My Top Ten Posts of 2012

When you write as much as I do, its always interesting to delve into the statistics.  Which posts were the most popular?  Some weren’t very surprising but others were.

False Apology Poems.  This was by far my most popular post.  I’m not a poet but I’ve written some activities on poetry for  I think this one got so many hits because it really is a very interesting form — a poem that initially looks like an apology but really isn’t in the least bit sincere.

Why You Need to Revise Your Work.  No surprise here.  Revision is essential even when it baffles us.  We know we need to do it, we very often know why, but we struggle with how.

Character and Plot Worksheets.  This is another area that writers put a lot of effort into and we like tools that help us along.

Olympics Opening Ceremony Celebrates Children’s Literature.  Literary types the world over were as happy as I was to see books and book characters featured in the Opening Ceremonies which is probably why this post received so many hits.

ALA Awards Announced.  This one is kind of a no brainer.  Awards matter and we need to know what books won.

Book Spine Poems.  Poetry created from book titles.  Its a little off-beat and fun so I’m glad other people were as interested as I was.

Show Me Reader Award and Mark Twain Award Reading Lists out.  Nominated books are almost as important as the final winners and this is something a lot of people search through Yahoo and Google.

New Treadmill Desk.  Why was this among the most popular?  I’m not sure.  Because I’m odd?  Because everyone is surprised that I am walking AND doing anything else simultaneously?

Reversible Poetry.  Another poetry post and another type of poem that is just a little different.  Most of the poetry projects I get are types of poetry that aren’t terribly common.

What To Do if You Can’t Meet a Deadline.  This is one of those situations that writers dread so I’m not surprised that people wanted to know how to handle it.

I hope that you enjoy taking a look at some of these or revisiting an old favorite!



Bullying and Other Trends in Children’s Books

The only graphic novel I've really loved. And, it's nonfiction.
The only graphic novel I’ve really loved. And, it’s nonfiction.

Recently, the editors at Scholastic put together their list of the top 10 trends in children’s books for the upcoming year.  Given the trouble caused by bullying it should come as no huge surprise that books that deal with bullying will have a large share of the market.

Personally, I was also happy to see the continued rise of science fiction.  Not long ago, I did an article on science fiction for young adults.  Or, I should say that I tried to do an article on science fiction book markets.  I finally had to widen the article to include magazines and cross-over markets geared toward college aged adults.  Yes, more and more science fiction was being produced than in the late 90’s but there was room for so much more.  Fortunately, it is coming.  Examples that the editors gave included Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles: Scarlet (February 2013/Feiwel & Friends), Enders, book 2 in the Starters series by Lissa Price (December 2012/Delacorte), and Pulse by Patrick Carman (February 2013/HarperCollins).
Given the popularity of the Hunger Games books, I wasn’t surprised to see tough girls on the list.   Illustrated novels was another “no kidding” entry.  The surprise would be if I could find a series of graphic novels that I loved.  For whatever reason, I am simply not a huge fan.
Take a look at the list and let me know if any of the items surprised you or made you dance with joy.

Do You Have the Perfect Boy Book?

If you’re like me and many of your manuscripts have strong boy appeal, it can be tough to find the right publisher.  I comb through the catalogs and think, “Girl book, girl book, princess book…”

Fortunately, Enslow has a new trade imprint specifically for boys.  Here is Speeding Star’s mission as stated by the publisher:

Speeding Star’s mission is to keep boys reading! We create books and content that appeal to their interests and busy lifestyles. Parents, educators, and librarians have told us that many boys will lose interest in reading by 5th grade. These readers fall behind the girls in their classes and sometimes never catch up. By providing easy-to-read books on topics of interest to them, including monster mysteries, sports, and adventure, we can get boys and young men reading again!”

Their first list is set for Fall 2013, starting September 1st. After that, they will publish two lists a year with spring titles launching starting January 1 followed by fall titles on June 1.

And the best news of all?  They are looking for manuscripts.  They want content written at a 4th grade reading level but with appeal for readers from 3rd grade through high school.  They are looking for both fiction and nonfiction and all submissions should come through their on-line form.

To find out more, check out their site.   Me?  I’m noodling over my nonfiction options.



Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults

Back in October, I asked everyone for suggestions on what I should cover in my class on Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults.  Thank you again for your recommendations.  I am hard at it — writing my “lectures” and deciding on the specifics where assignments are concerned.  Roughly, this is what I will be covering:

Week One: Which Market Is Which.  On how to research and analyze markets.

Week Two: Choosing and Narrowing a Topic.  How to tell if there is room in the market for your idea and how slanting your topic can minimize or eliminate competition.

Week Three: Evaluating and Selecting Sources.  The difference between primary and secondary sources as well as how to evaluate various sources for accuracy and bias.

Week Four: Interviewing Sources.  How best to conduct the interviews that will give you another source of primary data.

Week Five: Preparing Your First Draft.  Various things to consider as you prepare your first draft including organization, hooking your reader and keeping him reading and age appropriateness of material.

Week Six: Refining Your Manuscript.  How to analyze your manuscript for both its strengths and its weakness and what to do about them.

Week Seven: The Icing on the Cake.  Preparing the extras (market research, photographs, sidebars and more) that help sell your manuscript.

Week Eight: Completing the Package.  What should go into a cover or query letter as well as a nonfiction book proposal.


You can find out more about the class here.  Be sure to let me know if you have any questions.


What Did I get from Capstone?

capstoneNot long ago, Capstone hosted a drawing on their blog, Capstone Connect.  Because they were moving, they were finding all kinds of fabulous things.  Just what did they find?  Check out the photo!

I won the drawing and was expecting a bag and a book or two.  This is what I got:

  • TWO bags.  One is already home to three knitting projects.  The second is probably going to replace my library bag.  Yes, I’m the kind of geek that has a dedicated library bag.  I’ve been using the same bag since my son was born and, in spite of the occasional trip through the washer, it is starting to show its age.
  • An awesome nonfiction book on Iwo Jima — Raising the Flag: How a Photograph Gave a Nation Hope in Wartime by Michael Burgan.  I’m always on the lookout for nonfiction to study but I may have competition.  This is the one my son is most interested in reading himself.
  • Two illustrated novels, Aquaman: Deepwater Disaster by J. E. Bright and Tony Hawk’s 900 Revolution: Drop In by Donnie Lemke.  My son and husband love superheroes and so do I so I’ve been interested in the DC Super Hero line that Capstone is now producing.
  • And, last but not least, a picture book series —  I See Spring, I See Summer, I See Fall and I See Winter by Charles Ghigna.  The I See set is  part of the Picture Window imprint.  This is a set of concept books.

Whew.  If I don’t come up with an idea or 12 after studying all of this, I’m simply not trying.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some reading to do.


Do You Have the Guts to Try Something New in 2013?

We’re about to head into a new writing year.  How you play it is your choice.  Are you going to do things the same way that you did in 2012 and, most likely, 2011?  Or are you going to shake up your writing life and try something new?

I’m not going to lie to you.  Convincing yourself to strike out in a new direction probably won’t be easy.  After all, writing is pretty darn challenging as it is.  As writers we face constantly changing markets, editors moving from one house to another and new technologies.   With so much change you can’t control, forcing yourself to seek out even more change probably doesn’t sound like the best possible idea.

But think about it.  At one time, Simone Elkeles was a writer of adult romances.  She had never, ever penned a word for teens.   Now, she has 8 novels for teens.  What if she had never tried writing for young adults?

Last year I set a new kind of goal for myself.  I usually avoid monetary goals since you can’t guarantee that you will earn a certain amount of money in a set time.  This year I set a monetary goal that I could achieve.  In addition to writing 6000 words a week, I was going to submit $1000 worth of material each month.

I’m on track to hit $11,379 for the year.  If I manage one more submission, I’ll be up to $11,879.  No, that isn’t how much I’ve earned this year but I have earned more than in the last five years, recession or no.

I also wanted to teach again and I found a new host for my nonfiction for children class.  I will be teaching Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults  starting in February of 2013.

If I hadn’t set new goals for myself, I wouldn’t have achieved these things.

So, what can you do in 2013?  I’m going to be working on some book manuscripts but I’m also going to seriously start looking at agents.  Not that that search is proving easy.  There are simply too many variables.  Alas, this will probably mean a spread sheet (insert heart-felt shudder).    But if I set a goal for myself, I know I’ll make progress that otherwise would never happen.

So, what about you?  Take  a deep breath and consider the possibilities.  And remember — at one time books were the new scary thing on the block (see the video below).


How do you Add Atmosphere to Your Work?

When he was asked to illustrate Creepy Carrots, Peter Brown knew the story needed to have a certain dark, ominous quality.  Sure, it’s a picture book but it just happens to be a picture book about a kid who is stalked by his favorite food.   To get a feel for scary qualities that young readers would be able to appreciate in his art work, Brown watched episodes of the Twilight Zone.  Because he’s an illustrator, he latched onto the weird camera angles and dramatic lighting.

What might have caught his attention if he was a writer?  To find out, I watched Valley of the Shadow and found all kinds of details that could be used to add tension and an ominous feel to a story.

  • A nearly empty gas tank adds a tight time element to the fact that the main character is lost (will he find his way before he runs out of gas?).
  • When he asks a local for directions, the answers are vague and hesitant (what is he trying to hide?).
  • He’s getting change when his dog takes off after a cat and the clerk stops him from going after the dog (what’s up with that?).

All of these odd, off beat elements add a sense of drama and a feeling that things just aren’t right.

So what could you do to add an ominous element to a picture book?  While you aren’t going to be able to do the exact same things as this Twilight Zone episode, you can use the same patterns.

What can your character be almost out of?  The clay she needs to finish an art project.  The yarn he needs to finish his mother’s present.  The possibilities are endless.

You can also use a tight time element.  Maybe your character needs to do something before dinner or before Mom gets home from work.

You can also have other characters reacting in strange ways.  Yes, your story will have to explain why but that’s part of the drama.

Having something hold your character back is what the Plot Whisperer calls an antagonist.  Maybe a teacher keeps your character in from recess.  Or he can’t go outside until he finished his homework or a chore.

Now think about the kinds of details you might include for an upbeat feel.   Its just like putting a puzzle together.  Piece by piece, you end up creating an amazing whole.


Have your character running low






Have You Written a Dark Fairy Tale?

I don’t have anything suitable to this market but thought that some of you might.  If you have written a

Belladonna Publishing is looking for gothic fairy tales that feature princesses.  These aren’t your light and sparkly princesses.  These princesses have hidden depth and things don’t always end “happily ever after.”  Take a look at their guidelines if you think you might have something suitable.

Just be careful.  You never know when a good princess will go bad.


Are Dedicated E-Readers Going the Way of the Dinosaur

I saw an interesting article last week in Shelf Awareness.    With the rise in popularity of tablets (some estimate that 120 million units will be shipped this year alone), some people wonder if dedicated e-readers may be on their way out.

The answer from the article is that there will be fewer and fewer dedicated readers sold (dropping 27% from this year to next year) but that they will continue to sell simply because they are easier to read because the screens are better.  They are also smaller and lighter weight.  And because they do so much less, they have longer  battery life.

The thing that caught my attention in all of this is that while no one is yet predicting the demise of the dedicated reader, many people are willing to predict the demise of print books.  “But,” you crow, “there are benefits to dedicated e-readers over tablets.  You just said so.”

“Yes,” I say, “but there are just as many benefits that come from print books.”

  • If I want to loan someone a book, I simply hand it to them.  Bingo.  Transaction completed and it is entirely legal.
  • Reading from a print book is much easier on my eyes than reading from a screen.
  • Air planes do not require passengers to shut their books at the same times that they require them to turn off all electronic devices.
  • If I spill a cup of coffee on my book, I’m going to be mad, but I can probably finish reading it.  An e-reader probably would not be so lucky.
  • Ditto if I drop a book or knock it off the table or desk.
  • And I have yet to successfully access an e-book from the library.

My prediction?  Because each of these devices — tablets, dedicated readers, and print books — have a wide variety of benefits, we will see them continue to coexist.   They might even be joined by yet something else that is new and different.

Here is one of my all time favorite humorous videos about the benefits of one particular piece of reading technology.