February 2010

So I logged onto my email account this morning to find tons of messages from Twitter followers complaining about receiving spam. Apparently my account had been sending out sex-related direct messages. To say I was mortified would be an understatement; I’m blushing now just writing about it.

First reaction: fury. I’d spent months learning the ins and outs and connecting with people in the literary industry, and now my user name was associated with spam. Second reaction: shame. I know exactly how my account got compromised. It was from me being stupid and clicking a link I should’ve known wasn’t ligit. Third reaction: avoidance. I changed my password right away of course, and went through all other recommended steps on the Twitter website, but I didn’t want to open TweetDeck or the Twitter page or anything associated with it.

Needless to say, I’ve learned some things today. If a direct message looks suspicious, or if you’re asked to log into Twitter after following a link, think again. And the very second a suspicious direct message leaves your account, change your password. I’ve also learned that there are some awesome people on Twitter. When I got up the nerve to read the response messages, all but one were super supportive and said things like “I knew this didn’t come from you” and “This would’ve been way out of character for you.” To know that I’ve met and interacted with people enough that they were certain I wouldn’t send those links was such a relief.

So thank you to everyone for your patience while the problem gets fixed and for knowing I don’t forward things like that. I’ll probably be cooling it on Twitter for awhile, but I’ve learned some valuable lessons and hope someone else learned from this post. So be careful with your accounts but enjoy all the wonderful connections that are possible!


Happy Wednesday everyone! Click around for some really helpful advice this week.

Check out The Guardian’s Ten Rules for Writing with entries from Margaret Atwood, Elmore Leonard, Jonathan Franzen, Neil Gaiman, and more (via Jill Corcoran).

The Intern once again combines humor with sage advice about book promotion. Ah, hoping for the day when I can turn my book cover-out in the bookstore…

Author Janice Hardy had a super-scary post about “the Spit Shine” revision (“super” because it’s awesome but “scary” because it’s just one more thing I need to go through on my work-in-progress).

Finally, this post on the Common Sense Media ratings being used on BN.com came from Kathleen Ortiz. Interesting presentation and comments. Any thoughts from you guys?

Rebecca Janni is the author of EVERY COWGIRL NEEDS A HORSE, the adorable picture book released today from Dutton Children’s Books!

Becky, thank you so much for visiting The Writing Cave. How excited is everyone in your family that release day is finally here?

May I answer with a photo?

Oh, and those aren’t all my kids . . . though I would claim them!

I would say there’s some definite excitement there 🙂 Were you a cowgirl growing up?

I wasn’t a true cowgirl like my amazing illustrator, Lynne Avril, but a girl can always pretend. Growing up, I loved to ride in the back of Dad’s pick-up truck with braids in my hair and his cowboy hat on, snapping my fingers to Elvira or whatever eight-track tune floated out the back window. Dad’s wildest cowboy hat even had a rattlesnake skin band. He’d gone to Wyoming with some buddies, and they decided to try rattlesnake hunting. He served up rattlesnake stew and had the skin made into a band — rattle and all!

And I loved to go horse-riding Nellie Sue style. We lived close to Saylorville Lake, and I would often saddle up my bike and hit the trails.

Your dad sounds like he has some good stories as well! How does your writing process work?

Is there a process? No, I’m kidding. There is a process, but I’m not very disciplined right now. I use the back few pages of my journal as an idea pot. I jot down a few words or sentences about anything with story potential. When I have time to write, I use those ideas to get started. After that, the process is pretty textbook. Rough draft. Revise. Revise. Revise. I’m fortunate to have some gifted writer friends who are willing to offer their “compliments and suggestions” (as my daughter’s kindergarten teacher likes to call them).

What things are you doing to promote your book?

I have a couple of interviews lined up with local media and friendly bloggers (like you!), a handful of book signings, and a few school visits. Our family will soon be traveling to Asia to adopt a little deaf boy, so I have to be careful not to fill the calendar.

Oh wow, that’s awesome. It really is an exciting time for your family! Looking back on 2009, what were your three favorite reads last year?

Fairest of Them All by Jan Blazanin, Mia the Magnificent by Eileen Boggess, and The Snows by Sharelle Byars Moranville

Do you own an electronic reader? Do you have an opinion on ebooks?

I confess — I’m pretty attached to paper. Friends with ebooks tout their transportability — so many novels in one small carry-all — and that is tempting. But especially where picture books are concerned, it’s hard to let go of the whole experience . . . sitting in an easy chair, child in lap, paging through a beautifully bound book. Ahhh. Heaven. 

What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

Read. Read. Read.
Write. Write. Write.
Join SCBWI and plug into a local writers’ group.
And most of all, love the journey.
Savor what you read. Treasure what you write. Cherish the friendships made in those writers’ groups . . . I know I do.


Super good advice! There’s nothing like having a group of people going through the same thing. What are you working on next?

I have two picture books under contract. One’s the sequel to this first book, called Every Cowgirl Needs Dancing Boots. The second book, Jammy Dance, comes out with FSG. I just saw first sketches from illustrator Tracy Dockray, and they are darling!

Other works-in-progress, but not under contract, range from picture books (fiction and nonfiction) to middle grade to one ya novel. My oldest son keeps asking for a “boy” book, because I think he wants the next dedication.

I’m a cheese freak, so I have to ask: what’s your favorite cheese and why?

Oh wow. Well, I studied in France during college, so any good French cheese takes me back to a special time and place . . . Gruyere, Brie, Cambembert . . . c’est magnifique!

Thanks so much for taking time out of your unbelievably busy life, Becky! Congratulations on your debut picture book, EVERY COWGIRL NEEDS A HORSE and good luck with everything else. Learn more about Becky at her website.

Linda Skeers is the author of TUTUS AREN’T MY STYLE, released today from Dial. Linda, thank you so much for visiting The Writing Cave! It’s always nice to find another Captain Jack Sparrow fan 🙂

First off, you mention on your website that you snort when you laugh (which is awesome). Any inopportune snorting stories to share?

I’ve been trying for years to break this very unladylike habit. Alas, my husband has made it his mission in life to make me laugh so hard at least once a day that I snort. So, he’s winning this battle. *snort*

How do you personally feel about tutus? Is your new book semi-autobiographical?

It’s very autobiographical! I loved catching frogs, digging holes and climbing trees when I was young. Never in my wildest imagination did I see my clumsy, awkward self as a ballerina! I see so many picture books about princesses and ballerinas and wondered if there were other girls out there like me… this book is for them!

Absolutely, hoorah for the tomboys! How does your writing process work?

I’m not sure I have a process! I wish I was more structured but I write at different times in little bursts. My biggest problem is procrastination! I may resort to duct taping my behind to the chair.

Hmm, not a bad idea. When you’re out of your chair, what things do you do to promote your books?

I love doing school visits and talking about books and writing. I’m not good at self-promotion but I enjoy teaching workshops and attending conferences and meeting with other writers.

Looking back on 2009, what were your three favorite reads last year?

Only three? RHYMING DUST BUNNIES because of the quirky humor. Made me laugh (and snort!) out loud. THE HATE LIST because it’s such a dark subject (school shooting) but yet it’s hard to put down — or forget. A WHIFF OF PINE, A HINT OF SKUNK — poems you want to read again and again.

Ooo, good suggestions. Do you own an electronic reader? Do you have an opinion on ebooks?

Don’t have one and I don’t have plans to get one. I like holding a book in my hands. I like the texture, the smell, the whole experience!

What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

Keep writing and submitting! Take classes, join a critique group, and READ what’s currently being published in your genre.

Great advice! My critique group has helped me so much that I can’t imagine doing this without them. What are you working on next?

A middle grade novel that’s been stuck in my brain for years (I’m pulling it out with tweezers) and a chapter book. I tend to jump from one project to another which means it takes forever to finish a manuscript.

I’m a cheese freak, so I have to ask: what’s your favorite cheese and why?

Cheddar. Love cheddar on Triscuits! Followed closely by pepperjack.

Mmm pepperjack. One of my favorites too. Thanks so much for stopping by, Linda! Check out TUTUS AREN’T MY STYLE and learn more about Linda on her website (be sure to check out the character collection).

Anyone else loving the Olympics?! Add the Westminster Dog Show into the mix and I’ve been in TV heaven. But, to the publishing world:

Miss the NYC SCBWI conference? Check out the list of round-up links from Market My Words.

And if you’re going to a writer’s conference in the future (like the Iowa SCBWI one in April, yay!), check out this advice from folio, via Guide to Literary Agents.

Author Jody Hedlund has some interesting posts on what authors are expected to do for marketing. After hearing lots of “you have to do it yourself because publicists are overworked,” this is a refreshing different experience.

Does your work suffer from one of the Seven Deadly Sins of Novel Writing? Check out The Bookshelf Muse and find out.

Huge news from PRADA AND PREJUDICE author Mandy Hubbard: she’s now agenting! Click here for details about what she’s looking for (hint: think middle grade and YA).

Finally, ooo ooo ooo, the third Hunger Games book cover has been revealed! Thanks YABOOKNERD for sending me into fan-girl frenzy 🙂

Eileen Boggess is the author of the Mia Fullerton series consisting of Mia the Meek, Mia the Melodramatic, and Mia the Magnificent. She is also a fellow central Iowan!

Eileen, thank you so much for visiting The Writing Cave. First off, your website says Mia started as a response to an assignment you gave your students. What did they think of the finished product?

They were very kind, but then again, I was their teacher and had the power to fail them :). These students are all now juniors in college.

Do your kids ever get nervous that something they say or do will end up in a book?

I just asked my fifteen year-old daughter this question and she said that sometimes she regrets telling me a story after I say, “That would be a great idea for a book!” So, I guess the answer is yes.

You’ve clearly got this writing thing figured out. How does your writing process work?

I wish I had the writing thing figured out! My process is write for a few pages at a time, then the next day, review what I have written, change everything, then write a few more pages. I do this for about a year and then I give it to my editor and he has me completely revise it again!

My biggest problem is finding time to write. A few times I have checked myself into a hotel and written for 12 hours straight.

That’s not a bad idea! So what things do you do to promote your books?

I do a lot of school visits. Also, word of mouth seems to help as well. For my last book, my editor sent review copies to popular book review bloggers and so far, I have received wonderful reviews. Hopefully this will help as well.

It’s so nice to have people appreciating all that hard work. Looking back on 2009, what were your three favorite reads last year?

That is a tough question because I love too many books. I really enjoyed BREATHE MY NAME by R.A. Nelson (who came to an Iowa SCBWI event) FAIREST OF THEM ALL by Iowan Jan Blazanin, SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson, HOW I LIVE NOW by Meg Rosoff, and A HIGHER GEOMETRY by Iowan Sharelle Byars Moranville.

Do you own an electronic reader? Do you have an opinion on ebooks?

I don’t own one but I would love to get one. If anyone is feeling overly generous, they can send one to me 🙂

I think ebooks are great. I write so people can read what I’ve written. I don’t care how, where, or when they read my books, I just want them to be enjoyed!

Very true. What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

The simple answer is read, read, read and write, write, write! Then, study other people’s writing, learn the business, and join a writer’s group. If you are talented enough, with a little luck, and a lot of perseverance, it will happen.

What are you working on next?

I am working on a young adult manuscript that includes political scandal, a dead body, and road kill. Also, my editor has asked me to collaborate with his assistant editor to write a romantic comedy screenplay, so I am excited about that as well.

Wow, that IS exciting! Maybe you could get a cameo role 🙂 Finally, I’m a cheese freak, so I have to ask: what’s your favorite cheese and why?

I like smoked cheddar cheese because it goes well with salami and I tend to like the most fattening foods possible 🙂

Mmm that sounds good! Thanks so much Eileen. Read more about Eileen and the Mia Fullerton series at her website and blog.

So last weekend I handed each member of my critique group a hot-off-the-copier packet containing my whole work-in-progress. Now, five copies of my baby are out in the cold Iowa winter just hoping to be loved.

It’s such an odd feeling, knowing that your hard work is out of your hands. But it’s exciting, because I’m very curious to know what others will think. And it has given my brain permission to work on developing other ideas and get some space from the current WIP. So it’s a big ball of scary and exciting and worrying and freeing.

How do you feel when you share your writing with someone else?

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