Posts Tagged ‘My Best Everything’

Have you ever been at the start of something big? That struggling actor you met is suddenly a box office favorite? That novel you read by an unknown author quickly moves up the best seller list? My husband recalls seeing a young comic starting his career at a comedy club up in L.A.many years ago. He was surprised when a few years later this comedian had moved from the comedy stage to become a big star. His name?

JimCarreyJim Carrey

Yesterday, I had two moments that I would describe as cusp moments. I was invited to a concert for an unknown band and I received the ARC for my best friend Sarah’s novel.

KPRIWe have a local independent radio station here in San Diego. For the past 10 years they have helped new bands kick off their careers with a small private concert for a group of  listeners. These concert’s have helped launch the careers of such artists as Jason Mraz, Shawn Colvin, and Imagine Dragons.

Last night my husband and I hopped aboard the Hornblower  ship Inspiration for a  a harbor cruise and to listen to a new band called the Bad Suns. It was the perfect night for a cruise on the San Diego bay.  The Bad Suns were talented and put on a great show. Speaking as a band widow of over 25 years and on how excited the audience grew through the evening, I predict this band will go far.
MBEI was also happy to receive the ARC for my blog buddy Sarah’s novel My Best Everything. I have been excited to watch this novel grow from pages submitted to our critique group to a full blown novel you can actually hold in your hand. To say I’m thrilled would be an understatement.

The novel has undergone several revisions, since those days long ago at critique group and after only reading the first few chapters (I did have a concert to attend) I am eagerly looking forward to see how the novel has changed and grown.

We can never predict what the future holds, but I can say that with both the band and Sarah’s book I feel like I am on the cusp of something big. I can’t wait to see if my predictions come true.

Happy reading,

Suzanne Santillan

Writing on the Sidewalk

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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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