Monday, November 29, 2010

The Changing Face of Publishing: Author/Illustrator Elizabeth Dulemba

At the SCBWI conference this summer I was struck by how many of the presenters spoke about creating "content." These day, stories are shared in so many ways and authors who are on the cutting edge of new technologies have a chance to see their books gain a wider audience. This week I'll be running interviews with three different authors who have taken advantage of new ways to share their stories and reach different audiences.

First up is award-winning author/illustrator Elizabeth Dulemba. With more than a dozen titles bearing her name, Elizabeth is no stranger to the publishing industry. But stepping outside of the traditional arena has introduced her to a new group of fans.

You’ve written other books and illustrated even more. What made you decide to turn Lula’s Brew into an app instead of pursuing a traditional publishing contract?
I did try to go the traditional route with Lula at first. And while she actually won some awards, the story was never picked up. It worked out well in the end because I own all the rights and could do what I wanted with the story.

When the first picture book apps came along, I knew I wanted to try the medium and I had a feeling Lula's Brew would adapt well. One glitch: Lula's Brew is mainly classified as a Halloween story and I had about two weeks to turn the art around (the dummy was finished, but the colored art was not), get the files to my developer to turn into the app, and have Apple make it live one month before Halloween. I kept some late hours, but somehow managed to do it!

How difficult was it to format your work for the iPod/iPad?
Luckily, I created my finished art for the iPod version at 4 times the necessary size (still much smaller than I usually work, so it went faster). So when the iPad came along, the files didn't need to be recreated - they were ready to go. (I work digitally.) I'm proud to say Lula's Brew was one of the first picture book apps available the day the iPad was released!

How cool! That alone had to earn you some recognition. 
Has it been more difficult to market your app than it was for your books that have publisher support?
Honestly, being one of the first made it easier to market Lula's Brew. Having one app suddenly made me an expert - ha! Between articles and interviews, Lula got a lot of press. And then she ended up in the featured "Apps for Kids" section on iTunes (I have no idea how), which helped. But these are lucky things. I think finding and marketing apps is just as difficult, if not more so, than getting word out about traditional books. Although both endeavors are hard to do. And now there are so many apps, I think it's only going to get harder.

What has been your biggest marketing success?

The biggest success came after a mention on the blog "Moms with Apps." As part of the promotion, Lula was set to 'free' in iTunes for two days. In those two days, she was downloaded over 7,000 times - woosie! To date Lula's Brew has been downloaded over 9,000 times.

Do you plan to release more picture book apps or are you still querying new work?
I got into this business to create BOOKS, so that is still where my passion lies. But the new formats are exciting. I'm currently trying to get rights back on two out-of-print books so I can have them made into apps, but it's a slow process.

Thing is, the money is still better with traditional books (although that is rapidly changing in today's market), and when you create an app, all the work is on the front end - without an advance. That's tough. While I have several stories I'd like to fully illustrate and make into apps, I really can't afford the time.

Still, I'd like to do more. I love that we have so many ways to share our stories these days - it's an exciting time to be a creator.

It sounds very exciting, Elizabeth, especially since you were able to be one of the first to take advantage of this new technology. Best of luck with ALL your projects.
Sherrie, thanks so much!


You can read more about Elizabeth Dulemba on her website, as well as download coloring pages and other free activities to accompany her books. Visit the special page for Lula's Brew to read reviews and download a copy for yourself. Her activity page for her latest book, The Twelve Days of Christmas in Georgia, even includes a recipe for Upside Down Peach Cobbler!

Monday, November 22, 2010


Things I'm thankful for this week:

Critique partners who talk me down from ledges, who challenge me to write better, encourage me when I'm down. I'd be lost without them. Thank you Lori, Kim, Gwen & Val.

Children who bring a smile to my face every single day. Thank you Drew & Jasmine.

A husband who loves me even when he doesn't understand why I'm up until 1 a.m. writing novels and blog posts. Thank you Craig.

This beautiful valley that I live in and the friends who have made me love this place even more.

Every day that I'm around to celebrate another day.

I hope you all have as much to be thankful for.
Have a happy Thanksgiving and I'll see you next Monday.

Word count for WiP = 15,219

Friday, November 19, 2010

Random Thoughts

  • Yesterday my budding journalists met for the first time. The kids decided to call our publication The Ballard Journal. (Good thing too because one of the options they came up with was Ballard's Daily Prophet. I heaved a private sigh of relief when that got voted down!) We figured out our staff assignments and talked about some of the things every good news article should have. The time went way too fast.
  • My son is sick so we didn't go to the midnight show of Harry Potter. And yet, I was still awake at 2 a.m. Working. The movie would have been a more fun way to stay awake ...
  • I thought my husband was joking when he told me about The Twinkie Diet. But no, it's true. You too can lose 27 pounds by snacking on Hostess products every three hours, just like the nutrition professor who conducted this informal study. This seriously makes me want to bang my head against the wall. Here I keep trying to tell my kids that they'll be better off in the long run by avoiding sugar and making healthy choices when they eat. The Twinkie Diet blows that concept right out of the water. And that bums me out. Are there other things am I doing, thinking I'm making the "good" choice, only to find out down the road that I could have taken the easy way? The fun way? I could have been serving up Ding-Dongs instead of brussel sprouts and reaped the same benefits!
  • I'm looking forward to the rain this weekend. What are you looking forward to?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


I've written before about the dangers of having high expectations for movies based on some of my favorite books, but here I am again eagerly anticipating two upcoming releases.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader was always my favorite book in the Chronicles of Narnia series. As a middle schooler and teenager I read it multiple times and when I read the series to my kids, it was still my favorite of the seven. The Narnia movie that came out in 2005 was probably my favorite adaptation of a book EVER. Even though they changed the story a bit, the changes worked and (dare I say it?) even improved on Lewis' original.

So, yeah, my expectations for Dawn Treader may have hit an all time high. I keep trying to reign myself in, certain that I've set myself up for disappointment. But I have to say, the trailer has me excited. See for yourself.

Chronicles Of Narnia 3

And then there's Harry Potter. My son has convinced me that we must go to the midnight showing. I've never gone to a midnight movie, not even for the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Yet here I am, ready to sacrifice sleep (and prime NaNo writing time) to go see the movie, knowing that the comfy seats and late hour mean I'll probably be asleep before Harry ever pitches his tent.

Speaking of the boy wizard, Melissa wrote a BRILLIANT post on the Mythical Creatures in Harry Potter. They might might not be as mythical as you think. If you're a Rowling fan, you must read this.

Four more books I loved that are being made into movies: Shiver, The Hunger Games, The Dark Divine and The Great Gatsby. Yes, another adaptation of The Great Gatsby, this time starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby and Carey Mulligan as Daisy. The scary part -- Baz Luhrmann will direct. Yeah. Remember what he did with Romeo + Juliet? Much as I love Gatsby, that's one adaptation I'll probably save for Netflix.

Word count for WiP = 14,020

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Higher Concept

Used with permission from Debbie Ridpath Ohi at
Every agent these days seems to be looking for high concept stories, even for literary fiction. But what does that mean exactly? Ask three different people, you'll get three different answers.

According to Alexis Nikki at Absolute Write, a high concept story
- is universal;
- has a fresh twist;
- involves an empathetic hero who is dealing with a BIG problem; and
- can be summed up in a 25-word logline.

A blog post from the Waxman Agency defines high concept this way:
It’s an idea that is immediately accessible and appealing to a large group of people, that taps into the hive-mind if you will, but with the added spark of feeling new (even if it’s as old as the hills). 

Agent Paige Wheeler from CMA has a slightly different spin:
I define high concept as a premise that can be boiled down into one sentence and sets it apart from other stories by its unique hook or angle. 

People say all the time to write the story that only you can tell, the story that you just can't let go of. But will it ever get read if it isn't high concept? 

So tell me, are you writing high concept? And if you're not, is it something you can learn to write? Is it something you want to learn? 

Progress on WIP: 12,210 words 

Friday, November 12, 2010

Everything We Need

On Wednesday I attended a writer's conference for kids. A group of authors, poets, cartoonists and screenwriters spoke, led workshops and encouraged students at an elementary school in Redondo Beach. The event was amazing and I'm hopeful that one day we can have a similar conference for kids here in Solvang.

But one thing that one of the authors said has stuck in my mind.

We already have everything we need to be writers. 

It's inside each and every one of us. We don't need classes or degrees or even connections. We don't need computers, fancy software or a dsl line. All we need is an idea, and the determination to capture that idea with words. Sure, the other stuff might help. A lot. But when you come right down to it, writers are people who write.


And now, the winner of Sarah Dessen's The Truth About Forever is:

Congratulations, Jackee!! Email me your snail mail address and I'll send this off to you.

And the winner of the ARC of Crossing Over by Anna Kendall is:

Congratulations, Becky!! Email me your snail mail address and I'll send you your book.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Words written and kept on WiP: 11,018

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Name Game

I never knew the words to this song until my son was about three. Somehow he learned it from a cd we had and sang it all the time. It was all fine and well until he decided to sing about my father-in-law who everyone calls Buck.

Buck Buck, Bo Buck, Banana fana fo ... 

Well, you can see where that went. Yeah, my son dropped the f-bomb (to a room full of laughing adults) at three. All because of a name.

When I'm writing stories, I spend a ridiculous amount of time researching the meaning of names. The novel I'm querying right now has a mom who dreams of exploring outer space. The main character is named Marten because when he was born, the Mom was researching Mars as she worked on her Ph.D. Marten is a variation of Martin (Latin) and means, "dedicated to Mars."

NONE of the information I just told you about his name shows up in the novel. Even though it's cool and it ties in with the story, giving the reader that information doesn't move the action forward. So it ends up being a useless piece of trivia filed in my brain. I just happen to be anal about incorporating meaning into the names I choose for each and every character.

I actually have a hard time writing if I don't know why a character has a certain name. Does it make a difference? Probably not. Do readers care? Definitely not. And yet, it's a piece of backstory that, for me, is vitally important.

How do you choose names for your characters? Does the meaning of the names matter?

BTW, Buck (Old English) is used for a male deer or goat. When used as a name or nickname, it means, "a robust and spirited young man." Now I understand why my father-in-law earned that moniker :)


You have one more day to enter for a chance to win a book From Me to You. I'll be selecting winners for The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen or an ARC of Crossing Over by Anna Kendall at midnight PST on Thursday, November 11.

New Words since NaNo began: 3972
Total Words written & kept on WiP: 10,041

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Covenant of the Arc

As I work on my novel, I've been thinking a lot about plot and motivation and all these other things that are supposed to make my story better. A few months ago I wrote about Save the Cat!, a screenwriting book by Blake Snyder. One of my favorite things that he talked about is The Covenant of the Arc.

Basically, The Covenant of the Arc is a screenwriting "law" that says every single character (except the bad guy) has to change over the course of the story. As an example, he referenced Pretty Woman. Richard Gere changed, Julia Roberts changed, Laura San Giacomo changed. Even Hector Elizondo changed by the end of the movie. Jason Alexander, the "bad guy," didn't. What that says, is that the story is so important, so life-changing to every character, that they can't help but grow and change as a result.

It's true in life. The people who succeed are the ones who are able to transform, the ones who can edit their stories until they shine. Seeing transformation gives people hope. We all want to believe that change is possible, that things can get better.

So to everyone working on a story, whether it's a first draft or a final edit, screenplay or NaNo novel, make sure you give your character's a chance to change.

New Words since NaNo began: 2828
Total Words written & kept on WiP: 8854


If you'd like a chance to win a book From Me to You, go to the post below to enter. You have until midnight PST on Thursday, November 11 to win The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen or an ARC of Crossing Over by Anna Kendall.

Friday, November 5, 2010

From Me to You

Ugh. These last two days have been crazy busy with refinancing the house, my daughter's birthday and prepping for my upcoming writing class. As a result, my word count hasn't gone up much.

New Words since NaNo began: 1869
Total Words written on WiP: 7891

But enough about me. Here's something for you. Since I'm trying to reduce the number of books on my nightstand, I've got two more titles up for grabs.

The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen
(description from Goodreads)
Sixteen-year-old Macy Queen is looking forward to a long, boring summer. Her boyfriend is going away. She's stuck with a dull-as-dishwater job at the library. And she'll spend all of her free time studying for the SATs or grieving silently with her mother over her father's recent unexpected death. But everything changes when Macy is corralled into helping out at one of her mother's open house events, and she meets the chaotic Wish Catering crew. Before long, Macy joins the Wish team. She loves everything about, the work and the people. But the best thing about Wish is Wes—artistic, insightful, and understanding Wes—who gets Macy to look at life in a whole new way, and really start living it. 

ARC of Crossing Over by Anna Kendall
(description from Goodreads)
Whether it's a curse, or a blessing, or an ability, the fact remains: whenever Roger is injured or in enough pain he crosses over to the land of the dead. Once there, there are rules: only the newly dead will talk, for example, and nothing will raise the longer dead from their tranquillity.

There are rules in the land of the living as well; rules which would have Roger hanged for witchcraft if he was ever caught. But refusing to cross over isn't an option. His uncle depends on Roger to hide under the table in their fairground act, listen to the recently bereaved asking questions of their dear departed, and then cross over to find the answers. It's a hard way of life, made all the harder as his uncle's fists usually provide the trigger for Roger to cross over.

It's not the only way of life, though, and when Roger sees a chance to escape he fights for it - little knowing that love, loss, shocking revelations and, ultimately, war lie ahead of him.

Just because Roger can cross over into the land of the dead doesn't mean he wants to.

In the comments, let me know which book you'd prefer to win. (Sorry, but you have to pick one or your name will not be entered!) If you're a follower, you get an extra entry. Contest is open for one week. A name will be randomly selected at midnight PST on Thursday, November 11. I'll announce the winner next Friday. 

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

And the Winners Are...

New words written: 1209
Total words written: 7231

So my word count for the first two days of NaNo is not very high, but I will say that I'm very happy with what I've written. Since I had a bit of a head start on this novel, I don't feel pressured to write junk just to build up my word count and that's a good thing.

Today when I was writing, I had a hard time visualizing the room where the scene took place. So I spent about an hour looking at pictures on the internet and then drawing the basic layout of my room. It might sound like a big waste of time, but it helped me tremendously to map it out like that, even though it did slow me down.

Obviously I will have to pick up the pace if I want to "win," but truth be told, that's not my goal. I've never won NaNo, but I do get a lot more written in November when I participate.

Now to the news you're really looking for -- who won the Something Old, Something New ARCs?

I used because 1) it's free and 2) how cool is it to have the winning names show up on a slot machine? :-)

The winner of the Beautiful Creatures ARC is:

Congratulations, Riv! Drop me a note at solvangsherrie at gmail dot com to let me know your mailing address and I'll get the book out for you.

The winner of the Nightshade ARC is:

Congratulations, Krispy! Send your snail mail address to solvangsherrie at gmail dot com and I will send this out to you.

Monday, November 1, 2010

NaNoWriMo: Day One

Last week I was supposed to be working on my outline so that I could just jump in with the writing today. Instead, I spent the week revising another manuscript. That's probably a good thing. I won't be thinking about the other project while I'm trying to work on this new one. But here I am Day One of Nano, preparing to...wing it. Which I guess kind of makes the "preparing" part a joke.

Of course, NaNo was kind of founded on the concept of winging it, so that might work in my favor. Plus, last time I wrote an outline for a book, I never finished writing the book. I decided on page 50 that the story sucked. Ironic, isn't it?

My goal for each day is 1667 words, but the kids are home from school today. I'm not sure how much writing will get done since Crazy 8s and popcorn seem to take priority on days like this. But I'm excited to work on this new project. I'll keep you updated on my progress. Hopefully, that will keep me motivated to actually plow through to the end this time.

If you'd like a chance to win Something Old or Something New, don't delay. Contest ends Tuesday at midnight PST. Go to this post to enter.
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