Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Powell's interview with Christopher Paul Curtis

Here's an excerpt from an interview with the author of Bud, Not Buddy and other remarkable books:

When I write them, I really don't think about writing to kids. I know you're supposed to think of your audience, but when I wrote The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963, I didn't really write it as a children's book. I thought of it as a story, and the narrator happened to be ten years old.

It ended up as a children's book because I didn't know where to send it. Most publishers won't accept unsolicited manuscripts, so I sent it to a literature contest at Delacorte Press just to have a professional editor read it. It didn't win the contest because the narrator, Kenny, was too young for the contest and 1963, the year the story takes place, is considered "Historical Fiction," but they published it anyway.

When I wrote Bud, Not Buddy, I just had a story to tell and wanted to tell it. I didn't think of it as a children's book, per se. There are things in Bud, Not Buddy that kids won't get, but that doesn't detract from the story. Some things adults won't think are funny, kids will think are hilarious. I don't think that takes away from your enjoyment.

Read the rest

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

In search of author/illustrator

A man seeking the husband of the year award wants to commission a picture book for his wife on their anniversary:

My wife and I are celebrating our 10-year anniversary this year. I have an idea to have a children's-like book done that highlights the quirky things my wife does that makes her special. I envision a rhyming book that has good illustrations based on examples that I can provide.

Would you have any ideas on how to find an author/illustrator who could be commissioned for such work?

Any leads you have are most appreciated.

You can contact Luke at fewellu AT

Write like a man?

Here's a bracing Washington Post essay by Julianna Baggott (who writes as N.E. Body). Interesting to contemplate:

The key to literary success? Be a man -- or write like one.

By Julianna Baggott
Wednesday, December 30, 2009; A13

This fall, Publishers Weekly named the top 100 books of 2009. How many female writers were in the top 10? Zero. How many on the entire list? Twenty-nine.

I wish I were scandalized, or at least surprised. I'm not. I understand the invisible prejudice -- from the inside out. I'm a woman, but I've been a sexist, too.

In my grad school thesis, written at 23, you'll find young men coming of age, old men haunted by war, Oedipus complexes galore. If I'd learned nothing else, it was this: If you want to be a great writer, be a man. If you can't be a man, write like one.

No one told me this outright. But I was told to worship Chekhov, Cheever, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Carver, Marquez, O'Brien. . . . This was the dawn of political correctness. Women were listed as concessions. In the middle of my master's, a female writer took center stage with a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award -- E. Annie Proulx. Ah, there was a catch. She was writing about men and therefore like a man.

I ran out of things to say about men, however, and began my career writing about women. When I started as a poet, I was told -- many times -- not to write about motherhood because it would be perceived as weak. I didn't listen.

Read the rest.

How to mock up a picture book

If you've taken a class with Darcy Pattison, you know she gives great advice. The author of 19 GIRLS AND ME and two picture books about Oliver K. Woodman explains here why--and how--to make a dummy.
Why Make a Dummy?

Picture books combine text and words in a short 32 page book. The structure is so unusual, that you need a dummy to refine and polish your text. It can tell you which section of text is too long, let you look at pacing of the story across the pages, help you spot needless repetitions and much more.

How to Make a Dummy

* Take 16 sheets of typing paper and staple along one side. You may use either a portrait or a landscape orientation, your choice. Some like cutting the paper in half and using 8.5″ x 6.5″, in a landscape orientation. The late Sue Alexander recommended using brightly colored typing paper to simulate art and text better.
* Number the pages in the bottom corners, if you wish. It will begin with a single right-hand page as page 1, and end with a single left-hand page as page 32.
* Now, get out the scissors! Cut and tape your text into the dummy. Put the title on page 1, but leave pages 2-3 blank, as these are usually front matter, such as copyright page, half title page, or dedication. Now, you have a choice: you can start your text on page 4, for a double page spread, or just on the right-hand page 5. After that, the text should lay out across the full 32 pages.

If you have an author’s note or other back matter (glossary, sources, etc, such as for a non-fiction story), you’ll need to reserve a couple pages for that at the end.

Read the rest.

Note: I do this with picture books, too, although I use PowerPoint to create a slide show. It's not safe at my house to take out scissors and glue--it always causes an eruption of children's craft projects. The PowerPoint method works best if you envision two-page spreads for your text.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Trivia fun for librarians, young reader... and authors

If you're not a librarian, there must be one whom you'd like to tell about this: The Great Scavenger Hunt Contest, a free, year-round reading program provided courtesy of YA author Kay Cassidy (THE CINDERELLA SOCIETY, Egmont, April 2010).

The program provides fun trivia questions for recent middle-grade, tween, and YA books. Kids who do well on the trivia tests are entered in monthly drawings for bookstore gift cards, and the winning student's library gets free books to add to their collection. Check out the contest (or the simple requirements for published authors who'd like to participate).

Saturday, December 26, 2009

New Author Central features on Amazon

If you're published, you might want to check out the latest additions to Amazon's Author Central -- the ability to post videos and events on your author page. Author Central is still technically only in beta, and there are indeed a few glitches.

For instance, if you try to enter events, you'll find that you're required to enter a venue (which makes sense) -- but you can't just type the name of a bookstore, library, or other venue. You have to select from their existing list, which includes oddball places like the Safeway in Homer, AK, but not more likely venues such as college campuses or art centers. You have to request, by e-mail, the addition of any venues not in their list, and you can't add your event until they do so.

Still, once such glitches are worked out, both the events and video additions to the existing functionality (including the ability to link your blog to your author page, and author page links from book listings) could be pretty cool. Check them out and make use of one more marketing tool. (And don't forget to look up the author pages for some of your favorite authors, local or otherwise.)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas carol lyrics for writerly types

Looking for a little Christmas cheer? Then check out these Writerly Christmas Lyrics Contest winners over at Miss Snark's First Victim. You can even hear one of them being sung by Miss Madison Ross, a pretty awesome kid, here. And if that's not enough, go here to read all of the entries!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Phillis Naylor Working Writer Fellowship

The PEN/Phyllis Naylor Working Writer Fellowship of $5,000 is offered annually to an author of children's or young-adult fiction. The Fellowship has been developed to help writers whose work is of high literary caliber but who have not yet attracted a broad readership. As a result, an author's books may not have achieved the sales that would allow the writer to support him or herself solely from writing.

The Fellowship is designed to assist a writer at a crucial moment in his or her career, when monetary support is particularly needed to complete a book-length work-in-progress.

More information.

Online class with Ann Gonzalez

Would you like support revising and finishing the young adult or middle-grade novel you're writing so that it's ready to submit?

Join Ann Gonzalez's online class The Art of Writing for Teens and Tweens and receive instructional feedback on your work-in-progress, meet other writers who share your passion for teen and tween literature, and learn and practice aspects of the art and craft of writing...oh, and have fun.

Class starts January 3rd; the cost is $100 for 8 weeks. This class is no-risk, it's offered with a money-back guarantee. (Sign-up for the class today to lock in the 100.00 price for all future classes. Alumni of the class will never have to pay more than 100.00 even if the price goes up in the future.) Contact Ann Gonzalez at ann_e_gonzalez AT for more information.

Thanks, Onion

Adults go wild over kids' books! Wheee!

Adults Go Wild Over Latest In Children's Picture Book Series

Thanks to Sarah Showell for the link.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Should you enter a writing contest?

A couple of weeks ago, we told you about the Amazon Breakthrough Contest and their new YA category. Well, today Nathan Bransford, literary agent at Curtis Brown, posted his advice about entering contests:

"The absolute most important advice I can give you is this: read and understand the fine print.

Know what you're entering. Know what happens to your work in the event you win (or even/especially if you don't win). Make sure you're completely comfortable with it.

For instance, in the event you win the Amazon Breakthrough contest, are you comfortable with a $15,000 advance and a completely non-negotiable publishing contract? (The fine print says you can't negotiate). Do you want to try for a better deal by going through the traditional publishing route and finding an agent?

There's no correct answer here: it's up to you. But make sure a) you know what happens when you enter/win and b) you can live with it. And think very long and very hard about anything that could tie up the rights to your work. And when in doubt: don't enter."

Read the rest here.

New network for illustrators

Elizabeth Blake has set up Rendered Speechless, an online social network. Many illustrators in our region have already joined. Check it out here.

Questions from Wendy Wahman

Freelancers, Wendy wonders the following:

  • Do you get asked to work on spec? (For example, to produce samples of specific characters or enviroment)
  • If so, how do you handle this?
  • Do you have a price range cutoff?
  • Do you decline to work on spec for magazines, but will you provide samples to book publishers?
If you have experience with this, please share it in the comments.

Not done with your holiday shopping yet?

Just in case you're a little behind (like me), here are some more holiday shopping links for you:

InkyGirl posted this comprehensive list of "Holiday Gift Ideas For Writers, Librarians and Bibliophiles."

Parker Peevyhouse, writing at The Spectacle, added a few more good ideas in her own list, here.

And, of course, don't forget to support our local talent! We posted about their wares here a few weeks ago.

Now, I've got to get back to my shopping. Happy holidays, everyone!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Fun contest for an ARC of Joni Sensel's TIMEKEEPER'S MOON!

If you or someone you know has always wanted to be a Farwalker’s apprentice (without having to walk very far), or if you just like ARCs, or even if you just like contests... I found this very imaginative and fun one over at the Spectacle.

Writer Joan Stradling has set up a cool contest that can get you not only an ARC of our very own Joni Sensel's forthcoming THE TIMEKEEPER’S MOON (for long enough to read it), but also a cool bookmark and a whole pack full of other fun stuff to choose from. It’s a cross between Farwalking, geocaching, and a blog contest. Check it out and enter here, and let's see how far one book can travel!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Series on the business of publishing

One of our esteemed chapter colleagues, Stasia Ward Kehoe, is running a blog series on children's book marketing:

Here are links to her first two posts:

The Business of Children's Books No. 1
Today I begin my series of musings on trade book marketing. I have worked in children’s publishing for over fifteen years, first as an educational marketing associate at Random House, and then as a freelance writer and marketing professional for Tor Books, Dorling Kindersley, HarperCollins, Rodale Press, Penguin and Simon & Schuster. In addition to having penned jacket copy, press releases, event kits, reading guides, curriculum guides, and newsletters, I am the author of thirteen nonfiction books for Rosen Publishing. The observations I will share here come both from my own experience and from discussions with many authors, illustrators and publishing professionals.

The Business of Children's Publishing No. 2: As a children’s book writer or a MG or YA novelist, you have probably offered to visit your child’s school or told your local librarian you’d be happy to stop by and read your story. Visiting schools and libraries is a logical way to reach out to your readership. Such appearances often translate into book sales. Many authors report that, after a school visit, local bookstores sell out of their titles. Most authors and illustrators charge honoraria making appearances financially feasible and worth the missed writing or work hours. Connecting with audiences in person can help authors better understand their readership, and also improve their speaking resumes (book publishers truly appreciate authors who get out into the world to represent their books), possibly generating opportunities for conference and larger platform appearances. (Also look below for a note to not-yet-published writers.)

What’s the catch? Unless you are a NYT-bestselling author or have thousands of Facebook friends and blog/twitter (blitter?) followers, moving from a few local stops to making school and library visits a functional part of your marketing and maybe even an income-generating element of your career as an author can take some thought and hard work. You must understand that, just as you struggle to position your book alongside thousands of others shelved at B&N, you must figure out how you fit in (and stand out) as a speaker about books and writing. To quote the very-long Broadway musical, GYPSY, “you gotta have a gimmick.”

Monday, December 14, 2009

The prize-winning holiday cookie recipes are here!

On December 8th, we held our annual holiday party and cookie contest, and wow did we have a sweet-looking table to sample from (now why didn't I bring my camera?)! This being the amazingly supportive community that it is, all three winners were willing to share their coveted recipes with us (can you believe it?). So, without further ado...

The Most Creative award went to Lida Enche for her Cookies with Attitude. Click that link to see how she did it (and try it yourself!).

The Second Place winner was Holly Cupala for her Peppermint Snowball Cookies. Click that link for a delicious picture AND the recipe!

Finally, the First Place winner went to Chadwick Gillenwater, aka Professor Watermelon. And here is his winning recipe:

Molasses Cream Pies (Aprox. 15 cookie pies)


  • 3/4 cup canola oil

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 1/4 cup molasses

  • 1 egg

  • 2 tsps baking soda

  • 2 cups all purpose flour

  • 1/2 tsp cloves

  • 1/2 tsp allspice

  • 1 tsp cinnamon

  • 1/2 tsp salt

Mix oil, sugar, molasses, and egg. Beat well. Mix together flour, soda, spices, and salt. Add to first mixture. Mix well. Chill. Form walnut sized balls and roll them in granulated sugar. Place on a cookie sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake at 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes.

Butter Cream Center:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

  • 6 to 8 cups confectioners' sugar

  • 1/2 cup milk

  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Place the butter in a large mixing bowl. Add 4 cups of the sugar and then the milk and vanilla. On the medium speed of an electric mixer, beat until smooth and creamy, about 3-5 minutes. Gradually add the remaining sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition (about 2 minutes), until the icing is thick enough to be of good
spreading consistency. You may not need to add all of the sugar. If desired, add a few drops of food coloring and mix thoroughly. (Use and store the icing at room temperature because icing will set if chilled.) Icing can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

To assemble:
Wait till cookies are cool. Sandwich the cookies with rounded spoonfuls of the butter cream. Use enough so that the butter cream comes out to the edges. Roll the butter cream edges in your choice of sprinkles.

Happy holidays!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Have a question for agent Marietta Zacker?

Through Dec. 16, she'll answer them here.

Thinking of a taking a pen name?

Nathan Bransford has advice on why you do--or probably don't--want to go that route.

Friday, December 11, 2009

A big mistake in story beginnings

Jane Friedman at Writer's Digest has a helpful post:

I've read countless manuscripts that begin by describing a character writhing in pain. Mental pain, physical pain, emotional pain, you name it.

For instance:
John clenched his throat and tried to stop the flow of blood, but he couldn't. His skin became whiter and whiter, and he broke out into a cold sweat. He felt prickles all up and down his back, and his breathing became intensely labored. He squinted into the sun and wondered if this was finally going to be it.

[Two paragraphs later, after more pain description]

He felt certain he was going to die after getting trampled by a bull moose. He thought about his life as a whole, and was actually pleased at the thought he'd never have to suffer married life again.
Read how to fix it on her blog.

New Year's resolutions for creative types

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.
~ Aristotle
It's that time of year again--New Year's Eve is less than three weeks away! Have you ever made an ambitious resolution, only to drift slowly back into the old, familiar status quo? Have you ever made a resolution that had a lasting affect on your life and/or career?

How about this year? Do you plan to make any New Year's resolutions related to writing, illustrating, or other creative pursuits? How about productivity, marketing, or other aspects of the business side of what we do? Life in general?

Please share your thoughts here in the comments! We'll not only hold you accountable, but you just might inspire the rest of us to reach for excellence, too.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

No more Kirkus Reviews

Drat! Now I'll never get a starred Kirkus review. Nielson announced today that it's shutting down the prepublication-review journal Kirkus Reviews.
The Pepsi to Publishers Weekly's Coke when it comes to prepub press, Kirkus was always known, to the booksellers and industry reporters who relied on its write ups of forthcoming titles, as the cranky one. Where PW went soft for a big name or a fresh face, Kirkus could usually be counted on to demolish the overblown writers, and to be unsparing when it came to first novels by photogenic young things. A rave in Kirkus was truly a prize; a hatchet job was an easy enough excuse for a bookstore owner, besieged by the sheer volume of books being flogged, to move on.

Read more: First They Came for the Trade Publication: Kirkus Closes -- Vulture

For inspiration: visit Richard Jesse Watson's blog

Richard is in the midst of a series on his creative process. If you're feeling at all dark and cold, it'll warm you right up.
When I first read the text to The Dream Stair, it beckoned me both ways. Go up the stair to your attic room. Go down the stair to your cellar room. Think about that.

Betsy James, herself an illustrator, set aside her paint brush and wrote this spare, dreamlike text, then sent it out into the evening light. Her publisher gave it to me to illustrate.

On these "stairs" we exchanged many letters. Betsy and I explored both light and heavy ideas, which infused my approach to the illustrations. She wrote that she "read Jung and realized that deep fantasy is universal and the root of spirituality."
Read the rest.

Are you over-explaining?

Anita Nolan has a helpful post on the topic:

Rue, the word, means to bitterly regret.

RUE, the acronym, means “resist the urge to explain.”

Writers often over-explain, especially in the first draft. We often show the reader something, then we tell them. We want to be sure they understand what we’re trying to say.

Read the rest.

Publishers delay ebook releases

The Wall Street Journal reports that HarperCollins has joined the ebook-delay bandwagon. They're experimenting with a four-week to six-month lag after the release of hardbacks as a way of protesting Amazon's $9.99 price. Publishers say this is below cost, and it's almost certainly behind the $9.99 price on hardbacks we've been seeing at some discount stores.

Interestingly, it's NOT below the cost of a YA novel (or most of them, anyway). In my experience, the wholesale rate is about half the cover price. Yet YA novels still cost that $9.99. If I ruled the world, I'd release ebooks for YA readers at the same time as the hardback and see what happens. It's not below cost, and publishers sort of lose their griping rights. Then they could go ahead and delay the release of the adult books, and then they can compare sales and have an actual experiment on their hands.

Read the WSJ story here.

Read a blog post by Todd Sattersten that criticizes the move to delay ebooks here.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Apply for a scholarship to attend our conference

Are you longing to attend an SCBWI Western Washington annual conference but find yourself in a financial pinch? Or do you know somebody else facing that challenge? SCBWI WWA will offer a scholarship for a writer or illustrator in our region to attend our 2010 conference on April 10-11, 2010.

The scholarship will cover conference tuition and one manuscript or art sample consultation, approximately a $300 value. To be eligible, applicants must:
• Be a current SCBWI member or have paid for 2009-2010 regional programming.
• Be a Western Washington resident at the time of application.
• Be able and willing to serve as a volunteer on conference day, performing tasks such as helping with set up or similar activities.

The scholarship will be awarded at the judges’ sole discretion with consideration to the following criteria:
• Demonstrated commitment to the craft.
• Ability to express himself or herself professionally.
• Evidence of previous or current improvement/educational effort.
• The likelihood of conference attendance having a positive impact on the recipient’s career.

Application process:
Write a 250-500 word statement addressing:
• What you write or illustrate.
• Why you feel this opportunity, at this time, will help you make progress with your career writing or illustrating for children.
• What you have already done to educate yourself and improve your work.
• What you most hope to get out of the conference if you are able to attend.
• The names and e-mail addresses of two people who are not related to you (e.g., critique group partners, class instructors, fellow students, etc.) and who can verify your commitment to your craft.

• Your full name, mailing address, e-mail address, and phone number.
• Either:
o A separate children’s writing sample of up to 1200 words, in standard manuscript format, as a Word .doc or .txt attachment (preferably) or pasted into the body of the e-mail below the application information.
— or —
o An illustration sample consisting of no more than five images, saved as jpg or pdf files no more than 8.5 x 11 in nominal size, as attachments. To keep file sizes manageable for e-mailing, please send medium- to low-resolution files (under 400 kb per image or together in one pdf under 2 mb, please).

Specific information about financial hardship is not necessary. But please don’t apply unless you cannot otherwise afford to attend. This is intended as a need-based, not strictly merit-based, scholarship.

E-mail your application and the specified attachment(s) to no later than December 10, 2009. The scholarship recipient, if any, and all applicants will be notified of the results prior to conference registration opening in mid-January.

Amazon and Penguin's Breakthrough Novel Award adds YA category!

The Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award for 2010 will add a separate category for young-adult fiction. The winner will receive a publishing contract with Penguin, which includes a $15,000 advance. From Amazon:

If you're an author with an unpublished or previously self-published novel waiting to be discovered, visit CreateSpace to learn more about the next Breakthrough Novel Award and sign up for regular updates on the contest. Open submissions for manuscripts will begin on January 25, 2010 through February 7, 2010.

See the official contest rules for more information on how to enter.

In the meantime, be sure to stay tuned to this page for more updates from the contest team and join in discussions with new and returning writers in our author forum below.

Good luck, and be sure to let us know if you win!

Quote of the day: Junot Diaz

You see, in my view a writer is a writer not because she writes well and easily, because she has amazing talent, because everything she does is golden.

In my view a writer is a writer because even when there is no hope, even when nothing you do shows any sign of promise, you keep writing anyway. Wasn't until that night when I was faced with all those lousy pages that I realized, really realized, what it was exactly that I am.

--Junot Diaz

Read the essay this comes from. If it doesn't inspire you, nothing will. Seriously.

Some links from last night

What a great meeting we had last night featuring Lisa Schroeder and Liz Gallagher talking about the ABCs of crafting a career as a YA author, and Jolie Stekly talking about using music to tune your writer's voice.

As the caffeine hasn't yet made it to my brain, I post this with a warning...I'll probably be updating it later. But here are some links to get you started with your learning today:

Lisa Schroeder Books and her blog

Liz Gallagher's site and her blog--she has a great post up there now about finding your story's emotional arc.

Liz is also the host diva for readergirlz, a teen-reading community that has its roots right here in our region. rgz just won a National Book Award for innovations in reading, and you're all encouraged to join.

Jolie Stekly's CuppaJolie.

And here's the Bridget Zinn auction site. Please bid generously if you can. The user name is bridget and the password is rules.

As the holidays kick into gear, I'll be a little lighter in my posts. Be sure to check out the ever-growing list of links on the left for inspiration, education, and fun.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Baking cookies? Post on your blog

Julie Reinhardt sent along a link to a "Cookie Crawl" contest and a clever idea.

If you're bringing cookies to the meeting tonight, why not promote your blog, as well? The Cookie Crawl info is here, with links to the rules. You might find some crossover readers in the cookie-baking crowd.

Free watercolor painting class on Friday

This comes from CreativeTechs Training (via Dana Sullivan):
Moving away from our standard fare of computer training, Seattle artist Molly Murrah, is leading a live watercolor painting class in our worldwide classroom. This class is a fun experiment. Help us spread the word, and see if there is a large enough audience for more hands-on artistic classes. If we get enough of a response, Molly's got a whole series of classes to follow-up this watercolor overview.

Date: Friday, December 18, 2009
Time: 11am Pacific (Seattle) [Other Time Zones]
Duration: 90-120 Minutes
Cost: The LIVE event is FREE to attend!
Click here for more info.

From the comments of our StoryPlease post

I wanted to share the discussion Greg and I had in the comments with the StoryPlease folks who are creating a story platform for iPhones.

Skip it if you're not interested in technology. I am very interested. I used to be a newspaper reporter and it was obvious to me in the early 90s that the industry was in trouble: declining wages, keeping positions open to save money, being incredibly cheap when it came to things like business cards (weird when you own the printing press). And this was before Craigslist came along and gave away their lunch.

I left for the world of the Internet at the first opportunity and in three years was the editor of one of the biggest web sites in the world. Had I stayed at the newspaper, nothing like that would have happened and today, I'd probably be lucky to still have a job.

There are some parallels to publishing (along with some huge differences). The advice I'd like to give, though, is to be loyal to storytelling. That's the aspect that has lasted through the ages. The formats can change, but the principles and power of it don't. I wouldn't at all be surprised to see a distribution platform like this work, and actually expect someone to succeed out there doing this.

Gregory K. said...

Just for some perspective... an iPhone app returns about 70 cents on the dollar (29ish cents goes to Apple, the rest to the entity who posted the app). If you split that between an author and an illustrator only, it's 35 cents per dollar each. One would assume that StoryPlease is taking a percentage first, of course, and this is where their lack of specifics makes a huge amount of difference. If they take 10 cents, that cuts an even split down to 30 cents each - almost a 15% drop. If they take 20 cents (which doesn't seem outlandish)... that drops an even split to 25 cents per dollar... or nearly 30% lower.

Also, simply putting an app up on the store doesn't guarantee sales - there are over 100,000 apps there, after all, and not all of them sell - so I'd want to know from them how they plan to make sales (even while accepting that they're new and might not yet have a track record to show). This ties back into the math above - selling 1,000 at 1.99 would lead to $700 in the even split (best case) scenario. But 500 at 1.99 in the latter scenario is $250.

Anyway, none of this is reason not to check out the company, but trying to get those details would be pretty important, seems to me.

December 6, 2009 10:21 AM
Martha Brockenbrough said...

Greg, this is really helpful. I asked point blank about the money and you saw the answer I got...very vague. And why do it on a case-by-case basis?

Still, I'm interested in new storytelling platforms. I do think it's good that they're looking for actual storytellers and artists--as opposed to people who think it's easy to do this sort of thing.
December 6, 2009 1:06 PM

Ash Bhoopathy said...

HI Martha and Greg- thanks for letting people know about StoryPlease and for the feedback!

I don't know of other traditional publishers that publish their equity split on blogs. But even if they do, we're new to the game, looking to do things differently than traditional publishers.

There's one thing that's undeniably true: In today's digital world when children have a panoply of media and digital technologies (read: VIDEO GAMES) that compete with analog children's books, a story platform for the iPhone and other digital devices that will be released soon (an iTablet?) will be in demand.

We plan to continue to add nice features to our app to make it really a wonderful experience for kids and parents.

We're particularly looking for artists and writers that are hungry, talented, and not afraid to take some bold steps and try something new. This might be an additional revenue stream for now, but could blossom into something much larger -- and without the strict contractual obligations a publisher might have. Want to publish a digital version of your story and see how it goes before printing it on a dead tree? Why not? Isn't that what the blogging medium has taught us anyway? Pixels are cheap, ink isn't.

For now, I know that we're putting a lot of hard work and effort into making a fabulous platform, and we're looking for people who are willing to put hard work into creating wonderful stories for children.

If we find those people (and only those people), then we'll talk equity with them, in private...

In any event, thanks for the feedback! Good luck to you both, and I'd be honored to give either of you a free version of the app if you wanted to try it.

The StoryPlease team

December 6, 2009 9:14 PM
Martha Brockenbrough said...


Publishers pay varying advances based on how many sales they think a book will generate. They also give authors a percentage of sales (the advance is the anticipated first year's sales), and this percentage is fairly standard. I think what people are wondering about is whether you're doing the advance model and what percentage of the overall sales authors/illustrators will receive.

If you're not paying an advance, which tends to be the variable amount, it doesn't seem like a big thing to say what the author/illustrator percentage would be. The total would still depend on sales, which you wouldn't have to reveal.

I think people in the industry are curious about new platforms. We approach this as a business, though, and without knowing what the financial picture might look like, most people are going to stick with the established publishing channels.

December 7, 2009 7:50 AM
yakshaving said...

Publishers pay varying advances based on how many sales they think a book will generate.

Yep, I understand. We're not sure how many sales we can generate just yet. We are not in any financial position to give any advance, and I can be pretty upfront about that. We're not a large company.. in fact we're just three people tryna make something work here.

I understand the rationale behind wanting to know what the equity percentage would be, and I'd be happy to speak to anyone who emails us about that in detail if we think there's a good fit between our work styles.

Definitely see the need to approach this as a business and understand the need to know what the financial picture is like. Unfortunately, the app store is run a little bit more like your local state lottery than a real business.

I think risk averse people should stick with established publishing channels they're familiar with. Traditional books, printed on paper aren't going anywhere anytime soon.

Well.. not in the next 5 years anyway :)

Thanks again for your support!

Why set up Google news alerts?

Greg Pincus has a great blog post about this feature. I've got several set up and can say he's right on the money. They help you monitor your own brand (and see when people mention your work), research topics, and stay up to date with industry news, among other things.

I use them myself for researching magazine articles and seeding blog topics. Here's what Greg has to say:
Google Alerts – email or RSS updates of the latest news, web, and blog Google results on any topic of your choice – can be a very helpful tool for anyone who is doing business or trying to build a platform online. What follows in this post, part one of a two part series, is a brief description of why you might set up alerts. Part two will give a brief overview of how to set up basic alerts. There are other alert services, but I quite like the easy, free Google Alerts. So…

Check out his whole list (and stay tuned, because there's a Part 2). [NOTE: THE LINK HAS BEEN UPDATED.]

Monday, December 7, 2009

Taking a cue from screenwriters

Billy Mernit, who wrote a book about how to write romantic comedies, has a blog for screenwriters. He's offering up a series of tips about scripts that sell. Much of his advice pertains to books, or at least those with high-concept ambitions:

Tip #4: Scripts that sell speak to universal subjects in a distinctive voice.

One knowledgeable answer to the question, "What do the studios want?" is: The same but different.

They want yet another comic book super-hero franchise installment, but they want it with a new spin - say, featuring a darker-than-dark villain whose spooky nihilism calls the hero's very existence into question (see: The Dark Knight). They want yet another comedy about an unwanted pregnancy, but they want it from a new angle - say, from a contemporary teen's arch, blackly comedic POV (see: Juno), or from the POV of an unlikely boy-man slacker-shlub who can't believe he even got to sleep with a hottie, let alone got her Knocked Up.

It's for this reason that, should the movie live up to its effective trailer, this Christmas's Sherlock Holmes is going to be a gazillion-bucks-making franchise-starter. What could be more old hat than Holmes? Right, but we haven't seen this Holmes before - muscular and action star-like, with the winking wit of Robert Downey Jr. in the role and an anything-but-stodgy Jude Law in the place of his traditionally fat and nerdly sidekick, Watson. The trailer makes it look like Lethal Weapon in hip Victorian drag.

Read more.

A Watson family Christmas

Jesse Watson is having a Christmas sale:

Merry Marley! Happy Hank! OK, that's going too far, but...

From now until Christmas, I am offering HUGE discounts on everything I
have to offer.
20% off ALL books
30% off ALL prints and posters
40% off ALL original artwork
50% off ALL cards

order online or in person at the


Richard and Jesse Watson will be signing their books.
We hope you can stop by and say hello.

Saturday, Dec 12, 11-6 pm at JCS, Good Templars Hall, 280 Quincy Street, upstairs, Port Townsend, WA 98368.

Eye candy of the day

The New Zealand Book Council has an eye-popping way of promoting reading. Check it out if you need a break from actual productivity:

Thanks to Liz Mills for the link.

COLUMBIAKids: call for submissions and book titles

If you want to write an article or a story, or if you have a new book set locally to promote, check out these opportunities from COLUMBIAKids magazine.

Call for Submissions: COLUMBIAKids’ “Icons of Washington” Issue
What's your favorite icon of Washington? Is it a person, place, or really cool thing? COLUMBIAKids is looking for great stories that are based on the theme "Icons of Washington.”

So ask around, query some kids, and send us your nonfiction and fiction stories that highlight Washington's most beautiful, intriguing, or downright strange features. We love it when writers submit with a particular department in mind, so check out our writer's guidelines.

COLUMBIAKids Call for Book Titles
Are you a Pacific Northwest children’s book author? Do you have a new book out? Is it set in the Pacific Northwest? If so, we want to hear from you! COLUMBIAKids is compiling a list of new (2008-2009-2010 publication dates) children’s books written by Pacific Northwest authors that are set in this amazing corner of the country.

Once compiled, our top picks will be showcased in COLUMBIAKids’ NW Book Swap department.

Fiction and nonfiction picture books, middle grade, and YA are all welcome. Please email your name, book title, publication date and a 50-60 word description to and put NW Bookswap in the subject line. Teachers and parents all over the Northwest have been asking us for such a list so we’re doing our best to make it happen.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

iPhone app creators looking for writers, artists

Interested in storytelling on a cell phone platform? A company called StoryPlease is looking for authors and illustrators.

It sounded like they're still a little squishy on the details--I asked about money and they said:
"Some sort of equity contract would be drawn up on a case-by-case basis based on how many purchases are made. We will make this process transparent by offering up the purchase reports directly from Apple. Suffice it to say that we'd certainly not take as much as the typical publisher takes.

Also, this might be a really good opportunity for additional revenue if new illustrators and authors do not have existing contracts with publishers for their stories."
If you're interested, check out the product here.

Illustrators, take note: Eveline Ness auction

From the Drawn blog:

Ness was an illustrator of many children’s books during the mid-20th century period. At a time when most illustration was still being done in a style of literal realism, Ness was among that group of stylistic pioneers whose work still influences the look of illustration today...and she was married to FBI agent Eliott Ness.

You can see her stuff here.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

On the challenges of picture books

Today on the Upstart Crow Literary blog Michael Stearns has an excellent, thoughtful post on the art and business of picture book writing.

I think it's a must-read for anyone attempting PBs (and not just because he name-checks the great and wonderful Deb Lund a couple of times and happens to be one of the smartest, most generous people in the business).

Michael talks about something that rarely gets mentioned--many people start with picture books because they seem easier and more manageable than longer works. I don't think there's anything wrong with this; we all have to figure out what stories suit us best, and who doesn't have happy memories of reading picture books as a child or to our own children?

Part of the work of getting established in this business, though, is figuring out the formats that best suit your voice, your point of view, and your storytelling style. You might spend years working on picture books when really, the middle grade novel is a better fit.

Anyway, Michael's post is long and I don't want to sap your steam before you read it:

1. About Picture Books and Picture Book Writing

I should start by stating unequivocally that I love picture books. Love them. Of the four agents at Upstart Crow, I am the only one who even considers picture book manuscripts. I squander my spare cash buying picture books I love despite not having children. I read them over and over again to see how they’re structured. I spend hours grazing at local bookstores while parents give me the hairy eye wondering what’s up with the strange single male who is reading picture books to himself and chortling.

But even though I love picture books, I represent and acquire very few.

Why? Well, I don’t always love working with picture book authors, for reasons that can be difficult to articulate without coming off as uncharitable. Here’s the thing: A really great picture book is a difficult art to pull off. I’m deadly serious when I use the word “art” here. That’s how I view a great picture book. It is about grace and the right words in the right place—much more akin to poetry than mere storytelling. The picture books I love are “language driven”—that is, are more about sound and rhythm and call-and-response than about, say, the devices of regular fiction—those things familiar from novels, such as extended scene and dialogue exchange and long descriptive passages. Picture book writing must be woefully dependent on the illustrations, else the manuscript is trying to do far too much, is the bore at the table who won’t let anyone else speak, won’t let the conversation come to life, and flattens the spirit of the evening.

Read the rest.

YA writers: you have to read this

Here's an excerpt from the TIME magazine book critic's view on adult novels:

There was a time when difficult literature was exciting. T.S. Eliot once famously read to a whole football stadium full of fans. And it's still exciting—when Eliot does it. But in contemporary writers it has just become a drag. Which is probably why millions of adults are cheating on the literary novel with the young-adult novel, where the unblushing embrace of storytelling is allowed, even encouraged. Sales of hardcover young-adult books are up 30.7% so far this year, through June, according to the Association of American Publishers, while adult hardcovers are down 17.8%. Nam Le's "The Boat," one of the best-reviewed books of fiction of 2008, has sold 16,000 copies in hardcover and trade paperback, according to Nielsen Bookscan (which admittedly doesn't include all book retailers). In the first quarter of 2009 alone, the author of the "Twilight" series, Stephenie Meyer, sold eight million books. What are those readers looking for? You'll find critics who say they have bad taste, or that they're lazy and can't hack it in the big leagues. But that's not the case. They need something they're not getting elsewhere. Let's be honest: Why do so many adults read Suzanne Collins's young-adult novel "The Hunger Games" instead of contemporary literary fiction? Because "The Hunger Games" doesn't bore them.

And here's a larger bit of analysis on the importance of plot/story in the novel. It's not totally new--Michael Chabon was on his horse about this a few years back. But it's still worth a read.

Friday, December 4, 2009

December meeting book swap and book drive!

Martha reminded you about the meeting (and cookie contest!) this coming Tuesday, but she forgot to mention the holiday book swap/book drive! (I know. It's so unlike her, isn't it?) Anyway, here are the rules:

  1. Bring in your new or gently used books (up to 20).
  2. Take one ticket for each book you bring.
  3. Place your books on the correct tables: writing or illustrating books, children’s books, or other (but nothing X-rated, please!).
  4. Choose one new (to you!) book for each ticket you hold from any table you like (or not, it's up to you!).
  5. Keep your tickets—-there may be door prizes! Yes, we trust you won’t take more than your fair share, because… leftover books will be donated to an appropriate charity (PageAhead, 826 Seattle, Friends of the Library, etc.).
  6. Revel in the fact that you’ve cleared some space on your shelves, picked up some new reading material, and maybe even done a good deed. Happy Holidays!

So, bring some treats, some books, some holiday cheer, and your notebook, and join us at the Professional Series Meeting on Tuesday, December 8th. See you there!

Present at our professional series meetings

SCBWI Western Washington is seeking workshop presenters for our 2009-2010 year. Our chapter holds monthly Professional Series Meetings from October through April, and hosts an annual conference each spring. We welcome fresh and compelling workshop ideas for any of these events! Download the Workshop Presenter Application.

Revision tip from Laurie Halse Anderson

I don't know about you, but I'd sort of do anything Laurie Halse Anderson says to be able to write like she does:

Many people struggle to find a way to look at the larger picture of their novel. They can line edit a page or take a chapter to their writer's group, but managing the unwieldy novel is hard.

Here is what I do.

1. Get the largest piece of paper you can find. I go to an art supply store and buy an enormous artist's pad for this task.

2. You need to carve out three hours of concentration time. Turn off the internet and phone. Loan your dog and children and partner to nice people who will return them fed and watered after the the three hours. Chain off the driveway so delivery trucks and friendly people who don't understand what you mean when you say "I'm working" can't drop in.

3. On one of your massive sheets of paper, list every chapter in your book. Describe the action in the chapter in one sentence.

Read the rest.

What agent Jill Corcoran is looking for

Jill is a writer herself, a seasoned marketer, and now an associate agent at the Herman Agency. She's also very smart and a lot of fun. Here's what she's looking for in manuscripts these days:

1. Young Adult realistic romance with authentic dialog that makes me yearn to be the main character.

2. Paranormal MG or YA that keeps me at the edge of my seat and has a fantastic payoff at the end.

3. MG that captures the reality of Middle School with an intriguing plot plus authentic emotion. 7th and 8th grade =hormonal roller coaster where kids strive to be independent yet are still such babes in the woods.

4. Laugh-out-loud, fast paced Chapter Books, MG and YA.

5. Books that organically combine illustration with prose--MG and YA

6. Characters that reflect the popular kids, not just the loners, geeks, etc....I was asked on FB, 'If main characters are popular, healthy, athletic, gets straight A's, gets all the girls, has a perfect family, etc., where's the story?

The story is: who the world perceives we are, how we think about ourselves, and who we really are is usually not the same. I just read The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart. I loved the part where the mc realizes that the boys she thought were confident and had it all were actually self-conscious and insecure about 'issues' the mc never considered.

Some new favorites not on my original list: Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree/Fell in Love by Lauren Tarshis, The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart, Forever by Judy Blume, When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead, What is Goodbye? by Nickki Grimes.

For now: no high fantasy.

To learn more about Jill, visit her blog.

Novel revision class with Lois Brandt

Wondering what to do with that NaNoWriMo novel?

Lois Brandt is teaching a novel revision class through Bellevue College’s Publishing Institute. The class meets on Thursday nights for 8 sessions starting January 7th.

This is an intensive hands-on class. You will be expected to work on your novel and complete assignments between class sessions. In-class exercises and critiques will help you recognize the parts of your manuscript that convey story and those that don’t. Each student will compile a list of edits necessary to revise their novel. Prerequisite for the class: a completed draft novel.

The course title is: Novel Re-Vision: Editing Your Manuscript for Story

For more information please follow this link to the Bellevue College website.

If you have any questions about whether this is the right class for you, please feel free to email Lois (

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Potential opportunity for illustrators

An SCBWI member from San Francisco recently sent us this:
Pearl Cards is a collaborative storytelling game in which players tell a story together, using fine art and photographic images as creative cues. The game consists of decks of cards displaying these images. Right now, all the images are from the public domain, but in the future, we'll be producing decks containing submitted art and photography, for which we will pay the artists and photographers. Contributors will be able to choose between licensing their work to us and being paid royalties, or selling it outright for a flat price.

Special note to SCBWI illustrators: If we get enough good submissions from illustrators with work appearing in published children's books, we'll do a deck devoted exclusively to them, and the captions on the cards will not only name them, but list some of the books their work appears in.

In addition to the physical product, there's also a free online version of the game that writers in particular might enjoy. Writing groups might play it together, for example, either for pleasure or as a brainstorming exercise. Or published authors might offer a lucky fan or group of fans the chance to create a story with them.

You can read more about the artist opportunity or play the free online game here:

Please note that SCBWI Western Washington cannot personally endorse or guarantee this member or his company and makes no claims about the value of this opportunity.

Write an article for the printed Chinook!

Liz Claus, er Mills, is looking for articles for the next edition of the Chinook. Her plea:

You’d better watch out.

You’d better not cry.

You’d better not pout.

I'm telling you why.

The Editor of the Chinook is in town.

She's making a list,

And checking it twice;

She’s looking for articles

with useful advice.

The Editor of the Chinook is in town.

She sees you when you're writing,

She knows when you're awake,

She knows if you've been in classes or not,

So come write a piece she’ll take!

Please send submissions to Articles Editor Elizabeth Mills (jemills1 AT by January 2, 2010. Thank you!

Don't forget: our monthly meeting is Tuesday

First, a reminder that there is a cookie contest with PRIZES and GLORY and possibly even episodes of SUGAR FITS. So get your Betty Crocker on and bake something.

Here's what else have coming up on Dec. 8 at 7 p.m.:

Program 1: THE ABCS OF CRAFTING A CAREER IN YA, with Lisa Schroeder, Liz Gallagher, and Jen Bradbury. Lisa, Liz, and Jen share their journey on writing successful YA, focusing on the importance of craft, wisdom about agents and editors, and the differences between a commercial and literary approach. Lisa is the author of FAR FROM YOU and I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME; Liz is the author of THE OPPOSITE OF INVISIBLE; and Jen is the author of SHIFT.

Program 2: SINGING IN THE RAIN: ONE SEATTLE WRITER TALKS ABOUT HOW TO TUNE YOUR VOICE, with Jolie Stekly. We hear it over and over from editors and agents, “I’m looking for a strong voice.” And not only that, but “I know it when I see it.” But what does that mean? How do you know you have it? And how can you make yours stronger? In this interactive and rollicking session, Jolie will use music to define and discuss what voice is, and how to tap more clearly into yours so that you can make your writing sing and strike a chord with readers. Come prepared to warm and stretch your own vocal abilities, but Jolie promises she won’t make anyone stand up and belt out a tune.

Our Professional Series Meetings take place at Seattle Pacific University - Demaray Hall, Room 150. Registration at 6:45 p.m., program at 7:00 p.m. Get Map and Directions here. Meetings are held on the second Tuesday of each month. To see the complete meeting line-up, please visit our Monthly Meetings page.

Deb Lund reading at U Village Barnes and Noble

It's on Sunday, Dec. 6 at 2 p.m.

She writes: "I just peeked at their site and it says I'll be reading from my books and sharing my favorite holiday stories. What fun! I can't wait to hear which stories are my favorites. Maybe I'll even throw in a couple songs." (Please do, Deb!)

Send all your friends with kids, or your kids with friends.

Almost entirely gratuitous George Clooney video

Look, there is almost NO reason for me to be posting this video of George Clooney, especially since the censors had to bleep out a certain word that rhymes with duck.

But it's funny and he's George Clooney and he says something important about the role of confidence: it's 99 percent of what you need.

New agent seeking clients

Susan Hawk has joined the Bent Agency as an agent. Hawk, who was most recently marketing director at Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, will be representing young adult and middle grade authors and is actively acquiring nonfiction and fiction (especially literary fiction), as well as fantasy, science-fiction, historical fiction and mystery.

The announcement

Guide to Literary announcement

About the Bent Agency

Thanks to Laurie Thompson for the links!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Studio tours: Dana Sullivan

And now we have the studio of Dana "Sticky Love" Sullivan. You'll have to click to see the larger version because Dana cannot--CANNOT--be contained in small spaces, apparently.

I have been so impressed with the neatness of these studios! As you can see, I operate in a Zen-like clutter that enables me to think freely while frantically rearranging piles trying to find whatever it was I was just working on. And spilling. I do a lot of that too. I keep myself surrounded by images or totems of my muses: my sweet Vicki; my late, lamented dog Max (he's in the urn - it's not as creepy as you would think); and Captain Underpants. I work on the computer (I give thanks to Apple) and with Sharpies and watercolor. I have a short attention span, so oils and pastels just never really cut it for me. Heck, I have a hard time waiting for my watercolors to dry.

Book trailer by Jennifer Wolf

Here's a book trailer Jennifer did for Bobbie Pyron’s YA book, “The Ring”.

Jennifer has a bachelor’s degree in communications/broadcasting and she loves to do trailers. She offers a discount to SCBWI Western Washington members and is willing to offer her two cents to anyone who is trying to do a trailer on their own.

Contact her at davenjenwolf AT (use the usual @ symbol, which I stripped out so crawlers can't add her name to their spam lists).

Cool! See Dickens' own edits

The New York Times has a copy of Charles Dickens' sole manuscript of A Christmas Carol, marked up with his revisions.

Check it out

SLJ: best books of the year

What should you read to study the craft? Here's a good list to peruse.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Studio tours: Paul Schmid

And now for a peek inside the amazing Paul Schmid's studio:

Here is my new workspace, after having been crammed into a corner off the dining room for years. The most eagerly wanted feature is my 12 foot cork wall, where I can view up to three books in progress at a single blow.

Most of the furniture came from Boeing Surplus or Ikea, except the cast iron drawing board stand, which I inherited from my grandfather.

Loafing against the cork is Jeero, a Taoist slacker. Usually he is gazing out the window all day at the birds, but I have yet to get the birds to my window feeder upstairs yet, so here he’s keeping me company. It gives me pleasure to watch him doing what I’d love to be doing, which is a whole lot of nothing, but then again he doesn’t have to eat and I do.

I’ve also sent a shot of my inspiration wall, which has such kick-in-the-rump messages like “Quality is not job one. Being totally frigging amazing is job one.” Probably the most provoking bit of advice I’ve ever heard.

How to take a critique

Nathan Bransford, the wildly popular literary agent who also recently sold his first novel, has good advice on how to handle an editorial letter/critique:

1. When you get your editorial letter/critique, steel your resolve, read it once, put it away, and don't think about it or act on it for at least a couple of days.

An editorial letter is kind of like a radioactive substance that you need to become gradually acclimated to over the course of several days. It needs to be absorbed in small doses and kept at arm's length and quarantined when necessary until you are able to overcome the dangerous side effects: anger, paranoia, excessive pride, delusions of grandeur, and/or homicidal tendencies. Should you find yourself experiencing any of these side effects, consult your writing support group immediately for an antidote.

It's hard to have your work critiqued, and it's tempting to take it personally. Just know that it's a normal reaction and in a couple of days you'll feel better. Once you've calmed down and are able to consider the changes without your heart racing: that's when you know you're ready to get working.

2. Go with your gut.

You don't have to take every single suggestion, and I'm often very glad when my clients don't listen to all of my suggestions and take only the best ones. If you don't agree with a change, big or small, it's okay to stick to your guns if you have a really good reason for it.

Only: make sure it's really your gut talking and not your lazy bone. Or your bull head.

And on that note...

3. Don't simply ignore the suggestions you don't agree with.

Often when someone makes a specific suggestion for a change to a certain scene or plot line you won't always agree with it and you'll throw up your hands and say there's no way you're going to make the change.

But! Even if you don't agree with the specific remedy the editor suggested, something prompted them to suggest the change, and that something could be an underlying problem that needs to be addressed, even if you don't agree with the one the editor proposed.

For instance, you may not willing to get rid of the homicidal bald eagle in your novel, even if your editor or critique partner suggests it. But surely there's something you can change to alleviate their concerns. For instance, the homicidal bald eagle may need to have a conscience.

4. Be systematic

Confronting a revision can be extremely daunting because of the Cascade Effect: when you change one plot point it necessitates two more changes so that the plot still makes sense after the change, which prompts still more changes and more and more. Ten or more changes can cascade from a single change, even a minor one.

In order to avoid Cascade Effect Terror, I find that it's helpful to work on only one change at time. Make the change, and then trace it through the book making all the necessary subsequent changes so that everything makes sense.

This way, instead of having to keep every single editorial suggestion in your head as you're moving your way sequentially through the manuscript you can be targeted and efficient with your revisions.

5. If you find yourself getting mad it's probably because your editor/critique partner is right.

Great suggestions are easy to accept: you usually smack your head and think, "Why didn't I think of that??"

Bad suggestions are easy to reject: you just think, naw, I'm not doing that.

I've found that when the suggestions make you mad, it's probably because they're right. Your brain is just having trouble admitting it.

6. Listen, listen, listen.

Easy to say. Tougher in practice.

More Nathan Bransford goodness here.

Good news for Justina Chen

Not only was Justina's book NORTH OF BEAUTIFUL honored with a best YA book of the year designation, the Curator for the distinguished Kerlan Collection of Children's Literature in the University of Minnesota contacted her and asked for her manuscripts and notes.

These will be added to the collection along with the likes of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. She sent an early draft of GIRL OVERBOARD, the notes she took while studying up on snowboarding, and some signed first editions and galleys.

As the kids say these days: ZOMG!

(ZOMG is an updated version of OMG, which stands for Oh My God. The Z, which is next to the shift key, is in there because the typist is theoretically so excited she has hit the Z key as well. And that is it for today's Geezer Vocab News Flash, your source for probably already outdated Internet slang.)

Best writing advice of the day

This comes from Paul Schmid's 12-year-old daughter, who is as cool in person as her advice is smart:

1. Figure out what you like. Write about what you like most.

2. Think up the setting.

3. Get the main characters. Your story would be especially interesting with a hero or two, and a villain.

4. Remember three things: Beginning, Middle, and End.

5. Imagine your story. Relate it to something important to you in your life. It could be the fact that you don’t fit in. Have the main character someone who is special and is left out because of this.

6. Eat some pie.

7. Begin to write the basic summary. This will help you get ideas.

8. When finished, begin putting the meat on the bones. (a.k.a: START WRITING!!!!)

9. Put in a lot of details.

10. When you’re done, you can ANIMATE IT!!

Read a little more about her WIP on Paul's blog.

Also, don't forget to check out our chapter members' craft-related blogs on the left. I tend not to highlight these often as they are there for you every day. There's an astonishing amount of wisdom and support in them, and I hope you're not missing a bit.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Bridget Zinn auction open

Bridget is the YA author who got an agent--and a cancer diagnosis--in the same month. The community is holding auctions to raise money for the many uncovered medical expenses.

Auction items can be viewed at - or just go to and use the Auction ID: bridget and Password: rules (as in: Bridget rules!!) .

You will need to create an account on the site in order to bid on auction items. (Creating an account simply requires your name, email address, and a password, and it is required so that the organizers can contact you if you win an item.)

The auction opened today with 59 items listed. More items will be added through today.

Good news for Bridget: her debut, POISON, just sold to Disney/Hyperion.

More wisdom from Gail Carson Levine

I just love her blog. Check out the latest:

Two posts ago Kim asked: One question: Do you find it difficult to make everything matter in a story, if you know what I mean? It seems like there's a lot of pressure on a writer to make everything in a story contribute to the story's progression through plot, character, etc.

There is more to Kim’s question below, but I'll talk about this part first. I don’t think every sentence in a story has to pay its dues toward plot or character or setting. Most should, but not all.

For example, you’re introducing a new character who is going to play a minor but noticeable role and is important enough to deserve a name and a description. When you describe him, he needs to fit the story’s environment. If you’re writing a Victorian novel, for example, you wouldn’t give him a Mohawk. Beyond that, feel free. If you want him to resemble your Uncle Bobby, go ahead.

If you’re writing something funny and your reader is laughing her head off, she won’t mind that you’ve wandered a city block from your plot.

When your story problem is established and your reader is worried for the main character, you can take a little time to embroider and have fun. Chances are, you’ll charm your reader. In Ella Enchanted, Ella’s visit with the elves isn’t strictly necessary, but she’s in so much trouble that I could get away with giving her and the reader a break - and for my own pleasure, I could imagine elf society.

We are writers not merely to slave and suffer. Occasionally, we are allowed to enjoy ourselves.

Yes, most of what you write should serve plot or character or setting or mood, and a lot of it should serve more than one. But there are acres of leeway in there. For example, in the mystery that I’m revising one of the main characters is a dragon. Aside from the Komodo dragon in Indonesia and in zoos, I suppose, there are no dragons in real life, but there are many in fiction, and I was free to make up my own. I got to decide how big it is, how hot its fire, what its wings look like, how many teeth it has, even the shape of the teeth. I won't say what I did, but I could have gone any of dozens of ways. This is the freedom within the rigors of plot and character and so on.

I write plot-driven books, so I always have an eye on plot. I define my characters based on the role I have in mind for them. When they talk I want them to say things that will subtly move the plot along. But I also want them to sound like themselves, in the fashion that I, using my authorial free will and glee, make them sound.

Read the rest.

Alice Pope seeks queries from novelists

She's working on NOVEL WRITING & SHORT STORY WRITER'S MARKET, CWIM's sister publication solely for fiction writers, and she's in search of articles:

I'm currently planning the lineup for the 2011 edition, and I'm looking for queries for articles and interviews for NSSWM. The articles are broken up into these categories:

The Writing Life
Craft & Technique
Getting Published
For Mystery Writers
For Romance Writers
For Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Writers

I'm most in need of material for the genre sections, but open to queries for all. I've also go a few spots to fill in our annual "Premier Voices" feature for which we interview debut fiction writers, so if you're a first-time novelist, I'd love to hear from you as well.

If you'd be interested in writing for me, email me at with your ideas.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Let the holiday shopping begin!

We have such wonderful talent in our region, and while there's nothing better books for holiday gifts, you can also support your fellow creators and dazzle your loved ones with unique handmade items made by our very own SCBWI-WWA colleagues:

Paintings by Craig Orback
Most of Craig's work is oil on canvas, but you can also see some acrylic creations on the PDFs of his work for sale. He also does commissioned paintings. See what's for sale.

Holiday cards and prints by Jaime Temairik

If you need holiday cards or prints of Jaime's holiday monsters and wild-animal chef hybrids (you sort of have to see it to believe it, march on over to Cocoastomp.

Limited edition stuffed toys, designed & handmade by children's book author & illustrator Maggie Smith
These range from very simple stuffed animals for babies, to dolls for young children, to tiny dressed felt mice for the adult collector. Maggie also offers a line of charming sewing patterns which are great for the beginner or the experienced crafter. See her shop on Etsy. [NOTE: THE LINK HAS BEEN UPDATED.]

Green characters on organic T-shirts
Beth Thieme, aka E. Sattler, has a really cute T-shirt line for children featuring "green" characters. Each tee is paired up with a charity so a percentage of the proceeds is doing some real good in the world. Here's the link to the locally owned company!

Mugs for fantasy lovers
Shane Watson's illustrations are featured on mugs in his shop on Zazzle.

Kjersten Anna Hayes's handmade journals These are beautiful and she even makes the paper. See her shop on Etsy.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Studio tours: Kjersten Anna Hayes

We get to look inside KJ's studio just in time to say goodbye to it. As you can read more about on her blog, she's embarking on a two-year adventure in Malaysia.

KJ has done amazing work for our organization, coordinating both our events and class calendars as well as the Bellingham schmoozes. Plus, she's a huge inspiration with her art and writing, both of which are getting increasing recognition from our industry. It won't be long before everyone knows her work.

We will miss her terribly when she's gone, but can't wait to see the art she creates on the other side of the world.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Like telling yarns?

A new online publication for YA lit enthusiasts seeks submissions:

YARN, a new online literary magazine for Young Adult readers, is seeking fiction, poetry, and essays for its debut issue. Writing should be of special interest to 14-18 year old readers, but can be written by writers of any age or background. Submissions by teens are especially encouraged. YARN’s mission is to publish the highest quality creative writing for everyone who enjoys young adult lit. Published quarterly, YARN will feature short fiction and creative essays, poetry, and an author interview.

Our interactive sections will allow for comments on stories, as well as reviews of recent YA books. We distinguish ourselves from other teen lit mags by seeking to discover new teen writers, and publish them alongside established writers of the YA genre. Issue 1 will go live in Winter 2010, but a little taste of our site is currently available at (where you can also find our submission guidelines).

Studio tours: Kate Higgins

Here's the lovely Hansville studio of Kate Higgins:

CedarMoon Studio (click on picture to see a larger view) is the greatest gift my husband ever gave me besides a wedding ring and our two children (Tyra-29 and Whit-26).

It is my sanctuary, a place where 'I have an idea!' and a place where messes don't count. Ideas ooze from the walls to the point where it's hard for me to choose which realm I want to visit each day. Here I keep snippets and shavings and sprinklings of inspiration all around me – my own personal cabinet of curiosities.

Welcome to my world, take a peek around. Magic is where you make it happen.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Studio tours: Christina Wilsdon

For more than a decade my office was upstairs in our house--it was a sizable room that led into a weird smaller room with a sloping roof and lots of storage space; I could watch the crows land on the neighbor's roof to sip water from the gutters. But my preteen daughter held me to a promise that one day we would swap rooms--her moving upstairs and me downstairs--and since the only way to corral her many plastic horses and other stuff was to give up my storage space, we decided to swap this past summer. I also knew I could finagle some new bookshelves in the process, as my old ones were so decrepit that you could not actually remove books from them; the books were required to stay in place so as to hold up the shelves above them.

So. The new space is still a rather lurid yellow, but that will change. The new bookcases were a find on craigslist and not only hold all my many reference books but also permit me to remove said books. There is lots of room for toys on the shelves, too. The cats are happy with the new digs, and best of all, my dog (not shown), who did not like to come upstairs to my old office, now lies beside my desk chair all day as I work. The space is still in transition, but so far I'm liking it. Just added a comfy chair from Goodwill and have my eyes open for a decent carpet.
Added benefit of being downstairs: closer to the coffeemaker and its elixir of life.

More of Christina online:

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

More on narrative arcs

Darcy Pattison wrote a second post on how narrative arcs work in picture books. Understanding this is essential if you want to tell a story in this incredibly compressed format:
Very simple picture books still have a narrative arc, even though the word count is extremely small. Yesterday, we looked at an example of a great simple narrative in My Friend, Rabbit. Today, here’s a look at a narrative arc in 80 words (with the help of some illustrations), as it appears in A Splendid Friend, Indeed by Suzanne Bloom. This book was named a Theodor Seuss Geisel Beginning Reader Award Honor Book in 2006.

Narrative Arc in 32 pages, 98 words

Here’s a great example of a narrative arc in only 98 words.
splendidp. 1 Title
2-3 copyright/dedication
4-5 Characters established: Polar Bear and Goose
6-7 1st repetition: Goose wants to be part of what Bear is doing: he is attempting to be a friend.
8-9 Bear says he likes to read.
10-11 Goose attempts friendship by taking over the book.
12-13 2nd repetition: Goose wants to be part of what Bear is doing.
14-15 Bear says he likes to write.
16-17 Goose friendship by saying he likes writing, too.
18-19 3rd repetition: Goose wants to be part of what Bear is doing.
20-21 Goose decides to take it’s own action – get a snack
22-23 Goose brings back a snack
24-25 Goose has a note for Bear
26-27 Goose’s note says Bear is “my splendid friend.”
28-29 Touched, Bear says I like you, too.
30-31 Bear & Goose hug: they are splendid friends.
32 Friends share a snack

Read the rest

Does your character have good flaws?

Plot to Punctuation has a nifty post up about character flaws and how you can use them to drive your narrative:

To really make your story come alive, you’ll also do well to give your characters flaws which enhance the story’s underlying drama. It’s all well and good to have a character who is afraid of the color yellow, or who simply cannot remember anybody’s name until the third time he hears it. But does it really help your story?

Most novels rely heavily on the strength of the story’s central conflict, that thing which drives the whole plot forward towards the climax. The reader’s perception of drama and tension comes from that conflict, and from the degree of challenge the protagonist faces in addressing that conflict. This is where your character flaws come in.

Read the rest.

Studio tours: Elizabeth Blake

Elizabeth Blake sends along these two shots from her lovely, zen studio:

Here are a couple of pictures of my workspace, which is called "Tin Can Studio" as the space is in a metal building. I have two main tables, a small drafting table and a larger stainless one, so I can spread pages out while I work. It helps continuity of the images to have the sketches, roughs, and final art all visible at the same time. There is a 2x4 board that runs along two walls. It has a channel routed in it to hold the pages along the wall. That way illustrations can be visualized around the room following the storyboard order. This is a great way to find what doesn't work well as well as what does!

Check out Elizabeth's beautiful art here.