Posts Tagged ‘My Best Everything by Sarah Tomp’







I’ve competed before but this year I am delighted to be a host and participant of the best one yet! There are SIX teams this year – I am part of TEAM TEAL -which means, potentially, the opportunity to win at least 120 books! Maybe even more! ENTER HERE! Go Team Teal!

Team Teal (2)The hunt runs from tomorrow, April 2 through Sunday, April 5; beginning and ending at noon Pacific Time.

If you’ve never been a part of the hunt before – or even if you have –  you should give it a try!

It runs like a giant blog hop, introducing you to new YA authors and books along the way. There are tons of prizes including a grand prize for each team. As you travel from website to website, you collect that particular author’s favorite number highlighted in their team color. Keep track of the numbers and add them up (calculators are permitted) – and once you’ve visited all 20 blogs, you can submit your answer and, if correct, you are entered in the drawing for the GRAND PRIZE!  If you win one of the grand prizes you will get a book from each author on that team! AKA 20 BOOKS!

As part of TEAM TEAL. I will be giving away a copy of MY BEST EVERYTHING, along with a mason jar and 2 book-themed coasters. Swagalicious!

Somewhere along the way I will be sharing a bonus scene where Mason describes meeting Lulu for the first time. And Roni makes up a song to go with it!

I’m super-excited to introduce you to the author I’ll be hosting here – along with an exclusive excerpt – ooooo-la-la. I do hope you’ll stop by and make her feel welcome!

And then! Once you have completed the TEAL challenge – because you are STILL SO EXCITED and want to hear about EVEN MORE BOOKS, you can go and visit all the other teams’ blogs and hunts!

For more information and to make sure you get hunt updates, sign up for news on the #YASH website.

I hope you’ll play along! 


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For me, one of the hardest, most anxiety-producing steps along the way to publication was getting blurbs. I think the word blurb sounds the way it felt to ask someone I greatly admire, who I knew was incredibly busy, to read my book, my heart, my soul.


But! I was lucky! Two of my favorite authors, who each weave incredible word magic with depth of heart and soul, agreed to read my story – and were kind enough to share their thoughts – in a public on the back of my book kind of way.

Huge amounts of gratitude. From my heart, so sincerely.

Thank you, thank you, to Karen Foxlee and Jo Knowles.

Each of them is incredibly talented – and brilliantly eclectic – in their writing.

THE MIDNIGHT DRESS by Karen FoxleeKaren, an Australian author, has written two realistic novels for young adults – and in each of them, strong teen girls are struggling with growing up. THE MIDNIGHT DRESS is unlike any book I’ve ever read – it’s lush and mysterious and dark and hopeful, all at once. The Horn Book’s starred review said, “Though the layers are many, they coalesce into a dreamlike, eerie whole told in mesmerizing, sensuous prose.”

And then there’s her middle grade fantasy, OPHELIA AND THE MARVELOUS BOY, which Kirkus starred and described as, “A well-wrought, poignant and original reworking of Andersen’s “The Snow Queen.

I say it’s amazing. Gorgeous. Magical.

And then there’s Jo Knowles. 

More than one person has identified Jo as “the nicest person in the universe.” Although I’ve never met her, I suspect it might be true. 

I first became aware of Jo, and her powerful, important books while I was working on my MFA at Vermont College. She was (and still is) a close personal friend of one my classmates – who is now one of my dearest friends. I was new to reading young adult literature and wow. Her first book, LESSONS FROM A DEAD GIRL blew me away. It resonated with me in a new and unfamiliar to me. I was an instant fan. 

Since then, she has written several more books and I own all of them. Jo tackles tough topics, never shying away from the truth, even when it hurts. But her books also have hope. Forgiveness. Heart and soul. They fill you up. 

READ BETWEEN THE LINES by Jo KnowlesI just received her newest book, READ BETWEEN THE LINES. It’s written in several – I think 11 – different points of view. I can’t wait to read it, but I’m not the only one looking forward to it. After all, it’s already received several fabulous reviews, including a starred one from Kirkus, “The book proceeds, each new character entering, with his/her realities, dreams and secrets becoming another masterfully woven thread. With emotional explorations and dialogue so authentic, one might think Knowles isn’t creating but channeling the adolescent mind. A fascinating study of misperceptions, consequences and the teen condition.”


And so, a belated but oh-so-sincere THANK YOU to both Karen and Jo. It’s an honor to have your names on my book.







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Why, yes, it HAS been a long time!

But hey… check out this exclusive excerpt for my upcoming novel, MY BEST EVERYTHING on the website of the incredibly hip and cool and group, FOREVER YOUNG ADULT ~ a site dedicated to the YA readers who are “a little less Y and little more A.”

Yeah, I’m thrilled. 

And don’t be put off by the term “exclusive” ~ everyone’s invited!

This scene takes place after Lulu, Mason, Roni and Bucky have made moonshine for the first time. They haven’t sold any yet – they haven’t even gotten up the nerve to taste it. 

I hope you’ll check it out!



To be released March 3, 2015 from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers




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I’m so thrilled that the super-smart, fabulously generous Kelly Bennett invited me to take part in the “Writing Process Blog Tour” that is taking over the blogosphere! You can check out her process here. Kelly is a true Picture Book genius. Don’t be fooled by her modest talk. And… Oh my. She knows how to weave a storytime spell! I could listen to her read picture books aloud all day long. On top of that, she can belt out pretty much any show tune you have an urge to hear!

And now, on to the 4 questions!

1. What am I currently working on?

I’m working on a contemporary YA novel that takes place in a small college town in southwestern Virginia, right down the road from  MY BEST EVERYTHING. It’s a rocky story–there are lots of ups and downs for my main character, but also actual rocks. Like boulders. Underground caves. An abandoned quarry. She’s awfully lost at the moment, so good thing there’s a boy who loves maps, too. 

I also have other projects that I work on when I get stuck with my novel. For instance, I am perpetually trying to write the perfect picture book. I also love writing short stories and poetry. 

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

My characters tend to be older than a lot of YA characters. They’re hovering at that point where they are going to be stepping out into the world on their own – but haven’t stepped over the line to adulthood quite yet.

And boy oh boy are my characters rule breakers! They’re feisty and determined, and so unwilling to take no for an answer.

I adore match-making between two flawed characters struggling with tough issues. I don’t think I follow the typical romance pattern. I like my couples to figure out exactly why they’re right together and then let them deal with a whole lot of other kinds of trouble beyond their relationship. It’s them against the world! 

3. Why do I write what I write?

I write realistic contemporary fiction because I love to read it. I always have.

For me, real people in the real world are infinitely fascinating and complex. I never get tired of trying to figure out why someone behaves a certain way. I am a psychology junkie. 

As for love stories… I think falling in love, especially for that very first time – well, that’s enough magic for me. It really is a mysterious and wonderful thing. I adore hearing “how we met” stories. First loves have a way of getting deep inside us, and can change how we look at the world ever after – even though they rarely last in the long run.

4. How does my individual writing process work?

As far as actual logistics, I don’t have an office ~ instead I write at one end of my kitchen table.

I do most of my writing early in the morning before going to work. I get up realllllly early! I can sometimes revise in the afternoon, but for new pages, that early early, still dark, maybe even still night, time is best. 

As far as the figuring out the story, my process is messy! And ever-changing.

In the beginning of a new project, there is a lot of trial and error. I have way more questions than answers. So I write. I delete. I write again. I quit. I write. I get mad. I write long ranty emails to patient, sensible friends. I quit again. Sometimes I cry. I journal madly and wildly and incoherently. I cut pictures from magazines. I write. Delete. I call my super blog buddy and whine. I write. Delete. I walk my dog. 

And then, eventually, something clicks. The puzzle pieces start to fit together. I start making lists of scenes. I write them on post-its and try to figure out how they might fit together. I arrange, and rearrange. 

Once I THINK I know where I’m going, I get to work. 

It still looks a bit like what I’ve described above, especially the write, delete, rewrite parts; but I’m a lot more productive. I am not afraid of tossing scenes or starting over, but I do like to feel as though I’m on solid ground moving forward. (Even if I’m wrong.) I will sometimes write super rough drafts of future scenes just to have a target of where I’m headed, but I know they’ll look different by the time I get there. So it’s mostly linear with lots of circling back to “fix” things as I learn more about my story. 

Oh! I also nap. Naps are a crucial part of my process!

And now… let me introduce who’s up next! Two amazing women that you will adore. Anindita Basu Sempere and Darcy Woods

Anindita Basu Sempere
ANINDITA BASU SEMPERE: Anindita was one of my classmates at VCFA. She is a true Renaissance woman: brilliant in a variety of disciplines, as well as thoughtful and kind. She’s been busy in a whole new way lately which is why I can’t wait to read her post next Monday! 

Anindita is a writer, educator, book addict, geek, and occasional dog rescuer. She has MFAs from the Vermont College of Fine Arts’ program in Writing for Children and Young Adults and Boston University’s Poetry Program. In 2009 and 2010, she co-directed the New England SCBWI regional conferences “Many Voices” and “Moments of Change” and is currently the Critique Group Coordinator and Webmaster of SCBWI-Switzerland. Anindita has been an educator for over ten years and co-founded TheWritingFaculty.com. When she isn’t writing or teaching, she loves to travel, read, knit, and bake.


Darcy WoodsDARCY WOODS: Darcy and I share an agent, but I “met” her on Twitter. Now we meet regularly through email where we ponder deep important things like the importance of bananas. She also makes super adorable emoticon cheerleaders – I’m working towards earning what she promises will be the extra super amazing version.

Darcy was the winner of the prestigious 2013 Golden Heart for Best Young Adult Romance for SUMMER OF SUPERNOVA. She wears her heart on her sleeve and writes hilarious romancy YA. When it comes to stories she loves funny, whimsy, and strong girls who know how to wreak just the right amount of havoc on the world. 

Be sure to check out both Anindita’s and Darcy’s posts next Monday!

Sarah Tomp




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we need diverse booksSome far more eloquent people are discussing the fact that we need diverse books. I hesitate to jump in on the conversation–not because I disagree, but because I am a middle class white girl, through and through.

But, seriously. Duh.

Of course we need diverse books. It makes me sad that this even needs to be said. Who would argue this? It’s like saying we need books. Again, duh.

When I decided to make Lulu, the main character of my debut novel, My Best Everything (March 2015: Little Brown), part Hispanic; it wasn’t out of some need for diversification. I wasn’t making any kind of multi-cultural statement. Living in southern California, it’s simply not unusual. My husband is part Hispanic, so my children are too–even though they don’t “look” it. For me, it was more about the way I imagined Lulu’s appearance. Also, I wanted her father to be clearly not from the small town she wants to escape–to explain part of why she’s so desperate to leave.

For me, the bigger risk was making her Catholic. I know that people have certain ideas of what Catholic looks like. And it’s often not an attractive image. But for me, religion has always been a part of my life. A good part. A rich part.

I know that designation–that stepping out of the mainstream neutral status quo–may alienate some readers. But maybe it will widen someone else’s perspective. Or maybe some Catholic teen will see a bit of herself in Lulu. Or maybe it will be a teen who is Morman. Or Jewish. Buddhist. Muslim. Atheist. Someone for whom religion is part of their world view.

We are all the same, we are all unique.


Sarah Tomp



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I like to cut and paste. I don’t mean on my computer. I mean actual scissors and sticky stuff. 

In preparation for a writing class I’m teaching (Writing for Children II at UCSD Extension), I spent some time yesterday cutting pictures of people from magazines. I find that visual cues can be powerful triggers for creativity. Images can help concretize–which is not a word, but it should be–the vague wandering of one’s mind. Pictures and objects can help make abstract ideas and characters take a more concrete form. 

I know this. I plan to teach this. And yet, I hadn’t thought to do this for my current WIP, aka “the thing that will not be tamed.”

But in cruising through the magazines, all of a sudden I saw a girl and thought, “Hey! That’s X.” And then I saw a phrase that I needed. And a picture of a place I’d been trying to make my characters visit. It was so golly gee exciting. It made me feel like maybe, just maybe, this really is going to be a story some day. 

So. Maybe I need to take my own class. Or at least take my own advice. Maybe it’s even time to make a vision box. 

Here’s one I made while writing MY BEST EVERYTHING. It’s a simple one, but it helped me believe in the story along the way. 

Vision box for My Best Everything

Vision box for My Best Everything

Some of things included:

  • Moon images, of course
  • Bottles, more of course
  • Lulu’s fortune: You will travel far and wide
  • A game wheel for Truth or Dare
  • Moonshiner Tim
  • “Even a spill can be beautiful”
  • Car keys, with key chain that reads For I know the plans I have for you. ~Jeremiah 29:11
  • A rosary
  • Cowboy hat
  • Sea shells
  • Rusty junk car
  • Gold coins
  • A recipe for a science experiment involving yeast and flying grapes

See it. Believe it. 

Sarah Tomp


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I’m done!

My Best Everything I recently turned in my first pass pages – which, ironically, were the last chance to make changes for the final printing of MY BEST EVERYTHING. This was the first time my story looked bookish. It was all typed up in a pretty font with chapter headings and swirly-marked breaks.


And also terrifying.

These are the pages that the ARC will be printed from. These are the pages I worked so hard to get exactly right. These are the pages the copyeditor and my editor and I all scoured for mistakes and inaccuracies. These are the pages I still made more changes on! 

Confession time: This was by far the hardest and most emotionally draining part of the process for me. 

I really expected to be more sure by this point. To feel like it’s perfect. But all I really know is: there is no such thing as perfect. The final version will be a little more perfect than the ARC one, but I’m sure there are still things I could have changed on different day. 

After all the revision work and all the polishing, all the checking and rechecking, the up close and particular scrutinizing; I simply felt nothing but critical when it came to this story. I wanted to change everything. To make it something else. I just didn’t know how to love it anymore. 

Fortunately, I have really smart friends who helped me get my head back in the right place and to remember that time back when I was proud of and delighted with my story. 

And so, in case there are other writers fighting the crazies at this stage of the process, here are my tips for charging onward.

[These are assuming you have a hard copy of the pages. Even if your editor works electronically I highly suggest printing it out. For some reason reading on paper instead of the screen – and reading it in a different font – makes it easier to see things that have been missed so far. I had two copies to work with – one to turn in and one to keep.]


  1. Make a list of all the thing YOU love about this story. Remind yourself of that white hot spark that started it all. Remember why you stuck with it. Forget list, make it a love letter – with hearts and kisses. 
  2. Even if it makes you feel vain, go back and find all those lovely things people have said about your story. Gather comments from critique members, the gushing from your agent, the first paragraph of your first editorial letter – back before she/he started helping you fix it. Find the sweetest and most wonderful compliments ever and read them again and again. 
  3. Imagine your perfect reader.


  1. Gather tools: pencil, post-it strips, a note-pad.
  2. Read slowly and out loud. Make notes. Flag spots that make you pause or cringe. (Don’t make actual changes yet.)
  3. Take breaks at the end of each chapter to reflect and think. Fatigue is your enemy. 


  1. Now read it more quickly. Read it like you are that ideal reader. 
  2. If anything stops you at this stage, flag it and then move on.
  3. I always think breaks are helpful – and readers take breaks too – so take them. But when you’re reading, try to read freely and for story.


  1. Compare the two read-throughs. See if the same things caught your attention both times. See if you still agree with that first read-through. (I think I had almost three times as many pages flagged my first time through.)
  2. Go through again, looking only at the flagged pages. Make decisions.
  3. Start recording changes. Because I am perpetually filled with self-doubt; at this stage I made the changes only on my copy. 
  4. Double check the changes. 
  5. Put them on the final (to be turned in) copy. 


And then, if you are like me, your editor will come back with questions on the changes because you STILL managed to miss things. Or to muck up new things. 

**One of the best things that happened during this process was I received a peek at my cover. It makes me so very happy ~ it is perfect for my story. Lulu would love it. I can’t wait to share it!**

Sarah Tomp


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My debut novel has a name!*

This is my YA novel about Lulu, a girl who will do anything to leave the mountains of southwestern Virginia. In a desperate attempt to leave behind a future of working in a junkyard, she convinces her friends to make and sell moonshine whiskey in order to pay for her college education. It’s about crossing lines and working hard and faith and destiny and falling in love for the first time. 

After many attempts and discussions and mind-swirling brainstorms regarding the title, we’ve settled on…


It’s hard to talk about the title and what it means when my story hasn’t joined the world yet – and won’t until March 2015 – but I will say that I am really happy that it:

  1. comes from a line in the story
  2. has to do with Lulu’s feelings about her best friend
  3. has other meanings too
  4. is how I feel about it on a very personal level! I’ve worked really hard to make this my best work. 

And… If naming children was as hard as this was, my kiddos would be Things 1, 2, and 3. 

Sarah Tomp


*YA novel being published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, previously known as THE SHINE BETWEEN US – among other titles.

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