May 2010

Next up in my SCBWI Iowa conference report: Beach Lane Books editor Allyn Johnston. Now, I’ve considered some picture book ideas, but haven’t really worked on them because a) I’m in a groove with my MG manuscript and b) picture books seem really hard. And after listening to Allyn and illustrator extraordinaire Marla Frazee, I know I’m right on point b: picture books are hard! But, is there anything more rewarding than reading a great picture book out loud to a kid?

Allyn was like a walking quote board of picture book passion. Some nuggets of awesomeness:

  • “A picture book is a form of high art.”
  • I want “the voice I can relax into.”
  • “When you’re writing picture books, you’re writing theater.” – Picture books are meant to be performed, to be read out loud; make the adult reader the star for the kids.
  • “The great picture books are more like poems than anything else.”

She and Marla agreed that the author’s job is to make the words as special and compelling as possible, then step away and let the illustrator bring in their creativity. Don’t load down the manuscript with artist notes, leave the illustrator room to work.

Allyn and Marla are such great ambassadors for picture books; thanks to Iowa SCBWI for bringing them to our conference!


Iiiiiiiiiiit’s Wednesday! Many of the bloggers from the kidlitosphere are in New York for BEA this week (follow #bea2010 if you’re on Twitter), but there’s still some awesomeness to go around:

Adventures in Children’s Publishing is doing some fantastic stuff with character worksheets, part four posted here. Do yourself a favor and check out the whole series.

Neil Gaiman has written an episode of Dr. Who (via Galleycat). Considering setting the DVR for this one. Then I’ll probably get hooked and prove the father-in-law right…drat.

And the Link of the Week goes to NPR’s Monkey See blog for their interview with Jake Gyllenhaal’s chest in the Price of Persia promotional photos!

Lots of people refer to their “to-read pile” or “to-read list,” but as I was unpacking books in the new Writing Cave location this weekend, I realized my “to-read” section literally took up an entire bookshelf:


OK, maybe not an entire bookshelf, but a good portion (This shelf is next to my writing desk, so obviously room had to be left for the Jane Austen and Edgar Allen Poe action figures, ACC basketball cows, and other inspirations/distractions). The shelf is so full right now because in the last month I had great luck at the SCBWI Iowa book sale and a Half Price Books grand opening. But some other books have been borrowed from other people for so long I’m worried they’re going to take some of mine as collateral next time.

This weekend I finished I’m a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to be Your Class President by Josh Lieb, which was quite entertaining, but now my shelf is on hold while I read The Farmstead Creamery Advisor and work on a business plan with my husband. Oh, speaking of the cows, now that The Writing Cave is on the farm, there will be more gratuitous cow pictures:

So how do you deal with your “to-read” books? Do you read them when you get them or do some tend to sit around?

Yes, I’ve fallen very behind on my recaps from the Iowa SCBWI spring conference, but today I’m getting back on track with one of the highlights of the weekend:

As a former teacher and principal, Mike Shoulders knows kids. And after listening to his presentations on school visits and his journey as a writer, I just wish he’d been my teacher or principal! Let’s put it this way, he closes his school visits by rapping his picture book V is for Volunteer. True story. Here’s what else Mike had to say about school visits:

  • To get “author visits,” flyers and random emails don’t work. Use word of mouth through speaking at conferences and face-to-face contact.
  • Kids like to know what you were like when you were little. Show you are a human, just like them.
  • A sprinkle of humor goes a long way.
  • Show them things they wouldn’t know unless you came to their school. Make them say “wow.” [Mike does this by pointing out hidden images in the illustrations, telling “behind the scenes” stories, something extra other than just reading your book.]
  • You MUST have visuals!
  • It helps to have a gimmick. [Not everyone can do magic and rap like Mike, sadly. Maybe my dad can teach me to juggle…]
  • Teachers want to see the entire writing process. Mike shows kids all the different drafts his book went through and shows a rejection letter. Great way to make “never give up” point.

During his second presentation, about his journey to publication, Mike had two quotes that really stuck with me:

  • “It is powerful to see your words in print – don’t cheapen this, it’s powerful.”
  • “If you’re a basketball player, you shoot baskets; if you want to cook, you bake; if you want to write, you read.”

If a school you know is looking for a speaker, I highly recommend Mike!

Good morning people! I’m coming to you live from The Writing Cave’s new location, where the Internet is working and the cows are mooing outside my window, so all is well. Once I get some of those pesky boxes unpacked, I’ll supply new pictures, but for now, links:

Are you prepared to summarize your manuscript in two paragraphs? One paragraph? How about one sentence? Agent/author extraordinaire Nathan Bransford gives his examples.

An informative, and honest, post from Shannon Hale on the financial realities of being an author. (Trying to budget the amount of money I spend on books and Diet Coke is terrifying…maybe I’ll just get a third job…)

Author J.T. Ellison has a great guest post on the Guide to Literary Agents blog addressing Ten Tips for Market Your Book Online.

This is such an interesting idea: author Matt Bell is writing a short story online and you can follow his progress and editing in real time. (via Galleycat)

Working to tighten up your action scenes? Janice Hardy shows her revision process for two scenes from her debut novel, The Shifter.

And finally, as this week’s Link Of Awesome, this post from Hyperbole and a Half rivals the epic “alot” post from a few weeks ago. Do yourself and your significant other a favor and check out Allie’s World’s Best Relationship Tips.

Me on the left, Munchkin on the right (despite warnings, our faces didn't freeze this way)

I was talking to my younger sister last night, mostly about Graceling, which I forced her to read and she finally gave a chance and loves it (when will she just learn to trust me!), but then we started talking about the publishing industry. I’ve learned so much in the last year from following great blogs and reading books on craft and interviews with published authors, and I was excited to share that knowledge with Munchkin, because usually no one who isn’t a writer wants to talk about the ins and outs of publishing. Then I realized she didn’t really want to talk about them either.

This was the conversation she wanted to have: “I have this great story idea and we should write a book together and become millionaires.” Now, the story idea really is a good one, and she is on a co-authoring kick because I also made her read Will Grayson, Will Grayson (again, Munchkin, you’re welcome), but I almost felt guilty popping the balloon of my little sister’s writing fantasies. By the time I’d covered revisions, getting an agent, revisions, selling to an editor, revisions, advances versus royalties, and did I mention revisions, her question changed to, “Who should we be in publishing to make money?”

Her first suggestion was that we become editors. I told her I didn’t want to work that hard. (Yes, I know writing is incredibly hard work too) Then she thought we should start our own publishing company. Um, again, I don’t want to work that hard (on other people’s projects). And I’d like to keep my hair from turning gray as long as possible. I gave her the line about writing for the love of language and writing to make a difference and reach kids (like I said, I’ve been reading a lot of interviews), but I could hear her rolling her eyes.

“So how do we become millionaires?” she tried again.
“Be Dan Brown.”
“Oh, OK.”


Anyone else had conversations like this? Have you had to burst people’s bubbles?

Hello everyone, it’s Wednesday. And not just any Wednesday, but the Wednesday of Children’s Book Week! So pull out your old favorites and celebrate your childhood 🙂 Because this week is all about the fun, check out my two favorite fun links of the week:

Hmmm, which circle do you think writing falls into? (thanks Indexed, for keeping up the awesome)

And (via Bookshelves of Doom) enjoy this toy commercial for the Brontësaurus (As in, the Brontë sisters. Oh yeah).

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