Call for Manuscripts

Call for SubmissionsWow.  It’s been a couple of weeks since I posted a new market.  Sorry!

This isn’t writing for children but it is about parenting and I’ve noticed that writers who write for children often write for parents too.

Monkey Star Press is looking for stories for two parenting anthologies — Mom for the Holidays and Adventures in Potty Training.

Types of writing:  Stories, poetry, flash memoir, and list-style essays for each theme.
Word length: 700-1200 words for essays or blog posts.
Payment: $125/prose piece.
Deadline:  May 31, 2014 for Mom for the Holidays and June 31, 2014 for Adventures in Potty Training.

You can read the complete guidelines here.  I have a Christmas piece but need to check the word count.  Fingers crossed!



Marketing Your Book

Getting word out to potential readers is a tricky thing.  You can do the standard postcards, bookmarks and even a blog tour.  You can even go above and beyond and craft or pay for a book trailer.  But sometimes an author gets creative.  Check out Lee Wind’s video about Catherine Linka and her debut novel “A Girl Called Fearless.”

I find myself wonder — did she have just one made or did she make enough to share?  I have no clue how much a custom cell phone case would cost but for a YA novel, this might be the thing to keep handy for prizes or a few special promotions.

What would be perfect for your work-in-progress?

My thoughts for the Maya book are trending toward the unacceptable (to put it mildly).


The Kiss Principle

KISSLast week, I was working on an outline for a project I’m doing for Red Line.  This is my first job for them so I wasn’t sure how much detail to include.  I knew I needed the chapter titles and the broad points of each chapter.  But what about the supporting points and the sidebars?  By the time I worked it all in, my chapter outline was about a page long.

Then the editor sent out a sample.  Seriously?  This was it?

  • Chapter title.
  • Main points.
  • Sidebars.

Some of the mainpoints and sidebars were two lines long but most of them were one.

While some of you might have been frustrated by this (oh, the wasted time!), I was elated.  I had been working in way too much detail.  This was so much easier.  I could do this easy-peasy.

Every time I’ve had to make an outline for a project, I come back to the KISS principle.  Keep it short and simple.  The outline is something that an editor wants to be able to quickly skim.  Skim not read.  This may take some practice to do without yet another reminder.



Crystal Kites

The Crystal Kites were announced last week.  Take a look at this amazing list of books — winners were selected by Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) members living in each geographic area listed.

Washington, Oregon, Alaska, northern Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota
Once Upon A Memory written by Nina Laden,  illustrated by  Renata Liwska

Nevada, Arizona, Utah, southern Idaho, Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico
Tea Rex  written by Molly Idle

Australia/New Zealand
Zac and Mia written by AJ Betts

Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana
The Ballad of Jessie Pearl
  written by Shannon Hitchcock

Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio
Sophie’s Squash
written by Pat Zietlow Miller
Sue breaking in here — this is actually a debut picture book by an author vs an author illustrator.  Check it out if you too write but do not illustrate picture books.

Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Mass, Conn, Rhode Island
The Story of Fish & Snail
  written by Deborah Freedman

International Other
Chickosaurus Rex: 
author-Lenore Appelhans,  illustrator-Daniel Jennewein

New York
author -Samantha Berger , illustrator- Dan Santat.
Me, again.  An excellent choice for Santat fans.

written by Candy Gourlay

Tie:  I Dare You Not to Yawn written by  Helene Boudreau and Skink on the Brink: author-Lisa Dalrymple,  illustrator: Suzanne del Rizzo

Penn, Del, NJ, Wash DC, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland
The Flame in the Mist written by Kit Grindstaff

Middle East, India, Asia      ARMY CAMELS Texas Ships of the Desert
written by Natasha Sharmanatty
Mid south: Kansas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi, Alabama 
The Thirteenth Sign
  written by Kristin Tubb

The Kite That Bridged Two Nations: Homan Walsh and the First Niagara Suspension Bridge written by Alexis O”Neill
You might recognize this author’s name.  Like me, she is a former SCBWI Regional Advisor.  
Army Camels: Texas Ships of the Desert  written by Doris Fisher
Always thought this would make a great story.  Can’t decide if I’m jazzed or bummed that she beat me to it.  That said, my WIP (work-in-pile) is a fiction picture books so maybe there’s room for both.  Requested it at the library already.

Happy Reading!




It just crossed my mind that I haven’t told everyone what is going on — I’m writing a book for Red Line, an educational book packager.  This is why my blog posts have gotten . . . a bit shorter than usual.  I don’t want to quit blogging until Memorial Day but I do have a deadline to meet.  This is a great opportunity for me and I’m enjoying it for several reasons:

Topic.  I am writing for a series on ancient cultures.  I got my first pick, so I’m writing about the Maya.  This takes me back to my days studying anthropology and Latin American history.  So fun!

The Level.  I’m getting to write for high school Freshman.  Believe it or not, I was so worried about writing too high, that I wrote too low.  I can cut loose!   Yay me!  I was trying to figure out how to work in human sacrifice without freaking the book banning crowd and my editor basically told me not to worry about it.  It was a huge part of the culture so include it.  Right up and don’t worry.  Hmm.  No one tells me that very often.

Jared Diamond.  I love Diamond’s work and I’ve found a new book while working on this project (see image).

No Excuses.  I’m learning a lot about writing in a crunch.  My students may not appreciate this, but if I can research an ancient culture and write a 15,000 word book in 5 weeks, then you can write an article, picture book or beginning reader in 8.  Seriously.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go write about Maya religion, blood and . . . sacrifice.



Wall Building

Building WallsHere is my last post from the retreat, but it isn’t something that I learned from the editor.  It’s something I learned watching my fellow writers.  I was probably primed to make these observations because of C. Hope Clark’s guest post, Wall Building.   In her post Hope wrote about the barriers that we put up that stand between ourselves and success.

The most frequent barrier that I saw came when people ignored advice that they were given about their work.  It didn’t matter who the critique came from, these people were not prepared to hear anything other than “you are fabulous.”  And, yes, they are all fabulous people but rewriting is really hard to do well if you aren’t ready to hear what the other person has to say.  Step #1 in tearing down your wall — LISTEN.

The next problem came from people who isolated themselves from their fellow writers.  Yes, many writers are introverts.  I’m one of those cave-dwellng wordsmiths.  I get it.  But you do need to schmooze a bit.  Otherwise, you miss many of the perks of being at this kind of event.  And these perks all come when you make connections.  I know it isn’t easy but it is definitely worth your while.

To find out just how worthwhile it can be, read tomorrow’s post at the Muffin.




Book Banning

I have one more retreat related post for the week, but I’ll save that until Friday.  I just had to share this book banning story that came my way.  As you know, I’m vocal in my objections to book banning but this one takes the cake.  Not only did they ban one of my all time favorite books, Sherman Alexie’s Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, they actually called the police.

I’m sorry, but what the heck do you say when you call the police for something like that?  I’m against freedom of speech?  I’d like to burn books but I haven’t filled out the right paperwork?   What ever they said, I suspect it had something to do with encouraging sex and minors, the police came out to see what was what.  I would love to have heard what those officers said on the radio about that…

Do we haul them in for distributing fiction in a nonfiction zone?

This was simply too strange not to share.


Competition: The Titles You Are Up Against

Yesterday I wrote about marketability and selling points.  Another thing that Mary Kate discussed with us was competing titles.  Which books are the competition for your work-in-progress?  You should show awareness of this in your pitch and/or query letter.

There are two mistakes that writers make when naming the competition:

To think that no competition is a good thing.  No competition might mean no market as in “no one can find an audience for this kind of book.”

Naming only the big dogs.  Especially if you are a new writer, don’t think that your books will immediately compete with Harry Potter or the Hunger Games and win.  Don’t name the most recent block buster.  Show that you know the books that haven’t recently been made into movies.

The point of being able to name competing titles is to be able to tap into the audience for these books to help move your sales along.  Naming the competition helps the editor and the marketing department pigeon hole your book, and I mean pigeon hole in a good way.  Say Rick Riordan and they’ll think, fast plot and myth based.  Jane Yolen?  Literary and multi-layered.  Wilce?  Alternate history with a big dose of magic.

This isn’t easy to do but going through the effort will show the editor that you know the field and where your work fits.  It gives you a chance to impress them with your manuscript and your knowledge.





Marketability: Selling points

The last weekend in April, I attended the Missouri SCBWI Advanced Writers Retreat. At this event, you have the opportuinty to have your work critiqued by and attend several sessions led by an editor.  This year, the editor was Mary Kate Castellani from Bloomsbury.  For the rest of the week, I will be blogging about various things that I learned at the retreat.  The first — selling points.

I’ve known for years that when I write something, I need to consider whether or not there is a market.  In part, this means that I have to be able to identify a set audience.  Next, I need to see whether or not the market is glutted.  If there are already multiple books covering my topic, it might be best to pursue something else.

While Mary Kate didn’t contradict any of this, she did ask us to consider something else.  We need to identify selling points for our work.

Good enough.  I brought a picture book about a girl who has to overcome her fears to find her place at the circus.  That gives me fear and circuses.  Two selling points.  Woo-hoo!

But . . . (you knew there was going to be a but, didn’t you?) . . . Mary Kate shook her head.  It’s marketable but not marketable enough.  What display tables would this book go on in Barnes and Noble?  There may be a market for your book, but a really strong selling point is one of these key categories that include:

  • Christmas
  • Halloween
  • Back to school
  • Easter
  • Summer reading…

Sure, there are probably more, but this gives you the general idea.  If your manuscript overlaps one of these broad categories, it will make it that much easier to sell.  This may not be a concern for every publisher, but take a look at the publisher you are interested in pursuing.  Study their catelog and you should be able to identify the selings points they want to see.  They might be Barnes and Noble displays, educational topics or religous beliefs.  Whatever they are, these are the expectations you will need to meet to sell to this publisher.



Agents Seeking Writers

Last week, I found this list of seven agents seeking writers.  Note, while they are all interested in young adult novels, about half are also interested in middle grade.  Julie Churchill and Brooks Sherman were the only two who listed picture books and, if you go to his full write-up, Sherman only wants author/illustrators.  Still, this list is someplace to start if you are at that point in your career.

How do you know if you are ready for an agent?  Here are a few guidelines:

  • You need to have at least one finished manuscript.  Seriously.  Don’t query with only 3 chapters.  They want a whole manuscript.
  • If you are a picture book writer, you may need to have 3 or 4 finished manuscripts.  The problem is that a picture book only brings the agent half the income and most agents want to build your career as well as their own.
  • You are getting nibbles but feel like you need help to get to the big name editors.

Good luck if you are on the agent search!