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Amy Zhang

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I’m Feeling Lucky

Last year at this time, I was waiting to announce my book deal. FALLING INTO PLACE was in between titles. I was euphoric every time I thought about the fact that my baby book was going to be a real book, a book that sat on bookshelves, a book that people would hold and read and maybe even love. I was working off the sleep deck that resulted from getting up at ungodly hours every morning to write. My hair was twenty-four inches long. I was getting ready to take what would hopefully be my last SAT (it wasn’t).

Two years ago at this time, my agent and I were just getting ready to submit my YA fantasy, WILDFLOWER. Remember WILDFLOWER? I was halfway through high school. I was just starting to get to know my critique group. I was working on another fantasy about a nameless girl and a lost boy and wolves. Somewhere, jotted down in one of my idea folders, was a line about a girl who explained her suicide in terms of Newton’s laws of motion.

Three years ago at this time, I had just finished drafting my query. I was going to send my first one on the last day that I was fourteen. I had just finished freshman year, and it hadn’t been as horrible as everyone made it out to be. I still didn’t like Wisconsin. It was getting too hot too quickly, and the world smelled like cow manure. I closed myself in my closet every day to write. Maybe because I wasn’t distracted there. Maybe because in the dark, I could pretend I was somewhere else.

Four years ago at this time, I had just finished my first manuscript. It was about five kids who saved the world from villains based off of kids in school I didn’t like. It was bad. More importantly, I had learned to acknowledge that it was bad. And more important still—I had decided not to give up. I was going to keep writing.

Five years ago at this time, I was clueless. I didn’t know that I was about to move to Wisconsin, didn’t know that the move would make me so determined to be miserable. I thought I would grow up and go into the math or science field. Maybe both. All I knew about writing was that I wasn’t good at it. When we got our final report cards that year, one of my friends looked over and was surprised. “I can’t believe you scored higher than me in English,” she said. “I’m better at the, you know, creative stuff. And you’re better at math and stuff.”

I’ve been reflecting on all of that a lot this week. I’ve seen a few reviews of FALLING already. I’ve seen Waiting on Wednesdays. I’ve seen that people are looking forward to reading it, and it blows me away. It doesn’t seem real—ever. I say I can’t even a lot, too much, because I. Cannot. Even. I can’t wrap my mind around how freaking lucky I feel. I can’t comprehend any of it—I see those snapshots of my life above and I can’t entirely connect them. Like. What happened? How?

This year, right now, I’m packing for BEA. I’m getting ready for my panel. I have pens for my signing. I’m filling out my housing information for college. I’m graduating on Sunday. I’m terrified to leave. I miss my friends already. Sometimes I hold my ARC while I watch a movie or sit around, and I flip through it and look at my name and think, holy. Freaking. Crap. I still have doubts, I still have secrets, I am still incoherent on a regular basis.

I am very happy. I like who I am. They say that doesn’t happen a lot in high school—maybe that’s true, maybe it isn’t, but either way, I’m lucky.

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Countdowns and Love Lists

Today is March 9th. Which means that there are:

6 months
184 days
4, 416 hours
264,960 seconds

…until FALLING INTO PLACE comes out and my head explodes. Wow. Like, I see the numbers and I have a vague concept that months/days/hours/seconds are divisions of time or something, but I can’t actually wrap my head around the idea that this thing I made in my head is going to be…bound? On shelves? Available for purchase? In SIX MONTHS?!

I am terrified and excited and happy beyond words, and to celebrate, I’m going to do a love list, which is a non-exhaustive list of the things you love about a manuscript (inspired by my wonderful CP Mark O’Brien, who was inspired KK Hendin, who was inspired by Rachel, who was inspired by Stephanie Perkins). 

chalk drawings on the roof
scenic towers
jumping off the swings
a 1967 Ford Falcon
being wrong
being right
bouncy balls
wire crowns
twenty-three missed calls
running through the rain
second chances
seven days
fifty-eight minutes
F = ma
green sweaters
flute players
black eyes
the sky
matching friendship rings
cause and effect
Fears Quote
Scenic tower, where Liz once made wishes on sunshine.
Hide and seek behind the old brown couch
beyond the sky...
the cover
the interior
(for more pictures, visit my Pinterest board for FALLING)

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“BLOGFEST: Class of 2k14 is Thankful For…”

Hey, guys! The Class of 2K14 is doing this blogfest for Thanksgiving. What are you thankful for? Leave it in the comments!
I’m thankful for everyone who has supported my writing—agent, editor, friends, family. I’m thankful for my critique partners, who deserve a category all to themselves. I’m thankful that my book sold to my dream publisher. I’m thankful that I’m debuting with so many amazing people. I’m thankful that this year has given me the opportunity to grow up a little. I’m thankful that this thing called perspective exists. I’m thankful for this line in A Member of the Wedding: “It seems to me I feel the world going around very fast. I feel it turning and it makes me dizzy.”

Most of all, I’m thankful that though my parents often refused to buy me candy or clothes or movies, they never refused to buy me books.

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Post-Deadline Thoughts

As of 1:14 A.M. October 21st, I have finished my first round of revisions. I have met my first deadline, and it feels unbelievable.

Revising this book was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Drafting it had been so simple–the story told itself, poured through my fingertips as if I were only a vessel for it. It is, as my publisher says, a “jigsaw puzzle,” and while drafting, the pieces had fallen into place all by themselves, and I had expected revising it to be just as easily.

It didn’t, of course. Because the book is told in a non-linear fashion, I couldn’t move a scene without changing two scenes before it and three scenes that followed. I would try to make subtle revisions, a nudge here, a shift there, and everything would fall apart, and I would sit curled on my floor with my laptop cast among the circle of charts and revision plans and the pages of my edit letter, thinking about all that could go wrong, all that was going wrong. I thought about all that homework piling up and all of that college stuff I hadn’t touched yet. I thought about the thirty, forty, fifty chapters of my book I had yet to edit. I thought about all of the chapters from contests that I had yet to critique and all those manuscripts from my internship that I had yet to read.

Basically, I sat there and whimpered. Cried. Sent panicky, all-caps emails to just about everyone–critique partners, non-writer friends, teachers, my agent. Cried some more, thinking about marketing and publicity and how I didn’t know how to do any of it. A bit more, imagining all of the bad reviews I was sure to get. And then some more, because there was so much to do, and I would have more time to do if I would stop bawling.

Today, of all days, I should have had a breakdown. I had noticed a pattern–they usually came during the ungodly hours of Monday morning, surprise, start off the week strong! Today (well, yesterday, really) was the last day before my deadline, and I wasn’t finished with my final read-through. It was a perfect opportunity to eat chocolate and cry, and I was ready to, when I was suddenly struck by what an incredible thing it was for me to be stressed at all.

I was stressing over turning in my manuscript on time to my dream publisher. My editor brought some of my favorite books, books that I’ve grown up with, into the world–she had made it possible for me to fall in love with these characters and peek into their distant lands and take them with me, between covers designed by people who were now working on my cover, copyedited by people who were combing my manuscript for mistakes, loved by a team that was now taking an enormous risk by loving my book as well.

It’s two in the morning. I am exhausted, sleep-deprived, barely aware of what I’m typing, and I am the happiest person in the world.

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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!

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2012 Recap

Here’s a secret: I hate New Year’s Eve, for three reasons: 1) For the first six months, my dates are always wrong, 2) January always feels like an enormously long Monday, and 3) I always look back and feel all down because I hadn’t accomplished all of the things I’d wanted to accomplish that year. So…I wrote this to prove to myself that I didn’t spend the entire year lying on the couch watching Big Bang Theory.
January: Made a New Year’s resolution to sign with an agent this year. Began re-querying my YA fantasy, WILDFLOWER. Sent nine queries, received four full requests. Fell out of my chair during Global Studies upon receiving a request from an awesome agent just ten days later.
February: Officially signed with the wonderful Emily Keyes of the L. Perkins Agency on the 23rd. Started revising WILDFLOWER for subs.
March: Made a twitter and this blog. Tried to balance revising, school, and extracurriculars with arguable success.
April: Finished revising WILDFLOWER…but it came in at almost 125K. Started working on another round of revisions with the sole purpose of cutting words.
May: Struck up a conversation regarding BEA, fake boobs, and man purses on Twitter, and irrevocably became writing friends with John, Ari, Olivia, and Mark. Started the For Love of YA blog with my wonderful critique partner/soulmate/brother-from-another-mother, Mark.
June: Took exams, finished up sophomore year, went to a few graduation parties, did some other generally stupid things to celebrate the start of summer vacation, like getting kicked out of Walmart for pushing my friend Noah down the isles at four in the morning, which, apparently, is frowned upon. Finished another round of revisions for WILDFLOWER and managed to cut 20,000 words. Started discussing subs, which was super exciting. Turned sixteen. Realized that I really, really needed to find the time to take Driver’s Ed, because all evidence suggested that I would be the last person in my grade to get my license. Ended up become very apathetic towards the subject as the month went on. Continued mooching rides off friends.
July: Got a marketing internship with Entangled Publishing, which I was truly terrible at. Wrote a novel about wolves and stars and hot chocolate. Officially sent WILDFLOWER out on subs. A few houses requested the manuscript. Then, on the 25th, I got an email while wandering through Walmart titled “Don’t Freak Out,” saying that a senior editor at Harlequin wanted to take it to acquisitions. Naturally, I freaked out. Actually, I almost fell over. A Walmart employee caught me and asked me if I was okay in a very Oh-crap-this-child-is-insane kind of way. I hugged her. And then ran away.
August: Became an intern for Pam van Hylckama Vlieg of Larsen Pomada. Read some full requests, loved being on the other side of the querying process. Waited for the acquisitions meeting. Made the varsity team for tennis. Realized that real-life-summer-vacation wasn’t nearly as long as Phineas and Ferb’s summer vacation, frantically tried to finish AP homework.
September: Got kicked off the varsity team for tennis, which was…sad (meh. I still lettered, so I’m still putting it on college applications). Started junior year with a totally screwed up schedule, tried taking Pre-Calc as an independent study (which was a total fail), ended up having to take it as an online course. Assumed the editor-in-chief position for our school newspaper, published our first issue (which was so awfully awful it was just awful…but we figured out what to do by the second issue). Realized that taking AP Chemistry was probably one of the worst decisions that I had ever made. WILDFLOWER received its first rejection. I moped. Found out that the editor at Harlequin got called to jury duty, so the acquisitions meeting had been moved back yet again.
October: Found out that another senior editor at Harlequin had expressed interest in WILDFLOWER, and that both would take it to the board. Got an official date for the acquisitions meeting, which was later cancelled because of Hurricane Sandy. Signed up and outlined for NaNo. Got a phone call at six in the morning saying that a boy in my grade had died in a car accident, almost quit NaNo because the novel I’d planned to write was about a car crash, and I didn’t think I could handle it emotionally.
November: Received the news that the board at Harlequin ultimately decided to pass on WILDFLOWER. Could not find enough chocolate to smother the sobby feels. Decided to participate in NaNoWriMo because I was tired of moping. Didn’t sleep very much. Was bribed into going Black Friday shopping, which was…terrifying. Finished my YA contemp, FOR EVERY LIFE, on November 30th.
December: Sent FOR EVERY LIFE off to my agent and critique partners, who all seemed to really like it. Started talking about subbing it. Had a mild life crisis regarding what to do with my life. Spent winter break studying for the SATs, revising FOR EVERY LIFE, and trying to watch all ten seasons of Friends. Wrote this blog post. Am currently realizing that I have not, in fact, wasted an entire year of my life doing nothing of importance.
In all seriousness, this was a great year. I wrote, I read, I made friends, and honestly, I’m so, so thankful for all of you. So…happy New Year’s Eve, everyone!

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Be Inspired Blogshop Meme!

Hiya, everyone! This week, the lovely Silent Pages at Pro(B)logue tagged me for the Be Inspired Blogshop Meme! *cue confetti* Yay! So, I was trying to figure out which project to do this about, but then school started and I got distracted by the fact that 5 x 5 = 30 in Chemistry and my schedule was screwed up and I didn’t have pre-calc first semester, and I totally forgot about this until last night. So. I think I’m going to do this one about the MS on subs right now. Because. I can’t stop thinking about subs. So.

1. What is the name of your book?


2. Where did the idea for your book come from?

Hmm. Let’s see. I was on a mission trip when I first got the idea for WILDFLOWER. It was in the mountains of Arizona, and it was dry and hot and my nose was constantly bleeding and I was dehydrated and there was only one toilet between twenty-five girls and it’s highly possible that I was hallucinating slightly. I was lying awake in the middle of the night and someone was snoring across the room, and I was trying really, really hard to fall asleep because we had to wake up at four. See, when I need to fall asleep, I do this thing were I imagine things. By then, I’d already written one (very terrible) manuscript, and I think I’d been considering a revision when suddenly, this boy with a scar appeared in my head and told me that he had a story.

Needless to say, I didn’t sleep much that night.

3. In what genre would you classify your book?

Definitely YA Fantasy.

4. If you had to pick actors to play your characters in a movie rendition, who would you choose?

Erm…I…dunno…I think maybe Ian Somerhalder for my MMC, Aro, because he has that arrogant, secretive look. Only, his jaw is too extreme. As for my FMC, Faye, I really don’t know. Hmm. I’ll have to think about that one.

5. Give us a one-sentence synopsis of your book.

In a world where everyone carries knives, Faye knows she should never be surprised to be stabbed in the back–until she’s captured by Aro, a quiet, enigmatic soldier from the enemy kingdom who makes her realize that keeping her heart locked away won’t be enough to save her life.
6. Is your book already published?

Sigh. It’s still on subs. You guys will know if anything happens. I promise.

7. How long did it take you to write your book?

Well, it took me just about three months to write the first draft. I rewrote and revised thirteen times, though. So, all in all, about a year and a half.
8. What other books within your genre would you compare it to? Or, readers of which books would enjoy yours?
Well…hrmmm…I think it could be compared to Kristin Cashore’s Graceling and Megan Whalen Turner’s The Thief, because it’s set in a similar world. Like, epic-ish fantasy without the dragons and elves, y’know? Make sense? No?
9. Which authors inspired you to write this book?
E.B. White, who wrote the first book that ever made me cry. J.K. Rowling, who made me fall in love with words. Lemony Snicket, who taught me that letters, when they are arranged correctly, have the power to break your heart. Frances Hodges Burnett, who taught me to see the beauty between the lines. L. M. Montgomery, who made me laugh when I was alone. And then there are the authors who made me want to keep writing…I could go on forever.

10. Tell us anything that might pique our interest in your book.
I drew a map for it once! Wanna see? I posted it once a long time ago, but I’ll paste it again. It’s not the most recent version, but…hey, this is the land where the story takes place. 🙂

11. Tag five people!

Mark O’Brien, my fantabulous critique partner, who’s writing this new story that is so beautiful and emotional and GAHHHH-inducing I just. Can’t. Even.
John Hansen, who’s writing a new sci-fi that sounds absolutely wonderful.
Ari Susu-Mago, because she rocks AWL TEH SOCKS OFF.

And…I don’t know who else to tag. Everyone I was going to tag was already tagged earlier this week : So…have some cumin. Love y’all!

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In Which I Brag About My CP

So, y’all know how Mark O’Brien is my critique partner, right? Yes? No? He’s probably tired of me singing his praises now, but he’s going to have to deal with it. So, backstory. I wrote a short story for the TCWT blog chain (which will be posted on Saturday, so…stay tuned), and asked him to look it over before I posted it on the interwebz and made an utter fool of myself, and his critique was so brilliant that I decided I absolutely couldn’t let it fade away in my inbox.  YAY!!! (Oh, and if you guess the spoofed song, the singer, and the big Hollywood production that used it as background music for its trailer a few months ago, leave your answer in the comments and you’ll get a virtual cookie). 

There I was again tonight
Forcing laughter, faking smiles
Same old tired, lonely booooks
Walls of insincerity
Shifting eyes and vacancy
Vanished when I saw your SS
All I can say is it was
Enchanting to read you

Your email whispered “Have you read?”
Tripping up the stairs, your short story
Starts to make its way to meee
The playful blurb-reading starts
Counter all your quick remarks like
Passing SSs in secrecy

And it was enchanting to read you
All I can say is I was enchanted to read you

This story is sparkling
Don’t you let it go
I’m wonderstruck
Reading all the way home
I’ll spend forever
Wondering if you knew
I was enchanted to read youuuu

The lingering question kept me up
Two A.M., why you so good?
I wonder ’til I’m wide awake
Now I’m pacing back and forth
Wishing your story was on my lap
I’d open it up and it would say
It was enchanting to read you
All I know is I was enchanted to read youuuuu!

This story is sparkling
Don’t you let it go
I’m wonderstruck
Reading all the way home
I’ll spend forever
Wondering if you knew
That this story is flawless
Don’t you let it go
I’m wonderstruck
Reading around all alone
I’ll spend forever wondering if you knew
I was enchanted to read you

And this is me praying that
This was the very first page
Not where the storyline ends
My thoughts will echo Icarus’s name
Until Daedalus sees him again
These are the words I held back
As I was done reading too soon
I was enchanted to read you

Please don’t be in love with some other story
Please don’t not expand this one (I’m waiting on you)
Please don’t be in love with some other story
Please don’t not expand this one (I’m waiting on you)
Please don’t be in love with some other story
Please don’t not expand this one (I’m waiting on you)

This story is sparkling
Don’t you let it go
I’m wonderstruck
Reading all the way home
I’ll spend forever
Wondering if you knew
This story is flawless
Don’t you let it go
I’m wonderstruck
Reading around all alone
I’ll spend forever wondering if you knew

(Please don’t be in love with some other story)
(Please don’t not expand this one (I’m waiting on you))

*bawls* Is he not brilliant? IS HE NOT??? Gah. I was smiling so hard when this appeared in my inbox.

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