Monday, November 30, 2009

A Bone to Pick

Graphic novels are SO not my thing. Reading from box to bubble annoys me, the pictures are distracting and the type face is usually more fun than functional. Not to mention the fact that really, this is nothing more than a glorified comic book. Make that a very expensive comic book.

But then I'm not a 10-year-old boy.

And according to my 10-year-old boy, BONE is the best graphic novel series out there. He should know. He owns all nine books in the series.

Mixing humor with magic and mayhem, BONE follows the adventures of three cousins after they are exiled from Boneville. The illustrations are clean and simple and believe it or not, Time Magazine compares the story to Lord of the Rings, naming the BONE series as one of the 10 greatest graphic novels of all time. You know you've made it when Time Magazine is reviewing your comic books!

The funny thing is, the Bone series started out as black-and-white comic books that author Jeff Smith published himself when no syndicate would take on his comic strip. He started his own company, Cartoon Books, in Columbus, OH and over the course of 12 years, put out BONE as a series of 55 comic books. Scholastic started publishing the colorized versions as books in 2004. With the final book released back in January, the series has captured a whole new market that wasn't even alive when the original books premiered!

So while these books may not be the first thing I reach for, they are certainly a publishing success story. I can appreciate that. In fact, my son has saved up his own money to buy most of the BONE books in his collection. At ten bucks a pop, that's no small investment. For a 10-year-old, it's nothing short of true love.

What a novel concept :)

Monday, November 23, 2009


Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays.

You get to eat great food (and by food I mean dessert!), hang out with family and friends, and the only gift you have to bring is the pleasure of your company. Can't beat that!

Since my kitchen is out of commission this year we're going to my sister-in-law's house. (We're getting new counter tops so I've had no sink or stove for the last two weeks!) The kids get to see some of their cousins (woohoo!) and we won't have to eat leftovers for the next month. I consider that a good thing :)

If you've read this blog for a while, you know I'm thankful for my kids, my family and, of course, books! So here are a few things you might not expect me to be grateful for this Thanksgiving:

Wii -- Watching my kids teach their grandparents how to golf, bowl and play tennis yesterday was a riot. And seeing them cheer when Grandma scored a strike reminded me that there are all kinds of ways to bond with family.

Paper Plates
-- I don't usually use them (I'm trying to reduce my footprint and all) but when the only place to wash the dishes is the bathtub, paper plates make me very happy indeed.

-- Because of this supposed "pandemic" people are doing something they should have been doing all along...washing their hands. How lame that it takes a life-threatening illness for people to use soap!

DSL -- Remember when graphics made web pages slow to load? Now you can stream entire videos across the internet with barely a pause. How cool is that!

I'm incredibly thankful for the internet, because without it I wouldn't have met all the wonderful bloggers in this amazing community I stumbled into last year. Thanks to all of you for making this journey so much fun!

And now to share some love with other bloggers, here are a couple of awards that I need to pass on.

Steph in the City gave me the Splish Splash Award for a dazzling blog. Thanks, Stephanie! I'm passing this one on to Julie at Silver Lining and to Shelli at the Storyqueen's Castle.

Dawn at Plotting and Scheming was kind enough to give me the Best Blog Award. Thanks, Dawn! I'm supposed to pass this on to other bloggers that I've recently discovered and think are great! I'm giving this one to my critique partner Lori who recently started to blog, and to Tabitha at Writer Musings -- I can't believe it took me so long to discover your fabulous blog!

That's it from me. I'll be back next week.
Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Smarter than my 5th Grader?

How many adults does it take to help one fifth grader with homework?

Lucky for us, my son doesn't need a lot of help. But when he does, the lines are clearly divided. Dad handles the math and science, Mom helps with spelling, writing and language arts.

Yes, I'm a stereotype. So sue me. Math and science were never my first love. And if I didn't quite get it the first time around, why torture myself with it now? I think I've managed to do quite well for myself without knowing how to estimate the quotient of 7987 divided by 39 in my head. (That was really on last night's homework--yikes!)

Now that I think about it, I was tested on a LOT of things that have proven to be utterly useless in real life. I've never had to figure out three-fourths of five-eighths. I mean if you're slicing a pie, you just cut enough pieces for everyone at the table, right? And as for those two trains leaving the station at the same time, my best recommendation is to bring a good book. Then it really doesn't matter which one gets there first because you've been properly entertained the whole way.

But the things I learned in language arts, those have been useful. I can diagram a sentence faster than I can label the parts of an atom. And dissecting the plot of a novel is far more entertaining than slicing open a smelly shark. Who wants to smell like formaldehyde all day? At least I know how to spell it!

So am I smarter than my fifth grader? Who knows. But I am smart enough to delegate what I don't understand (or care about!) to someone who can get the job done. And really, isn't that one of the best life skills to learn?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Language Barrier

I may not have shared this with you, but I love to read and talk about books. Really, it's true. And since most of the books I read come from the children's section, a lot of children like to talk to me about books. Imagine that :) One of my favorite readers is Olivia. I've known her since she was in my 2nd grade class. She's now a 6th grader and we like a lot of the same books.

On Saturday, between soccer games, she saw me reading a book and of course wanted to know all about it. I wasn't too far into it, so I let her read the jacket copy and the first few pages. I told her I would loan it to her when I was done.

Everything was cool until the d***head showed up.

I'm no prude and I certainly went through my stage of using the "F" word as a noun, verb and adjective all in the same sentence. But I try to be careful when I'm recommending books to other people's children. I'm sure most kids probably know far more curse words than they let on, I just don't want to be the one responsible for introducing new ones!

Granted, the book is a YA. But nothing else in the story is objectionable for a younger reader. It's a fabulous book, one of the best I've read. Unless you're 11. And you've never heard that word. In fact, if you're familiar with this word minus the ***, I highly recommend that you read the book. It's beautifully written, romantic, disturbing, futuristic...I really loved this book. And the way she used d***head in the story made me laugh out loud. But...

I emailed Olivia's mom and told her my dilemma. We agreed that maybe I shouldn't pass this book along to her just yet. Then I felt like I'd betrayed Olivia. Maybe I should have been the cool adult who hands her the book and says, "Just don't tell your mother."

What would you have done?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Wisdom of a 7-year-old

We celebrated my daughter's 7th birthday last week with a "craft" party in the park. (Our house is torn up, but that's another story!) Having the party in the park turned out to be a plus though, because we got to pull out the glitter.

Everyone has a pet peeve. For my husband, it's glitter. It drives him nuts to find little flecks on his clothes or his face and he does not allow glitter in the house.

My daughter and I went through an Oriental Trading Company catalog and picked out some fun projects she and her friends could work on. They each made a bracelet, decorated journal covers (with LOTS of glitter!), created fairy tale pictures and drew cartoon characters.

And for the record, I'm still combing glitter out of our hair!

But what caught my attention at the party was this conversation.

Girl 1: This picture is ugly.
Girl 2: No it isn't.
Girl 1: It doesn't matter. I could make the ugliest picture in the world and my Mom would still tell me it was beautiful.
Girl 2: Really?
Girl 1: It's kind of funny. I'll show her something really ugly and she'll say, "Oh, Goose, that's beautiful!"

At first glance you think, Oh, that's sweet. Her mom loves her artwork even if it isn't very good. But the nuance in her words, the expression on her face... If I was writing this as a scene for a book, I might show it this way:

Sara stared at the picture she had drawn, her eyes unfocused. "This picture is ugly."

"No it isn't!" Maria rushed to comfort her friend even though in the back of her mind she agreed.

Sara shook her head and pulled out a large blue marker. She studied the picture carefully then drew a gash in the side of the queen. "It doesn't matter," she sighed. "I could make the ugliest picture in the world and my mom would still tell me it was beautiful."

Maria stared doubtfully at the picture as Sara added harsh strokes in the sky above the queen's head.

"It's kind of funny." Sara's mouth was a grim line. "I'll show her something really ugly and she'll say, 'Oh, Goose, that's beautiful!'" Sara clapped her hands together as she mimicked her mother's voice.

Maria laughed at the imitation of her friend's mother but her eyes were worried.

Sara smiled slowly. It was fun to make Maria laugh. She folded the picture in half, then in half again. She kept folding until the paper was nothing but a fat wad. She jammed the wad in the back pocket of her jeans and skipped off to the swing.

So tell it more important to make someone think they have done a good job, or to be honest with your opinion? If you tell a child something is beautiful when it's not, have you made them feel better about themselves or worse?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Modern Fairy Tales: East of the Sun and West of the Moon

One of my favorite fairy tales as a child was "East of the Sun and West of the Moon." Apparently, I'm not alone. In addition to a lot of picture book versions, three MG/YA authors have written their own renditions of this classic Norwegian tale.

For those of you not familiar with this epic fantasy, here's the basic premise: A polar bear visits a poor family and promises them wealth if they will send their youngest daughter to live with him for a year. Once at the castle, the girl discovers that the bear becomes a man at night. But when she goes against part of the bargain, the bear disappears and she has to rescue him from the troll queen who lives east of the sun and west of the moon.

Talk about girl power! How often does the girl get to rescue the guy? (Okay, so it was her fault he got taken away, but she makes up for it with the rescue!) In my humble opinion, this is one of the best fairy tales ever written. I love it so much, I had to read all three novelizations. After reading my reviews, you can choose the one that best suits your tastes.

EAST by Edith Pattou is the first book I read. Released in 2005, this is also the longest, at 516 pages. Pattou weaves wonderful details about the family into the narrative, like the fact that Rose's mother is so superstitious, she even tries to control the direction she is facing when the children are born! The story is told from the perspective of several characters, which for me added to the richness of this version. The main character is adventurous and willing to take chances, even though it goes against everything she knows. The tale is geared toward older readers (did I mention the 516 pages?!). And while the journey to the ice bridge seemed a little long, the culminating chapters were more than worth the wait.

SUN AND MOON, ICE AND SNOW by Jessica Day George came out last year. In this version, the heroine has no name so she is referred to simply as "the lass." With a decidedly middle grade/tween tone to the book, George also delves into the family dynamics in her adaptation. She gives the lass a dog who accompanies her on her journey to the ice palace and unlike the other versions, the lass interacts more with the characters at the palace in this story. With 336 pages, this book is still a substantial read. The storyline is simpler for younger readers to follow, although the tie-in with family at home is stronger and darker.

ICE by Sarah Beth Durst is the most recent version to hit the shelves. Released just last month, ICE also has the most modern spin on the tale. Cassie lives at an Arctic research station and studies polar bears. When one of the bears speaks to her, she goes with him to his castle and makes a bargain to save the mother she's never known. Like the other books, this one weaves in more family details to flesh out the fairy tale. But this one brings unexpected twists to the family story and has Cassie falling in love with the Bear much sooner. In a way it reminded me of Beauty and the Beast while keeping many of the key elements from the original East of the Sun and West of the Moon. With just 320 pages, this was the quickest read. It didn't stay as faithful to the original as the other books, but the author did a great job of modernizing the story and added some fabulous surprises.

If you've never read the original fairy tale, you can find an annotated translation at SurLaLune Fairy Tales or a less distracting version of the same text at the University of Pittsburgh website.

By the way, the image at the top is from a 63-page chapter book version that came out in July. With versions for every reading level, it's no wonder this story is so popular!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Winners -- Yay!

So we've had some fun this week, trying to guess which books Joanna didn't read from that big stack. With such an eclectic list to choose from, it was hard to narrow down the choices. But one person finally submitted the right answer: "The Dead Sea Scrolls Translated" and "Seabiscuit."

And the person with the winning guess is --


Congratulations! Email me at solvangsherrie at gmail dot com and I will let you know what you need to do to get your 10 page critique.

Thanks so much to Joanna for a fun interview and for generously offering to do the critique. I've had a blast getting to know her and I hope all of you have too.

But wait, I'm not done with the giveaways yet. You may have thought I forgot about the drawing for RUNESTONE by Anna Ciddor, but I did not. The lucky winner of this book is:

Congratulations, Tess! Email me at solvangsherrie at gmail dot com with your address and I will mail the book out to you.

I love giving stuff away! Thanks to everyone for joining in the fun!

BTW, if you're feeling blue because you didn't win anything here, there's still time to enter for a chance to win a Kindle from Lisa and Laura. Yes you read that right. Those crazy Swizzler-chomping, Prosecco-sipping sisters are giving away a real, honest to goodness Kindle.

May the best follower win--and by that I mean me!!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Agent Spotlight On: Joanna Stampfel-Volpe

If you haven't heard her name before, come out from under your rock. Literary agent Joanna Stampfel-Volpe has quickly made a name for herself since starting with Nancy Coffey Literary Agency last fall.

Not only has she signed a boat load of fabulous new books and authors, she has also generously donated her time to writers throughout the blogosphere. In fact, study the picture to the right very closely. It could be the key to YOU receiving some of Joanna's generosity!

But first, the interview...

I know you started off working for a small publishing company. What made you decide to work on the agenting side of the industry?

To be honest, I was just keeping my options open. I really wanted to get into editorial because that's what I was doing with the wonderful Francine Poppo Rich, but I also knew that realistically there are few editorial jobs open in publishing at any given time. I never really thought about agenting and I might not have liked it if I started somewhere else. Both FinePrint and Nancy Coffey are editorially inclined. Nancy was an editor for over 20 years! So we get to do that with our clients. A lot in fact. Working with Nancy has shown me that you can really be involved in the creative side of the process prior to submission, which is what I love. It's not all just about selling, selling, selling--although there's that too :).

You’ve had quite a few sales in your short time as an agent. How many of these are first time authors?

50%--I got asked that same question at a conference last weekend and after I figured it out, I realized that exactly half of my sales have been debut authors. How cool is that? And I have some more first timers on my client list, so I'm hoping to up that percentage.

Fifty percent? That's incredible! And good news for those of us who aren't published yet. Do you sign most authors from queries or from meeting them at conferences?

Mostly from queries. I've only signed two clients from conferences--so far--although I'm considering two more right now (from separate conferences). Shhh!

My lips are sealed ;)

That's really good to know because a lot of people can't afford to go to conferences. But that means you have to write a really good query...

Assuming a writer has done their research and sent a query that falls within one of your genres, what are some of the reasons they fail to hook you?

The voice of the character. I really have to connect with the protagonist, no matter what the story is about. And also, at the query stage, the "bread" queries. Queries that sound almost exactly like every other vampire story or every other coming-of-age. I need to see what makes your story different.

Guide to Literary Agents posted one of my clients queries (with permission of course) and I wrote about how it grabbed me, if you'd like to check it out here:

Successful Queries: Agent Joanna Stampfel-Volpe and "Sway"

You do a lot to help authors, like judging more than 600 entries in the One Line pitch contest at Query Tracker and volunteering to read and critique queries at Lisa and Laura’s blog. What motivates you to be so generous with your time?

Well, I only give the time when I have it. My clients come first, always. But I like to do stuff when I can because I've been in your shoes before. I used to write, I was in critique groups, attended conferences, pitched to agents, received rejections (oooh, so many rejections) and I remember thinking all the time "If they could just tell me WHAT to fix, I'll do it!" that I'm on the other side of the desk, I understand the time constraints of agents and editors a lot more. Most of them would help you out if they had the time to do it. And they do give the time when they can. In my case, I hope that helping out will reach a writer just like I used to be, and really give them that "Aha!" moment, ya know?

Has it helped you uncover any new talent?

I've definitely requested things from the contests I've run. And I've seen some stuff go on to get signed or sold, which is really cool.

You’ve been to a lot of conferences this year. Are there any you plan to attend in 2010?

I'm only signed up for two in 2010 right now--both in April. The Missouri Writer's Guild conference (4/16-18) and Chicago North RWA's Spring Fling (4/23-24). I'm looking forward to those!

I just got back from Missouri! (Checking for flights in April...)

I love the guest post you did on The Swivet back in January, about “reader’s block.” But I also know a lot of writers who don’t read while they’re working on a novel. What do you think is the benefit of taking time to read?

Oh my gosh. Taking time to read is EVERYTHING! Why do you write? Why do editors edit? Why did I get into this business? Because I love books! And I think it's safe to assume you do too. Books inspire, not just ideas but feelings. They remind me what it was like to be huddled under my blanket with a flashlight. Of butterflies in my stomach when the boy and girl kiss for the first time. They remind me of the swell of adventure and goodness when the hero finally strikes down his enemy and completes his journey. Of crying when an adored character sacrifices himself for the good of the quest and his friends. Of laughing when the teacher catches the snotty girl in class red-handed. And of being afraid to walk to the bathroom in the middle of the night because of the monsters under my bed (I sometimes still jump far off my bed to go). I never want to lose that. Not while writing. Not while editing. Not while reading submissions. Never.

You've mentioned several times that you’re an editorial agent. How much time do you generally spend helping a client polish their manuscript?

It depends entirely on the manuscript and how quickly and thoroughly the author can revise. I've taken on a couple of projects that need literally five or six rounds of heavy editing before going out--although I don't take these on lightly. I have to really, really love the voice and the concept. And in those cases the editing alone could take up to a year. And I've taken on projects where they just need a polish edit before submission, which can take anywhere from a few days to a couple weeks. Because of how time consuming editing can be, I don't take on many that need a ton of work, but sometimes I will ask a writer to revise before I consider signing them. It gives me a good idea of how well they can interpret direction and revise accordingly. In those cases if they come back with a vastly improved manuscript just based on my notes, I would definitely consider signing them up, even if it still needed further work.

People go back and forth all the time about whether plot is more important than character. Would you sign a client just because you fell in love with the voice? Even if you had to help them rework the plot?

Yup! But there would need to be some potential in the plot to actually work with. If the plot is just not right at all but I love the voice, I'll ask the writer to send me what else they've got--I've done this many times.

Have you found your Catcher in the Rye meets Stand by Me novel yet?

(sniff, sniff) No. Not yet.

Well, here's hoping some lucky writer is working on the very thing right now! BTW, in that picture of you at the top, have you read all the books in the stack?

I've read all but 2 in that stack--can you guess which ones?? Hey! In fact, if you'd like to run a contest...guess which 2 I haven't read...people can respond in their comments on the blog. The first person to guess right will win a free 10 page critique? Sound good?

Sounds really good! That is awesome of you to offer! Are you up for it readers? I know the titles are hard to see so here's the list of books in the stack:

Scandalous Deception by Rosemary Rogers
The Tory Widow by Christine Blevins
Evermore by Alyson Noel
A Taste for Red by Lewis Harris
Callisto by Torsten Krol
Napalm and Silly Putty by George Carlin
Seabiscuit by by Laura Hillenbrand
The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
The Dead Sea Scrolls Translated by by F. Garcia Martinez and W. G. E. Watson
The Spirit's Self Help Book by by Glenn Poveromo
Sarah and Caleb by Debra Markowitz
Naked in the Rain by Debra Markowitz
The Giant Book of Bad Guys by Ian Schott, Colin Wilson, Damon Wilson, and Rowan Wilson
(the backwards book does not count)
When Trumpets Call by Patricia O'Toole

Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to me, Joanna. It was great getting to know you better!

Thank you! This was fun!

If you'd like to read more about Joanna Stampfel-Volpe, her recent sales and how to query her, check out her page at Publishers Marketplace.

Now start guessing, people. And good luck!

Friday, November 6, 2009

In Jay Asher's Footsteps

Last fall when my eyes were blurry from staring at my computer too long, I started thumbing through my 2009 Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market. Not just hypnotically staring at the names of editors and agents I hoped to someday work with, but actually reading those Insider Reports about first time authors.

One that caught my attention was about Jay Asher. Heard of him? Yeah. I thought so. To be perfectly honest, I haven't read his book, Thirteen Reasons Why. But the interview with him fascinated me because one of his strategies for getting the attention of editors and agents was to enter contests. He wanted his manuscript to be an award winner so that people reading his queries would have one more reason to see value in his writing.

I figured if the strategy worked for him, it might work for me. I entered SECRET OF UNDINE in the Pikes Peak Writers Fiction Contest and surprised myself by winning third place. It hasn't earned me a contract. Yet. But I'm working on it :D

I bring this up because the deadline to enter the 2010 contest is really close. And this year, they've got some amazing judges. Rachelle Gardner. Donald Maass. That got your attention, didn't it? You can see the full lineup of judges and learn more about the contest from the Pikes Peak Writers website.

I paid extra for the critiques and it was SO worth the money. I got more than 10 pages of in-depth analysis of what did and didn't work in my story along with encouraging comments about my writing. The people who run the conference and the contest are incredibly friendly and the conference was just plain wonderful. It was a great experience for me. (Yat-Yee Chong, another contest winner I hung out with last year, has a great two-part interview on her blog with contest coordinator Dawn Miller.)

I don't know if it's contest season or what, but I found two other contests with November deadlines as well. So here's the scoop on all of them.


The Pikes Peak Writers Fiction Contest has categories for just about every genre: Childrens, YA, Historical Fiction, Mainstream, Mystery, Romance, SF/F/Horror, and Short Story. The deadline to enter is November 15. Download the brochure to find out more.

* * * * * * * *
If you're writing for Young Adults but the thought of a query makes you quail, try the Young Adult Novel Discovery Contest, hosted by Serendipity Literary Agency, in collaboration with Sourcebooks and Gotham Writers' Workshop.

The contest is open to writers 13 years of age or older. Entrants will be judged solely on the title and the first 250 words of their YA novel—no additional material will be accepted. You can submit your entry November 1-30.

* * * * * * * *
Wordhustler is running the Literary Storm Novel Contest. Submit the first 50 pages of your novel and Literary Agent Danielle Chiotti of Upstart Crow Literary will be the official judge.

This one costs $10 to enter, but you can enter YA or adult novels. The deadline is November 20.


So what are you waiting for? Get your entries in! It worked for Jay Asher. It might work for you :)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


I wrote this last month, kind of as a note to myself, the morning after I finished making revisions on my MG novel, Secret of Undine. I have days when I feel like I suck as a writer and I'm not making any progress. (Ever been there?) I knew I would have days where I needed a pick me up. This was a note to encourage myself. Hope it encourages you too.

Tomorrow I’ll be exhausted.
And next month I might be crying from the sting of rejection.

But for today, I want to enjoy this high.
I want to revel in the overwhelming flood of emotion,
The pride of accomplishment that comes from completing my rewrite.

My skin tingles from only three hours of sleep
But my fingers flew over the keyboard.

I figured out motivations,
Discovered hidden emotions,
Found opportunities to foreshadow.
And I dug deeper than I thought I could.

Today I’m ecstatic.
My book is stronger, the characters more believable.

Best of all, I believe in myself,
In my ability as a writer
To find the metaphor,
To listen to the bad guy.
To let the hero fail sometimes.

We all need to fail sometimes.
It makes the victories that much sweeter.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Author Spotlight on: Anna Ciddor

Friday night as I wandered through the autograph party at SCBWI-LA, an Australian woman offered to tell my fortune with runestones. The accent gave her away. And I’m a sucker for an accent. Especially when it involves my fortune.

Turns out she knew a thing or two about runestones, because the woman was Anna Ciddor, and Anna doesn’t write a word without plenty of research.

So tell me, what are runestones and how were they used?
Runes were the letters of the Viking alphabet. Vikings didn't have paper and pencils so runes had to be carved into stone, or bone, or wood. In Viking times, people believed that runes had magic powers. There was a love rune, a rune to make you strong, a rune to protect you, and so on. If a rune was carved the wrong way, it could make something bad happen. Runestones could also be used for fortune-telling. On my Viking Magic website,, you can find out more about runestones, and even have your fortune told with runes.

The first book of your Viking Magic series is called Runestone. Do the stones play an important role in following stories?
Vikings believed in witches and little folk and all sorts of magic powers, and I make use of lots of these beliefs in the different books. As the name implies, runestones play an important part in book 1 of the Viking Magic trilogy but other forms of Viking magic and adventure are more important in the other stories. For example, Vikings believed that some people had the power to conjure live animals out of bits of twigs and leaves, and this is a main part of Wolfspell.

I know you visited Ireland when you were working on Night of the Fifth Moon. Did you take a trip to Norway for the Viking Magic Series?
No, I found enough information from books and on the internet to enable me to write the Viking Magic series, but after they were finished I did have the chance to visit Norway and it was very exciting to see real Viking ships and the Norwegian forests and fjords that I had written about in the stories.

Besides traveling, what is your favorite type of research?
I am constantly astounded by and grateful for the information that is available on the internet. Although you do have to be careful what sites you use, I love to look on official museum and library sites where I can access original ancient documents or see objects from museum collections. I am an absolute research fanatic. It is like being a detective, hunting and hunting for tiny scraps of clues.

How many years did you teach math? At what point did you give up your day job to write and illustrate exclusively?
As a child I loved writing and drawing as well as playing schools with my two younger sisters, but I never thought of doing something creative as a career. I always planned to be a teacher. I taught math for just over two years, and then stopped when my first child, Daniel, was born. Elissa followed just 14 months later and while I was staying at home looking after two small children and reading them picture story books, I was inspired to have a go at using my creative talents and getting a book published. I gave myself 6 months to give this experiment a chance, and luckily just as the 6 months was about to be up I landed my first publishing contract. I have been a full-time writer and illustrator ever since.

Okay, can I just say that I’m jealous?! Six months is incredibly fast! And you’ve published an astounding number of books since you started writing in 1989. How is that even possible?
With my first publishing contract, the publisher asked me to have the book written and illustrated in 3 months. I had no idea at the time what an unusually tight schedule this was, so I worked like an absolute maniac, while being a full-time mum as well. My children posed for all the artwork. Somehow, I managed it, and I think that taught me to work fast! My first 50 books were non-fiction books, many of them quite short, so this helped. Since I changed to writing novels a few years ago, I have become one of the world's slowest writers. For example, Runestone took 2 years to write.

I know when we talked in L.A. you said you were trying to find an American publisher. I didn’t realize what a challenge that would be. Have you made any progress? Do you have an agent?
Yes, there is some interest in my latest novel. I am very excited but I can't say more at this stage, though of course I am hoping this will lead to an American publication.

Well good luck! Although it sounds like you’ve already got plenty of that on your side :D
What are you working on now?

I have just finished a YA novel set in France during the First World War and that is the one I am offering to publishers at the moment. However, although it is 'finished', I am sure it will need lots of editing work so I don't want to start on anything new till it actually goes off to print. When I am writing a novel, I prefer to stay immersed and emotionally involved in that one project. In the meantime, I am doing all those cleaning and tidying chores around the house that I put off for two years while I wrote the novel...


Since 1989 Anna Ciddor has written and illustrated more than 55 books. Her books are beloved among Australian children and have been shortlisted for numerous national awards including Children’s Choice Book Awards and WA Young Readers’ Book Awards. Runestone and Night of the Fifth Moon were both chosen as Notable Books by the Children’s Book Council of Australia. A few of her titles are available in the U.S. through Amazon.

If you’d like to be entered to win an autographed copy of Runestone, book one in the Viking Magic series, tell me in the comments. As always, followers get an extra entry. A name will be selected Monday, November 9, using the Random Name Generator. Entries must be received by midnight (PST) on November 8 to qualify.

You can learn more about Anna by visiting her website:
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