The Shifter by Janice Hardy

Just a quick note to let you know that I’ve posted a review of Janice Hardy’s The Shifter. It is on my review blog, Bookshelf: What We’re Reading.

For those of you who aren’t quite certain what the difference is between a middle grade and a young adult novel, pick up this book as well as The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan.

Both books deal with life and death situations, deceit and sexual tension. They both have teens fixing problems created by adults.

But one is for tweens and the other for teens.  Read them and see if you can pick out just how the authors have done it.


Rejection Letters — Nothing New Under the Sun

I had to laugh when I read this post on Cheryl Klein’s blog.

The post is about a gift that Klein received from her grandfather.  What did he give this new editor?

Can you guess?

A 110-year-old rejection letter.

While Klein wrote about how this letter is an excellent example of what a rejection letter could and should be, I found myself wondering how the recipient had responded to this blue-ribbon letter.  Was he tickled beyond belief to by the recipient of a first-place rejection?  Was he the one who framed it?

I doubt it, but I bet he reacted a lot like other writers you know.  Maybe he sighed and then simply got back to work.  After all, he had a magazine to put out.  Maybe he stomped around and griped for a while about the editor and then, once he had calmed down, reread the letter.  It might have even helped him improve the piece in question.  My greatest hope is that he did not write the editor a snippy response — he probably didn’t since he was, in fact, a publisher.

My point?  Rejection letters — both the helpful and those that are much less so — are nothing new.  As long as there have been writers seeking to sell their writing, there have been rejection letters.  The best thing that you can do in the face of this age old writing nemesis is to keep writing, improve your work, and learn to better evaluate possible markets.

You have to get published, you know.  That way when someone in the future unearths your rejection letter and does a search on your name, they’ll be able to find out what you wrote.


March — Nearing the End

Believe it or not, I managed to make my 6000 word goal!  Last week was Spring Break and I still wrote 6015 words.

  • I roughed out about 1/3 of a new picture book sitting beside the lake while he and his father fished.
  • I roughed out two new Prayables after we got back into town.
  • I wrote two drafts of an article for Children’s Writer.
  • I worked on my pitch.

I should be able to hit 6000 words this week because I have plenty to do.

I want to:

  • Finish drafting the picture book.
  • Submit the Prayables.
  • Finish my pitches for
  • Work up at least 5 pieces for Gryphon House.
  • Work on the Children’s Writer piece.
  • Finish this next draft of the welcome packet for church.
  • Rewrite at least one picture book using feedback from Agent’s Day.
  • Get going again on my YA.

It may be a lot, but it should all be doable since none of it is particularly long.  That said, writing short sometimes takes a lot more time than writing long.

Did my son inspire anything new?  Quite possibly an essay.  And maybe another couple of things once it all percolates.

I hope everyone else is meeting their work goals.


Book Trailers

I’ll admit it.

When I think about book trailers, I’m glad I don’t have a book.  The thought of having to make a book trailer intimidates me.

Book trailers are like movie trailers.  They hook readers and make them want to read your book.  Your book.  Not the other guy’s book.  Yours.

It isn’t enough that my manuscript had to compete against other manuscripts on the editor’s desk.  After that, my trailer will have to compete with other trailers.

That wouldn’t be so bad if the bar had been set just a little lower, but Simone Elkeles has set the bar Olympic high jump high.  Check out the trailer (below) for Rules of Attraction and read the guest post she wrote for her agent’s blog.  Wow.

Smelling salts anyone?


Agent’s Day

Did you make it to the first Missouri SCBWI Agent’s Day this weekend?  If not, you missed quite an event. Agents Stephen Fraser, Kelly Sonnack and Ammi-Joan Paquette told the crowd what an agent does, what an agent expects and just how an agent and author work together.

Although all three agents do the same things for their authors, you came away with a firm understanding on just how different the three are in terms of what they want and their individual personalities.

Between each session, one writer friend and I would discuss our current ranking — which agent we would most want to work with.  Not surprisingly, it changed after each session.  Getting to hear the agents speak and, if possible meet them, can really help you decide who would be the best fit for you and your range of work.

Here are just a few of the things I learned.

Ammi-Joan Paquette:

  • Can usually tell on page 1 if she will be drawn in by an author’s unique phrasing.
  • Looks for work with an enduring feel, that offers lasting value.
  • More than anything, a piece has to excite her; then she worries about whether it is unique to the market in general and her list in particular.

Stephen Fraser:

  • Takes an active editorial role.
  • If he sees promise in a work that is not yet perfect, he will work with you to get it ready to submit.
  • Likes clients who do a variety of work because he likes to work on a variety of things.

Kelly Sonnack:

  • Does not want to see alphabet or counting books.
  • Likes both the business end of things (contracts, etc) but also the literature.
  • If you are going to send her a picture book, short is good (1000 words or less) but even shorter (less than 700 words) is better.

With rights available in 400 different areas on each work  you sell, an agent can be key in managing your career.  Find out as much as you can about the agents you are interested in.  If that means traveling to hear them speak, it is probably worth your while.  After all, it may be the only way you can get your work through the door of a closed house.

Doesn’t that make it worth your while to attend and event like this?


Some Days Just Sing

Dad recently gave me this 1948 edition which belonged to my mom.

Have you ever had a writing day that just seemed to sing?

Friday, the words came with ease or at least a lot easier than they had come together on Thursday.  Maybe it was because a friend called to see if my son and I were busy.  Her daughter wanted a “play date” and to go out to lunch with us.  Doesn’t it feel great to be wanted?  I say “play date” because said daughter is 2 years-old, compared to my son’s 11, but she thinks he is just the coolest thing and he returns her adoration.

Thinking about the fun we’d have together probably helped boost my energy, but I also had quite a boost in my in-box Friday morning. One of my Prayables, “Digging Out,” was the daily ePrayable, sent out to all subscribers.  My editor included a very upbeat and awesome bio with a link to my blog.  Is it a coincidence that my blog  saw a nice upswing in traffic on Friday?  I think not.  But, I’m not so vain that I subscribed to the daily ePrayable just to get my own work.  The biggest joy so far came when I got a Prayable written by another author, a fellow member of the PrayMaker Council.  It made me catch my breath.  “She’s reading my mind!”

As much as I love seeing my own work in print, I get an almost equal charge when I find a friend’s work in something that I subscribe to, whether it is an e-mail update, an e-zine or a print newsletter.  “I know her.  Isn’t this great!”  Then I merrily return to my keyboard knowing that our work really does go out there to eager readers, readers just like me.

Spend time with someone who makes life fun.  Stroke your ego a bit my checking out your own work in print.  Or read that article written by a member of your critique group.  Find something that makes the creative energy sing through your veins.  You’ll feel better for the effort and your writing will flow.


March Goals, Week 3

Last week, heading into Agent’s Day, was super hectic.  If it wasn’t for the 6000 words/week goal, I probably would have slacked.  As it was, even without any writing time on Saturday (Agent’s Day), I managed 6135 words.

This past week I:

  • Wrote a poem.
  • Worked on my YA novel.
  • Finished my list of pitch ideas for and started fleshing them out.
  • Started my list of ideas for Gryphon House.
  • Finished a first draft of the Welcome Packet for Church.
  • Finished half a Finnish lesson.
  • Wrapped up the newsletter and sent it out for approval.

In terms of non-writing goals, my husband finished the new shelves for my office and got them hung while I was at Agent’s Day on Saturday.  This week I’ll be trying to pick up a little in here.

Unfortunately, I don’t think this week will be nearly as productive as last in terms of writing.  I’d like to manage 6000 words but it is SPRING BREAK.  If my son occupies himself, which he is excellent at doing, I will write.  If he wants a wii partner or someone for a Nerf battle (I have my own 6 shooter), I will take advantage of the distraction.  After all, he’ll probably give me a few new story ideas.  He always does!  And I can’t think of one good reason not to have some fun this week.


Creating a character Bible and other supporting materials

Materials I gathered while drafting my chapter book.

One of the people who asked me about whether or not I outline before beginning a project was worried about outlining and other organizational tasks.  Apparently, she had all but given up on writing because someone convinced her that she has to outline and more.  She met this person at a  conference.   He pulled out a series of charts and tables to show her how he had worked up his character, laid out his world, etc., all before he put a word of the story down in yet another file.

“Do you do that?”

Uh.  No.  Sometimes I have that much by the time that I’m done drafting a piece.  Certainly by the end of my first really good rewrite.  But before I start?  Nope.

Anal as I am, I’m a fairly intuitive writer.  I like to play with things.  See what happens if you reverse a situation.  Throw a character into a tough spot.  If I tried to get that much  back-story  down before I even started, I’d never get anywhere.  I’d give up.

I can see the point of plotting things out to the letter if you are writing a mystery.  You need to make sure that your clues come into the story in a particular order.  You need to know who is where when.  And who isn’t in plain sight when the crime is committed.  But I’ve never written a mystery that was longer than an early reader so I didn’t have to do this.  I probably could if I needed to, but . . . let’s be honest. I’m fairly happy it has never been an issue.

I’m sure that some writers need to have that safety net in place before they start.  Who’s here?  What are they doing?  And where are they doing it?  For me, half the fun is poking around.  The thrill of discovery.  Like peeking into all the corners, closets and drawers in a new house.  Or, new to me anyway.

Get it all down before hand or work it out as you go.  How you chose to do it depends completely on what works best for you.  Don’t let how someone else does it bring you to a halt.  Take their suggestions if they fit.  If they don’t, look for something else that will actually work for you.  You’ll find what works and then you can pass it on to a writer-buddy who is stuck.  Maybe it will be the key for that writer too.


Agent’s Day — Location, location, location

Just a quick post on Agent’s Day which is this Saturday.

This event is in the auditorium of the Social Science Bldg (SSB) at St. Charles Community College.  If you came to the conference in November, Agent’s Day is in the same place!

Just trying to head off confusion since this is only the second time we’ve been in this particular location on the campus.

If you have a critique session with an agent, remember to bring 9 copies of the first 500 words of your manuscript.

And turn off your cell phone.  And remind me to turn off my cell phone.  Ahem.