Goals as We Topple Into March

I feel pretty good about how much I accomplished last week.  I pulled down 5200 words, less than my goal of 6000 but pretty good considering that I had exactly 0 work days.  Monday was President’s Day.  No school. Monday at dinner, my son started running a fever.  By Wednesday, it had turned into bronchitis.

Today, I am actually alone for the first time in 10 days.  So, let’s see how this week goes, shall we?

My goals for this week include:

  1. I e-mailed my editor at Education.com and she wants another pitch so I’ll be working on that this week.   DONE!
  2. Gather interviews for my next CW article.  IN PROGRESS.
  3. Script rewrites.  DONE!
  4. Add two chapters to my middle grade.  IN PROGRESS.
  5. Rewrite my nonfiction picture book for critique Saturday.  IN PROGRESS.
  6. Do some more market research.  I found potential markets for my chapter book and need to narrow it down.  I also have a picture book to get back out there.
  7. 5 posts for One Writer’s Journey.  DONE!
  8. 1 post/reviews for the Bookshelf.  DONE!
  9. 1 post for PrayPower. DONE!
  10. 1 blog post for Church. DONE!
  11. Finish how-to chapter. DONE!
  12. Clean up more in  my office. I’m loving the changes in here!
  13. Brainstorm some new ideas.
  14. Work on my vitae.  I have a large number of items to add under a new category.

Hope your own goals are coming along!


Educational Standards

Whether you are writing for an educational company or simply want to be able to tell your editor that your manuscript meets typical 3rd grade standards for reading, some knowledge of current educational standards and how children learn is a must.   Here are some sites to give you an edge:

Common Core State Standards

If you work often with state standards, you’ve probably noticed that they are becoming increasingly similar.  In part, this is due to the movement to have common standards adopted nationwide.  Find out what these standards are for reading and math here.

Among other offerings, The Bank Street College of Education site lists traits shared by students at certain reading levels.  Click below to find out more:

Emergent Readers and Writers (pre-K through 1st grade)

Early Readers (1st and 2nd grade)

Early Fluent and Fluent Readers (2nd and 3rd grade)

Use this information to make your work spot on for your target reader.


Using E-books to the Author’s Best Advantage

I’m not one of those writers who think that e-books and Kindles are going to bring about the end of print publishing.  The television didn’t do it and I don’t think e-books will either.  IMO, they are simply going to become another media tool in the larger kit.

But how will this particular tool be used?  How will it benefit authors?  Linda Joy Singleton and Arthur Slade have recently shown us some of the possible ways.

Throughout January, Don’t Die Dragon Fly, book #1 in Singleton’s 6 book Seer series, was offered for free but only as an e-book.  The first day it was offered for free, it rose from #5200 on the list of free e-books to #54 by nightfall.  The top rank for the month was #13.  When she posted about this, Singleton didn’t have final numbers but reported that sales for all 6 books, especially the e-books, were up.

Arthur Slade is using e-books in a slightly different way.  He is using e-books as a means of bringing two out-of-print titles into availability. The first is  Draugr, which is also his first novel.  The second is Dust which is available as an e-book only in the US and UK because he doesn’t hold the Canadian rights.

When Slade wrote his experience up, he didn’t have huge sales, but he also reasons that some income on two books is better than no income on these same two books.  Fans who read his current titles can now also buy these two books.  Where Singleton worked with her publisher, Slade did this on his own, converting the texts into HTML and also commissioned the art work for his book covers.

We’ll have to keep our eyes open to see how authors make the most of the opportunities that ebooks offer.


Goals Worthy of a President

In spite of snow days to make up, my son is off school for Presidents Day.  We’ve played some DDO, ate muffins and chatted.  Our goal is to have a relaxing day while still getting a bit done.

Last week I managed to accomplish a fair amount — 6217 words/week.  Not too shabby.  I wrote a new chapter for the middle grade, got a bunch of scripts back to my editor, and have the article for Writer’s Digest all but ready to go.

Having this much out means that there is always the chance of hearing back — possibly from a large number of people in one day.  One day last week, I got a 6 article assignment from one of my regular editors.  The next day, I got two rejections, including one from an agent, and an acceptance on my column pitch.  All in all, I’m calling it a good day!

My goals for this week are:

  1. See if one of my long time editors is ready for another pitch (Done!).
  2. Start my next CW article (in progress).
  3. Script rewrites (Done!).
  4. Submit article for Writer’s Digest (Done!).
  5. Make changes to next issue of Mo Scribbles and get it posted (Done!).
  6. Add two chapters to my middle grade (Done!).
  7. Do some more market research.  I found potential markets for a my chapter book and need to narrow it down.  I also have a picture book to get back out there.
  8. 5 posts for One Writer’s Journey (Done!).
  9. 1 post/reviews for the Bookshelf (Done!).
  10. 1 post for PrayPower (Done!).
  11. 1 blog post for Church (Done!).
  12. Finish how-to chapter.
  13. Clean up more in  my office. I’m loving the changes in here! (in progress)
  14. Brainstorm some new ideas (Done!).
  15. Start rewriting nonfiction picture book for next critique group meeting.

Hope your own goals are coming along!


Loving What You Write

Last week, I blogged about Sara’s Zarr’s presentation at the SCBWI winter conference.  She spoke about living a sustainable creative life.  Part of this is loving the writing process.  Understandably, a big part of loving the writing process comes in writing things you love.

Another vital part, and one that I should have noodled over a little harder, is writing for publishers and publications you love.

As is so often the case, I’ve been trying to break into new markets.  I came across a recent call for manuscripts and read the sample.  “I can do this,” I thought.  “And I can do it even better.”


If you read a magazine or a series of books from a publisher and think, “I can do exactly what you want and I can do it so much better,” than this is not the market for you.

I repeat:








Move on.  Why?  Because you aren’t in love with what this publisher does, obviously, or you wouldn’t be so certain that you could do a better job.

Instead of drafting a manuscript for this market, go in search of another that makes you think “I’d love to publish here.”  That’s the market you need to try . . .

. . . unless you have a hole in the wall that you want to cover with a rejection letter.


Cybils Winners Announced

Congratulations to the winners!

Those who blog on children’s and young adult titles have spoken and the winners for 2010 are:

Fiction Picture Books:  Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein (Candlewick)


Nonfiction Picture Books:  The Extraordinary Life of Mark Twain (According to Susy) by Barbara Kerley (Scholastic)


Easy Readers: We Are in a Book by Mo Willems (Hyperion)


Short Chapter Books:  Zapato Power: Freddie Ramos Takes Off by Jacqueline Jules (Albert Whitman and Co.)


Poetry:  Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reversible Verse by Marilyn Singer (Penguin)

Mirror Mirror

Graphic Novels:  Meanwhile: Pick Any Path. 3856 Story Possibilities by Jason Shiga (Abrams Books)


Fantasy & Science Fiction:  The Shadows by Jacqueline West (Dial)


Middle Grade Fiction:  The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger (Amulet)


Young adult Non-fiction:  The Secret of the Yellow Death: A True Story of Medical Sleuthing by Suzanne Jurmain (Houghton Mifflin)

Yellow Death

Young adult Graphic Novels:  Yummy; The Last Days of a Southside Shorty by G. Neri (Lee & Low)


Young adult Fantasy & Science Fiction:  Rot and Ruin by Jonathan Maberry (Simon and Schuster)

Rot and Ruin

Young Adult Fiction:  Slit by Swati Avasthi (Knopf)


I have to admit that I’ve only read We Are in a Book so far but I loved it.  I hope that, like myself, you are looking forward to some serious reading fun in the not too distant future!


Pray Power

One of my latest ventures is PrayerPower, a blog that I write with my friends Lori Strawn and Ruth Williams.

Each week, Lori, Ruth and I write on a certain topic.  Topics are fairly loose and have ranged from spreading our faith to how we pray.  Most often our posts are followed by a prayer.  Some of the prayers are original.  Others are scripture.  Still others are well-known traditional prayers.

We started this blog because we like to bounce ideas off each other.  One of us will comment on something and another will take that idea and run in a completely different direction.  Stop on by, and feel free to join in the discussion.


Simplify Your Home and Your Writing

Simplify.  Get rid of clutter.  I’ve been seeing this advice lately in my reading.  Keep your writing clean and simple.  Cut out the do-nothing words.  If you find the best verb, you can get rid of the adverbs.  Use only one word instead of ten where ever possible.

But all the while I’ve been reading this, I’ve wondered, “Does it really work?  Or will my writing be too spare?  Too pared down?”

I’ve also been reading Speed Decorating by Jill Vegas.  She tells readers to look at the space.  What is the function of this place?  Once you’ve decided, get rid of the clutter.  Move out the things that belong elsewhere.  Find a new home for things that don’t suit this purpose and bring in things that do. Broken or worn out pieces need to go.

In between a series of rewrites this weekend, I worked on our entry way.  The first step was to clean off the bench.  It was supposed to hold just two pillows but is also where I parked my purse.  And packages when I get home.  And things waiting to go out the door.  I found a new home for my purse and cleaned away the packages, etc.

What about the cushions?  Wouldn’t the bench look too spare without them?  Deciding I could always put them back, I stored them in a closet.

Now every time I walk through the entry way, I think, “Wow.  I like the way the bench looks, but maybe it’s just me.”

Today, a friend stepped through the front door.  “What a pretty bench.”

My plan for rewriting has been firmed up.  First, I’ll look the piece over.  I’ll consider the market and the audience.  I’ll noodle over what I’m trying to accomplish with this piece of writing.  Whatever doesn’t serve that end will have to go.  If I have any doubt about a particular paragraph, sentence or scene, I’ll save it in a “trimmings” file.  That way, I can always put things back as needed.

But, somehow, I don’t think most of it will be missed.