Monday, March 31, 2014

YAB Spring Bootcamp: Update 4

Hey everyone!

The Golden Heart and RITA nominees were announced last week with very interesting results; some categories have a ton of nominees, others not so many. This is all a result of qualification and scoring changes RWA put into place which has a lot of authors in the romance industry buzzing. I think next year there will be changes to balance out the unintended consequences of changing so much at once. I'm confident and hopeful. We'll see!

This was more of a down week for me since I was recovering from my massive edits over the past few months, and I needed to do some prep work for my current WIP.

I got my hands on conference recordings from RWA Nationals last time they were in NYC (my chapter has a mobile library with writing resources we can check out), and that has been really cool to listen to in place of an audiobook. I've already incorporated some of the writing strategies this week.

Last Week's goals:
  • Review critique group comments on SUNSET SUMMER - done
  • Brainstorm via email with critique group on plot points for SUNSET SUMMER - done
  • Outline ending chapters of SUNSET SUMMER - not complete
  • Revise 2-3 chapters of SUNSET SUMMER - revised one chapter
  • More planning for A to Z challenge posts - done
After my husband read my polished revision of AMELIA, he said he wanted to read my newest draft, which I reminded him is in a very early state. He read it pretty quickly, and had several great ideas for how to expand the end of the story and the ending conflict. I'm grateful he picked up on certain themes I wasn't entirely sure what to do with. His feedback plus some high level stuff from my critique group will help me dive back in to this project!
This Week's Goals:
  • Outline ending chapters for SUNSET SUMMER
  • Write 2-4 new chapters
  • Plan out next draft issues, factors to add in, etc.
  • Complete A to Z blog posts for April

For the rest of you in spring bootcamp, how are you doing?

Friday, March 28, 2014

Taken With You by Shannon Stacey

I'm very excited to host Shannon Stacey's latest contemporary romance release! Follow the tour here.

Taken with You by Shannon Stacey
(Kowalski Family #8) 

Published by: Carina Press
Publication date: March 25th 2014
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Hailey Genest has seen most of her friends marry and have babies, and she’s happy for them, but it was a lot easier before she hit forty. She’s spent her entire life in Whitford, Maine, and if she hasn’t found her Prince Charming by now, she has to accept she’s probably not going to. When a new friend suggests they go on an adventure and embrace being single, Hailey agrees.

Surviving in the woods is game warden Matt Barnett’s idea of a relaxing vacation. But when he meets two women in need of help, he leads them back to safety – a task that proves more fun than expected, thanks to a certain hot blonde. He can’t resist pushing her buttons, even though she’s made it clear that the rugged, outdoorsy type just isn’t for her.

Hailey is glad to see the back of her tempting-tour-guide-slash-pain-in-the-ass. When he shows up in her life again, she’s determined to avoid him, no matter how good he looks in his uniform. But that’s easier said than done in Whitford, especially when he’s renting the house right next door…

Add: Goodreads Purchase: Amazon B&N

Inspiration for Taken With You
I’d known for a long time that Taken With You would be Hailey Genest’s story. She was a secondary character I really enjoyed writing, and I’d had a lot of readers request a book for her. The problem was finding her a hero.  It was different for me to start with a heroine, because the guys usually come to me first. There weren’t really any men in Whitford, Maine, who were right for Hailey (and if there had been, she would have found them by now).
One day last year I was watching an episode of North Woods Law, an Animal Planet reality show that follows the Maine Warden Service, and I realized with the increased ATV traffic in my fictional town, the police department would have a hard time keeping up. As Whitford became known as a four-wheeling destination, they’d need a game warden assigned to the area. 
I knew right away I’d found Hailey’s hero. She was looking for a sophisticated man with style and a romantic soul, who’d take her out on the town so she could dress up and wear her fancy shoes. Matt Barnett loves being outside, has a lucky fishing hat Hailey would like to set on fire, and doesn’t have a sophisticated bone in his body. And the man has a little baggage, having not been good enough for a former flame who wanted a man with more polish, so Hailey’s the last woman on the planet he wants to get involved with. Though the sexual tension sizzled between them, I knew I was in trouble. Opposites might attract, but these two were such opposites, they’d probably avoid each other at all cost. Having them cross paths often would be tough, and even harder would the quality time necessary to start a relationship. So I decided Matt would move in next door to Hailey. Since he’d be working primarily in the Whitford area, it made sense for him to move to town, and the house next door to Hailey just happened to be empty.
Suddenly, I had a story. Matt was everything Hailey shouldn’t want in a man and Hailey was definitely not Matt’s type. Now I could get to work, getting these two characters from an awkward first meeting to happily ever after.

Thank you for inviting me to talk about Taken With You, and happy reading!

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Shannon Stacey lives with her husband and two sons in New England, where her two favorite activities are writing stories of happily ever after and riding her four-wheeler. From May to November, the Stacey family spends their weekends on their ATVs, making loads of muddy laundry to keep Shannon busy when she’s not at her computer. She prefers writing to laundry, however, and considers herself lucky she got to be an author when she grew up.

Tour wide giveaway
Open to US and Canada:
--Print copy of Taken with You
--Bookmark (Taken With You)
--Moose print  on a vintage dictionary

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I hope you add Shannon's book to your Goodreads list or To Be Read pile. I'd love to hear from you: what's your favorite opposites attract story?

Monday, March 24, 2014

Spring Writing Bootcamp Update: Week 3

YA Buccaneers is hosting a Spring Writing Bootcamp to keep up with motivation and writing goals. Follow along on twitter too: #YABBootcamp

Week 3 Accomplishments:
  • Completed AMELIA revision and sent to agent. Yay!!!This was my #1 priority which I'd pushed toward for weeks. Success!
  • Finished critique group materials. Our group was canceled at the last minute, but I sent the critiques out via email and we set a date for next month.
  • I did a plotting project I'd been meaning to try based on an approach by James Scott Bell's Plot & Structure: take a book you have and read and liked, preferably in a genre you write, and write a one-two line summary of each chapter (with scenes) on notecards, with notes on page count and whether the scene is Setup, Action, or Deeping. When you have your card deck, you can go through and piece out the Three Act Structure or note when turning points are, pacing, etc. This is incredibly helpful and I'm going to do this with another book. I took a comparative book to my SUNSET SUMMER project.
  • I planned out posts A - H for next month's A to Z blog challenge and I did some other blogging prepwork--stay tuned for blog tour post this Friday from an awesome romance writer!
This Week's goals:
  • Review critique group comments on SUNSET SUMMER
  • Brainstorm via email with critique group on plot points for SUNSET SUMMER
  • Outline ending chapters of SUNSET SUMMER
  • Revise 2-3 chapters of SUNSET SUMMER
  • More planning for A to Z challenge posts
RWA's Golden Heart nominees are announced this Wednesday. Having two entries in the contest is setting me on edge. I'm trying not to think about it too much. (But I am.) It would be so amazing and incredible to be a finalist in the YA category. I know have as much chance as anyone, but it's a huge contest with a lot of entries and the judging rules have changed yet again. I guess I'll go back to not thinking about it now. :) The Ruby Slippered Sisterhood will be updating on the nominees as they are announced, so check them out.

Friday, March 21, 2014

A to Z Challenge Theme Reveal!

Welcome to the A to Z Blog Challenging Theme Reveal! Starting April 1, one thousand plus bloggers will post every day on a theme of their choosing, beginning with that day's letter of the alphabet. Complicated? No! Fun? Yes!

For 2014, my theme is ... Memorable Characters!

My characters will come from books, TV, and movies. I'll feature what makes the characters interesting or unique and why fans love them (or love to hate them--because you know a few villains will make the list).

Stay tuned in another week for the A to Z Challenge and make sure to visit some of the blogs!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

What's Up Wednesday

Hello, What's Up Wednesday folks! Checking in here:

What I'm Reading

I finished Allegiant, the third book in the Divergent series (right in time for the first movie!). I did not hate the ending as many did. Though, I was not that invested in the series. I tend to like unconventional endings, and I liked this one. I really enjoyed this version on audio book which included one of my favorite narrators.

I most likely will not see Divergent opening weekend because I have plans to see Muppets Most Wanted with my mom. Muppets over dystopia, always.

What I'm Writing

I FINISHED THE REVISION. This would be the second revision from my agent on my WIP tentatively titled AMELIA. I wanted to finish it in February but it was a lot of work to restructure the pacing. I hope it's ready.

Moving forward, I'll continue with my Nano 2013 contemporary YA. My critique group has a chapter of it now. I am going to do some plot work since I got stuck during the draft. I hate plotting but it's obviously necessary. I want to make sure I have a final crisis moment that is worthy enough for the build up I created.
I'm doing Spring Bootcamp, a similar check-in as this one, to keep me motivated!

What Inspires Me Right Now

I just caught up on The Voice. Seeing people who are so driven and talented is super inspiring.

Also, I was looking for older plotting notes and scanned through my writing notebook from 2012. I found a short list of "top agency choices" with Curtis Brown and Bradford Lit included. The agent I signed with worked with Curtis Brown at the time, and a few months later, moved to Bradford. Wow. Funny to see those notes now with agents names I recognize (along with notes on why they rejected my manuscript!).

What Else I've Been Up To

Revisions all the time revisions. I did manage to get out and spend time with friends last weekend. And now my revisions are complete! I shall allow myself to party a bit this weekend when I visit the momz and some friends.

How are you all this Wednesday?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Book Review: Easy by Tammara Weber

image: Goodreads
Tammara Webber
New Adult Contemporary Romance
Published: 2012

The Goodreads blurb misses the mark on this one, reading a bit melodramatic. Easy is a shining example of what the New Adult genre can be, and very grounded and readable given potentially sensitive issues.

First off, props to the cover for actually reflecting the characters in the book. Easy is set in college, where Jacqueline has just been dumped by her high school sweetheart who admits he wants to play the field now that he's a fraternity superstar. He starts out like a real jerk, but his character is revealed to have some layers, which I found interesting.

Fair warning, the book begins with a sexual assault. What sets Easy apart is that the assault is not simply fodder for drama, this is the inciting event that is fully explored through the book. The perpetrator is a friend of Jacqueline's, and her ex-boyfriend's best friend. The secrets surrounding the assault, and how it later is viewed by Jacqueline's friends, the school, herself, and the boy who intervenes are the main drivers of the story. There are a dozen or more places this book could have veered into totally trope-y directions, but instead reveals a clever edge of storytelling that encourages discussion about sexual assault and rape culture without seeming like a lecture.

In reviews of this book, love interest Lucas is heralded as a fan favorite, and I can see why. He's a brooding hottie who is conflicted over his rescue of Jacqueline. He's mysterious but for legit reasons. He is an advocate for assault victims and volunteers time in self defense training (again, for legit reasons). While fighting his own past hurts, he is genuinely invested in Jacqueline's safety and well-being, while also just acting his age and being into her. Jacqueline's roommate is a great addition here, especially with her shifting views of what happened and the decisions she makes going forward.

I was particularly impressed by a scene with some sorority sisters going through how they would deal with the issue given the perpetrator is popular in the Greek system. The discussion the girls have is what we see every day online and in schools; how girls are blamed for "asking for it" by dressing too sexy, or exaggerating details, or other variants where disbelief that a guy so cool/nice/friendly could be capable of violence. It's a necessary discussion, and all it takes is one or two people to stand up for a victim to make a difference.

Easy is not a chore to read; the romance and the friendships keep the story moving despite some heavy material. Webber is a very capable writer with a great storytelling voice and that ability to take something that is difficult to talk about and spin it into a story that is both enjoyable and enlightening. This is one of those books I really hope gets in the hands of older teens and college aged adults, because it has something to say that is very much needed.

Stay tuned in May 2014 for the release of Breakable, the story told in Lucas' point of view.

Have you read Easy or a similar book that deals with these issues?

Monday, March 17, 2014

Spring Writing Bootcamp Update: Week 2

YABuccaneers Spring Writing Bootcamp
Hi everyone! YA Buccaneers is hosting a Spring Writing Bootcamp to keep up with motivation and writing goals. Follow along on twitter too: #YABBootcamp

Week Two Accomplishments:

Thanks to the Bootcamp Bingo this made it easy to see all I'd accomplished.
  •  My reader read through my AMELIA draft and I made all of the easy fixes, while *almost* finishing the larger plot tweak we discussed. These were new changes which my reader identified. I had to change a few scenes to strengthen an existing plot arc which then had a domino effect in subsequent chapters.
  • I prepped my SUNSET SUMMER chapter submission for my critique group.
  • Read 3 out of 4 critique group selections and commented.
  • Attended bi-monthly RWA meeting.
  • Gathered supplies for my Spring Fling charity auction basket.

Plan For This Week:
  • #1 Above all: Complete AMELIA changes and send to agent.
  • Read and comment on last critique.
  • Attend critique group, set date for next month.
  • Incorporate critique feedback into SUNSET SUMMER.
  • Brainstorm plot points to complete SUNSET SUMMER (did not get to this last week).
  • Plan out posts for A to Z blog challenge for April.

 All right bootcampers, how did you do? If you're not in the bootcamp but working on writing, what are your goals for the week?

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Book Review: The Lotus Palace by Jeannie Lin

image: Goodreads
The Lotus Palace
Jeannie Lin
Historical Romance
Published: 2013

 If you're a fan of historical romance, this book is a real treat. It reminded me of Memoirs of a Geisha, though instead of Japan this takes place in Tang dynasty China. The book is set in the world of courtesans, which are similar to geishas in that they are cultured, trained party hosts to the rich business class, and the women often just as oppressed with limited choices.

Yue-ying is maidservant to the courtesans in one of the most popular houses. Bai Huang is a playboy who becomes fascinated by Yue-ling, who is clever and acts stand off-ish toward him when women usually cower in his presence. Yue-ling notices he likes the challenge, and is frustrated by his continued presence. When a courtesan in their community is murdered, both Yue-ying and Bai Huang are questioned, and their paths continue to cross. Bai Huang is keeping secrets and Yue-ying needs to watch out for herself and her own courtesan house above all else. Of course, a simmering, forbidden romance between them lurks.

The historical and cultural details are what make this book such a great read. The details are not laborious, they are intertwined so easily that it shapes the story itself. I've been reading a lot of romance fiction since joining Romance Writers of America, and to be honest, there is only so much Regency-era British nobility I can handle. Ancient China is unique setting and it really adds to the storytelling to offer something different.

The next book in the series, The Jade Temptress, just released in February 2014 (look for ebook deals; I've seen the price vary for both of these books in the past month.)

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

YA Spring Bootcamp Update 1

This post is to share my writing progress updates for the YA Buccaneers' Spring Writing Bootcamp:
  • What did you do last week to work towards your goals?
    • My goal was to get the structure reorganized on my YA contemporary novel AMELIA according to the guidelines my agent and I discussed. 

      After struggling through this revision for a month, on Saturday I finally saw the light! The pacing and structure is much closer to what we are working toward. I also set a goal to write a synopsis with the changes to send to my agent while I clean up the draft for consistency issues and tweaks. I sent it to her Sunday night!
  • How do you feel about your progress?
    • I feel great! This revision was tough. Last time I worked on character development, removing a subplot, and developing new scenes. This time I had to cut the last half of the novel in half while expanding the middle. It was a bit complicated, but one of those things that just had to get messy before it got better.
  • Any changes you'll be making this week?
    • I'll be juggling two projects. A trusted reader is going through AMELIA for consistency and overall impressions. I may send to someone else, though I'm anxious to get the draft back to my agent. I also need to get a new excerpt to my critique group on my other project, my Nano 2013 novel, a YA contemporary SUNSET SUMMER. 
  • What are you excited to work on this week?
    • Last month the critique group suggested I cut or restructure the chapter I sent, so it's not just a matter of pulling out a chapter and handing it over. I want to work on a beat sheet outline now to get the plot more structured, do some general brainstorming about the story. I also need to just get a chapter ready for them, so I will have to prioritize.
      • Get reader fixes in AMELIA
      • Read through AMELIA targeted on specifics (character dev, story flow, inconsistencies)
      • Prep SUNSET SUMMER chapter for critique group
      • Outline a beat sheet for SUNSET SUMMER overall plot* (save for last, time dependent)
Hope to hear from you on your writing goals this week!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Chicago North Spring Fling Conference!

Are you looking for a writing conference to attend this year? Chicago North RWA's Spring Fling is coming April 25-26!

This is the first writing conference I attended back in 2012 (Spring Fling is every other year). Having now been to RWA nationals, Spring Fling is like a smaller version of the big she-bang, and just as worthwhile.

The conference is held at the Chicago Marriott Northwest in the northern Chicago suburbs.

Keynote speakers:

Lauren Dane
Mary Balogh
Kristan Higgins > one of my favorite contemporary romance authors. She's hilarious!

Agent and Editor appointments
Including Laura Bradford, who owns the agency my agent works for. She's wonderful!

Critiques and read-alouds

Each of the keynotes will teach a workshop, plus Sarah Wendell of the Smart Bitches, Trashy Books blog, and more taught by agents, editors, and authors. See the list here.

Silent auction featuring awesome gift baskets
I just may be putting together a themed gift basket from my RWA chapter. It just may involve these guys:

Yes, there will be a Sueprnatural-themed gift basket. I have already heard squees of delight!

I'm looking forward to meeting new writer friends! I hope to see you there.

For more info, check the website, or the Facebook Group, or twitter feed.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

What's Up Wednesday and Insecure Writers Support Group

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly blog hop hosted by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk for writers to connect with each other.

What I'm Reading

Dead After Ever by Charlaine Harris, the final Sookie Stackhouse book (which the TV show True Blood is based on). The reviews are nasty, people are unhappy with how the series ends. I've avoided spoilers but I have the feeling I will not be rage-mad. I could see where this series was heading for awhile. The last few books have been inconsistent, and feature a lot of characters just dropping in to say hi for no real reason, which is bizarre. The beginning of the series was so fast-paced that the filler in the later books is really noticeable.

The Lotus Palace by Jeannie Lin, which is a romance set in Tang Dynasty China. It's really good, even if you aren't typically into romance. With the courtesan culture it reminds me a lot of Memoirs of a Geisha, though this is obviously set in China and not Japan.

Allegiant by Veronica Roth, listening to the audio book version. The reader for Tris is one of my favorites (I've apparently listened to enough audio books to recognize the readers.)

What I'm Writing

I'd hoped to be finished with my current revisions but ... nope. I have several more weeks of work to do. I'm planning to write a synopsis of my changes to send to my agent, but I still have to assemble more of my patchwork re-org before that's ready. The manuscript is in a state of controlled chaos at the moment.

I just signed up for the YA Buccaneers' Spring Writing Bootcamp to continue on with writing goals. Check it out here!

What Influences Me Right Now

I finished Leila Sales' This Song Will Save Your Life in one day (strangely enough, I read her other book Past Perfect in one day also). Some of the internal reflection in the book inspired me to shape a few scenes in my WIP differently. You hear so much hate on backstory, but when you read a book where it's done well, that's inspiring. The trick seems to be to delay backstory details until further in (50 pages is a rule I've seen but I've seen authors violate this and I'm OK with it), and to add them in slowly and with purpose. I don't mind flashbacks but for me they need to happen after I'm already established with the current story.

What Else I've Been Up To

Beyond writing and work, I've been back to the gym more consistently (thanks to other Writer Recharge writers who added exercise into their monthly goal!).

All the TV shows came back this week after the Olympics ended. The Hubz and I watched our favorites (Supernatural, Justified, Community, Parks and Rec). We also watched season 3 of Game of Thrones on DVD. *sigh* I have a love/hate with that show. It requires another post.

And finally, Hannibal is back. Hannibal is an amazing show, I'm so glad a friend suggested we catch up with the first season. I can't recommend it for everyone because it's DARK. I pitched it to a friend as Dexter if produced like an indie film, minus any comic relief. So yeah, it's intense. But really, really good.

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. I encourage everyone to visit at least a dozen new blogs and leave a comment. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs.
Patience, I do not have.

Well, if I do, it's forced. I'm antsy. I'm working as hard and as fast as I can given my full time job, keeping a marginally clean household, getting minimal exercise, and oh yeah, paying attention to the other person I've committed my life to (Hi, honey!)

I want to be further along in my revisions. This is a second full revision, and probably the 4th? draft of my current novel. I've worked in feedback from a few readers, and this is my second go-round with my agent. I'm not complaining about the work itself, itt's just this particular revision requires restructuring the whole story, moving parts around, expanding sections that were underdeveloped, shortening what I did focus on. This all takes time.

I want a book published. This is what drives me. I'm so close I can smell it! But it takes time. Even with a book deal, it will be another year and a half before the book is out.

Over and over, I hear publishing is a long game. Debut authors often struggle. Until you have 2, 3 or more books out, it's going to be a waiting game.

No wonder patience is a virtue.

How do you deal with impatience? Please leave a comment, I'd love to hear from you!

Please visit the other IWSG blogs either tagged on twitter or from the link provided.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Spring Writing Bootcamp

Now that February's Writer Recharge is finished, I'm off to another writing accountability blog challenge hosted by the YA Buccanneers (don't you love the name?). Click here to sign up

Here are some basics: 


For the next three months, we're challenging you to set writing goals and stick to them. To help you out, we're putting together accountability teams, inspiring and informative blog posts on writing and revising, and PRIZES to help keep you motivated! 


The Spring Writing Bootcamp starts today, March 3rd, 2014 and will run until May 31st, 2014.

Start by answering the questions at the post, and share your goals for the bootcamp on your blog. We'll have weekly check-ins on Mondays, where you can link to your blog post with your goal status. 
On Twitter, use #YABbootcamp to connect with other participants, find writing buddies (and start Word Sprints!), or to share your Spring Writing Bootcamp-related blog posts. 
  1. Will you be participating in our Spring Writing Bootcamp? 
  2. If yes, what will you be working on: drafting, revisions, or both? Feel free to share a little about your project, too. :)
  3. If you're joining us, would you like to join an accountability team?
We'll announce the first teams on Friday, March 7th, so comment by Thursday, March 6th if you'd like to be assigned to a team.

My goals for Spring Bootcamp, which covers March, April, and May:

  • Complete revision of AMELIA (YA contemporary), including a synopsis to send to my agent. (These are agent revisions I am working on.)
  • Complete 2nd draft of SUNSET SUMMER (YA contemporary written during NaNoWriMo 2013). 
  • Write synopsis and send synopsis to agent for review.
  • Send SUNSET SUMMER to readers.
  • Potentially work on an outline and character development for a new project.

#WriterRecharge: Last Post

Here's my Writer Recharge wrap-up post! (A day late due to Blogger issues yesterday.)

For February I reached most of my specific goals BUT I did not finish my revision as I had hoped. (It might have been ambitious to think I would, but oh well.)

Here are my original goals:
  1. Read and score all of my Golden Heart judging entries (I need to do this!).
  2. Get through draft 2 of Nano novel SUNSET SUMMER. Write an ending.
  3. Organize notes for draft 3 for a targeted approach at changes (draft 2 is not very organized!).
  4. Submit next chapter of SUNSET SUMMER for critique group; work in changes.
  5. Potentially work in updates to AMELIA (which Agent currently has).
I completed all of the Golden Heart entries by the deadline. The judging does not go into as much depth as my RWA chapter's contest, but after 2 years of judging that, I think I have a good handle on what to look for in contest entries. I like to provide comments though, and the GH doesn't allow for that--it's literally just numbers. I read a few really great entries that got me excited for the writers.

I did not get my goals accomplished for SUNSET SUMMER (Nano novel 2013) because my agent provided notes on my other project (working title: AMELIA).

Next set of goals:
  1. Cut first chapter (!); make sure Ch. 2 works as opener. Edit opening two chapters based on notes from my Opening Scenes course.
  2. Work in the other proposed changes; expanding some scenes, cutting others.
  3. Re-organize the pacing of the novel.
  4. Reduce overall word count by 6-7k words; first step is to review structure of novel and cut or reduce length of scenes toward end of book. Closer edit:, reduce filler info, reduce secondary character subplot that take away from MC's subplot.
I have cut 4k + words, added more, cut more, rinse and repeat. I'm still working with the structure which means Part 2 needs more wordcount while Part 3 needs less (these are parts specific to my story and not the Three Act Structure). I'm mainly working to re-purpose scenes that happen later in the book to move them up within a new context, so as you tell, this is taking some time.

Thank you to Sara Biren for organizing, and to the other blog hosts:  Katy UppermanAlison MillerLiz Parker, and Elodie Nowodazkij