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Amy Zhang

If You Give an Author Some Chocolate

…to encourage her to revise, she’ll eat it.

She’ll eat it slowly because there is an art to eating chocolate bars. She’ll try to revise while holding the chocolate bar in one hand, but realize that she can’t revise without proper music.

If you let an author look for proper music, she’ll decide that her normal revising playlist simply isn’t good enough, and she will use up a good half an hour trying to develop a new one before finding the perfect one on 8tracks.

If you give an author a perfect playlist, she’ll sit at her desk and gush about how ABSOLUTELY PERFECT it is to anyone who will listen (IT IS ABSOLUTELY PERFECT). Eventually, she’ll try to revise, but she’ll drop her chocolate bar and leave an awful little smear on her manuscript. So she’ll go to the bathroom closet in search of Clorox wipes, and find a spider instead.

If you let an author find a spider, she will scream. Loudly.

Once she settles down, she’ll want to kill the spider. It’ll jump and disappear off to some secret spider lair in her house to plan her later demise, and she’ll scream a bit more before she remembers that she’s supposed to be revising. But she’ll realize that she clearly can’t revise while holding a chocolate bar in one hand, so she’ll open up an internet browser and look for a Halloween costume.

If you let an author loose on the internet to look for a Halloween costume, she will certainly find herself looking at books instead within five minutes, and eventually she’ll go downstairs in search of her credit card.

If you give an author a credit card, she will buy ALL THE BOOKS.

If you let an author buy ALL THE BOOKS, she’ll soon realize that she has blown way, WAY too much money in one night, and freak out. But she really wants the books…and that reminds her that she has her own book to finish revising.

But she still hasn’t finished her chocolate bar.

Sh*t People Say to Writers

Last Sunday, my local newspaper wrote a story about me…and my writing…and stuff. Those of you who have followed my blog for a while know that I used to be very, very secretive about writing. I never talked about it. So this week was WEIRD and awkward and generally hard for me, but on the bright side, I FINALLY get to write this post! I’ve always wanted to. 🙂

So you wrote a book?
Actually, I’ve written five novel-length works. The first one will never, ever see the light of day. I queried the second one and found my agent with it (YAY!), but it never made it past acquisitions. I also wrote a (very bad) sequel to it that clocked in around 200K (LOLZ). I wrote a standalone Norse-inspired fantasy about wolves and hot chocolate and losing your first love, which I’m planning to revise. Then I wrote this one, which sold. And I’m currently working on a few projects–
Like, a novel? Fiction or nonfiction? Wait, what are you doing? Why are you poking me?
I’m trying to edit your redundancy, but your “delete” button seems to be broken.
How many pages is your fiction novel?
OH MY–*breathes* never mind. And I don’t know. 51,000 words. Ish.
What is your book about?
(via Title To Come)
BONUS: What is your book about (old church ladies edition)
It’s about fornication and drinking and drugs and abortion and basically what your grandson/granddaughter does on weekends, except I’m not going to tell you that because I’m afraid you’ll have a literal heart attack.
Childhood, ma’am. It’s about childhood and growing up. *insert smile and innocent head-tilt*
So how much did you have to, like, pay for them to publish this book?
Actually, in traditional publishing, the publishing house gives you money for the–
What?! How much did you make?
Good question. Would you like to know how much I weigh, too?
Dude, I wish I had the time to write a book.
What? What is this time thing that you speak of?
What’s your book called?
Um, I can’t tell you right now. I went through a title change, and the new title is still confidential. Hopefully I can share soon, though!
Whatever. You just don’t want us to buy it, do you?
I actually really, really want you to buy it, because your money will trickle down to me. And I do like money an awful lot.
Okay, so can I read it now?

But you need someone to read it! What if it sucks?
Gee, that isn’t the stuff of my nightmares or anything.
Am I in your book?
Oh, honey. Would I really tell you if you were?
Can I be in your next book?
Sure. I’ll kill you brutally within the opening pages. I’ll even let you choose your own method of death. Sound good? (but if I DO put you in a book and you don’t like what you read, remember this conversation, kay? xoxoxo).
Well, can I be in the movie?
On the teensy chance that they make a movie…no.
Do you know J.K. Rowling?
Yup. We had lunch the other day.
Why did you write a book about suicide? You’re not suicidal, are you?
No, but once I wrote a fantasy about a world at war and a girl who kills people, and I’m not homicidal.

I’d like to write a novel. How does it work? Can you tell your publisher to buy my book?
Well. I can tell you that it DOESN’T work like that. First you have to write a novel and edit the unmerciful suck out of it. And after it’s nice and pretty and polished, you have to slug through the query trenches and hope you find an agent who loves it enough to sub it for you, and then you have to hope that an editor loves it enough to invest money and time and tears and sweat and passion into it.
So…YA magical realism? That’s like Twilight, isn’t it?
Why won’t you answer any of our questions? You won’t even tell us what the title is. Stop being so stuck up about it.
Eek! I don’t mean to come off that way–but I’ve never really talked about my writing with people, and this makes me feel so incredibly uncomfortable that I’ve pretty much depleted what little social ability I have. But I really can’t tell you the title!
Geez, you talk about this so often. You sound so stuck up.
But–YOU ASKED! I don’t mean to sound stuck up! But this is something I’m genuinely and overwhelmingly happy about, and I’m sorry if I’m doing something to make you misinterpret this. But I AM proud of myself, I DO love writing, and sometimes it’s hard not to smile like an idiot about it.

The Next Big Thing Meme

The fabulous Lori M. Lee tagged me for this one! I’m going to cheat a bit and tell you about both my about-to-be-published book and my WIP, because ERMAHGERD, guys, I’m so excited for both of them. Okay? Okay.

(Side note: those of you who have added my book on Goodreads, THANK YOU, but that isn’t the official Goodreads page. My publisher didn’t make it. And whoever did mixed me up with another author, so…yeah. Not me. I’ll let you guys know when there’s a book to add–it’ll be around the time that I get to share my title with all of you!)


Still can’t tell! But I CAN tell you that I submitted it as FOR EVERY LIFE, which is a reference to Newton’s Third Law of Motion, and I CAN tell you that the title of my WIP is MEMENTO MORI, which is Latin for “remember you will die.” Mori is also the name of my protagonist (who’s dying. Shocker, huh?)





UNTITLED (we’ll just call it that for now–isn’t it easier?) actually began as two short stories–one about an abandoned imaginary friend, and one about a girl who tries to commit suicide. UNTITLED is their lovechild. I’m not sure where the ideas for the two original short stories came from, but I knew there was a connection between them and I knew I wanted to develop that connection into a full-length novel.

MEMENTO, on the other hand, has been sitting in the back of my mind for…a year? Two? I don’t remember where the idea came from, or when I got it, but I remember thinking, “I have to write this story. I have to.” 


UNTITLED is YA contemporary with a touch of magical realism. MEMENTO is YA contemporary with a touch of ice cream (or a lot of ice cream).


Something about UNTITLED: there are no descriptions of the character’s appearances. None. I want people to be able to see themselves in Liz and Kennie and Julia. I want them to be able to see their friends. I want the characters to be anyone, everyone. So no actors 🙂

As for MEMENTO….I don’t know I’m just really bad with actors and stuff okay LEAVE ME ALONE


UNTITLED is about a girl who tries to end her short and catastrophic attempt at life, told from the perspective of her abandoned imaginary friend.

MEMENTO MORI is about a girl with half an immune system, a boy with half of his muscles, a cat named Schrödinger, and the road trip they take to solve the paradox of life.


UNTITLED is coming out in fall of 2014 from Greenwillow/HarperCollins. MEMENTO MORI is not currently under contract.


I wrote the first draft of UNTITLED during NaNoWriMo 2012–so, a month. I’m actually super proud of that, mostly because November was a rough month for me, and I was under word count the entire time. I managed to pound out something like 13K in the last two days. Then I revised for about two months, and it sold the following February.

As for MEMENTO…well. I’ve been drafting for the last four months or so, and I have about another 15K to go.



MEMENTO: Hmmm….I’m not sure. My CP says it reminds him a bit of THE FAULT IN OUR STARS, except, you know, far less AMAZEBALLS.


“Isn’t this basically the same as question #2?”

Lori’s answer, which I’m seconding. 


UNTITLED is told by an imaginary friend, which opened up these incredible options for the story. The story is actually told in a non-linear fashion–there are three main times: a countdown from seven days before Liz crashes her car, a countdown of the hour before Liz crashes her car, and the day after Liz crashes her car. And there’s a chapter with eleven words. I love that chapter.

In MEMENTO, Mori has written letters to the dead for as long as she can remember, and the book is actually her last notebook of letters. Among the addressees: Maurice Sendak, Gregory Peck, Nannerl Mozart, Georgiana Cavendish, and, of course, Schrödinger. I really love playing around with narration (have you noticed?)
I’m tagging fellow Greenwillow author Chessie Zappia, whose book ASK AGAIN LATER sounds totally amazefrackingballs and Mark O’Brien, because he’s working on this new MS that I want everyone to be excited about. Take it away, guys!

Life After THE DEAL

It seems like all of my blog posts are prefaced by “ERMAHGERD SORRY I HAZ NOT POSTED IN FOREVER” now.

But yes, I’m back. Hopefully?

So why the hiatus this time? A lot has been happening. We’ve decided on a title for my BOOK (I still get this stupid little grin on my face every time I say it), so hopefully I can share it with you soon! With revisions forthcoming and my spectacular talent for procrastination, the end of summer has devolved into a mad rush of holy crap holy crap I don’t even know where to start working and ugly crying.

Oh, yeah, and I forgot how to write.

I think, as writers, we tend to view a deal as a climax. It’s when the prince defeats the dragon and demonstrates a fetish for unconscious women, and all that’s left is the happily ever after. Which, on the other side of the climax, is kind of a horrifying idea, because it means that we’ve already peaked.

It’s ridiculous, of course. And I told myself so as I sat, day after day, in front of a manuscript that, all of a sudden, was impossible to write. And not just the manuscript–blog posts, interviews, essays. I couldn’t WORDS.

I tried taking a break. I watched all three seasons of Downton Abbey in a weekend and got to level fifty in Candy Crush Saga and devoted, like, twelve hours a day to Pinterest. And then I sat down and tried to write again and the words just wouldn’t come.

So I’m (hopefully) on the tail end of the worst writing schlump of my life, and I’m still terrified that I’ve depleted my quota of reasonable writing ability, terrified that I’ve peaked, terrified that I will never write anything decent again, terrified about what this says about me as a writer, terrified about what this means about the future. I’m terrified that the book I’ve already written won’t sell and everyone will hate it and I’ll have to dye my hair purple and get a new nose and become an alpaca farmer to escape the shame.

I know it’s silly. I know I’ll get over this eventually. But right now I’m terrified, and that’s okay. Because writing isn’t easy and that’s why we can’t stop. Because sometimes we end a story and have to take a deep breath, because endings are frightening and transitions are hard. Because our characters can have happily ever afters and all of my friends are dead endings, but we can’t. We have tomorrows. And it’s okay to be afraid of them.

…but existential crises still suck.

East Coast Adventures (and Apologies for My Recent Incognito-ness)!



Partly because I’ve been traveling the world (read: spending forty hours in a car while my brother sang “Ninety-Nine Bottles of Beer on the Wall”), and partly because life is more demanding than my nonexistent significant other. But I’m back! I promise! And I will be blogging regularly! Hopefully!

So, East Coast Adventures: It was HOT. Like, please-kill-me-before-I-melt-and-drown-in-my-sweat-and-tears kind of HOT. But it was also lovely and crab cake-y, and the history nerd in me exploded from giddiness.

We drove through Baltimore (and had THE BEST crab cakes in the history of crab cakes) and walked through Washington D.C. that afternoon. Unfortunately, we arrived just after most of the museums closed and it started raining halfway through, but then:

The sun came out and painted this gorgeous
double rainbow over the Washington Memorial (the second
one is really faint). 

These plaques line the entrance to the WWII Memorial. They tell
the story of the soldiers, from hearing of the war to going to battle to
coming home. So beautiful and evocative. I stood there and cried for at least
ten minutes. People gave me weird looks.

Snapped this one while driving back to our hotel. No filter, just
a naturally breathtaking sky.

On Sunday, we went to Philadelphia and…got there just after tickets
for Independence Hall had sold out. Womp. 

The House of Congress didn’t require tickets, though, so we got to sit
in the wonderful, wonderful air conditioning and pretend to be Representatives,
where John Adams was inaugurated. This is the Senate room, where
George Washington was sworn into his second term.

And kept driving. Spent a few days in Boston for campus visits and
such, and visited Plymouth. Yes, this is THE ROCK.

And this. This is Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.
It’s the most gorgeous library in the entire world.
This is basically heaven.



And this is Grove Street Cemetery, the first chartered burial ground
in the U.S. It makes an appearance in MEMENTO MORI, so of course
I had to go see it.

NYC. From the Staten Island Ferry.

More NYC. So pretty. I loved walking through the streets.
I did not love sweating through five thousand shirts and smelling
like an exploded duck.
But the best part of the entire trip? I GOT TO MEET MY AGENT AND EDITOR. Unfortunately, I forgot to get a picture with my agent, but she was lovely and fantabulous and absolutely amazing beyond words. And she assured me that I succeeded in not making a complete fool of myself. YAY!

And. HarperCollins. I. Went. To. HarperCollins.
It was AWESOME. I got to meet my publisher and the entire
Greenwillow team, and we had donuts that were like pieces of heaven
that someone had killed angels to steal and mold into these perfect
little sugary lovebundles. Except mostly I sat there and stared creepily
around the table and thought, “HOLY SH*T HOLY SH*T YOU GUYS

P.S. I’m thinking about starting a vlog. What do you guys think? Anything you want me to talk about in particular?

Class of 2K14 Website Launch

More exciting news! I’m a part of the Class of 2K14, and today is the launch of our website! *throws confetti*

We’re a group of twenty YA and MG debut authors with books that range from historical to contemporary to sci-fi. In particular, we target booksellers, librarians, and teachers (BLTs!), and we try to get some fantabulous books in the hands of readers. There are some CRAZY amazing people in this group, guys, so make sure you keep an eye out for the books.

The website features the authors, the books, opportunities for author visits, and information for BLTs, including fortchoming discussion guides and other curricular materials (the wonderful Addie Degenhardt is making mine! It’s SO EXCITING because all of this seems so REAL now! I’m abusing exclamation points again!). There will be TONS of giveaways in coming months, including monthly ones of the Class of 2K13’s books, but for the launch, we’re giving away…a $100 gift card to the book retailer of your choice!

One. Hundred. Dollars. For. Books. You know you want it.


And make sure you also check out our Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, and Goodreads page!


Part DOS:

After the phone call, I went to lunch and flailed and I’m sure other things happened, but I was drunk on happiness and honestly don’t remember very much of it. I called my agent as soon as I got home to figure out the finer points of EVERYTHING, and I finally figured out that the offer was a pre-empt, and I had to give an answer like, yesterday.
It was all a bit hectic because my phone was acting up and the connection was crappy and I was barely at home all day because of prior commitments (stupid prior commitments). Everything was happening INSANELY fast, and I was still giddy and my sanity was questionable, so I wanted a second opinion (or a number of them) on the offer before I accepted (but HOLY CRAP AN OFFER I WANT IT GIMME NAO), so I talked with my family and my agent–
(Okay, I need to take a minute and gush about how fantabulous Emily Keyes is. You guys have no idea how much of my flailing she’s had to put up with in these last few months. Emily, THANK YOU for believing in my writing and being the bestest agent a girl could ever ask for 🙂
–and the amazing Louise Fury, who all gave me wonderful advice, and at the end of the very hectic, badly-connected, most wonderfulicious phone call EVER, I accepted the deal.
(I really did this, but about 1/100000th as gracefully).
The next day, I got to talk to Virginia Duncan over email. She was lovely and enthusiastic, and the best part? GUYS. SHE SAID SHE LOVED MY BOOK. SHE SAID SHE WAS THRILLED TO BE WORKING WITH IT. AND ME.
Except I was mostly too starstruck to form intelligible responses.
And we talked about revisions and the contract and the FUTURE, and it was so wonderfully wonderful that I have honestly stared at the screen for about ten minutes trying to figure out how to describe it, except I. Cannot. Describe. My. Feelz.
So what happened after that? Why didn’t you guys get to hear my news sooner? Why all of my mysterious tweets and hints in the last four months? Something got in the way, Internet.
See, apparently being a minor causes all sorts of silly problems, like not being able to sign a contract or receiving more than a certain amount of money without court-appointed Fancyschmancy Guardians of My Estate or Something (and no one would hop on my anarchy bandwagon. I mean, no law = no messy litigation things, amirite? JUST KIDDING. Anarchy is bad, boys and girls) I…am still relatively unclear as to what happened because it was all narrated in fancy lawyer lingo. Basically I needed a lawyer and my parents needed a different lawyer, and we went to court  and I tripped in front of the judge and almost fell on my face.
And then finally, FINALLY, I could tell all of your wonderful faces my news (I think I’ve said “wonderful” about a thousand times in this post, but guys. GUYS. It was all so wonderful and you are all wonderful and cheese is wonderful). SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I am so, so, SO unbelievably excited that you guys will get to read my ickle-widdle-squishy baby manuscript. I loved writing it, I love the story, I love the characters, and I hope you will, too. I still haven’t completely wrapped my head around the idea that in just over a year, people will actually be able to like, HOLD IT. AND READ IT. I feel crazy-lucky that I have this opportunity, and crazy-luckier that I’ve been surrounded by absolutely INCREDIBLE people through this thing (looking at you, Mark, John, Ari, and Olivia <= BEST CPs IN THE WORLD).
So…thank you. All of you. For caring what I have to say. 🙂 xoxoxoxoxoxox
(P.S. I ultimately decided not to make start another Rafflecopter giveaway, but in celebration of Part Dos, I’ve added another prize to the first giveaway. It’s a fancyschmancy wall hanging like this:
which I will make with a quote of your choice and send in addition to the two YA books of your choice and a copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul: Writer’s Inspiration) SO GO ENTER!!!! 😀


Hi, Internet. HI.

There are some important questions we must address today. Why hasn’t Amy blogged in a month (actually, this has nothing to do with today, so IT CAN WAIT)? Why the faux-calm and creepy smile? Why is she acting even more freakish than normal?!

Well, Internet. Let me tell you.


Here’s the PM announcement:

And PW Children’s Bookshelf (it’s my deal! And my face! My deal! My face!)


What exactly happened, you ask? (Please ask). WELL…

A lot, actually. So, this is going to be the first of two blog posts about ZE BOOK DEAL (I’m beaming at my computer screen like an idiot), which means…TWO POSTS CRAMMED WITH .GIFS. TWO GIVEAWAYS. TWO TIMES THE EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!!!!

Okay. Let’s TALK.

Some of you might remember that for a while, I blogged constantly about FOR EVERY LIFE. And then I took like, a two month hiatus from blogging. What was happening? I revised. I felt good about this manuscript–I really did. I was so excited to start subbing it, and finally on February 25, the only acceptable Monday in the history of Mondays, my agent emailed me saying that my ickle-snugglykins baby manuscript was officially READY. She sent me the list of editors she was going to sub to, and basically I saw it and died.

And so I waited.

And then I waited some more.

And then there was still nothing and I was like, THEY HATE IT.

…Then it was the next day, and I had to get up and function like a normal human being, which was practically the definition of cosmic cruelty.

BUT THEN. I got an email from my agent saying that editors had requested the manuscript! And they were asking questions! And one of them wanted to know what my inspiration was! And I had to come up with something! Like, RTFN! There wasn’t even time for fainting!

The next day, more editors asked for information about me (me! They wanted to know about me! Like I was interesting! And it was a snow day!), and my agent told me that she had given them my blog address. And I entered an obligatory panic attack because, hello, I don’t inhibit my stupid on this blog.

So I sat around and bit my fingernails and ate my refrigerator.

And then it was Thursday. There I was, sitting in class, and…my phone started vibrating. But I figured it was the library calling again to ask where my overdue library books were (oops)…except then I got a text, and it was from my agent saying she had good news.

GOOD NEWS? WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?! I had to wait a whole FIFTEEN MINUTES to go to my independent study and call her back.

Here’s basically how that conversation went:

Agent Emily: So Greenwillow! Book deal!


Emily: Amy, breathe–






OKAY. Okay. I’ve abused enough exclamation points already, so let me tell you about the first giveaway. What do you get? TWO YA books of your choice and ONE copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Writers!
And come back on Saturday (at which time I will hopefully have calmed down) for the rest of the story and the second giveaway!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

One Thing YA Writers Must Know

There’s one thing YA writers have to know when writing to and about teenagers:

Most of us don’t know what the hell is going on. Like, ever.

Teenagerdom is a paradox. It’s a series of life crises. It’s a transition period and a conclusion, a journey and a destination, a time to be stupid and a time to grow up. One moment your life was made of happily-ever-afters; the next, everything is about is puberty and cynicism and sex ed, and in the middle of a world that’s trying to fall back into place, you realize that




Do you go to church because you want to, or because you always have? Do you know what it means to be a Republican or a Democrat or a Libertarian or a Bull Moose Partier, or do you call yourself one because that’s what your parents are? Suddenly, you’re realizing that life isn’t simple at all, and the truth is about as hard to define as it is to find, and good and evil such stupid terms, because the world isn’t black and white, or even gray–it’s made of colors and differences and shifting.

And personalities? We have personalites–we just don’t know what they are yet. Our likes and dislikes are so different from what they were a year, a month, a week ago. “Impressionable” is an understatement; sponge might be more fitting–we swallow information, habits, desires, and make them our own, unconsciously. We talk, dress, and act like our friends or our role models, but we never decided to do so. We’re basically ruled by hormones. We want to fit in, but suddenly fitting in isn’t cool anymore–but if hipster is mainstream, then isn’t old-mainstream hipster? Conformity is out, but does originality exist? If we’re defined by our interactions, and if everything we’ve ever created is no more than an enormous collage of our conversations and experiences and mistakes, then is there really such a thing as an original thought?

It’s all very confusing, you see.

This. This is what it means to be a young adult. The thing is, we’re afraid. We’re uncertain. We doubt our abilites and our beliefs and our values and pretty much everything else, but we can’t show it because we’re teenagers, and society expects us to be careless and irresponsible and…young. And this is also why there are so many YA books out there. Teenagerdom is an incredibly dynamic time, brim-full of the angst that readers hunger for. But it’s also a time that we desperately need to read books and realize that we’re not alone. That we don’t have to be alone.

And lastly, this is why well-developed characters are so vital to YA. We need to know that everyone else is struggling, too, and that they’re wading through a tide of influences to try to find themselves. Those pretty, perfect, self-assured ones? They make us feel like misfits. Like failures.

We’re not failures. We’re wanderers. We’re trying. Please remember that. And please write characters that help us remember, too.

Contest Reminder

Remember that giveaway? If you haven’t seen it in the comments of the last post…Deserae McGlothen, you won the giveaway! Yay! Would you please email me soon (or leave some other way for me to contact you in the comments), so I can send you a copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Writers? Thanks!

If I don’t hear anything by Wednesday night, I’m going to have to pick another winner. So please reply! 🙂