Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Our "Corny" Office Party, Plus the Nati's Favorite Passtime (Besides Eating Chili)...

Every month or two one department of my company is in charge of throwing a party. These shindigs take place for an hour and a half during a workday and they always have a theme. (Some of my favorites: pie, the '80s, Halloween, Office Space).

Today our party was all about corn. We had popcorn and corn pudding and cornbread and corn chips. And most importantly, there was cornhole. (Note: please do not Google "cornhole," especially while you're at the work.)

Cornhole has been very popular on the west side of Cincinnati for quite a while. Being a lifetime east-sider, I am not that well versed in it. (I generally don't go to the west side. I'm not even sure how to get there.) Over that last decade or so, however, the game of cornhole has moved beyond the west side and invaded the entire tri-state area, and, I'm told, versions of it are played in other mid-Western cities. There are leagues and tournaments and you'll find cornhole sets in back yards and culdesacs in every Nati suburb.

Here are the basics: Two teams of two players take turns throwing half a dozen cornbags (like beanbags only filled with corn) with the goal of getting the bags through the holes in the angled platforms at either end. And as with horseshoes, almost counts.

This is a cornbag a cornhole player tosses.

This is the hole they try to throw it into.

This is a cornhole platform during a game. Note that many
of the local cornhole set artisans decorate the platforms
with team logos such as this one with the Reds logo.

And this one the with UC Bearcats logo.

Here is GLA editor Chuck Sambuchino in action during
today's cornhole tournament.
(Sadly, his team didn't win.)

So now you know what we do here in the Nati when we're not eating three ways, goetta, or ice cream with impossibly big chips. For official cornhole rules, you can visit the American Cornhole Association. (Yep, there is one.)

And please enjoy this trailer for Cornhole: The Movie.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Michael Stearns Starts a New Agency, Upstart Crow Literary...

Former editor Michael Stearns recently left Firebrand Literary, where he's worked for more than a year, and will debut his own brand new agency, Upstart Crow Literary, the first week of August.

Michael will be joined at Upstart Crow by two other former Firebrand agents, Chris Richman and Danielle Chiotti. Michael says of his once and future colleagues:

"Chris and Danielle possess that mix of literary savvy, good taste, and dedication to their authors and books that marks them as either potentially crazy or simply crazily dedicated. I feel fortunate to embark on this new venture with the two of them, as well as with our talented list of authors, all of whom will be following us to our new home.

We'll be making our first Upstart Crow submissions next week, and when the site goes live the week after that, I hope you'll stop by and take a look at what we've got in the works."

Friday, July 24, 2009

Pondering Grade-School...

Tonight is the kickoff meeting of the Official All Saints Class of '82 Grade School Reunion Committee. (It's not really all that official. I just found some former classmates on Facebook, decided we should have a reunion, appointed myself In Charge, and recruited a few peeps. And there will be beers.)

It's funny re-connecting with grade school friends after nearly three decades. I'm finding it so interesting to hear their perspectives on the grade-school experience and their part in it. One of the committee members I'm meeting up with tonight was a popular, blond, jock-ish guy. In a Facebook conversation we had a while back, I said I was a chubby, dorky, non-cheerleader girl and I was surprised he was even talking to the likes of me. He said he didn't remember me that way, just that I was always nice to him. And he said that he always tried to be nice to everyone so he wasn't seen as a jerky jock.

Recently I was friended by another guy from grade school (he was one of the smart, quieter guys) with whom I had a nearly week-long exchange. I asked him if he was friends with the classmate mentioned above (who has a bunch of funny grade school photos posted on his page). He said no--that other guy was pretty mean to him in school. I doubt they'll ever be Facebook friends. Grade school scars run deep. And it's amazing how fresh they can feel and how vivid the memories still are. When I think back on some of those days, I have to stop myself from tearing up. I remember a lot of the hard moments and fewer of the easy ones. It's no wonder books for young readers appeal to so many adults and that so many of us can connect with those feelings and write about them in such a real way.

Last night I dug through some boxes in my basement and unearthed the All Saints '82 yearbook. The 24 mimeographed and stapled pages devoted to the 75 kids in our class (43 boys, 32 girls) include a class list, class achievements, memories, prophesies, teachers' favorite sayings and room for autographs and pictures. (Note: the smart guy signed my yearbook; the jock guy did not.)

Here's my prophesy courtesy of the 12 members of the yearbook staff:

"It is the year 2000 and...

Alice Pope had her very own hospital named after her. She is the very first Saint canonized before her death. She credits this to her 8th grade teacher, Sister Mary Thomas. She says "Sister Mary Thomas taught me what goodness truly was."
No, I was not on the yearbook committee. I don't know quite where this came from. As for my two classmates mentioned above? The prediction for the smart one was that he was going to have a fast food chain and become a millionaire. The prediction for the jock was that he would one day enter an elevator full of mirrors and uncontrollably grow an "oversized BIG HEAD" and continue to live there with his reflection.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Query Q&A with Guest Blogger Chuck Sambuchino...

I recently received a question about including credentials in a query letter. I tossed this question to Guide to Literary Agents editor and blogger Chuck Sambuchino. Here's the question and his advice. (And that's Chuck over there.)

I can't decide what constitutes a legitimate credential when I get to the infamous Author Information paragraph of the query. I'm unpublished, so unfortunately I can't amaze a publisher/agent with that kind of info.

Here are some examples of things that I could mention:

  • I have an English degree from Vanderbilt University. Would a publisher/agent care?
  • I'm the mother of four avid young readers. Would a publisher/agent care?
  • I've done proofreading for a number of other authors' books. (Not Children's Lit, though.) Would a publisher/agent care?
Obviously those "credentials" are specific to me, and I'd love your input. But I'm sure there are a lot of other readers out there who aren't sure where the line exists between valid credential and irrelevant information that would annoy a publisher/agent.

ANSWER: Ah ... what and what not to mention in the “bio” paragraph of your query letter. This is always a hot topic at the writers’ conferences I attend because it’s always a case-by-case thing. Let’s look over your questions.
  • I have an English degree from Vanderbilt University. Would a publisher/agent care?
Sure, mention it. It would be more effective to list any published clips or short stories, but an English degree (or better yet--MFA) is never a bad thing to see. Mention it quickly and humbly like you did above.
  • I'm the mother of four avid young readers. Would a publisher/agent care?
No--skip it. The fact that you have four avid readers probably helps you write and compose. But too often, agents see parents who think they have what it takes to write a children’s book, for example, simply because they have kids. It’s kind of a cliché thing to say. Nix it.
  • I've done proofreading for a number of other authors' books. (Not Children's Lit, though.) Would a publisher/agent care?
If you were paid to edit people’s work, say so. You would be, by definition, a freelance editor. If you did it for peers, perhaps are you part of a writing group? SCBWI? RWA? MWA? If you are, say so briefly. All that said, if you simply reviewed friends’ books, that will not carry much weight in a query so I say skip it.

Don’t be afraid to be brief and wrap up the query. The most important part in a query is the pitch, and a writer should hope that an agent is so hooked by the pitch that they want to see sample pages then and there. Sure, an agent cares about who you are. But more so, they care about if you can write.
  • If you have more questions on queries, there's still time to sign up for today's WD 1 p.m. (eatern) webinar, Extreme Makover: The Query Letter. Click here for details.
  • To read Chuck's blog including a recent interview with editor-turned-agent Brenda Bowen, click here.
  • To learn more about Guide to Literary Agents, click here.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

My Favorite Picture Book...

This morning I got a copy of the Publishers Weekly Fall 2009 Children's Book edition which always makes me very happy. When I get these special editions, first I flip through a few times and look at the pictures and publishers' ads (which are like mini catalogs), then I go back and read the lists and features.

This issue includes a feature complied from Anita Silvey's upcoming Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Children's Book (out in October from Roaring Brook) for which Silvey asked contributers, "What children's book changed the way you see the world."

If she had asked me, I would have picked Miss Suzy by Miriam Young, illustrated by Arnold Lobel. The title character in this beloved book is a nice gray squirrel who lives in a little house in a big oak tree. She makes firefly lamps and acorn cakes and wears a tiny apron as she sweeps the floor with her twig broom and keeps things tidy. She's quite happy with her simple squirrel existence until a gang of red squirrel thugs descend, chase her away, and take up residence in her once happy oak tree home. (I think one of them had fresh stitches. You knew they were trouble.)

This injustice was very upsetting to me in the early '70s when I first read Miss Suzy. I was a shy, chubby-ish kid and I had my share of being picked on. I hated that mean red squirrel gang and how they picked on Miss Suzy. But (spoiler alert) it all turns out okay. Miss Suzy befriends some toy soldiers (with shiny triangle swords) that she finds in the attic she escapes to. She tidies up and takes care of them. And then they kick those thug squirrels' furry thug squirrel butts out of Miss Suzy's house. It was so satifying to me that she made friends and her friends stood up for her. She took care of them and they took care of her. As a seven-year-old I knew I wanted friendships like like that. And I knew good could win out over evil. Oh Miss Suzy...I can't wait to go home and read my copy even though the binding it cracked and it's full of crayon marks (which is so untidy). But isn't that sign of a well-loved picture book?

I want to hear from you (since I imagine Anita Silvey didn't ask you either)--what book changed the way you saw the world when you were a child? If you'd like to share, post a comment.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Links to SCBWI TEAM BLOG Keynote Interviews...

Today blogger Lee Wind offers a great interview with Holly Black, one of the terrific keynote speakers for the upcoming SCBWI Annual Summer Conference. (She is also featured in the 2010 CWIM!) Lee has recently joined Twitter so add him to your follow list--he'll be blogging and tweeting along with the rest of us from the L.A. event August 7-10.

If you haven't, also check out Paul Yoo's interviews with keynoters Ingrid Law and Betty Birney. There will be more interviews with SCBWI conference keynote speakers from TEAM BLOG between now and the event which I'll link you to when they are posted.

(And for those of you who still may be thinking about registering for the event but haven't yet, read Suzanne Young's post featuring feedback from three first-time conference goers.)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

What's in the 2010 CWIM?...

Wanted to get in a quick post today before I go pick up the boy--thought I'd share a bit of the table of contents for the 2010 CWIM (available early August) so you all can see what's in store. I've got some terrific features and interview this year! (Plus now when you buy the book you have access to all the market in a searchable online database. Finally!) Take a look:


  • Evolving Children’s Book Publishing, by Kelly Milner Halls
  • What’s in a Name? Maybe More than You Think, by Carmela Martino
  • Storyboarding, by Sue Bradford Edwards
  • From Picture Book Writer to Novelist, by Hope Vestergaard
  • Writing Humor, 12¾ Ways to Tickle Young Readers’ Funny Bones, by Donna Gephart
  • Don’t Be Afraid to Write GLBTQ Characters, by Ellen Wittlinger
  • Life in Revision, When the Honeymoon is Over, by Sara Zarr
  • Putting the Vision Back in Revision, by Cheryl Klein
  • An Agent’s Career Outline for Illustrators, by Steven Malk
  • Under One Roof, An Author & An Illustrated, Married, by Laini Taylor & Jim Di Bartolo
  • Reaching Reluctant Readers, by Sue Bradford Edwards
  • Writing a Series for a Packager, by Tracy Barrett
  • Intensive Publisher Research, by Deanna Caswell
  • The Acquisitions Process, by Harold Underdown
  • Social Networking, The Path to Cyber-Success, by Kelly Milner Halls
  • Book Promotion, From Blog Tour to Book Trailer, by Tina Nichols Coury

  • Rachel Cohn, Queen of Teen Lit, by Aaron Hartzler
  • Sara Varon, Telling Stories Picture by Picture, by Erzsi Deàk
  • Writing Series, Three Authors Tell All, by Fiona Bayrock
  • Holly Black, Author of Other Worlds, by Deborah Bouziden
  • Ellen Hopkins, Reaching YA Readers Through Verse, by Travis Adkins
  • Lisa Yee, On Quirky Characters, Series & Crossover Readers, by Travis Adkins
  • Mitali Perkins, ‘Story Became My First Escape’, by Rebecca Ward


  • First Books, Characters Struggling with Confidence, by Meg Leder
* Erin Dionne, Models Don’t Eat Chocolate Cookies (Dial)
* Megan Frazer, Secrets of Truth and Beauty (Disney Hyperion)
* Jenny Meyerhoff, Third Grade Baby (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
* Sydney Salter, My Big Nose and Other Natural Disasters (Graphia/Harcourt)
* First Books Follow-Up: Marlene Perez

I'm out of the office tomorrow (escorting my husband to his shoulder surgery) so no Friday post. But come back and see me on Monday. I'm excited to have a little time to blog again--I'll be posting daily.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

New Teaching Authors Blog Features Ann Whitford Paul...

Teaching Authors kicked off in April as a new resource for teachers, librarians, and writers. This blog by is maintained by six children's book authors with a wide range of experience teaching writing--April Halprin Wayland, Esther Hershenhorn, Jeanne Marie Grunwell Ford, JoAnn Early Macken, Mary Ann Rodman, and Carmela Martino--with the intent to "share our unique perspective as writing teachers who are also working writers."

"In addition to discussing what we've learned about writing and the teaching of writing, we also hope to accomplish something on the blog that we can't do on our websites: facilitate conversations between writers, teachers, and librarians about the subjects we love best--writing, teaching writing, and reading," says Carmela Martino.

To encourage that interaction, Teaching Authors is open to topic suggestions from their readers. (See the Ask the Teaching Authors section in the blog sidebar to submit writing or teaching uestions.)

Today Teaching Authors offers their first Guest Teaching Author interview featuring Ann Whitford Paul, who I had the pleasure of working with on her WD title Writing Picture Books. Visit Teaching Authors to read the terrific interview with Ann and you could win an autographed copy of WPB--readers have until 11 pm Friday (central time) to enter. (Contest rules will be posted.)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The SCBWI Summer Conference--I'm Counting Down...

So far my summer is flying by (a bajillion deadlines make the days move quickly). Last week the 2010 CWIM went to the printer (super yay!). Today I sat back, took a deep breath, and realized that I leave for the SCBWI Annual Summer Conference in L.A. in 23 days.

This is going to be a particularly fun event for me because, as I've mentioned before in this space, I'll be leading SCBWI TEAM BLOG ( Jaime, Jolie, Lee, Paula, Suzanne and me--see the blogroll at right) as we bring the conference to you as it's happening. We'll be live blogging from sesssions, posting photos, sharing our experiences.

In addition to blogging, I'll also be offering a breakout session on Sunday on Practical Online Promotion (opposite Linda Sue Park, Betty Birney, Kadir Nelson, Krista Marino, Dan Lazar... hope I get an audience).

Now for some links:

And here's where to find TEAM BLOG on Twitter (cuz when we're not blogging, we'll be tweeting):

Monday, July 13, 2009

Writer's Digest Debuts New Blog, Promptly...

Kicking off today, Promptly is a new blog from Writer's Digest magazine hosted by managing editor Zachary Petit. He'll offer prompts three times a week to get your writing wheels turning. Participants are invited and encouraged to post prompt-inspired pieces--and there are prizes.

Here are more details swiped from Zac's debut post:

I’ll post on Monday, Wednesday and Friday every week, offering flash-fiction prompts, activities, writing-grub-for-thought and maybe even some Q&As—in addition to some positive reinforcement. Prompts can be had Dine In or Carry Out. If you write and post up to 500 words from your responses in the comments section of the blog here—which is the ideal path, so other writers can absorb and play off your inspiration—I (if we haven't met before, I work as the managing editor at Writer’s Digest magazine) and a guest WD judge will pick a favorite post every month for some around-the-office writing swag. Think books, magazines and so on, and expect an array of prompts—from traditional ones to reverse-style prompts and even photo prompts.
Click here to visit Promptly.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Class of 2k9 Promoting Debut Novel by Albert Borris, Their Class Member Who Cannot...

I've been an infrequent blogger as of late (busy busy busy) but had to take the time to mention this story I spotted on GalleyCat. Debut novelist Albert Borris, a member of the Class of 2k9, had a stroke last December prior to the release of his book Crash Into Me. Now he's unable to promote the book on his own, so the Class is pulling together to get the word out about Crash Into Me.

I've always admired the Class collectives--it's a terrific idea that debut mid-grade and YA authors pool their resources and band together to promote their collective works. And how wonderful that they're there to help Borris, who is thus far unable to communicate correctly. (More proof that authors of books for young readers are awesome.)

Check out Crash Into Me.