmm. What was going on here? Did I dare allow myself to hope? I thought about what she said and wanted her to know that I was willing to work at it.
4:07 pm, I responded, saying I had no problem cutting.

4:11 pm, she emailed back: "but there is so much I love, I can't find a thing i want out." Then she listed specifics on a few things maybe I could change . . .

I admit it. I was over-the-top excited now.
4:44 pm: I told her I was going over the specific pages she mentioned, looking at what she had pointed out, seeing what I could cut . . .

4:46 pm she responded: "do that thru the whole ms....and by the way, I MUST REP THIS! Okay, 24 more   pages to go...."

LOVE the way she just slipped that "I must rep this" between 'go through your novel' and  'I am still reading it', don't you?  :)

I signed with her the beginning of November, and did two revisions for her before she started submitting BLIND SPOT in mid-January. By mid-March she'd found the right editor for me - the equally brilliant and awesome editor-extraordinaire, Karen Grove of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Oh and that whole thing about lyrical writing? Turns out, I am a lyrical writer. Jill was referring to writing with rhythm and assonance, simile and metaphor; writing that is poetic but not necessarily poetry. :)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

I'm Blogging on The Nightstand Today

Today I am blogging on The Nightstand about Jane Austen and Phyllis A. Whitney - authors that have influenced my writing.
Pop over and read me!

Friday, June 24, 2011


I love summer. So many memories as a kid are tied up with summertime. There are specific events I remember - like the time the Bureau of Land Management helicopter landed in front of our house to tell us a forest fire burning miles away had turned and we needed to evacuate. Or the time my sister and I went to horse camp in Matanuska Valley and took the train there by ourselves. We brought an entire pan of rice krispie treats to 'fortify' us on the journey. Or the time we convinced a neighborhood friend that we'd walked through a time warp while in the woods (my sisters and I set our watches ahead as proof.)

Then there are the everyday memories of things that happened all the time like the endless sunshine evenings (Alaska never gets dark in the summer);  drinking lemonade in the sun; running through the sprinklers; walking in the woods; going to baseball games; eating vegis fresh from the garden . . . and making lots of trips to the library. Summer always meant tons of reading to me growing up, and I went to the library two or three times a week.

For my kids now, summers aren't exactly the same as mine. We live in Michigan where it gets dark at night so we don't have the endless summer daylight, but we have fireflies we watch from our deck, and we love sitting out there in the dark on humid evenings. And although we do live in a wooded area, they can't go off on their own like my sisters and I used to for hours on end. But they still have lemonade and sprinklers and fresh vegis and . . . the library.

Tuesday my 12 year old son begged me to take him and his sister to the library. I had to smile. Even though our summers are different that part isn't, and I'm glad for it. They still equate summer with going to the library. and reading lots of books. I'm glad I've passed that part of my childhood on to them.

So no matter what your summer plans are, I hope you take the time to head to the library.
Happy reading!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

How I am Learning to 'Pimp Myself'

Since I accepted my book offer from Karen Grove at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in mid-March, I have discovered there is volumes to be learned about marketing a book. Most of my education on this topic has come by way of The Apocalypsies, all 2012 debut authors who have banded together to help promote and support one another. What a great group of authors! Everyone has so much knowledge on so many topics - from tweeting and facebook pages to websites and blogs to business cards and giveaways - I am in awe. So I wanted to give them all a shout out to say 'Thank You' as I begin my journey towards pimping myself!

I have hired the awesome website extraordinaire Stefanie Gilmour of S.G!lmour Design here in Michigan to design my website. I can't wait to show it off! When I launch the site August 1, I will be doing lots of giveaways to promote it, so stay tuned!

In the meantime, I have also joined forces with some debut authors on a joint blog:  The Nightstand: for Books Both Sinister and Strange, showcasing 2012 debut Paranormals and Thrillers.My book isn't paranormal, but it is definitely a mystery/thriller!

We launched the site yesterday and to promote it we are giving away a signed copy of two recent releases: 
HUNTRESS by Malinda Lo and SLICE OF CHERRY by Dia Reeves. So go check out the new blog and get an entry each for following, for tweeting, and for blogging about it!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Five Tips for the Apocalypse

As a 2012 debut YA author, I belong to the Apocalypsies - a group of YA and MG authors whose books are all coming out in 2012. As part of our bio on the website, we are all listing five things in relation to the Apocalypse such as the five books we'd want with us, five things to do before the End of Days, etc.

I thought I'd share my list with you all here. When you're finished, please stop by the site and check out our bios and upcoming book descriptions!

There are two schools of thought on the End of Days. Some think the whole world’s rotation will go off-kilter and cause mass destruction. Others think a virus will sweep across the land, creating a Zombie Apocalypse. How do you prepare when you don’t know what's coming?

Five Tips to Prepare for Any Apocalyptic Event:
1)      Find a spaceship – A spaceship will get you off Earth no matter what. There are many eccentric people who have looked into this option; find one and start sucking up now!

2)      Start Hoarding – Whichever way it goes, you’ll need food. Skip the rice (no one on Survivor ever fantasizes about rice). Get vats of peanut butter instead. It has lots of protein and can curb that sugar craving – it can probably be used as a glue in an emergency too, though you may want to consult some old MacGyver reruns to verify that.

3)      Take a Wilderness Survival class (or watch the box set of Survivorman) – Even if you have hit Costco, at some point you’ll find yourself in a situation. Survivorman can show you which berries and fungi are poisonous (you don’t want to end up like Foxface in the Hunger Games). Plus, you’ll learn how to drink your own urine. Bonus!

4)      Start Working Out – Not just running and lifting weights. Learn the fine art of shovel-wielding. You never know who you may need to fend off. A good guide for this is the movie Zombieland.

5)      Master the art of Zombie make-up – If you find yourself suddenly posing as a Living Dead Girl, you’ll want to look the part. Suggestion? Consult Rob Zombie. He’s the master!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Music, Writing, and Me

I just added a really cool feature to my blog - a playlist link! Previously I listed out (painstakingly I might add!) all my songs, but thanks to the folks at I can now compile them into one playlist, put the link on my site, and voila! You can not only see them all, but you can PLAY them :)

For those of you who know me, you understand my excitement. For those who don't, let me explain:

Music is a huge part of who I am. It is how I wake up in the morning, how I destress after a long day, how I cope when the kids are especially grumpy, how I work out (CANNOT work out without music!) - but most of all it is how I connect myself to my stories when I am writing. By the time I am sitting down to begin a new novel, I have a completed playlist. I play it prior to writing each day. If I get stuck, I listen to the playlist. If I have things to do and can't get to writing right away, like when I have to actually clean my house or my kids are home, I listen to it to keep my head in my book.

Music connects me to my characters, the setting, the tone. This was especially true while writing BLIND SPOT because my character, Roswell Hart, had a very similar relationship to music. Thus, in the book you will actually see a lot of references to music.

Now is not perfect - I was disappointed to find that a few of my playlist selections (This Is Hell by Elvis Costello; Scars in the Making by Feul; Paradise by Tesla; Mother Maria by Beth Hart and Slash; All Falls Down by Adeliras Way, and Coming Undone by Korn)  were not listed, so I could not include them :(
But still - it is an awesome tool!

So click on the link on the sidebar and check it out - it will bring you to my profile page so just scroll down to the bottom where it says 'Laura Ellen's Blind Spot Playlist' - and take a listen.

Oh, and for those of you who find yourselves saying  "WTF?" when you hear Barry Manilow's Copacabana on there (which obviously does not fit in) I say to you with a twinkle in my eye - "Oh but it does!"
You'll just have to read the book to find out how!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

My Good News!

I am so excited to announce my pending publication!
Here's my agent, Jill Corcoran's post:

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Finding the Magic

I just returned from a truly inspiring vacation in Disney World. It wasn't the first time I'd been - in fact I think it was about the fourth time we had visited the park as a family - and since all three of my children (18, 12, and 9) have long outgrown the "magic" stage where seeing princesses and cartoon characters come to life brings stars to their eyes and a giddiness to their step, I was rather shocked when all three actually requested that the theme park be our vacation destination. I'm really glad we obliged!

Now I have heard many a critic bash Disney for the commercialization of fairy tales, the capitalistic pursuits at the child's expense, etc. etc. (all you need to mention is Jack Zipes in a children's literary criticism course and you'll get an ear full!) - and I get that, I do. Any parent does who has tried to escape the park without purchasing something, from fairy wands to mickey-shaped ice cream bars, they get a hold of that wallet. But despite all that, I have to hand it to Disney. They know how to bring the magic to everyone who visits.

Before we arrived, my 12 year old son was in a bit of a depressed funk. He has been struggling this year with school despite the fact that he is one of the most intelligent kids I know; he'll blow you away with his historical and scientific knowledge and if ever you are lost, you'll want him navigating you. He's like a human compass. But he struggles with getting the work turned in and gets overwhelmed with the amount expected of him sometimes, and he just shuts down rather than push his way through. He's one of the youngest in his class; his classmates are all turning 13, while he only just turned twelve - and he is painfully conscious of his heighth or lack thereof. Rolled all together, you get a kid who rarely smiles. By the end of out first day in the sunshine, not only was he smiling, he was laughing. Disney broke through the glum and found my son again.

My 18 year old too. About to graduate and head to college, she's usually off doing her own thing. It was fun to see her goofing around with her siblings, spinning in the Tea Cups, flying above Neverland, waving at Belle and the Beast, her and her 9 year old sister oohing-and-ahhing at every little girl dressed head to toe in their princess dresses and tiaras.

My husband and I had worried at first when we decided to go because as frequent visitors to Cedar Point, a roller coaster park in Ohio, we knew that the rides at Disney would not compete in thrill-value to those the kids were used to. But they actually had more fun because as my son pointed out, "it's the experience more than the ride." He was right. At Disney, it is about the stories behind each ride; and just like a really good book, the rides let you become a part of that story. You become a part of the magic.

So thank you Disney for helping my family return to those parts of themselves that make them children, for helping them find the magic and the fun, and for reminding me that as I sit down to get back to writing - it is  the experience, the magic, the story that makes a reader love a book. It is what keeps them coming back to it again and again and again no matter how old they are.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Story Behind the Story

I attended the SCBWI NY conference this past weekend and was inspired, as usual, by the awesome speakers. While everyone I heard left something with me, it was Lois Lowry and Linda Sue Park that really resonated with me the most.

Lois Lowry talked about the question so many people ask: Where do you get your ideas? To answer, she shared the "stories" - some funny, some very sad - behind several of her books. It got me thinking about my own writing and the stories that have shaped each one.

Linda Sue Park talked about how sometimes you must take yourself out of your writing, to make it about the work and not about yourself. This too got me thinking about my own writing, specifically my novel Blind Spot, which my agent, Jill Corcoran has begun submitting to publishers. I decided to blog about the story behind Blind Spot, and how I had to take myself out of the equation, to write it.

I'd always been a shy, introverted girl. I had glasses since the first grade but despite yearly upgrades in my prescription, I never really could see with them on. I kind of bumbled around a lot, and always felt stupid and out of it, even though I wasn't stupid. Most of the time I was at the top of my class.

When I was in eighth grade, I had an infection in my eye. Nothing serious. I'd started wearing contacts the year before and due to improper cleaning or eyestrain or whatever, my eye got infected. While sitting in the waiting room, I overheard my mom and the doctor talking about my dad's vision. I knew he didn't see very well either, but I'd never heard any talk of him having an eye disease. As they described how he saw - how he couldn't see things straight on and had to use his peripheral vision instead - I started to get scared.

That's how I saw. Little colored dots moved around in front of my eyes blocking my central vision. I'd had them so long, I'd learned to accommodate by focusing them on something and then using my peripheral to see. I assumed everyone did; I thought that was how everyone saw.

Well it wasn't. I had macular degeneration. They explained my eyes would continue to get worse (like they'd been doing since I was in first grade). They explained I would struggle with reading regular print (which I already did). They explained I probably would never drive a car (which would've been a big deal, except I knew my Dad drove so obviously that wasn't going to happen to me. I didn't realize he'd been driving illegally for years). Basically, from my viewpoint, they were telling me things I'd already been dealing with for years, so besides having a reason now for always bumbling about like an idiot, nothing had changed.

To my private Catholic school, however, things had changed. It was the early eighties. Special education, IEPs, 504 plans, etc. didn't exist - not in Fairbanks, Alaska. We had resource classes. A teacher would come during class and pull out those kids who had trouble reading or doing math to give them extra help. My school hadn't had to deal with a girl who was considered 'legally blind' and in their attempt to accommodate me, they decided I too should be pulled out of class for extra help. Suddenly I was separated from the rest of the class and pooled in with the kids I once upon a time had helped with their reading. I know, looking back, the school was trying to help. But as a freshman in high school who had always been the one excelling in reading, I took it to mean something was wrong with me.

This sudden change, tilt, in my world didn't fair so well with the already insecure, self-conscious introvert that I was. And because of it I made poor choices. Did stupid things. Got myself into trouble. A lot. I wasn't trying to rebel. I was just battling that image of who I thought I was versus who everyone else seemed to want to think I was.

When I decided to write Blind Spot, I wanted to write something that wasn't an issue book. I didn't want to write about a visually impaired girl with macular degeneration and what people with that eye disease go through.


The book I needed to write was about a girl who happened to have a visual impairment. A book about the reality of being a teen coping with something that shapes who you are and who others think you are. I wanted to make what my character went through real, make her pissed off, hurt, ashamed, so wrapped up in her anger that she couldn't see everyone around her, losing friends because she couldn't see the forest through the trees.

I needed to write about the girl who was self-destructive because she thought she was not normal, not worthy, not able. The girl that wanted to love herself but couldn't. The girl that was me.

I found as I began writing, however, that my own story was too close to the one I was writing, and I was struggling. I had a critique with author Jay Asher, 13 Reasons Why, who said he had a similar problem when writing his book. His story, stemming from a suicide in his own family, was very personal and he found it hard to separate himself sometimes too. But separate was what I needed to do because I was limiting my main character, Roz, to my own characteristics; my plot to my own story.

To fix this, I rewrote the novel in third person. Took a while, but the result was worth it. It enabled me to put some distance between myself and Roz. I was able to add to her and to the plot things that needed to be there but I hadn't myself experienced. By the time I was ready to rewrite again in first person, I'd completely severed myself. I had done as Linda Sue Park suggested in her talk. I took myself out of it and focused on the book.

The result?

Blind Spot. The story of sixteen year old Roswell Hart who, because of her macular degeneration, is too wrapped up in her own messed up life to notice what's going on around her. When her classmate Tricia Farni is found dead and Roz was the last person to see her alive, however, Roz needs to know what she missed that awful night by Birch River. Problem is, she doesn't remember, and she must piece together what has happened to find the truth.

So, that's what is behind my novel, and I hope, with any luck, some of you will get to read it someday :)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

To the Love of Story

One of my most favorite things about being a writer and reader of children's books is being able to share and discuss books with my children. I love when they come to my 'library' - the wall-to-wall bookshelves in my home office - looking for a book to read. I love when one of them discovers a book I haven't read yet and tells me I should read it. I love when one of them has a book report to do or simply is looking for a book and asks for my help in finding one - and love even more when they, in turn, recommend that book to a friend. I love that, when I see one of them reading something I know has some issues they may struggle with, that I can facilitate a discussion because I have read the book. But most of all, I love that all three of my children love reading; they love the story that a book promises.

Of all three of my children, my youngest is the most voracious reader. She is also quite a talented writer and I have no doubt she will be a published author someday. The love of story that she and I share is something I cherish. We can spend hours coming up with plots and characters and settings. This past summer we took a family vacation to Boyne Mountain in Northern Michigan. My husband and other two children did a three-hour zip line hike while my youngest and I spent those three hours sitting deep in the woods, writing. My husband thought I was crazy when I suggested it. He suggested swimming at the water park instead because writing in the woods, in his mind, did not rival a three-hour zip line event. When he asked her though, she was adamant about going on our 'retreat'. And I am so glad we did. We both wrote pages and pages of stuff and had an amazing, imaginative time that I will never forget.

At age 9, she amazes me with her perceptive insight into books. She was reading The Witch of Black Bird Pond the other day and commented that "instead of starting in the action like most books" the author took the time to "introduce the main character first." My daughter liked that about the book. Another time she complained that the book she was reading "didn't really have a plot, just random stuff happened." My favorite though was the day she came to breakfast in tears because "Blue Fur said she'd never leave her kittens and then she just took them into the forest and left them!" (from one of the Warriors books.)

She recently told me that she is glad that she has a Mom that is a writer because it helps her be a good writer. :) I love that she said that, but I know I am only a small part of the equation. It is her absolute love of story and the bazillions of authors out there that also share that love of story that has made her and will continue to make her an awesome, perceptive, insightful writer and reader. The love of story is a cyclical thing that has been around for ages. Authors inspire authors who in turn, inspire authors.

So a toast and a thank you to all the authors out there who have inspired us through their love of story!