The Tomorrow Prize Winners



Here is the winner of the Tomorrow Prize, Matilda Berke, a high school junior, for her amazing short story ROCKSTAR. I predict great things for this very gifted writer.


These are the four talented finalists and the actors who read their wonderful stories at the presentation yesterday at the Acme Theater in Hollywood. If you watch American Idol or The Voice, you know that anyone who makes it to the finals is truly a winner. So much talent here, it was very challenging judging this competition. If you are a high school student in Los Angeles County, enter next year, it’s free.


This contest is part of where you can see one-act plays until May 29th. For more details on any of this, see this page.

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Judging the Tomorrow Prize

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Click on the photo above to see it larger. I’m one of the final judges for The Tomorrow Prize for short science fiction written by students. The winner not only wins prizes but their school also benefits. All winners will be announced at a presentation and performance in May. So excited for the young talent. Remember, if you’ve learned anything from watching The Voice and Idol, it’s that success can come to the runner’s up!

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BinderConLA 2016 at UCLA




Gillian G., a very talented illustrator, did these while watching our panel. I can’t believe someone can do that — amazing. Her link is at the end.


I purposely left off any reference to Callie’s hair color so readers could imagine themselves in her shoes. But I intentionally wanted to make the rental bodies diverse, so I created Raj, Briona and Lee.




Our selfie after it was over. We all agreed this was a special panel – we all clicked so well.


The last keynote with firecracker Jenny Lumet and warm and funny Effie Brown.

Bindercon is quite amazing. If you don’t have the funds to come, write them and apply for a scholarship, even if you’re working. I met some terrific scholarship attendees.

Signed copies of Starters and Enders are at Stories Books and Cafe in Echo Park. Check them out, have a cappuccino and browse books. Treasure every bookstore we have. And see Gillian G.’s clever graphic notes for more Bindercon keynotes and panels here. 


Last weird thing: I wore my name tag around my neck, which had my name correctly on it. When I got home, I found this extra name tag in my goody bag. My alter ego? I’ll take it!

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I’ll be at BinderconLA this weekend on the YA panel


I am in the writing cave, working on a new, secret project that I’m excited about. It’s not a Starters book, but something new. However, I was asked to be on the “Tense and Sensibility” Panel, “Ways to Tackle Tragedy in Young Adult Literature” at BinderconLA. With a title like that, how could I refuse? It’s the only YA panel at this special convention where the focus is on women helping women so I crawled out of my writing cave for this good cause.

LA Weekly gave our panel a nice shout-out here. 


Our moderator is Lilliam Rivera (the upcoming The Education of Margo Sanchez) and the panel was her brain-child. I’ll be with the amazing authors Brandy Colbert (Pointe) and Elizabeth Ross (Belle Epoque) and Isabel Quintero (Gabi, A Girl in Pieces) and we’ll talk about writing and publishing and diversity and all kinds of things.  If you’re signed up for this conference, don’t miss us. I look forward to meeting lots of smart, motivated writers this weekend, so please don’t hesitate to say hi to me either at the panel or at the events.

Click here for more info. 

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A Master Class with John Sayles: Writer, Director


The WGA Foundation presented a Master Class today with John Sayles, shown here with moderator and writer Josh Olson (History of Violence). Sayles is known for his many indie films that he wrote and directed with funds from writing Hollywood screenplays. He impressed us all with his intelligence and openness. He discussed how he got his start by writing novels and then transitioned to screenwriting for Roger Corman. He tends to write quickly, doing a first draft of a screenplay in two weeks. He shared some tricks that I’m going to try and if they work for me, I’ll share in my next workshop.


Actor Vincent Spano joins in at the end to tell a couple of on-set stories where Sayles took care of his actor. One involved Vincent crashing the camera car (he was a New Yorker who had never driven before). Sayles – instead of yelling at him – told him a story how he once crashed a rental car before he even got out of the parking lot.

I’ve been in the writing cave, but this was well worth a couple of hours away from the computer.

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If You’re Near the OC…

If you’re near Orange County next Tuesday night, I’m breaking out of my writing cave to be at the Barnes & Noble in Huntington Beach. I was at this pretty location a couple of years ago, talking about Starters to a great crowd. This time I’ll be talking about SYMPTOMS OF BEING HUMAN, an amazing YA debut by my friend Jeff Garvin, published by Harper Collins.

Come join us at 7 pm to listen to me rave about Jeff, hear him talk (he’s an ex-child actor and ex-rock singer), win some door prizes and score great swag. I love this book so much, I gave it this blurb:

“With a main character who truly deserves to be called unique, combined with heartbreak and triumphs that are universal, this unforgettable book made me laugh, and also cry. Garvin’s powerful new voice rocks!”


The first thing you’re going to want to know about me is: Am I a boy, or am I a girl?

Riley Cavanaugh is many things: Punk rock. Snarky. Rebellious. And gender fluid. Some days Riley identifies as a boy, and others as a girl. The thing is . . . Riley isn’t exactly out yet. And between starting a new school and having a congressman father running for reelection in uber-conservative Orange County, the pressure—media and otherwise—is building up in Riley’s so-called “normal” life.

On the advice of a therapist, Riley starts an anonymous blog to vent those pent-up feelings and tell the truth of what it’s REALLY like to be a gender-fluid teenager. But just as Riley’s starting to settle in at school—even developing feelings for a mysterious outcast—the blog goes viral, and an unnamed commenter discovers Riley’s real identity, threatening exposure. Riley must make a choice: walk away from what the blog has created—a lifeline, new friends, a cause to believe in—or stand up, come out, and risk everything.

*If you think I’m biased, note this book already has two starred reviews from the big dogs. For fans of John Green and Rainbow Rowell, you’ll want to read this before everyone starts talking about it.

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STARTERS and ENDERS Publishes in Thailand!


I’m happy to announce that both books published recently in Thailand! starter-ender_final

I LOVE these covers!enders

The design is so clever – when you put the books together, it forms this landscape. Smart, eh?starter-ender_finalI visited Thailand several years before I was published, and it’s a wonderful place. The food of course, is terrific, but so are the people. It would be great to return now that I have the books there.

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La Jolla Writer’s Conference 2015 Wrap up


A really great year at the LJWC! Here’s bestselling author Andrew Peterson and I team teaching “The Villain Drives the Story.” This was so much fun. I’ve never done a PowerPoint presentation with another author like this before, but it was a big success with a lot of positive feedback.  The students loved hearing a male and female point of view on this topic and it was fun for us presenting with another teacher.

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I also loved teaching a writing workshop. I believe this is the first time I’ve done it with adults, and I was thrilled that everyone was fully committed. Our students come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences and they were all eager to learn. I was impressed with the bravery of many; some rewrote their work and chose to share it — each time, it was so much better.


My Query workshop is always packed and popular. Over a little less than two hours, I teach them what a query really should look like. I asked my friend and author Jeff Garvin to find me some very recent queries because looking at one from ten years ago is not always as helpful. After they saw how queries should be written, some of them wrote theirs in class. Others volunteered to project theirs for the class to comment on.

What I love about this workshop is that everyone walks out with a better query than they had before. And sometimes we can find weak spots in their story that needs to be addressed. It’s so valuable to have a roomful of minds all focused on your work in a safe, supportive atmosphere. As I always tell them, you want to make your mistakes in this room, not out there in the publishing world.

LJWC 2015 My college students

My college crew. Some of them did a private read and critique with me and they are all writing SFF. I suggested they form their own email critique group because they’re around the same level and I thought their personalities would click — and they’re all very tall! Can’t wait to see them next year and see their growth.

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CLA Conference

LissaCLAPasadena2015I enjoyed meeting librarians and seeing my fellow YA and MG authors at the CLA signing last week. I was sitting next to two terrific writers, Sherri Smith and Catherine Linka. 

The poster below me is the Thai version of Starters next to Enders in the poster. Don’t you love those covers? They just published in Thailand.




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La Jolla Writer’s Conference 2015

Immediately after the CLA conference signing, I am heading down to the 15th annual LJWC. You may remember I gave a keynote there last year. I love seeing many of the returning students and meeting new ones. This year I’m teaching my Query 911 again, where I discuss recent successful queries that some wonderful debut authors have generously shared with me and then everyone writes and discusses their own queries. The entire class helps them rewrite so everyone walks out with a query that’s professional and not boring!


I’ll also do a YA lecture and this year I’ll share my Power Point presentation that I give to schools. For the first time I’m doing a 2 hour writing workshop – very excited about that. I always make sharing optional because I want to make the space for the introverted writer.


And I’m team-teaching a presentation on The Villain Drives the Story with bestselling adult fiction author Andrew Peterson. This is going to be a great year.

There will be agents, publicists, authors at this intimate conference with a nice low faculty-to-student ratio. You can do a one-day registration, or come for the weekend in beautiful La Jolla, by the sea. Scott McEwen is one of the keynoters this year (American Sniper) and all genres are represented by top authors.

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