Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Turtle Tie for Charity: UPDATE

Wow! Ian Sands Turtle Tie that was up for charity auction on e-bay last week sold to the highest bidder for $122.50

for more details on the story you can visit Ian's blog.

Congratulations on your contribution to the Triangle Special Hockey Association!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Wrapping up the Chapel Hill Retreat

In addition to the great sessions on Voice, Point of View and the Pitch and Purpose of our work, we also had time to lounge on the back porch, join small critique groups, or work on our own.

On our last night we had a chance to read for 5 minutes. This picture is of my critique buddy, Janelle, reading from her YA MS. I was brave and read from my current WIP also.

Alan Gratz was one of the attendees. Let me tell you, he's a super nice and talented guy! He was kind enough to answer our endless questions about his writing journey to publication. He's the author of Samarai Shorstop and Something Rotten, with three new titles coming out in the near future. I feel honored to say I was at the conference while he was working on his current WIP, which sounds absolutely fantastic and fresh! If you haven't read any of Alan's work, you need to get out to the library or book store and pick one up!

This is a picture of Maggie Moe taking a picture of me taking her picture.

Some parting words of wisdom from our editors, Martha, Krista and Sarah:
MS's that are easy for them to pass on: 1) Bad writing; clumsy or obvious 1st draft. 2) Not knowing the Genre. 3) an unauthentic voice

What makes them want to see more:
1) solid writing
2) Good concept of voice

1) When submitting, keep editorial assitents in mind. They are just starting to build up their career and are more likely to have time to read more and work with new talent.

Sunday afternoon. Time to leave with lots of things to think about, digest and apply. I've found that blogging has been a great way to help me internalize what I learned, and hopefully some readers have learned something along the way too.
If you've never been to a writing retreat, I think it was worth the time and $$$.

Happy Writing!

Monday, April 28, 2008

I've been tagged! A book Meme

I've been tagged with an interesting meme by Karen Lee.

I am to pick up the book very most nearest to me, open it to page 123, jump to sentence #5 and post the next three sentences.

The book closest to me is Princess Academy by Shannon Hale. On page 123, sentences 6,7&8 read:

"She hates us. She'll fail us for talking."

The next morning, the girls sat so straight that they did not touch the backs of their chairs.

Sarah Shumway, editor at Dutton/Penguin, speaks on Pitch and Purpose of your work

Sarah Shumway

This is editor Martha Mihalik, author Stephanie Greene and editor Sarah Shumway
(in that order)

Sarah and Martha having a nice little chat.

The last session at the Chapel Hill retreat focused on the pitch and purpose of our work. Or in other words . . . the business side of writing.

What do editors think about? Is it just about a well written manuscript?
Here's what Sarah Shumway from Dutton/Penguin had to say

Sarah agrees that as writers, we are and should be mostly concerned about the "writing from our heart" aspect of writing, However, it can't hurt for us to have some understanding of the business of publishing too. The better we understand what an editor has to think about, the better we may be able to present our material to an editor. It may even help to shape and hone our writing.

Sarah's advice:
1) Have an aim and a message or something to share. Have you aimed an audience to a fixed place in your story?

2) Know clearly; What is the point of your work?

3) An editor NEEDS to be able to muster enthusiasm for your work so they can pitch it to their collegues. First they see what other editors think, and then they pitch it to the Sales and Marketing team. Sales and Marketing are the ones who give permission for offering an advance to a writer.
A. Editors need you to have writing skills, but they also want to know that you can pitch your story.

What is a pitch?
A quick description of your story. In once sentence describe your character, goals conflict, and why people would want to take it off the shelf. No. Seriously, she really said one sentence!

Why? Because when book sellers go to libraries and book stores, they only have 15 -10 seconds to sell a book. When consumers go to the shelves, they need take only about 15 -20 seconds to decide if it interests them. If you can't sell the Sales and Marketing Team in 15-20 seconds in a pitch, they know they won't be able to sell it to the consumer.

Scary huh?

Things you should have:

1) A good book description/ plot and appeal of the novel.

2) What is there in the story that is worth telling people about?

3) Hooks for marketing: who is it for, how it ties into the market, why it belongs at the publisher you are sending to. . .

4) A self promotion paragraph: What do you bring to the table?
A. Writing background
B. Personal Background
C. Inspiration
(Consequently, Sarah polled her fellow eiditors and asked them what they most looked for in an author. The #1 on the list was "Connections/avenues to promote the book")

Friday, April 25, 2008

My one on one critique with Krista Marino, editor at Delacorte: Fixing "Show don't tell"


Nervous, I walked into the small room where Krista Marino sat on a pink, flowered reproduction of a victorian sofa.

What would she say? I wondered.

If honesty persist, I was expecting the worst. Only moments before I left my house the previous afternoon, I checked the mailbox where a familiar SASE manilla envelope waited for me . I need not open the envelope. My own handwritten address was the bearer of bad news. Another rejection letter.

Could this be ill omen or good?
I wondered. Though I tried to remain positive, (after all, perhaps this could be the writers equivilent of an actors "Break a leg") I sat behind the wheel of my car and headed toward Chapel Hill in a somber mood. Anger soon joined the mix when I realized that Mapquest had given poor directions. I was lost and there was only 15 mintues left until registration ended.

I fought to push the constant stream of unsettling thoughts from my mind. Just keep your mouth closed and listen to what she has to say. I reminded myself as I sat in the chair across from Krista. Even if it's bad news, I can still work to get better.

I drew in a deep breath, smiled and leaned forward as if to signal my undivided attention. But inside I was trembling. At the pit of my very core I want to be a published author. Will I ever make it?

And then Krista began to speak . . .

Or . . . I could just say "On Saturday morning I had a one on one critique with Krista Marino, editor at Delacorte."

Which is more interesting?

OK. Now, I'll get right to the point. Krista gave me a very encouraging and insightful critique. Her advice was spot on and she said she liked what she read and saw a lot of potential in my story. ~squeal~ :0)

My biggest problem was that I did too much "telling" instead of "showing".

It's funny, but I know the "Show don't tell" rule very well. Or I thought I did. As a matter of fact, I thought I WAS showing and not telling. But Krista did a great job opening my eyes to a whole new level of "telling."

I equated "action" to be the "showing" instead of "telling." Not necessarily so. It's also sometimes difficult to pick out these area's once you've gone over the same story over and over again. That's one reason why critiques are so important, whether it come from an editor or a local critique group. The outside information can be priceless.

What's the fix?: Add emotion, surroundings and thoughts into the mix. Even action can come across as "telling" and can even seem canned or contrived. In other words, don't just say your character is opening the door. What is she thinking as she opens the door? What is going on around her? How does she feel?

Her critique only covered the first 10 pages of my MS, but I have easily been able to apply her advice through out the entire MS.

The critique was golden!

Krista, if you're out there and ever come across this post, Thanks for the great critique!"

Now. . . Back to work!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Point of View as a story telling tool: Notes from a session with Krista Marino, eidtor at Delacorte

Our bellies are full of breakfast, caffeine courses through our veins (or at least through mine with an extra cup in hand) and Krista Marino takes the chair as we anxiously await her session on "Using POV as a Tool to Tell Your Story." Here are the insights that Krista presented: things I had never really thought about before.

1) The point of view that you use can either help your story or hurt it. Well used POV adds to the story and gives it depth.

2) You should not have a preconcieved idea of what POV to use and it should not be forced. You do not choose the POV. POV chooses you.

3) Good POV makes your story so engaging that the narrator becomes invisible. However, the narrator in your story should have a "personality" of their own even if it 's in 3rd person and not an actual character in the story. A good POV will not draw attention to what POV is used.

1st Person POV:
A. This type of POV tends to enhance a character driven story.
1. greater intimacy with the characters opinions
2. greater intimacy with the M/C in general

B. Caution for using 1st Person POV:
1. It's important for the reader to know the MC well
2. Krista feels this type of POV can come across as "contrived" if it's not done well
3. Can slow pacing

C. Good examples of. . . .
1st person: Skin Deep by e.m. Crane
1st person past progressive: Hell Week
1st person Past tense: King Dork

3rd Person POV:

A. This type of POV is good for . . . .
1. multiple protagonists
2. plot driven stories
a. the narrator is kept at an arms length from the protagonist
which is why it's difficult to use this for a character driven story.

B. Caution with using 3rd Person POV. . .
1. Less intimacy with the protagonist
2. Can come across as a more judgemental and disengaged
3. There's a tendency to forget to include emotion

C. Good exapmples of . . .
3rd person Limited: The Giver by Lois Lowry
3rd person limited omniscient: Ball Don't Lie
3rd person omniscient: Little Women

How does POV add to the story? Example:
Ball Don't Lie uses 3rd person limited omnicient. The character is very withdrawn and isolated. This POV mirrors the MC's personality and adds to the tone and feel of the story. If 1st person had been used, it would have told us too much about the M/C, and therefore would have taken away from his personality.

Writing Exercise: Try writing your story from different POV's and see which one tells your story best. What POV adds to the "voice" of your story?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Martha Mihalick, editor at Greenwillow, talks about "What is Voice and Why do Editors go Ga-Ga over it?"

Friday Evening with Martha Mihalick
What is Voice and Why do Editors Go Ga-Ga over it?
My notes and my take on Martha's session on VOICE.

From conferences to the very mouth of an editor, "VOICE" is the buzz word. In writing circles everywhere they talk about how important "VOICE" is. But I've never been clear entirely what it means, until Martha Mihalik's session on voice. Good voice is something you notice when you read it, but when you are the writer, how do you know that you have it?

Martha broke down "Voice" as having eight elements. Though each element is distinct, it's important that they all work together and consistently support one another.

The Short version: Voice is the "Story teller"

1) Language = the vocabulary and dialect of your characters and narrator
2) Syntax and rhythm = how you put together sentences and paragraphs. How do you form them and how do they vary?
3) Tone = How do your characters sound? Are they cheerful, sarcastic, hopeful, dark. . . .
4) Imagery and symbolism
5) Theme = the emotional underlying emotional drive of the story.
6) World View = Where does the story take place? How would the characters think? what would they see? what is their culture? How does the world of the character effect his/her thinking and views.
7) Pacing = Leisurely or fast?
8) Structure = how it's put together, are the characters complex or simple?

So . . . why is voice so important? What's the big deal?
The answer is simple. There are only a handful of different plots that can be told. The "voice" is what makes the telling of the same ol' plots unique and interesting. It's what draws the reader in gives the story vitality and an air of authenticity.

Martha's Advice: Don't write to follow a trend. Write from your heart. If you force your story, the voice will come across as being "fake" or not authentic and will also seem as if the author doesn't have and opinion of the story.

A few of Martha's examples of books with good voice:
Stardust by Neil Gaiman
The Secret Life of Sparrow Delaney by Suzanne Harper
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

A few of my examples of books with good voice:
Crispin and the Cross of Lead; Midnight Magic by Avi
Dovey Coe, By Frances O'Roark Dowell
The Very Ordered Existence of Merilee Marvelous, by Suzanne Crowley

Tomorrow I will focus on Krista Marino's topic of Point of View and how it can help or hurt your story.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

My notes from the Chapel Hill Retreat: Friday Night

On Friday Night we arrived at the Aquaduct Conference Center in Chapel Hill, NC. Eager to learn, share and network. I learned so much, in fact, that I can not post it all in one blog. it will take a series of blogs to share the highlights from my notes.

While we waited for everyone to arrive we gathered on the back porch to enjoy snacks, beverages, good company and a gorgeous view.

I must mention how impressed I am at how friendly and welcoming this group was. There didn't seem to be any cliques or pecking order. I had a good time meeting up with old friends as well as making new ones.

After dinner we met in a circle (as pictured) and shared our favorite read of 2007. If anyone is looking for an inspired reading list, here's what I jotted down, as well as notes from our e-mail list, from our circle time. I hope I didn't copy anything wrong.

Reading like a Writer
Katherine Prose
Girl Genus
Millicent Min
Charlie Bone & Children of the Red King
Jenny Nimno
The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Brian Selznick
Bad Kitty
Nick Bruel
Marley & Me
John Grogan
The Giver
Lois Lowery
David Almond
Dovey Coe
Francis O'Roark Dowell
The Interupption of Everything
Terry McMillian
Doctor DeSoto
William Steig
Wizard of Earthsea
ursula K. LeGuin
Truth about Forever
Sarah Dessen
The Book Thief
Markus Zusak
Writing for the Soul
Jerry B. Jenkins
Gabrielle Zevin
The Very Ordered Existence of Merilee Marvelous

Suzanne Crowley
Stephanie Meyers
My Side of the Mountain
Jean Craighead George
The Higher Power of Lucky
Susan Paton
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landeau-Banks

E. Lockhart
Star Girl
Jerry Spinelli
A Thousand Splendid Suns
Khaled Hosseini
Bartimus Trilogy
Jonathan Stroud
Skin Deep
E.M. Crane
Hell Week
Rosemary Clemet Moore
The Penderwicks
Jeanne Birdsall
Meg Burden
Beauty and the Beast
Robin McKinley

After our sharing time, Editor at Greenwillow, Martha Mihalik gave an insightful and informative session on "What is Voice and Why to Editors Go Ga-Ga Over it?" My notes on her insights will be shared in my next blog. Please excuse the super huge space between the list and this last paragraph. I've tried to go back and fix it, but it won't let me. !@#$#@!@#! urghh!

You can also check out other bloggers who have info and pictures from this retreat as well.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

A turtle tie for a special needs skater

Want to know a great way to sponsor a kid with special needs? The tie, pictured above, is now up for auction on e-bay. Proceeds will go towards sponsoring a skater from the Triangle Special Hockey Association. Click here to find out more about the tie and its designer, Ian Sands. I hear turtle ties are all the rage this year!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

pick of the week: notable web-site Reading Rockets

Here's a fun web-site that I ran into this week. It's called Reading Rockets and they have all kinds of video interviews with Children's authors such as (but not limited to): Jane Yolen, Avi, Lowis Lowry, Jack Gantos and Linda Sue Park.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Eenie, meenie, miney, moe. Le Guin, Avi, Goldman, Poe?

OK, Poe is good, but his name is only in the title because it rhymes with "moe".

Here's the deal. I'm axiously awaiting Friday. (is it Friday yet?) I'm attending my very first writing retreat where there will be 23 other serious writers, many already published. And, I'm going to get a one on one critique with Krista Moreno, editor at Delacourte. (is it Friday yet?) I'm looking sooooo forward to a weekend of writing, making connections, learning and getting inspired.

On Friday evening there will be a "get to know each other" time. We will each tell what our favorite read was in 2007 and why. (is it Friday yet?)

At first, my reaction was "hands down, A Wizardof Earthsea by Ursula K. LeGuin. Her imagery, the character construction, the language. It's an all around beautifully written book.

But then. . . when I was looking back at my notes (yes, I'm a nerd and take notes on what I like about what I read.) and there are a couple other books that inspired and taught me just as much, if not more as A Wizard of Earthsea. (friday? here yet?)

The Princess Bride by William Goldman was funny, fun and brilliant! I loved his character descriptons that not only told the reader what they looked like, but also embodied the characters personality as well. His use of description/ humor, adventure and language drew me into the book. It was probably the most fun read of the year and I learned some stuff about writing along the way. This was also the book I took the most notes on. (surely it's Friday now. I've been waiting FOREVER!)

But wait! there's one more in the running!

Crispin and the Cross of Lead by Avi. I loved Avi's poetic language. This is historical fiction yet I felt like I was reading fantasy. (that's a good thing.) I also enjoyed, and learned a lot from this book. I tend to refer back to this book the most when I get stuck in my current WIP.

But then . . . There's also the Merlin trilogy by Jane Yolen; Gossamer, The Giver, Gathering Blue and The Silent Boy by Lois Lowry; Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt. . . .

How do I choose? Maybe I'll just pick Captain Underpants and the Perilous Plot of Professor Poopy Pants, and be done with it. ;0P

Monday, April 14, 2008

Sunday afternoon with Frances O'Roark Dowell

Frances O'Roark Dowell

Author/Illustrator Karen Lee did the introductions.

My critique group hosted a schmooze yesterday at Quail Ridge Book Store in Raliegh, NC. Our guest speaker was award winning author, Frances O'Roark Dowell. She gave us insights and info about her journey to publication.

Advice and info from Frances: (many of the following are paraphrases.)

1) The 1st draft is going to be bad. You just have to come to terms with that.

2) Her first manuscript was rejected by Caitlyn Dloughy at Atheneam, but Frances revised and resubmitted and it worked out and Frances and Caitlyn have been working together ever since.

3) It's crucial to get feedback on your work. Join a critique group of give your work to people who will give you honest but contructive feedback.

4) Strong characters with a strong voice excites editors. If you have this, you increase your odds in being asked for a revision, even if your MS isn't up to par.

5) It's good to know what's being published and who is publishing what. Who are the editors thinking about. Librarians are a good source for this info.

6) Stop making excuses for why you're not writing your novel. Just do it.

7) You'll learn a lot from reading other people's work.

8) She feels a writer will be successful and can get published if you keep showing up to your desk and keep going.

9) At one point the Dove Coe manuscript was titled "The True Confessions of Dovey Coe"

10) If you get stuck in the story, give your character something physical to do. A lot of times physical action will help get the momentum of the story going again.

11) Just keep writing. Push through the dry spells.

How to keep a character from being flat:

1) Give the Character strong motivations
2) Stay away from stereo types.
3) Give your characters a variety of traits. Don't make the bad guy all bad. Give the good guy flaws. etc.

Things that surprised Frances about getting published:

1) There are so many hurdles that an editor must jump through before accepting a manuscript. They first must have it approved through sales and marketing before they can say "yes"

2) Even after an acceptance there is still a lot of work to be done such as;
proof reading
copy editing

3) Frances was surprised that even after she was published, she still felt a lot of the same insecurities that she had before she was published. Publication doesn't make the insecurities go away.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

philolaughical stuff

Maybe I'm just feeling deep and philosophical lately, or maybe it's because I was inspired by a comment by a friend on Monday's post, or that I like to make myself giggle or maybe I'm just excited that I learned how to prepare and upload something to youtube. Either way, here's something I put together--it's just the deep thoughts that keep me up at night. The unknown unponderables. I hope it won't make your brain hurt too bad.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Dysfunctional reader, I Love'em 'n Leave'em: Book Nook Tuesday

Dear Dr. Bookworm,

It seems that I've had a very difficult time lately sticking with one book. True. I usually have three books going at a time. One for waiting rooms/car pool lines etc, one on CD and one before going to bed.

But I can't seem to stick with any books lately! I've taken several back to the library w/o finishing them. It's not that I thought the books were bad, I just either lost interest or just wanted to move onto something else. I think I've done that with at least four books this month. Why can't I commit? Do I need book therapy?

P.S. I just started "The Never Ending Story" and I think I may be able to stick with it! Ironic, isn't it?


The Dysfunctional Reader

Monday, April 7, 2008

Friday, April 4, 2008

Stories from a 4 year old author

Yesterday my 4 year old daughter wanted to write some stories of her own. She told me the words and I wrote them down as she dictated. I tried to be as accurate as possible. Watch out J.K. Rowling. Here comes Abby.

I think the best part is that at the times when we became sidetracked, she would turn from her mini etch-a-sketch (what she was using as her computer) and would say to me, "Let's get back to business!"

The hungry dinosaur was hungry and he wanted to eat people. First he ate a square and a triangle. Then he ate some grass. He ate a people that was an old man. The dinosaur sucked some holes in the old mans head and ears and then cooked him. He ate him. The End.
Mothers note: Should this story concern me?

Note to reader: The charactres in this story are trains.
It was a long day for Thomas and his day of working. And he decided to go and meet his friends and he saw his cousin Murray. They went to see his new friends and visit friends for a couple of days. They did the plays of goodness. They went to finish their adventures and then see their friends. They bumped into someone that was Laura. She couldn’t get out. They were all stuck together. Their wheels bumped into gum and stuck together. The boss saw them stuck together. It was the boss’s gum. The End.

Me and my friend Nemo. It was a long day that Abby and her friend Nemo played in the ocean. Abby and her pet Nemo played ball then there was a new friend coming called Zachary. He was nice and he had a pet dolphin and then they played together. Then they had to go. Then they sleeped and then it was morning time and the rooster said “Cock-a-doodle-doo.” Then Zachary and his friend Abby and their pets went out to play. The End.

My e-mail is now ready for all you agents and editors who are ready to sign her up! ;0)

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Pick of the Week Thursday: Pachydermcasso

My favorite blog of the week was at Gurney Journey. This elephant can actually paint! Not just random aimless strokes, but deliberate painting of an elephant holding a flower! And the flower is much better than any I could ever do! Heck, even the elephant is better than what I can do. I'm in awe. So. Todays blog winner is a tribute goes to the elephant. I'll call him Pachydermcasso.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Work In Progress Wednesday/Learning the business of writing: Ten Things that has helped me so far

It's been a little less than a year since I started my first YA novel and I'm nearly done with the 2nd draft. I hope to have the full 2nd draft done by April 18th. This has been a true learning experience. In retrospect, these are the top 10 things that have helped me so far. (This list is in no way a reflection of how I think all novels should be written. Everyone does things differently. This is just a list of things that have been helpful to me.):

Writing the First Novel

1. A rough skeletal book outline. Specific enough to give me direction, but flexible enough to make changes.

2. When writing the first draft, just write. don't worry about grammar, punctuation. Just get the story out. Don't let your creativity be hindered by worrying about anything else than just getting it all on paper

3. It's nice to have a person to give you insights along the way. I have a critique buddy that is very helpful. When I get stuck along the way or need some advice, a writing buddy can help get you unstuck or can be a great source of encouragement.

4. Read. Last year I made it a goal to read a minimum of 4 books a month. When I began this discipline, I noticed a dramatic improvement in my writing skills.

5. When it's time to rewrite after you do #2, (just getting the idea on paper), I have to rewrite in very small segments at a time or else it gets too overwhelming. Only a sentence or one paragraph at a time is usually all I can handle.

6. It's good to have books on hand that are similar to your voice and style to reference when you get stuck. I often refer to several books when I come across a section that I'm not sure how to "fix" (description, dialogue, emotion, etc.) Books I have often referred to on this project are "Crispin and the Cross of Lead" "Goose Girl" "A Wizard of Earthsea" "Princess Academy" "Bitterwood" "The Merlin Trilogy by Jane Yolen" and "The Princess Bride"

7. If one section has you stumped, it's OK to skip it for a while and work on the next section or chapter. Sometimes it helps to just come back to it later.

8. However, sometimes if you're stuck, you just may need to sit down and force yourself to write. Sometimes getting yourself unstuck doesn't turn out to be as difficult as you thought it would be. Don't be afraid to just tackle it. There's been a couple times that I've avoided rewriting a certain section, because the task seemed so daunting, but then when I finally did it it ended up not being as hard as I thought it would be.

9. Don't feel like you have to rewrite everything perfectly the first time. It's OK to do multiple rewrites. don't feel like you have to get it perfect right away.

10. Attend conferences or retreats, make contacts and have your work critiqued professionally or get involved in a group. The opinions of others are crucial. They represent your readers, so listen to what they have to say.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Book Nook Tuesday: The Alchemyst (The Secrets of the Imortal Nicholas Flamel)

This is a highly entertaining and clever book. What I like best about this book is that the main character is based on a real person by the name of Nicholas Flamel.

The real life facts: Nicholas Flamel's home still stands in Paris today. When the author (Michael Scott) came across Nicholas Flamel's house (which is now used as a restuarant) the idea for this book started to take shape.

Nicholas Flamel was born in 1330 in Paris. Even today he is considered the greatest alchemyst of his day and legend says that he discovered the secret of imortal life. Records show that Nicholas died in 1413. However, his tomb is empty.

Now, to the book: Michael Scott has great fun with the true-to-life mystery of Nicholas Flamel by supposing that Mr. Flamel really did discover the secret to imortal life and still lives in current day San Diego where evil forces seek him out so they can steal his secrets. Michael Scott also weaves in threads of mysticism, mythology and and other historical facts and binds them together to create this fantastical tale.