Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Launch Party for BREAKING THE ICE!

If you're in Louisville, this is your official invitation to come on down for my launch party on Saturday, January 17th! It'll be at Carmichael's bookstore, starting at 4 p.m. I'll be reading a little from the book, and there might even be a few yummy things to eat.

Hope to see you there!

Details can be found here:

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Giveaway for BREAKING THE ICE swag!

Happy Thursday, everyone! My writer friend E.M. Caines (who wrote a fun YA called WILL THE REAL PRINCE CHARMING PLEASE STAND UP?, which you should totally read if you haven't already) made me these adorable little mini-book ornaments:

Isn't that the cutest thing ever? So, guess what... I have 20 of these ornaments that I would love to send out! To you, and your critique partner, and your middle grade reader, and your favorite teacher, and your local librarian, and well, pretty much everyone you know. I'll even write you a (teeny tiny) note inside and sign them!

Plus, I'm going to include a BREAKING THE ICE postcard and two bookmarks (one to keep, one to give away!).

So how do you enter this most awesome giveaway? Easy! You pre-order a copy of BREAKING THE ICE (either the print copy or the ebook), and then enter the Rafflecopter below.

If you win, you'll email me a screenshot (or forward the email pre-order confirmation) dated the day or you entered or earlier (so, yup, if you pre-ordered waaay back in August, you can enter!), and then I'll send you:

1) one super-cute, personalized and signed BTI ornament,
2) two BTI bookmarks, and
3) one BTI postcard

You can pre-order from any online or bricks-and-mortar store, but I'll throw in a plug here for my amazing local indie, Carmichael's. If you pre-order from them, you can indicate in the comments that you want a signed and personalized copy.

That's it! I have 20 of these babies to give away, and I can't wait to send one to you! The giveaway will end on Monday, December 15th at 11:59 p.m. US only, please!

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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Cover reveal for Ronni Arno's RUBY REINVENTED

My fellow MG Beta Reader and publisher sister, Ronni Arno, had her cover reveal yesterday! Here's the blurb for RUBY REINVENTED:

When 12-year-old Ruby Miller learns that her BFF’s are only friends with her because of her famous parents, she finds a place far from celebrity-crazy Hollywood--a Maine boarding school.

In her panic to distance herself from her star-studded folks, Ruby tells her new friends that she’s an orphan. She feels awful lying to her weird but wonderful roommate Summer (the first real friend Ruby has ever had), but not awful enough. In fact, now that nobody’s comparing her to her remarkable parents, Ruby can finally let her unique talents as a dress designer take center stage.

But when Ruby finds herself connecting with a boy who really did lose his parents, she’s torn between who she is and who she’s pretending to be. And with Parent’s Weekend approaching, she must find a way to keep her secret... without losing her new best friend, the trust of her first crush, and the chance to shine as the designer of her own fashion show.

So cute, right?! The book will be out next year, but for now, go check out the adorable cover and enter Ronni's giveaway on Kidliterati.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Publishers Weekly Reviews BREAKING THE ICE!

Publishers Weekly reviewed BREAKING THE ICE! I'm not gonna lie, this review made my entire week. :)

You can find it here.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

ARC giveaway for BREAKING THE ICE!!

If you're on Goodreads, be sure to enter the giveaway for a signed ARC of BREAKING THE ICE! But hurry, because the giveaway is only open for six days!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Breaking the Ice by Gail Nall

Breaking the Ice

by Gail Nall

Giveaway ends November 11, 2014.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

Monday, November 3, 2014

PitchWars 2014

It's that time again! This is my second year as a mentor for Brenda Drake's PitchWars contest. In case you're unfamiliar with it (if so, where have you been??), it's a contest in which agented/published writers and industry professionals mentor up and coming writers. The mentors work with their mentees on revisions and pitches, and starting tomorrow, the mentees' entries will be posted on Brenda's blog for agents to peruse and make requests!

In August and September, the mentors chose one mentee and one alternate to work with. My little inbox received 92 (!) submissions from fellow middle grade writers. I was humbled (and maybe a little overwhelmed), but I carefully read through each entry. I finally whittled the 92 down to 5. And from there, it was an almost excruciating choice to pick just two. I'm thrilled with the two writers I picked, and these past couple of months have been so much fun!

I'd like you to meet:

Marilee Haynes - I chose Marilee as my mentee. Her manuscript, AMELIA FOOTE ROLLS ON, is a fun, contemporary, younger MG about a girl on a quest for a best friend. Marilee has been a dream to work with, and I'm so proud of the revised manuscript she now has to send to agents. She has two previously published MG books through a small press. I can't wait for her current manuscript to find a home with an agent. AMELIA just oozes voice and personality. I'm so happy I chose Marilee to mentor!

Laurie Bryant - I picked Laurie as my alternate. Laurie's entry is entitled TOMBOYS, and is a historical set in 1930s America on a cross-country train journey. The main character is (you guessed it!) a tomboy, who meets her heroine on the train and must decide whether to follow her dream of becoming a professional athlete. It's well-written, exciting, and I love the way the historical details are so easily woven into the narrative. Laurie is a published playwright and a former college athlete. Laurie, too, has been great to work with, and I can't wait for her entry to go up in the Alternate's Showcase on Thursday (on Dee Romito's blog).

And that's all! See you in the PitchWars this week!

(Okay, not quite all! Watch for a Goodreads giveaway for a signed ARC of BREAKING THE ICE, starting this Wednesday! I'll post here and on Twitter with a link when it goes up!)

Friday, October 17, 2014

What's new....

My favorite local indie bookstore, Carmichael's, will host my book launch party in January! But if you can't make it, you can pre-order a copy of BREAKING THE ICE from them. You can even ask that it be personalized and signed (note this in the comments section when you order)! It'll be like you never missed the party. ;)

In other great news, RSVP is now available for pre-order on Amazon!

Monday, October 6, 2014

777 Meme...Not Quite Paradise

Fellow MG Beta Reader, Kidliteratian, and SCBWI Midsouther Brooks Benjamin tagged me for the 777 meme!

What this is: Go to the seventh page of your WIP, count down seven lines, and post the next seven lines. (I'm gonna go with full sentences because that makes a lot more sense!)

So this is from Not Quite Paradise, which is about a girl who goes with her friend's family on a cruise vacation...except the ship isn't exactly your average cruise ship. It's more of a five year old's princess dream ship. But when the ship offers a free cruise to whoever can win a scavenger hunt contest, Ella convinces her BFF to join her team. Even if it is a floating palace of fluff, Ella needs to win this contest to give her family a much-needed break from life.

Not exactly the most exciting part of the book, but this is where Ella and her friend find out about the contest...

"Calling all Little Highnesses!
“Ugh,” Riley says.
Are you the most royal of them all?
Enter the Prince and Princess of the Ship Contest!
Contest will consist of five parts – one for each day of your fabulous Little Highness cruise.
Please come to the Palace Theater for more information at 9:00 a.m. on Day 2 of your cruise.
You don’t want to miss this!"

If I can think of someone to tag, I'll come back and add to this. (aka: let me know if you want to be tagged!)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

RSVP Cover Reveal!

Today, Jen Malone and I unveiled the cover for RSVP! The book is due out in May 2015, and follows four twelve-year-old friends who form their own party-planning business in a small North Carolina beach town.

This book was SO much fun to write, and I think the cover totally shows that. We were lucky to snag the cover designer, who answered some of our questions and shared original cover sketches. Check it all out here.

You can add RSVP on Goodreads, too, if you want! (We'll still love you even if you don't, though!)

Saturday, August 2, 2014

It's PitchWars time again! Read all about me here...

I'm so excited!! It's PitchWars time!!!!!

Okay, I'll cool it with the exclamation points. For now, anyway.

I can't wait to get the best ever PitchWars mentee and alternate (you hear that, other MG mentors?)!

So, why in the world would you want me as your PitchWars mentor when you can choose any of the other stellar MG mentors?


Used under a Creative Commons License

1) Brag time: my mentee from last year's PitchWars, Abby Cooper, just signed with agent Rebecca Sherman from Writers House!!

2) I beta read like a madwoman. Honestly, I can't even remember how many manuscripts I've beta read. I'm a member of MG Beta Readers, an amazing talented group of writers, and together we run the Kidliterati blog. I'm also part of a semi-local MG and YA critique group. So, yeah. I beta read a lot. And no one's complained yet. I also tend to make random comments in your manuscript that may or may not make you laugh. (They make me laugh, anyway...)

3) I can spot your typo from a mile away. I did time in grad school editing academic works for professors, and held the ever-so-enviable position of Articles Editor on my law school's scholarly journal. (Now watch me have a typo in this blog post...)

4) I LOVE middle grade! Really, I'm the oldest twelve-year-old in the world. I spend all my downtime at writing conferences watching the Disney Channel in my hotel room. (Seriously. I don't have cable at home, people!)

5) I'll focus not just on shining up those first few pages, but making sure your entire manuscript is agent-ready. I'm talking plot, character arcs, pacing, writing quirks - all that good stuff! I want to help you make your manuscript as perfect as possible.

6) I have chocolate! See:

Used under a Creative Commons License

Okay, I'll get to the important stuff now.

What am I looking for?

Used under a Creative Commons License
Hamster! Not on a boat, but whatever.

Middle grade!! I read widely, and love all sorts of genres (including last year's speculative romantic hamsters on a boat....okay fine, I only mentioned that so I could keep the cute picture to the right). However, this year I'm ONLY looking for:

1) Contemporary. I write it. I love it. Funny, heart-wrenching, girl, boy, commercial, literary, all of it!

2) Historical. Any place, any time. I have a BA and a MA in history. I was the kid who dressed up as a Laura Ingalls-esque pioneer girl for three Halloweens in a row. 'Nuff said.

3) Twists on Contemporary and Historical. Meaning magical realism, time travel, alternate history, historical fantasy, mystery. Also, ghost stories, just because I feel like making an exception for ghost stories. If you're not sure whether your manuscript falls under this "twists" category, shoot me a tweet or leave a comment here, and ask. :)

4) The funny stuff. Ah, those books where I have to go find my asthma inhaler because I'm laughing so hard I can't breathe. Send me those (so long as they fall into categories 1-3).

5) Voice. A killer voice is one that grabs you on the first page and tosses you into the story so fast you can't even remember what it was you should be doing instead. (Again, categories 1-3 apply.)

6) Random things I love: characters who are passionate about something, sports, travel, performing arts, spooky stuff, mysteries, fish-out-of-water situations, how-the-other-half-lives stories, outdoorsy stuff, first crushes, friend stories, animal stories, smart kids. So long as they fall into categories 1-3. ;)

7) My favorite authors include: Meg Cabot (the voice...*swoon*), Janet Fox (lush, fabulously-written historicals), Veronica Roth (love her sparse style), Courtney Stevens (every sentence is perfect), Gennifer Choldenko (a lesson in how to make MG historical exciting, relatable, and completely un-teachy), and my fellow Aladdin M!X authors (fun, light, voice-y upper MG). This is just a snippet of my favorites, of course. But I hope it helps give you an idea of what I love.

***Please note: If I've read your work as a critique partner, or if you know me in real life, please apply to another mentor. I want to avoid any kind of bias, plus you already have me as a crit partner! :) If I've read your query or pages as a result of your winning a contest, you are welcome to apply to me as a mentor.***

Hey, wait, who am I?

I'm a contemporary middle grade author, represented by Julia A. Weber. My MG debut, BREAKING THE ICE, will be published on January 13, 2015 by Aladdin/Simon & Schuster. I'm also co-writing the RSVP books with Jen Malone, the first of which will be out on May 19, 2015 from Aladdin/S&S. I'm a grant writer for a non-profit by day.

In the past, I've moonlighted as a personal injury attorney and a business attorney (one of these was better than the other), a somewhat friendly retail associate (I can fold a sweater like no one's business), that nice lady who answers the phones at your ophthalmologist's office (where I learned how to spell ophthalmologist and understand things like PRN and HBP), and an ice rink Jill-of-All-Trades (I could rent you skates and get you nachos at the same time).

Photo courtesy of
Used under a Creative Commons License
Ah, nothing like the aroma of hundreds of old, wet skates...
I'm obsessed with travel, camping, figure skating, cats, spinach, and indie music that makes me cry. I have a two-year-old daughter who is the light of my life.

Questions for me?

Ask in the comments, or tweet me! I love questions.

How do you apply to be my mentee?

Go here.

Who are the PitchWars agents?

Go here.

Yeah, I'm great and all, but who are the other PitchWars mentors?

Mister Linky's Magical Widgets -- Easy-Linky widget will appear right here!
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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

ARCs are here!

A box arrived from UPS yesterday evening, and it was full of pretty, shiny, gorgeous ARCs!

I kinda want to carry the box around with me and gaze lovingly upon them all day...

Friday, July 18, 2014

Aladdin M!X, critiques, and an awesome blog post

Last week, I guest-posted on the Aladdin M!X author blog with 5 tips for kids who want to do a creative project with a friend. I had so much fun writing this, and drew most of it from my experience writing RSVP with Jen Malone.

Today I critiqued a query and a first page for two Pitch Wars hopefuls on Brenda Drake's blog.

Also, I ran into this blog post from Authoress, talking about the dreaded, "What books do you have out?" question and how writing is not a hobby. I LOVE this post -- it's so spot-on.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Sporty Girl Books & a new release date!

Today I'm on Sporty Girl Books, talking skating and sporty girls!

And in other news, the release date for BREAKING THE ICE has been moved up -- to January 13th, 2015!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

It's getting closer...

So these arrived at my house yesterday....

First pass pages for BREAKING THE ICE, plus a sales proof of the dust jacket!!!  If I put them together, they're like an actual book. Minus the binding. And an actual cover. :)

The book is also up on Barnes & Noble for pre-order now:

Monday, June 30, 2014

Debate It!

Today I'm on Debate It! discussing "romance" in MG--crushes and first kisses!

Check it out here.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Wherein BREAKING THE ICE gets a cover and a pre-order link!

BREAKING THE ICE made its cover reveal debut on Kidliterati last week. Click here to see it, and to read my thoughts on the cover.

And then on Friday, I discovered that BTI is now available for pre-order on Amazon! It's not yet up on Barnes & Noble, so stay tuned...

Monday, June 9, 2014

CATCH ME WHEN I FALL by Vicki Leigh -- Cover reveal & Giveaway!

Hi everyone! I'm helping to host Vicki Leigh's cover reveal and giveaway today. I got to meet Vicki during my NY/BEA trip recently. Her book sounds super intriguing, and I hope you all love the cover as much as I do! (It's seriously creepy, in a good way.)

So now....

It’s cover reveal day for Vicki Leigh’s CATCH ME WHEN I FALL! Lots of awesome stuff going on, including a giveaway! But first, here's a special message from Vicki:

And here's what CATCH ME WHEN I FALL is all about:

Recruited at his death to be a Protector of the Night, seventeen-year-old Daniel Graham has spent two-hundred years fighting Nightmares and guarding humans from the clawed, red-eyed creatures that feed off people’s fears. Each night, he risks his eternal life, having given up his chance at an afterlife when he chose to become a Protector. That doesn’t stop a burnt-out Daniel from risking daring maneuvers during each battle. He’s become one of the best, but he wants nothing more than to stop.

Then he’s given an assignment to watch over sixteen-year-old Kayla Bartlett, a clinically depressed patient in a psychiatric ward. Nightmares love a human with a tortured past. Yet, when they take a deep interest in her, appearing in unprecedented numbers, the job becomes more dangerous than any Daniel’s ever experienced. He fights ruthlessly to keep the Nightmares from overwhelming his team and Kayla. Soon, Daniel finds himself watching over Kayla during the day, drawn to why she’s different, and what it is about her that attracts the Nightmares. And him.

A vicious attack on Kayla forces Daniel to break the first Law and reveal his identity. Driven by his growing feelings for her, he whisks her away to Rome where others like him can keep her safe. Under their roof, the Protectors discover what Kayla is and why someone who can manipulate Nightmares has her in his sights. But before they can make a move, the Protectors are betrayed and Kayla is kidnapped. Daniel will stop at nothing to save her. Even if it means giving up his immortality.

CATCH ME WHEN I FALL will be available on October 23, 2014 in both paperback and e-book formats from Curiosity Quills Press. For more information, visit the book’s Goodreads page.

Now, there can’t be a cover reveal without a giveaway, right? Lots of authors stopped by and donated some fantastic books to help Vicki celebrate. You don’t want to miss out on these! Here’s what you can win:

  • An e-copy of CATCH ME WHEN I FALL by Vicki Leigh
  • A submission package critique (query+synopsis+first chap) from Vicki Leigh
  • An e-copy of HEIRS OF WAR by Mara Valderran
  • Two query+first chapter critiques from YA author Emily Stanford
  • A full manuscript critique from YA author Emily Stanford
  • An e-copy of WITHOUT BLOODSHED by Matthew Graybosch
  • A paperback of DESTRUCTION by Sharon Bayliss
  • An e-copy of KIYA: HOPE OF THE PHARAOH by Katie Teller
  • One query+first chapter critique from YA author Katie Teller
  • An e-copy of DARKNESS WATCHING by Emma Adams
  • A copy of DESCENDANT by Nichole Giles
  • An e-copy package of EVER and EVADE by Jessa Russo
  • A signed copy of DIVIDE by Jessa Russo
  • A copy of UNHINGED by A.G. Howard

Enter the giveaway below for your chance to win! All prizes will be accompanied by a Dreamcatcher swag package from Vicki Leigh.

Thanks for stopping by!

About Vicki:

Adopted at three-days-old by a construction worker and a stay-at-home mom, Vicki Leigh grew up in a small suburb of Akron, Ohio where she learned to read by the age of four and considered being sent to her room for punishment as an opportunity to dive into another book. By the sixth grade, Vicki penned her first, full-length screenplay. If she couldn’t be a writer, Vicki would be a Hunter (think Dean and Sam Winchester) or a Jedi. Her favorite place on earth is Hogwarts (she refuses to believe it doesn’t exist), and her favorite dreams include solving cases alongside Sherlock Holmes.

Vicki is an editor for Curiosity Quills Press, a co-founder of The Writer Diaries, and is represented by Sarah Negovetich of Corvisiero Literary Agency.

You can find Vicki at her website and blog and on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, YouTube, and Goodreads.

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Thursday, June 5, 2014

I went to BEA and survived (AKA My Top Seven BEA Moments)

I spent most of last week in New York at BEA (Book Expo America). BEA is this huge trade show for the book industry that draws publishers, agents, marketing people, bloggers and book reviewers, authors, and librarians.

Here are my top moments from the event and New York, in no particular order:
The Books!

1) The ARCs. Holy wow. I brought home 51 books, and there were still some I wish I'd gotten my hands on! A group of us made the smart decision to bring a rolling suitcase to the Javits Center. For $3, we checked it downstairs, and then we all filled it with books during the day.

2) I learned how to hail a cab! (Thanks to Jen Malone!) I feel all officially New York-ish now.

Me, outside the
Simon & Schuster offices.
3) Meetings. I had a coffee date with my editor and a lunch date with my former editor. I loved finally talking to them in person, and seeing their offices.

Friday night dinner.
4) All the people! Okay, not actually all the people at BEA, because that was overwhelming sometimes, but meeting people I'd only talked to only on the internet was so much fun. I learned that no one looks like their Twitter avatar. No one.

5) The pizza. YUM. So yummy, in fact, that I ate pizza twice on Friday.

6) Dinner with the Fearless Fifteeners! We had a great turnout for dinner, and it was great to meet these people I've been chatting with online for months. What a great group of talented people!

7) Aladdin/Simon Pulse cocktail party. I was super nervous about this, but everyone was so friendly! The party was at this nautical-themed dive bar, and was full of editors, publicists, marketing people, and authors. Everyone from the imprints was so much fun to talk to. I also met Rachel Renee Russell (of Dork Diaries fame) and almost spilled water on Scott Westerfeld. I so totally belong. ;)

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Writers share their favorite book research stories

Today on Kidliterati, I talked about my favorite research story for BREAKING THE ICE, and asked other writers to share their best research moments. We've got everything from odd nineteenth-century medical treatments to Filipino paper lanterns. Check it out!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Middle Grade May

The awesome Erica Haglund interviewed me on The Book Cellar blog today. I talk BREAKING THE ICE, Little House on the Prairie, and the Game of Life. 

Go check it out here! :)

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Book Announcement!

So the following little announcement appeared in Publishers' Marketplace late on Tuesday:

(Hmm...I can't figure out how to make it any bigger...)

If you can't read it, here's the text:

Gail Nall and Jennifer Malone's PLEASE RSVP, in which four tween friends start a party planning business and discover good friends are truly worth celebrating, to Amy Cloud at Aladdin, in a two-book deal, by Julia Alexandra Weber at J.A. Weber Literary Agency (on behalf of Nall) and Holly Root at Waxman Leavell Literary Agency (on behalf of Malone) (World).

Jen and I are so excited for these books! We're having a blast writing together, and we can't wait to share the adventures of the PLEASE RSVP girls with everyone.

If you're not familiar with Jen, go check her out here. Her debut, AT YOUR SERVICE, will be out this August from Aladdin, and trust me, it's a fun read!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

My Writing Process Blog Tour

Hi everyone! Today I'm participating in the My Writing Process Blog Tour. My friend, co-writer, crit partner, and publishing sister (whew, enough titles, huh?) Jen Malone tagged me. So here I write:

1) What am I working on?

Three books. Four, if you count edits on DON'T FALL DOWN. Am I crazy? Possibly. All three are middle grade contemporary. One is the book I'm co-writing with Jen, one is in the revising/rewriting stage, and the third is a brand-new shiny!

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

Middle grade contemporary is a HUGE genre. My work definitely falls into the fun and light end of the spectrum. If you were looking a table of food, my books would be the chocolate chip cookies. I find humor in everyday life, and I try to inject some of that into my writing.

3) Why do I write what I do?

It's what came out when I started writing! Seriously, I sat down at my computer one day in the law school library, and instead of working on an outline for Business Law or Constitutional Law class, I started typing a story. I had no idea then that I was writing middle grade. I didn't even know what middle grade was. There was a story in my head, and I had to get it out. Since then, I've figured out why I write MG -- it falls into that age group when I fell in love with reading. From ages 8 to 12, I was always reading. I read anything and everything -- contemporary, historical, fantasy, mysteries, choose-your-own-adventure, classics, adventure, series. Pretty much anything I could get my hands on at the library. So writing for this age group as an adult brings back those memories of escaping into a story. Basically, it makes me feel happy. :)

4) How does my writing process work?
I'm an early-morning writer. From 5 a.m. (or sometimes 5:09 or 5:18, depending on how many times I hit the snooze button) until 6:30ish, I write. If I'm on a deadline or on a roll, I'll write in the evenings or during kidlet naptime on the weekends. Also, I write first drafts Nanowrimo-style. I throw it all out there as fast as I can. I don't reread until I hit the end of the first draft. Even if I change a plot halfway through the book, I keep writing until I'm finished. This works for me, even though it means I usually have to do some massive revisions afterward. Because once I have a first draft, I have a complete book, which is something to work with. Even if working with it means deleting entire sections of the book and rewriting... *sigh*

And that's it! Have a great April Fool's Day!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Me, elsewhere

Yesterday, my publishing sister and awesome critique partner, Jen Malone, interviewed our editor at Aladdin, Amy Cloud. It's a fun interview, and Amy gave a shout-out to yours truly at the end. :) Read the interview here.

Today, I got to introduce myself on the Fearless Fifteeners blog! Read that post here.

And now back to edits for me. Edits and Olympic skating!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Pairs vs. Ice Dancing

During the Olympics this past weekend, I saw a commercial that referred to "pairs ice dancing."

No. This is not a thing.

You see, there is pairs. Then there is ice dance. They are not the same. In fact, the only thing they have in common is they require a man and a woman to skate together.

I sputtered at the TV for a moment, and then decided to write a blog post about the differences between pairs and ice dance. It occurred to me that not everyone is all up in the skating like I am, and this might be helpful to normal people who have lives and stuff. ;) are the differences:

Pairs lift.
Used under a Creative Commons license;
attributed to David W. Carmichael
PAIRS: Inspired by singles skating.
ICE DANCE: Inspired by ballroom dance.

PAIRS: Has side-by-side jumps, throw jumps, pairs spins, side-by-side spins, death spirals, and throw twists. It operates on the WOW factor.
ICE DANCE: Has dance steps, dance spins, and focuses on rhythm, closeness between the skaters, expression, edge quality and one-footed skating, posture and toe point. It operates on the DRAMA or ROMANCE factor.

PAIRS: The lifts are often (but not always) done overhead, as if the woman is flying.
ICE DANCE: Overhead lifts are not allowed. As a result, the lifts are often innovative and insanely difficult-looking.
Dance lift.
Used under a Creative Commons license;
attributed to David W. Carmichael.

PAIRS: The partners do many elements separately, but in unison.
ICE DANCE: The partners rarely separate from dance hold.

PAIRS: The ladies wear traditional skating dresses.
ICE DANCE: The ladies often wear slightly longer dresses.

PAIRS: The skaters usually have prior (and sometimes concurrent) singles skating careers, and start pairs later. (Note: This may be more common in the US than in other countries.)
ICE DANCE: The partners often start training dance together from a young age.

PAIRS: Program music must be instrumental, like in singles.
ICE DANCE: Program music may have vocals, if the skaters choose.

This is a very basic overview, and I'm sure I haven't nailed all of the differences. But now if you see a couple skating, you should be able to determine whether they're doing dance or pairs.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Olympic Countdown: 1 day!

Only one day until the start of the Sochi games! Thursday night will feature the brand new team figure skating competition. I'm really interested to see how this turns out, and which skaters each country will pick to compete in this event.

So, this is the last installment of Gail's completely biased and non-expert opinions on the US figure skating team. Today's topic: ice dance!

Ice Dance...

Meryl Davis and Charlie White
Used under a Creative Commons license;
attributed to Ludwig Welnicki
First up: Meryl Davis and Charlie White. If you watched the 2010 ice dance competition, you might remember the rivalry for gold between Davis and White, and their training mates, Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. Well, buckle up, because it's happening again! Both teams are considered the top contenders for gold in Sochi. But this time around, David and White, who were the 2010 silver medalists, have a slight edge. Not only did they win the Grand Prix Final in December (as they did in 2010, and, well, every year since 2009), they're also the reigning World champions. But that slight edge is definitely slight, as both teams are really equal in the quality of their skating. It also means that neither team can make the tiniest mistake in either the short dance or the free dance. This should be a very exciting competition to watch!

In somewhat unrelated but sweet news, Charlie White has been dating former Olympian ice dancer Tanith Belbin since 2010...awwww! More awwww to watch for: adorable clips of Davis and White skating together as little kids. Awww....  Also, Charlie has really great hair, don't you think?

Madison Chock & Evan Bates
Used under a Creative Commons
license; attributed to Luu

Madison Chock and Evan Bates won silver at Nationals and a spot on the Olympic team. These two have skated together since 2011. That's not very long, but they both had some success with previous partners. (Bates skated with Emily Samuelson at the 2010 Olympics.) And if anyone ever says that ice dancing isn't tough, you can tell them that Bates once ended up with a completely lacerated Achilles tendon after a lift went wrong. Ouch! Chock and Bates placed third at both of their Grand Prix competition assignments this past fall, and are definitely a team to watch.

Maia Shibutani &
Alex Shibutani
Used under a Creative Commons
license; attributed to
David W. Carmichael 

Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani are siblings who captured bronze at Nationals and are now headed to the Olympics. They train with Davis and White, and Virtue and Moir, in Michigan. They've been skating on the senior level since 2010, and have gathered quite a bit of international experience. This past fall, they won bronze at both of their Grand Prix competitions. These two are great skaters and a lot of fun to watch.

Did you miss some of my Olympic Countdown? Here are my opinions on the US ladies' team, the men's team, and the pairs' team.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Olympic Countdown: 3 days

Welcome to the third installment of Gail's completely biased and non-expert opinions on the US Olympic figure skating team! On Friday, I discussed the men's team, and last Wednesday, I pontificated on the ladies' team. Today, it's all about pairs!


Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir
Used under a Creative Commons
license; att'd to Jamie Hull

Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir won the gold at Nationals. These two have been skating together since 2006, which in US pairs, is a long time. They'd been just outside the Nationals podium bubble for a couple of years, but finally broke through and won their first National title in 2013. Castelli and Shnapir do an insanely difficult throw quad salchow. They're one of the few pairs in the world to attempt one, and when she lands it, it's something quite amazing to see. Here's a short video of a successful one at Nationals practice:

Felicia Zhang and Nathan Bartholomay claimed second place and Nationals and were named to the Olympic team. These two have only been skating together since 2011, but even last year they were good enough to land third at Nationals. They train in Florida, which seems to be the new hotbed of pairs skating (both of the 2010 pairs teams trained in Florida, and Amanda Evora, who was a 2010 Olympian, is now one of Zhang and Bartholomay's coaches). Zhang and Bartholomay skate a gorgeous free program to music from Les Misérables. They are so new to the international skating scene that again, I can't find a creative commons photo to use here, so here's a link to a video of their free program:

Friday, January 31, 2014

Olympic Countdown: 6 Days

Welcome back to Gail's Completely Biased and Non-Expert Opinions on the US Olympic figure skating team! (This is where you shout and whistle and throw confetti. Or applaud politely.)

Earlier this week, I talked about the ladies' team, so check that out if you missed it. As of today there are SIX days left until the Olympics! So I'm going to jump to the men's team.


Based upon results from last year's World Championships, the US qualified only two guys for Sochi. Evan Lysacek (2010 Olympic gold medalist) withdrew from Nationals because of injury (which made me quite him!) The field was wide open at Nationals, and there were probably 5-6 guys who could've placed in the top two and been named to the Olympic team.  In the end, it was...

Jeremy Abbott
photo used under a
Creative Commons License,
attributed to David W. Carmichael
Jeremy Abbott took first place by skating two amazing programs. Jeremy is one of those skaters who, when he's on, he's ON. He's got everything he needs to win gold in Sochi, but he can't let the mental game get to him. See, skating is just as much about the mind games as it is the athleticism and artistic ability. It is SO easy to let that little, doubting, insecure voice in the back of your head get too loud. Jeremy has the great record (he's a four-time National champion, including 2010 when he also went to the Olympics and placed 9th) and tons of international competitive experience. He's been steadily improving all season, which is exactly what he should be doing. I absolutely love his skating, and hope he brings it all to the Olympics.

Jason Brown
photo used under a
Creative Commons License,
attributed to David W. Carmichael

Jason Brown took second at Nationals. There is nothing you can't love about him. (Excuse me while I put on my Mom hat.) He's so gosh-darned cute! Look at that smile and that ponytail. And did you hear him sing Disney tunes on the backstage feed at Nationals? I want to adopt him and bake him cookies. (Mom hat off.) Jason has great jumps (but not the quad, yet, which could hold him back at the Olympics) and tons of potential. He's crazy flexible, doing split jumps and half-Biellmanns. And he has this performance energy that crowds eat up. Seriously. If you don't believe me, watch this video (and watch to the very end to see his super adorable reaction to his scores):

Stayed tuned for my completely biased and non-expert opinions on the US pairs team...

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Olympic Countdown: 9 days

I'm going to try something a little new and different on the blog. Since DON'T FALL DOWN is about a figure skater who dreams of the Olympics, I thought it would be fun to talk about skating once in a while.

And since the Sochi Winter Olympics are fast approaching....I hereby give you Gail's completely biased and non-expert opinion on the US Figure Skating team!


So this was a REALLY interesting year at Nationals. Normally, the US Figure Skating selection committee sends the ladies who have placed one-two-three at Nationals. However, they've always reserved the right to replace one of the top three with another skater who has proven herself through a "body of work". In the past, they've invoked this rule in order to send a skater who was injured and unable to compete at Nationals to the Olympics.

But this year was different, as I'll talk about below.

Gracie Gold
photo used under a
Creative Commons License;
attributed to David W. Carmichael
Gracie Gold, an 18 year old who placed first at Nationals, earned a well-deserved spot on the team. Gracie shook things up this season by not only switching coaches, but also changing her short program just a couple of months before Nationals. She did well at Worlds last year, and she has a solid triple-triple jump combination, which is kind of a must these days for top-ranked women.

Polina Edmunds, who is 15 and just barely age-eligible for the Olympic team, took second at Nationals and earned herself a spot to Sochi. Polina is fun and technically amazing (her jumps are just WOW)! She also has a triple-triple combination, but tends to be a bit rougher on the artistic side. She's like the US's answer to Russia's Julia Lipnitskaya (who is also very young and a fabulous jumper). Polina has very little senior-level international competition experience (so little that I can't even find a creative commons photo of her to use!), but what an opportunity for her to go the Olympics!

And here's where it got interesting...

Mirai Nagasu
photo used under a
Creative Commons
License; attributed to
David W. Carmichael

Ashley Wagner
photo used under a Creative
Commons License; attributed to Luu
Third-place finisher Mirai Nagasu (who competed and did very well in the 2010 Olympics) was not named to the Olympic team. Instead, the committee chose fourth-place Ashley Wagner (who had just barely missed making the 2010 team). Mirai skated great programs in both parts of the competition, while Ashley made small mistakes in each program.

So, why did they pick Ashley over Mirai?

This is the "body of work" thing. See, Ashley's been steadily improving since 2010. She won the National title in 2012 and 2013. She placed fourth at Worlds last year, and was the only US lady who qualified for fall's Grand Prix Final. She's proven she can compete with the likes of Mao Asana and Kim Yu-Na (who are, arguably, the top contenders for the Olympic gold medal).

Mirai, on the other hand, has had a rougher four years since 2010. Despite placing fourth at the 2010 Olympics, she hasn't done as well at Nationals or at international competitions since then. When you add to that the fact that she doesn't currently have a coach, it starts to make sense why the committee chose Ashley instead.

It's not particularly fair, and I can't even imagine how Mirai feels about the entire thing. Then again, how heartbreaking would it have been for Ashley -- after working so hard to build her career over four years and helping the US to earn three spots at these Olympics -- to just barely miss the team for the second time? As a friend of mine said on Twitter, I wish we could just send four women to Sochi!

Stay tuned for my equally biased and non-expert thoughts on the men's team...

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Introducing my PitchWars people...and how I chose them

PitchWars starts tomorrow! I can't believe it's almost here. I'm nearly chewing my fingernails in excitement for the agents to see the entries from my mentee and alternates. Team Chocolate Truffles is SO talented and amazing and just everything!

I received upwards of 60 queries for PitchWars. And there wasn't a single dud among them. Not a one that made me cringe and think, This person really shouldn't be writing. Talk about an eye-opener. When I was entering contests, I had no clue how steep the competition was. Being on the other side made me feel a heck of a lot better about all of those times I'd entered contests and didn't get picked. Because it was tough, guys! I read every single query and attached pages. And by the time I got through them all, I'd identified 16 as top choices.


Yeah, it was NOT an easy decision. And this, folks, is where that subjectivity thing comes in. You know, why agents request from some awesome queries but not from other equally awesome queries? That.

Add to that what the PitchWars agents are looking for, and I was finally able to narrow down my sixteen to end up with three.

So, who did I end up picking? And why?

I'm glad you asked...

My mentee is the absolutely hilarious Abby Cooper. (You can visit her blog here and find her on Twitter here.)  The moment I read the query and first few pages for her contemporary MG STICKS AND STONES, I knew. I mean, I didn't KNOW know, but I immediately requested more because I had to see if the manuscript continued to be as funny and voicey and just completely amazing as the first few pages had been. And it was! As I mentioned in my PitchWars bio, I'm a sucker for something that makes me laugh. This did, and it had a main character who was SO relatable, plus a unique concept, and did I mention the voice? Abby's manuscript has that knock-you-down, make-you-forget-what-you're-doing kind of voice. As I debated my top 16 choices, hers jumped out really early as the frontrunner. And now for the subjectivity thing: it's what I write. Not the exact same, obviously, since we don't share a brain or anything, but if Abby's book were published, I would use it as a comp title for my work. I didn't go into this thinking I'd pick someone who wrote in a similar manner as I do, but you write what you write for a reason -- because you love to read it.

My first alternate is Pat Martinez. (You can visit her blog here and find her on Twitter here.) Pat's entry was for a MG historical called MIMI LOST AND FOUND, set in World War II Paris. I had two historicals in my top choices, and both were so different (voice and setting-wise) and SO good. This was one of them. Pat's writing has this lovely, lyrical quality. It's completely different from how I write, and I absolutely love it. The book has a concept that fascinated me right away (and it's based on something that actually exists!). That's all I can say without giving too much away. You'll just have to read Pat's entry tomorrow to find out more. :) Pat's query was somewhere near the top of my PitchWars inbox, and it stuck with me as I read through the other 60-odd queries. Hers is probably my most subjective pick. She hit upon two things that are personal to me (and that I didn't mention in my bio post, and that aren't really public knowledge): 1) I love all things France. I did a study abroad in Paris in college, and minored in French., and 2) One of her supporting characters is Armenian. I'm one-quarter Armenian, and grew up with a fabulously vowel-laden Armenian last name.  And these are exactly the kinds of things that might strike agents when you query them. You have no idea if there's something in your query or pages that an agent can personally identify with.

My second alternate is Amy Kinzer. (You can visit her blog here and find her on Twitter here.) Amy's book, THE INVISIBLE GIRL, is a heartfelt and compelling contemporary MG. Amy's writing has a wonderful literary quality, and yet it's very readable and full of emotion. The concept is intriguing and timely. This was an entry that haunted me, and one that I couldn't let go of as I tried to whittle down my top choices. I requested more pages, and I found myself disappointed when I'd reach the end -- not disappointed because I felt let down, but because there wasn't more to read! So what was subjective about this entry? Amy's writing, and her subject matter, reminded me of one a critique partner's writing. As I read, I couldn't help thinking how much my CP would love this manuscript. And while my CP is not an agent, if I'm thinking about how much someone else would love something I'm reading, chances are more people would love it agenty-people.

So there you have it. I can't wait for everyone to see these entries tomorrow! Check back then for links to Abby's, Pat's, and Amy's entries...