Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Ho ho ho! It's My Last Post of the Year...

After today, my only day in the (weirdly quiet) office this week, I'll be off work through January 5th, so this is my last post of the year. I considered giving a recent news roundup, but that's not very, um, festive. I toyed around with a "12 Days of Christmas" parody, but I'm too sleepy to get any further than "11 good rejections."

So I will simply end another year of blogging by thanking everyone who visits this space. Whether you follow, stop in daily, or zip by once in a while, I really appreciate it and I hope, at least occasionally, you find something useful or interesting. This has been my best year of blogging, with more readers, more followers and more posts than ever.

Thanks also to all who participated in my blog this year--all the Debuts Authors of the Month, Bloggers of the Week, and editors and agents who answered questions for me.

And, finally, thanks to everyone who uses CWIM. It's a joy to produce my book year after year and I intend to keep doing it as long as long as it's fun. (I'm now working on my 17th edition, so it's going pretty well so far.)

I wish you all good cheer (and rum cake)!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Blogger of the Week:
Steph at Reviewer X...

In March of this year, Steph, then a 14-year-old sophomore at "a freakin' hard prep school" started her blog, Reviewer X, to talk about books.

"You'll often hear me say I started a book blog because I readreadread and I'm opinionated, which breeds a review site," says the now 15-year-old junior. "The real reason, though, is because I wanted to interview authors I admire (like Libba Bray, Megan McCafferty, Annette Curtis Klause and Melina Marchetta) and get away with asking questions like, 'What is your favorite curse word?' (Which I totally asked Megan McCafferty.)"

She also feels that reviewing helps develop her interpretation and critical thinking skills. "I study at a hard prep school and we're given so much schoolwork in so many subjects all at once, it's almost impossible to truly learn without memorization, let alone discern—in lit classes—what works for you. It's a great school, don't get me wrong, but a bit laconic at times. My mantra is: book blogging + private lit classes = my conditioning."

Reviewer X readers will mostly find reviews on Steph's blog, as well as the occasional interview and guest post. She recently departed a bit from her routine posting, however, for Girl Week. "I'm big on feminism and this was my way of showing it: a whole week devoted to feminism and strong YA characters. I don't do many theme weeks—in fact, this is my only theme week—but I plan on bringing it back annually. It's gotten an amazing turnout and I can't wait to do it again next year!"

Since it's the holiday season, here are Steph's recommendations for all you last-minute shoppers looking for books for the teen readers in your life:

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Kids Heart Authors Day Will Spread Literary Love at New England Indie Bookstores...

Lately it seems all the publishing news is, if not bad, at the very least distressing or confusing. Acquisition freezes, layoffs, restructuring. I was happy to see something positive reported in PW: Kids Heart Authors Day, a New England Valentine's Day event cooked up my Mitali Perkins and friends that will connect readers with authors and their books and boost independent booksellers.

Check out the Kids Heart Authors Day site to see the impressive list of bookstores and authors participating.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

TIME's Top 10 Children's Books...

If you don't want to waste a bunch of time looking at stuff online (because maybe you have more important things to do like, say, baking cookies or revising something), then DO NOT visit TIME's Top 10 Everything of 2008. It will suck you in. (How can one not check out the Top 10 Fashion Faux Pas or the Top Ten Campaign Video Moments?)

TIME also offers a list of Top 10 Children's Books. I was excited to see that The Pout-Pout Fish is number 7! The creators of The Pout-Pout Fish, author Deborah Diesen and illustrator by Dan Hanna, were both featured in "First Books" in the 2009 CWIM. (It was an all-picture books First Books.)

Big ol' Hurrah for Debbie and Dan!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Why I Didn't Post Yesterday. (I Blame Apple)...

I was getting ready to post about our great weekend event (Writer's Digest University: Editors' Intensive held at our office here in the Nati). Step one: email myself the nice photos I'd taken with my iPhone so I could use a few of them in my post. I picked a photo. I chose the email-this-photo-option. I chose my address. I hit send. That satisfying swishy noise happened. Then nothing. I tried to send photos to a co-worker, my work address, my Hotmail--swish, swish, swish; nothing, nothing, nothing.

I got on the Apple website. I couldn't find anything helpful. I called. The guy sent me a link. Still nothing helpful. I called again when I got home. The second guy told me to download the latest version of iTunes and sync and update me phone. He also said he would call me back in 15 minutes and walk me through it. (The iPhone is my first Apple product and I was nervous about messing something up.) I sat by the phone for two hours waiting. (High school flash backs, anyone?) He never called.

So I called back. The third guy was really nice and helpful and patient. He told me what to do, answered a number of my totally unrelated questions, and allowed me to share my feeling about how scary the Apple store is. All seemed well. I loaded in 712 songs from my husband's iTunes, then I took a test photo of my Kleenex box and emailed to myself. It worked! Hurrah.

It was 11:15. After hours on a tech support emotional roller coaster (I'm frustrated, I'm happy, I'm frustrated, I'm happy), I went to bed.

This morning I again tried to send myself the photos and again it's not working. I am, however, still madly in love with my iPhone--but I want this photo emailing thing to work. I don't want to go to the genius bar. The whole genius bar concept annoys me. The apple store in December is extra busy and extra scary.

Anyway, we had a great event over the weekend. We had hours and hours of really good questions on Saturday from a room packed full of writers followed by a productive Sunday of manuscript critiquing. (If only you could see the photos!) We got tons of positive feedback from the attendees and I can't imagine that we won't be holding similar events in 2009. (Stay tuned.) Plus I got lots more facebook friends, some new followers on twitter, and I didn't have to go Chirstmas shopping. (Or anywhere near the Apple store.)

Friday, December 12, 2008

Blogger of the Week:
Ben Esch...

You won't be able to read Ben Esch's debut book Sophomore Undercover (Hyperion) until February (unless, like me, you got an advance copy). But in the meantime you can enjoy his voice (and keep up with his facial hair) on his blog--and below in this Q&A with the freshman blogger.

How long have you been blogging?

I started blogging about a month ago, after I set up my website www.dixienguyen.com to promote the upcoming release of my book Sophomore Undercover. Originally the blog was supposed to be about my book, but it seems all I post about is random stuff that catches my interest. Come to think of it, I should probably mention that I’m trying to sell a book more often. Man, my editor is going to be pissed.

What will readers find on your blog?

Well, so far I’ve been focusing on video games, critical analysis of really bad cartoons from my childhood, reviews of straight to DVD movies, quite a bit of fanboy love for Adam Rex and Dave Yoo, a picture of my brother dressed up as a LOL cat, and charting the progress of my facial hair. Sometimes I give out some writerly advice if anyone is interested in that, but I really don't want that kinda stuff to distract from my posts about Dinosaucers. God that looked like an awesome show.

Are you still on the fence about visiting my blog? Here are some things that might change your mind:

  • Do you remember that Michael Jackson music video “Black or White?” Great. Now, how about reading a two thousand-word review of it? Is that doing anything for you?
  • I’m starting to vlog. Yes, just like John Green. Sure, he’s a bit more famous and handsome than me and he’s won awards and stuff, but still…we both talk directly into the camera. The similarities are astounding.
  • I’m giving away free copies of my book to blog readers. Yes, totally free and you don’t have to answer any trivia questions or give me your social security number or anything. Why? Because I love you, that’s why. (Note: supplies are going fast, so put in your order now).

Any advice for writers on blogging?

Here are my tips for blogging:
  • Put a lot of content on your blog and post consistently. Nothing bums me out more than finding a really cool blog and then seeing that the author only posts every five months. There’s just too much competition out there to not have fresh content on your blog at least a few times a week. Your readers will appreciate the extra effort.
  • Have fun. If you don’t enjoy writing the posts, there’s really no way to sustain the amount of energy it takes to run a blog for the long term. Try to find a way to make blogging something that you look forward to. Personally, I just like having a professional excuse to watch old cartoons on YouTube. That’s pretty sweet.
  • Save some cash. You don’t need to drop tons of cash on a website or a blog. There’s free stuff at blogspot and weebly.com. Remember, you’re trying to sell a book, not dazzle people with a bunch of crazy graphic design stuff…so, maybe you shouldn’t splurge on that $10,000 flash intro. I’m just saying.
  • Post what you like. If you think something is interesting, chances are that your readers will, too.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

I'm So Winning the Friends Contest...

My husband recently discovered facebook and I'm amazed it took him this long. He's very outgoing and very interested in other people. (He's a psychotherapist, so that trait works for him.) There's nothing he likes more than a roomful of strangers and I think he could have an interesting conversation with a doorknob. He's taken to facebook like fish to water, his own giant room full of strangers, nearly-strangers and friends.

However. He's only got 87 friends. This morning I noticed that I (semi-quiet, generally-a-bit-frightened-by-a-room-full-of-
strangers) am only two friends away from 400.

Two of you out there want to friend me so I can go razz my husband about how much more popular I am? Click here for my profile.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Sneak vs. Snuck (and a Shout-out to Mr. Whitaker)...

One of my co-workers walked into my cube this morning and told me she's noticed a lot of people writing and saying the word "sneaked" recently. She was sure it should be "snuck" and thought I might know what's correct.

Well, of course, being a member of Mr. Cyril Whitaker's eighth grade English class in 1982 at All Saint School, I knew that the correct past tense or past participle of "sneak" is "sneaked." This was a pet peeve of Mr. Whitaker's--he thought "snuck" sounded yuck (my word, not his. I couldn't imagine him saying "yuck.")

"Snuck," it seems, is one of those slangy usages that has crept its way into the mainstream. I try not to use "snuck" (because I'm still worried about disappointing my teacher) but most everyone does and I think often, especially when writing dialog, using "sneaked" could sound weird. What say you, writers?

Oh, and Thanks Mr. Whitaker. I loved being in your English class.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Conference Prepping: Almost Too Busy to Post Today...

This weekend, right here in the Nati, we're putting on the first ever Writer's Digest University: Editors' Intensive. It was sort of an experiment, like nothing we'd tried before, so we were happy that is completely sold out in 3 days.

So this week we're all knee-deep in the last minute conference prep--finalizing the lineup, making handouts, and going over last-minute manuscripts for Sunday critiquing--seven WD editors will be spending all day doing half-hour appointments with writers to talk about their work, give our suggestions for making it stronger, and even recommend some markets.

I have 11 appointments. It's going to be along day for me--it's can be exhausting being 'on' for that long. Some half-hour appointments fly by, some feel like an eternity. I never know what to expect from the writers I'll meet. Although this can be draining, it's also a bit exhilarating. The more I go through the manuscripts, the more excited I am about discussing them. I hope the writers are excited too.

I'm headed home now with a new stack. Son will be sent to play with trains. I will read. I'll let you all know how it goes.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Have You Seen the NY Times Best Illustrated Books of 2008 Slideshow?...

If you haven't, here's the link.

I think Menena Cottin and Rosana Faria's The Black Book of Colors is quite amazing, and came across well the way they shot it. The cover on Amazon looks pretty flat and sort of un-amazing. I really want to see this one in person. And touch it.

The striking simplicity of Suzy Lee's Wave also makes me want to run across the street to B&N--and it's nice to see a beach when there's snow on the ground, my skin is dry, my hair is full of static, my lips are chapped, and it gets dark at 5 o'clock. Summer--and humidity--sounds so awesome.

Do you think it would be OK to get everyone on my Christmas list a picture book?

Friday, December 05, 2008

Blogger of the Week:
Suzanne Young

YA Author Suzanne Young started blogging at www.suzanne-young.blogspot.com a little over a year. She didn't have a publishing contract and began blogging, she says, mostly just for fun. "Over the next several months, I tried to find my niche. One of the things that really worked for me was my ongoing story blog, Going Green. It was a YA story that I was writing every few days strictly for my blog. I seemed to gather some readers from it and loved doing it!"

When it was time to send her work to publishers, Suzanne began by submitting her manuscript directly to editors. "It was a scary time for me, but I gathered interest and was feeling great," she says. "Then I got an email from Melissa Sarver with Elizabeth Kaplan Agency. She had been reading my blog and wondered if I was currently represented. After a few weeks of emailing and talking with her, I knew she was perfect and ended up signing with her! Soon after, I sold two books to Razorbill. And my blog played a huge part in finding Melissa, proving that blogs can be important for up-and-coming authors."

Her debut novel Smitten Kittens, featuring Tessa Crimson and her squad of cheerleaders who investigate cheaters (as in cheating boyfriends) will be released from Razorbill in 2010.

Suzanne also participates in a group vlog called Lip Gloss Lit. "This one for me is a blast. I got together with a critique partner of mine, author Amanda K. Morgan and we started a vlogging site where we blogged via video. It's a great way to show our personalities and be able to chat with people on a more personal level. We’re always looking for guest vloggers, so keep us in mind!"

For bloggers just starting out, Suzanne advises "let your personality shine through. Sure, my blog might not always be about writing (like when I talk about my daughter’s desire to trap squirrels in jars) but I try to always make it fun. That’s my style. So let your blog reflect your style and people will get to know and care about your journey!" And indeed her ebullient personality comes across in her blog.

Visit www.suzanne-young.blogspot.com today and wish Suzanne...

Happy Birthday!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

And Now for Some Good News--Book Sales UP Thankgiving Weekend...

Moving from Black Wednesday to Black Friday, PW reports positive BookScan numbers (that's sales through the register) over Thanksgiving weekend, with sales of children's fiction rising 33.7% over last year. Thank you Stephenie Meyer!

More News on Staff Cuts...

The New York Times reports "Black Wednesday" news--cuts at Random House, S&S, Thomas Nelson, and HMH; departing higher-ups; raise freezes; and other such bad economy fall-out.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

I'm Back, I'm Back (and Is the Sky Falling?)...

Well I'm back in Ohio and back in the office and I survived my Thanksgiving road trip. There were skunks. There was a futon. There was a not-very-vegetarian-friendly TG dinner with sub-par pie. There was the most disgusting bathroom ever in a Washington, PA Sunoco station that still skeeves me out every time I think about it. And I did not, in fact, dodge the Nikki-from-my-husband's-high school bullet. (Despite the fact that we left State College a day later than my spouse wanted to, suddenly there was Nikki at the restaurant in Athens interrupting my salsa eating. OK, she seemed pleasant enough, but still...)

In the news since I last posted: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt froze acquistions, and just today Simon & Schuster is eliminating 35 positions. My company laid of 45 people at the end of October. My boss was vacationing in Thailand and is still working on getting home. My best- friend-since-I-was-8 is in India with her family. The news all around is worry-making.

Yet my husband called me this morning, laughing. He had just dropped Murray off at nursery school and told me they had a display of "make a wish" pictures hanging in the hallway. They took each kid's picture and asked them their holiday wishes. Murray really wants this pair of Thomas trains called Splatter and Dodge. He talks about Splatter and Dodge all the time. He dictated a letter to Santa about Splatter and Dodge. He claims to dream about Splatter and Dodge. Murray's make a wish picture was captioned "splattering dots." I wrote that on a Post-it and put it on my monitor. It's my happy-making graffiti.

Monday, November 24, 2008

I'm Taking the Week Off...

This is my one and only post of the week. I'm taking Thanksgiving week off to concentrate on eating pie.

Stop back on December 1. I'll have something to talk about.

If you fear you'll miss me for the week and want updates on my trip to State College, Pennsylvania including whether I talk my husband out of leaving on Friday morning so we can have dinner in Athens with Nikki who he went to high school with but hasn't seen in 20 year and recently reconnected with on facebook (really?) and whether or not I learn how to use all the features of my anniversary gift iPhone, feel free to follow me on Twitter.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Blog of the Week:
The Rejecter...

Written anonymously by an assistant to an literary agent who says he (going with the universal masculine here--I have no inside info) rejects 95% of what comes in, The Rejecter has been posting answers to readers' questions and offering honest advice to writers querying agents since 2006. The Rejecter is also an agented writer with several books under contract, so there's a both-sides-of-the-desk perspective to the blog.

Why did you start your blog?
When I was submitting to agents years ago, and not working for one, I would have loved to have had this blog and find out who that scumbag was who rejected all of my queries. Now I can explain, sometimes at length, why I am not a scumbag out to crush all of your hopes and dreams, unless your novel is really bad and/or racist. Then, dream-crushing time it is.

Why are you anonymous?

It allows me more freedom to talk about my work. Not that I'm anyone significant in publishing anyway and if you said my real name in a group of agents they would know it, but I can safely say "I rejected this" or "I rejected that" without it being a slur on my boss, who does know about my blog. I think she even read it a few times. I don't quote people's query letters, but I do say stupid things people do to prevent other people from doing them, and I couldn't do that if I wasn't anonymous. Theoretically I could, but it might get me into trouble. Also, I'm fairly sure a ton of queries would reference me or be addressed to me at work if I said where I worked.

What do you offer your blog readers?

Whatever they want, really, aside from reviewing their queries for them. Most of the blog is me answering questions or posting about something that I feel would answer some questions about what to do or not do when submitting to agents. Also the publishing industry is very complicated, and I make some attempts to explain it, and why most people are rejected (their books are bad), and why most authors don't make money (books are not a profitable enterprise and most lose money for the company) and why agents charge 15% (because time is money and they will spend a ridiculous amount of time on your book if you are a client and not make minimum wage for it in the end).

Here's a link to The Rejecter. Be sure to read comments to the posts--there's some good and useful discussion there.

The Twilight Reviews Are Pouring In...

In case you're living under a vampireless rock, it's opening day for the movie version of Stephenie Meyer's wildly popular Twilight.

Here are some links to Twilight reviews:

Instead of hanging with the teen girls at the movie theater tonight to catch Twilight, I'll be with the seeing Bolt (in 3-D) with Murray. I don't want to see the Twilight movie until I read the book which my co-worker just loaned me--many of my co-workers are now reading Meyer's series. We're a little behind the teenagers (but aren't we always?)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Art and the Economy:
Laurel Snyder, PW and NY Times...

On her blog today, author Laurel Snyder offers some interesting comments on art and poverty as prompted by the recent economic downturn and how it's affirming to writers and other creative types. Here's a snippet:

See, to pursue a writing life, to really make literature and art the center of things, you have to accept a certain amount of uncertainty, poverty, etc. You decide you’ll be a waitress forever, and never own a fancy handbag. You live in a studio apartment, eat cheap. Ideally, you do this (not because you’re selfish and singleminded, but) because you’re choosing to prioritize art and social commentary and intelligent community and the life of the mind BEFORE handbags.
Click here for the full post.

I've always admired writers who choose to pursue their art and all the sacrifices that go along with that. It makes it all the more exciting when contracts are gotten, awards are won, bestseller lists are made. I'm not sure that pursuit is something I could handle myself. I need the steady paycheck, the paid vacation, and the boss.

There was some good news in terms of the economy and children's books offered recently in PW. In a piece on wholesalers and the holiday season, they report that "Nearly all wholesalers expect children's books to be strong this year..." Click here for the full story.

My favorite economic news reported recently is about the Lipstick Index, what The New York Times calls "that frivolous financial barometer that says cosmetics sales rise in direct relation to free-falling finances." Cosmetic sales have gone up 40% in the last few months.

Books are just as cheap as cosmetics. How do we get everyone to put down that makeup, step away from Sephora, and go spend that $25 at a bookstore?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Breaking News: NBA Winner...

Winner of the 2008 National Book Award in Young People’s Literature is Judy Blundell, What I Saw and How I Lied (Scholastic) (just announced one minute ago).

Winter Blog Blast Tour Is Happening Now...

It's the second day of the Winter Blog Blast Tour in which a number of authors are interviewed on a number of sites about books for young readers. There's a good line up of blog tour links on teen librarian Jackie Parker's blog, Interactive Reader.

Authors participating include Kathleen Duey, Louis Sachar, Ellen Datlow, recent DAotM Laurel Snyder, and many more.

Tips on Facebook on the YALSA blog...

This post on YALSA's blog called "The Amazing Power of Facebook" is directed toward teen librarians who are looking to connect with teen readers through the social networking site. I think a lot of the tips could apply to writers looking to connect with young readers through facebook, however.

Check it out and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

YALSA YA Lit Symposium Podcasts...

YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association) has been posting podcasts from their first ever YA Lit Symposium. Here's a link to YALSA's blog where you can listen and also subscribe to YALSA podcasts.

Namrata Tripathi Moving to Atheneum...

Just read this on Anastasia Suen's Children's Book Biz News blog (which you all should bookmark):

Namrata Tripathi, currently Senior Editor at Disney/Hyperion, will move to Atheneum as Executive Editor in December.
Here's a little on Namrata from my August SCBWI conference post about a panel she participated in with other emerging editorial voices:
Namrata Tripathi describes herself as part analytical and part nurturing. She works on picture books through YA fiction and describes her style as eclectic/literary. She learned from Brenda Bowen that “interesting people make interesting editors.” Her interests are varied, including picture books, nonfiction, fiction, and funny, quirky, truthful, and heartbreaking all appeal to her.

Monday, November 17, 2008

I've Only Got One Blog Post in Me Today...

And it's on our Writer's Digest group blog Farmers & Writers.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Read This GalleyCat Post...

The Jane Yolen quote is awesome.

Blog of the Week:
Carrie Jones...

Author Carrie Jones says she started blogging "while I was a student to keep up with Sarah Aronson, Ed Briant, Bethany Hedgerus and so many other people who had graduated from Vermont College's MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults. It was very informal and mostly we all said, 'I miss you.' 'I miss you, too.' 'My narrative arc stinks.' 'Mine's worse.' 'Oh, yeah, my character is a one-dimensional stereotype.' "

Later editor Andrew Karre, then at Flux, acquired Carrie's first book, Tips on Having a Gay (ex) Boyfriend (a 2008 Cybil Award finalist). "He told me that I needed to have a blog, so my posts started to change a little bit. They morphed again when I was running for office. I just lost. It's hard to write posts from the point-of-view of your cat when you're a political candidate."

Things like featuring her cat as a guest blogger make Carrie's blog a pleasure to read. "Those kind of posts are for fun and they help me to take writing a little less seriously. It's hard to worry about the fact that I'll never be nominated for a National Book Award when I can make my cat talk about it instead," she says. "It's a way of processing, I guess. Plus, it's freeing. Your cat or your dog or John Wayne can say things I could never imagine saying. Recently, I had a blog post where John Wayne was telling me to stop worrying and just write some words. Somehow in that tiny blog post I realized: what it was I was worrying about; why I was worrying about it; that it wasn't actually a problem. John Wayne is magic like that." (See her book Girl, Hero for more John Wayne magic.)

Carrie's advice for keeping your blog entertaining, she says, would to be the same as her advice for writing:

  • Just write and don't worry.
  • If you want to write about a hamster falling in love with a lobster that's okay. Someone will think it's clever.
  • Write the kind of blog you want to read. If that's clever, then go with that. If it's full of links? Do that. If it's all about you making dinner, that's good too.
  • Pictures are your friends.
  • Complaining ALL THE TIME is not always helpful, but it's ok to complain sometimes.
  • Respond to comments and comment on other people's blogs. It's the nice thing to do. Your mom would be proud. Blogging is a kind of conversation and nobody wants to listen to one person talk the entire time unless, of course, that person is M.T. Anderson or Tim Wynne Jones.
Or John Wayne?

Carrie's next book Need will released in late December from Bloomsbury. The cover is beautiful. Check it out.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Win Art By Daniel Wallace...

Writer's Digest is currently holding a sweepstakes and the prize is art by author and illustrator Daniel Wallace (of Big Fish fame). Daniel illustrated WD title Pep Talks, Warnings & Screeds, and we're giving away two if his original illustrations from the book as well as 10 copies of the book itself.

Since this is a sweepstakes and not a contest, you don't have to do anything or write anything, just share your contact info for a chance to win. I wish I could enter because I really dig Daniel Wallace, but I'm not allowed.

Here's a little info on Pep Talks:

Pep Talks, Warnings & Screeds is a one-of-a-kind approach to writing advice. With laugh-out-loud stories and aphorisms by George Singleton and whimsical illustrations by Daniel Wallace, this book of important lessons and cautionary advice for writers is not only easy to swallow but also enjoyable and satisfying--imagine cough medicine that tastes like chocolate cake. Writers will gain an understanding of writing and submission basics--all with heart, humor, and a poetic palette that is distinctly, wonderfully Southern.
Here's a link to an Q&A with the author, George Singleton. And here's the cover.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

How Publishing Is Like Fashion
Or What I Learned from Daniel Vosovic...

Last night I attended a book signing (at my fabulous local bookseller Joseph-Beth) with fashion designer Daniel Vosovic, who was in the top three on season 2 of Project Runway.

Daniel (I'll call him by his first name because I feel like I know him from TV) was adorable and interesting and talked a lot about both working on his book, Fashion Inside Out: Daniel V's Guide to How Style Happens from Inspiration to Runway and Beyond--he said wonderful things about editors, so he's obviously very wise--and building his career as a designer. (The audience for this event for the most part was young and very stylish--there were quite a few fashion design students in attendance.)

As Daniel spoke about his career path, I noticed some parallels between the fashio
n world and the publishing world.

First, Daniel pointed out, in fashion you're making something from nothing. When your end product is, say, a cocktail dress, a designer starts with an idea, follows her vision as a creator, collab
orates with industry professionals, and comes up with a final product that people will critique and talk about and that may or may not catch on. Substitute "YA novel" for "cocktail dress" and "writer" for "designer" and you see where I'm going.

In fashion and in publishing there are always trends, and while both authors and designers should pay attention to them, they should follow their own muses and create what's in their hearts rather than trying to copy the success of others.

The thing that struck me most as Daniel talked was his answer to a question from a young-and-well-styled audience member. Throughout the evening, he had been referring to his many contacts in the fashion world, his time in Florence and London and his current home of New York. He was asked if it's possible to break into this fashion circle when you're starting out.

Yes, he said without hesitation, because you make your own circle. You must network. As a student, Daniel networked with seamstresses, models, stylists and photographers. Like him, many of them have gone on to bigger careers and remain part of his inner circle.

Think of a writers' group starting out with half a dozen unpublished writers getting together to critique. After a while of working together, members begin to find agents and get a book deals. Published members share connections. They introduce other group members to publishing professionals at conferences. Suddenly everyone's doing well, has books on the shelves, and is presenting at SCBWI conferences. That's making your own circle.

(Note: Daniel shared what he felt was great advice from a well-established designer--if you're going to take to heart the praise of your work, you have to do the same with the criticism. Good advice in a critique situation.)

A great exercise in creating circles is going on now in the way of The Comment Challenge: 21 Days of Community, the brainchild of Lee Wind and Mother Reader. This challenge, which kicked off on November 6th, presented kidlit bloggers with the opportunity to visit other blogs and leave comments, thus both supporting others in the community and raising the profile of their own blogs. Check out the list of participants here and visit their blogs. And visit Mother Reader for updates.

Here's Daniel Vosovic singing his book.
His inscription: "Design your own destiny."

Monday, November 10, 2008

New Writer's Digest Event at the WD HQ...

With the help of Greg the Conference Guy we've cooked up a new event for writers that will take place in the Writer's Digest offices in Cincinnati (home to my messy gray cubicle).

Here's the scoop:

Writer’s Digest University: Editors’ Intensive

what: Your chance to learn first-hand from publishing experts.
when: December 13-14, 2008
where: WD HQ, 4700 E. Galbraith Road, Cincinnati, OH
how (much): Single Admission Cost: $199

This is something we've been asked about for years, so we've finally decided to open our doors for a publishing event, featuring panel discussions and manuscript critiques. Participating editors include:

  • Jane Friedman--Publisher & Editorial Director, Writer’s Digest
  • Chuck Sambuchino--Editor, Guide to Literary Agents and Screenwriter's & Playwright's Market
  • Joe Stollenwerk--Director, WritersOnlineWorkshops.com
  • Alice Pope--me--Editor, Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market and Novel & Short Story Writer's Market
We're be presenting on topics including researching and identify the right agent; writing a killer one-page query for your novel; writing a bulletproof nonfiction book proposal; avoiding career sabotage; and breaking into the toughest markets.

Participants will also get to meet one-on-one with a WD editor who will provide a critique of either your query letter and proposal package (up to 50 pages), or the first 50 pages of your manuscript—plus offer a customized list of possible markets for your work.

The event, which is limited to 50 attendees, also features door prizes and an on-site bookstore with special discounts and sales. Plus, you’ll take home fun freebies that include a subscription to WritersMarket.com and a WD Writer’s Resource CD.

Click here for more information and to register.

Kindle, eBooks Discussion in The Horn Book This Month...

Lately I've had Kindle on the brain. First was the Oprah to-do in which Ms. Winfrey declared it to be her favorite new gadget and said it changed her life. Then I started seeing tests for a Kindle version of CWIM. (It's OK but not great at this point. It seems the Kindle's not awesome with books that are not straight text. There are some funky icons and weird caption placement and things like that, but I'm told Kindle users are used to such things. I was surprised how good the images showed up, however.) Getting our Market Books (as well as a host of other F+W Media titles) ready for Kindle and other electronic readers is a hot project around here.

Seeing the CWIM test was actually my first in-person encounter with the Kindle. I can understand it's appeal, but I'm not sure it's a gadget I'll be snapping up any time soon. I'm in love with the printed book. The feel. The smell. The piles in the corner of every room. The 87 boxes of them I have to back every time I move. I don't mind lugging a book in my carry-on luggage. And at $359, I'd rather buy an iPhone or a really awesome pair of boots.

When I opened my November/December issue of The Horn Book which a big section titled "When e- Is for Reading," in which several writers discuss reader-gadgets, I read it with great interest. Here's a bit from Stephen Roxburgh that puts things in perspective:

And, for the moment, let’s not engage in the “death of the book as we know it” debate. Technology is the means to an end, and not necessarily the end of a means. Think about the fact that people still walk, bicycle, ride horses, drive cars, take trains, and fly to get where they are going. When we read, we have a goal in mind. We are going somewhere.
Click here to read the rest of Roxburgh's piece along with the others.

Anybody out there tried the Kindle? Do you like it? And what do you think of CWIM on the Kindle?

Friday, November 07, 2008

Blog of the Week:
Cuppa Jolie...

Jolie Stekly answered a few questions about her blog, Cuppa Jolie, in the midst of a Western Washington SCBWI Retreat. (She was about to walk out the door to pick up Patti Lee Gauch when I emailed her.) Jolie, a former elementary school teacher, is currently a Regional Advisor for the Western Washington SCBWI and has just finished revising a NaNoWriMo rough draft.

Tell me a little about your blog?

I have a What the Buzz? section on my blog where I say: “In this blog I chat with baristas about books, interview authors, buzz about coffee spots, and blather about writerly issues and the other stuff on my mind.” Really, I mostly blather. This is actually a great personal reminder that I need bring some more focus to the first three.

When I started Cuppa Jolie, I decided to combine all the passions that collide in my writing life: books, coffee, and people. Plus, I had some sort of delusion that as I started to interview authors at cool coffee spots, they’d start to invite me to get together with them at their favorite places. Crazy, I know, but one can dream. Really, I dream about one day chatting with Judy Blume over lattes and pastries as I secretly pinch myself because I was talking to my childhood fave. Hey, crazier things have happened.

Cuppa Jolie debuted in August. Wy did you decide to start blogging?

Peer pressure. Really. It started with the cutest couple in the children’s book world, Laini Taylor and Jim DiBartolo. For a good year, every time I saw them, they’d ask me when I was going to start a blog. They wouldn’t leave me alone about it and it became quite obsessive—okay, maybe I’m exaggerating, but they convinced me I should do it. Laini and Jim couldn’t say enough about the ways it’s helped them connect with the larger children’s book community. And, you know, they were right. I’ve been amazed at the connections and friendships I’ve made in a few short months.

What would you say is the purpose of your blog? As a new blogger, did you learn anything helpful at the Portland conference?

A purpose? Yikes. That makes it seem like what I’m doing, what I’m saying/writing, is important. Like it might matter to someone else. Well, actually, I hope it does, even the silly stuff. If I can make someone say, Hey, I do that, too! or I have days like that! or even if they just laugh or nod their head, then good deal. Not only does it make me feel good, but I hope it does for those reading.

A purpose not intended but has been great: Letting my family (across the country) get a glimpse into my writing life which is quite separate from my personal/family life. (Hi, Grandpa! Love you.)

As for the Kidlitosphere Blogging Conference in Portland, I almost didn’t attend, but I’m so glad I did. One of my biggest takeaways from the conference—comment on other blogs. Before I started blogging myself, I read many, but never commented. I mentioned in one of my posts that I almost felt like a stranger peering in a window, not wanting to get caught, not wanting the blogger to know I was curious. I have a completely different attitude as a blogger. I LOVE when people leave me comments, not only that, but if you’re a blogger yourself, it’s a great way to start getting to know others in the industry. So comment!

Can you give any advice to writers just beginning to create a presence in the blogosphere?

That’s a tall order! But the first thing that comes to mind is to dive in and go for it. Also, be yourself. This actually makes me think about a session at the conference presented by the wonderful and very successful blogger, Mother Reader. While I may have just said to dive in, do think it over a bit (just not too much or you might never do it). Find your niche; find your purpose and what will work for you personally. Another huge piece of advice Mother Reader shared was to consider a group blog so that the responsibility can be shared. But now that I spilled all that very well-intended information, I’m not sure if I’ve followed a bit of it (other than being myself).

Blogging is fun. I think it was one Miss Alice Pope who commented early-on in Cuppa Jolie’s history and told me it’s addictive. You’re right, Alice. It really is.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

SCBWI New York Conference Registration Now Open...

You can now register online for the 2009 SCBWI Winter Conference (or the rocket ship conference which I decided I'm calling it from now on. You should all call it that--it would be fun.) It takes place January 30-February 1 in at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City.

To entice you, here's the list of speakers:

Jay Asher, Bruce Hale, Richard Jackson, Jarrett Krosoczka, Julius Lester

Michael Bourret, Alyssa Eisner Henkin, Edward Necarsulmer IV, Michael Stearns

Editors/Art Directors:
Kathy Dawson (Harcourt); Caitlyn Dlouhy (Atheneum); Claudia Gabel (Random House); Jennifer Greene (Clarion); Michelle Nagler (Bloomsbury); Scott Piehl (Director, Design--Disney); Martha Rago (Exec. Art Director--HarperCollins); Jennifer Rees (Scholastic); Tim Travaglini (Putnam); Tamson Weston (Hyperion)
(I'll be there and I'll be blogging.)

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

News on Egmont USA...

Today Publishers Lunch reports editions to the editorial staff at the recently established Egmont USA:

Egmont USA announced new hires including Greg Ferguson as editor (he was at Harper Children's) and Nico Medina as managing editor (he was at Viking Children's). The company has acquired 15 titles for their launch list, starting in fall 2009.

Below is the recently created listing with information provided by Elizabeth Law. (Egmont did not make the 2009 CWIM, but will appear in the 2010 edition):

EGMONT USA 443 Park Ave South, New York NY 10016. Estab. 2008. The Egmont Group was founded in 1878. (212)685-0102. Website: www.egmont-us.com. Acquisitions: Elizabeth Law (VP & Publisher), Regina Griffin (Executive Editor). Publishes 5 picture books/year; 5 young readers/year; 20 middle readers/year; 20 young adult/year. 25% of books by first-time authors. "Egmont USA publishes quality commercial fiction. We are committed to editorial excellence and to providing first rate care for our authors. Our motto is that we turn writers in authors and children into passionate readers."
Fiction Picture books: animal, concept, contemporary, humor, multicultural. Young Readers: adventure, animal, contemporary, humor, multicultural. Middle Readers: adventure, animal, contemporary, fantasy, humor, multicultural, problem novels, science fiction, special needs. Young Adults/Teens: adventure, animal, contemporary, humor, multicultural, problem novels, science fiction, special needs. Upcoming titles: Leaving the Belleweathers, by Kristen Venuti (Fall 09); Back, by Julia Keller (Fall 09); The Cinderella Society, (Spring 2010).
How to Contact/Writers Only interested in agented material. Fiction: Query. Responds to queries in 4 weeks; mss in 6 weeks. Publishes a book 18 months after acceptance. Will consider e-mail submissions.
Illustration Only interested in agented in material. Works with 5 illustrators/year. Uses both color and b&w. Illustrations only: Query with samples. Contact: Alison Weiss, Editorial Assistant. Responds only if interested. Samples are not returned.
Terms Pays authors royalties based on retail price. Pays illustrators royalties.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Best Books of 2008 Lists from PW and Amazon...

It's that listy time of the year...

Publishers Weekly recently compiled their list of best books of the year in numerous categories. Here are the first five on each of their lists of best books for young readers. Click here to read all the lists complete with descriptions of each of the books.

Children's Picture Books

  • In a Blue Room, by Jim Averbeck, illus. by Tricia Tusa (Harcourt) (Yay Jim who use to live in the Nati!)
  • The Girl in the Castle Inside the Museum, by Kate Bernheimer, illus.by Nicoletta Ceccoli (Schwartz & Wade)
  • The Day Leo Said I Hate You!, by Robie Harris, illus. by Molly Bang (Little, Brown)
  • Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes, by Mem Fox, illus. by Helen Oxenbury (Harcourt)
  • A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever, Marla Frazee (Harcourt)
(Note the three titles by Harcourt--have I mentioned the brilliance of Allyn Johnston, now head of S&S imprint Beach Lane Books?)

Children's Fiction
  • Chains, by Laurie Halse Anderson (Simon & Schuster)
  • The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume 2: The Kingdom on the Waves, by M.T. Anderson (Candlewick)
  • The Penderwicks on Gardam Street, by Jeanne Birdsall (Knopf)
  • Masterpiece, by Elise Broach (Holt)
  • Graceling, by Kristin Cashore (Harcourt)
Children's Nonfiction
  • The Year We Disappeared: A Father-Daughter Memoir, by Cylin Busby & John Busby (Bloomsbury)
  • What the World Eats, by Faith D'Aluisio, photos by Peter Menzel (Tricycle)
  • Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out, by the National Children's Book and Literary Alliance, intro. by David McCullough (Candlewick)
  • The Trouble Begins at 8: A Life of Mark Twain in the Wild, Wild West, by Sid Fleischman (Greenwillow)
  • We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball, by Kadir Nelson (Hyperion/Jump at the Sun)
Amazon has all sorts of best books list, including customer favorites and editor favorites and best book trailers (topped by John Green's simple-yet-hilarious Papertown video). Check out all the Amazon lists here.

(And remember--it's never too early to start holiday shopping for your literate loved-ones.)

Early Morning Voting in Ohio...

I got to my my polling place at 8 a.m. and there was not much in the way of lines. It took me a total of 11 minutes to cast my vote. The polling place was calm, and the workers seemed very on top of things. Many of my co-workers have different stories of long lines and at least slight confusion. (One voted near the college campus and there were a lot of problems with dorm dwellers not being able to prove their residency.) Two and a half millions Ohioans voted early, and I heard about a lot of long lines for the early voters. (A co-worker told me about a 3-plus hours wait at a polling place last night--the voters in line ordered pizza.)

How did it go for you all?

Monday, November 03, 2008

Blogging the Vote...

Click over to Chasing Ray today to find links to non-partisan thoughts on voting from all over the blogosphere (from authors, illustrators, reviewers, librarians).

As for me, I think it's important to vote for many reasons, one of which is that I live in Ohio, and pretty much no one can win the Presidency without winning Ohio. I feel like my vote counts! Voting makes me feel like a part of something. It make me feel important and powerful on some level. Tonight I'll be going over a sample ballot to make sure I have my ducks in a row when I get to the booth. Tomorrow I'll be getting up extra early to get to the polls. (There aren't many things that makes me get up extra early.)

Friday, October 31, 2008

Blog of the Week:
Teen Fiction Cafe...

"The idea for the Teen Fiction Cafe was hatched in March 2007 I was chatting online with fellow RWA member Sara Hantz and we realized our debut teen novels launched within a few months of each other," says founding member Wendy Toliver. "We thought it would be cool to gather up-and-coming as well as multi-published YA authors for a group blog, covering topics their teen readers would find interesting--as well as fellow authors, librarians, teachers, etc."

After this initial discussion, Sara and Wendy emailed a group of international YA authors they knew or wanted to know and every one said they'd love to participate. Kelly Parra volunteered to take care of the technical aspects of starting and maintaining the blog.

Here is the fabulous list of contributors to Teen Fiction Cafe:

  • Amanda Ashby
  • Lauren Baratz-Logsted
  • Teri Brown
  • Jessica Burkhart
  • Liza Conrad (Erica Orloff)
  • Linda Gerber
  • Sara Hantz
  • Stephanie Kuehnert
  • Alyson Noel
  • Kelly Parra
  • Wendy Toliver
  • Melissa Walker
  • Sara Zarr
How do they handle so many cooks in one kitchen? "Every week, three or four authors post on a recommended topic. Whenever someone has an idea for a new topic, it's added into the rotation, and Sara Hantz is great at sending reminder emails to everyone." says Wendy. "The authors post any time during that week, with the goal of keeping the blog fresh and fun. Additionally, once a month the blog hosts a 'Promo Week,' where the authors may promote their work, an event, or someone else's work, hold a contest, etc. Teen Fiction Cafe gets approximately 500-1000 hits a week."

Besides blogging together, the TFC authors share industry and personal news, promote each other's book launches, brainstorm, hang out at conferences, arrange group book signings, and otherwise support one another. Says Wendy: "It's been an amazing ride, and only gets more exciting as time goes on."

Really, Truly---There Is Nothing that Rhymes with "Orange"...

I got an email from my brother this morning stating that my 14-year-old niece insists that "door hinge" rhymes with "orange."

Here's what self-proclaimed word nerd Hope Vestergaard has to say:

That wannabe rhyme is listed on some Internet sites. I actually addressed it in one of the sidebars in Nothing Rhymes with Orange.
Orange is a word that is pronounced different ways regionally.
Some of the common ways to pronounce orange:
  • OR -(un)j,
  • OR-(in)j,
  • ORNJ
  • or, if you're in New Jersey: "R"-(en)j. (no apparent vowels at all!)
The difference between orange and door hinge is that the I in hinge is pronounced, while the vowel in orange's second syllable, no matter where you live, is not pronounced. (Orange doesn't rhyme with grunge, either, for the same reason).

So--it's a near rhyme. Legit only in an emergency or to purposely create dissonance.

So there you have it, Maddie!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

New Book for Rhymers: Nothing Rhymes with Orange...

What do you get when you add a slate of fun and helpful articles on aspects of craft to a good rhyming dictionary? You get Nothing Rhymes with Orange which is a modern update of the classic Capricorn Rhyming Dictionary by children's author (and frequent CWIM contributor) Hope Vestergaard. The book, which will be released November 4, has a great cover and cool new features including:

  • Close, But no Cigar: Near Rhymes vs. True Rhymes
  • Partners in Rhyme: Polishing Your Poetry
  • All Stressed Out? How to Use Meter
  • You Say Poe-tay-toe, I Say Poe-tah-toe: Regional Dialect in Rhyme
  • Nothing Rhymes with Orange: Near Rhymes vs. Non-Rhymes
  • Blinded By The Light: Avoiding Misheard Song Lyrics
From the cover blurb:
Whether you’re a poet looking to complete your rhyming epic, a song-writer composing your next Top 40 hit, a children’s writer penning the perfect board book, or a word geek who loves browsing language references, you’ve found the right book.

Nothing Rhymes with Orange...helps anyone looking for a rhyme find exactly the right word-–right at their fingertips. In this comprehensive guide, you’ll discover easy-to-reference rhymes, as well as sample phonetic spellings to indicate how each group of words should be pronounced and a rhyming sounds cross-reference to help less phonetic folks navigate. Nothing Rhymes with Orange will help you hone your craft along the way.

Says Perigee editor Meg Leder: “I was so excited to work with Hope, because she took a previously old-fashioned reference and streamlined it for the modern audience, making it very useful for today’s rhymers. Plus, she knows her rhyming stuff! The book was in great hands.”