Monthly Archives: August 2011

Write On, WriteOnCon

By now I’m behind the times with this, but I still wanted to weigh in. WriteOnCon is a free online conference organized by a fabulous group of children’s writers and that has now occurred for the past two Augusts. Visit WriteOnCon to check out any or all of the posts from the conference itself, and for monthly events throughout the year.

Here are some of my favorite tidbits from this year:

On characterization:

Over the course of the novel, your job as a writer is to bring your characters’ wants and needs into alignment: in other words, they have to learn to want what they need. This ensures that your character will grow and change…

(Lauren Oliver, author of Delirium and Before I Fall)

… it’s the presence or absence of moments like these – moments that really matter – that make or break any story….The only reason we care what happens in a story is because we care about the characters. That’s where we get invested.

(Matt Myklusch, author of the Jack Blank series)

On promotion:

You can no longer rely on a publisher to supply these for you. Get creative! Consider designing bookmarks, postcards, posters, flyers, brochures, bookplates, downloadable coloring pages, games, teachers guides, mp3’s, t-shirts, note pads, balloons, crayons, pens, pencils, rulers, bubbles, stickers, craft items, toys, coloring books… anything related to the theme of your book, and the more kid-friendly, the better. These giveaway items … attract people to your table and speak for you long after you have gone.

(Emma Walton Hamilton, Bestselling Author, Speaker, Editor, Arts Educator and Literacy Advocate)

These pieces of advice really resonated for me. However, WOC was full of awesome advice from so many people. The live chat with Barbara Poelle and Holly Root was one of the funniest things I’ve read in a long time (you can read the transcript). I loved the chat with author Sarah Rees Brennan (of The Demon’s Lexicon trilogy). There were also vlogs from authors (like Lindsey Leavitt, who wrote Princess for Hire), editors (like Martha Mihalick), and agents (like Holly Root). Agent Sara Megibow did two live chats, one on self-publishing. And there were various forum events with agents, such as Alyssa Eisner Henkin, Christina Hogrebe, Jessica Sinsheimer, and others.

Seriously, my friends, this is just a tiny sampling of what WriteOnCon had to offer. It’s not too late to learn from the pros and gather inspiration for the long road ahead.

Write On!

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Filed under Getting Published, writing

My Last Beta-Reader

I’m going to get a bit gushy, so please forgive me in advance.  I’ve read lately about authors thanking their spouses for being their first readers.  Well, my husband isn’t my first reader, he’s my last.  He doesn’t want to see a manuscript until I think I’m done.  But he does read all my manuscripts.

Despite that, I was surprised when RocketMan said he wanted to read Sophie.  He had a hard time with Kwizera – he’s totally a genre fiction kind of guy, especially old school sci-fi.  (In fact, lately he has lamented the loss of the kind of sci-fi he likes to read, so please send some good adult sci-fi recs in our direction.)  Kwizera was too…literary for him.  But he read it and made a few comments.

Sophie seems to be a different story.  (Nope, that pun was not intended, and I didn’t even notice it while writing.)  The other night he came home late from a business trip and he brought up the fact that he was about halfway through Sophie.  Then he proceeded to tell me his thoughts.  Every time I thought he’d finished, he’d launch into another thing he remembered from my manuscript.

I couldn’t keep the grin off my face.  It didn’t matter that he had a few negative comments – he was talking about Sophie, and he got it.  He noticed things that other beta-readers missed.  For example, he pointed out that when Sophie changes out of her 21st century togs, the sister of the girl she’s pretending to be should be horrified by her underwear, because she wouldn’t have seen anything that skimpy before.  Then he gave me ideas to write myself out of that problem.

Isn’t he awesome?

He would also want you to know that he’s not a dirty old man; he just remembers being a 16 year old geek (or is it nerd?).

He also said he keeps thinking about where it’s all going and threw out some ideas.  I just grinned and kept my lips sealed.  He hasn’t figured out the twist!  Squee!  (Oops, I hope he isn’t reading this, because now he’ll put his super-genius brain to the task of figuring out the twist.)

So, not only does he keep me very well-fed (did anyone read my tweet last week about the lobster paella made on the grill?) in a material sense, he also feeds my creative writer self and pushes me to be even better.

Who feeds you?

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Filed under The rest of my life, writing

Read-Through Thursday: The Demon’s Surrender

This is a series wherein I will discuss whatever book I’m reading or have just finished.  Feel free to post in the comments what you’re reading or your own thoughts about the books I discuss. 

The Demon’s Surrender by Sarah Rees Brennan

The Demon’s Surrender is the third in The Demon’s Lexicon trilogy by Sarah Rees Brennan.  I just love these books.  The plots always keep you guessing, the main characters are hot, and you seriously will not be able to put down any of these books.

I haven’t started with a synopsis because I don’t want to give anything away to those who haven’t read the first two books (The Demon’s Lexicon and The Demon’s Covenant).  Each book is narrated by a different character, and I can tell you that the books center around the Ryves brothers, Alan and Nick, and their friends Mae and Jamie Crawford.  The brothers have spent their lives running from and fighting magicians, who use the power of demons for their own purposes.  In the world Brennan created, a demon’s mark opens a human up to possible possesion, which soon leads to death.  The four friends must figure out how to survive in the war between the Goblin Market – where humans can get magical paraphernalia and answers from the demons – and the magicians.

If you’re into paranormal adventures, you must read these books.  And, since these books are YA, of course there’s romance.  Steamy romance.

Did you catch the WriteOnCon Live Chat with Sarah Rees Brennan?

Read any good paranormal lately?  Please share your favorites in the comments.

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Filed under Reading

Read-Through Thursday: Memento Nora

This is a series wherein I will discuss whatever book I’m reading or have just finished.  Feel free to post in the comments what you’re reading or your own thoughts about the books I discuss. 

Memento Nora by Angie Smibert

From Goodreads:  A teen struggles to hold onto her memories-and her identity-in a world that wants everyone to forget-and keep on shopping. Three dynamic teens come together to create a comic book of their memories.

I love Goodreads, but that description really doesn’t do this book justice.  Memento Nora by Angie Smibert is told by three different POVs:  Nora, the popular girl about to find out her life isn’t what she always thought, thanks to some sneakiness on the part of her father; Micah, the artsy, rebellious boy who has a crush on Nora; and Winter, Micah’s best friend who further opens Nora’s mind to the horrors the government would prefer its citizens forget.  People take little white pills to forget anything traumatic, and anyone who rebels against the system is detained, sometimes forever.

This is a surprisingly short read, especially for a dystopian, but the story didn’t feel unfinished.  I enjoyed the world-building, and the budding relationship between Nora and Micah.  I loved Winter’s grandfather.  Who wouldn’t love a grandfather who was part Spider Man, part peaceful vigilante (or does that still come under the heading of Spider Man?)?

If your parent or grandparent could be any superhero, who would you pick?

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Filed under Reading

Query Resources (repost)

Having just drafted a query letter for Sophie, I thought others could benefit from the resources I used. I originally posted these resources in Winter 2010, when I had just rewritten the query letter for Kwizera, but I still swear by these resources and all the helpful query tidbits these links imparted. 

When you get published, you can thank me in the acknowledgements.

*An agent rips apart, I mean, gently critiques query letters sent in by writers, on the Query Shark blog.

*Advice from the queen of query letter advice, agent Janet Reid.

*More advice from agent Janet Reid who spoke about queries at a conference. Thanks to Kathy Kulig for sharing.

*Even more advice, this time on writing a 250-word query, from Janet Reid.

*Agent Nathan Bransford’s blog is full of great information for writers, including this on the anatomy of a good query letter.

*Young adult author, Elana Johnson, used to call herself the Query Ninja. Her blog still offers lots of advice on writing queries, and she offers her e-book From the Query to the Call for FREE (I have it).

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Filed under Getting Published

Writing for Children

I’ve seen a lot of blog posts and comments lately with writers talking about why they write for children.  They usually say that they still feel their inner children, or that books were so important to them during those formative years.

Those are great reasons.  Books were certainly important to me when I was growing up.  I devoured books from the time I started reading.  From Cherry Ames and Nancy Drew through Agatha Christie.  In high school my dad made me get the reading list for my grade from the library each year.  I had to read books on the list and write book reports for him.  I don’t know why he needed that extra proof considering that I was a good kid and a good student, and would have read them simply because he told me to.

Anyway, I may write because I love to read and I feel that I, too, have something to say.  But I don’t think I write for kids because of how much I loved books when I was a kid.  There’s just something about MG and YA books that really speaks to me.  There are someone awesome MG and YA books out there and I just enjoy them so much, that I want to be a part of that too.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that I am a teacher, and writing for children helps me tap into that part of myself (without being pedantic, of course).  I love the idea of teaching children a small piece of the world I have experienced, a world beyond familiar and comfortable borders.

So why do you write, and why for kids?

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Filed under Reading, The rest of my life, writing