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.