Monday, August 31, 2009

The Envy Test

My critique group met Friday night to talk, review and, of course, eat. (Don't all good critique groups feature food?) The best part of the evening was realizing that my first three chapters are done, never to be rewritten again...at least not until I get notes from my agent, and then my editor...well, you get the picture. How do I know they're done? Holly Black says so.

Holly Black was one of my favorite speakers at SCBWI-LA. She's bubbly and enthusiastic, she has great advice and she writes books that I love to read. We all know that finding critique partners can be difficult. But as Holly pointed out during her breakout workshop on critiquing, you don't just want people that you trust. You also have to not be so annoyed by them that you ignore everything they say, or so intimidated by them that you can't offer honest critiques of their work. You don't all have to write in the same genre, but these people need to get you.

She also offered up my favorite tip for knowing that something is ready to send out. She called it "The Envy Test."

If somebody's work makes me sort of envious, and maybe a little bit angry, then I know that it's ready to go out. Like if I'm thinking Oh my god, you totally nailed it! I'm really angry right now. I wish I wrote that! then it's ready. You want to have a little jealousy, because if you don't, it's not gonna spur you, it's not gonna push you. You're not going to want to rise up to that level.


Since I was the only one who attended this session, I had planned to bring my notes to share with everyone. But as I scrambled on Friday night to get out the door, finish making dinner for my family and bring along my comments on everyone else's writing, I forgot to grab my Holly notes. They'd have to hear about the Envy Test another time. So when Gwen commented about some scenes that she thought were perfect, I held my breath. And when Lori said that she was totally jealous of my chapter endings, I got giddy. If Holly Black's Envy Test is to be trusted, then my chapters are finally ready! Finally!

Of course, that's just the first three chapters. My task for this week is to make sure the remaining chapters make critiquers equally envious so that I can send this baby on its way.

Has somebody else's writing ever made you jealous? Tell them! It just might make their day :)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Another Beginning

Three summers ago we spent two-and-a-half weeks in the Carolinas. Best vacation EVER. We got back home the day before school started. Since we were all still on eastern standard time, the kids were up and ready for school way early. We decided to go out for breakfast to celebrate the first day of school and a new tradition was born.

We don't eat out a lot, especially not for breakfast. But once a year we head to Paula's Pancake House in downtown Solvang for a huge meal: pancakes, eggs, bacon, sausage, orange juice, fruit and coffee (the coffee is only for the grownups!). Wednesday morning found us up with the fog, sliding into a table at Paula's.

Even though we live in Solvang, my kids are lucky enough to go to Ballard Elementary, a school that has been in continuous operation since 1883. There are more modern buildings on the campus as well, but this little red schoolhouse is for the kindergarteners. Trust me, I cried the first day my kids went here. It was just so sweet, so quintessentially American. The teacher, Mrs. Carlson, is everything you could want in a kindergarten teacher. It's the perfect beginning.

Of course, I don't have any more kindergarteners. With one in 2nd and one in 5th, I am wondering how they got so old so fast. We've already got homework, soccer practice and play dates, so I relish even more the quiet time during the day.

Tomorrow will be my first day with an empty house (hubby has had off the last two days and let me tell you, he is a HUGE distraction!) and I've already made big plans for a pitcher of tea, an extension cord and my lovely back yard where I won't answer the phone. WIP, here I come!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Wishing Well

Do you believe in wishes?

I think as writers, especially those of us who write for children, we're more open to the idea that anything is possible. I mean, here we are trying to break into a business where the odds are totally against us. You have to be optimistic to stick with it. You have to believe that you're going to beat the odds.

I'm reading an amazing book right now by Hawaiian psychologist Paul Pearsall called "Wishing Well." It's actually research for my current WIP, "Wish You Weren't," but I'd read it even if it wasn't. Dr. Pearsall's book covers the ten years he spent scientifically studying the power of wishing, and boy does it tap into every secret superstition, belief and desire of my childhood dreams.

Take these excerpts for example:

"Just by our intentions we can alter the destiny of persons, places, events and things. It works in wondrous, subtle and often paradoxical ways, but it works."

"Wishing is a form or everyday magic practiced by the common person."

"Instead of blaming your inner child, wishing is a way you can safely let her out to play."

Aren't those great quotes?! Haven't you always wondered if you could change things, just by wishing about them?

My inner child is alive and well, and playing on a regular basis. What about yours?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Way We Were


So I posted a few photos on Facebook on Saturday, never realizing it would cause a problem.

No, they weren't that kind of photo! We had our clothes on, it was all quite innocent. It was a photo of me and my husband with one of my childhood friends. We had just helped her move into her new apartment in Tucson and the three of us sat on the bottom step and took a photo together. Seeing it reminded me of happy times and I thought she would feel the same. Boy was I wrong!

REMOVE PHOTO- URGENT!!!!
please... please... please remove that photo of me on your website .... I'd really appreciate it!!!!!!!! I do not like photos of me - especially from the past on anyone's site - PLEASE!!!!! take down IMMEDIATELY. Any photos of me – and our past PLEASE KEEP PRIVATE AND PERSONAL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Believe it or not, I don't spend all my time on the internet =) So I didn't see her URGENT message until Sunday. But while I was cooking dinner for my family on Saturday evening, the phone rang.

"Sherrie? It's ____________ ______________. PLEASE take down that photo you posted of me on Facebook."

No hello, no how ya doin' or I've missed you. I was surprised. I didn't know what to say. But apparently my silence spoke volumes.

"You're upset?" She sounded amazed.

"Well, yeah I'm upset. I haven't heard from you in years and now the only thing you're calling me for is to say you don't like the photo I posted of us on Facebook?"

"I have to protect my image. I don't like old photos of myself and I can't have them floating around out there."

I should probably explain here that my "friend" is on TV. She's a newscaster on a Los Angeles channel. And she dates the weatherman. So I'm sure that when she goes out, some people recognize her. She's not like Katie Couric famous, but people kinda know her around L.A. So not to be mean, but we aren't talking about major stardom here. And since we've known each other since she was 12 and I was 14, I've got WAY worse pictures I could post of her. I wasn't trying to infringe on her image or exploit her or anything. It was just a photo that reminded me of a good time with a good friend. My mistake.

I fought back tears and tried to control my voice as I spoke to her. It wasn't just that she yelled at me. It wasn't even the fact that she was obviously in the throes of some overblown superiority complex.

I thought of us at summer camp singing "The Little Green Frog" and acting like total dorks. I remembered sleepovers and sailing, going to the mall and flirting with strangers, driving through Beverly Hills acting like we ruled the world. I'd visited her in Miami when her career started to grow, listened to her cry when her mother died. We hadn't been as close the last few years, but we'd always been able to pick up where we left off. Until now.

Who was this person on the phone telling me to keep our past private? Why was she suddenly ashamed to be associated with me? Or was she worried that people might realize she had her nose fixed and her hair isn't naturally blonde? No one in L.A. is a natural blonde. Who cares?

I felt like a part of me died as I listened to her going on and on about her hair and her image. I wanted to be 14 again or 20 or anywhere but here, listening to her voice and realizing how different we'd become.

Friday, August 21, 2009

$14 Down the Drain


I don't have a problem with spending $14 on books. I do it all the time. But when it's at the library? For fines? That just makes me want to cry...

I've been on a reading rampage this year. Since January I've read 51 books (they're listed on the left if you scroll down far enough). I probably own half of the books on the list, and the rest have come from the library.

The thing is, somewhere around mid July, my life got more crazy. I didn't have as much time to read, but I had these stacks from the library. I renewed them thinking I would get to them. But then we went on vacation, I went to SCBWI, and, well, a notice came in the mail yesterday.

There's one more little detail I forgot to mention...I don't have my own library card. Yeah, I know it's pretty weird. I really should get my own. But what I usually do is check out all my books on my son's card.

So, not only does my 9-year-old son have titles like "The King's Rose" on his library record, he also has a whopping $14 in fines. Well, had. We of course hopped in the car and hightailed it down to the library where we hung our heads in shame, paid the bill (*sob*), renewed the books we're still reading and...checked out more stuff!

On his card. I still didn't get my own. I promise I will. Someday.

In the meantime, I'm trying not to think about what I could have spent that money on...a nice lunch, Catching Fire, three ice blended vanillas. Sigh. Maybe I can just think of it as my contribution to the budget shortfall. Um, not so much.

What costly mistakes have you made that you wish you could change?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Quiet Place to Write


Have you ever been working on an important scene in your novel, only to be interrupted? By the phone, by a child, by your spouse or partner?

It makes me SO cranky when it happens. When I’m reading or writing, I become very focused. People can talk to me and I won’t hear it. I block it all out. So when someone breaks through that barrier, trying to reach me, I’m not even myself. I’m whoever I was reading or writing about and it takes a moment to focus outside of that world. I don’t want to be pulled away. I want to be back in the story! Grrr…

Writing my blog is completely different. It’s just me being me. But when I’m working on a book…well, some days, when I know I’m not going to have a chunk of time to myself, I end up not working on it at all. And that makes me cranky, too. Because those characters want my attention. They want to be written about, to be read aloud.

I’ve decided that when the children start school next Wednesday, I’m going to find a quiet place, not in my house (the phone, the email, the internet distract) to be alone with my characters, at least once a week. Only I’m not sure where it’ll be. I live in a small town so it’s hard to find a place where no one will know me well enough to walk up and start a conversation.

If only the beach had outlets...

Where do you go when you want to find a quiet place to write?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Add 'em to the Pile


I know this will shock some of you, but Barnes and Noble does not carry every book. Neither does Borders. And even though my local indie, The Book Loft, is willing to order anything for me, they can't get everything and I don't always know what to look for.

So I was really excited to see the Friday night book signing at SCBWI, where I got to meet old friends and learn about new books coming out. I mean look at all this stuff! In between chatting with authors and having my future told with rune stones (really!), I grabbed all these postcards, bookmarks, notepads, flashlights–whatever loot I could lay my hands on. And now, sifting through it, I have to say there's some really good stuff coming, and some of it is already out.

For example:
The Dark Divine by Bree Despain
A prodigal son. A dangerous love. A deadly secret...true love's first kill.
From Egmont December 22, 2009

Jungle Crossing by Sydney Salter
From the top of the pyramid at Chichen Itza to sparkling underground rivers to a quincinera in a small village, Sydney Salter takes readers on an exciting journey through Mexico, past and present, and brilliantly blends two riveting stories from vastly different cultures, showing how widening one's perspective can empower anyone...even a kid struggling through junior high.

Breathing by Cheryl Renee Herbsman
I know it's only dreaming. But I reckon if you go on and act like something is real, sometimes it just believes you.
From Viking, April 2009

Nathaniel Fludd Beastologist: Flight of the Phoenix by R.L. LaFevers
With his parents lost at sea, Nathaniel Fludd lands on the doorstep of a distant cousin–the world's last remaining beastologist. Soon Nate is whisked off on his first expedition, to Arabia, where the world's only phoenix prepares to lay its new egg. Too bad Nate's not the sort of boy who enjoys adventure...yet.
From Houghton Mifflin September 2009 (Read an exerpt!)

Bait for Lunch by K.A. Okagaki
Gilroy Tanaka is excited to have Grandpa stay with him while Mom and Dad are away. That is until Grandpa serves octopus for dinner and squid-kabobs for lunch. What's a hungry kid supposed to do?
From 4RVPublishing (which also pubbed Rena Jones' A New Job for Dilly)

But this postcard really caught my attention:


Ash by Malinda Lo
A lyrical and riveting retelling of Cinderella, with a twist: This Cinderella's Prince Charming is a girl. Entrancing and romantic, Ash is a fairy tale about choosing life and love over solitude and death, where transformation can come from even the deepest grief.
From Little Brown September 2009

And then of course there's the book that everyone is dying to get their hands on, Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, which comes out in 15 DAYS!!

My To Be Read pile just keeps growing. What's on your must read list?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Author Spotlight on: Michael Ferrari


We now interrupt the nonstop coverage of SCBWI-LA for something completely different, but equally wonderful.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve often thought about entering the annual Delacorte Yearling contest for a first MG or YA novel. So I was really excited when I stumbled across BORN TO FLY by Michael Ferarri. Michael was the MG winner for 2007. BORN TO FLY was released last month. Starring an 11-year-old tomboy and a Japanese American boy, the adventure story touches on themes of friendship and racial intolerance against the backdrop of WWII.

BORN TO FLY has been getting good reviews. If you haven’t heard of Micahel Ferarri or BORN TO FLY, here’s your chance to get the scoop!

From what I’ve read, you decided to write this book after attending a WW II air show and overhearing a boy tell his little sister that girls can never be fighter pilots. Did you have a hard time channeling your feminine side?
Not really. Male or female, the most important thing was to empathize with and understand what my main character loved, hated, wanted and needed. I think I made it a little easier on myself by making my heroine, Bird, be a girl who isn't totally comfortable doing "girly" things, and I could tap into that feeling easy enough.

How many years did you spend working on BORN TO FLY?

The first draft took about a year. I finished that in 2002 I think.

As you edited and refined the story, what do you think was the most important thing you did to make the book submission ready?
Since it's written in 1st person, I had to nail the character's voice immediately. I believe the first page and particularly the first sentence (originally, "Just 'cause I'm a girl, don't think I'm some sissy") were the most important things I wrote.

When you submitted the novel for the contest, were you at all intimidated by the fact that they don’t select a winner each year?
I wasn't really thinking about that. I'd just done some revisions and was racing to submit it. I think I got it in just a day or two before the deadline.


How long did it take for them to respond? What was the call like?
I think the deadline for submissions was in June and they called me in November. I was working in a cubicle proofreading medical litigation 10 hours a day for the past year. The office was quiet as a library. My phone buzzed and it was a NY area code. I tried to think who I knew in NY? Nobody. So I called back and the voice asked, "Is this M.J.?" And I thought, who is MJ? I'd forgotten that when I submitted to the contest I used my initials so I'd appear genderless to avoid any conscious/unconscious bias of having a guy write in a little girl's voice. Wisely I answered, "yes, it was me." and then my editor Stephanie Lane Elliot congratulated me and said my novel had won the Yearling Prize. It was a great day.

How cool! I understand you have a background in the movie industry. What were some of your jobs?
Well, I was a script supervisor and the assistant director on a kids movie called "Ghost Ship", a writer and assistant videographer on a series of WWII airplane videos called Roaring Glory Warbirds, I edited a rather awful Richard Grieco movie called Body Parts, and I was a TV censor for what used to be The WB Network on shows like Smallville, Felicity and Reba.

And you’ve also been a middle school teacher, right? What is your current job (besides being an author!)?
I taught 6-8 grade English and also ESL.
My main job currently is as a stay-at-home dad to my 3 children. I also work part time as a screenwriting and film professor at Cleveland State University. I've had a several feature scripts optioned, but to date none have been sold/produced.


Are you working on a new novel? Will it also be MG?
I am. It's a coming-of-age adventure with a magical element called MALCOLM DEVLIN AND THE SHADOW OF A HERO. It's sort of between MG and YA. The main character is 14 but the subject matter is more MG than YA.

Do you write every day?
I wish (I know I should). But I've only been a stay-at-home dad for a little over a year so I'm still learning time management. It's hard to explain to your 3 year old (and yourself) why you can't play trucks with him because you need to stare at the computer and type. But I'm getting better at structuring 2-3 hour blocks of write time.

I can relate to that! What has been the most surprising thing for you on this journey to becoming a published author?

Besides how long it takes? The most surprising thing to me, is that the difference in wanting to be a writer and being a writer was not some ability or skill that I learned or a talent that was given to me from the gods or Obi Wan Kenobi. My writing was the same before things started to happen with the book as it is now. The difference for me was when I told myself I was a writer, and believed it, and acted like I believed it, and wrote like I believed it. It was the realization that the right attitude was the most important thing needed to reach your goal. That was the most surprising thing for me.



Okay, I have to know the story behind the photo in the airplane. Where was it taken?

The photo was taken at a WWII airshow in Geneseo, NY. I was working for a film production company, making videos on how to fly WWII airplanes. This is the plane I was rigging a camera on when I first got the idea for BORN TO FLY. It's the plane Bird dreams of flying.

Do either of your daughters want to be fighter pilots?
Ha. They haven't said so. But they both told me they want to play Bird in the "movie" (they think every book is made into a movie).

So do my kids! I guess that’s pretty universal. Which character in the book do you identify with the most?
Hmm. The easy answer is Bird, or her dad, but I think for me I most identify with her Mom. I like that she's no saintly Mrs. Cleaver. Her own feelings sometime get in the way. She's teaching Bird how to conform, not because she believes in it so much, but she knows sometimes it's a less painful path. But eventually she realizes maybe that's not always true.

Thanks for such interesting questions, Sherrie.


Thank you, Michael! And good luck with BORN TO FLY.

Keep up with Michael on his blog. BORN TO FLY is available wherever good books are sold =)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Reality Bites


Yeah, I know that title doesn't belong to me, but it fits so I'm using it. I mean, wouldn't you rather be hugging Bruce Hale (Mr. Chet Gecko himself!) instead of doing laundry? But sadly, laundry is my reality.

After the collective high of being surrounded by so much creativity and energy and success, it's hard to come home to wash dishes and clean up dog barf. I'd rather be writing. But the kids want my attention, the house needs my attention and it might be a while before I get to hole up with my WIP and apply some of the wonderful thoughts that filled my brain for the last four days.

I'm grateful that Team Blog provided crib notes on some of the workshops I wanted to attend. There was so much great stuff to choose from, sometimes it was hard to decide where to go. And sometimes I just had to find a place to chill. Information overload can be harmful to your system (or maybe that was just an excuse to get away from the crowds and hang out with some of the great people I met!)

In the final speech of the conference, Kathleen Duey had these recommendations for preserving the best of SCBWI-LA at home (and of course these would apply to any type of writing event you're at):

Write down important conversations.

On the back of business cards, write down how you met the person. (I saw Rachel doing this days before Kathleen Duey's speech =)

Annotate notes (or blog about them!).

Contact everyone who gave you a business card.

Put the gems that people said on the wall.

Take a few days before you jump in to where you were and experiment with some of what you learned.

Try hard to hold on to the validation of your art.

Announce your renewed serious intent and explain it to family and friends.


That last one is hard, at least for me. Until I'm published, family and friends see this as a hobby. They don't understand why it's taking so long, why they can't buy my book at B&N yet or why I don't just self-publish. The looks on their faces mirror the doubt I sometimes feel. Am I good enough? Yeah, I think I am. And getting better, thanks to conferences like this, critiquing buddies and constant writing and revising.

So here I go, to put it into action. I guess it's not so much that reality bites. What bites is trying to have a real life when all you want to do is write about somebody else's life...without interruption. Here's to all of us working toward that dream =)

Sunday, August 9, 2009

More from SCBWI-LA

To say that my brain is in information overload would be an understatement. Fortunately, for my birthday last week, my husband gave me an iPod touch. The day before the conference I downloaded software that allows me to record each session then save it to my computer at night. These aren't like radio quality recordings, but they will allow me to listen to all of this wonderful advice over and over again, and to hear some inspiration when I need it, too. And that's good news for my weary brain.

Of course, it isn't all work! Here are some pics from the Blue Ball on Saturday night:

The geese are (l to r) Greg Trine, Tina Nicols Coury, Yuki Yoshino
Thalia Chaltas and Gwen Dandridge (with glowing electric blue wings)
And the Blue Man group, which I think were actually all women =)



And here are a few more nuggets from the conference:

From author Holly Black:

(doesn't she have a great smile?!)

Fantasy is the language of metaphor. It has real things to say about us and about our world.

Details make it rooted, make readers believe that it's a place they have been.

We're all writing the stories we wanted someone else to write for us. We all build on each other.


From editor Krista Marino:
Every publisher wants their authors to be blogging. (YES!!!)

Target editors or junior editors who are building their lists. They are more likely to have the time to help nurture projects they love.

Take luck out of the equation and do everything you can.

Writing and revising is a collaboration. Find an editor that gets your project. It needs to be a partnership so you need to be sure they have the same vision as you for the book.

Take things from every part of your life and put it in your fiction.


Editor Elizabeth Law
gave a fabulous speech about how publishing is changing. She is incredibly funny and an excellent speaker. I was surprised to hear that her company, Egmont, donates all of their profits to children's charities. Isn't that cool?

She also had this question for writers who are afraid to submit or who come up with numerous excuses for not submitting: "I just turned 49 and I'm overweight, but if I can go on a blind date in New York, why can't you send in your manuscript?"

Becky Levine challenged me to talk to one person I didn't already know and I did that. As a result I met Cindy, Rachel and Paige, all fabulous writers with excellent taste in dinner and friends =), and Marietta Zucker, an agent with Nancy Gallt (who I'll be interviewing here on the blog in the next few weeks). So thanks Becky!

After all, hanging out on the lobby sofa talking to an agent with my new BFFs is really a fabulous way to wrap up the day, don't you think?

Friday, August 7, 2009

Day One - SCBWI


Hotel parking...$24
Books from the SCBWI bookstore...$26
Glass of wine at the hotel bar...$10

Meeting all my blogging buddies...priceless.

Today alone I met Sarah Laurenson, Jolie Stekly, Lindsay Leavitt, Shelli Wells, Katie Anderson, Sarah Frances Hardy, Lisa Schroeder, Lee Wind, Greg Pincus, Cynthea Liu, Barry Summie, Cindy Pon, Thalia Chaltas, Greg Trine, Paula Yoo and Jill Corcoran...all people who have only existed on the internet before now. But the beauty of it is, when we meet, we already have a common bond--blogging. I'll never question the value of my blog time again. (Okay, I probably will, but then I'll just remind myself how great it was to be in a room of 1000 strangers and be "recognized" because of my blog. I LOVE the internet!)

As for the presenters, wow, just wow. Sherman Alexie kicked off the event with an amazing speech. My notes aren't as good as Sarah Frances, but I'll highlight some of the most memorable quotes for me:

People hand you their lives on a daily basis. They may see your book as somewhere they can pick up ideas for how to deal with their daily lives.

Connecting outside of yourself--that's when the world changes. That should be your aspiration.

Writing for children changes lives in ways an adult book never can. We can alter them forever...in good and bad ways.

The power of these books will find its way to someone who needs it.

Writers for children fully accept their responsibility, unlike other writers.

No matter who you're writing your book for, you're going to save at least one person.


I went to a workshop with Jordan Brown, an editor at HarperCollins who works with the Balzer and Bray imprint (publishing everything from PBs to YA) and Walden Pond Press (a new imprint which will publish middle grade exclusively). His session focused on First Pages. Here were some of his thoughts:

You want to own the reader. Decide what the reader is going to take away from the story and put it there on the first page.

Three most important things to have on the first page: Introduce the MC, Establish voice and character, Tell us what's going to happen.

Character drives plot. The easiest way to get us into a charachter is showing us what's important to that character. (That's the #1 thing for him.) Show us the character's defining attributes. If physical description isn't the most important thing to that character, then you're missing an important opportunity to tell the reader about the character in the best most concise way you can.

Let readers know what's at stake, what the character stands to lose or gain. Your story should tell the most important story that has ever happened in this character's life. If we can only hear one story from this character's childhood, this should be the one that you're telling us right now.

The way characters are different from us is never as important as the way they are the same.

The first page is kind of a self enclosed little masterpiece within the larger story, so strategically placed detail within that can give your reader an idea of what's to come and lead them on to the second page.

You don't need to force conflict. Conflict will arise when you have a bunch of decent characters on stage together. If the main thrust of your book is a conflict, then put it on the first page. But if it's not that cut and dried, you don't necessarily have to start with conflict.


Later in an editor panel, he also made this comment which I thought was great:

Except for Toy Story 2, Pixar has never made a sequel. But you know what to expect when you go to a Pixar movie. Think of yourself as a brand and what you can bring to the childrens book world.


So much more to tell! But I really need to sleep...so I can soak up more tomorrow!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Counting Down and Two Awards


I can't believe it's two days away.

I've tried to figure out specifically what I'm so excited about. Much as I'd like to return home with a signed contract in hand, I'm realistic enough to realize that's not going to happen. So what do I expect to happen?

I expect to meet a lot of writers I've only known through the blogosphere.
I expect to get some books signed (hopefully, without being too much of a fan girl!)
I expect to be overwhelmed with information.
I expect to be inspired.

I'm really looking forward to these four days. I'll try to post while I'm there, but I'm making no guarantees. And of course, if I do end up with a contract (ha!) you'll be the first to know =)

----------------------------------

On a completely different note, I was touched and amazed to receive two blogging awards in the last week. Thanks, guys! And since I'm supposed to pass them on, here goes!

The first is the "Humane Award" for blogs that love writers and laughter in equal measures. Thanks, Glam! I'm awarding this to:


Carrie Harris (snarfalicious!)
Lisa and Laura (D-Bag-o-Meter. Nuff said.)
Tess Hilmo (She always makes me smile)
Corey Schwartz (To read her is to love her)
T. Anne (this post had me rolling!)

Pass it on to five more, ladies. Here are the rules (scroll to August 2009.)

The second award is for the "Superior Scribbler." Thanks, Kelly H-Y! I am awarding this one on to:


Elana J (Brilliant writer!)
Casey McCormick (Love those Agent Spotlights!)
Yat-Yee Chong (Always thoughtful and insightful)
Myra McEntire (Funny and honest)
Jolie Stekly (Cuppa Jolie, anyone?)

And here are the rules for this award. Pass it on!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

A Cover Game


Agent Kate Schafer Testerman posted a fun game over at her blog a few days ago. You're supposed to design a cover for your debut YA novel using a fake name generator, a random word generator and an image from FlickrCC.

Here's how mine turned out. What will yours be?

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Falling in Love Again


The thought of rewriting my novel terrified me. I didn't want to dig deeper. It's middle grade fantasy. How deep was I supposed to go here? And certain sentences were too lovely to sacrifice. I made some simple polishes and told myself it was done. I submitted it and waited for the glowing comments.

But when the boilerplate rejections started coming back, I decided to take a harder look at my writing. And it was painful. The story was good. But I knew it could be better. I owed it to myself to make it better.

The beauty of this edit is that I'm falling in love with my book all over again. I'm finding places where I can make the characters and the setting more real, the conversations more natural. I'm adding bits of foreshadowing and making things harder for my MC. And I'm giving the characters leeway to do more. I'm trying things that I thought about before but considered too difficult.

One thing worries me, though. Most people, when they're editing, they're cutting scenes, reducing the number of words. My novel is growing. I've added three thousand words and I'm not done. Yeah, it was only 25K to start, but still. Am I doing something wrong here?
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