Goals — Not too Shabby

NovembergoalsI didn’t finish a whole lot this week but I feel like a got a lot done.
  • I wrote up all of the activities for the pitch and will send it in today.
  • I gathered some more comments on the fish picture book.  I should be able to finish it in less than one day.
  • I did the research on and roughed the astronomy picture book.  My critique group read it and had some very helpful suggestions.  I’ll incorporate those this week and see how it looks.
  • The one that I totally “completed” was #5, to rework and submit the Christmas essay to the contest.  Reading the rules, etc., I realized that by submitting the essay, I was agreeing that the sponsoring journal could publish it.  Only the three winning essays get paid, but we would all agree to have our work published if the journal saw fit.  No thanks!   While I would rather have finished that one by submitting, I don’t feel like giving that particular essay away.
Lot’s to work on this week.  I’ll probably focus on the picture books and then rewrite the chapter book Thanksgiving week.  When we realized that my husband wouldn’t be fully able to use his shoulder yet, my sister agreed to host.  Thank you, Ann!
Good luck to all of you on meeting your own goals as we gear up to a holiday weekend.

The Amazing Judy Young. . .

One of the talks that I wanted to attend was given by Missouri author Judy Young.  Judy is a marvel of self-promotion, doing school visits week after week yet also finding time to write.

Not surprisingly, Judy has also ventured into the world of video to promote herself and her books.  Check out this video for The Hidden Bestiary of Marvelous, Mysterious and (maybe even) Magical Creatures.

If you’re going to keep up with Judy, you’ve got some serious work to do!



More on agents

So, still think you’re ready to submit to an agent?   Make sure you contact the right one.  Pop on over to Chuck Sambuchino’s blog, The Guide to Literary Agents Blog, and you’ll find interviews with a number of agents interested in children’s books.

In her talk, Jennifer Mattson gave us all a great summary of what each agent at Andrea Brown wants to see, including agent Mary Kole.  Chuck just happens to have an interview with Mary.

But before you submit to Mary or Jennifer or the Man in the Moon, make sure you know how to write a bang-on query letter.  For some great links on this particular topic, see Jill Corcoran’s blog post, “It’s Raining Queries.”

Agents need good writers.  Put in the work ahead of time so that you are truly ready to publish.  Do the leg work to find the right agent and then put together a winning package.

Don’t you deserve to be the very best?


Do I Need an Agent?

Have you ever noticed at a conference that at some point one speaker will seemingly contradict another?  This time around it was little ol’ me contradicting Greg Ferguson of Egmont USA.  When asked if you need an agent, he assured people that they did because 99% of major trade publishers are closed to unagented manuscripts.

Lucky me, I spoke before Greg.  When asked the same question, my answer was “it depends on what you want to write.”  The person who asked me about this had also asked about test writing and educational series.  You don’t need an agent for that.  Or for regional publishing.  Or writing for children’s magazines.  If you want to sell to the major trade houses, it is much easier with an agent.  Greg’s right.  (See — it only sounded like a contradicted him.)

But an agent can only help if you are really and truly ready.  Jennifer Mattson of Andrea Brown Literary said that while  she represents picture book authors, she will only offer a contract when the author has four or five marketable manuscripts.

Four or five.  This means that you only NEED an agent if you have the skills needed to produce a body of marketable work.  It sounds harsh, but you are up against Mo Willems, Jane Yolen and David Shannon.

Just because you want an agent, doesn’t mean you need an agent.



PS.  More on agents tomorrow.

The Writer/Editor Relationship

Very often when I attend writer’s conferences, I hear writers speak about editors, about submitting their work, and about the long wait they face.  Why shouldn’t I?  It is all part of publishing.

But I’m always surprised by how antagonistic some of the writers sound when they talk about revision requests.   They seem to lose sight of the fact that publishing is a team effort and that working as part of a team means compromise for each and every player.

At the Missouri Confluence Conference, editor Greg Ferguson of Egmont USA spoke about developing the cover for the novel The Dark Divine. Author Bree Despain disliked the first cover.  Guess what?  Greg didn’t just tell her “too bad.”  He scrapped the first cover.

Working in the publishing community means becoming adept at the art of compromise.  This means that sometimes you, the writer, won’t get your way, but sometimes you will.

Keep that in mind when you get comments back from an editor.  Listen to what the editor has to say.  Consider it carefully.  Take advantage of the opportunity to improve your work.

I dare you.


Goals for November — Week 1 results

Last Tuesday evening, the file that held both of my talks for the conference ate itself.  Bye bye!  I had hard copies but had already begun updating one of them.

What does this mean?

Other than print things out and/or have back ups?  It means that all I finished last week was the two talks.  I didn’t lose a whole lot of work but it was a bit frustrating so I took a break.

I came home from the conference really wanting to submit to both Greg Ferguson and Jennifer Mattson, two of our speakers.  Guess I better get writing!

Those of you who attended know what a great day it was.  I’ll be sharing a bit of information and some of my impressions this week as well as information on various upcoming Missouri events.

If there is anything in particular that you’d like to hear about, drop me a line.

I took e-mail addys from a number of you who wanted critique group information.  You’ll be hearing from me today.


How We Say What We Mean

Years ago, I heard Vashanti Rahaman speak at a Missouri SCBWI conference on bridging the cultural gap.  Vashanti grew up in the British West Indies but she was discussing bridging the gap between her semi-rural midwestern life and the experience of New York editors.

What in your life might seem odd to someone else?

Repeat after me: The big silver thing is an ICE BOX.

It wasn’t until I was in college that I realized how odd some of the phrases in my family vocabulary are.  Some of my favorites:

Ice box:  You know what it is.  A pre-electricity refrigerator.  But my grandmother used this term interchangeably with frig.  Every now and again it pops up in my own vocabulary.

Feeling puny:  When you are just generically under the weather you are puny.

Taking a Morgan Street:  This is what we called bathing in the bathroom sink or in a wash pan when you were camping.  For years I thought it was “morgan streak” as in nude running about.  Now I wonder if this is a boarding house phrase, for bathing in a rented room with only a pitcher and basin.

Finnegan’s Best — what my grandmother called cough syrup.   Finnegan was a local pharmacist who sold boot leg in cough syrup bottles.  Yes, my dear little granny knew where the speak easies were too.

Think about the odd turns of phrase in your own family.  Is there something you would have to explain to someone else?


PAL Membership

I hope everyone is having as much fun as I am poking around on the new SCBWI web site and connecting to friends from all over.

I am surprised though that so few Full Members have updated their membership to PAL.  I know where these writers have sold their work, so I know they qualify to be PAL members.

PAL means Published and Listed and is reserved for those full members with sales to listed publishers.  If you are planning to attend the Missouri Retreat this spring with Randi Rivers, you need to be listed as a PAL member.

Here is how to update your membership:

1.      After you go to www.scbwi.org, you first have to log in.

2.      On the left is a menu bar topped by the selection “My Home.”  Choose “Manage Profile.”

3.      You should now see a screen that starts with “Personal Information” (your name etc).  Scroll down the page until you get to “Professional Information.”  You will see a bold heading that says, “If you are published in the children’s literature market… ” Below that you will enter the title of your book or magazine piece.

4.      The next bold heading is “Name of publisher(please only select from one drop down).”  Go to the appropriate heading (magazine, name of publisher, etc) and select the name of your publisher from the pull down menu.  If your publisher is not listed, there is a place to enter it.

5.      When you have done this, click on “continue” to update your profile.

If you selected your publisher from a pull down menu, your status will be updated in less than an hour.  If you had to type it in, it will take longer as this is done by hand.

Let me know if you have any questions.


I Did It My Way . . .

When I give out writing advice, I’m telling you what worked for me.  Take my suggestions and customize them to suit your own personality and work style.

pumpkin cake
My son's snaggle-tooth jack-o-lantern cake.

I do this with everything but especially where my family and holidays are concerned.  My son had several friends coming over for Halloween but at the last minute no one could make it before dinner.  We had planned a from-scratch pumpkin cake but I knew the kids would want their candy.  I had already baked the cake, but why fight?  Instead, we planned a laid back Sunday complete with the final decorating and munching on said pumpkin.  More enjoyable all around.

So, you want to do NaNoWriMo.  But November?  You’re joking right?   Your English comp class is gearing up toward their final papers.   You’re the one hosting Thanksgiving for 35 relatives.  Sure — write a novel in November.  I dare you.  Or you could do it in December when you have a week off work.  Or maybe some time in the summer when you aren’ t teaching.  If another time would work better, get a group of like-minded writers together and do it your way.  It may very well be the change you need to succeed.

Your critique partner wrote her novel in 15 minutes a day.  Good for her!   But if it takes you 15 minutes to get the juices flowing and your daughter only naps for 25 minutes at a stretch, get your husband to give you an uninterupted hour every Saturday.  No, it isn’t as much as 15 minutes a day, but if it will work for you then why not go for it?

Have the guts to do it your way and you may find yourself enjoying cake on an off day and making some progress on your various writing goals.


Rewarding Yourself

Last week, I told another writer about my “Rejection Jar.”

Several people liked the idea and added that they would also put together a “Reward Jar” since they, like many writers, need to remember to reward themselves for meeting various goals.

Not a bad idea, but I have to admit that I’m pretty stinking good at rewarding myself.  The rewards I give myself look an awful lot like the little gifts I give myself when a rejection hits hard.

Eduardo, a 2008 crochet project
  • I knit or crochet.
  • I do a sudoku or a jigsaw puzzle.
  • Depending on the weather, I get my son involved in a squirt gun fight or a snow ball fight.
  • I crank the stereo while fixing dinner.
  • I try out a new bread recipe.
  • I visit the local labyrinth.
  • I relax with a good cup of coffee and a spot of chocolate.

Why do my two lists look so much alike?   Probably because the things that I reward myself with are also the things that recharge me.  And especially after meeting a tough deadline, I need to recharge.

Thanks for reminding me how closely linked the two ideas are — reward and rejuvenate after a rejection.   So what do you need to remember to do for yourself?