Friday, January 29, 2010

Author Spotlight on: Jordan Sonnenblick

Remember when I posted about how much I loved Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie? Well I'm so excited to be interviewing the author, Jordan Sonnenblick, here on the blog today!

Jordan has released four more books since Drums came out in 2004. NOTES FROM THE MIDNIGHT DRIVER and ZEN AND THE ART OF FAKING IT are YA. DODGER AND ME and DODGER FOR PRESIDENT are MG. His sixth book, AFTER EVER AFTER, comes out next month. Filled with hilarious characters, real situations and authentic middle grade/young adult voices, these stories stay with you long after you've read the last page.

Oddly enough, Jordan Sonnenblick thought his career might be over the week after his first book came out. Keep reading to find out why!

First I have to say that I’m in awe of the fact that you had Frank McCourt as a high school English teacher. Talk about a fabulous luck of the draw! Did you ever send him any of your books?
Yes, I loved Mr. McCourt, and he absolutely did right by me in every way.  In fact, he blurbed my first book.  Mr. McCourt left a message on my home answering machine to tell me he was going to mail the blurb to my publisher, and I ran around the house yelling, "Frank McCourt wrote my blurb!  Frank McCourt wrote my blurb!"

My son, who was five years old at the time, got sick of hearing this after about an hour.  Just as I called Mr. McCourt back and his answering machine beeped, my son ran across the room shouting, "FRANK MCCOURT BLAH BLAH BLAH!" repeatedly.  I looked at the phone in horror, realizing I'd just pranked my all-time favorite author, and hung up without identifying myself.  I never told Mr. McCourt about it, either.

Too funny! Kids just have the best timing, don't they?

The small company that originally published Drums famously went belly up soon after releasing your book. That had to be weird! Did you see it coming?

I had no clue that my publisher, DayBue, was going to close up shop three days after Drums came out in June 2004 -- I spent that whole summer panicking.  The first printing was five thousand copies, and we agreed that DayBue would donate the four thousand unsold copies to a cancer-sibling support charity called Supersibs!

How did you make the connection with Scholastic?
By the end of the summer, I was just getting used to the idea that at least the book was going to get into the hands of four thousand kids who needed it.  Then, out of the blue, an editor at Scholastic emailed me.  As it turned out, her mom lives near me, and had bought her a copy of Drums at my local indie bookstore -- the only store in the world that still had copies in stock!  That's why I always tell people to support small local businesses.  Without that store, the Moravian Bookshop in Bethlehem, PA, you wouldn't be interviewing me right now.

That's pretty cool! I'll be sure to stop in if I ever visit Bethlehem :)

I know in one interview you said that you didn’t want to revisit Steven’s family because they’d already been through enough, but AFTER EVER AFTER is a sequel to Drums, right? What made you decide to write more about this family?
You're right that I never, ever wanted to write a sequel to Drums.  I'd written Drums when I was an 8th grade English teacher.  A student of mine named Emily had a little brother who was in treatment for cancer, and I thought there should be a book that kids in her situation could read.  It was an incredibly painful book for me to write, especially because Emily's brother actually passed away right before the original publication date.

But then a social worker in upstate New York emailed me to say I hadn't finished the story yet: she ran a therapy group for teen cancer survivors, and felt that someone needed to tell their part of the tale.  At first, I thought, "No way."  But gradually, over the course of two years, the idea for writing a sequel took hold.

I dedicated the sequel to Emily, the bravest kid I ever taught.

Besides your YA books with Scholastic, you also have the Dodger books with Macmillan. What made you decide to write for younger readers as well? Are there more Dodger books coming out?
There are two Dodger books in print, and the third and final one is coming out this spring.  I didn't make a marketing-based decision to write for younger readers; it was just kind of how things worked out.  I am not nearly disciplined or professional enough to come up with a book just because I see a niche for it in the market!

I started writing the first Dodger book because my son asked me to write a book about baseball, my editor wanted me to write a book about a kid with an invisible magical friend, and I wanted to write a book to teach my son (who was in third grade at the time) that it was OK to be nice to girls.  I was torn in three different directions, and then one night -- on Christmas Eve 2007 -- the entire plot of Dodger and Me popped into my head while I slept.

I guess I have Santa to thank for that one ...

...or the Sandman! I get a lot of ideas in my sleep, too.

I think I read that you wrote Drums in a very short period of time, like 12 weeks. Do you write all your books that fast? Do you outline or just jump in?

I do write each of my books incredibly fast, although I spend three-quarters of each year wracking my brain for my next book idea.  When an idea comes, I do a ton of research (my favorite part of the whole process), and then outline before I write the first word of the manuscript.  I think doing all of that homework ahead of time is what allows me to write so fast once I get going.

Only a teacher could refer to all that fun research as homework! Do you still teach? Have you found that some students are kind of surprised to find an author, of books they actually read, in front of the class?
I don't teach anymore, but my first three books came out while I was still in the classroom.  My 8th grade students definitely thought it was surreal, but they were generally too cool to mention anything to me at the time.

The opening of NOTES FROM THE MIDNIGHT DRIVER had me laughing out loud. And when he was reading Drums, my son kept quoting funny lines to me. 

How do you find that balance of humor in these stories that deal with some very sad and/or serious issues?
I don't know.  Humor has its own kind of alchemy; I try not to analyze the mojo too closely.

What’s in your TBR pile?
Well, right now my TBR pile is all adult nonfiction and books about photography, because A. I am doing research for my next YA novel and B. I find I can't read YA while I am actively engaged in writing.

Sounds like you've got quite a pile of homework there :) So what was your favorite book last year? 
My fave book of the past year, Libba Bray's Going Bovine, is YA.

What are you reading to your kids at bedtime?
Well, my kids are now eleven and eight years old, so they mostly do their own bedtime reading at this point.  But my son is rereading the Harry Potter books this week.  My daughter is reading a million middle-grade friendship books.  I'm pretty sure the ARC of the third Dodger book, DODGER FOR SALE, is inching its way up in her TBR pile right now.  I can't wait to hear what she thinks of it!

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions, Jordan! It was a pleasure!

You can read more about Jordan Sonnenblick on his website:

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Purpose of a Paperback

I was at a friend's house on Saturday talking about - what else? - books. We sat in a room with floor to ceiling shelves on either end, overflowing with literature. A former librarian and bookstore owner, my friend knows practically every author, title and genre in print.

So I just about died when she told me how she and her husband share books.

"I just tear off the part I've read and give it to him so he can start."

I'm pretty sure I stopped breathing. "You tear your books? Apart?"

"Well, obviously not the hard covers, but the paperbacks. That's what they're for."


 Your husband can't wait two hours while you finish the book?

I'm the type of person that practically cries when my covers get a crease. And don't even think about dog-earing the corner of a page. Have you not heard of a bookmark?

But to take your bare hands and intentionally rip a book in two? The woman is a librarian! They fine people for damaging library books. Bringing one back in two pieces would probably give our Solvang librarian a heart attack.

So tell me, have you ever "shared" a book this way? Actually, never mind. If you've defiled a book this way, I don't want to know.

I'd like to still respect you in the morning.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Another Verse

I never thought I would read a novel in verse. Somehow the concept made me think of William Wordsworth or Burt Bacharach. Or Dr. Seuss. And to be honest, I didn't want to read anything written by those people for 200 pages or more.

But last year someone gave me Because I am Furniture by Thalia Chaltas. I ignored it for a while, let it sit on the shelf. But let me tell you, when I finally opened it, I couldn't put it down. I was blown away.

So this year I was actually excited when I got my hands on Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate. I had seen positive reviews from people and the story sounded interesting enough: Kek, a ten-year-old boy from the Sudan, is shipped off to Minnesota in winter after his father and brother are killed and his mother disappears. But like other books I enjoy, it isn't just the story that pulled me in. It's the writing.

Kek moves in with an aunt and older cousin who had escaped the refugee camp earlier. He has so much to discover in Minnesota: snow, English, grocery stores. The words are written beautifully, but the book is funny, too. This passage with Kek and his cousin Ganwar before his first day of school made me laugh out loud.

That night,
I try on the school clothes
in the box Dave has brought for me.
I pick a button shirt with flowers on it
and soft red pants,
but Ganwar rolls his eyes.
Thos are pajamas, he says.
You wear them when you sleep.

I try again.
Ganwar shakes his head.
The kids will eat you alive, he says.

This is bad news,
since I didn't know that America people
like to eat each other.

Home of the Brave won the Golden Kite Award for Fiction, it's an SLJ Best Book of the Year. Of course, if you're like me, awards don't mean you want to read the book.

What I'm really enjoying about this book is seeing how the author can get a point across with very few words. If two people are talking outside in the cold, she doesn't say It's cold. She writes
His laughter makes little clouds.
Isn't that great? Here's a kid who has never experienced winter and what does he notice? Laughter makes little clouds. Brilliant!

Whether or not you enjoy novels in verse, if you are a writer, I highly recommend that you read one. Home of the Brave and Because I am Furniture are great choices, but there are plenty of others out there. I think Lisa Schroeder will be next on my list. Look at how the authors use language, how they  say so much with so little. Then think about how you can apply that to your own writing.

We're not all going to write novels in verse. But learning to be more economical with words is a lesson we can all use.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Author Spotlight on: Cynthea Liu

If you've been around kid lit blogs for any length of time, you've seen her name. Whether you've visited her online site for debut authors, read the advice she freely dispenses on her blog or contributed to her epic fundraiser this past summer for Tulakes Elementary, Cynthea Liu is no stranger in the online children's publishing world. In fact, she seems to be one of those remarkable people who knows how to harness the power of the internet, for the good of many.

Oh, and in her spare time she writes books.

This super dynamo took time out to answer a few questions for me and to give us a first look at some of the children who've benefited from her generosity.

Your nonfiction book, WRITING FOR CHILDREN AND TEENS came out before either of your novels. How'd that happen?
It was sort of like "natural evolution" for that book. Everyone knows I am a colossal procrastinator. Writing for Children and Teens began as a daily article on my blog and quickly grew into a collection of useful tips and advice-- all for free.  Then when people starting asking me if there was a book because they hated reading stuff on the Internet, I met the need with the paperback version of the Crash Course.

I believe the paperback came out after I had already received my book contracts from Penguin. But I began blogging about the process well before those contracts. It became clear to me as I was learning the biz that there was definitely a lot of things people didn't know that they should know when getting started. And a lot of things you often hear that are just not true.

I recorded it all in that book WRITING FOR CHILDREN AND TEENS: A CRASH COURSE and I find it so useful now when people ask me the same questions over and over again--that it's all right in that handy-dandy book.

All three of your books are very different and now you're working on a YA. How have you managed to slide between genres and ages?
Great observation, Sherrie! It's true that I write everything from humor to serious stuff. Fantasy to realistic fiction. Picture books to Young adult novels. Fiction and nonfiction.

The thing about me is that I really love a challenge. Even though you might hear that it's best for an author to stick to one thing and build a following, I've somehow found a way to do it all. How do I do it? Well the funny stuff has all the jokes in it. The serious stuff is the same stuff minus a lot of the funny stuff. As for age groups, it really helps to channel my own self at the different ages. If you can remember what it was like to be five and twelve and sixteen, you can probably create a character that works for each of those age-levels. As for fiction and nonfiction, I utilize the same skills, just apply them differently. Both types of work require logic, organization, and engaging writing!

You are an incredible marketer, and not just for yourself. The AuthorsNow! website is all about promoting debut authors and providing great content to readers. What possessed you to add that to your already packed schedule?
Ha! I was certainly possessed when I decided to take that on. It's been an extremly time-consuming project, but I did it mainly because I saw a need for it. One place to find it all. Easily-searchable, informative, and an opportunity for authors and book enthusiasts to connect! And there will be more great things coming from AuthorsNow! as time marches on!

I was late to the launch party for THE GREAT CALL OF CHINA but the leftover snacks were delicious :)  I remember you had a great movie and a game and other goodies. How did you come up with the idea for your virtual book launch?
For THE GREAT CALL release, I was soo soo busy right before. In fact, only ten days before the release, I was telling another writer that I wasn't sure I was doing anything for it. Ha! Then as the days marched on, I realized people expected a party. I couldn't just let the book go out quietly because I was busy! And I really did want to party it up. Finally, I said, to heck with everything else, if I'm going to do something - I'm going to go all out. And I thought of it just like a party. And what do you have at parties? Food, music, games, entertainment, party favors ... all of it connected with the book somehow to make it even more special for my friends and family. The main idea was for everyone to have some fun with me, celebrating the book. And we did!

What was the most challenging part of coordinating the launch?
I only put together the party a few days before the actual party so the challenge was getting everything up on the website in time. I stayed up the whole night before release day putting together THE GREAT CALL video and changing my whole website. So on the big day, I was totally wired and exhausted. But I was soooo happy we had the party. It was really a momentous day!

Then with PARIS PAN you took the virtual launch to a whole new level, raising more than $15,000 in four weeks for Tulakes Elementary. That was such a brilliant win-win scenario for everyone. How did the school react when you approached them with the idea?
At first, we didn't understand exactly how much would be raised by the effort. I said, at worst, we'll raise a $1000. So Yay to that. And then as time marched on and we got to $3000, then $5000, then $10,000.... my sponsoring teacher and I were crying. Everybody was really in disbelief. I'm still in shock about it.  

You had an author visit there not long ago. How cool was it to visit after everything was over? Did you get to see those dollars in action?
Oh, Sherrie. That was truly an awesome day for everyone. I can not tell you how wonderful the teachers and students were. It is really hard for me to fully capture that day without feeling like I'm shortchanging it somehow because it really was just so fantastic. Seeing the kids, meeting the teachers and the principal. Seeing those bright-eyed students ready to meet an author for the very first time. All of the hugs that were exchanged. Delivering the check to the school. Watching 1st graders march into the gymnasium with their big Thank You signs. Being caught on the Oklahoma News bawling about the whole experience. Getting everyone revved up about reading and writing! I really wish I had the words to describe it all because this still doesn't cover it. The teachers are getting their supplies now.... I've got some pictures and will be posting it soon.  But it's just been so cool to know that the children's book community made a big difference in these kids' lives. And I am so PARIS-PAN-PROUD! to know that Paris made a difference, too.

How were you able to get so much participation in the PARIS PAN launch from so many industry professionals: agents, editors, authors?
Mainly through personal contacts. I started with the authors who I've known - who've made a difference in my career/journey towards authorship....At first it was just my agent and my editor. I was going to keep it small. That was my initial plan because I wasn't sure how much I could do exactly. But then when I saw how successful the auction was, I couldn't keep it small. I knew I had to work day and night to make it bigger, raise as much money as possible! - and I contacted a bunch of agents and editors I've admired and had some contact with before, and asked if they'd help me.  And I hardly found one that could turn Tulakes away. I opened it up to even more authors, too, many of them debut authors with books that had just come out or were coming out. The children's book industry is truly amazing and giving. I've always known that and I'm so proud to be a part of it.

It had to be pretty intense having two novels come out back to back. Do you feel like you get a bit of a breather now before the YA launches in 2011?
This is my breather right now. Maybe three weeks. Before my editor gets back to me with revision notes for that YA novel. Ha! And then I'm back at it again. Of course, there are so many more things I'd like to do - like skydive or something. But I'm all full up. Between public appearances, interviews like these, my family, my books, and AuthorsNow!, I can't take on another thing. But I do enjoy being busy and I love being part of this crazy author world, even though it can get a little insane sometimes.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received about writing and who was it from?
From author and writing coach Esther Hershenhorn - her favorite word is "Connect!" and she is so right-on about that. It is now my own personal mantra. I still don't know how to connect perfectly, but I do try very hard! Connect with my readers, connect with writers, connect with the people that you meet. In this world, we do not write alone. And if we are, well, that's just plain lonely. The writing-world is much easier to handle when you connect with other people who get it.

What do you do to relax?
HAHAHAHAHA! Seriously, I just laughed out loud.

I do not know the meaning of the word relax. This is very very bad. I suppose, in my dream world, I would have no deadlines, no responsibilities, and then I would truly relax. On a daily basis in real life though, Reality TV is my biggest relaxation tool. Just zoning out in front of some really frivolous show that reminds me that not everything has to be so serious. I also enjoy spending quality time with my family and friends. Something I hope to do more of in 2010! Let's hope!

Company is coming and you've got to cook fast. What is your signature dish?
A one-pot wonder that involves sauce, vegetables, and meat. Whatever is in the fridge. Usually it's a Thai curry or something like that.  I also enjoy making scallops wrapped in prosciutto as an appetizer. Mmmm!

Thanks, Cynthea! 
BTW, sounds delicious! I'm on my way over :D

Here are some of the places you can find Cynthea on the web:
Writing for Children and Teens

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Talk it Up

I started an online writing class through Media Bistro last week. It never hurts learn more about the craft of writing and most of their classes are taught by industry professionals. Mine is led by Kendra Levin, an editor at Viking.

Last night we had our first live chat session and Kendra told us about a recent acquisition. She was riding home on the subway and overheard another passenger telling a friend about her novel. Kendra walked up to the writer, introduced herself as an editor, and asked if she could have a look at the manuscript.

Now, if it was me, I would have been looking for the hidden cameras. I mean, stuff like that isn't supposed to happen in real life, is it?

Well, the author's agent sent the book to Kendra the next day. She read it that night and gave it to her publisher the following day. They made an offer the following week.

Seriously. It happened that fast.

So the two things I took away from this:
  1. Having an agent helps move the process along. Kendra specifically said that she read the manuscript more quickly because it came from a very highly regarded agency and she knew it would go out to a lot of high profile editors.
  2. It pays to talk about what you're writing to whoever will listen! So talk it up! LOUDLY!

But that's not all.

I signed up for this class back in October. At the time, Media Bistro was running some contest that I was unaware of. Over the Christmas break, I got an email telling me I had won. The prize arrived on Friday...

Can you stand it? Not only do I get to be in this fabulous class, THEY GAVE ME A FREAKING KINDLE!!!

Yeah, life is good :)

Monday, January 18, 2010


If you've ever lived in or visited Southern California during a winter storm, you know about the news phenomenon known as StormWatch. I think newscasters here LIVE for StormWatch.

Considering what the rest of the country has been putting up with this month, we really have nothing to talk about. But even before the rain started coming down Sunday afternoon, the reporters were ready with their packages.

As I sat near an open window enjoying the sound of gentle rainfall, someone turned on the news. And seriously, the entire 30 minute newscast was focused on the epic storm that will be hitting the West Coast this week.

"Tides will be high! Don't walk out on jetty's and be careful on the beach!" 
"Fifteen to 30 foot swells!" So of course every surfer is reaching for his wet suit.
"People in burn areas should be ready to evacuate immediately in case of mudslides!"
"Visit this location to get your sandbags!"

The thing is, we get so little weather here that heavy sprinkles can cause major traffic accidents. You'll hear people say things like, "I'm going to get to the grocery store before it starts raining." Do they not realize that people in Seattle still manage to shop, eat and sip espresso in the midst of a downpour?

Don't get me wrong: rain can wreak havoc here, especially in areas ravaged by wild fires in the summer. But do the newspeople really need to have cameras set up 24/7 to capture the disasters they're hoping to win an Emmy for covering? Do we really need to interview those intrepid shoppers in Santa Barbara who were brave enough to face the elements in search of a pair of Lucky jeans? Puh-leeze.

Frankly, most of us are thankful for the rain and glad for the change. My parents are just hoping to get enough precipitation in Los Angeles County to lift the rationing so they can water the lawn without fear of the neighbors reporting them to the authorities.

So while the weather girls are shouting into their mikes and warning us not to leave the house without raincoats and umbrellas, I'll be by my fireplace reading and writing.

Some things never change, regardless of the weather.


The winner of the Jordan Sonnenblick novel, Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie is:

Congratulations, Dawn! Email me at solvangsherrie at gmail dot com with your snail mail address and I will get that fabulous book out to you pronto!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Spotlight on IndeDebut 2010: Authors Publishing through Small Presses Part II

Are independent presses a stepping stone or the wave of the future? Meet eight authors being published by seven different presses and find out the challenges and rewards of going with a small publishing house. Read Part I of the interview here.

Lori, your book releases next year, but it won 1st place for the 2009 Dragonfly Publishing Award. Can you tell me how that works?
Dragonfly Publishing, Inc. holds a picture book contest each year, which is a wonderful opportunity for authors and illustrators to get their books in print. I entered my manuscript, The Bug That Plagued the Entire Third Grade, in the 2009 contest and won 1st place out of hundreds of entries. The prize was a contract with DFP and I jumped at the opportunity. Since then, DFP has picked an illustrator, Chet Taylor, who is currently bringing the story to life, and the finished book is due to release in September 2010.

Scott, you’ve got books with two different small publishers. What’s the big draw for you in going with a small press?
Maybe it has something to do with my college days.  I chose to attend a small, liberal arts college in Pennsylvania over a number of other larger schools.  The feeling of camaraderie and the individual attention drew me in.  It’s the same with small presses.  I can pick up the phone and talk to my editor or send an e-mail and know I’ll get a prompt response.  It’s close-knit, and I like that feeling.

I noticed you’re doing a cross promotion with American Forests. What prompted that? Has it been effective?
I firmly believe the work I share with the public should give back in some way as well.  My first novel, O.Y.L., partners with American Forests.  A one dollar donation goes to American Forests for each book sold, which results in a tree planted in the U.S.--One book, one dollar, one tree.

Mice Don’t Taste Like Chicken
will team with Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, and proceeds from each sale will benefit the organization.  As far as effectiveness goes, I know it’s effective because of the good feeling I have in my heart and the response I receive from the organizations. 

Miriam, on your blog you addressed some of the problems of going with a small press, including the fact that some people mistake it for a vanity press. How do you dispel that misconception?

By jumping up and down and waving my hands like a crazy person yelling “I didn’t have to pay for this!”

I wish I were kidding about that.

In all seriousness, what I found was that it was my other writer/bookseller friends who were the most suspicious.  When I told one of them that my book would be print-on-demand, her first question was “You didn’t sign with AuthorHouse, did you?” When I said no, she heaved a sigh of relief and started telling me all the horror stories she knew about authors who had been ripped off and disappointed by vanity publishing. In those cases, I found that the best weapon was knowledge.

I think--and this applies to whatever publishing road you decide to take--if you can be clear and specific about what you want out of it, realistic about the pros and cons, and professional in how you handle things, you’ll be a lot better off. For example, if your publisher uses POD and hasn’t decided to accept returns yet, don’t just march into your local Borders demanding to know why they won’t carry your book. You’ll look silly. And if you don’t know what returns are, or why that makes a difference, then you need to do some more research.

 Knowledge is key.

Terry, I noticed that you’re a member of a lot of associations: Outdoor Writers of America, Dog Writers Association of America, as well as SCBWI and the Writers Union of Canada. Do any of these memberships offer you additional promotional opportunities?
I do belong to quite a few associations.  I give them one year, and if the benefits of joining are not yet evident, I don't renew.  But I think within my niche of outdoor adventure writing, it can only improve my visibility to belong to larger organizations.

Mush with PRIDE is a big one for me personally because they promote the sport of dogsledding as well as promoting good dog care. Their name stands for Providing Responsible Information on a Dog's Environment.

The Outdoor Writers of Canada are a natural fit since I write for outdoor magazines. They are doing a spotlight on me in the next issue of their newsletter, so that's a definite bonus.

I joined the Dog Writers Association of America mostly because I heard about the dog book contest they have each year.  I've just joined that group, so I'm not sure how much it will benefit me.  But with all those fellow dog writers, I'll be making new friends and that's always good.

Of course the SCBWI is a must for any writer of children's books. They provide all sorts of information on publishers and industry news as well as provide a platform for all members. I think the community of children's book writers is a friendly one and genuinely nurturing.  I receive a lot of support from members.

Carla, you have a lot of nonfiction titles out (with four different presses!). Are these subjects that you approached the publisher about, or were you contributing to existing series’? Did you need to have a platform to be considered as a nonfiction author?
I do most of my nonfiction writing for the educational market. The books are usually part of a series that is developed by the publisher. They send me a topic assignment and give me guidelines to follow - such as word count, number of chapters, tone, target audience age. To be considered as an author for one of these series, I sent an introductory packet which included my resume, writing background and writing samples. Some of it is being in the right place at the right time - your packet crosses an editor's desk right when she needs to assign a new series for an age group that you have written for in the past.

Donna, your publisher puts out ebooks, iPhone apps and cds as well as traditional print books. Do you have the option of going into one or all of these formats or does the publisher decide? In what formats will your book be available?
The publisher discusses the options and to what is appropriate for the book and then the author makes the final decision on format. My story book, The Golden Pathway, will be available as E-book, Traditional print book, and Audio/Book Video DVD. Once the illustrations for the book are completed, an audio of the text is completed and then compiled into a video with the illustrations.

Anyone can design an attractive website, so how do you ensure that a small publisher is reputable? 

As with any business venture, a writer needs to research any company he or she considers working with. All of us at IndeDebut are aware that not all small presses are created equal and we caution authors to do their homework and sift through publishers to find the one right for them. Writers should google a publisher to see what has been written about them, check the Predators and Editors website for any warnings, and ask for author references. There’s also a vast network of author support across the web. There are hundreds of author chat rooms and forums you can join to ask other authors what they think of certain presses. Search Yahoo groups or Google and you’ll discover an entire world of information at your fingertips.

 Research, research, research. Contact some of the publisher’s authors and/or illustrators and ask them about their experience. If the small publisher is legit the author and/or illlustrator will have no problem providing answers to your questions.

 I did my homework before I subbed to 4RV by searching sites like Predators and Editors and general web searches.  Once I met Vivian on the MUSE forums though, it was obvious I would be lucky to get in with them.

 You need to feel out the personalities that work there and do your homework.  Research some popular websites like Predators and Editors, but don’t necessarily take that as gospel.  Get to know the organization and let your own gut feeling tell you if it’s the right move.

CARLA MOONEY: I asked a lot of questions and did research before I signed my contract.

 In this case, because I'd published with them under the romance imprint, I knew they were reputable. They'd been recommended to me by another romance author I know.

MIRIAM FORSTER: I’m a big fan of Writer Beware and Preditors and Editors.  Also, for me a big tipping point was that the two people who started Oaktara had long histories in the publishing business as an editor and a writer, and those histories could be verified.  If they hadn’t had that experience, I might have been more suspicious.

DANIKA DINSMORE: I'd say don't just go with someone because they offer to publish your book. Do some research and speak to some of their clients. Talk about the project in detail with them and then go with your gut instinct.

How does distribution work with each of your small presses? 

 PM Moon is a traditional press.  They print an initial run (for my book, we're thinking around 2,000 books) and sell through independent bookstores,, Borders and their own website.  

Dragonfly Publishing, Inc. specializes in print-on-demand (POD) books. DFP offers professionally edited fiction in both electronic and hardcover/ paperback versions. Hardcovers are available at the DFP bookstore, and Paperbacks are available at, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Boone Bridge, Createspace and Ebooks are available through and Omni-Lit. Titles are also listed by wholesalers Ingram and Baker & Taylor. 

 Guardian Angel Publishing works the same as the big boys. They have wholesale books distributed around the globe with Ingram, Baker & Taylor and many more distributors. They have distribution with Canada and Euro countries and most of our books are picked up in English speaking countries.

GAP’s print books are available at all the online bookstores from Amazon, B&N, Borders to and many more. GAP ebooks also have distribution networks: Follett Digital Resources sells our ebooks to libraries and schools. LSI distributes our ebooks for resale.

Some (and more as time progresses) of our small word count picture books sell on iTunes for iKidsPlay using touch screen technology for phones and iPods and will be available in other formats for phones too.

 4RV Publishing uses Ingram.

My book will be distributed by two wholesalers, Ingram and Baker & Taylor, and a distributor specifically for library sales. They are also negotiating for general distribution services. My book can also be purchased directly from Soto.

MIRIAM FORSTER: Oaktara does primarily online distribution , though they also work with the author’s local bookstores. Books are available at,, (including the Kindle) and through other major retail websites.  They recently hooked a distribution deal with CBD, the major Christian book distributor as well.

DANIKA DINSMORE: Right now the publisher is investigating our options. At first, it's simply going to be up to us to create reader interest to attract a good distributor.

Do you see publishing with a small press as a stepping stone, or do you see this as the wave of the future?
AMY COOK: This is a great question.  I think a couple years ago, small presses definitely were stepping stones, but in the age of POD and in light of the struggles of the larger houses to stay afloat, small presses have a unique opportunity to step into the void.  Being small and having lower overhead, they’re better able to adapt to changes in the market and in technology.  Publishing is on the cusp of dynamic changes and I hope to see some small houses emerge as pre-eminent, independent publishers instead of imprints of something larger.

LORI CALABRESE: I think publishing with a small press is a great stepping stone for an aspiring writer to break into publishing. The experience I’ve gained by publishing my first book with a  small press, DFP, has been great. I don’t see small presses as replacing the larger publishers, but the world needs small presses to champion new voices, focus on niche markets, and reissue out-of-print titles. Thankfully, the internet has made it easier for small presses to reach their customers and share some great stories that might not have been published for one reason or another.

DONNA MCDINE: I see small presses as the wave of the future. While I don't have experience with large publishers, the one-on-one attention provided at Guardian Angel Publishing is beneficial in learning the correct steps in marketing.

SCOTT HEYDT: I’m too new to the industry to give a confident answer to this question.  I’d like to think that one day I might achieve publication by one of the famous New York presses, but that doesn’t have to happen for me to believe in my work.  As long as I have the opportunity to share my passion with others, no matter how large the crowd, I feel rewarded.

CARLA MOONEY: I see this a needed and valuable part of the publishing industry.

JO RAMSEY: I think it is what you make of it.

MIRIAM FORSTER: Quite frankly, I have no idea what the future of publishing is going to be, and I try not to think about it too much.  For me, worrying about what is coming makes it harder to focus on the writing that I want to do. As far as small presses go, I’d be completely open to doing it again if it was the right fit for the book.

DANIKA DINSMORE: I think, like other entertainment industries, the publishing industry got a bit out of control and out of balance. I think new technologies and social media have leveled the playing field. Just like indie film and music companies bring us important work, so do small presses. I'm glad I chose this path. I'm not sure where it will lead, but I want to support the independents out there!

Thanks to all of you for taking the time to answer these questions and good luck with your new releases!

Learn more about these authors through their website, Indie-Debut 2010.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Spotlight on IndeDebut 2010: Authors Publishing through Small Presses

Ever thought about sending your manuscript to a small, independent publisher? Some independents, like Candlewick and Sourcebooks, started off in a bedroom. (Kind of like your novel!) Now these two companies have become heavy hitters in the publishing arena.

Many small presses have been turning a profit while larger publishers flounder. Still, authors who decide to go with a small publisher often find themselves battling misperceptions, as well as struggling for shelf space.

Amy Cook decided to be proactive by developing IndeDebut2010 for authors like herself who will be published this year by small presses. Here's a chance to meet some of these authors, hear their stories and learn about their publishers. Who knows -- one of these small presses could become the next Scholastic!

Can each of you tell me how you found your publisher? Why did you choose this publisher?

I found my publisher, Dragonfly Publishing, Inc., online. Since 2008, DFP has held a children’s picture book contest. DFP has to keep their submissions closed most of the time because they get too many and just can’t physically handle the volume, so Senior Editor Pat Gaines came up with the wonderful idea to give aspiring authors and illustrators an opportunity to get their books in print by holding this contest. I had learned of the contest and entered each year. Unfortunately, the manuscript I sent in 2008 didn’t make the cut, but I was pleasantly surprised to learn my entry for 2009, The Bug That Plagued the Entire Third Grade, won 1st place for Best Children’s Book.


While attending the 2008 Muse Online Writers Conference, I attended the lecture by Lynda Burch of Guardian Angel Publishing and immediately clicked with her philosophy. I took the plunge and submitted my manuscript entitled, The Golden Pathway, and after a couple rounds of edits she accepted the manuscript.

 I participated in the free on-line MUSE writers conference in October.  I applied for and won one of twelve spots for a five minute pitch session with 4RV Publishing president Vivian Zabel.  I was so nervous I could barely type, but she offered me a chance to submit to her and one month later, I received the offer.


 When I began to pitch Mice Don’t Taste Like Chicken, I created a Google Alert for “middle grade fiction.”  One day, PM Moon’s name popped up as sponsors of a contest for children’s fiction work with a first prize of publication.  My manuscript received Honorable Mention in that contest (behind the talented winner and fellow IndeDebut 2010 member, Amy Allgeyer Cook).  One of the PM Moon editors chose Mice Don’t Taste Like Chicken as their personal favorite and extended a contract.  I chose to accept the contract because of the family environment PM Moon seeks to create.


 I read about Soto Publishing in the Children's Book Insider newsletter. I liked the idea of working with a small publisher and decided to go ahead and try submitting my manuscript to them.


 I found my publisher, Jupiter Gardens, in a strange way. In addition to YA, I write romance, and I'd published with an e-publisher. That publisher also has an imprint that does metaphysical, New Age, and pagan titles, and had published a YA title there. I had written a YA series that includes channeling and energy healing, so it seemed a good fit for that publisher.


 I found OakTara through a family friend who had sold them a trilogy.  He found out I was about to retire this particular book and suggested I send it to them.  At first, I was hesitant.  OakTara publishes inspirational fiction of all kinds and I didn’t see myself as an inspirational fiction author.

On the other hand, I couldn’t see a place for it in the mainstream young adult market, which had changed a LOT in the seven-plus years it took me to finish and polish the book.  The Flute and the Dagger takes place in a monotheistic world and is a pretty clean story, (neither of which I did on purpose, that’s just how the story ended up) so I finally decided to give it another good rewrite and send it in.

The publisher I'm working with has published some books of poetry of mine in the past. He has a very small operation, but I trust him and we work well together.

I had a bit of a roller coaster ride with agents and larger publishing houses. I found myself in the position of querying all over again and just decided the heck with big publishing houses. Did I really want to wait three more years for this book to come out? I approached a few boutique publishers and Tod McCoy of en theos press decided it was just the new direction he wanted to go in. I have been involved in the whole process, which is something that doesn't happen with a larger publisher.

Amy, you found your publisher through a contest, right? How did you hear about the contest?
I heard about the contest through an announcement on Verla Kay’s message board which, by the way, is a great resource for writers and illustrators. 

What gave you the idea to start this group?
Frustration.  I saw how much buzz was being built by marketing groups like “Class of 2K9” and other debutante groups.  I wanted to join but was told over and over that I wasn’t eligible, because my press wasn’t listed in Children’s Writers and Illustrators Market.  A lot of small presses aren’t.  I asked my publisher to apply to be listed.  She’s working on it, but it’s too late now as most of these groups have closed to 2010 applications.  I knew I couldn’t be the only person in this situation, and being a die-hard ‘do-it-yourselfer’, I thought I’d put together my own group. I also hoped we might be able to capitalize on the recent groundswell of support for Indie Bookstores to generate publicity for our publishers and our books.  

How did you find the other authors and interest them in doing the website?
I posted an announcements on Verla Kay’s message board, the SCBWI message board, the ICL message board, Twitter and Facebook.  I ended up with responses from all of these.  Some established writers forwarded the announcements to debut writers they know.  The response was great! 

And we got very lucky!  We have a great group of authors with many different skills and diverse fan groups.  We were able to create our message board, our blog, our logo and press releases within a week of forming.  Our blog already has many great articles on writing and publishing, contributed or forwarded by our members.  We are off to a great start. 

If other authors with books at small presses want to be part of Indie Debut, what should they do?
We have a few requirements:  1) The book being published must be children’s or YA.  2) The book must be their first book published in this genre.  3)  The book cannot be self- or vanity-published. 

If the author meets all of these criteria, they can email amyacook(at)live(dot)com and include their name, their publisher and the info on their book.  We’re currently taking authors with release dates in 2010 and 2011, and we’d love to add a few more members!

I’m assuming a small press has even less of a promotion budget than a large publisher. Besides the joint website, how have you individually worked at promoting your books?

Having never been with a big publisher, it's hard to compare what PM Moon does with what Random House might do.  However, I've gotten marketing materials shipped to me almost every month.  These kits include postcards announcing my speaking engagements (to send to bookstores or schools), business cards, rack cards for speaking engagements and a banner with my ginormous face.  I'm supposed to put that up when I have an author event, but in all honesty seeing my face that big creeps me out.  For my part, I've set up a platform similar to other authors, with a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Red Room, Jacketflap, a website and of course a blog.  I think writers talk about writers they know, and making contact with them is the key to building pre-release buzz.  Plus, you make a lot of great friends! 

Like Amy said, having never been with a big publisher, it’s hard to compare, but I think most small presses have small promotion budgets, so a lot, and sometimes all, of the marketing efforts are the author’s responsibility. Even though my book is being published in 2010, I’ve already started marketing. As authors, we’re not just marketing our books, but we’re marketing our brand, which is us the writer.

Besides the IndeDebut2010 website, I have my own personal website at; I distribute a monthly e-mail newsletter called The Book Bugz  (you can opt-in at my website); I consistently blog about children’s books and writing at my website; I’m the National Children’s Books Examiner for; I contribute articles to article directories such as Ezine articles; I conduct school visits and I try to do as much social networking as I can. When my book is published, I look forward to participating in blog tours, sending the book out for reviews, contacting Independent bookstores, and participating in book fairs and events. 

 One of the first marketing steps I took was to create a blog by the name of my book - My story book is a historical fiction account of the Underground Railroad and beyond the information I am distributing for my book I include book reviews of other children's books on the Underground Railroad and additional information on museums, websites, and blogs based on the Underground Railroad. 

I have a website and a personal blog that I've had since before my book contract so my readers have taken the trip with me.  I really enjoy the blogging community and think it's a great way to get your name out there for free.  I also regularly contribute to sites like Absolute Write, Verla Kay boards, SCBWI forum, She Writes, Jacket Flap and a variety of dogsledding forums.  On every post, my signature with Dogsled Dreams and my website appears. Once my book comes out I have plans to attend the dogsled racing circuit.  One thing about writing a book about dogsledding, my target audience is easy to find.

I should also add, that I write articles for magazines and my bio is published the end of each article.  I've had many readers send me personal emails telling me how much they enjoyed my article and where can they find my book!  I think this is great promotion - and you get paid to do it! I'm planning to submit to dog magazines closer to Dogsled Dreams release date so hopefully I'll get some added exposure with good timing.

 You’d be surprised at what promotional items I’ve received from PM Moon. Some wonderful items and professional materials to assist with pre-promotion. That being said, I make sure I have web presence on my own website as well as popular social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, Shelfari, JacketFlap, etc. Also, I am a member of the SCBWI as well as the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group.  These associations provide countless opportunities for promotion and interaction with my audience.

 I haven't done a lot yet. I have a website. I'm planning to order bookmarks and postcards to mail and pass out to local bookstores, schools, libraries, etc. I'm doing my first school visit for my daughter's fourth grade class sometime this winter. Hopefully, more will follow. I'd love to have a book signing at our local indie bookstore and plan to approach them near my book release. I'm also planning to make a book trailer to post online.

 I have my own website,, and have begun doing school visits. I've also spoken with an independent bookstore in my town. I belong to SCBWI, and to a few other online groups, so I've mentioned my book there as well.

MIRIAM FORSTER:I started a blog (of course!) and really set myself a goal of getting to know the online author community.While I try not to spam people with book information, I do have a Facebook fan page and often post mini-excerpts of my book on my blog. I also set up a website for myself and a book launch page with quizzes and contests, but that’s for after the book is out.

DANIKA DINSMORE: One of the reasons I finally decided to go small press is that as a new novelist I was going to have to do a lot of my own promotion anyway. The toughest thing is getting promoted at book fairs and conferences, because the booth rentals are pricey.

For promotion, I've boned up on my social media skills, learning more about how I can use Facebook and twitter. I've also just launched The White Forest website, which is specific to my novel series.

I have a background in teaching and performing, so I've already got one book tour planned. That's the most exciting part to me because I love being in front of groups of people, whether it's in a classroom or on stage. My book tour is a combination of readings, classroom visits, and working the book fairs. I call it my Imaginary Worlds Tour.

Did any of you try bigger publishers, or did you just want to go with a small press?

 I did try the bigger publishers, but fantasy has been flooded in the post-Harry Potter age.  And even though The Invisible Sister caught an agent’s eye, I didn't break into the bigger houses even with her help.

I think every writer dreams of being published by one of the large publishing corporations and writing the next number one New York Times bestselling book. Many authors work hard to get their books published, but unfortunately, the number of major firms has shrunk, and competition has grown to an all-time high. Like many new writers, I was anxious to get my manuscript out when it wasn’t quite ready. After receiving a few rejections from the larger publishers, I revised and revised and decided to submit it to DFP’s contest. It’s great that various alternatives such as small presses exist because they do give a new writer the opportunity to break into publishing. 

 At this point in my writing career I've targeted small publishers and, at this time, I’m quite content.

Since this is my debut novel, I did not try the major publishers, but I did sub to some mid-sized Canadian publishers and agents with several requests to see the full manuscript, but no contracts.

 I pursued literary agents for Mice Don’t Taste Like Chicken.  The bigger publishers often require representation, but it is a difficult barrier to break into.  I did not find success after numerous agent queries, and then the opportunity for the PM Moon contest arose.

I had tried two other small presses before Soto accepted Owen and the Dragon.

 I didn't try a bigger publisher with this series because I felt this publisher would be the best fit.

I did try bigger publishers, but I was a very new and inexperienced author at the time with a very rough book, so that didn’t go anywhere. As I said before, by the time The Flute and the Dagger was truly ready, the market had changed so much in young adult fantasy that I thought a smaller niche press might be a better fit.

DANIKA DINSMORE: A few years ago I had a fabulous agency in the UK and they took it to several of the largest publishing houses. Only the book wouldn't sell. We were told the fantasy market was over-saturated and that nobody was taking financial risks with new authors because of the economy. Nobody said they didn't like the story. As a matter of fact, they really liked the writing. You could imagine how I felt, like I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Even though my ego wanted to find a large publisher, I finally decided it was going to be better in the long run this way.

What have you found to be the most effective method for getting the word out about your writing?

Hands down, the internet.  One, it's free.  Two, the audience is limitless.  And three, we're just beginning to understand social media and its potential in marketing.  Blog tours, Facebook pages, blog radio interviews...these concepts aren’t limited to the big houses, nor are they prohibitively expensive.  Ten thousand-dollar websites aside, the internet provides a relatively level playing field for all publishers, large or small.

I think having a website is essential for any writer to get the word out about their writing. If you’re dedicated to building your brand, it can be an effective method to increase book sales, build and maintain a loyal fanbase, interact with readers, spread the word about upcoming events, promote yourself and any services you offer, highlight future books before they’re released, and so much more. Because of my website, I had the opportunity to write a picture book for John Hancock’s 2009 Back to School Campaign called Oh! The Possibilities that they distributed to their clients. It’s not only a great way to share and promote your work, but also a great way to get work. 

Networking, networking, networking! Get involved in your local Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI) Chapter, join a critique group (I'm personally involved in two on-line and one in-person at my local library.

 Chat boards are another instrumental way. Popular ones include:

 Nothing beats word of mouth advertisement.  I have a large friend list on social networking sites where I utilize the trickle-down effect to get word out about updates and events.  Also, I find that writing for children is especially rewarding because they can become your biggest natural advocate for promotion if they enjoy your work.  They’ll promote by word of mouth with such honesty and fervor.

 I think an online presence helps. I participate on writing boards like Verla Kay and Nonfiction for Kids. I'm hoping my website also helps to get some of the word out.

 Persuading my 14-year-old daughter to mention it on her Twitter and Facebook, and giving her and my 11-year-old bookmarks to pass out at school.

MIRIAM FORSTER: For me it’s been all about building relationships and staying open to possibilities.  I’ve found good friends in places I didn’t expect, and learned a lot about networking in the process.  If I had just gone into it with the idea that I wanted to build relationships with only certain people, or only been focused on marketing me, I don’t think it would have worked as well.

DANIKA DINSMORE: I'm still working on that one! Social media is vital to the campaign, but personally, I like the in-person approach. I like inspiring young writers through performing and teaching. I had many young readers test the novel and give me feedback. I think having a personal connection like that will build a loyal fan base. I also think it's important to get librarians interested in your work!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

You Have to Read this Book!

Jen Robinson reads more books than anybody I know. Not only does she read hundreds of thousands of words every year, she also writes intelligent reviews.

Last year I started to read one of her reviews for an upcoming book, but she recommended reading the first book first. Go figure. I added it to my Wish List and hubby gave it to me for Christmas. The book was Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick.

Oh. My. Gosh.

Have you ever read a book and just had it change your world? As a reader and as a writer? Not only did Drums make me laugh out loud, it made me cry, it made me marvel, it made me want to write a book with characters just as real as the ones in this story.

If you look over the list of books I've read in the last year, you'll see my tastes lean toward fantasy. This book is not fantasy. And yet I loved it so much I'm ready to tell the world they have to read this book!

The main character, Steven, is an eighth grader who plays drums in a jazz band. He has an annoying younger brother (I can sympathize!) and a crush on the hottest girl in his class. But when his world turns upside down, he has to learn how to take control of the things he CAN change instead of wasting his anger on the the things he can't change.

This book has such an authentic middle grade voice, it's never preachy or mushy, always funny. I can't say enough wonderful things about it. I have now ordered every book by Jordan Sonnenblick and he's officially added to the list of author's I am likely to go "Fangirl" around. Consider yourself warned, Mr. S!

The sequel to this book, After Ever After, comes out next month. Jen Robinson read the ARC and highly recommended it.

As luck would have it, I have an extra copy of Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie to give away. For some reason, when my husband ordered this book for me, he ordered two. Maybe somehow he knew I'd love this book so much I'd want other people to read it?

If you'd like my extra copy, leave a comment below before 10 pm PST on Sunday. If I randomly select your name, I'll be sending it your way. Believe me, you want to read this book!

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Drew Review

I had my 10-year-old son review my WIP yesterday. He reads a lot and he's not afraid to tell me when something sucks. He had read this story in an earlier incarnation, but over the course of a year it's changed a lot.

I heard chuckles, he made marks and notes. When he got to the beginning of Chapter 8 he looked up and said, "You're good with humor!"

Can you even imagine how happy those four words made me? I'm not a naturally funny person. Sarcastic, yes. But funny? I have to work at it. To hear him say that felt as good as an editor saying she wants to publish my book. Well, almost.

The thing is, I know my son loves me, but he also takes a sort of sadistic pleasure in pointing out my weakness and mistakes. Like if I wear a tank top, it's like an open invitation for him to come up from behind, shake the flab on the back of my arms and say, "Squishy, squishy, squishy." Exactly the words every woman wants to hear.

And don't let me call something by the wrong name, especially one of my children. That invites ridicule like nothing else!

I know that editors and agents could care less how much your family likes your writing. Don't worry. I won't be adding his recommendation to my query. But he is in my target audience. And to see the pleasure on his face, to hear him say how much he likes the story...well, it was priceless.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Beaches, Snow and a Big Hello

I'm proud to say that I'm already doing a good job of sticking to my one resolution for this year. Hubby and I went to the beach today while the kids were in school, strolled along the breakwater, had fish and chips in a dive cafe. It was a lovely day.

I feel kind of guilty even talking about this since the Winter Warlock has spread his icy fingers over the rest of the country! If you're freezing your a$$ off somewhere east of here, just imagine yourself in the picture above. I don't mind sharing our sun. And know that my kids are praying for what you've got. This morning when I told them the temp in Atlanta, they asked if we could move!

Today is the start of the comment challenge. If you've been lurking around this blog, it's time to reveal yourself and say hello. I promise to be nice!

And now, the moment you've been waiting for, the winner of The Writing and Critique Group Survival Guide is:

Congratulations Sarah Frances! Email me at solvangsherrie at gmail dot com and let me know if you'd like the digital copy or the printed copy.

And for those of you that didn't win, PJ Hoover also interviewed Becky and has a copy up for grabs. Head on over there for another chance to win.

Here's wishing you all a great (warm!) weekend!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Great Links

There are some pretty cool contests and challenges floating around the blogosphere right now. Check out these links:

Today is your last chance to enter Nathan Bransford's writing prompt contest. Submit up to 500 words written as a diary entry and you could win some pretty amazing prizes, including a query critique, partial critique, or 10 minute phone conversation/consultation/dish session with Nathan himself. Sweet! All the details are at his blog.

Mary Kole, a new agent at Andrea Brown, is also running a contest. Send her the beginning (up to 500 words) of a completed MG or YA before January 31 and you could win one of at least four different critiques. Her blog has all the info:

Sourcebooks is launching a new YA imprint (Sourcebooks Fire) and they're running a contest in conjunction with #YAlitchat. To participate, you need to RSVP to the event and be a member of #YAlitchat’s ning community. Get all the details at author Georgia McBride's website.
Bonus: Tonight on #YAlitchat, Sourcebooks Fire Acquisitions Editor, Dan Ehrenhaft will be the featured guest. How cool is that?

Zombie lover and YA author Carrie Harris is offering critique prizes as well. Leave a comment on her blog and you could win a five-page critique. She'll be running this contest every month (!) so be sure to check her blog often for a chance to win. This month's contest is open until Monday. And if your story includes Richard Simmons or midget goatherders, all the better!

If you've never checked out the Inky Girl website, why not? Debbie Ridpath Ohi has some brilliant comics designed for writers (like the one up above) and she has also thrown down the gauntlet with a writing challenge for the new year. Commit to writing anywhere from 250 to 1000 words each day (6 days a week) and you too can proudly display one of these awesome badges :)

And speaking of challenges, Mother Reader and Lee Wind are once again running the Comment Challenge. I'll admit: I'm a recovering blog lurker. I was scared to leave comments until I read about this challenge over a year ago. Joining in was one of the best things I ever did. Plus it's a great way to discover new blogs. The challenge runs Friday, January 8 through Thursday, January 28. Find out more from Lee and Pam.

And finally, today is your last chance to win a copy of Becky Levine's new book, The Writing and Critique Group Survival Guide. Read the interview and leave your comment before 10 p.m. tonight. I'll announce the randomly selected winner on Friday.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Hope Beach

New Year's Day usually finds our family at the beach. The water's too cold to get in, but we really aren't there to swim.

The kids are happy to play in the sand. That's what it's there for, right? And for me, visiting the ocean fills my hope tank*. Something about its vastness and my smallness makes me realize that all the stuff that seemed so important thirty minutes ago, doesn't really matter. Breathing in the salty air, finding sea glass softened by the sand, hearing the waves crash on the shore...leaves me feeling renewed, ready to take on whatever life might bring.

Resolutions are made to be broken. I stopped torturing myself with that annual tradition years ago. I set goals for myself, but they don't change with the calendar. They change as I cross them off and grow into the next challenge.

But if I made just one resolution for the year, it would be to make more time to visit the ocean. Because every writer, every person, needs to have hope. Even better when it includes a little sand :)

What do you hope for in 2010?

*Lisa and Laura came up with the hope tank concept. Brilliant, isn't it?
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