Wednesday, March 31, 2010

ARCs, blogs and books

Tomorrow we leave on vacation, for eleven days in the Carolinas. I am so looking forward to this. First thing I packed? Books. Of course. And my luck dragon's coming too!

Funny thing is, I won this Kindle a while back. I've downloaded a few things on it, but for me, nothing compares to curling up with a paper book. I love being able to open to a specific page and reread a passage. I've taken to marking sections that evoke a certain emotion with little post-it notes, as reminders that this author is worth studying.

And how is an author supposed to sign your book if it's digital? Yes, I'm geeky, but I had a lot of fun meeting authors last summer at SCBWI and having them sign my books. Then there's the fact that you can't download an ARC, and I do love reading those advance copies that I'm lucky enough to encounter.

Like this one.

Yeah. I went into the Book Loft yesterday and this was waiting for me. I love the people at the Book Loft. LOVE. Here's the funny thing: six months ago Echo, the woman who works in the children's section, hadn't read Shiver. But I had, based on a blogger's recommendation. I told her in glowing terms why she needed to read that book. Last week when I visited the Book Loft, I had to smile when I heard her hand selling the book to a teenager. I jumped in with my two cents as well. So of course the girl went home with the book in her hand. And this month in the store's newsletter, Echo featured YA and one of the books she highlighted was Shiver.

This is the power of blogging.

It isn't always quantifiable. But I'd say more than half of the books I buy are based on blogger recommendations. And I'm not alone. That one blogger (thank you Myra!) probably convinced a lot of other people besides me to buy the book. And they're telling two friends. And they're telling two friends. And so on, and so on...

If someone tries to tell you what you're writing about on your blog isn't important, don't listen to them. Even if you only have a few followers, even if you just post once in a while, your words are important. They make an impact. So take yourself seriously. Your words matter.

I'll be checking your blogs every in every once in a while, but I won't be posting again until I'm back home so everybody have a great week and a half while I'm gone!

And may the luck of the dragon be with you :)

Monday, March 29, 2010

Neverending Luck Part II

So here's proof that when you put things out there, the universe responds.

In my earlier post I said that I wanted my very own luck dragon. And what did I receive in the mail today from the wonderful HRH Shelley Thomas? As part of the luck basket I won from her site, she included a luck dragon. How cool is that?

Thank you Shelley!

I'm telling you, people -- believe!

Neverending Luck

Even in the midst of crap, you can often find a gem. It's true.

Over the weekend we watched The Neverending Story, a (not very good) movie from the early 80s. Maybe if I'd known it was a book and we had read it first we would have understood the movie better. Maybe if I'd watched it when it first came out I would have been overwhelmed with nostalgia for the horrible special effects. Watching it now, with children who are used to seamless digital graphics, the movie just looked dated. And don't get me started on the acting.

But it did have good moments. At one point, Falkor, the Luck Dragon, had an awesome line. It was so good I had to jump up and write it down:

Never give up and good luck will find you.

Isn't that great? Of course, I wouldn't mind having my very own luck dragon. Preferably one that looked a little more on the ball and didn't sound like the dog in Davy and Goliath. But even Falkor would do. I mean, you can't really complain about a dragon that brings you luck, right?

In some ways his line reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from Thomas Jefferson: "I'm a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it." Put the two together and you've got one outstanding quote:

I'm a great believer in luck. Never give up, keep working hard, and more good luck will find you.

I like that! It's my mantra for this Monday. Because sometimes I look at my writing and think it's total crap and sometimes I want to throw in the towel and just not bother. But today I believe that even in the midst of crap I can find a gem. Today I believe that if I keep working hard and don't give up, good luck will find me. It will find us all.

What about you? Do you believe?


P.S. A few posts ago I thought I had hit 200. But when I took out drafts that had never been posted, I realized that today marks #194. Six more to go and then we'll have a party. Woo-hoo!!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Author Spotlight on: Beth Revis

When I first read about Beth Revis' book deal, I got goosebumps. I'd heard before about random strangers being signed in a pre-empt, first time novelists scoring a three-book deal. But Beth wasn't a random stranger. She was someone I was familiar with, a blogging buddy.

For those who aren't familiar, here is the announcement from Publisher's Marketplace:

High school teacher Beth Revis's debut, ACROSS THE UNIVERSE, in the near-future, a reluctant teenage girl and her pioneer parents are cryogenically frozen for a 300-year trip to a new planet; she awakens 50 years early on a vast spaceship with a murderer on board, to Ben Schrank at Razorbill, in a major deal, in a pre-empt, in a three-book deal, for publication in spring 2011, by Merrilee Heifetz at Writers House.

Her story gave me hope, even more so when she dished a few more juicy details in this interview. I think she'll inspire anyone who has been struggling for years to become an overnight success.

First off, congratulations! You must have had a lot of interest in Across the Universe for it to be sold in a pre-empt. But some people might not be familiar with what that is. Can you explain how that worked with your book?
A pre-empt basically means a publisher makes an offer that they hope is so good the agent and author will take it instead of going to auction with other publishers. Which means, for me, that Razorbill made an early offer we accepted before taking the manuscript further.

That is so amazingly cool. And I have to say, from my front row seat here, it seemed really fast. I mean, the publishing world is notoriously slow, but you got your agent in December, sold the trilogy in March and the first book comes out next year. Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t that seem fast?
Lightning fast!

I know there were a lot of years and hard work leading up to your “quick” sale. Let’s talk numbers:

How many years have you been writing seriously?


How many trunk books do you have?
*oh, this one's painful*

How long did it take you to write this book?
One semester of writing (I'm a teacher, after all!) So, basically, from Christmas break to mid-June.

And how long did you spend in revisions?
Summer break (June-Aug).

How long did you query this story?
Two months.

How long have you been blogging?
Three years.

Do you think blogging played a part in your writing journey?
Actually, yes. I had NOTHING to go in my bio section of my query...except my blog. One of the agents who offered for my manuscript found me through my blog activity, and I know it's been read by publishing professionals. But more than that--it taught me discipline to write every day, kept me up to date on the publishing world, and gave me a tool to network with other writers.

Did you query any of your trunk books?
Oh, yes. *ducks head in shame*

At what point did you decide to shelve them and move on to something else?
1st trunk novel: Queried right away. Back then, I thought "revisions" = changing the grammar.
2nd trunk novel: This was a sequel to the first one. Never queried.
3rd trunk novel: Queried. And came VERY close to winning with this one. Eventually retired it after a heartbreakingly-close-to-the-finish line rejection.
4th-8th trunk novels: Sequels to the first one. Yep. I wrote the whole series. All never got queried.
9th trunk novel: Wrote this one after my brother died. After I finished and queried once or twice, I pulled it--it was too close to home for me to really think about letting it out there in the world.
10th trunk novel: I wrote this novel for everyone else: agents, editors, my perceived audience. And it sucked.
11th novel: I wrote this one for me. And it sucked less. Queried it...and it became ACROSS THE UNIVERSE.

Do you think any of your trunk novels might have a chance now that you’ve sold the trilogy?
Not the way they are. But I plan to rewrite the one that came close before, and I plan to rewrite the one I wrote for my brother. With revisions and rewritings, they *might* get ready.

Did you always envision Across the Universe as a trilogy?

How did it become a series?
When I was interviewing agents, Merrilee, the agent I picked, started brainstorming ideas with me on the possibility of sequels. I really liked her ideas, which broke off into new ones from mine own...and before the week was out, I had two more synopses!

How far are you on the next books?
Not very far at all! But the next books are rough-outlined in synopses and I've got an idea where they all go, which is half the battle.

Did the move to make it a series change things in this first book?
Yup! Basically in layering in more clues. Nothing big, but observant readers should see clues for the second and third book hidden in the first one.

I loved that on your newsletter you thanked your beta readers. How much did the story change based on their input?
They mostly helped in what I cut. I tend to have terrible beginnings coupled with the inability to know they are terrible. So I need five or more beta readers to tell me to cut the first fifty pages before I actually believe them and do it. :)

Have you told your students yet?
I didn't make a formal announcement, but I did post it online and on my Facebook. Word spread.

How have they reacted?
For the most part, this has meant only that they have begun saving the tardy forms I sign in case they can sell it on Ebay later :)

Ha! Not a bad idea :)
I know you're hosting a massive giveaway to celebrate on your blog. Do you plan to buy yourself a treat as well?
Oh, YEAH. It's going to be this e-reader with a LCD screen on the other side.

I remember when you posted about that cool gadget. Well, I'm so happy for you that you are on the way to getting that e-reader. And how cool to think that a year from now you'll be holding the first book in your hands!

Thanks for doing the interview, Beth!
Thanks for having me!

You can find Beth around the web at these spots:


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Competition of Words

My daughter wouldn't say more than four words to me yesterday afternoon. Actually, at one point she said five, but then she had to give herself a demerit in this little notebook she's been carrying around. And it's all because of this book by Andrew Clements.

I read NO TALKING to her over Christmas vacation and for some reason, the story really resonated with her. She kept wanting to have a "No Talking" competition with the children in her class, but they didn't get it. So we loaned the book to her teacher and her teacher read it to the whole class. Yesterday, five of the girls decided to start the competition.

These kids are doing it a bit differently than the book. First off, it's not girls against boys. According to my daughter, the boys in her class could never take part in this competition because they're always talking. Secondly, the class is working on a play right now so the girls are allowed to say their lines without those extra words counting against them.

But what I love most about this, is my daughter's determination to follow through on an idea she discovered in a book. She has influenced the (small) world around herself and changed the course of the next few days (the competition goes until Thursday recess!) because of a concept she thought was cool.

I guess some people could see this as a bad thing, further proof that you need to carefully monitor what your children are reading, especially if they're easily influenced. I choose to see that my daughter learned about Mahatma Gandhi, the man who practiced silence one day a week to bring order to his mind. And like that great man, she's learning how to make a difference in her world.

With as few words as possible.

I'm thinking I could actually learn something from this child...

Monday, March 22, 2010

Revealing Character

Last week in my online class, one of the other students made this observation about her challenge in developing one of the characters in her book.

The pieces of him I reveal have to add up to an entire person.

Isn't that brilliant? It's what each of us needs to do as we build our story. We have to show the good and the bad, the hero and the coward, the quirks and the foibles that make us human, and in the end reveal a complete person.

I should note that the character she was talking about is NOT the main character. And yet to build a believable story, she knows this person needs to be fully formed. It's an important thing to keep in mind as we flesh out the people around our main characters. And it's my challenge to you this week.

Are all your pieces adding up?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Spotlight on Writer & Publishing Intern Weronika Janczuk


On August 3, 2010, Weronika became an associate agent with D4EO Literary Agency. Read her announcement here, and her submission guidelines here.


If you've never read the blog of Weronika Janczuk before, you should. Trust me, this girl is going places.

When she was in sixth grade, she self-published her novel AND recouped all the costs.  (You can read her post about the experience here.)

Last year, she interned with Flux for three months and wrote detailed blog entries about what she learned there. This year she is interning for a New York literary agent.

All this from a Minnesota teen who just celebrated her 18th birthday. Impressive, wouldn't you say?

Weronika travels with her debate team, critiques queries on her blog, is working on her own novel, and, you know, goes to school. She plans to be a literary agent when she graduates from college. I talked to Weronika about her publishing experiences and what she's learned so far.  

How did you get your internship at Flux?
I had the chance to earn school credit for what we call a “mentorship”—the chance to work with a professional mentor in a particular field of study. It was tougher to find a place for myself because the publishing world in the Twin Cities is small and, as a result, more competitive to break into, but I spoke with two different editors, one at Flux, the other at a non-profit publisher, and found that I easily clicked with those at Flux and chose to pursue the internship there.

How long did you work there?
I was at Flux for just over three months, but I continue to stay in touch. I’m going back at the end of March to observe a “Vision” meeting—where the editors introduce projects they want to take on, something I didn’t get to do while I was there.

You wrote in a lot of detail what you did while you were at Flux. What was most surprising to you about the internship?
I was surprised by some of the behind-the-scenes information about authors, agents, and other editors. I won’t share anything specifically, but agents, just like authors, have very important reputations to uphold and they develop their own brands in a way. Editors will know how much editorial work has been done on a manuscript from agent X, for example, and they will expect tough negotiations from agent Y.

How did it change your perspective on publishing?
I don’t think it necessarily changed my perspective on publishing—I went in with a pretty developed knowledge of publishing and I had clear expectations for what I wanted to learn. I did take away two things. The first is that I love, love, love book publishing—the creative process, the business, everything. I’m glad that most editors will strive to be advocates of literature—it’s why editors “must have ‘that book.’” Good literature is always appreciated, and I want to work in a business with that ideology. The second thing I realized is that, if I ever work full-time in a publishing house, I will want it to be a smaller one. The environment at Flux was incredibly friendly and down-to-earth, and I would love to do what Brian Farrey does there now—edit an entire imprint of great YA literature, one that has helped propel some authors to the bestseller lists. Each author really gets individual attention.
How was the experience at Flux different from your current internship with a literary agent?

The most obvious is that, while I interned at Flux, I was in the building. I had my own cubicle, email, phone, etc. The agent that I’m interning with is in NYC, as is to be expected, so all the work I do occurs over email and by phone. It makes everything harder because I can’t just walk a few cubicles over to ask questions. As for the work, I’m still reading both slush submissions and full manuscripts, sending reader reports, and fulfilling traditional internship responsibilities (secretarial). I miss working with authors directly and the hands-on editing I got to do, but I make up for that with contests and critiques I offer on the blog.

How did you get the agent internship?
I emailed the agent I’m working with if she needed anyone, then I took a ‘test’ by sending her some reactions to queries, and started in December.
How does that work since you're in Minnesota and the agent is in NY?

Like I said, communication occurs over the phone and by email. It requires me to keep very up-to-date with everything that’s happening with the agent and the agency.
I’m guessing these experiences have made your internal editor even louder than mine. How have the internships changed your approach to writing? To reading?

It hasn’t affected my writing overall. I work with too few excellent writers to pick up any lessons, so I pick up a lot of “don’t-dos,” which I guess is helpful in its own right. The one thing I can write better now is a query letter for my own book. As for reading, I read with a far more critical eye; my book reviews tend to be harsh and I pick up fewer books by word-of-mouth and look more to award-winning titles and bestsellers.

You were able to recoup all your expenses from self-publishing your first book as a 12-year-old. Do you think self-publishing will ever earn respect in the literary world? 
I didn’t realize self-publishing had such a negative stigma associated with it back then. I did research and query agents—yes, as a twelve-year-old—and then chose to self-publish, which turned out okay. As for respect, I don’t know. Probably not. Personally, I have a hard time with self-published works because, even in those rare circumstances when a good writer just doesn’t find a home in the traditional sphere, self-published books tend to be of poorer quality—they lack professional editing, design, and distribution in most cases. In general it’s hard to approach self-published titles.

On your blog you have that little meter keeping track of how many words you've written in your lifetime. Do you really think you’ll have to write one million words before you’re published?
I can’t remember who said it, but the saying goes that one million is the number of words any writer “should” write before seeking publication, and by now I think I’m nearly halfway there. (I have done a poor job of keeping the counter on my blog up to date.) I don’t know if I’ll have to write a million, but I do know that I won’t ever query an agent until I have a project that is as best as I can make it—and that might not be for years, and thousands of words, to come.

Thanks for the insight, Weronika! It was nice to get a little peek into your internships and experiences.

You can read more about Weronika on her blog:

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Luck of the Irish (seriously!)

I think the luck of the Irish has been spreading around the blogosphere. So many people have been sharing their good news. In case you haven't heard, here's what's happening for just a few of my blogging buddies:

Everybody's favorite Story Queen, Shelley Moore Thomas, signed with the fabulous Joanna Stampfel-Volpe. Woo-hoo! Shelley's celebrating by sharing the love so visit her blog to enter for your own basket of luck.

High school teacher and blogger extraordinaire Beth Revis, sold her novel in a pre-empt to Razorbill as part of a three-book deal. Yay! She's also hosting a contest to celebrate so check out her blog as well.

Myra McEntire is dreaming about Brazil since she just sold rights there to her debut novel, Hourglass, coming from Egmont in 2011. Sweet!

Congrats to all of you fabulous bloggers and writers!

Now there's one more lucky person to add to the list because the winner of the autographed copy of Ballad by Maggie Stiefvater is:

I actually randomly selected Tricia O'Brien first (those lucky Irish lasses!), but then I realized she already had the book and wanted someone else to win. So Stina, you are the lucky recipient! Email me with your snail mail address at solvangsherrie at gmail dot com and I will get the book to you straight away! Enjoy!

And if any of you have some good news to share, tell me in the comments. I love hearing about the wonderful things happening to my favorite bloggers!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Mantra for a Monday

When I saw these little magnets in the store, I knew I had to have them. But it was Christmas, the time of year when you're supposed to buy for others, not yourself.

So I gave hubby very strong hints. As in I wrote the name of product on the back of a coupon for the store and told him they would make a lovely present. Apparently the hint was not strong enough.

And so, a few weeks ago, I went back to the store and bought them for myself.

I hung them in a place that I pass by every day, many times each day. They are my mantra. I love the words, especially the last two. It's good to dream and wish and believe. But ultimately, you have it do it for yourself.

What's your mantra for this Monday?

PS. Tomorrow is the last day to enter your name for a chance to win the autographed copy of Ballad by Maggie Stiefvater. Visit this link, make sure you're a follower and leave a comment. I'll announce the winner on Wednesday.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Author Spotlight on: Greg Trine

My son discovered Greg Trine in third grade. As soon as a new Melvin Beederman would appear at the book store, he'd buy it. With titles like, "Attack of the Valley Girls," "Terror in Tights," and "Brotherhood of the Traveling Underpants," the humorous tales of this pint-sized superhero made my kids laugh out loud.

So when I actually met Greg this past summer at SCBWI-LA, Drew was thrilled (and jealous!). He insisted that I buy the newest title and get it autographed. And Greg, being one of the nicest guys around, was more than happy to comply.

This fall Greg will make the leap from illustrated chapter books to YA. It's quite a change, but not as big a leap as you might expect. I'm thrilled to welcome author Greg Trine to the blog today.

I think I read in an interview with Reka Simonsen that she pulled Melvin Beederman from the slush pile. I love slush pile success stories! How long did it take from when you submitted until you heard back from her?
Reka was amazingly fast.  She emailed me within a month that she was taking my story to her acquisitions meeting.  After twelve years of rejection, I'd begun to believe that the slush pile wasn't being read at all. Silly me.

Twelve years of rejection? Wow. It must have felt great to finally get that email! So once she made the acquisition, how long did it take for the first book to come out?
She acquired the book in March of 2004 and it came out in June of 2006.

You scored with the great illustrator. Did you guys ever work together, or were you completely independent of each other?
As you know, they usually keep the author and illustrator apart.  After the book came out, though, we did a mini tour together in Napa, CA.  The following year we were sent on a nine-day tour to the midwest.  Not everyone gets sent on tour with the illustrator of their books, so I was happy to have that kind of promotion.

You were actually writing YA before you took the Melvin Beederman detour, right? So where did this funny superhero come from?
I have to admit that Melvin was a great idea.  My previous, YA, stuff was strong on voice but weak on story.  With Melvin, I had a good story, which came from an old picture book of mine called Superhero Bob.  It received one rejection, then sat on my desk for about five years.  But the story stayed with me and kept growing to the point where I eventually realized that I needed more room to tell it.  I wrote it in chapters and sold it to the first place I sent it.

I love that the story stayed with you and grew and changed. And how cool that you only received one rejection for Melvin. Did you pitch the book as a series or did it just turn into one?
I thought I was writing a stand-alone book.  The publisher proposed the series...not a bad way to break into this industry, with an eight-book contract.

Not bad at all! I know you are represented by the amazing Caryn Wiseman. What made you decide to sign on with an agent?
I sold Melvin on my own.  I then signed with Caryn because I have a fair amount of stories and ideas that Holt probably won't publish, either because it's too close in age and humor to Melvin, or it breaks away from my humorous roots.  Having an agent gives me a second set of eyeballs to look at what I'm working on.  It's also great to have her redirect me, if I'm working on something that isn't marketable.

Your new book goes back to your YA roots. And I have to say, the cover alone for The Second Base Club is quite a departure from Melvin. Is this one of the award winning stories you had written pre-Melvin or something new?
My very first short story was about a teenage boy trying to make progress in the girl/guy department.  It always seemed like it should be a novel.  Over the years, I tried it as a novel, once in free verse. Then, a few years ago, I was trying to find something to submit to Writers' Day, and I seemed to have found the real voice.  I story won the top award in the YA category.  My agent sold it base on forty pages and an outline.

Wow! Very cool!
Do you have some more YAs up your sleeve?
 I'd love to do another YA, but right now I'm working on humorous middle grade/tween novel.  Humorous junior high stuff.

Now that I think about it, you've got Terror in Tights and Traveling Underpants -- maybe the cover for Second Base Club isn't that much of a departure for you!

How different is it going from a chapter book with lots of visuals, to writing a YA novel? 
It was difficult to break out of Melvin's voice.  My editor's comments on the early drafts were, "This sounds like Melvin!"  I find chapter book writing way easier.  I can be lighthearted, which is where my mind goes naturally.  With YA I have to make sure the humor doesn't kill the tension of the book. I naturally want to go to the humor, which doesn't always work if it's overdone in an older book.

Do you think it’s hard to change people’s perception of you as a writer between such different books?
Good question.  I'm not sure, but if you read The Second Base Club, my YA, you'll see that it's not as edgy as it sounds.  It's lighthearted in it's own YAish way.  I think everyone will say, "Yep, sounds like Greg."

What has been one of your favorite author moments so far?
I get tons of emails from mothers of reluctant readers who are now readers because they discovered Melvin Beederman.  I seem to be reaching kids who are exactly like I was as a child.  So Melvin's saving the world is his own way...kind of cool.

The last Melvin Beederman book comes out this summer. Are you sad to see the series end? 
I have mixed feelings about it ending.  On the one hand The Magic Tree House has over 40 books...who wouldn't want that kind of success?  On the other hand I get to move onto other things.  I think there's a lot of me in the Melvin books, but where my heart is is realistic fiction...real kids doing real stuff.  Funny stuff but real stuff.  So I'm excited to see where that leads me.  And I'd like to do more true middle grade and YA.  

What superpower would you choose for yourself? Why?
I'd like to be able to turn invisible so I could get into the movies for free.

Do you have a release date for Second Base Club? Have you put a chapter up anywhere that people could link in to read?
The Second Base Club will be out in October, 2010.  I haven't put up any sneak peeks yet.  But good idea.

Well, let me know when those sneak peeks are available and I'll put up a link. It's been great having you here, Greg!

You can read more about Greg and his books at his website and on his blog.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Linky Love

I just realized that today is my 200th post! Yay! I'll have to think about some sort of celebration, but it's not going to happen today. Today I have 200 a few links that I thought might interest you. Enjoy!

Apparently invoking the name of Percy Jackson with your Greek tragedy for teens can earn you a few extra zeros at the end of your contract! Harper Teen Pays Seven Figures for Debut YA Trilogy

And speaking of extra zeros, independent press Tu Publishing just got started at the end of last year and already they've attracted the attention of a bigger company. Lee & Low just announced that they've made the multicultural fantasy and sci-fi publisher one of their imprints.

Books published more than 100 years ago can still attract Hollywood. But like I said, don't expect them to stick to the story line! Alice grows up in Tim Burton's vision, but has she lost her sense of wonder?

This just makes me want the iPad more (in spite of the unfortunate name!) Penguin's Vision for Books on the iPad

And if you haven't entered your name for the chance to win an autographed copy of Ballad by Maggie Stiefvater, then follow this blog then follow this link to leave a comment. The drawing happens one week from today.

Friday I'll be back with another slush pile success story. I never get tired of those! They give me reason to believe :)

Monday, March 8, 2010

Books and Hollywood

I can distinctly remember as a senior in high school being asked what I planned to do with my life. I had lots of plans, big plans. And number one on the list: write the great American novel and then the screenplay for the movie. I figured I'd be scooping up my Oscar by 30 at the latest.

Oh, the audacity of youth.

Now that I'm older (and one would assume wiser!) I'm not so sure that's still a goal. Yes, I'd still like to write the great American novel, but I don't know that I want Hollywood to come calling.

Arrogant words for someone who has yet to publish a book? Maybe. But how many book have you seen turned into movies that you actually thought were as good as the book? I've seen two: Presumed Innocent and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (NOT the BBC version, the Walden version that came out in 2005). They were practically perfect in my (not so humble) opinion. I couldn't have done a better job if I'd written the script and directed the movies myself. There are probably five or six more that I could watch more than once without complaining (although don't blame me if I alert everyone around me to how much better the book was, what the movie makers left out, and the parts they should have left in).

Don't get me wrong. I'd be incredibly flattered if someone wanted to make a movie out of my book. But most authors don't get to write the screenplays. (Suzanne Collins already had a background in film or television so she's been given the opportunity to adapt The Hunger Games. I'm excited to see how it turns out!)

The rest of us aren't usually so lucky. So how do you let go of the baby you've spent so much time working on and stand to the side as someone else tears it apart piece by piece? How do you hold on to your artistic integrity if they completely misinterpret your writing? How do you keep your mouth shut when people ask your opinion of the big screen version and you hate it?

My husband says if anyone wants to make a movie out of my books, take the money and run. I can laugh all the way to the bank. Easy for him to say. If the book has been a huge bestseller, and the need to pay off bills is no longer part of the equation, would I sell it off without a backward glance? I don't think so.

Maybe it's just further proof that I am a control freak.

What would you do? What books do you think made a good transition from page to screen?

Friday, March 5, 2010

A Ballad Giveaway

Nobody writes longing like Maggie Stiefvater. It clings to every page, wraps itself around your heart. Trust me. When you're done reading one of her books, you are ready to make the person laying next to you happy. Very happy.

I read Shiver last fall after Myra McEntire raved about it repeatedly. I was not disappointed. I liked it so much I bought more copies and gave them away for Christmas gifts. I told everyone I knew to read the book. Then hubby brought me Lament as a souvenir from his business trip to Seattle. I devoured that one and immediately went out to buy the sequel, Ballad.

Oh. My. (Fans herself and swoons)

Is it wrong to fall in love with a character who lives only between the covers of a book? I thought I loved Sam when I read Shiver. I thought Luke was amazing in Lament. But James? No one can compare to James. His self-deprecating wit, his intense feelings, his fierce protectiveness -- everything about him made me love him from page one. I didn't put the book down until I was done reading. And then I went back and read certain parts over again.

First of all let me say that one of the things I appreciate about all of Maggie Stiefvater's books is the fact that each one can stand on it's own. She doesn't leave you dangling off the edge of some precipice for ten months while you wait for the gods of publishing to put out the next book. She gives you a complete story. And you know what? You're still eager for the next one to come out. You're just not alternating between loving the story and hating the author for ending it badly. And that's a good thing.

Ballad is a story of love and friendship, dangerous urges and impossible choices. It is a beautifully composed ode to longing, hope, joy and love -- that just happens to include a few homicdal faeries.

Maggie was kind enough to provide an autographed copy of Ballad for me to give away here on the blog. I considered keeping it for myself. But no. Some lucky ready gets to have it instead.

If you think you have the luck of the Irish, I have only two requirements: follow this blog and leave a comment. That's it. I'll enter your name into the drawing and on March 17, someone will win a copy of this magical book. What can I say -- clovers, Irish music and homicidal faeries go together well with St. Patrick's Day ;D

Just remember this: when you read it, be prepared to fall in love.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

I Need More Time

Today is one of those days where I'm feeling overwhelmed.

I need to get pages written for my class, need to edit stories for my critique group, need to do some laundry, need to pay the bills...and I need to remember to take lunch to my kids at school because I forgot to make it for them this morning!

Wouldn't you love to be able to stop time and finish everything that needs to be done?

Time hasn't stopped for any troubles, heartaches, or any other malfunctions of this world, so please don't tell me it will stop for you. -- C.S. Lewis

Oh, well. It was a nice thought. Friday I'll have up a book review and giveaway, but today I'm playing catch up.

I know you understand...

Monday, March 1, 2010

Scientific Sunday

My daughter wants to grow up to be a scientist. And an astronaut, rock star, actress and mommy. So while her brother is a fiction only kind of guy, Jasmine reads a lot of non-fiction. And I don't mean browse through and look at the pictures. She will truly sit there and read, soaking it all up.

Last weekend I was researching Carpinteria, a small beach town south of where I live. I'm using it as a locale in a story I'm writing so the kids and I went for a visit while hubby was working. Beach town, research -- it's tough, you know?

We seem to visit book stores no matter what town we're in, and the used book store in Carp offered us some rare treasures. Drew found some vintage Star Wars books, I picked up a couple of old Newberry winners and Jasmine found this book of experiments.

Yesterday she was ready to try some out. Our first experiment was with bubbles. We made our own mixture: 2T dishwashing liquid, 2T sugar, 4T warm water. Then we tried making bubbles with different utensils: a straw, a funnel, and her hand. Who knew you could just use your hand and get such fabulous bubbles?!



What did we learn? 1) The higher the concentration of soap and sugar, the bigger your bubbles. 2) You can blow bubbles out of just about anything round with holes on the ends. 3) You will be sticky and messy when blowing bubbles this way!

After a bit of cleanup, we decided to try to squeeze a hard-boiled egg into a bottle without smooshing it. First we peeled the egg. We filled the bottle with boiling water, swished it around and dumped it out. Then we put the egg on top of the opening. The time lapse of these photos is less than a minute. 

Notice the eager observer in the corner?

The cooling steam reduced the air pressure in the bottle and the egg was literally sucked inside. It was pretty amazing to watch it drop. So amazing that we had to do it again. I had the joy of sucking the egg back out -- twice! -- because someone really wanted to eat it when we were done. But we didn't photograph that. It wasn't pretty :D

This particular book, Simple Science Experiments with Everyday Materials, is no longer in print, but there are plenty of similar books that you can use with your budding scientist. I love when books make learning fun!
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