Wednesday, December 20, 2006

I Like This--You Should Visit (an Ongoing Series)...

I just heard about an e-zine by children's lit bloggers. Check out The Edge of the Forest for reviews, author interviews, book picks and other articles of interest to children's writers and book lovers. It's pretty cool. You can subscribe and receive and e-mail whenever a new issue is posted.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Roger Sutton of The Horn Book Blogs...

I just got online to renew my subscription to The Horn Book and I discovered editor Roger Sutton's blog. Apparently he's been blogging for quite a while. How did I miss it? He definitely has a great perspective on the world of children's books. But if you check out his blog, you have to promise you won't read his instead of mine. (You can read them both!)

Savings tip: The mail-in renewal form HB sent me asked for $61 for a year--but online renewal was only $49.

I love love reading The Horn Book. It's tough for me to get much done the day a new one arrives in the mail. I'm just a big fan of book reviews. Besides giving me ideas for other titles to add to the ever-growing nightstand pile (which recently became 2 piles after I knocked it over trying to retrieve the second book from the bottom and my right foot got bonked by the corner of a hardcover and, yes, it did leave a mark), it also helps me become familiar with a lot of books I'll never read. (I like Entertainment Weekly for the same reason. I am a font of knowledge on TV shows, movies, books, music and the occasional Broadway play that I've never seen, read or listened to. Perhaps--one day--I can make it to the World Series of Pop Culture.)

Thursday, December 14, 2006

New Yorker Critic on Picture Books...

The other day my husband mentioned that the New Yorker had an article on the year in picture books. I was very excited to hear this. But I just got around to reading it, and it made me sort of annoyed. First, the writer of this piece, former New York Times reporter, New Yorker staff writer and nonfiction author Elizabeth Kolbert, starts by asking, "why do we tell stories to our children?" Her answer: "...mostly to get them to shut up." She explains it's an unspoken deal--parent reads story, kid goes to sleep.

I kind of feel bad for Kolbert if this is truly the case. That's not at all why I read books to my son. I read them because I love books. Because I want him to love books. Because I want him to learn. Because it makes me happy when he repeats lines or laughs or points out something in an illustration that I didn't see. But mostly because it's wonderful to have that quiet, kid-on-lap, one-on-one time together. (To get him to shut up, I give him an ice cream sandwich.)

Kolbert goes on to mention a number of classic picture books and some recently published titles by the likes of Peter McCarty, Ian Falconer, Lane Smith and David Wiesner. This also kind of annoyed me. Why do picture book roundups always include the books that everyone is going to buy anyway, the ones by Caldecott medalists that will be face out in B&N? I know publicists campaign to get their "A" titles mentioned in the press. But every now and them I'd love to see a piece about quieter picture books--some of those wonderful titles that don't have $100,000 marketing budgets, the ones that will get lost among the hundreds of others on store shelves.

As Kolbert discusses bedtime stories, she devotes several paragraphs to the ubiquitous Goodnight Moon, written by the bi-sexual, children hating, hunting club member Margaret Wise Brown, who apparently enjoyed watching bunnies "get ripped to pieces" despite the fact that she wrote about them in her books for young readers. "The arrangement in Goodnight Moon is completely uneven," Kolbert writes. "Time moves forward, and the little bunny doesn't stand a chance. Parent and child are, in this way, brought together, on tragic terms. You don't want to go to sleep. I don't want to die. But we both have to."

Never have I read an article on children's books that sucked the joy out of them. Never have I read an article on children's books that made me want to cry. Thank you Elizabeth Kolbert for doing both.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Finally--A Christmas Song Just for Children's Writers...

The apparently multi-talented author Kim Norman loaded a catchy little ditty on her website, "A Writer's Wish List," to the tune of "Santa Baby." I've been walking around singing it all morning. Just click the play button on her website.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Good Advice on Creating Characters...

I just visited the MediaBistro Toolbox and they linked to an article on creating good characters by Elaine Marie Alphin on the Writer's Digest magazine website. Elaine's a wonderful writer who writes great characters and her advice is useful. The WD mag piece is based on information from Elaine's book Creating Character's Kids Will Love, which we published in 2000. It's a few years old, but it's chock full of solid, timeless advice from a solid writer. So if characterization is getting you down, buy yourself a copy of CCKWL for Christmas. (And also check out Elaine's book Counterfeit Son which won an Edgar Award.)

Thursday, December 07, 2006

A Cool Holiday Book...

I just came across the holiday title A Creature Was Stirring, a new take on "'Twas the Night Before Christmas," published by Simon & Schuster. Maybe it's the fact that it snowed this morning in the Nati, or maybe I'm more excited about Christmas than usual because I have a 2-year-old, but when I saw the cover of this book, it gave me a warm happy holiday feeling in my tummy.

The illustrator/adaptor Carter Goodfinch uses humorous couplets from the persceptive of a little boy anticipating Santa's visit along side the classic lines from Moore's poem.

I have a soft spot for "'Twas the Night Before Christmas"--it played a part in my very first byline back in my intern days. I wrote a column for the now defunct Decorative Artist's Workbook magazine about traditional and nontraditional designs for painting Santa Claus, and Santa images from around the world. I got to talk about Moore's poem and the first depiction of Santa as fat and jolly:

He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook, when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;

The opening illustration for the column was Thomas Nast's drawing that appeared with Moore's poem. (I also got to compose this brilliant line: "No, Virginia, there is not a Santa Claus--there are many.")

I wasn't planning on putting up a tree or decorating this year, but I've changed my mind. This weekend I'm getting out my Christmas tree (a fake silver one from the '50s that I got on eBay a few years ago). Maybe I'll wrap some gifts. Hang up some lights. Go to the mall. I'm having visions of sugar-plums!

I've been a pretty good girl this year, I'd say. I hope Mr. Claus is good to me. He's cordially invited to my roof.

Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Minx--DC's New Graphic Novel Imprint...

If you haven't read about it in PW or Publisher's Lunch, here's a link to The New York Times article on Minx, the new DC Comics imprint for graphic novels aimed at teenage girls. They recruited YA novelist Cecil Castellucci to write their kickoff title. (Check out her cool website.)

Sunday, November 26, 2006

My Dad…

Late at night on November 14th, just two weeks after his 75th birthday, my Dad made himself a drink (gin and caffeine free Mountain Dew on the rocks in a plastic tumbler with yellow smiley faces on it), sat down on the couch, turned on SportsCenter, and died in the blink of an eye. Dad said he always wanted to go that way. But for me, my family, and everyone who knew him, it was shocking. (“Good for him, bad for us,” my mom keeps saying.)

When I got the news, my thoughts and emotions raced, and the writer inside my head instantly began composing a eulogy. It was at the same time the easiest and toughest writing assignment I’ve ever had. It was easy in that it’s not difficult to find good things to say about my Dad. I’m pretty sure he never met anyone who didn’t like him--400 people came to his funeral. It was difficult in that I wasn’t sure if I could sum up the essence of my Dad in words. But writing about him truly helped me get through a few tough and surreal days. Writing helped me to process and heal.

In the 38 years I knew my Dad I never once saw him read a book. He read the newspaper and few websites every day, but it’s safe to say that he didn’t read a single novel after he finished school. That’s one of the many ways the two of us were different. But he was a wonderful guy, a great father and an enthusiastic grandpa (he read lots of books to Murray), and I’ll think about him every day.

So that’s why I haven’t posted in while. Monday I’m back to work after funeral leave and the holiday, and my life will get back to (almost) normal.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Demystifying Agents...

Here are a couple things written by agents I've come across recently. First a post from agent Jane Dystel's blog explaining just what it is an agent does. And here's a rather exhausting essay from my former co-worker Rachel Vater. Rachel gives some insight into why you haven't heard back from that up-and-coming agent you subbed to months ago.

Monday, November 13, 2006


  • Blogger Slacker: I've been a bad blogger lately. Busy busy busy. But I'll be back this week blogging full force so don't forget to visit daily.
  • Newsletters: An easy way to keep up with what your favorite publishers are doing is to have them keep you informed in the comfort of your own inbox. I subscribe to several publisher's e-newsletters such as those sent by the Penguin group and Simon & Schuster. You can sign up for free on publishers' websites.
  • NYT Book Review: This week, The New York Times Book Review has a special children's book section just in time for the holidays. You'll find tons of reviews as well as a slideshow of the Best Illustrated Books for 2006.
  • Spam Poetry: You may have seen the list of spam subject lines I posted recently. Well, I've started an explosion of spamthusiasm among my fellow Writer's Digest Books editors and we've begun composing spam poetry--we call them "Spamasterpieces." Check out our website to read some. We'll be posting them regularly. (I composed a particularly good one this morning. I'm developing and odd sort of loving relationship with my spam. I guess better the unwanted email than the luncheon meat product--for which there is a fan club. Huh.)
  • Scrabble: Oh oh did I kick my husband's butt at Scrabble last night. Okay--he did beat me the second game but only by like five points and I kept picking nothing but one-point letters. But the first game was a complete blowout (I even used all seven tiles in one turn) and I won game three (the one that decided the Pope-Katkin household Scrabble Champion) by a bunch. If you ever play Scrabble with my husband, bring a dictionary--he makes up words and pretends he knows exactly what they mean. (A side note: He proposed to me during a Scrabble game, spelling out "will you marry me" with tiles, slowly, turn-after-turn. It was cute. The bad part--I was winning by 90 points and we never got to finish the game.)

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

A Picture Book for Election Day...

Did you know that there was a woman who declared herself a presidential candidate and staged a campaign? In 1872? If not, check out A Woman for President: The Story of Victoria Woodhull. Woodhull had quite the life--even the Amazon write up is intriguing.

Oh yeah--GET OUT AND VOTE TODAY! (They give you a free sticker. I'm wearing mine now. It compliments any outfit.)

Monday, November 06, 2006

I Like This--You Should Visit (An Ongoing Series)...

You know I'm in love with Myspace these days. Here's a Myspace Teen Lit group. Group leader Sarah Mlynowski instructs: "Writers, please post book info, event info and new covers. Readers--ask all those questions you've been wondering...about books you've read, books you're thinking about reading, or about writing in general."

The group includes more than 1100 members including an impressive list of YA authors (and yours truly). Be sure to read the Bulletins from group members. Also check out the Forum--the most recent thread: What are you reading? Check out some authors' pages, learn about new books coming out, network with other writers, and find some new friends.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Oh how I love Halloween. Only on October 31st can you see a vampire changing Snow White's tire on the way to work and random co-workers showing off their inner whatever.

This morning before I came to the office, I went to an early morning yoga class. My instructor Daveed said he always thought that people choose to dress up as something that's hidden inside them--or something they wish was hidden inside them. Witches want to be magical, pirates want to be adventurous. Today I'm walking around as gothy suburban teen: I'm dark and no one understands me. My clothing is black, my boots are clunky, my eyeliner is smudge-y. I'm well aware that the angsty teenager inside me is not too far from the surface.

NPR played a story this morning interviewing Linda Davis, the biographer Charles Addams, creator of the Addams family. Davis said Addams was a man with many fears which came out in the cartoons he drew. By letting his fears out in his work, he was able to make light of them and overcome them.

I can't help thinking that Daveed's theory and Addams' practice apply to writers, too. We write about what scares us and what's buried inside us. And many times our characters are us (or those we know) lurking inside of the costumes we've created for them--and full of wonderful tricks and treats.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

2007 CWIM Update: Some New Addresses...

Get out your red pens--here are a few publishers who've sent me new addresses since the 2007 CWIM was published:

  • Eerdmans Books for Young Readers: New address is 2140 Oak Industrial Dr. NE, Grand Rapids MI 49505. (2007 CWIM page 135.)
  • Onstage Publishing: New address is 190 Lime Quarry Road, Suite 106J, Madison AL 35758. Phone: (256)461-0661. (2007 CWIM page 164.)
  • Windward Publishing: New address is 8075 215th St. West, Lakeville MN 55044. Phone: (952)469-6699. New website: (2007 CWIM page 195.)
  • Coteau Books Ltd.: Address correction: 2517 Victoria Ave--not 2571. (2007 CWIM page 200.)

I'll keep giving updates periodically if you all promise it won't keep you from buying the 2008 CWIM. (I promise a terrific lineup of articles and interviews--the 2008 CWIM will have more than ever before and I'm really excited about them all.)

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

My Fun With Spam...

My company just implemented this new spam filtering system for all of our email accounts. Now every morning we each have an email from the system listing all the spam that it's caught for us during the previous 24 hours. And the spam subject lines are cracking me up. Yes, there are the usual array of creative misspellings for Viagara. But there is also much much weirdness. I've been jotting down my favorites and now I will share. I think most of these would make fabulous band names:

  • drunkenness mezzanine
  • cheekbone & oval
  • coin poignancy
  • overwhelmingly unconscious
  • trestle eloquently
  • predator surrealistic
  • cheerful gob
  • zoology and accrue
  • Capricorn posterity
  • pejorative sanitary napkin (my favorite)

Proofreading Tips...

The MediaBistro Toolbox offers some helpful advice on proofreading.

Monday, October 23, 2006


  • Guide to Literary Agents Success Stories: Have you signed with an agent recently? Did Guide to Literary Agents help you in your search? If it did, GLA Editor Chuck Sambuchino wants to hear about it. Please send GLA success stories to with "Success" in the subject line. Chuck's cool and he'd love to hear from you.
  • HarperTeen FanLit: Here's a cool thing for the young writers in your life. In what their website calls "a storytelling event by teens for teens...HarperTeen editors and authors invite you to join thousands of fans online to collectively create an original short story—one chapter at a time." The chapters submitted will be reviewed by a panel (moderated by Executive Editor Farrin Jacob) made up of editors and authors including Meg Cabot and Rachel Vail. Favorite chapters submitted will be given an "Author's Pick" award. Click here to check it out.
  • Myspace: Oh, it is so addictive. Sort of like when I started this blog--I can't quit checking my page. I've now got 35 friends--cool ones like the above-metioned Meg Cabot. Who has 2872 friends. Wow. She's way more popular than I am. I better get moving on writing a bestselling novel or two that can be adapted into high-grossing films.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Please Won't You Be My Friend?...

I've finally gotten around to creating a Myspace page (it's still a work-in-progress) and I need some friends! If you're on Myspace, please visit my page and ask me to be your friend. I would be ever so grateful. (Why does this sound so desperate?)

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

2007 CWIM Update: Seedling Publications...

In a recent post, I mentioned that I've just begun working on the 2008 edition of CWIM. As I hear from publishers, magazines, agents, etc., I'll be giving occasional updates in this space. Here's the first: The 2007 CWIM gives information for Seedling Publications. According to a Seedling staff member, Seedling is now part of Continental Press, and the information offered in the 2007 CWIM is no longer correct. Seedling now uses only authors and artists who have worked for them previously so they are not open to submissions.

Please feel free to turn to page 178 of CWIM and make a note. I don't mind at all if you write in your book.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Friday the 13th with Sarah Mlynowski...

This weekend at Joseph-Beth, I caught Sarah Mlynowski's book tour promoting Frogs & French Kisses, the second title in her humorous trilogy about a teenager whose mother and little sister are witches. It's such fun seeing teen girls interact with authors. (One in the audience was working on her own novel.) Sarah passed around an outline and an edited manuscript and talked a lot about writing. She also read a delightful passage from her new novel. (And I have added two more books on the stack on my nightstand.)

Sarah, along with former Red Dress Ink/current HarperCollins editor Farrin Jacobs, wrote See Jane Write: A Girl's Guide to Writing Chick Lit. This wonderful book has substance but it's also fun and good looking--just what every girl wants. I really wish Writer's Digest Books would have published it.

Thursday, October 12, 2006


  • 2008 CWIM: I'm officially starting work on the 2008 edition of CWIM today. Not the articles and interviews part (also known as the fun part)--those are pretty much all assigned and underway. Today I begin contacting publishers, magazines, agents, etc., to verify and update their information. I know what you're thinking: Awfully early for the 2008 edition. Well, today I send the first bunch of emails. There will be many, many more. There will also be faxing, phone calls, and even good old snail mail. It's a process. It's the part of the year when I feel like 80% of my job is following up. I consider myself a pretty good follow-up-er.
  • Publishers Marketplace: Do any of you subscribe to Publishers Marketplace? We've got a subscription here at the office and it's exciting to click around in it. They have a database of who represents whom as well as a list of recent deals including the names of editors and agents. (You can get a smaller version of their recent deals list by subscribing to Publishers Lunch.) Today I was excited to read about recent book deals by two authors who have been included in past CWIM First Books features, Marlene Perez (who is represented by the agent who won the MediaBistro Hottie's in Publishing vote) and Debra Garfinkle--both for books in series that sounds so much fun. (Psychic powers! Magical rubber chickens!)
  • Me Reading Update: My Five-Pronged Plan to Read Way More Than I Do has been going OK but not great. Ohhh--I'll be honest. It's hit a rough spot called The New TV Season. Why oh why am I still watching One Tree Hill? Why Does Veronica Mars have to be so good? Why Am I so happy Lorelai Gilmore is finally getting together with Rory's dad? (Why are all these shows on The CW?) I think I need a sixth prong: Afternoon reading time at the office.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Writing for Teens...

This article--OMG! My BFF is Crushing on My Hottie!--was in the MB ToolBox on MediaBistro yesterday. Read it for some funny and useful advice for those of you channeling your inner teen.

Accidental Writing Class...

My husband has been out of town the last few days so I've been on my own in the entertaining Murray department. After the third time through the How Bob Became a Builder DVD on Saturday morning, I knew as was doing a poor job. (My husband is much more entertaining than I am.) I also knew we must leave the house. So I gave Murray two choices: Playground or Bookstore. Guess what he picked? (I was so proud.)

When we arrived at Joseph-Beth kids section, there was a chair (with a guy in it) where the train table usually was. We had walked into an event of some sort. I found out later the guy was author Geoffrey Girard, and he was giving "a seminar on 'Creative Writing' and 'In Search of the Real Pirates' " (so says his website). We located the train table, and a I sat on the floor and listened to Girard talk to the dozen or so high-school kids there to see him. He was making them work--they were jotting lists, writing in notebooks, swapping work. He told them "write what you know, but know more." He suggested they watch and read the news for ideas, pay attention at school, and talk to people. When we left he was holding up some figurines and talking about creating characters. The cool thing was most of the kids seemed really interested. They were taking notes and asking and answering questions. Ah--young, budding writers. All that potential. Do you think they know how hard it is to get published?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

I Like This--You Should Visit (An Ongoing Series)...

Welcome to the first installment of I Like This--You Should Visit, an ongoing series I just thought of. Periodically in this space I'll tell you about an author's or an illustrator's website or blog that I think is worth a click.

Today it's the website of YA author Maureen Johnson. Her site is great looking and really easy to navigate. There's just the right amount of text on her pages (some people go on and on and on). And I think the way her books are showcased is just fabulous. Visit!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Jarrett J. Krosoczka Appears in the Nati...

This morning, picture book author-illustrator Jarrett Krosoczka stopped in a Cincinnati Barnes & Noble location (the one half a mile from my office) to read his books to a class of happy second graders all hopped-up on hot chocolate from the B&N Starbucks. Jarrett is on tour promoting his latest title My Buddy, Slug which he began working on a few years before all those second graders were born. Besides reading, he also did drawings of characters from his books--Monkey Boy, Baghead, Annie, a few members of Punk Farm, and, of course Slug.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Yeah, It Was Weird...

Attending my 20th class reunion gave me quite the urge to delve into a pile of good YA novels. It was sort of like high school if everyone had kids and crows feet. The cliques were still cliquey. The cute cheerleader chicks who didn't talk to me in high school still didn't talk to me. The nice girls were still nice. The people I liked--I still liked them. Seeing a group of old friends is like picking up a favorite book you forgot you had on your shelf. There's an air of newness, but it feels comfortable as you become reacquainted with the characters.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Class Reunion...

Apropos to nothing, tonight is my 20th high school reunion. And I have a feeling it's gonna be weird. I've only been in contact with a handful of my former classmates since 1986--Rose, who's my massage therapist; Terry, who writes horror novels and I sporadically run into at the mall; Nancy, who had me in her wedding in an unfortunate periwinkle ensemble and who I've since pretty much de-friended (it's hard to get over a periwinkle bridemaid's dress); and a select few who were my college friends.

I've spent the last few weeks watching all these episodes of What Not to Wear where they've picked out groups of women going to 20th reunions and given them wardrobe makeovers, but I'm still having trouble deciding on an outfit. I want to look good, but not like I'm trying too hard. To be perfectly honest I want to look thin and young and hip and better than everyone else. I want to have the coolest husband, the cutest kid, and the best job. Sigh. Sigh again. It almost feels like tonight is the first day of school. And I have two zits.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Children's Poet Laureate...

It was recently announced that Jack Prelutsky was named the first-ever U.S. Children's Poet Laureate. I must admit that I've never been quite sure exactly what a poet laureate does--write and promote poetry. Is there more to the job description? (I'll google it.) I also must admit that until recently, the only poetry I ever really dug was poetry written for kids. Good kids poems can be fun or silly or witty or quiet, and a joy to read out loud. Give me J. Patrick Lewis over anything they ever made me read in college any day. I find it very exciting that kids have their own specially appointed poetry guru. I hope Mr. Prelutsky can help more kids learn to appreciate poetry, not just in childhood, but for a lifetime.

Novels in verse for young readers really got me back into appreciating and loving poetry. I've even purchased a few poetry collections for grown ups (now in my nightstand stack)--a little Rumi, a little Mary Oliver, a little e e cummings. It's great before-bed reading.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Wonderfulness of YA...

I just finished reading the first of five First Books books (not telling which one--don't want to give it away before the 2008 CWIM comes out), and, oh, I couldn't-put-it-down loved it. I didn't think about TV or the Internet. I let the phone ring. I was almost late for yoga class. And then I went back and re-read the last few chapters.

There's nothing I love more than a good book written for teenagers. Whether it's romance or edgy, sweet or sad, contemporary or futuristic--I'm so there. What is it about these books? Why can I relate so much to highschoolers when I'm 20 years removed? Maybe part of it is that the emotions of adolescence are so strong and so deep and never really leave you. And there were aspects of high school existence I missed out on that I can take part in through books. I went to an all-girl high school, so I love the experience of a co-ed world. I also didn't go to prom or homecoming. I never had a boyfriend to speak of. I wasn't particularly good or bad or pretty or smart or angsty. Nothing particularly traumatic or interesting happened. I was your average, pass-quietly-through high school teenager with a series of unfortunate haircuts (it was the '80s).
When I read a good YA novel, I can have a satisfying girl-meets-boy-girl-gets-boy experience. I can help my friend who's an addict. I can make it on my own when my parents emotionally or physically abandon me. I can be popular or strong or athletic or triumphant or a big mess. Then I close the book and I'm a 38-year-old with a husband, a toddler, a job and a mortgage.

Here are a few YA titles--that are also debut novels--that I couldn't put down. (There's also something about an author's first book, but that's another post):

I'd love to hear about your favorite YA titles, debut or not. I'm always looking for books to add to my (never-ending) reading list.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Harold's Publishing News...

Harold Underdown reports he's recently updated his "Who's Moving Where?" feature on The Purple Crayon. To check it out, click here.

Bonus #4: Mo Willems...

I must admit I was a little bummed that our Lexington bookstore gig was on the 23rd because Mo Willems was going to be at the wonderful independent children's bookstore the Blue Marble in northern KY that same day and I would miss going to see him.

However, we arrived at Joseph-Beth plenty early and lo and behold--there was Mo! He was 3 o'clock; we were 4 o'clock. I got a copy of the Caldecott Honor-winning Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus autographed for Murray (he loves it) and got a chance to chat with Mo, who is quite witty, doesn't autograph board books to keep them free of toxic ink, was a featured Hot Men of Children's Literature on the Fuse #8 Production blog, and will teach anyone with pen and paper how to draw his Pigeon.

Last Stop on the Tour: Joseph-Beth Lexington...

It was a rainy day for driving, but our trip to the Lexington Joseph-Beth turned out to be more than pleasant. This store is huge and gorgeous! If you live in the vicinity and have not been there--go go go! We had about 20 writers attending and we covered standard topics like query letters, agents, contests and copyright. Above are pix of some writers waiting for us to begin; the giant events banners hanging from the domed ceiling; and Lauren, Novel & Short Story Writer's Market editor, with Greg, our publicity dude/moderator/driver, who is hiding behind his pages of questions. Thanks to everyone who came out to see us to talk about writing and publishing especially the nice lady we chatted with in the restroom afterward about how to pronounce Louisville--you asked a lot of great questions. I'm looking forward to returning to this store next year, and maybe working in a little more shopping time.

Bonus #1: The cafe had the vegetarian chili that I love. Bonus #2: They gave us bags of tiny Burt's Bees products as thank-you gifts. Bonus #3: I made it home in time for my 8:30 dinner reservation at the sushi place for my husband's birthday dinner with Jerry and Steve Adler (who keeps telling me I should talk about him in my blog). Bonus #4: See the post above!

Thursday, September 21, 2006


  • Tour: Tomorrow is the last date of the Market Books Tour for 2006. I'll be appearing at the Joseph-Beth Lexington, KY store along with Novel & Short Story Writer's Market Editor Lauren Mosko. Our event begins at 4 p.m. Please come see us!
  • News: Scholastic reported on their first quarter sales, and--surprise, surprise--their numbers are down considerably from this time last years when Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was released. Their reported Q1 sales were $275 million, dropping $112 million in the children's division. Not so bad considering the drop in HP sales was $180 million.
  • First Books: I've finally gotten an chance to contact all of the debut authors who I did not choose for the 2008 CWIM First Books feature. Sorry it took so long--the tour, you know. If you did not hear from me, I apologize--a few emails may have slipped through the cracks. Another big congratulations to all of you on your debut books. It was truly a tough decision to weed out only five authors from such a great group of possibilities. I'm in the midst of reading the books by the authors who will be included in the feature, and I'm having great fun doing it!
  • Personal: I just bought a bag that's the exact same color as the 2007 edition of CWIM. "The only thing that separates us from the animals is our ability to accessorize."
  • Observation: I'm fairly certain the Teletubbies lifted some choreography from Footloose. Especially Dipsy--that Tubbie has some moves.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Bruce Hale: A Photo Essay...

He writes. He illustrates. He sings. He acts. He's witty. Plus he's a snappy dresser, has a collection of jaunty hats, and looked adorable in a loincloth when he was 9-ish. For more on this multi-talented and delightful author and his Chet Gecko series visit his website.

Note: The bass player in the band is our own Chuck Sambuchino (second one on the right), another multi-talented dude, and editor of Guide to Literary Agents.

Me and My Shadoe...

During the Midwest Literary Festival, I also moderated a writing for children panel featuring Bruce Hale, along with agent Regina Brooks, author Debbie Taylor and Shadoe Stevens. It was pretty easy to come up with questions for Bruce, Regina and Debbie. We talked about humor in kids books, critique groups, magazine writing, agents, and had a nice breakdown of children's publishing categories from Regina.

Then there was Shadoe. According to his promo postcard he "has recieved regonition as 'The Dr. Seuss of the twenty-first century.'" His work is highly regarded by Dick Clark, Whoopie Goldberg and Gene Simmons, who says: "Your book rocks in more ways than one!" I'm not making this stuff up. His book rhymes and was self-published. It has a message. (Oh, was I cringing when the other panelists said one should not write kids books with morals, that are didactic, that try to teach kids a lesson.) His last line includes the words "happily ever after." What was I supposed to ask this guy?

I met Shadoe in the green room and he confessed he'd never done a panel on writing before. I must say, however, that Shadoe was a good sport (after he was five minutes late and I had to send someone to fetch him. Thank goodness Bruce entertained the crowd.) I asked him about verbal storytelling and being aware of how the words you're writing will sound out loud. When he took the mic, he said, "I'm not worthy." When he recited passages from his book The Big Galoot, they sounded so much better than when I read them aloud to my co-workers in the car. And he did some fine work in "Dave's World."

Monday, September 18, 2006

MLF, Characters, and a Ruckus...

I'd never attended an event such as this festival and I wasn't sure what to expect, but the Midwest Literary Festival in Aurora, IL was a great event.

Friday I moderated a wonderful panel on creating characters featuring children's author Bruce Hale, romance author Tara Taylor Quinn, mystery author Hallie Ephron, and thriller author and screenwriter Jay Bonansinga. The bottom line--create dimensional, believable characters readers can become invested in.

Later in the weekend at a short story panel, author Dennis Lehane and J.A. Konrath engaged in a passionate debate about character-driven stories vs. plot-driven stories. Dennis says, as far as he's concerned, all stories should be character-driven--readers must care about the characters in a story or they won't be interested in your plot. Joe says plot is key--no one wants to read about bunch of people sitting around talking about their lives. Works were cited! Voices were raised! The moderator had to brake it up! Much much excitement!

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Small Crowd at Barbara's Bookstore...

After a zillion hours in our rented mid-size SUV and some tasty vegetarian dolmades at the Parthenon (where they frequently set things on fire, such as cheese), my co-workers and I arrived at Barbara's Bookstore for our latest Market Books Tour event. The store is in a college-y area and had a college-y staff and our event was held in a meeting room rather than in an area of the store.

There were four of us on the panel and 10 people in the audience counting Pete the bookstore guy who is also a writer, and Lauren's dad--certainly not our biggest crowd ever. But I was happy we didn't out number the audience, which has happened before. We once had a panel of four and one--one--lone writer came to see us. But the tour must go on! We had a good discussion about things like agents, poetry, graphic novels and Jerry Springer.

The store had a small but nice children's book section (I picked up a couple new board books for Murray) and the staff (well, Pete) was really appreciative. I'm not sure if we actually sold any books though. If you're ever on the road to promote your book, remember there will be good events and so-so events and occasionally really disappointing events. No matter how many people show up, each appearance offers an opportunity to get to know some booksellers (or maybe just Pete) and that's always a good thing for an author.

Highlights of the drive: Chuck's top-notch navigation skills and the big ceramic chicken I bought at a Flying-J in middle-of-nowhere Indiana.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

On the Road Again...

Tomorrow I'm headed to the Chicago area (home of SCBWI-Illinois Regional Advisor extraordinaire Esther Hershenhorn) for two events.

First, the Market Books World Tour continues with an appearance at Barbara's Bookstore at IUC on Thursday September 14 (that's tomorrow) at 7:30 p.m. featuring a panel of editors including me; Lauren Mosko, editor of Novel & Short Story Writer's Market; and Chuck Sambuchino, newly anointed editor of Guide to Literary Agents. (Their website info on the event is not quite correct.)

Lauren, Chuck and I will then be joined by our Editorial Director Jane Friedman to participate in the Midwest Literary Festival in Aurora starting on Friday. We'll be moderating panels, critiquing manuscripts, and working a pitch session. Jane will be offering two workshops to festival attendees on Sunday, one on how to get a novel published and the other on how the publishing industry works. Their website says of the event: "As a celebration of the written word, this free festival offers a wide variety of activities for the whole family, including over 50 authors, book signings, panel discussions, a how-to tent, children's area, food vendors and much more." If you're as curious as I am about what exactly goes on in a "how-to tent," head to Aurora for the weekend. (Did you notice--it's free?)

P.S. I'm highly disappointed we won't be able to make it to a Cubs vs. Reds game at Wrigley (the world's coolest stadium) over the weekend. If any of you are going, have a cold beer for me and yell really loud.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Show Don't Tell: A Reminder...

I've been critiquing a lot of manuscripts lately, including a batch that's currently on my desk. By far the most common issue I see when I read manuscripts is writers breaking one of the Golden Rules: Show, don't tell. It can seem tough to get all the details of your story across without loads of description--but it can be done. (Pay attention to how this is accomplished in the books you read.) Don't tell readers how the characters feel--show them through action and dialogue.

Readers don't need an explanation of what's about to happen right before they read what's happening. They don't need excruciating details about the setting. And they especially don't need the whole story summarized before it begins. Let details be organic to the story. Reveal them on an as-needed basis as the plot progresses. Give readers action, and dialogue that both moves that action along and reveals the characters. Give them a reason to keep turning the pages.

And all you aspiring writers out there: Read, read, read, and read some more.

Monday, September 11, 2006

N-OH SCBWI Conference Wrap Up...

I drove very far then I talked for like eight solid hours. Here are the highlights of my SCBWI conference experience in Cleveland:

  • Opening Session: Nicole and Jeremy Tugeau kicked off the conference by discussing children's books they love and why. This was a fun way to start the day--I especially liked seeing my childhood pal, lovable furry old Grover, in The Monster at the End of This Book.
  • Prizes: They gave away tons of doorprizes including CWIM and other Writer's Digest Books titles. The grand prize was a package for next year's conference.
  • My Talk #1: 22 Tips to Help You Get Published. Conference-goers actually pulled in extra chairs for my session, which surprised me since there were three others going on at the same time. This was a fun session, and I hope those who attended came away with a useful tip or two.
  • Critiques: I met with seven writers to discuss their manuscripts. They wrote everything from rhyming picture books to YA fantasy. I really enjoyed discussing their work with them--so much great potential.
  • My talk #2: Everything I've Learned about Children's Publishing (But Mostly Don't Talk About in CWIM). I ended this session by talking about how tough it is to be a writer, whether you're trying to get published for the first time or you've got a few books under your belt. I hope the group took to heart the three P's: persistence, perseverance, and passion.
  • First-Page Critiques: Besides the opening, this was the only conference session I was able to attend due to being heavily scheduled. A panel consisting of Cecile Goyette (Knopf), Randi Rivers (Charlesbridge), and Nicole and Jeremy Tugeau (Tugeau 2) read aloud first pages of manuscripts pulled from the slush bucket (a charmingly decorated alternative to the slush pile) and each panelist commented on the strengths and weaknesses of the writing. If you're ever at a conference offering a first-page critique session, be sure to attend. It's enlightening to see off-the-cuff reactions to story openings from publishing professionals. The most common comment: "This is confusing."
  • Driving Home: The Good: The Goasis-- gas station/restaurants/Starbuck's/purveyor of fudge/cleanest on-the-road restrooms I've ever seen. The Bad--Mr. Shaved-Head-Red-Convertible-Mustang-Guy just south of Columbus at approximately 7:23 p.m. I wish you very bad driving karma.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Editor Randi Rivers from Charlesbridge...

The Northern Ohio SCBWI conference kicked off this evening with dinner (decent vegetarian choice) and a wonderful talk by editor Randi Rivers. Randi talked about how she sees the role of an editor and the editor/writer relationship. She talked about the importance of having trust in your editor, but stressed a book belongs to a writer--editors don't "fix" manuscripts, they give direction to writers for making them stronger. She says the best place to find an editor is at a conference--introduce yourself, listen to an editor converse with other conference-goers, get a feel for an editor's personality. Recommended reading: Dear Genius: The Letters of Ursula Nordstrom.

The very personable Randi stayed on hand throughout the entire mingling time after her dinner address and chatted with many of the writers in attendance.

Off to bed--tomorrow will be a busy day!

Randomly (the Cleveland Edition)...

  • Rockstar parking times three. I've gotten such great parking spots since I've been here.
  • The hotel has decent cable, HBO even. But boy, is there nothing to do here. The exercise room consists of two treadmills and three sets of dumbbells. The pool smells very chlorine-y and looks nice, but I didn't bring my swimsuit. I wish they let you hang out at the airport when you're not flying. I bet there's bad shopping there, but at least there would be people to look at.
  • It's impossible to not find the airport from any direction. The highway signs have these little airplanes on them. Thank you little airplanes and Mapquest, without which I would be lost pretty much everywhere except my own neighborhood.
  • I'm pretty sure last night I was the only women in the hotel who didn't work here. Dinner: me at the lobby bar with a bunch of men watching football. I had a nice conversation with a young guy who lives in Hollywood, works for the post office, is writing a book on weight loss (writers everywhere!), and used to do stand up comedy, and a guy my age who lives in Wisconsin, sells medical imaging equipment, had on a very nice tie, and ate a formidable burger. We had beers. They were nice. Note to anyone who might dine at the Cleveland Airport Sheraton Hotel: Do not--do not--order the shrimp cocktail. I had to spit it out and send it back. It was wrong. It was food poisoning waiting to happen.
  • On TV pre-breakfast: "Saved by the Bell: The College Years." I don't know why they only made 18 episodes. Oh that goofy Screech! Oh that Kelly Kapowski and her fabulous early '90s outfits! Oh that Zack Morris, he still never learns! Favorite line: "I'm living in a Tom & Jerry cartoon."
The SCBWI conference officially begins in eight hours (at which time, there will be plenty of other women milling about, and no football).

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Tour: Cleveland Joseph-Beth...

After several pleasant hours of driving (thank you XM radio), and getting acquainted with the oh-so-exciting Cleveland Airport Sheraton Hotel, I found my way to the Joseph-Beth bookstore for my latest stop on the Market Books World Tour.

The events coordinator at the store told me the event last night only brought in four people, so I was worried. But I'm happy to report I had at least four times that many. It was a smallish group of aspiring writers, but a good one. We had a great discussion--I talked for pretty much an solid hour-and-a-half. One of the writers had been to my blog. One was in town for the weekend from California. One had bought CWIM and had just sent out her first submissions. We talked about agents, contests, nonfiction, magazines, the acquisitions process and lot of other things. Thank you to all the writers who came out to see me (and extra thanks to those who bought CWIM). I'm bummed I forgot my camera--I wish I could post your picture.

(In addition to leaving my camera behind, I also forgot my business cards and my handouts. I always forget something. Once I went to a four-day event and forgot pants. That's four days, zero pants. Nothing but the sweats I wore in the car. I bought a ridiculously overpriced ugly pair from the hotel shop and wore them every day. Then I threw them away.)

Tomorrow evening the SCBWI event kicks off. I'm gonna catch the rest of the U.S. Open match (Federer vs. Blake--go Blake!) and hit the sack. My mouth needs to rest up for Saturday when it will be flapping all day long.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Hittin' the Road...

Notes. Check. Business cards. Check. Books to give away. Check. Mapquest directions times 4. Check. I'm packing for a couple of events this weekend in the Cleveland area.

First, I'll be appearing (then disappearing) at the Joseph-Beth Cleveland location at 7 p.m. on Thursday (tomorrow). If you're in the area, please stop in. (I'd hate to throw a party and have no one show up.)

Then Friday night and Saturday I'll be participating in the Northern Ohio SCBWI Conference. I'm doing 2 breakout sessions: 22 Tips to Help You Get Published and (Almost) Everything I've Learned About Children's Publishing. The event also includes art reps Jeremy and Nicole Tugeau from Tugeau 2, editors Randy Rivers from Charlesbridge and Cecile Goyette from Knopf/Crown, and a host of authors.

I'm bringing along my laptop and my camera. I'll let you know if anything interesting happens.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

That Damn Sam-I-Am...

I've always marveled at the genius that is Dr. Seuss. When I was in Kindergarten the first book I learned to read was Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You?. I was so proud--I knocked on the neighbors' doors, and asked if I could read it aloud to them. (I had nice neighbors.)

My parents and older siblings read me Seuss titles over and over, like my favorite tongue tinglers Fox in Socks and One fish two fish red fish blue fish (if you click on this link, be sure to read the first review of One fish two fish entitled "Prescient political pondering of our polarized prolatariat." Quite amusing.)

I remember getting a copy of Hooray for Diffendoofer Day!, the posthumous publication partly penned by Prelutsky featuring a back section of Seuss' sketches, doodles and scribbled verses and was in awe at this glimpse into the mind of the artist in process.

Then I had a child. And he's a child who loves books. And, like most children, he likes to hear them over and over and over. And one day he found a copy of Green Eggs and Ham in the bookcase. Hooray! I thought. No more board books! Reading time will be one big Seuss-o-rama! I put on my best Jesse Jackson voice and dived right in.

And now the Green-Eggs-and-Ham-a-thon never seems to end. I get up early, put in a full day's work, pick up the kid, we buy some groceries, mess up the house, play in the yard, make dinner... I'm sleepy. And Murray says read Sam-I-Am book! Read Sam-I-Am book again! By the third time through the last bits of energy have been sucked out of me. It's 72 pages long. It rhymes. It plays in my head. Again! he says. How about the truck book? I plead? Sam-I-Am book again!

If I ever meet that Sam-I-Am...I will kill him on a train. I will kill him in the rain. I will kill him here or there. I will kill him anywhere. (But I'll probably buy the Green Eggs and Ham Cookbook when it comes out in October.)

Thursday, August 31, 2006

First Books: Some Stats...

In my 14 years working on CWIM, I've found there is never a shortage of debut children's book authors. This year I heard from writers, illustrators and writer/illustrators. First-timers worked on picture books, MGs and YAs. They wrote historical, contemporary, fantasy and poetry. And they were published by both small presses and big New York-based operations.

I've pretty much got my next First Books lineup picked out (haven't emailed anyone yet though), and as I paged through my stack of emails, I kept a list of the publishers producing all these wonderful debut titles. Here they are (in no particular order--I'm not good at alphabetizing):

  • Sterling
  • Delacorte
  • Sylvan Dell
  • Flux
  • Candlewick
  • Margaret K. McElderry
  • Greenwillow
  • Harcourt
  • Little, Brown
  • Abrams
  • Farrar, Straus & Giroux
  • RGU Group
  • Henry Holt
  • Random House
  • Simon & Schuster
  • Dutton
  • Blooming Tree
  • Richard Jackson/Atheneum
  • Albert Whitman
  • Red Deer
  • Bloomsbury USA
  • HarperCollins
  • Dial
  • Carolrhoda
  • Houghton Mifflin

Half of the publishers on the list are publishing two of more of the first-time authors who contacted me. And Delacorte and Sylvan Dell get Most Friendly to New Authors Gold Stars.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Oh Those Quirky Writers...

I found this link in the MBToolbox at mediabistro and thought you all might enjoy it reading about the alleged weird habits and rituals of famous authors (as assembled by writer Judy Reeves).

Do you have any weird writing-related rituals? Me? All my writing rituals seem more like thinly-veiled procrastination rituals--scattering papers and writing things in the corners; discussing projects with my co-workers; walking about the building; looking at websites; blogging. But I guess while I'm doing all this stuff things are sort of jelling in my head. Usually by the time I actually start typing, I'm pretty close to a really good draft. But the toughest part is just getting started. For me, writing will always fall into the toughest-jobs-you'll-ever-love category--sometimes I find it just painful, but when it's going well it's a joy.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Purple Crayon...

Hopefully you've all visited editor editor Harold Underdown's website The Purple Crayon. If you haven't, do yourself a favor and add the site to your favorites list. Harold's site is chock-full of useful stuff, including books reviews (check out his newly posted review of the 2007 CWIM and it's not-really-icky-yellow cover); tons of articles and info including a "Who's Moving Where?" feature; and excerpts from his terrific book, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Children's Books.

I'm not sure how Harold has time to maintain and update his site, post on the CW listserv and still, you know, have a life. But I'm glad he does--he offers a great service to children's writer's and illustrators. And there's lots of purple involved, which is never a bad thing. (I still haven't forgiven my parent's for not painting my room purple when I was nine.)

Monday, August 28, 2006


  • Tour: Tonight a panel of Writer's Digest Market Books editors will appear at Books & Co. in the Dayton, Ohio area, at 7 p.m.--it's at the store's old location. Please come out for a lively discussion on writing and publishing. There's always a great crowd at this store and many, many good questions. It's rainy and nasty outside in this neck of the woods--so it's the perfect time to schlep through the rain and go to a bookstore, where everything is dry and sunny. I won't be at this event because today is Murray's birthday. (More on that later.)
  • More on That: Today is my son Murray's second birthday. He actually sort of gets the concept of birthdays: people give him stuff; there are cupcakes. My house is now overrun with toys, trucks and trains. Alas, no one got him a book. Does that happen with those of you booklover/author types who have kids? I think everyone thinks I'm picky (I am) and don't know what to pick out (they don't) so they're afraid to buy books for the little guy.
  • First Books: I'm up to my eyeballs in wonderful debut authors, so please, don't send me any more first books emails, lest the difficult job will just get difficult-er. I promise to decide on my lineup before the end of the week. There. I've said it in public, to the whole world. Now I have to do it.

Friday, August 25, 2006

I Finished a Book (An Ongoing Series)...

I know, I know--I said picture books don't count. But I had to give a mention to Lisa Wheeler: Rhymer Extraordinaire. Lisa recently sent me a copy of her book Bubble Gum, Bubble Gum (autographed for Murray). The little guy is often reluctant about new books unless they have pictures of trucks on them, but he was interested in this one right away (kudos to illustrator Laura Huliska-Beith).

And as soon as I began reading, Murray was mesmerized. He was repeating words and squealing about pages he particularly liked. This continued through reading number two...and three...and four...and five...and six. Although my read-aloud-er was getting worn out by then, Bubble Gum was a joy to read. Lisa's rhyme is the kind that feel great as if flows out of your mouth. All of you budding picture book writers struggling with rhyming manuscripts, read some Lisa Wheeler to see rhyme done right. (Because rhyme done wrong is just so, so wrong.)

For more on rhyme, read my conference report on Hope Vestergaard's session. And pick up a few of Hope's books, too--like her latest, Hillside Lullaby. Hope really can write rhyme that lilts, marches and dances off the page--her work is wonderful and charming. (Murray likes it too.)

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Lots of People, Lots of Questions...

We had about 55 writer-types in attendance for our first Market Books event of the year (didn't even need cupcakes and free beer!) and we talked writing and publishing for two solid hours. Among other things, people asked:

  • Do I need an agent? Should I have a different agent for fiction and nonfiction? Do I need an overseas agent? Should I pay a reading fee to an agent?
  • A publisher is reading my work--if they offer me a contract, what should I do?
  • Can I break into major newspapers?
  • How do I approach a publisher with a nonfiction project (and other submitting-my-work questions)?
  • Should I pay to have my work published?
  • Are contests a good idea? How can I tell if a contest is legit?

My favorite comment from the crowd came from a children's writer. (She's the lady in the light purple sweater in the front row in the middle photo.) She said she bought and read through CWIM, followed the advice, and had her work requested by two major publishers. "All I did was follow the instructions," she told us. "It was amazing." She is hereby invited to all our events.

We also talked a lot about how the path to publication is different for everyone, and emphasized networking with other writers, attending conferences, etc. It's so much fun to be in a room filled with people who want to talk shop!

Note the photo above showing the entrance to the JB Kids area of the store. If you are ever in the Nati (that's Cincinnati for your out-of-towners) be sure to stop in Joseph-Beth and hang out in the kids section for a while. (I browsed the potty books.) It's big and well-stocked and fun. And if your books are in the store, they'd be thrilled to have you autograph them.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


  • Hotties: Well, Michael Stearns did not win GalleyCat's Hotties in Publishing men's title this year. If only my blog were more popular! (Tell your freinds.) If only I would have campaigned more vigorously! Bumper stickers, slogans, t-shirts...A website! I feel personally responsible. Sigh. But, alas, it is an honor just to be nominated.
  • Tour: Don't forget--anyone in the greater Cincinnati area should be at Joseph-Beth at 7 p.m. tonight for the kickoff of our market books tour. There will be handouts. And complimentary pens. And cupcakes. And free beer. And a dozen well-respected literary agents from New York who are looking for clients. (Um, a few of those things might not be true.)
  • First Books: I've got a great stack of emails from a great bunch of authors and illustrators and it's going to be absolutely painful not to choose each and every one of them for my annual First Books feature. But starting Monday I'll be weeding out my stack, making a short list, checking it twice, whittling it down all the more, until there are but four (or five if I must). So there are just a few days left to email me about your debut titles. Many thanks to all I've heard from so far--and to those writer-friends out there who directed first-time authors to my First Books blog post.
  • CWIM 2008: Is it too early to start talking about this? Not for me! I've been vigorously planning the next CWIM, going through queries, making lists, sending emails, assigning articles, dreaming about it at night--it's my favorite time of the year! I've got some cool things lined up for all of you out there and I'm going to be busy writing writing writing (after reading reading reading and interviewing interviewing interviewing). You'll likely see hints of who I'm talking to in future installments of I Finished a Book (An Ongoing Series).

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Market Books Tour Kickoff--TOMORROW!...

If you're in the area tomorrow, be sure to stop by Joseph-Beth's Cincinnati location at 7 p.m. for the kickoff to our Market Books Editors (Tiny Part of the) World Tour. This event is not limited to those interested in children's writing and publishing (my people)--the lineup also includes Lauren Mosko, editor of Novel & Short Story Writer's Market; Robert Brewer, editor of Writer's Market and; and Nancy Breen, editor of Poet's Market.

Our event will begin with a panel discussion led by Greg the Publicity Dude. He'll ask us intelligent, probing questions related to our areas of expertise. (So he says--he won't tell us the questions in advance. We'll have lots of big, spontaneous fun!) Then we'll open it up to questions from the crowd, which are generally good and interesting (besides the guy who wants to explain his life story for 20 minutes and ask what he should do to get it published even though he's never written a work--that guy makes me tired. Oh--I'm pretty sure he can't make it tomorrow.)

So come! Please come! It's free. Our new book covers look so pretty when they're all on a table together. And we're all nice and knowledgeable editors. And after our event, you can browse your favorite sections of the store (you'll find me in literature, children's books, YA and the magazine rack--look there first).

For our complete schedule of upcoming events, click here.

Monday, August 21, 2006

BookSense Picks: Children's Autumn 2006...

I just found the latest BookSense list in my inbox. Here's a quick not-very-specific-and-incomplete rundown of what's on it. (Follow the list link to read full titles):

  • Four Monster books
  • Lots of animals: Dog, Cow, Giraffe, Gecko, Hippo, Hare, Rabbit and Pig
  • Animal Poems and Dog Poems
  • Pirates
  • Goth Girl, Good Girls, That Girl Lucy Moon
  • Dragons (and lots of fantasy)
  • Ranger's Apprentice, Last Apprentice, Last Dragon
  • Books that are part of trilogies and series
  • How to Be Popular, How It's Done
  • A reinvention and a new version of Alice in Wonderland (both of which I will buy because I dig all things Alice in Wonderland)
  • New books by Gail Carson Levine, Edward Bloor, Elise Primavera, David Wiesner, Maurice Sendak, Denise Fleming, Patricia MacLachlan and Ian Falconer among others

Non-Alice-in-Wonderland-related books on the list I'm going to add to the stack next to my bed as soon as Wednesday (because I will be at a bookstore that day):

Book on the list Murray (the little book lover I gave birth to) would like most:

Sunday, August 20, 2006

I Finished a Book (An Ongoing Series)...

I'm happy to report I've finished my first book since enacting My Plan to Read a Lot More Than I Do. (Picture books and board books don't count.) I decided to begin with a book I purchased at the SCBWI Conference earlier this month, so I just read Justina Chen Headley's Nothing But the Truth (and a Few White Lies).

One might think Nothing But the Truth, about a half-Asian/half-white teen whose mother is difficult and who is about to embark on summer math camp, wouldn't be a book for me. I'm quite pink, can't do math to save my life, and my mom's a peach. But a good author really gets to the heart of her characters and reveals their pain and angst, and pain and angst are universal. Plus, I've been fifteen. I don't want to do it again for real, but I love to relive it through books.

Things I loved about this book:

  • Great believable and dimensional characters and a main character I could really like and really root for.
  • The end of every chapter made me want to start the next one which made me not want to put this book down (and stay up way too late to keep reading).
  • The author really puts Patty, the 15-year-old main character, through some humiliating and difficult situations. She gets through one and then--oh no--how could she do that to her again!
  • Patty learns things about herself and her family and she grows, and you're right there with her. And by the end she's rather kick-ass.
  • The author uses some wonderful word play (even math puns!).

Friday, August 18, 2006

Cast Your Vote: Hotties in Publishing...

I can't be all business all the time (as if...), and it is Friday night, so today's post is to tell you about Galley Cat's "Hotties in Publishing" voting that's going on through Sunday at midnight. Everyone go vote for HarperCollins Children's Editorial Director Michael Stearns. (It's a tight race so feel free to vote repeatedly.)

So he's worked with Jennifer Donnelly, Edward Bloor, Elise Primavera, Bruce Coville, and Frances Hardinge--wouldn't top Hotty in Publishing be a much greater accomplishment? (And why did no one nominate me in the women's category?)

Thursday, August 17, 2006

From PW Children's Bookshelf...

I'm not sure if you can subscribe to the PW Children's Bookself e-newsletter if you don't subscribe to the print magazine. Anyone know? If you can get it, sign up! It's chock-full-o-news (and reviews) and it's quite visually appealing too (lots of covers and a cute reading-frog logo pretty much the exact same color as the 2007 CWIM).

Today Publishers Weekly reports that HarperCollins is launching a new imprint called HarperTeen to "publish all of HarperCollins's YA titles that don't fall under the EOS fantasy/SF imprint." They'll no longer us HarperTempest and Avon imprint names.

They also report some movin' and shakin' among editor types: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing promoted Caitlyn Dlouhy from exec editor to editorial director of Atheneum Books for Young Readers. They've also restructured their Simon Pulse teen imprint--Bethany Buck is editorial director and her new staff includes exec ed Jennifer Klonsky (from Aladdin), associate ed Sangeeta Mehta (from Little, Brown) and editorial assistants Michael del Rosario and Caroline Abbey. (Be nice to editorial assistants--they do stuff like read slush.)

Wednesday, August 16, 2006


  • I'm tired of reading books about trucks. I know far more than a 38-year-old female editor whose favorite reading material is YA novels and Lucky: The Magazine About Shopping needs to know about big construction equipment.
  • I keep meaning to flip through the Publishers Weekly Children's Books Fall 2006 issue that's in my inbox. I hope you've checked it out. It's like getting a mini catalog from most every publisher.
  • Pretty soon there will be a CWIM website. Those of you who have the 2007 edition might have seen the address listed on the back cover. It's not quite ready yet, but I'll keep you posted. (When the site is live, you'll be able to sign up for a monthly e-newsletter from yours truly.)
  • This year it's going to be harder than ever to choose my First Books lineup--the book descriptions I've gotten so far all sound fabulous. (Hmmm...Perhaps I smell a website feature.)
  • My Five-Pronged Plan to Read Way More Than I Do Now is going well. I actually have not turned on the TV all week and I have not purchased any footwear. And I'm well into Nothing But the Truth (and a Few White Lies by Justina Chen Headley, the one at the top of my stack of books I got in LA. (I'm typing very fast so I can get through a few chapters before bedtime--I'm dying to get back to it.)

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Call for First-Time Authors & Illustrators...

My favorite time of year has once again rolled around--it's the time when I begin planning the next edition of CWIM (2008 edition!). My favorite CWIM feature to work on is our "First Books" article, for which we interview four (or so) first-time authors and illustrators about their books and their debut publishing experiences.

If you have a debut book coming out in late 2006 or early 2007 (I'd need a cover image by early February) and would like to be considered for First Books, please email me ( I'll consider all genres of children's books and agented or unagented writers and illustrators. Tell me a little about your book (including pub date) and yourself. If you have a website, give me the link. No self-published books or e-books please.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Market Books Tour...

This month marks the beginning of the annual mini book tour by Market Books editors (myself included, of course). We'll be visiting a number of bookstores, talking about writing and publishing and answering questions. If you are in the areas in which we're appearing, please pop in and see us and buy some books (ours or someone else's). Here is our lineup:

Cincinnati, OH
Wednesday, August 23
7 p.m.
Includes editors of Writer's Market, Poet's Market, Novel & Short Story Writer's Market, and CWIM (me).

Books & Company
Dayton, OH
Monday, August 28
7 p.m.
Includes editors of Writer's Market, Poet's Market, Novel & Short Story Writer's Market and Guide to Literary Agents. (I'm skipping this event--it's my son's birthday. He'll be two. Cute little peanut.)

Cleveland, OH
Thursday, September 7
7 p.m.
This event includes only me--please come! The following Saturday, September 9, I'll be presenting at the Northern Ohio SCBWI Conference.

Barbara's Bookstore at UIC
Chicago, IL
Thursday, September 14
7:30 p.m.
Includes editors of Novel & Short Story Writer's Market and Guide to Literary Agent and CWIM (me). We'll follow up this event with workshops at the Midwest Literary Festival. (The info on the website is not completely up-to-date so you won't find my name anywere, but I'll be there.) The Festival's Children's Guest of Honor is Bruce Hale. He'll be wearing a jaunty hat, no doubt.

Joseph Beth
Lexington, OH
Saturday, September 23
4 p.m.
Includes editors of Novel & Short Story Writer's Market and CWIM (me).

Friday, August 11, 2006

Confession Time...

I have a shoe problem. I've just spent the last 45 minutes on my favorite shopping website (which is the best place in the universe to buy shoes--don't get me started) browsing through 25 pages of flats available in size 8 1/2, popping half a dozen cute pairs into my shopping cart (just in case). As I viewed the shoes from every angle, I was thinking, ya know--there are so many cute shoes in the world, it's a shame I only have two feet (and one closet).

I feel the same way about books--there are so many good ones I want to read, it's a shame there are only 24 hours in a day. I guess I have a book problem, too. They fill six bookcases in my house; they're piled up in corners, on top of the speakers, next too the bed, in front of the fireplace, on the bathroom floor, and all over my cubicle at the office. After recently acquiring more books at the SCBWI conference and making that stack that mocks me from my nightstand (see below) officially taller than I am, I began to stress about reading. I have a job, an almost-two-year-old, an eBay addiction, a love of TV, and I work on a lit mag in my spare time (when I'm not performing domestic goddess duties). Something's gotta give!

So I offer here, to all the world, My Five-Pronged Plan to Read Way More Than I Do Now:

  1. Schedule reading, just like I do everything else. In the beginning of the week, I work out which days I'll go to the grocery store and the gym, when I'll take a trip to the mall to replace my watch battery, when I'll pick up my dry cleaning, which yoga classes I'll attend. Why not add reading to my weekly plan?
  2. Cut down on Internet time. I'm on the Internet--a lot. I've got a list of blogs I visit. I read my email when I eat breakfast. Every time I pass the computer, it beckons me, like an ice cream shop to someone on a diet. I must stop browsing the net every time I'm bored. I'll pick up a novel instead.
  3. Cut down on TV. I don't watch a ton of TV during the summer rerun season, so sorry Jon Stewart, sorry Colbert--nighttime TV must be replaced with nighttime reading, at least a few days a week. And soon, when the new TV season starts, One Tree Hill and The O.C.--your days are numbered. Lost and The Office, you're safe. Oh--and Gilmore Girls (baby steps, baby steps).
  4. Read on my lunchbreak. Whether I'm eating at my desk or in my kitchen (1.5 miles from the office) I should grab a book instead of Entertainment Weekly. I'm sure my boss will understand if I occasionally get caught up in a novel and accidentally take a bit of a long lunch. It's research--it's my duty to stay up on the market and reading new titles is important.
  5. Read at the gym. When I spend a good 50 minutes on the cardio machine do I really need to stare at the TV reading the captions for General Hospital or Judge Judy? No. I'll plop a book on the stand instead--I bet it makes the uphill climb to nowhere zip right by.

I can't count the number of times in CWIM someone offers this same advice to writers: Read. Read, read, read. Read some more. How do you all find the time? I'll let you know how My Plan is working and I'll tell you about the books I finish. Now back to Zappos to finish my shopping (then I'll read).

So I Never Run Out of Topics...

It is pretty unlikely that I will run out of things to address in this space. (I feel like I could blog all day long. Is there a 12-step program?) I'd love, however, to answer questions from the CWIM audience/potential audience/any interested party periodically.

If there's anything children's-publishing-related you'd like me to address, please send me an email ( If I don't answer you publicly, I'll do my best the answer you privately.

In the meantime, please keep visiting--my head's chock full of topics and ideas filed in this special corner of my brain called the Things About Which to Blog lobe.