Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Holiday giveaway!

Hi friends!

It's holiday time! And is there a better gift than a personalized, autographed book to your favorite reader?

Actually, there is.

How about a personalized, autographed book to your favorite reader, PLUS an adorable necklace... just like the one that Ruby wears in that very same personalized, autographed book?!

Anyone who buys a copy of RUBY REINVENTED between now and December 15 will receive the following from me:

  • a personalized, signed bookplate that you can affix to the book

  • This 18K white gold plated cubic zirconia ruby-colored pendant with necklace chain:

All you have to do is send the following 3 things to me at

  1. a copy of the receipt (take a photo with your phone of the old-fashioned store kind, or forward me an email from an online source like Amazon)

  2. the name of the person receiving the gift

  3. your mailing address

That's it! I'll send you the signed bookplate and the necklace as soon as I get your email.

BUT WAIT! There's more! (Please read this in your best infomercial announcer voice.)

If you buy either 1 hardcover or 2 paperbacks, you'll also get a pocket sketchbook (also used by characters in the book), exactly like this one:

One of my favorite parts of being an author is getting kids excited about books and reading, and it's my hope that these gifts will do just that for the tween in your life.

Thanks for stopping by. I wish you a healthy & happy holiday season filled with love, laughter, and books!


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Write Time

A few days ago, I had a major breakthrough for a story idea. With two middle-grade books coming out in the next couple of years, I thought I’d dabble in YA, just for a change of pace. Problem was, I couldn’t come up with a good hook. I pondered ideas for months. And months. And then it came to me. I raced to my computer and wrote the query. I know, I’m backwards. But I find writing the query first helps me to identify the stakes, the conflict, and the hook more clearly. Then I can dig in and write the first chapter. Which, I did, because I was so excited and just couldn’t wait! This isn’t such a big deal, of course. All writers do this sort of thing. Except that the timing stinks worse than my house (more on this below*). So why is the timing particularly bad? 1) We’re moving 400 miles away tomorrow.
2) I’m consulting for 3 different companies, all of which are in high season.
3) We’re moving 400 miles away tomorrow.
4) My dog just tussled with a skunk. *
5) We’re moving 400 miles away tomorrow.
6) I’m a Pitch Wars mentor with lots of intriguing submissions to read.
7) We’re moving 400 miles away tomorrow.
8) I have a husband, 2 kids, 1 cat, and one very smelly dog.
9) We’re moving 400 miles away tomorrow. Do you see a theme?
There’s lots going on right now! All great things (except for the skunk), but keeping me busy nonetheless. As writers, what can we do to keep the creative vibe alive while we spend most of our time on the rest of our lives? Here are a few suggestions that may help: 1) Use mindless tasks as brainstorming sessions. I think of my best story ideas in the shower, while walking my dog, or while driving. Although I’m not actually writing during these times, I’m plotting, and that’s just as important. And bonus: I’m clean, exercising, or getting somewhere! 2) Determine if you’re a morning person, a night person, or another-time-of-day person. My husband does his best thinking at night. He also is impossibly strong and shimmers in the sunshine, so it’s possible that instead of a night person, he’s actually a vampire. Many of my writer friends are early morning risers (hence the #5amwriters club), but since it’s not even light out at 5 am, I’m forbidden by my brain for joining them. I’m another-time-of-day person. I still haven’t figured out what time that is, but I do know that it varies from day to day. Whenever I have a break in my calendar, I sit at my computer and write. It’s not a set time, but it works for me. 3) Use your time wisely. This isn’t always easy. It’s so easy to get sucked in to any number of things that are not on our “To Do” list. A few things that get me are Facebook, Twitter, tv, and cleaning skunk off my dog. But when I focus on my story, I find I’m inspired to write, and those other things naturally take a back seat. 4) Find a motivated critique partner to keep you accountable. Preferably one that carries a whip. 5) Give yourself a break. Sometimes, you really are too busy and writing may have to wait longer than you’d like. That’s happened to me more times than I can count. But you’ll get there. And in the meantime, keep thinking, plotting, and most importantly, keep your dog away from skunks.

Friday, August 1, 2014

I'm a Pitch Wars Mentor (aka Pitch Wars bio)!

Pitch Wars is here! Who’s ready to rumble?

I’m thrilled to be a mentor for this legendary event! I know you have lots of terrific mentors to choose from, but how many of them wake up with hair this spectacular?


Real name: Ronni Arno Blaisdell

Pen name: Ronni Arno (because apparently there are 17,265 incorrect ways to spell and pronounce “Blaisdell”) Categories: MG Genres: Contemporary, Magical Realism, Light Fantasy

My debut novel, RENEE REINVENTED, comes out from Simon & Schuster/Aladdin in Fall 2015. A second middle-grade contemporary, tentatively titled POPPY SEEDS, publishes with Simon & Schuster/Aladdin in Summer 2016. I’m repped by the truly amazing Sarah Davies of Greenhouse Literary.
When I’m not writing, you can find me stalking my kids for story ideas. I often volunteer to drive my children and their friends to pretty much anywhere in the continental US (longer car rides = more time to eavesdrop). I like to kayak and eat chocolate. Oh, there’s also a day job. I’m a marketing PR, and events consultant. WHAT I LOVE:

I tend to gravitate toward middle-grade and young YA. Perhaps that’s because, on any given day, I am mentally between the ages of 11 and 15. I’d love to read a smart story with any (or all) of the following:
  • a strong hook
  • some humorous elements  (but not over-the-top)
  • realistic dialogue
  • heart (I want to laugh! I want to cry! I want to feel all the feels!)
My own work tends to be on the lighter side, but I always add poignant undertones. That will be an important element for me. I adore slightly quirky and very spunky characters who find themselves in unique predicaments. Let’s be honest… tweens and young teens are absolutely outrageous. I love their sense of humor, I love their irrational motivation, and I especially love the heartfelt ways they try to be both individuals, and part of the crowd. If you’ve got characters like that, I want to meet them!  What sucks me in the most, of course, is VOICE! If you’ve got it, I want to read it! WHAT I DON'T LOVE:

I don’t like to be grossed out, so horror is usually not for me. Although I adore reading intense, brooding, and dark YA, I’m probably not the best at critiquing that type of thing. WHY YOU SHOULD PICK ME (besides the hair, I mean...):

  1. I read. A lot. I write. A lot. I figure some of that reading and writing has seeped into my brain and helped me to become a decent beta-reader. 
  2. And speaking of beta-readers, I read dozens and dozens of manuscripts! I am lucky enough to be a part of the most spectacular critique group on the interwebz, MG Beta Readers. This group is filled with brilliant writers and all-around talented people. We critique each other’s work, we help each other grow as writers, and we blog at Kidliterati. We laugh at each other’s jokes. Or sometimes, we laugh at our own jokes. Many of my CP's and friends have found agents, and many have gotten book deals. While I'm sure this isn't because of my mad skills, I read lots of great manuscripts and because of that, have a pretty good idea of what agents are looking for. 
  3. I entered both #PitMad and #PitchMas last year, and received a whole bunch of requests from them. I can help you do the same!
  4. As a marketing and PR professional, I know what sells! There are few things I like doing more than writing query letters. Weird, I know. Often I write my query letter before I write the actual manuscript… that’s how much I like writing query letters. There may be a self-help group for this. I should find out. But in the meantime, give me my fix! I’ll help you perfect your pitch and find your niche!
  5. Did I mention I like to rhyme?
  6. Spelling and punctuation mistakes leap off the page. I’ll catch those buggers and make them pay. Or, at least, I’ll point them out to you.


Long walks on the beach, boxes of the finest dark chocolate, and a fun and fruitful writing experience. Besides that...

The most important thing in looking to improve your manuscript is to keep an open mind. I know how hard it is to put your work out there. 


But, as I’ve learned, beta readers make your work better. I’m a kind and thoughtful person (unless you try to eat my chocolate, in which case we’ll have words). I’ll give you my honest opinion in the nicest way possible. But I’ll always be honest. I only ask that you keep an open mind. At the end of the day, it’s your story, and hopefully what I say will resonate with you and make your manuscript that much better. For more information and how to submit your entries, please visit

And be sure to check out all the incredible mentors!

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Thanks for stopping by, and I hope to see you and your fabulous submissions soon!

Monday, May 5, 2014

My Writing Process

Thanks to Melanie Conklin for tagging me in this super-fun blog hop about the writing process. If you don’t know Mel, you’re missing out. Her brilliant debut COUNTING THYME comes out in early 2016 from Putnam. Check her out HERE.
Now, onto the Q&A...
What am I working on?

Right now, I’m working on my second novel for SIMON & SCHUSTER/ALADDIN. I could tell you more, but then I'd have to swear you to secrecy until Summer 2016 when the book is scheduled to come out, and really... who among us can keep a secret for that long?

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I write middle grade, and while my stories tend to be on the light side, I always add poignant undertones. I hope to make you simultaneously laugh and weep (but only a little). My voice naturally gravitates toward authentic tween (probably because my brain thinks like a 12-year-old, which would explain my utter confusion of anything above a 6th grade math curriculum), and, like most real-life tweens, my characters are multi-dimensional, complicated, and vulnerable. I never dumb down my writing thinking that middle-graders won’t get it. They always get it.

Here's what you might look like while reading one of my books:

Why do I write what I do?

I think I may have a few unresolved issues from my middle-school years! Although I’m all grown up now, I still remember what it feels like to be that age. The insecurities, the loneliness, the anticipation of a better life and the excitement to go live it. I think it also helps that I have kids in that age group, and in creating stories I’m also relating to my children. Plus, I stalk them when they’re with their friends so I can truly know what makes tweens tick these days.

How does your writing process work?

I’m pretty much a go-with-the-flow kind of gal. I’m not particularly organized, and most of what I do in life is based on gut instinct. My writing is no different. I often write on the couch rather than at my desk, and although I have a general idea of my plot, conflict, and resolution, I don’t outline. My characters usually have minds of their own and even if I think I know what state they’re supposed to be in, they sometimes wind up on a completely different continent altogether. When I'm in the writing groove, I look a little like this:

But since I have a day job and a family, I don't always look like that. Sometimes I look like this:

I write as often as I can, and when too much time goes by I truly miss my characters and yearn to tell their stories. Plus, since my kids read my chapters as I write them, they prod me to write faster. I’m working on that!

For more on my writing process, please visit my Greenhouse Literary Agency’s Author Q&A page!
Now, please join me in welcoming the following fabulous writers, who will share their writing process with you on Monday, May 12...

Karen Lee Hallam

Karen writes whenever and what ever she can-can. So far: MG, YA, and presently drafting a possible NA. Karen created and hosts the weekly Open Vocal Jazz Jam Session at Zinc Bar in NYC. She's a singer/songwriter, the mother of two teen-age boys, an illustrator, a member of SCBWI, and a contributor to The Kidliterati Blog. And. . . she eats dark chocolate EVERY DAY!

Visit Karen's blog HERE.

Dana Edwards
Wife, mother, school counselor, teacher, and lover of baseball. Dana spends her days as a school counselor to 4th-8th graders and her nights writing books she hopes they'll someday read and enjoy. She's represented by Tricia Lawrence of Erin Murphy Literary Agency.

Visit Dana's blog HERE.

Rachel Simon
Rachel is a 25-year-old YA writer. When she's not writing or reading, she enjoys going to the movies and traveling. She writes super dark YA, but unlike her characters she's never committed a crime or slept with her sister's boyfriend. She lives in Boston and runs a monthly writers/agents meet up. 

Visit Rachel's blog HERE.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Book(s) Announcement!

This happy dance is dedicated to the 2-book deal I recently got with Simon & Schuster/Aladdin!

There’s a real announcement and everything!

I’m floating, friends. This is a dream come true. When I started seriously writing two years ago, I could only imagine that I would actually get something published. The process has been such a roller coaster ride, but worth every single dip and dive. We had interest from several houses, which left me wide-eyed and amazed. The fact that other people-- people who really know books--like something I wrote, is mind-blowing to me. And the fact that I’ll be able to share my stories with young readers is what this journey is all about.

The submission process should have been nerve-wracking, but it wasn’t too bad. Luckily, it was pretty speedy, thanks to my wonder-woman agent, Sarah Davies. The offer came in while she was on vacation overseas, but she never stopped working for me (While on vacation! Overseas!)... She's a true professional, a fabulous person, and I am eternally grateful that she pulled me out of the slush pile.

I can’t tell you how excited I am to be working with Alyson Heller of Aladdin. She is so welcoming and wise and wonderful. She loves sweet middle grade with heart (and yay… that’s what I love to write), and, what’s more… she’s a fellow chocoholic! 

As if it couldn’t get any better, I’m now publishing house sisters with my brilliant CP’s Jen Malone and Gail Nall. Look for us out on tour together someday!

For more on my writing process, check out my Author Q&A on The Greenhouse Literary Agency’s website. And while you’re there, visit all the talented Greenhouse authors!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

How I Met Your Mother and Broke Millions of Viewer's Hearts

I loved How I Met Your Mother.

The characters were charming, the writing was smart, and the storyline compelling.

And that’s why I wish I never watched the last episode.

It’s been almost a week since the blow that was the HIMYM finale left me sobbing on the floor. But the reasons may surprise you...

Did I want a happy ending? Of course! HIMYM was, at it’s core, a sitcom. We watch sitcoms to feel good, and while certainly the best ones have a touch of poignancy, we watch these types of shows to leave the stress and drama of our daily lives and feel happy. If we want “real-life,” we’ll watch one of the million shows that specialize in heartbreak like death, divorce, and stalkers.

But that wasn’t my biggest problem with HIMYM’s final episode.

Did I want Barney and Robin to go the distance? Of course! While they were both dangerously flawed characters, they were adorable. Only Neil Patrick Harris could have made Barney Stinson the inappropriate, broken, loveable man-boy that he was. And while my feelings for Robin weren’t as consistent, I always found her entertaining. As a couple, Barney and Robin grew together, and the fact that they experienced so many dysfunctional years leading up to their marriage was a testament to the fact that they were both willing to be vulnerable… eventually. Getting divorced so soon seemed to be a relationship cop-out.

But that wasn’t my biggest problem with HIMYM’s final episode.

Did I want Ted’s true love to last forever? Of course! Even though there were hundreds of times where I wanted to shake him for 1) falling in love like a Disney princess, 2) chasing after someone who obviously didn’t love him back, and 3) calling himself Teddy Westside. But still… I was routing for him. I wanted him to fall in love (with someone--anyone--other than Robin). And then when we met the mother, I fell in love. With her. She was perfect. Smart, pretty but not in that I’m-so-hot-and-you’re-so-not kind of way, funny, talented, and thoughtful. I was just so happy for them both. *wipes away tears* And then, poof. She’s gone. Dead. Without so much as an explanation.

But even that wasn’t my biggest problem with HIMYM’s final episode.

My biggest problem with HIMYM’s final episode was that too many of the characters didn’t grow, at least not enough. If there’s one thing I’ve learned as a writer, it’s that characters need to grow. The characters who start the book aren’t the same characters who end the book. And that’s the point.

Marshall and Lily evolved during the course of nine seasons, and for that I am grateful. Sure, they’re the self-proclaimed “perfect couple,” but we saw that it took some work to actually keep that title. After all, it’s harder to maintain a long-term relationship than it is to jump from one love to the next. So kudos to them.

Barney went right back to his womanizing ways as soon as his marriage ended (see The Playbook II). Did he learn nothing from his many years with Robin? I was delighted that Barney finally evolved after meeting his child, but by then there were only five minutes left in the series, so…

Ted was a love-at-first-sight romantic fool from Day 1. He spent years chasing Robin, who never quite cared enough. At some point, a maturing individual stops obsessing about people who don’t love them back. Not Ted. And even after the years he spent sharing mutual love with his wife, he still went foolishly back to Robin. Some would call that coming full-circle. I call that regressing.

As we now know, the ending was decided upon in the very first season. The concept was great. Romantic. Fateful. A fabulous idea... if nothing had happened in between Seasons 1 and 9.

But as all writers know, even if we think we know where a story is heading, sometimes it surprises us. Sometimes characters take on minds of their own and where we thought they were headed is miles away from where they actually wind up. This made the ending of HIMYM seem forced, rushed, and, well… wrong. The characters didn’t quite go where they were instructed to go. And because of that, we were robbed of their true journeys.

Don’t get me wrong. I still think the writers are brilliant. But sometimes, we writers have to let go of what we think will be the perfect ending, and let the characters guide us to those forever-final words. 

My perfect ending? Barney has his “Perfect Month,” meets his baby, realizes that he was an immature, insecure mess, and begs Robin’s forgiveness. Robin, because she has evolved to realize that she and Barney had a connection that she didn’t share with Ted or anyone else, dares to jump without a net and give him another chance. And as for Ted? He lives happily ever after with his very alive wife, and, after he’s done with his “How I Met Your Mother” story, his kids slap him upside the head for acting like such a pathetic, desperate loser for all those years.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Life Lessons and Sanitary Napkins

I'm going to get a little personal here. It's okay. We're all friends.

Last week I stopped at the health food store for some things. I picked up bananas, a few avocados, and a package of frozen berries. I knew I needed some sanitary napkins, but I couldn’t find them, and figured the store didn’t sell them. I’d have to make a separate trip to the pharmacy.

My 11-year-old daughter and I went to the back of the very long line. As we’re standing there, I spot the sanitary napkins, next to the toilet paper, at the very tippy top of a shelf near the register.

“Oh, there are the pads,” I say to my daughter. “Way up there.”

“Didn’t you say you needed those,” she asks.

“Yes,” I answer. “But they’re way up high. I don’t think I can reach them. We’ll just stop at the pharmacy.”

“Try to reach them. Or just ask someone,” she says.

I look around. The only people nearby are:

1) The teenage boy working the cash register
2) The very short woman behind the deli counter
3) The elderly couple looking at the veggie burgers in the freezer

I am not a shy person. But for some reason, I just can’t picture myself asking any of these people to get the sanitary napkins down from the top shelf for me.

“I don’t want to ask anyone,” I say to my daughter. “We’ll stop at the pharmacy.”

And then she gives me a look that I’ve never seen on her face before… But it’s a look I have given her many times.

It’s the "You’ve got to be kidding me” look. You know the one. Head cocked. Eyebrows raised.  Arms crossed.

“What?” I ask. “It’s embarrassing.”

“I can’t believe you’re going to let that stop you from getting something you want,” she says.

And then I look down at myself to be sure we haven’t switched bodies.

We haven’t.

I freeze. My mind goes absolutely blank for a second, and then this thought flashes across my brain like a news flash: THIS IS A LIFE LESSON FOR YOUR DAUGHTER!

If I don’t get what I need, then I’m teaching her some very bad things:

1) Don’t ask for what you want.
2) It’s better to go out of your way than be embarrassed.
3) You should care what other people think of you.


I look at her. Her head is still cocked, her eyebrows still raised, her arms still crossed.

I look at the sanitary napkins.

I look back at her.

“I’ll be right back,” I say. “Hold our place in line.”

And as she’s watching me, I march over the the shelf with the sanitary napkins, stand on my tiptoes, and amazingly enough, I can just reach. I grab a pack, and head back to join my daughter in line. I’m smiling like an idiot.

“See, you did it,” she says to me.

“This is a good lesson,” I tell her. “It’s important to go for what you want, even if it’s embarrassing.”

She rolls her eyes.

And even though it was just a box of sanitary napkins, I hope she translates the experience to everything she does in her life. And I hope I do, too.

I remember how scary it was to share my first manuscript with my critique group, to dive into a big pile of revisions, to send that first query letter to an agent. But if I hadn’t done those things, I would never have gotten what I needed… and I need to write.

So the next time you let embarrassment stop you from getting something you need, remember the sanitary napkins.

And then reach way up high, and go get 'em.