Monday, February 22, 2010

Five Things I Learned from Heather Brewer's Book Signing...

I attend a lot of author events because, well, I love to meet authors. Most recently I saw Heather Brewer, author of the best-selling Chronicles of Vladimir Tod series, doing a signing at my local B&N to support the release of book #4 in the series, ELEVENTH GRADE BURNS. This was a particularly fun author event for me (more on that below) and Heather did a terrific job addressing her young (and not so young) audience about her writing career and her books and her characters. Here are a few things we learned:

1) Give yourself permission to write.
Not to get all Nike on you, but if you want a career as a writer, it's not going to happen unless you just do it. Although it was something Heather longed for for years, she was told by parents and even her beloved librarians that being an author wasn't really an option and she'd need a "real job." Finally, she said, after her youngest child started school, she discussed her career options with her spouse. What would you do, he asked her, if money didn't matter and you could do whatever you wanted? I want to be an author, she told him. Then do it, he said. (She proceeded to write, find an agent, get a book contract, and hit high on the New York Times Bestseller List.) It's OK to give yourself permission to follow your dream. But if it takes a supportive, encouraging significant other, that's OK too.

2) Goal setting is important.
Heather's Brewer's formula: butt + chair = writing. Even when she's on tour she writes 1,000 words a day. Books don't write themselves, after all. So, again, just do it.

3) Mine the painful stuff for material.
Heather told the bookstore audience about growing up in a small town where she felt like an outcast and was bullied. (Except when she spent time in the library. "Bullies don't know there is a library," she said.) She calls upon these experiences as she writes her main character, Vladimir Tod. Because, really, who's more of an outcast than a vampire in junior high?

Heather Brewer's Chronicles of Vladimir Tod books.

4) Boys read.
And they come to author events. There were a lot of them and they were excited. I sat next to kid named Nick who talked my arm off about the books and characters he loved. (I asked him what grade he was in. "Sixth," he told me. Then he looked at me, paused, and said," You're not in any grade, are you?") Another boy raised his hand during the Q&A and when called on he was so nervous he couldn't remember his question. (He did later, then asked several more.) Another boy who seemed kind of shy was in front of me in the singing line. With his head slightly lowered he spent several minutes giving Heather a synopsis of the story he wants to get published (which sounded really cool). These boys love books.

5) Authors are rock stars.
OMG. The kids LOVE Heather. Love love love. A heard a few of them say they'd been there for hours because they wanted good seats. A couple of girls with hair dyed unnatural colors said they wanted to high five Heather and never wash their hands again. Four girls drove in from Michigan. (That's far.) One girl took a photo with the author, ran next door to Kinkos and got an 8x10 printed and came back to get it signed. And they were asking questions, thoughtful ones that could have only come from devoted fans. Tons of them wore vampire smiley face apparel. It was the best, most enthusiastic bunch of slightly awkward, slightly pimply, hoodie-wearing tween fans I'd ever seen. I wanted to take them all home with me. But I bet they all wanted to go home with Heather Brewer.

Heather Brewer at the signing table.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Crawling Out From Under Snowpocalypse & Being Lost in a Good Book...

If you don't live around here, I'm sure you've all seen the news of the recent enormous snowfall dumping on hunks of the country. In case you missed them on my Facebook page, here are a few pictures I took through the windows of my warm house, most likely while wearing a Snuggie.

Because of the snowiness, I was pretty much stuck in the house for FOUR SOLID DAYS. Me, Katkin, the boy, the elderly cat, and a dwindling supply of cereal and canned goods. But instead of watching the Olympics, I engaged in a few glorious days of all-in reading.

A friend recommended Kathryn Stockett's debut novel THE HELP (note: a book for grown-ups) and once I got into it, I was gone. I neglected my family. I ate very little. I wore pajamas. There was no showering. I read chapters out loud and copied down my favorite lines. And when I finally finished it at 3:15 AM on Monday I sat weeping on my sofa. Sigh.

Several times a year I'm completely consumed by a book this way. Nothing exists but me, the characters and their world. And when I read the last page and close the cover, it's as if I'm leaving a lover after a secret weekend in a hotel room. There has been very little sleeping. Scenes linger in my thoughts for weeks. And I wish I could go back and experience it anew.

I am now clean, well-rested and back at my desk. I've loaned the book to another friend and ordered her to start reading so we can discuss. And I'm looking forward to the next snowstorm or airplane ride or day when I suddenly have a few hours and a gem. (Your recommendations are welcome.)

Monday, February 08, 2010

Some Monday Fun: Author Erin Dealey Raps on Writing...

Check out Erin Dealey's Writer's Rap featuring a guest appearance by SCBWI and a cameo by the 2010 CWIM. And remember: Ya gotta have a hook.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

DBW, SCBWI, My Webinar & WD Intensives...

I've been gone for more than a week, so I've got so much to talk about!

I got back from New York last night after attending both Digital Book World and the SCBWI Annual Winter conference. I hope you all were following the tweets (#dbw, #scbwiny10) and the SCBWI Conference Blog. (Mega kudos for my amazing TEAM BLOGgers Jaime, Jolie, Lee and Suzanne.)

TEAM BLOG, l to r: Lee Wind, Suzanne Young, Jaime Temairik, me, Jolie Stekly

One of the sessions I attended at DBW was on Digital Content and Marketing for the Born-Digital Generation. I wrote about it for DBW so click over to read about the cool and successful things Simon & Schuster, Harper and Scholastic are doing to reach out to their young, tech-savvy audience. Agent Holly Root of Waxman Literary also participated in the panel. She offered this advice to writers: "Reach readers, navigate the changing review landscape, use social media to its fullest."

If all the DBW and SCBWI conference coverage has you in the mood for an informative event (and you'd like some tips that can help you better follow Holly Root's advice), I've got a couple things coming up that might interest you.

First, I'm presenting an hour-long webinar focused on children's publishing called Get Your Children's Writing Published. I gave a similar webinar last year and I was thrilled to see a tweet about it the other day (YAY!):
@lkblackburne Last year, w/ no blog, no twitter account, and no clue, I took @alicepope 's Children's writing seminar. So worth it.
You can get more information and register here.

If you've got more than an hour to devote to learning, the Writer's Digest staff is offering one of our popular Editors' Intensives March 13-14. This event offers a day of programming, a one-on-one manuscript critique, and a some solid WD swag. Plus we can only fit a limited number of people in the WD HQ so there's an intimate feel and plenty of opportunity for interaction with WD staff. (You'll get all your questions answered!)

You can get more information and register here.

A side note: Thanks to everyone for your input on Twitter and Facebook throughout my week of conferencing. I so appreciate your comments, responses and retweets.