Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Spotlight: Heading to the Wedding by Sara Shacter

Im very excited to have Sara Shacter on my blog today. Sara is not only an amazing writer, but shes also the Assistant Regional Advisor for Illinois Chapter of the Society of Childrens Book Writers and Illustrators and a wonderful person. To say that I was thrilled when she agreed to chat with me about her picture book, Heading to the Wedding, is a bit of an understatement.

Please give Sara a warm welcome!

Cherie: Sara, thanks for stopping by. Can you tell us about your picture book, Heading to the Wedding?

Sara: When Patrick, his sister Evie, and his parents are invited to a wedding, his worried mom suggests they all practice for the big day. To do so, the family raids Patrick's collection of stuffed animals and action figures. Evie and Dracula tie the knot while T-rex officiates.  Thanks to Patrick and Evies newfound skills, the actual event is a smashing success!

While writing Heading to the Wedding, my goal was to deliver a humorous, warm tale that also happened to educate kids (in a non-didactic fashion) regarding this particular aspect of the adult world.  It's nondenominational, so it has a wide audience, and it isn't just for the flower girl or ring bearer.  It's for ANY child who will be at a wedding.

Cherie: Heading to the Wedding is a wonderful and fun book. How did you come up with the idea for it?

Sara: Years ago, I was at a business dinner with my husband.  While chatting with folks, I mentioned I was a children's book writer.  A woman asked me if I knew of any books that explained wedding guest etiquette to kids.  Her family had been invited to a wedding and she was at a loss.  I spotted a potential hole in the marketplace!

Cherie: Im glad you did and I love being able to tell parents about your book. What is your favorite thing about writing picture books?

Sara: I love the challenge of packing a great story, compelling characters, goofy humor, and artfully crafted sentences into a package that consists of as few words as possible.

Cherie: I admire picture book writers and I know its not easy to keep the word count low and write a great story. Do you have any advice for aspiring picture book authors?

   - Read your work aloud.
   - Make each word count.
   - Remember the illustrator -- s/he needs space to insert his/her vision; your story will be stronger as a result.

Cherie: Great advice! Can you share with us what youre working on now?

Sara: I'm starting the first book of what I hope will one day be a series of middle-grade novels!

Cherie: Oh! I cant wait to hear more about it! Now for some fun questions

M&M or Skittles?  M&Ms for sure -- I routinely raid my kids' stash.

Are you a morning person or an evening person?  Evening.  Even when I know I'm exhausted, I can find something to do/read into the wee hours!

Favorite author?  Sooooooo many....hard to choose....but I do so very much love Barbara Park.  Junie B. Jones is one of my favorite characters ever.

Do you have any guilty pleasures that get you through the writing/revising process?  Gum.  I'm a chain-chewer.

Do you have a favorite place to write?  In my kitchen.  It's filled with light.

Are there any types of books you dont read?   I'm mostly a fiction gal.  Very little nonfiction.  And nothing relentlessly dark.  I need a spark of hope!

Sara, thanks so much for being with us today!

Stop by Sara Shacters website to learn more about her and her books.

                              Find Sara:                             Purchase Heading to the Wedding
              Facebook | Twitter | Website                    Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Join me at Chicago Tribune Printers Row Lit Fest

This year at the Chicago Tribune's Printers Row Lit Fest, children's book author and writing coach Esther Hershenhorn presents Oh, the Places You'll Go! Writing for Children TODAY!

I'll be talking about my journey to publication along side  M. Molly Backes, Gina Bellisario, Keir Graff, Barbara Gregorich, and Natalie Ziarnik.  

Registration is free. Click here to sign up and avoid having to stand in line hoping there's an empty seat. 

                               Saturday, June 9, 2012
                                               1:00 p.m.
                                               Jones College Prep High School/Student Learning Center
                                               606 S State St. (Use entrance on Harrison)
                                               Chicago, IL

Friday, May 25, 2012

Feature & Follow #12

Welcome to Feature & Follow

Feature & Follow is hosted by Alison of Alison and Parajunkee of Parajunkee's View. It's a fun way to make new friends and to interact with old ones. Click the links above to learn more and to join the fun.

Q: Activity! Dreamcast your current read.

I hate to admit it, but I've been having such a hard time getting into a book lately. I think it's because I've been working diligently on finishing the sequel to my book that every time I try to read for pleasure I feel like I should be polishing mine up. So I'm going to cheat a little on this one and include the dream cast for my novel, Embrace. I do hope everyone will forgive me for doing my own book.

Madison Riley
I chose Emma Watson as Madison because of her easygoing 
personality, lighthearted laugh, and overall sweet appearance.
She'd have to dye her hair a darker, but that's easy enough to do. 

Kaylee Bishop
Selena Gomez's big brown eyes and warm smile fit 
Madison's best friend, Kaylee Bishop.

Isaac Addington
Kevin Lutz’s broad shoulders and sly smirk makes him a good candidate 
for Isaac Addington, the mysterious new guy. Who wouldn’t want to get to know 
him better? And that smirk is a dead giveaway he knows something we don’t.

Josh Corey  
And I can’t forget Josh Corey, Madison’s good friend and Kaylee’s boyfriend. 
Ben Jelen’s dark features, longer hair, and don’t mess with me look reminded me of Josh. 
Dangerous and sweet wrapped up in one delicious package, don’t you think?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Vote to Win: Help Name a Character in the EMBRACE sequel

HOLD TIGHT, the sequel to EMBRACE, introduces new supernatural beings and I asked teens to help me name one of them.

Here’s what I told them about the character: 
Male in his late teens, stormy white eyes and 
pale blond hair. His glamour gives him the 
appearance of having honey brown hair & pale 
blue eyes. Think pretty boy appearance.

The response was huge. There were so many great names entered that I had a hard time narrowing them down to three, so I took out my trusty hat, tossed in over twenty names, and had my son pull three out.

                            And the finalists are:

Zion, entered by Dave Martinez
Kashmeir, entered by Alexis Peplow
Dellis, entered by C.J. Cantilena

Here's where I need your help. Vote for the name you like best. The student who entered the name that receives the most votes and one lucky voter will each win an autographed copy of EMBRACE plus swag or a $15 gift card to Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, or Starbucks. (Due to the cost of shipping, contest open to US residents only. International residents are still welcome to cast a vote.)

Here’s how it works. There are three Rafflecopter forms below. Find the form for the name you like best, click “Vote for …”  It's that easy. Plus, there are four additional ways to vote and be entered to win. Come back daily to vote for your favorite name and increase your chances of winning.

Good luck!  

Look for the form with the name you want to vote for.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway
If you have any problems with the form, please leave a comment and I'll take a look.

Thanks for participating and good luck!!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Feature & Follow #11

Welcome to Feature & Follow

Feature & Follow is hosted by Alison of Alison and Parajunkee of Parajunkee's View. It's a fun way to make new friends and to interact with old ones. Click the links above to learn more and to join the fun.

Q: Summer Break is upon us! What would be the perfect vacation spot for you to catch up on your reading & relax?

I love this question. My perfect vacation spot to catch up on reading would include a view of the ocean or a lake. The first three places to pop in my head were:

1) Maui. The weather is beautiful, the water crystal clear, and it's the island where it would be easy to relax with a good book.

2) Washington State. I've never been, but I hear it's beautiful. I'd have to do a little research to know the best place for curling up with a book. 

3) I also hear Figi is beautiful. I'd love to mix touring the island and reading. 

I have to admit, most of the places I'd like to visit wouldn't be good for reading. I'd be too busy sight seeing, but I've found plane rides are a great place to catch up on reading and I've yet to fall asleep on one. A trip to Europe would still allow me plenty of time to read: London, Prague, Italy, Germany... my list of places I'd love to go is quite long.

How about you? Where would your perfect vacation to catch up on your reading be? 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

School Visit

Last week, I was at Bartlett High School talking about life as an author. First thing I noticed is the front row is still the last row to fill up. Of course, I gave this some thought. When I was in high school, I chose a seat somewhere in the middle to the back of the room too. Now, I'm fine with sitting in that first row. So what's changed? Well, there's the cool factor. Picking a seat in the middle will allow you to hear without appearing too eager to be there. Then, of course, as an adult I'm probably paying to be there so you can bet I want to hear what the speaker has to say. 

Seriously, though, the staff and students were very welcoming and it was wonderful to talk with them.

As I did at my last school visit, I invited students to help name a character in the EMBRACE sequel HOLD TIGHT. I'll be selecting three names to go on to the finals. The student who entered the name that receives the most votes will win a fabulous prize and one lucky voter will also have a chance to win. Voting starts May 22nd. Be sure to stop back for more information on that!

What did students want to know about an author's life?

  (Q) Have I ever based a character on someone I know?
  (A) Not entirely, but my characters do share small traits with my family and friends. 

  (Q) What tips do I have for overcoming writer's block?
  (A) My top tip was to walk away from your computer and do something else. When this doesn't work, I start to ask myself what if,  jotting down lots of ideas until one resonates with me. Something else I do a lot when I'm writing the first draft is to skip the section I'm stuck on. It's often easier to come back and write the middle once I know what happens later in the book. Click here to see the post I recently did on conquering writer's block.

This last question came up after I mentioned that I don't read books containing the same supernatural element as the book I'm working on. For instance, I won't read a book with angels in it if I'm writing a book with angels. This is so I don't inadvertently copys what another author has done. 

  (Q) Have I ever found that I've copied from another book.
  (A) No. Well, I sure hope not. But my critique group doesn't hesitate to mention if something reminds them of another book and I love them for that. 

What are high schoolers reading? Ellen Hopkins' novels and Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher were among the titles mentioned.

I’d like to thank the school for having me. It was truly great to be there.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Random Act Of Kindness BLITZ!

A smile. An encouraging word. A thoughtful gesture. Each day people interact with us, help, and make our day a bit brighter and full. This is especially true in the Writing Community

Take a second to think about writers you know, like the critique partner who works with you to improve your manuscript. The writing friend who listens, supports and keeps you strong when times are tough. The author who generously offers council, advice and inspiration when asked.

So many people take the time to make us feel special, don't they? They comment on our blogs, re-tweet our posts, chat with us on forums and wish us Happy Birthday on Facebook.

Kindness ROCKS!

To commemorate the release of their book The Emotion Thesaurus, Becca and Angela at The Bookshelf Muse are hosting a TITANIC Random Act Of Kindness BLITZ. And because I think KINDNESS is contagious, I'm participating too!

I am randomly picking Marian Manseau Cheatham, who is an amazing person as well as an amazing writer. When I was still very new to writing for children, Marian offered to meet with me to go over a chapter of my novel one on one. Her encouragement and kindness helped me finish that novel and improve my craft. Marian, for my RAOK gift, I'm offering to critique a chapter of one of your novels! 

I really appreciate Marian, who blogs  at Merely Me. If you have a minute, please stop in and tell her how awesome she is!**

Do you know someone special that you'd like to randomly acknowledge? Don't be shy--come join us and celebrate! Send them an email, give them a shout out, or show your appreciation in another way. Kindness makes the world go round. :)

Becca and Angela have a special RAOK gift waiting for you as well, so hop on over to The Bookshelf Muse to pick it up.

Have you ever participated in or been the recipient of a Random Act Of Kindness?  Let me know in the comments!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Feature & Follow, May 11th

Welcome to Feature & Follow

Feature & Follow is hosted by Alison of Alison and Parajunkee of Parajunkee's View. It's a fun way to make new friends and to interact with old ones. Click the links above to learn more and to join the fun.

Q: This Sunday in the U.S. is Mother's Day. In celebration, what are some of your favorite books with strong mother/child relationships?

This is a difficult question. In many of the books I've read of late, the mom is gone. I even walked over to my bookshelf to try to jog my memory and the books I own where mom is alive the mother/daughter relation isn't strong. Sarah Dressen's books come to mind. I'm sure I'm forgetting many others. So for now, I'm going to get a cup of coffee and think about this one. 

Okay. Now that I have had some time to think about this (and I'll admit I saw this answer on another hop), but Percy Jackson and his mom definitely have a great relationship. I wish I had thought of this earlier. :)

How about you? Any books come to mind??

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Career Day Recap

Last Friday, I had the pleasure of being a part of career day at the middle school near me. There are a lot of aspiring authors out there. One student was kind enough to let me read a couple of his poems and they were amazing. Others are already writing their own stories. It was great to chat with them about a career as a writer.

I invited students to help name a character in the EMBRACE sequel HOLD TIGHT. There were so many great names submitted that I may just have to put them in a hat, close my eyes, and let chance decide which go on to be a part of the contest I’ll be hosting toward the end of the month. Be sure to stop back for more information on that!

Top questions from students:

  (Q) What do I love most about being a writer?
  (A) Meeting readers, creating new characters, and seeing what trouble I can get them into.

  (Q) What’s the hardest part about being a writer?
  (A) If you choose to be traditionally published then finding an agent/editor.

What are seventh graders reading? Top answer from the students polled: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins.

I’d like to thank the school for having me. I hope the students enjoyed learning about what an author does as much as I enjoyed talking to them.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

9 Ways to Conquer Writer's Block

Writer’s block: the inability to write another word. 

That’s putting it rather simply, and it’s a moment in time all writers dread. So how do you get past writer's block? Below, are some of my favorite techniques.

  • Do something else. Sometimes the answer is to step away from your computer. Take a walk, clean the house, watch a movie, hang out with friends. 

  • Discuss it out loud. You don’t necessarily need a live person to do this. Ramble to yourself, discuss what you want to happen with a stuffed animal, explain the problem you’re having to a picture. You might be surprised how this helps you work though what’s causing your writer’s block.

  • Try a new approach. Put your characters in danger, have them take the hard right over the easy wrong (or vise versa), turn left instead of right.

  • Allow yourself to write crap. It will help you get to where you need to be in the story.

  • Work on a different scene. Often times writing a scene that comes later in the book will help you realize what needs to happen in the one you’re stuck on.

  • Do some writing exercises. There are sites that offer themes, Figment being one of them.

  • Try the cluster technique. Write down a word, any word, then jot down anything that comes to mind when you think of that word.

  • Map out options. To the left is a much neater version of what I often do on a piece of notebook paper.

  • Give yourself a break. Inspiration can't be forced. Allowing yourself to take a short break might just get your creative juices flowing again.