Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Liebster Blog Award

I receive the Liebster Blog Award this week from Francesca Zappia.

What is this award? I’m glad you asked. “The basic idea of the Liebster Blog Award is to showcase bloggers with less than 200 followers.” When you get the award, you keep the love going by giving it to 5 other bloggers who have less than 200 followers. This was difficult because there are so many great blogs out there, many that I recently found because I’m a part of Rachael Harrie’s Platform-Building Campaign.

To share the love and pay it forward, my list of awesome blogs are:

Angela Brown -
Lyla Lee -
Maria -
Jani -
Megan -

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Revising is hard

For whatever reason, I’m finding it’s taking me longer to get through this round of editorial notes than the previous one. The problem isn’t that there are more changes that need to be made. It’s that we are focusing on the little details that are so important to the story. In some cases it’s a matter of showing instead of telling, in others the information is repetitive and needs to be changed. As I revise, I have to avoid word echoes or using actions or phrases I’ve already used. I’m challenged to find different ways of expressing emotions; even I was surprised at how many times my MC’s mouth fell open. J

Writing is hard. I love it. I can’t image not writing. I find coffee, chips and Dove chocolate help, much to my waistline’s dismay. 

What do you do to help you get through the revision process?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Getting on board: Platform-Building Campaign

I just found out about this fabulous opportunity for aspiring authors, bloggers, industry peeps, even published authors, who want to build their online platforms. What a wonderful way to meet new people and have fun doing it!

I just joined Rachael Harrie's Third Writers' Platform Building  It's easy. You join, you meet other writers, they meet you, you help one another out. 

If you'd like more information, click on the link above. 

Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The birth of Embrace and a little about how I write

A writer can come up with an idea for a story from almost anywhere: things our kids say or do, a boarded up building, a conversation we can’t help overhearing, the lady in front of us at the grocery store, a news article. Luckily for us, the sources are endless.

As with most of my stories, my young adult novel Embrace started with a scene of a teenage girl that kept replaying itself in my head for weeks - it might have been months - and I'm not really sure why I kept seeing her. I'd imagined this girl sprinting through the halls at school trying to reach her locker before anyone saw her. The soft steady click of heels against the tiled floor wasn’t far behind her. I started to ask myself who is this girl and why is she in such a hurry. It didn’t take long for Madison to be born and I soon found myself asking more questions like how did she get to this point in her life and what is she hiding. With each set of answers came more questions until I finally sat down and started writing. Ironically, the original scene that had been percolating in my thoughts for weeks never made it into the book, but it did give birth to one of my favorite chapters.

I don’t work from a written outline, although I usually do have a beginning, middle and end in mind when I start writing a book. Embrace was an exception, though. I started in the middle of Madison’s story and worked backwards. Once I knew who she was and what was important to her, I was able to write the opening chapters. As I did, the end of the book became clear.

Where'd the idea for you latest work-in-progress come from?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

SCBWI Summer Conference: highlights from day two and three

Saturday’s line up was as exciting as Friday’s. Lin Oliver, Steve Mooser and the rest of the SCBWI team really did put together an incredible program.

Donna Jo Napoli discussed writing about unpleasant things. I’ve discussed this topic in the past with friends and fellow writers. The question is always the same: is a specific subject right for a children’s book. But the thing is these books help children who are living through rough lives in ways those of us that had good childhoods might not understand. They might show a person they are not alone or help others see warning signs from people they love. These books might even save a life. And for those in good homes, it allows them to gather an understanding of what others may go through without having to live through it themselves. It helps these children grow up to be more sympathetic adults. In my book, that is a wonderful thing and hats off to all the authors who tackle issues such as abuse, suicide, living with an alcoholic parent, and so on. The world needs you.

Does your website load quickly? Making sure your page loads fast was only one of the musts Verla Kay mentioned in her breakout session. I’ve always been a fan of her website and the community of writers that are members of the Blueboard, so it was a pleasure to hear what she had to say about promoting books on the internet. I’m still working on my website, but I now have a list of things to check as I create the different pages.

It was fun to hear about Judy Blume’s career. One of the tips she shared with the audience was to start your book on the day something different happens. I also had the pleasure of running into her in the lobby. She is as wonderful as I always thought she’d be.

And I can’t forget about the poolside gala where we all changed into pajamas and danced the night away. 

Sunday Gary Paulsen shared the story of his childhood and what led him to a career as a writer. He had a hard childhood and I’ll admit I got a little choked up when he said his only regret was not being able to thank the librarian who gave him his first library card.  

Harold Underdown and Emma Dryden reinforced the need for an author to have an on-line presence in their breakout session on social media. Helpful tips included owning your own domain name and having an author’s page on Facebook.

One last comment about the conference: the agents and editors I heard speak all look for sample pages with a great voice. It’s that little something that makes a submission stand out from the rest. I wish I could say they included a formula for creating great voice in a novel. But alas, this is something we all have to figure out on our own.

Friday, August 12, 2011

SCBWI Summer Conference: highlights from day one

This year's conference had so many great keynotes and breakout sessions. It was hard to decide what to attend.

Bruce Coville shared his tips for writing during his keynote, Ripples in the Pond: Why What We Do Matters. He suggested that a writer take acting or story telling lessons as well as voice lessons. I found this very interesting and great advice. He also urged writers to take on assignments that frighten them and I can see how this would challenge a person to push their limits and keep growing as a writer. One last bit of advice I won't forget is to take your art seriously, but take yourself lightly.

In Liesa Abrams’ breakout session she discussed middle grade commercial fiction. Middle grade readers are 8-12, sometimes 13. A question I've often struggled with when writing for this age group is how old should my characters be. The answer to this question was no younger than 11 or older than 13. Children like to read up. 

The editors panel included editors from five different houses who gave an industry-wide picture of the market. They felt that the kids market and young adult market are good (great news for us!) and noted that paranormal is hard because there are those leading the pack, but genre fiction will not die.

Libba Bray gave a witty and inspiring keynote. She advised writers not to tell themselves that no one will want this book or read negative articles or blogs. She also said not to say, “ I have to make this book perfect.” Instead say, “How can I make this book better?” I find this to be very true. It's not easy to pour your heart into your work if you are submersing yourself in negativity. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

What editors and agents at the 40th SCBWI Summer Conference want to see

SCBWI outdid themselves at this year’s conference with inspiring keynote speakers, a rocking pajama party, and exciting surprise guests. There were over 1,430 people in attendance this year with representation from 49 of the 50 states (we missed you SD) and attendees from 20 countries.

I’ll be posting some of my notes over the next few weeks. I thought I’d start with what the editors and agents on the panels are looking for. Here’s a quick recap:

   Debra Dorfman, VP, Publisher Paperbacks, Non-Fiction & Licensed Publishing at Scholastic, acquires baby to young adult, although her focus is on middle grade and commercial young adult.

   Beverly Horowitz, VP Publisher of Delacorte Press, works on middle grade and young adult.

   Jennifer Hunt, VP of Acquisition and Development and Editor-at-Large for Dial Books, likes literary/high quality writing.

   Allyn  Johnston, VP and Publisher of Beach Lane Books, acquires picture books, fiction middle grade and young adult.

   Julie Strauss-Gabel's , VP and Publisher of Dutton Children’s Books, preference is literary/commercial middle grade and young adult. In a breakout session, she mentioned she likes contemporary and humor. She doesn’t really do high fantasy or SF, but does enjoy some magical realism.

The agents who participated in the keynote are all looking for the same thing: brilliant writing and the next best seller. They did share what they do not want to see and some of their pet peeves.

                                                            Does not want:                 Pet peeve:
  Tracey Adams, Adams Literary             Quiet books                     Dear Sir
  Barry Goldblatt, Barry Goldblatt Lit.       Bad writing                      Things he doesn’t rep
  Marcia Wernick, Wernick & Pratt          Vampires                         Long winded
  Tina Wexler,  ICM                                Screenplays                     Hostility

Remember to check their website for submission guidelines before submitting!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


I know so many writers who dread revisions and understandably so. We are often ripping apart sentences that we spent a long time crafting, trying to find the perfect words to help bring a scene alive, maybe even cutting several paragraphs or an entire chapter only to have to weave the important details back in other scenes. It’s not easy, but it is one of my favorite tasks. After my critique group meets, I can’t wait to get home and revise. Half the time, I’m already reworking the scene in my head while I drive home.

I was just as excited to roll-up my sleeves and make changes when I received my editor’s notes. I also see the importance of having an editor who loves your story as much as you do. After all, she will be reading it several times during the editorial process. Can you imagine having to read a story that doesn’t grab you over and over and over again?

What I’ve learned from the first round of edits:

  • While my overall mechanics are good, I did occasionally slip into the wrong tense. Something for me to watch for in my other novels.   
  • Comment boxes are a writer’s friend. Yeah, they are intimidating. Like a fat red marker on a term paper. But if you read them one at a time, it’s not so bad. My editor’s insight and guidance has enabled me to see exactly where my story needed work and her notes helped me to address those areas.
  •  No matter how hard I tried to catch word echoes before my editor saw my manuscript, I missed several. I was even surprised how often my MC said ‘just’. J  

Will I have to make more changes? Most likely, but I don’t mind. I still love revising. This is probably proof that I’m a little weird, or maybe a nerd. I’m okay with that.